When I started this project in lieu of my favorite November challenge (what up, Wrimos!?), I thought it would be about sharing the things God has taught us along this journey with others -- with the brokenhearted, with our dear friends and sweet family, with those who are seeking, those who need encouragement, those who need a kick in the pants, those who just want to hear our hearts. I knew it would be "therapy" for me in a way, to get all these thoughts out of my head and into some concrete, visible form. I felt a real pressure on my heart to share. I know how much the honestly of others has built my faith and given me hope, and if I could be that to just one person, the hours spent writing were more than worth it.
What I didn't realize is how hard it would be. Remembering, reaching back to touch those sore places, the places where we learned and grew so much but hurt and hurt. I have cried while writing every post. It hurts to go back there and it hurts to be honest about myself, how I felt, what I thought. I don't want to think about it, but I can't not think about it, so here I am, figuring out how to deal. This is me, in my grief. Grief I didn't even know I had, but that I am so thankful I have discovered.
Sometimes it feels like labor. I was induced with my son, and I distinctly remember being so surprised at the weird kind of pain that comes with contractions. Intense, terribly awful pain that lasts for a minute and then is totally gone. There is nothing else like it. It's not like slicing open your finger or breaking a limb. It's not like the dull ache of a sore muscle. It is intermittent but incredibly intense. I wondered if it was just the drugs that made it feel like that, but then I labored with my daughter, unmedicated. I even told my husband to stay at work because I felt fine and wasn't even sure I was in labor, but then a contraction would come and it hurt. so. bad. But then the pain was gone. Intense, sharp piercing. Then complete relief. So weird.
My feelings lately have been like this. Most of the time, I am totally fine, going about my day, singing as I go. And then something will hit me. A picture of a new mom holding her baby. Anything about a hospital or a NICU. Me preaching some truth to myself. The noisy part of a baby toy. And suddenly I'm back there. Looking at my brand new baby and knowing that something was wrong. Remembering all the tubes and monitors and the never-ending beeping. Whatever brought me to learn that lesson, whatever fire we passed through that refined that gold. Knowing that my daughter can't hear that rattling, jingling, squeaking. And I get all teary and usually try to just hold it back because I'm reading a book to my son or buying groceries or talking on the phone. But sometimes the tears just come and I can't stop them.
I'm grieving. I didn't know I needed to, but I am. I'm grieving a life that never was. In my head, I had the picture of how things would be. I even see the picture all around me in the happy families I know and the blog posts that I read and the general "normalcy" that just is. That's what I expected, and it's not what I got. I'm grieving a healthy daughter who would look just like me and love to nurse and sleep like a champ, just like her brother. I'm grieving a newborn photo shoot and passing her sweet self around to visitors in the labor and delivery room and smelling her sweet newborn head. I'm grieving singing her to sleep and enticing her with a rattle and watching her figure out that barking animal. Instead, I got a viral infection and corn-based formula and a cat-napper who was jaundiced and couldn't be held for a week, who lost her newborn smell before she even came home. I got hearing aids that may not work and the possibility of surgery if we ever want her to hear. It's not what I pictured or planned. The distance between when I thought would be and what is marks the measure of my grief, the size of my pain.
Part of me feels weird about having these feelings. Looking at our lives now, things are pretty great! Yes, my daughter is deaf, but really, that's not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Yes, she might have developmental delays from damage to her brain, but the major concerns are behind us. It feels weird to hurt when other people have faced and are facing much scarier, bigger things. But I know what those people would tell me; they would tell me what I tell my friends when they feel bad about worrying about their healthy, typically developing babies. Being a parent is a big, hard job, no matter what. No matter if your kid is four years old and never had so much as a bad cold or if your baby spent 100+ days in the NICU. No matter if your biggest concern is whether to use disposable or cloth diapers or whether to allow the doctors to give your daughter a toxic antiviral. Every parent has to make judgment calls, most of which involve very compelling arguments in favor of both options. Every good parent worries about their child because they care. Every good parent wants the best for their child. And every good parent will face challenges, and those challenges are always meant to grow us and stretch us and make us trust God and rely ever more on Him.
My grief is okay. My feelings are okay. They are normal and human and necessary. Talking about them is good for me. I know it's not for everyone, especially not in such a public way. But it helps me to process, knowing that I'm talking to someone and knowing that there might be someone out there who will benefit from my experience. I don't ever mean to stir up pity or make anyone feel bad for having a happy, easy life. I also don't mean to flaunt our joys and triumphs in the face of people who are still hacking away in the trenches of illness and distress. Our lives aren't measuring sticks to set down next to each other and evaluate. They are journeys. We are all on the road, walking together. We can barrel ahead, knocking each other out of the way like it's Black Friday at Walmart. Or we can lock arms, carrying each other when it gets hard, lifting each other up when we have strength, all the while pointing our eyes ahead and reminding each other of the promises.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:3-4
God is with us. He cares for us and cares about our cares. He desires for us to turn our hearts and lives to Him, to walk the path He has set before us (not the one we make in our own minds), and to walk that path in joy with faith in Him. This race that we're running, the path we're on, the trouble we encounter and overcome through the supernatural strength of God, it's building us up and creating a glory in Heaven unlike anything we can imagine, unlike anything we can see. One day, though, we will see that glory, and every tear I've cried writing to you, all the pain my daughter has endured, the threat of death and the mourning that follows, will all be gone. And we will be with God, the Creator and Lover of our souls, in the most sweet communion of peace. This is what I desire. Not for you all to know the depth of my struggle or the awful pain my daughter endured. Not for my grief to be a banner for you to watch as I wave it around like some sort of conquering hero. Not for you to learn some trite lesson about embracing the good and shrugging off the bad. I desire for you to see Jesus. I long for you to see Him in the feeding tubes and yellowed skin and seeping wounds and scars. I long for you to see Him in my tears and the empty places in my heart. I open up all of this to you, not so you can see my daughter or me or our family, but so you can see Jesus. So you can see the miraculous healing work of God. So you can see the promise of a Savior who loves you to His death. So that you will turn your eyes and hearts to Him, offer over your own lives, and one day stand beside me in glory, singing great and marvelous praises to the Healer of our souls.
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" Revelation 4:8