Forgiving those who continue to hurt you

I googled the title of this blog this morning. I’m sitting at home pondering this idea. How do you forgive someone who you have to live with who continues to hurt you? So many of us have to live in situations with someone who has hurt us and continues to do so whether they do that because they don’t realize they are being hurtful or maybe they do. I guess the first obvious question is why should we forgive at all?

Ephesisans 4:25-27

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

I heard a bit on the radio the other day about this verse. The preacher was speaking about not giving the devil a foothold by forgiving those who have hurt you. That is why we have to forgive. It’s good for the other person, but frankly they may never know we have forgiven them and it won’t effect them. We need to forgive because it frees us. When we harbor resentment and anger towards someone it’s because of unforgiveness, usually. I’ll fully admit I am struggling with this right now with my daughter. It’s been five years of hurt, but particularly the last few months of just her constant hatefulness towards me is wearing on me and I don’t have the best attitude towards her all the time right now. I know I need to forgive, but that’s hard when it’s a constant dripping of pain. She is continuously spitting, hitting and being hateful to me and really all of us right now. I know in my head it’s not my fault, but when she is happy with others it certainly feels that way.

I read an article on how to forgive and the author said one reason we don’t forgive is to put a wall up between us and the person who has hurt us so as to protect ourselves from further hurt. Bingo. Exactly my issue, I’m sure. We all have previous hurts in our lives but I have quite a few I struggle with from my childhood and young adult years. Those hurts make it hard for me to trust people and I will throw up a wall quickly if I sense I’m about to get hurt. I think it’s fairly common amongst people, particularly those with deep childhood hurts. It’s also a product of loss of the past few years, there has been a lot of it lately and some really big painful ones, and this is just more of that. It’s loss of what I wanted it to be and it feels like failure right now. I can’t understand why Kaki is so angry right now and it’s terribly frustrating for us, and for her I’m sure. I try so hard to be empathetic with her but my flesh is tired and gets in my way and I just get angry. And that’s where the devil can get a foothold.

So how do I deal with it? I know I can’t let that happen, but man I don’t know how to keep it from happening. Glenn and I were discussing this. Our house feels like a war zone lately with her constant lashing out. I have prayed peace and calm over this house and her, and continue to do so, but in the meantime…. I know God is working something in all this, or I have to trust He is. I cannot see a good end frankly, or not the end I wanted. I don’t see the point in the suffering and that’s hard. I feel like Paul on the ship in the storm. The boat is breaking apart and we are just trying to hold on for a rescue. Unfortunately I know enough Bible to know God generally lets things get really ugly before they get better, and honestly that’s what I’m afraid of. I don’t doubt He has a plan but am I going to like that plan? It’s not my plan I can tell you, cuz we past that exit a while back on the road to the land of this really stinks, lol.

I find myself coping by doing things I can control. I clean and organize stuff. I bake. I do things I know I can control the outcome and they come out looking all pretty as a Pintrest page. It’s masking the real issues though. The real issue is me letting go. I gotta let go of this situation. I gotta let go of the outcome I wanted. I gotta let go of trying to fix it. I gotta let go of control.

I don’t like that. I don’t do that well. Who does really?

Why is it so hard? Because I don’t trust God enough? Probably. I’m a spoiled child who wants things my way and I think maybe God doesn’t understand the situation fully and I should enlighten Him. lol

It just all comes down to letting go. Really letting go. Not saying I am, cuz that’s easy, but actually doing it, every minute, every second. Letting go. Forgiving, because I have no other choices and there’s no reason not to anymore because I’m not trying to control this thing. I have no control over what she does or doesn’t do, that is God’s problem. She is God’s child and his to deal with. Not my circle. I can rest and stop striving and stop trying to figure out a way out of this mess. He will provide in his time. I gotta keep reminding myself because it’s SO HARD.

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Spin moves

Glenn and I have a saying that when we hit a brick wall in life we don’t just stop we do a spin move. We find a way around what is seemingly blocking us. We are good at trying not to get too down about things and keeping our spirits up with our special kids and their issues but lately we have run out of ideas. Our daughter, Kaki, has severe intellectual disability and has the developmental ability of about a 1 year old. For the past year or so she has had behavioral issues that have been increasing. We have seen numerous doctors and have been working with a special psychiatrist who specializes in developmental disabilities but we still can’t get her stable. She is self harming and harming those around her. She is very unhappy and we can’t figure out why. We have been working with a neurologist because she has epilepsy and has been refusing to walk and having what seems to be periodic muscle weakness. They have done every test possible and they can’t figure out what is wrong. When school started she refused to walk down the driveway so I started having to use a wagon to transport her. Now she is refusing to walk at times at school. She will end up in a wheelchair soon if things don’t change and I don’t know why.  No one has any answers. We are frustrated and scared about what the future holds. We need prayer as we make decisions and seek help. We need wisdom and answers. We need God to intervene in our situation. I know He has answers and He will make those known to us in His time, but I’m tired and I don’t know what to do next. We are out of spin moves.

One year ago….

I was sitting at my mother’s bedside. She had been admitted to Hospice two days before and they said it wouldn’t be long. It was Monday morning and I sat there watching HGTV because what exactly are you supposed to do at a bedside of someone who is lingering between heaven and earth? I felt like I should pray or something but after hours and hours of praying and talking to her, I just needed to take a mental break. I was sitting there alone at about 9am and wondering where everyone was. I wondered where my friends and family were and I wondered how long it would be before mom passed over. There is nothing quite like sitting at a deathbed. There are no rules and time seems to drag on forever and the world outside keeps going while your world has stopped. Around 10 my pastor came in. He talked with me and prayed with me and for mom. He said he felt like it wouldn’t be long, and I figured he knew more about these things than me having been at many deathbeds before. The nurse came in to give her a bath and then the doctor came. They kept asking me if there was anything else she would have wanted because no one could figure out why she was lingering. I turned off the HGTV and turned on Classical music, she loved music. She was in the choir at church and loved classical church music. She made it widely known her feelings of disdain for the new, loud, church songs of the last 20 years or so. Give her Handles Messiah or hymns and she was happy. She seem to settle some after I turned on the music. It amazes me what music can do, even for those you think might not hear it. It’s truly one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. Around 11 my cousin came in and my friend Kim. We sat around and talked and ate some lunch and shortly after that Mom’s breathing changed and we knew it was close to the end. We gathered at her bedside. We prayed and read scripture and she passed into glory. It was an experience I will never forget. It was both beautiful and traumatic. I cried and also felt relief that it was over. I hadn’t really expected to be there when she passed, to be honest. I figured she would pass during the night when I was gone. I didn’t have any idea what it would be like to watch her pass. It was hard. There was something in me that just knew it was not how it was meant to be. We are supposed to live forever, we were never supposed to die and our souls know. I thought if I was there I would probably be alone. That morning I felt sorry for myself because I was alone and wondered where everyone was. Little did I know God had the perfect time. He sent the perfect people I would need to be with me as she passed. They loved and consoled and helped me through it. They were people my mom loved dearly and we were all three like her children. They were there with me at most of the happiest and saddest times of my life and how fitting they would be there for this as well. I cannot say thank you enough to them for being there.

There is so much about that day I wanted to remember and so much I’d rather forget. I still can’t wrap my mind around the idea that she is gone. I think I will see her or she will call. But she won’t. I didn’t realize how much not having parents on this earth would effect me. It’s a really odd feeling. It feels like you have lost your past. Shortly after she passed I found a photo of myself and my parents on vacation and I wondered where we were. I realized that I have no one to ask anymore. It’s unsettling, but at the same time I am so thankful for the memories of her. That I had a wonderful mother and because of that I have a huge hole in my life that she left there. I have read that you don’t even fully process that a loss has occurred until a year later, and I think that’s true. I’m just now coming to terms with it I think. I used to dream of her. In every dream I had she would be there, but she’s not anymore.

It’s an odd club to be in, the no parents club. Most people in this club are much older than me. I feel cheated in some ways, having to deal with this so young, but in others I think it’s a gift. I’m still raising my kids and I think losing a parent when you are still raising young kids makes you a better parent. You see the long game and don’t get so wrapped up in the little messes. This year has been challenging on the parenting front. My special kids have been in crisis and my infant had a traumatic delivery and then now is dealing with food allergies. While all this is difficult, I know that in the end it means nothing. All these challenges will pass and my kids will grow up and leave the house, at least I hope so lol. They will become adults and I hope they will remember we loved them and always tried our best to give them what they needed. I hope they know we are proud of them no matter what, no matter their ability or not. I hope they will remember they had a grandmother who loved them and instilled in them a love for God and a love for hard work and determination. She has left a legacy of faith and love.

We’ve made it a year without her. I wasn’t sure I would. There were some dark days, but we kept moving forward, as time does. Today, mom, we remember. We will eat pizza and pecan pie in your honor and remember how much we loved you and how much you loved us.

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Recently my oldest son turned 15. We started talking to him seriously about his goals in life and what he wants to be when he grows up. We have talked about this before, but now we are taking steps toward his goals and that is a sobering thought to me. It’s not the 8 year old saying he wants to be a astronaut and you say ‘Nice honey’ and move on. These goals are forming the trajectory of his life. I have been doing a lot of praying about how to help him with this. I very intimidated about helping someone plan what they will do in their life. It’s a big deal! As I was praying this vision came to me.

Psalm 127:4 “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.”

Our children are our arrows and we have the job of launching them in the right direction. There are stages to that process: ready, aim, fire!

Ready:

Most of your child’s life is spent in the “ready” phase. This is from birth till about high school. It’s when you are training them and molding them into the person they will be. This is when you are teaching them to tie their shoes and how to be a good friend. You teach them values and morals. This is like crafting the perfect arrow. If one little thing is off in an arrow it will not fly and hit it’s target. Now before you freak out, it’s not all about you! As a young parent you think that the success and failures of your children fall solely at your feet. If your baby doesn’t sit up on time or eat his vegetables, it’s all your fault. If your child doesn’t make good grades or isn’t popular in school, it’s your fault. As you grow as a parent you realize it’s not solely up to you. You are a good part of who they turn out to be but it’s also a matter of God given traits and their own choices that decide who they are. You are not responsible for those things. That should take some pressure off. Each child is his own person and make his own choices.

Aim:

This stage starts at around high school. The hard work of parenting is over, (Hahaha) Everyone in this stage will attest that the hard work has just begun. Granted you aren’t changing diapers and doing midnight feedings anymore, but the worry and stress of the teenage years is real. You can’t really understand it till you have one. This is when you are aiming your child in the direction that is right for them.

Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

If you read this flat you would think that it’s saying that if you are a good parent and do it all perfectly that your child will turn out good and if you mess it up, well then it’s all your fault if your child is a disaster. That’s not it. If you look at the original words on this verse you will see that it’s an individual thing. It’s saying you have to find the right path for each child and that looks different for each child. You have to help them find their path, not your path, or the path you think they need, but their path. This is where I find myself with my 15 year old. Helping him discover what his path is is an awesome responsibility that I don’t take lightly. I am trying to be so careful not to project my ideas of who I think  he is onto him. All parents have dreams for their child but this is where they get in the way. If your dream for your child is to be a doctor but that child wants to be a mechanic someone is going to be disappointed and frustrated. I want Sam to find what he wants in life no matter what that is. I am trying to listen to his interests and help him explore those without judgement or influence. I’m trying to give good advice without influencing his direction, but also not pointing him into some unrealistic. The options are limitless and helping him choose his path is a huge responsibility.

Fire!:

This is where we will be soon enough when our arrow leaves our hands and is heading toward his goal. I used to think this was one moment in time, but I don’t think it is now. I used to think it happened the moment he moved out from under our roof but I think it’s a gradual letting go. Last week we went to the DMV for him to get his learner’s permit. He was about to do the eye exam and the lady told him to get a alcohol swab and clean the machine before he used it. He had a hard time opening it and it took all my will power not to help. I realized that he was at the DMV to take a test to become a driver. The DMV was going to let him drive because they felt he was ready and he didn’t need his mommy to help him open the alcohol swab. He needed to do that himself. It’s a tiny example but it’s a bigger thing. Trying to not step in and allow your child to make their own decisions and stretch their wings is important. You don’t want them to get out on their own and fail because you have done it all for them and they can’t take care of things for themselves. Baby chickens will die after they hatch if you help them get out of the egg shell because they need to struggle and do that for themselves to develop the strength for the next part of life…living outside the shell. Our kids are the same.

Parenting is such an awesome task. God has given us these precious souls to guide into the path He has for them. I pray we are all up to the task and with God’s help we will be successful.

The Room

Three years ago we moved into our current house. Before we moved in, it belonged to my husband’s grandmother and we bought it after she passed away. She had built the house in the 80’s and lived in it until three years ago. This week I moved my youngest son into the back bedroom. I sat in there nursing him during the night because apparently he is allergic to sleep. As I sat there, I began to have memories of that room over the years.

When Glenn’s grandmother owned the house it was her guest room. Almost twenty years ago now, I was in college and Glenn and I were engaged. In May of the year we got married, I finished the semester and I was living in the dorm, but of course, had to move out. We were getting married in July and I needed a place to stay for a couple of months, so his grandmother allowed me to live with her and I stayed in that room. It was pink with flowered wallpaper then, but I have so many memories of living in that room and planning our wedding.

Then after we bought the house, four of our boys moved into that room. I have memories of the first night we slept here and we had wall to wall mattresses for the boys in that room.

Then three of the boys moved into another room and my youngest child at the time, Luke, slept in that room. I remember being up with him one time when he was sick and rocking him all night, it felt like. Then shortly after that just before he turned 2, I was 21 weeks pregnant and had just found out that our baby was stillborn. I was putting Luke to bed and preparing to go to the hospital to be induced and deliver this baby in what I knew would be one of the hardest moments of my life. I sat in the dark singing to Luke and I couldn’t get through the song because I was crying so hard.

We moved Luke out into the room with his brothers in summer of 2017. We didn’t have a need for the room to be empty but I just felt it was time for Luke to move. A month later my mom got sick and needed to move in with us on short notice. I saw then that God had worked it all out ahead of time so we would have an empty room for her. She moved in and lived with us for nine months. As I open the closet in that room I see her stuff that I can’t bear to get rid of. I see the blanket that was lovingly made by some church ladies and donated to Hospice House and was laid on her after she passed and given to me to remember her. It reminds me of hard days and happy days that we had while she lived in that room. Days of helping her get the room all set up and pretty, and days of having to call the fire department because she had fallen.

The week my went into Hospice my cousin Travis and his wife and son came to stay with us and help out as mom passed and with funeral arrangements. They stayed in that room. They were such a comfort to me during those hard days.

After my mom passed last summer we quickly cleaned out the room and painted it for my oldest son to move in. I needed a change. I couldn’t bear to walk past that room as it was after mom left it. Sam lived in that room until just a week ago. I have memories of my husband painting it with him just the right shade of blue that Sam painstakingly picked out. He was so excited to have his own room, if even for a short time.

And now I sit in that room at night and nurse Will. I know there will be many more memories made in that room with Will as he grows, but what a legacy of memories there is in that room.

Dear mom,

I have written this letter so many times in my mind. There are so many things I wanted to say but never go the chance before you passed away. In the movies, there is always a long drawn out moment before people pass that everyone gets to say how they feel, but I have found this rarely happens in real life. Even though I think we both knew for some time that your time was drawing close, we never wanted to say it out loud. Even in hospice care, I just couldn’t bring it up and you were not totally coherent at that point. I told you I loved you and that you were a good mom, and I think you heard me. I am sorry you didn’t get to talk to the kids. I know you wanted to, and I brought them, but we couldn’t wake you up by that time. Each one touched you and said they loved you and I thought you squeezed my hand. I think you knew. Honestly, as a mom, I was a bit relieved that they didn’t have to say goodbye because I couldn’t bring myself to do it and I can’t imagine them having the ability to. You and I weren’t always good at the tough conversations.

I just went a few weeks ago to visit your graveside. I hadn’t been back since the service in June. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m not a grave visitor. But Glenn says it’s ok because there are no rules for grieving and we as the survivors just do what we feel is good for us and not what some expectations are. Your headstone turned out really nicely. It’s made from rock from the NC mountains that I know you loved so much. It has an inscription about being with the Lord and dogwood flowers on it, which I know were your favorite. Glenn chose a great spot for you, close to Miss Janet. God’s hand was in that because those plots were not supposed to be sold as singles, but someone had just accidentally sold one in a set of four and so we were able to get one for you. Now there are three older ladies buried on either side of you. I think you would smile to see that. It makes me happy to know you aren’t alone there. Not that you are there, because I know you aren’t, but it makes me happy just the same.

Baby William arrived October 15, 2018 and his delivery was difficult as I imagined it would be. The whole time I was reminded of you and missing you. Glenn said he came and showed you his picture at your graveside just after he was born. You would love him, of course. It comforts me to see that Glenn is missing you so much more than I expected he might, and that I am not alone in my grief. It saddens me to think that only Sam and Jordan will really have memories of you. Josh and Elijah will likely have some vague ones but Luke will not remember at all I don’t think. I wish that were different. I wish they could know you as I did. I am thankful though that you had 82 years. So many people don’t get that chance and to think you could have died when I was a teenager and you had your first heart attack. God was gracious to allow us more time.

Christmas was hard. I knew it would be. It’s was more the time leading up to it than the actual day. The Sunday before, I stayed home and cried most of the day. I knew everyone would be all “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays” and I just couldn’t do it. But grief is like that. It comes up at the most unexpected times and you just have to allow yourself space to feel it all and roll with it. Your birthday wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. We had a dinner you would like and made you a cake and ice cream.

In some ways it feels like it’s been forever since you passed and then again no time at all. I don’t think I have fully accepted you are really gone. I feel like sometimes I will see you somewhere or you will call me, but then I realize the truth. I struggle with not feeling alone. I told my counselor that it feels like I have no anchor anymore and I’m just drifting alone. This is when I really wish I had siblings, although I do have Travis, which I am so thankful for. I think being adopted and having your parents divorce at a young age just leaves scars of fear of being alone that you never get over. I find myself having to fight an irrational fear that something will happen to Glenn and then I will really be alone. Again, I know that isn’t true, but it’s how I feel. I can’t imagine being a single parent and raising kids like you did. You did a great job of moving past some impossible situations and making the best of them. I inherited my strength and stubbornness from you.

I know the last year we had was difficult. I know you were in such a difficult situation of having to live with us and being sick most of the time. I know you never wanted that and I didn’t want it for you. I feel like we got through it pretty well most of the time. I’m sorry for not always being kind and patient. I know you felt bad for being difficult at times. Overall, as I said to you once, I was so glad I could have that opportunity to leave it all on the table and care for you so that you would have no doubt that I loved you. I am so glad we had that season in our lives. The memories of having you here are priceless and I’m glad the kids got the chance to spent those months with you so closely too.

I know I am just writing this letter for myself mostly, although I do believe that the vial between here and heaven is much thinner than we think and that you might be able to see this and what goes on here. If so, know that I loved you and you are missed so greatly. But as I told you right before you passed, I will be ok. I am finding my way to being ok. Not that I will ever get passed this or over it, but through it to find my new normal.

How to move forward

I realized recently that one of the things my mom taught me was something she didn’t even realize. She taught me how to move forward after losing her. This past summer she went to be with Jesus and now I am facing my first Christmas and her birthday all in the same week without her. But I realized that she left me with all the tools I need to get through this and move forward, because I watched her do it when she lost her mom many years ago. I was 10 years old when my grandma died. It wasn’t unexpected, she had been sick with cancer for a year or so, but you can never really prepare for the day you get the call that someone has passed away. I remember the phone ringing and I just knew she had passed. My grandma and I were very close. I was the only granddaughter and much younger than my cousins. She and I were also close because we were both adopted. I loved her dearly and looked up to her because she was a strong woman of faith. She was widowed with three young kids and put herself through nursing school by taking in other people’s laundry and ironing. She also rented out the bedrooms in her house while she and her three kids slept in one small room together. They were very poor but she got her nursing training and worked to make a good life for herself and her kids. She told me stories of how God provided in those years for her and it increased my faith.

The day my mom got the call, she came to tell me what I already knew, that grandma had passed. We hugged each other and cried. She taught me it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not be okay when someone you love passes away. A few weeks earlier I saw her out in the backyard crying and screaming at God. Begging Him to take my grandma so she wouldn’t suffer any longer. I had the same experience with my mother’s passing and I knew it was okay because I saw her do it with my grandma. It’s okay to be angry and sad at the same time. It’s okay to have a fierce conversation with God about your circumstances. God can handle it.

We traveled to Miami where my mom was from for my grandma’s funeral. Mom walked through the drama of picking out all the things necessary for a funeral all the while I watched her be strong, and I knew she was going to be okay. She was sad and would be sad for a while, but with time she would be okay.

Years later she told me that she still had the urge to call her mom each time she came home from a trip, which she did while my grandmother was alive. She told me she missed her mom every day, even though she had been gone for years. She taught me it was okay to miss her and that grief is not something you get passed, but something you learn to live with for the rest of your life. She taught me I would always miss her, and that was okay.

So, today as I work through my first Christmas and I don’t feel all that Merry, I know that it’s okay to be sad and happy at the same time. It’s okay to miss her, and I will always miss her. It’s okay to not be okay today, but eventually it will get better. I know I will get through this as she did because I come from a long line of strong women, whose faith in God sustains them. I am forever grateful that she taught me these things and I know that today, and in the days to come, I am teaching my kids how to move forward when I am called to glory someday.

A lack of faith

Today we graduated from Lactation support. My newest baby, Will and I have had some trouble nursing and we had to see lactation weekly since his birth four weeks ago. He has gradually improved and now they said we can stop supplementing with bottles. I am thankful for that but I left there feeling less than confident about feeding my baby, the most basic of mothering duties. It got me thinking about why I feel nervous about feeding him. I think it comes down to a lack of trust in myself and my mother’s intuition. With my other babies they nursed and gained weight and that was the end of it. I never thought one minute about how much milk they got an one feeding or anything like that, I never doubted if we could be successful in nursing or whether I’d need to use formula. There is nothing wrong with formula, for the record, but what my issue is here is that when Will didn’t gain weight, in fact he spent weeks loosing weight, my faith in my body to produce what he needs was shaken. In fact I have spent years having my faith in myself as a mom shaken by well meaning doctor’s, nurses and the general good conscious of the public.

I feel like as a society we have been subtly attacking mom’s intuition to know what is best for their babies for decades now. Let’s take SIDS for example. That is something I think most moms worry about quit a bit. Every year they come out with new ways to prevent SIDS and new things we shouldn’t do. Fourteen years ago when I had my first son he had colic. He slept very poorly in a drop side crib with bumper pads. Then when that didn’t work well, they gave him reflux medicine and told me to let him sleep in his carseat so that he could be sitting up. GASP! All those things have since been declared unsafe and that they may cause SIDS. It was not that long ago that parents slept with their kids and now there is a long list of things you must not do to keep your child safe. And if your sleep deprived self happens to give in at 2am and sleep with the kid on your chest or something you are putting their life at risk and should be arrested for being a bad parent. It’s all based on fear and guilt. I am not saying we shouldn’t do what we can to keep our kids as safe as possible and all that, but I think all this hoopla is making parents scared to do anything and doubt themselves at every turn.

Another example is birth. When I had my oldest son years ago I wanted to do a natural, non-medicated birth. I told them that when I got to the hospital and they laughed at me. They said I couldn’t do it and I should just take what modern medicine had offered, pain relief. I ended up giving in. Years later I decided to do an birth center birth so that I could prove to myself that I could birth medication free and I did. That was four years ago with my fourth child. After that I had a stillbirth and everything changed. My faith in myself and my body was shaken. They couldn’t figure out why I lost Andrew, and therefore couldn’t tell me how to keep that from happening in the future. I felt broken, physically and mentally. So, when I got pregnant this last time with Will I was terrified. I didn’t trust my body at all not to mess it up again and lose this baby too. I went to a regular OB where they labeled me advanced maternal age and high risk and sent me to a specialist. That didn’t help my mental state. By the end of it I had developed cholestasis and they said I needed to be induced at 37 weeks or I was risking the babies life, so I did. It was the right call, but it left me feeling as though I couldn’t trust my body at all. So, when the time for birth came I just didn’t feel empowered or like I could trust the process as I had with my birth center birth because everyone told me my body was not to be trusted. My instincts were not to be trusted. Then Will was born and we ended up with the breastfeeding issues and again my body didn’t measure up.

So, many women feel this way. So many women are told subtly and not so subtly that they don’t know how to be a mom, they don’t know what’s best and they cannot trust themselves. The doctor’s tell you every single thing about how to care for a baby, when years ago mom’s learned this from other moms. They didn’t doubt themselves. They knew their babies and they did what was best for them. Now we have tons of opinions and regulations about how we should parent. We don’t trust ourselves anymore and we have lost our ability to parent well.

We need to take back our power and confidence as moms. We need to not live in fear and guilt, if possible. We need to trust ourselves more and everyone else less. You got this mama, have faith in yourself.

Dogs, guilt and the really important stuff

I have major doggy guilt. We have a 1.5 year old lab/mix who is literally crazy. Like on medication crazy. She is very hyper, so much so that we cannot have her inside unless she is in her crate or tethered to the wall, otherwise she will just run like crazy all around the house jumping on furniture and people. So, she stays outside most of the time. I feel really guilty about this. She is a really sweet dog but no one can stand to be around her for more than like 15 minutes because of how hyper she is. We all try to spend some time with her everyday, but it’s hard. I see all these Facebook posts of other people and their sweet well behaved dogs and I wish we had that, but we don’t. I wish I had more time to spend with her, and I wish she would magically be calmer, especially now that the weather is getting colder. I realize that I am doing the best I can with the time I don’t have right now, but I still feel guilty about it. It’s my own self making me feel this way. Why do I do that?

I have now birthed and nursed five babies. Little William is 2 weeks old and you know what? We haven’t got this nursing thing worked out yet. I have never had any issues with nursing my babies, but this one is different. He had a tongue tie which we got fixed over a week ago, but he’s still struggling. He just doesn’t nurse well or at all, and so I have been forced to pump and give him bottles. This really breaks my heart to be honest. First off it’s just hard. It’s a 1.5 hour process of trying to get him to nurse unsuccessfully, feeding him the bottle and then pumping for the next feeding and hoping I have enough milk for him. Now, before everyone starts telling me to just give up and give the baby formula, realize I am doing this because I want to. It’s hard, but it’s what I want to do. Do I have formula on hand in case I can’t do it? Yes. But I want to try. I am seeing a lactation consultant tomorrow and hopefully she can figure out what the issue is so we can fix it. In the meantime, I am trying not to travel in mommy guilt. Your mind says you somehow failed as a mom if you can’t breastfeed. To be honest I never really understood this until now. Sometimes there are circumstances where you can’t breastfeed and that’s ok. I think we put alot of pressure on moms as a society to do things a certain way as a mom and sometimes it’s just not possible.  I was reading this mommy blog about a mom in a similar circumstance to mine who ended up pumping exclusively and never did get the nursing worked out. She said something that struck me and applies to all areas where we place unneeded guilt on ourselves for something we cannot control. She said, “Jesus will not ask you when you get to heaven whether you breast or bottle fed”. Amen! It just doesn’t matter in the long run. Jesus will not ask me what school my kids went to or what grades they made. He will not ask me if my house was clean and the laundry was done. He will not ask me if we ate organic whole foods or McDonald’s every night. This stuff seems so important but really in the long run it’s not. Jesus knows I am doing the best I can at the moment with what I have. As are most of you. Don’t allow yourself to give yourself a guilt trip over stuff that just doesn’t really matter. If you start to travel down the road of guilt ask yourself if this will matter in five years. If not, then let it go. Give yourself some breathing space and do what you can with what you have in the moment. If it isn’t turning out like you planned or wanted, just let it go. Pat yourself on the back for trying and move on.

Will’s Birth Story

I wanted to share Will’s birth story. It’s a practice in faith and healing. I guess I should start before we found out we were pregnant. Two years ago we decided we would like to have one more baby. We spent 6 months trying to get pregnant and finally did, but then at 21 weeks we lost the baby. We went through a stillbirth, which forever changed us, and we will never forget our little Andrew. We went through some testing after that and the doctor’s didn’t have good news. They told us they didn’t know why we lost Andrew but they were doubtful we would ever be able to get pregnant again due to our test results and if we did we likely wouldn’t carry the baby to term. I accepted that, after some time, and were moving on with life. We had 6 wonderful kids and we were thankful. My mom had just moved in with us and was requiring constant care, so I saw God’s hand in the timing of it all. Then, in February, I started having some symptoms that suggested I might be pregnant. I was in denial about it but decided after a few weeks to take a test, which turned positive. I was shocked to say the least. I decided I wouldn’t tell anyone just yet because honestly I didn’t really believe it myself. A few days later my mom went into the hospital for the fourth time in 6 months and I started bleeding. At that point I just accepted it was another miscarriage and was thankful it hadn’t lasted long enough for me to get too attached or have to suffer another stillbirth. I know that sounds jaded but when you have lost four pregnancies you get to this place. I went to the doctor to confirm what I thought was the case only to have them tell me that everything with the baby was fine but I had a hemorrhage in my uterus that was causing the bleeding and could cause a miscarriage. So, I went home to wait and see what would happen. They didn’t give us much hope given our history. Weeks went by and the bleeding continued and everyday I wondered if it was the end, but the pregnancy continued. Around 9 weeks I prayed for healing one Sunday and the bleeding got worse. The next day I went to the doctor for an ultrasound and they said the hemorrhage had healed itself and the baby was just fine. We were cautiously optimistic at this point, because we had lost two babies in the second trimester before so we never feel “safe”. Around that time, my mom got sicker and had to be put into a nursing facility. I was stressed to say the least and my legs started itching. I went to the doctor and they ran blood tests and determined it was anxiety. Great.

Fast forward to 18 weeks pregnant. On a Monday in June my mom was ushered into the presence of the Lord. On Tuesday morning we had another ultrasound and found out we were having a boy. This did not surprise me. A few weeks before I found out I was pregnant I had a dream where I was talking to our Pastor’s father who was very sick and on his deathbed. I told him I was pregnant and it was a boy and we would name the baby after him and Glenn’s grandfather and also my cousin, the baby’s name would be William Travis. We were overjoyed after the ultrasound that the baby was healthy and they went to plan mom’s funeral. The ups and downs of this season have been immense.

Fast forward again to 36 weeks pregnant. They had done many many ultrasounds and tests up to this point because of my history and so far all was well but this whole time I continued to itch and it was increasing. Finally they did a blood test and determined I had Cholestasis of Pregnancy. It’s a rare liver disorder that affects pregnant woman where your liver just doesn’t work right and causes lots of serious problems but also itching. Due to the seriousness of the condition for myself and baby Will, they told me I would need to be induced at 37 weeks, that was in just one week. Given what I had been through, this stressed me out to say the least. I was nervous when we went into the hospital on Sunday October 14 for my induction. I had never been induced before and then my experiences in hospitals of late have been traumatic with Andrew’s birth and then my mom’s passing. This was complicated emotionally for me.

We arrived for the induction and I was already contracting. I thought that was great news, but it wasn’t. They couldn’t use the regular medication they would like to use to begin an induction because of my contractions so we had to go a different route which might be slower and hopefully would not effect Will negatively. I began the medication around 9pm on Sunday and had contractions every 2 minutes until around 2pm Monday afternoon at which time I asked for an epidural because they were going to break my water which I knew from experience makes the pain much worse. I was exhausted at that point and just needed some sleep. I was also not progressing very fast and knew it could be hours before he was born. At around 6pm Will’s heart rate began to drop with every contraction. They were very concerned. They started trying to turn me different directions and see if it would help but it didn’t. So, they decided to do a procedure where they put the amniotic fluid back around the baby to see if that would help. If it didn’t they would need to do an emergency C-section. I was quietly freaking out. Those of you who know me know I don’t make a big scene if I am stressed but you can see it in my eyes. My blood pressure sky rocketed and I knew I needed to get myself under control before I made this situation even worse. I prayed and took lots of deep breaths and it stabilized but Will was still in distress. The doctor told me we needed to deliver this baby as soon as we could, but I was only 6cm at this point. I prayed and prayed and an hour later I asked them to check me again. The nurse thought I was crazy because there was no way I was ready to deliver in just an hour, but she was shocked to discover I was. I began pushing and within six pushes he was delivered. That is what a lot of prayer and determination will do of a mama who is terrified.

I cried and cried after he was born, it had been such a long journey of loss to bring us to this point. When I got to the hospital and into the room where we would deliver I noticed the little baby warmer in the corner. When we had delivered Andrew there was no warmer, because there was no need. Over the next few days of being in the hospital I had many little moments of remembering Andrew and my mom. I ate an Italian ice that was the last thing I ever fed my mom. Just a million tiny moments of loss. Loss changes you. I will never be the same person I was before all this, but I hope I can honor their legacy by moving forward bravely and raising this beautiful child God has given us. William means “strong warrior”, this child is a fighter and he is strong with the strength God has given him. Loss makes you realize what you have. We do not take for granted the kids God has allowed us to raise. We also do not take for granted our typically developing children and the loss of raising a child with special needs.

I was listening to a sermon on anxiety. I will not pretend this last year has been one that was free from anxiety. In fact had I not been pregnant I would be on anti anxiety meds for sure. It’s been a year. But this pastor said that we have anxiety because we confuse our responsibility with God’s sovereignty. God has given us the responsibility to raise our children but ultimately we are not in control of what happens to them, that is His sovereignty. I am not in control of their lives, that is God’s job. I get anxious by thinking I am in control when I am not. That is the biggest thing I am learning through all this. Let it go. God has got this whether I like the outcome or not, He has got it. And should the worst happen, He will see me through, because I will tell you sometimes the worst will happen. We have lived some of that worst, but we made it through because God gave us the strength to do so. And now we have a joyous moment in the midst of tears, because God has allowed it and we are thankful.