reflection

birthday: thirty-five

birthday: thirty-five

you know you are getting old, when the first time you think about your birthday is when you remember that your tags are about to expire.

this year has been about reacting. about survival. i have given little thought to caring for myself both in mind and in body although i think i tried once or twice to invest some energy into both. my birthday came in the midst of a major regression for my son, which has left me exhausted and falling short of providing for him. i have so little time for myself that I am actually writing my birthday reflection three days after my birthday.

i woke up feeling pretty depressed which usually is never the case for my birthday but i felt so out of sync with myself that it almost seemed that i had become a stranger to myself. my son was refusing his first nap despite breaking my own rule for a moment to rock him. all i could think of to keep me pushing forward was that my sister was coming and i was going to spend some time with keith in the evening doing an escape room.

but until then, i was alone with an overtired baby and my only outlet at the moment was reflecting briefly on my ig stories. it must have been an out of body experience, because i was crying by the end of the video, which i wasn’t aware i had been recording that long until after i posted it. about an hour later, i received some of the sweetest mama messages that made me feel less alone in my heartache. shortly after, my sister arrived…with my parents in tow!

the reprieve i needed!

the day grew brighter as i spent some time with my sister celebrating my birthday, encouraging her, drinking coffee and lemon and lavender cake oh my word. i swear this was made by the unicorns. and avoiding tornado watch. yep. happy berfday. then as my husband and i made our way to the escape room that evening, we stopped off at our neighbors’ house because keith said the kids wanted to say happy birthday.

lies. all lies.

i ended up being surprised by a small group of friends who had made me feel safe this past year. and then. and then those people made me touch your hand for stupid reasons. no they just made me cry with thoughts on what i meant to them in very specific ways. i had been secretly wondering what sort of impact that i had on people, because i always felt like i wasn’t exciting or endearing enough for people to want to either stick it out or at least put forth a real effort to be friends with me.

it was all overwhelming honestly. i didn’t know what to do with all of their words. with all of the genuine love that has been difficult to receive and accept because it always seemed to slip through my fingers. it made me want to love myself better so that i could love them better.

love my neighbor as i love myself.

i think that is my cta this year. to love myself more so that i might love those around me better.

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joy and sorrow

after what we experienced with isaac, keith said somberly. i can no longer live in this selfish state of mind that this life is promised to me. isaac lived sixteen days. some live sixteen years. others live till they are sixty. when you are looking death in the face, every moment is precious.

i remember the day before isaac passed. he had just come through surgery successfully. keith yelled at the top of his lungs outside thank you jesus before breaking down and crying. we had surrendered what we thought was everything to God. we thought he was only testing us and that we had passed the test with another day with our boy.

i remember going home that evening and singing a worship song with keith in the dark. oceans. the rain came down that night and keith and i sat on the porch and watched lightning flicker across the deepness of night. doctor orsini's call the following morning was slightly concerning, but we were still so hopeful, even then. our doctor's eyes were wet with sadness. isaac was not going to make it. 

we breathed in while sobriety coiled around our words in our silence.

as i spent the last few hours praying for and singing to my dying son, i realized then what surrender was. that there was no test. this was just life. one year later, as keith and i were trying to pick out a tree to plant for isaac while his sibling grew restless inside of me, i wished with all of my being that isaac could be here with us now. that is when the painful realization squeezed my heart. our two children could never coexist on this side of eternity. if isaac were still here, we wouldn't have started trying so soon, and we would not be experiencing this particular child.

it is here where joy and sorrow coexist for me. i cannot experience one without the other. i believe that is what most who have lost a child and gained another wrestle with. while the world around us celebrates the new life that we bring to it, we are constantly reminded of why that life came to be. we cannot forget, so don't ask us to.

there is a part of me that cannot wait for may to be over. i have been so overcome by my emotions, which is a lot to admit to since by nature, i am a big feeler. today, i slept till almost noon, the heaviness of it all crippling my already ailing pregnant body. i wonder what propels me forward despite my anguish.

mercy, keith mentioned. we don't have a choice but to show others mercy. to give them a sense of dignity, no matter how long they have on this earth.

celebrating isaac

This month has worn a hole into my healing heart.

Today, isaac would be one. As i grab hold of the reality that a year ago today, i was blessed with my first son, the weight of would be pulls me back into the heaviness of that empty space where isaac does not reside in. i am overcome by grief all over again, as if it was yesterday, and i wonder if i ever made a dent in this healing process.

Sunday was mother’s day. Last year his birthday fell the day after that. I remember being admitted in the late afternoon on mother’s day and not seeing the sun for two days. I remember how pink isaac looked. His small body wrapped in tubes and wires. I was so scared to touch him, but i wanted so badly to hold him close to me. To hear him crying for me. Something. Anything. But he had to be without me his first day of life. And i had to be without him my first day of motherhood.

micro preemie

Such a violent birth day to remember.

I remember the days and weeks that followed. My fears quickly transformed into hope and a fierce love that i will never be able to put into words. I learned how to express milk so that he would get his nourishment from me when he was able to. I used to quench his thirst with a little swab of water dabbed on his tiny tongue. I changed his diaper and i cleaned his little body when i was able to make it to the hands on sessions. I sang him to sleep. Read him stories. I even got to finally hold him against my heart so that he could hear the beats he had listened to for almost six months.

tiny baby hand

In those moments i became a mother.

No, motherhood didn’t look like i had imagined and i didn’t get to do everything i had hoped i would be able to do. But when i look back on that time, i got to be a mother. Isaac was too small to offer anything to me or this world, but somehow him being here, existing in this space was enough for me. Enough for me to be his mother. His existence alone was significant. What a powerful freedom he lived in. To be weak and dependant in every way, not performing or doing anything to receive love.

That is why I choose to remember. Even when it hurts. God, it hurts! But i am learning to cherish that simple thought of humility. To cherish what the Lord has blessed me with, both with isaac and his brother or sister. To cherish the mundane,

for it has excitement of its own.

 

Tiny Movements

It’s 3 am. i am tired.

There’s this tiny little human inside of me getting comfortable in a new position. I know I should be irritable right now. I probably will be irritable later, but right now, I savor baby’s stretches and twitches as if I were watching baby sleep through the night in my arms.

I experienced about six weeks of Isaac’s movements before he came. I never really felt him at night. Every time I went driving, he would start moving. I used to sing to him in the car as I drove. When I worked part time as a barista and stood on my feet for four hours, I would feel him then too. His movements were so gentle though. Not as vibrant as his baby brother or sister’s movements are.

I was so afraid to feel any excitement when I felt the first flutters around thirteen weeks. Even as baby grew stronger, I withheld my heart. I knew if I let baby, those tiny movements would stir my love at its foundation and I would be bonded from that point on. I knew I would smile the way I smiled when Isaac would move. I knew all the purity and freshness of this pregnancy would be distilled by the life that was cut short. But this baby continues to make his presence known to me.

Mama, I am here. I am strong. I am growing.

The activity never gets redundant for me. I don’t know if it ever will. Every day that I get to feel baby with me, is a new day I have never experienced before with Isaac. As I lie here awake while baby rolls around with great effort, I wrap my arms, my heart, my love around my womb and I smile.

It’s 3 am. I feel alive.

thirty-four

Turning another year older barely scratched the surface of my mind this week. After spending two days in the hospital because of the early signs of preterm labor, and just being released yesterday, I was more elated that I would not be spending a birthday at the NICU with my child.

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I lay in bed, the early signs of morning peeked through my blinds as baby stretched inside, the best birthday present i could’ve received so far. Keith was already up, getting ready for work, the sound of rustling paper clueing me into the fact that he was probably in the dining room wrapping my gift. God, i am such a blessed woman, i thought to myself.

As i sit here trying to wrangle in the last thirty-four years of my life into a single thought, I am grateful for my journey’s complexity. I have always desired wisdom. I prayed for it at seven after I heard the story of King Solomon asking for it. I truly believe God honored that request because over the years of success and failures, I have often been told by young and old that I am wise beyond my years and I am deeply humbled that God blessed me in this manner. The year preceding my thirty-fourth birthday has taught me one valuable lesson--uncertainty is inevitable.

Resting in the Uncharted Territory

I remember when Isaac was born and Nanna called to tell me that everything was going to be okay and that Isaac would be fine. You’ve been a good Christian girl all of your life and followed the Lord, she said.

I cringed in silence at her words.

There was something so formulaic about that statement. If all things are good, I am right with the Lord. If all things are not so good, then I immediately must “figure out” what the root of my suffering is. I knew God wasn’t one-dimensional or severely conditional. He made the sun to shine and rain to fall on the unrighteous along with the righteous (Matt 5:45). But when Isaac died after weeks of petitioning to God for a miracle, I realized how deeply rooted I unconsciously was in the “prosperity gospel” understanding of God.

I didn’t have him all or even mostly figured out. His unknowings actually unsettled me. It nearly broke me to suddenly feel so distant from God, and I thought for sure that I would receive further punishment for entering a season of darkness and stillness. I knew the landscape of God’s obscurity existed, but to go and abide inside of His unknown parts without ever having them revealed to me, terrified me.

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I am not sure when the transition actually began--somewhere in between Isaac’s passing and our failed attempts to try to conceive again--but I found myself wading out into uncharted waters. I thought that the lack of control and foresight would consume me and wash me away, but I found myself tethered. Tethered to the parts of God I had come to know and trust. His grace, His faithfulness, comfort, and peace. I slowly relinquished control in those tumultuous moments, letting my spirit sink into His deepness. I began to let go of my need to know when, where, and how.

I am still a planner. Still a “figure it out” person, but my hope is that this year I’ll continue to loosen my grasp and find peace in the unknown.