Abundance and joy

“Sorrow deepens the channels whereby happiness may enter and hollows out new channels for joy to abide in when grief is gone.”

You know that feeling you get the first night you’ve been able to breathe easily after congestion has robbed you of good sleep for so many nights before? It’s such a simple thing…breathing through your nose and sleeping through the night…but you never really appreciate it until a cold comes along and you can’t do it anymore. That’s how I have felt these past few days, only on a much bigger scale. Spending five days in the NICU wasn’t fun, but it opened my eyes all over again to the simple blessings of home that I often overlook or take for granted…soft sheets (or sheets period for that matter), a kitchen full of options, my own bathroom and shower. Home is so good! Lying in bed with Derrick on one side and Eliza snoozing in her bassinet on the other, knowing Amelia is down the hall…feeling so hugged by their love…it’s almost too much. My heart could burst at the simple joy of it all!

My weekend was filled in moments like that – big and small. Moments of gratitude and awareness. That’s the funny thing about hard things…they break your heart at times, but they break it open wider, and then the love that spills into it can travel deeper.  I know that despite all the worry and frustrations that will inevitably be part of my journey in motherhood, my life will be richer and more vibrant than it ever would have been before Eliza’s surprising diagnosis became a part of it. And I’m so thankful for that! But here’s what I’m realizing…something I wish I knew before…the blessings were already there. The sheets were just as soft, the peaceful breathing of my family just as soothing. I just didn’t know it. I didn’t open my eyes to just how beautiful it was until I was jolted away from it all and plopped into a NICU again and again.

They never did figure out exactly what caused the troubled breathing that put Eliza in the NICU last week, but her time there was still productive on so many other fronts. We were able to try supervised feeding with a Level 2 nipple, something she had been prohibited from previously because of aspiration risks, and have since graduated to using one full-time. The larger flow allows her to take entire feeds at a time without the tube, which is a huge answer to prayer! And we welcomed the incredible news while there that Derrick passed his last medical board exam. So many good things!

Such a simple thing, gratitude. But it changes us if we let it…if we wrap ourselves in it like a warm blanket. The comfort and peace it brings is almost that tangible, even in a NICU…but especially at home!

Still Standing

“Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.” – Max Lucado

I am sitting in the NICU with my sweet baby girl for the second time in less than two weeks, and we just got word that we will not be released today as I had hoped. It is indescribable to be here again…to see the same cotton hospital blankets with the baby feet, to fight through the same cords and pulse ox monitors and tubes every time I want to change Eliza’s diaper or pick her up. We are at a new hospital now since our delivery hospital does not admit from outside of their labor and delivery, but so many things are the same…the smells and sounds and routines. I am amazed at how quickly I have fallen back into the pace, maneuvering new halls to get to a new but familiar parent lounge with an identical coffee machine. The rounds, the meetings, the nurses…all of it blurs into something that feels strangely normal, even comfortable. But while my body and mind have fallen into the rhythm of life in the NICU, my heart resists it as much as it did that first night in July. Resists the beeping monitors, the invasive tests, and the goodbye waves and hugs with Amelia. That’s the worst part…the goodbyes.

We are here because of a few terrified instances on Monday afternoon when Eliza struggled to breathe, coughing and gasping with a terrified look on her face that I had never seen before. The incident came seemingly out of nowhere and yet it didn’t completely surprise me. I feel like I’m coming to expect the unexpected. But what’s more, I realize I’m coming to expect difficult things, especially in recent weeks. The sleep study that showed apnea we didn’t expect, the swallow study that showed aspiration we didn’t see coming, the loss of a beloved dog who went from healthy and happy on a Sunday to paralyzed and in pain the next day. Even after his heartbreaking death, I managed to bounce back to hope. Surely, this was the end of our string of tough stuff. I was sharing just that with a group of incredible women last Friday when I got the call from Amelia’s preschool. She had thrown up…something she had never done before but managed to do another eleven times before the day was done. I went to bed on Sunday physically and emotionally exhausted, joking with Derrick that I wanted nothing more than an uneventful, boring week. The next day, Eliza was admitted to the NICU, which brings us to where I am now, four days later, writing and thinking.

I don’t share this to complain, although it feels nice to vent. I guess I’m just marveling at the relative calm I feel despite all the craziness. I’m an emotional person by nature, but I haven’t felt the swelling worry or deep grief that have followed me like a shadow through so many recent trials. What amazes me is the realization that I’m doing it. That despite all the moments when I thought I could not possibly handle another setback, I somehow did anyways. I am tired and scared, but I am still standing, and we are still okay! And I am thankful for that…thankful for all the helpers holding us up in prayer, sending sweet messages of encouragement, caring for my girls, and bringing food who have kept me going.   As my mom says, “the only way through it is through it.” But thank God I am not going through it alone!

Dear Amelia

“And though she be but little, she is fierce.” – William Shakespeare

Dear Amelia,

You are two today. I can hardly believe it. I can hardly even remember my life before you were a part of it. You changed me…stretched me to love more deeply and selflessly than I thought possible. You made me a mother. I remember the moment I found out you were growing inside of me and the moment you were born…your daddy’s face was glowing with new life and purpose. It was so beautiful. We were in awe of you then and have been every day since. Every. Single. Day. You are curious, engaging, and so sweet! I love that you say hi and bye to people you meet…and to airplanes, parks, and pools. I love the way you give kisses and hugs to your family and how you speak those words out loud as you do it. I love that you want to “cheers” with your juice glass and anyone else’s drink (including your sister’s bottle and the picture of the coffee cup in your nighttime book of prayers). You live in song and dance and moments of throwing your head back and smiling for no reason at all. You live deeply!

And I can’t wait to tell you about your one-year-old self in the summer that your sister was born. How palpable your excitement and love was the moment you first met Eliza just minutes after her birth. You held her in your lap and have held her in your love ever since. And when things got scary. When mama and daddy didn’t come home for so many weeks. You were so brave, so patient, so adapting. We were amazed by you! By the speed in which you embraced your new reality, clutching the Hello Kitty purse you had packed with a pacifier and hair bow and looking up at YaYa by the door with an expression that said I’m ready. You knew where you were going…you knew how to get to the elevator, how to get to our boarding room, and how to get to your sister’s bassinet in the NICU. It must have been so hard to leave each day…it was hard for us too…but you lived in the moments of time spent together watching Mary Poppins, running to see the fish in the waiting room lobby, and exploring the contents of every drawer you could get to first. You somehow made the impossible task of saying goodbye doable with your smiles and waves, reassuring us that you were okay. That we could do this…we could get through it all and come back together with new squeals of delight at every reunion.

Mostly, I’m excited to be a witness of your journey to come. Your delight in life is contagious and your fierce courage and loyalty astonishing. My prayer for you, my precious girl, is that you continue to grow in curiosity and kindness, embracing all the light and love God has poured onto this earth…soaking it in and sharing it with others. I have no doubt you will…you already do in so many ways. I love, love, love you, birthday girl!