Big Sisters

“For there is no friend like a sister in calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands.” – Christina Rossetti

With the blessed event happening in less than a month, it seems as good a time as any to officially announce that we are expecting our third little girl in November.  This pregnancy has been a whirlwind, and I’d be lying if I said I was all ready.  We have no name, no nursery, and no idea where half the newborn gear and clothes are hiding.  It’s going to get interesting.  But nevertheless, I can hardly wait!

In many ways, I feel like I’m becoming a new parent all over again.  I have anxiety I didn’t have going into my second birth, and I’m nervous that I won’t know what to do with a crying, hungry newborn because, in many ways, I haven’t had one in four years.  There are so many things that are different this third go round, and it’s left me feeling unsettled at times.  Eliza’s entrance into this world was unexpectedly traumatic, so a part of me is holding my breath until this newest little one is actually home.  We’ve been in labor and delivery, we’ve been in recovery, we’ve been in well-baby, and we’ve still landed in a 5-week stay in the NICU with zero warning.  That experience changed me, and I fear I will never again be able to go back to the confident, naïve mama who brought Amelia into this world while watching The Sound of Music and listening to Christopher Plummer sing “Edelweiss.”

So I’m nervous.  Super nervous, actually.  I want Derrick to be there with me every second (which is not guaranteed with his schedule), and I want to go into labor on my own before my due date (which has never happened).  Mostly, I want a healthy baby, but even that seems like it’s asking too much…as though I’m somehow ungrateful for the “unhealthy” baby I got two years ago.

And then there’s the whole aspect of bringing another member into a busy family where time and energy is already stretched thin.  When you have a child with a lifelong need, everything gets viewed through a new lens to some extent, so I wonder how this new addition will affect our family, but mostly how it will affect Eliza.

But here I am, weeks away from meeting this new, yet-to-be-named baby girl.  And despite all the fear and the uncertainty, I mostly feel overwhelmed with gratitude and bursting with joy at the thought of holding her for the first time.  There are so many things I don’t know, but to be honest, what I get most excited about is that I do know that this little girl will have the very best big sisters for her in the world!  I think it’s safe to say she will have no shortage of attention from them, and I have a feeling that will both toughen her up and keep her sensitive and kind as she grows up.

And what I know for Eliza is this: she will be sandwiched in a tribe of sisters who will someday be women together.  What a precious bond to be literally surrounded by your best friends, willing to do life with you no matter the season of it.  It is one of my deepest prayers for these girls and something I can’t wait to witness.  If Rossetti is right that there is no friend like a sister…to cheer, to lift, to strengthen…having two is sure to be twice the blessing.  At least let’s hope so, because ready or not, here she comes!

Let It Be

“When her pain is fresh and new, let her have it.  Don’t try to take it away.  Forgive yourself for not having that power.  Grief and pain are like joy and peace; they are not things we should try to snatch from each other.  They are sacred.  They are part of each person’s journey.  All we can do is offer relief from this fear: I am all alone.  That’s the one fear you can alleviate.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

I recently finished reading Glennon’s latest book, Love Warrior, and it left me spinning with thoughts and reflections.  It is so raw, so honest.  Of the many takeaways, perhaps the one that spoke to me most profoundly was her message about the gifts and opportunities that we have in our struggles.  She wrote candidly about a time when her children witnessed a tense moment between she and her husband, and instead of allowing them that space to cry and process and own it, she did what many of us do in an effort to protect our kids…she glossed over it with reassurances that everything was okay.

It made me think about parenting and about all the choices we make to protect our children and shield them from pain.  We want only good and lovely things for them, but that’s not only impossible, it’s also detrimental to some extent.  It robs them of the lesson that they can, in fact, walk through really tough stuff and come out stronger on the other side, and it robs all of us of the silver lining to the emptiness Glennon describes: “the unfillable is what brings people together.”

I thought of Eliza most especially.  I remember the first day I learned about PWS and how impossible it was to imagine a time when my precious daughter would come to me and say she was hungry only for me to tell her no…no to that banana or cracker or cheese stick, no to that snack she sees her friends eating.  That coming reality still breaks my heart to imagine.  Truly, thinking of how real that hunger will be (they say to imagine how we would feel after not eating for 3 days and live in that state constantly), leaves me feeling helpless and desperate to somehow take that struggle away.

It certainly fuels the fire to raise awareness, fund the research, and set healthy habits at home.  But until there is a cure, there will be nothing I can do to protect her from the onset of unrelenting hunger, and that crushes me.  Simply writing that sentence brings me to tears.

But Glennon’s words have seeped into my mind and left me with a new goal for when that moment comes: that instead of pretending it is all okay, instead of shushing her tears and reassuring her that everything is going to be alright, I should wrap her in my arms and let it be hard.  I should honor the times she struggles and suffers by acknowledging them and promising only what I can: that no matter what, I will be there for her.  That while I can’t take away the pain or the hunger, I can sit with her in it.  That I can pray with her and cry with her and love her through the darkness as best I can.

To be honest, it still doesn’t seem like enough, and it leaves me angry that I can’t do more.  I will never stop wishing that I could magically remove this unfair disorder from her life and shield her from suffering.  But I also trust that she will get through it and that she will rise stronger.  Her pain will give her compassion, her trials will give her courage, and her struggles will draw her closer to the God of grace and mercy who understands a broken heart and an unfair hand more than any.  And for that – for the knowledge that she will never, ever be alone in this – I am thankful.