“You can lose it all – all the things you thought mattered most – and rise up to tell a better story yet. Turn it loose.” – Jen Hatmaker
Eliza turned four last month, and nearly every morning since her birthday, Facebook has popped up a memory from that time on my personal page. It’s hard to explain just how quickly I am transported to that room and to those days and weeks of fear. It still feels prickly and raw all over again to see a picture of her tiny body with a captioned update on the latest tests or prayers requests, remembering how I felt when they were taken. Four years ago today was our first full day with Eliza at home, so yesterday’s picture showed us parading her out of the NICU without any wires or monitors attached for the very first time. This seems unbelievable to me.
Fast forward to today. Eliza is halfway through a weeklong Zoo Camp with her sister. Other than her special snack, there are no real modifications for her. I drop her off in her matching oversized safari t-shirt and pick her up three hours later, knowing that when I do, she and Amelia will tell me all about the animals they got to pet or the special shows they got to see. Yesterday, we met her physical therapist after camp to do a little session in the zoo. She was walking along narrow beams and jumping off sidewalk ledges, trying to land on both feet together (a challenge) but excited to be “leading” her younger sister through the obstacles. It was one of those ordinary moments that takes your breath away because you get a glimpse of just how much has changed…how far you’ve all come.
Days can feel normal and full and just about perfect even when what that looks like has changed, and I wish I had known that. I wish the me in the NICU, hearing about the devastating diagnosis, could have glimpsed us out together in the sunshine. It would have calmed that anxious, sad mama’s heart. If you are there, in the space where everything feels so crushing and huge that you fear life will never be light and fun again, hang tight. Take a deep breath. Trust that this too shall pass, and that even when the diagnosis doesn’t change, you will. You will change in wonderful ways, with eyes more open to the laughter and the blessings. You will look with more awe at your children – all of them – and feel closer to your spouse than ever before. Your rawness will translate to a deeper, more sensitive perception of the world around you and especially of those closest to you on the journey. Breathe. Trust. Surrender. The pain is real, but so is the joy. And there is so much joy just around the bend. I promise.