When I woke up this morning it was raining.
Torrential downpour kind of rain.
I wanted to pull the covers back up over my weary head and stay in bed until the sun was shining and I miraculously felt energized and alert. However I have babies, and babies wake up and want milk and food and books read to them and toys to be played with and squabbles to be solved for them. So when I heard H’s little voice on the monitor, I’ll admit that I laid in bed and just listened to him chat with himself for a few minutes, but when his chatter turned into t rex style squeals, I pushed the covers off and opened the door to my baby boys room and was greeted with his sunshine smile and outstretched arms.
Unfortunately my day did not consist of much more sunshine. The rain continued to pour outside, Hudson quickly became a tantrum throwing, cranky monster, who is either teething or has another ear infection (fingers crossed it’s teething). Ezra woke up and the two boys together were somehow able to use up any reserve of energy that I had stored up by around 10am.
But we made it through the day.
It wasn’t pretty. I spoke more harshly at times than I needed to. I lost my patience more quickly than I’d care to admit. But for some reason my boys still love me and still wanted to hug me and kiss me and cuddle me. I genuinely believe that they know the days when my health is not as strong and I believe that God gives them extra grace and mercy for me as a mama. And extra kisses and cuddles too.
For those of you who are not familiar with our journey, let me share briefly. I had two very rough pregnancies. I was quite physically ill with both of them, losing a lot of weight and having many other strange physical symptoms due to weakness. I also began having severe panic attacks that lasted throughout Ezra’s entire pregnancy and resurfaced during Hudson’s pregnancy. After each pregnancy I began to slowly regain my health, however about three months after Hudson was born I began to get much worse. Doctors initially told me that it was just stress and anxiety, because once you have struggled with anxiety, many doctors want to blame any problems that you have in the future on that. It is an extremely frustrating situation to be in, especially when you know that what you’re experiencing is not anxiety, but finding a doctor to listen to me took quite some time.
To make an incredibly long story, sort of short, we have spent the last year visiting countless doctors. My symptoms seemed random and strange to them and blood work always came back clear. So to explain away my migraines, extreme weakness, chronic fatigue, vision changes, breathing difficulties, etc, I was told I needed to take an anti-depressant. I am a big believer in the proper medication for a condition, but these doctors were throwing anti-depressants at me because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.
Finally, after over a year of sickness, many days not being able to get off my couch or care for my boys by myself, I have found a wonderful combination of two doctors who have taken on my case and have recognized that there is more than meets the eye, and they were determined to figure it out. I had my adrenal gland function tested last summer and those lab results showed very low adrenal function, which could definitely account for many of my symptoms, but after pursuing adrenal treatment for over six months and not seeing improvement, I spoke to my new applied kinesiologist about why I wasn’t healing and he began to look further. He discovered that there was an infection in my body, at the time not knowing what sort of infection, we began super boosting my immune system to help my body fight this mystery infection. I immediately began to see some results, more than I had seen in over a year. As we continued treatment he began to treat me more specifically for a parasite that we believe I was infected with during my final week living in Hawaii when I went canoeing in a river (note to self: never canoe again). I began to have severe symptoms about two days after that. Since beginning this treatment I have seen steady improvement in my energy levels, my weakness, my moods, and so on. I have a long way to go to achieve total health, since my body has been weak for so long. But for the first time in a long time it appears we are on the right track and I am finally beginning to believe that healing is possible.
Chronic, long-term illness of any kind is scary and exhausting and frustrating, and so many other things all wrapped up in one super unattractive package. A lot of days, including days like today, I find myself giving in to the frustration and the heartache of not being the mom or the wife that I want to be. I yell at my kids because I’m mad at myself for not having the energy to play with them. I put Hudson down for a nap and I park Ezra in front of the tv so I can nap on the couch and hopefully wake up with enough energy to make dinner. I stare at healthy, energetic moms chasing their kids around the park with their nice clothes and their hair done, with a mix of adoration and jealousy of what they are able to do. A lot of days I am a little bit sad and a lot embarrassed by my weaknesses, and although I know in my head it’s not my fault, sometimes my heart still betrays me.
In life, it is always far too easy to focus on the bad, the heart break, the struggle. We are all guilty of letting the bad take over from time to time. And when you are faced with any sort of long-term challenge, survival mode kicks in and all you are concerned with is making it through the day, existing to see tomorrow.
Dreams stop coming.
Laughter is strained.
Hope is gone.
And if that were the end of the story this would be one of the most depressing blog posts ever written. Thank goodness that is not the end.
This struggle has stolen so much from me. So many of the things I prided myself on are now only distant memories. And even the things I still do are only a shadow of what I wish they could be. But in this process I have become someone who I never would have been without this struggle.
I didn’t wish for this struggle. But when I look closely at my heart, I really like the person this season has left behind. Because behind all of the hard moments, beneath the frustration and the embarrassment, is a raw, broken heart that is slowly being pieced back together by her Jesus whispering to her who she truly is.
Who I truly am.
I am stronger, more compassionate, more loving, more grateful for the gift of life than I was before this difficult road began. And my sincere prayer is that this journey and the things I have learned will continue to mold me and who I am every day for the rest of my life.
I believe I am on the road to healing. And I don’t just mean physically. After such a difficult season my heart and mind need healing as well. One of the main ways I am trying to heal my heart is by purposely finding the beautiful moments, the joy filled seconds in my day, and recording them so that even in the midst of a difficult season I will have hundreds and hundreds of beautiful memories to look back on. It is rare that you would find me without my camera because snapping those tiny moments of wonderful and creating a scrapbook of happy for myself and my family has forced me to recognize how much beauty is overflowing from our life, even when it seems like there is only pain and struggle. My previous post talks about my New Years resolution to find joy in life and since then that simple resolution has become an entire community of people on instagram (@thepursuitofjoyproject) all dedicated to finding the beauty in life, the wonderful in ordinary moments, and sharing those moments and inspirational stories with each other. It has been so healing for me to see what brings happiness to other people, to hear others stories of heartbreak and see how they have found beauty in the midst of their heartache.
Life is not at all what I imagined it would be like right now. But I do know one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt, God knew that this was the path life would bring myself and my family down, and he didn’t abandon us here to fend for ourselves. He brought us here because his purpose is greater than ours and my deepest hope is that our struggle can encourage and inspire others. Other mamas who aren’t able to do as much as they think they ‘should’, other families going through illness and feeling like it will never end, people who just need to know that no matter where they are in life, that God has not forgotten them and that there will be beauty from pain. If our story brings even one person closer to Jesus, then I consider every tear worth it.
It’s late. Ezra is in bed next to me, waking up every few minutes with a coughing fit. I’m exhausted in every way, but when I remind myself to take the time to find the beauty in this moment, my stress fades and all I notice is my baby boy’s tiny fingers reaching out for mine, and the way his little body tucks up against mine perfectly and the rhythmic song of his snore. I notice these things and I tuck them away to cherish forever, and i’ll take them out and cry happy tears as I remember them long after he’s holding another girl’s hand.
These tiny fleeting moments, that so many of us miss because we don’t take the time to notice them, are so very precious. Take time today, no matter how difficult things might seem, to look for the beauty and tuck it away to hold on to forever.
I promise you will not regret it.