I’ve been sharing mostly photos lately and thought I’d take a moment to share a little of my heart and where I am. Three weeks from today, Clara will turn one. What a year it has been. I’ve found myself deep in reflection the last couple of weeks (it’s what we teachers do – reflect) and despite the reality of the fact that Clara is doing fabulously, that spring is just around the corner, and that we will soon be celebrating her miraculous first year of life, I am finding that I’m just a wee bit melancholy.
I think that some of it is typical for parents who have a child turning one. It is an exciting and special milestone, but it also marks the end of baby-time and since so much of the first year is spent in a bit of haze and exhaustion it never really seems possible that they’re already turning one. I couldn’t be more excited that we’ll be celebrating Clara’s first birthday with a baby who is living and thriving, growing and developing. But there is still a part of me that is looking back over my shoulder and grasping for some of what I missed.
I missed those first three months of tiny newborn snuggly-ness. The brand new baby smell was exchanged for the scent of hospital grade cleaner and disinfectant. Instead of worrying about how many hours of sleep I got in a day, I worried whether my baby would make it through surgery, would come off ECMO and ventilators, would wean from morphine, would learn how to eat, would live…. I’ll never get those first three months back again and I’m kind of missing them now. The months that followed, when Clara came home, were anything but normal. I have never in my life thrown my heart, my soul, my spirit and my physical body so wholly into something. All I did, all I thought about, all I became was about helping Clara eat, sleep and grow. I was consumed by worry for her, much of the time, and felt alone and isolated both due to germ prevention and to feeling like there were few people who understood the intensity of the life I was living. I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Clara is healthy and happy now because of every second of that angst and every ounce (pun intended) of that determination. But I can’t help but look over my shoulder just a little bit, and want some of those days back too.
It’s been an incredible year. While we still have a few challenges ahead of us, Clara is, for the most part, well now. It’s hard to really believe that, and I find myself just letting out deep exhales and saying to myself, “Is this really over?” I talked with a good friend yesterday who is a cancer doctor and as I described how I have been feeling she said that a similar thing happens with cancer patients. Once the treatment and the chaos and the panic of survival mode has passed, when things are all okay again, that is when you finally have a chance to begin to grieve a little, to process what you’ve been through and to feel some of the emotions from the intensity of the journey. And that’s where I’ve been. Just when it seems like I should be the most joyful, the most content, the most thankful, I am filled with some sadness and grief for all that has happened.
There are reminders all around me of where we were this time of year last year – little things like daffodils blooming – that take me back to our fear and uncertainty before Clara was born. A year ago I didn’t know what was ahead, or how we would make it through. No amount of preparation could have truly prepared me for what the last year looked like. I never really thought that we would be having conversations with doctors about her not surviving. I never really thought that she would go on ECMO. I never really thought that she would have heart failure. I also never would have thought that we would be surrounded and carried by such an incredible community of friends, family and strangers, united in God’s love. I never would have thought that my tiny sick infant would be changing people’s hearts across the world. I never would have thought that we would learn all the lessons that the past year has taught us.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining about the past or feeling sorry for myself. I know that we could be celebrating Clara’s first birthday by her graveside and I could not be more thankful for God’s mercies in our lives. I’m just longing a little for what wasn’t and trying to find a balance of looking ahead with joy and excitement to what I know will only get better while still remembering what we’ve been through, the lessons God has taught me, and the ways that this has forever changed my heart. It is a unique balance, this honoring the past, living in the present, looking to the future. Not wishing away a second, not waiting for an unknown ahead, not forgetting the steps that have brought us to right here, right now.
So, that’s where I am. How about you? Have you been through crisis and come out on the other side a changed person? Have you longed for something that you know couldn’t have been and then felt guilty for not just being thankful for all that is?
From Isaiah 43:
“But now, this is what the Lord says, he who created you, he who formed you: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God…..Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”