Last night we took down the Christmas tree and packed it all away. It seems impossible to think that another year could pass so quickly. This time last year, I was beginning to anticipate the last part of pregnancy with my son. I daydreamed a lot about what two children would be like and whether or not my heart had the capacity to love another child as much as I love my daughter. Could a human heart stretch that far and wide without snapping?
When I started my weekly exams at the doctor’s last winter, my obstetrician let me know I was over 80% effaced and around 4cm dilated. We were so certain I would be giving birth within 24 hours, because my daughter came quickly just 2 and a half years previously.
Well, my son took his time. I walked around between 80-90% effaced and somewhere between 4-5cm dilated for a couple of weeks. We had been so sure our baby would arrive before February turned into March that, when March 1 appeared, I moped around the house for hours on end.
I must have looked insane at over 9 months pregnant with puffy eyes, wild hair, and gasps of air replacing a normal breathing pattern while I pumped my legs and arms wildly on that elliptical hoping that it would send me into labor. After I had worked for more than an hour at a time on the elliptical and still had no signs of labor, I would burst into tears and lament to my husband, “I bet I am going to be the first woman to stay pregnant forever!”
Although it felt like forever at the time, the last part of my pregnancy slipped right on by. Before I could even catch my breath, I was shutting the door to our van with the two tiny faces visible through the window. I turned around to hug the nurse who had been taking care of me and my infant son and found I couldn’t let go of her. Uncontrollably, I was hanging onto her neck for dear life as I started to sob, “Am I going to be good enough for two of them? Are you really letting me go home with two children?”
The nurse was kind to me in the middle of my neurosis and she reassured me that I could do it, that I would be okay.
Almost ten months ago, my husband was pulling the van into the driveway while I was practicing my breathing and trying to gather myself for life at home, without the call button to summon a nurse for assistance with the baby.
I moped around for days on end, my hormones a tornado of turmoil that would send me into tears for no reason at all. By the time the baby was a month old, we knew something was wrong when the tears and the moping did not stop.
I fed, diapered, bathed, entertained, hugged, diapered, and fed some more, not one, but two small human beings in addition to trying to balance out my own needs. I was left feeling guilty more often than not. I felt guilty that my daughter had to wait while I tended to the more urgent needs of her newborn brother. I felt guilty when I couldn’t snuggle her and tuck her into bed, as was our routine before the baby arrived. I felt like I had betrayed my own children by having to choose between their needs, no matter how irrational I tried to tell myself those feelings were. Those feelings led to other feelings, led to other feelings, and so on until I found myself sitting on the bathroom floor staring blankly at the wall. My whole life was beginning to parade around with the most traumatic pieces booming and blaring loudly. I looked at my husband and said, “I might need a little help.”
He let me know he had already spoken to the doctor and he made me an appointment to see her after reading about how postpartum depression can complicate post-traumatic stress. I saw my obstetrician and our family doctor’s nurse practitioner within days of each other that very week. A medication regime was organized between them. I had follow-up appointments, started going to a support group, and began seeing a new therapist.
I also started writing all of the time and had three spiral notebooks going at the same time. I spent as much time as I could sweating everything out on the elliptical and scribbling in my notebooks like a madwoman.
And, I discovered the power of Psalm 34:18 –
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.
What some may call ‘melodramatic’ I would call ‘passion’ and life experience. One must truly see the depths in order to experience a passion for life that translates into a richer passion for God. I am more inclined to feel sorry for those who don’t have a flair for melodramatics, while those of us who do are actually the lucky ones. I think it takes a lot of guts and courage to break. There is great strength in reaching a place of weakness and being able to say, “I don’t have the answers. I don’t have it figured out. I need a little help. I am a bit broken.”
The truth is, though we may try to hide it behind pride, bitterness, money, looks, or talent, we are all a bit broken.
My mindset began to take a different turn this holiday season, as the bitter-sweetness of life’s circumstances brought so many things around in a complete circle. My husband and I were joking about how, years ago when we were kids, we made a pact that if we were 40 and single we would pool our resources and have a family together. We aren’t kids anymore, but we got married and eventually had our daughter when he was 40 before our son showed up just as I was turning 40. I am not sure you could weave a more beautiful quilt than the one formed out of the tattered pieces my husband and I managed to stitch together.
I had no idea this time last year, when I spent that time daydreaming about what life as a family of four would be like, that 2016 would actually turn into the most beautiful and rewarding ride of my life. I had no idea the lows could hurt so deeply or that, in the middle of that turmoil, I could experience something new: joy. I have been experiencing an unspeakable amount of joy and I can only conclude that, surely, I must be one of the lucky ones to feel this way.
I have mentioned this before, but I need to mention it again; I have heard it said you can only praise God to the degree of which you have lamented.
I think the same could be said about joy; you can only experience joy to the degree of which you have mourned.
It is easier to hide it all behind a mask or a costume than it is to lay those things down and reveal yourself, just as you are. It takes guts to get this vulnerable and open yourself up to judgment, criticism, scrutiny, and rejection. It takes moxie to stand firm in your faith and say, “I don’t have it figured out, but I know Who does. Me? I am pretty broken, but I know Who I am broken in.”
And, I am a very, very rich woman because of it.
2016 was a delicious year, rich in emotion and human experience. For better and for worse, this year brought with it some of the most precious gifts I could have ever hoped for.