Friday, March 6, 2009

Our New Normal

I ran into a friend at church the other night as she was getting everything ready for a MOPS meeting the next morning. She and I had served on the steering committee for a while...I was the coordinator for two years. I hadn't seen her since I pulled Jace out of the 1 year old preschool class that her daughter also attended because I was going on bedrest during my pregnancy with Eli.

Anyway, her daugher poked her head around the corner and stared at me, and I though she looked like a kid I knew, so I followed her around the corner, and there was my friend. We chit chatted for a minute and she introduced me to another member of the steering committee, then she asked how things were going for us. 

I stood there for a moment, racking my brain to remember the last time I saw her (Now I remember...I was newly pregnant with Eli and we were standing in the parking lot talking about Ava's lost lovey that she'd made her). My brain wasn't working very quickly, and my mouth started talking before my mind could catch up. 

"Well, Ava and Jace are great, and we...we had another baby, but he died. And then, we had another baby, and he can't hear, and he's upstairs."

Blank stare from my friend and most especially from the poor girl I'd never met. 

"'ve been through a lot since the last time I saw you!" She exclaimed, bravely trying to save the conversation. Luckily someone asked about Seth and I was able to steer the conversation into what was going on with him, but I was still blushing bright red on the inside because of how obtusely I had spoken. 

Two years ago, I had a pretty typical, normal life, for all intents and purposes. Yes, we had made the choice to have our kids insanely close together, but we were loving it, and we were thrilled about adding a third child to our family. Aside from being on bedrest, my life had been pretty much normal. Parents that loved that was fun and affectionate. My dad died when I was young, but truthfully, I've never remembered much about him, and my mom bent over backwards to make my life comfortable and enjoyable, and she succeeded. I went to school, I worked at a job I loved, I got married young(ish...I was legal), and I got a lot of sense knocked into me the day Ava was born and I'll forever be grateful for it. But our lives were still normal. Jace's two week NICU stay had been the worst we'd gone through, and we didn't even understand how sick he actually was, so that didn't even resonate like it could have. 

We were just a normal family with a normal, if hectic life, until that morning in the hospital when I saw Eli was gone. We were just typical until the moment he was born and he neglected to take that breath he looked poised to take. Then we were suddenly and completely trasnported to a completely different life. 

John and I had gone through tough times, but never before had we been completely unable to see where the other was coming from. But after Eli was born, all I wanted to do was remember him, and all John seemed to want to do was forget. It took him weeks to call him Eli and not "the baby." It took him weeks to want to talk about him at all. On our first trip to NYC, we spent hours one day with the kids at a Borders in midtown. I read a book about grief and loss, and he read Harry Potter. When we returned home, I spent hours in Eli's nursery, laying on the bottom bunk, reading the stacks of cards we were receiving every day in the mail. He never wanted to step through the door. 

It was the hardest thing we have ever gone though, dealing with the fact that we were grieving in completely opposite ways. I can totally and completely understand how and why couples split up after the death of a child. You get angry, and the easiest person to take it out on is the person closeset to you. I felt so much guilt over Eli's death...I would tell John all the ways I felt I contributed to his death, wishing and hoping for someone to tell me it was ok, that they loved me, and instead he got angry with me for even letting myself think it was my fault. He was loving me, but not in the way I craved, and every time he tried to come to me with his issues, I shot them down without a thought because I couldn't and didn't understand where he was coming from in the least. He would come upon me crying and as why, and I would immediately turn on him and say "How can you ask my why? It's always the same thing!"

It's been a long two years of ups and downs...and downs, and downs, sometimes to the point where I have wondered if we would ever get back to being the happy, carefree couple we once were. And I've come to terms with the fact that it probably won't happen...that we are both irrevocably changed because of Eli, that he has changed each of us to the very core of our being. Some changes I wish had not happened, and some of them are huge blessings. Either way, good or bad, they're there....this is our new normal, and we have learned to love each other through, because of, and in spite of our new selves. I know without a doubt that if I were not the conscientious, tenacious, proactive mother I have become because of Eli, I would not be eqiupped to be the mother that Seth needs to thrive with his challenges. If John was not the hard working, repsonsible, slightly over protective dad who, if need be, puts providing for his famly higher on his list of priorities than enjoying them that he's become since Eli, we would without a doubt be out on the street today. 

That God, look at him. Doing the best for us, even in times of terrible trial. We may not be carefree anymore, but we are joyful. I will count it all joy, even if it is a solemn joy. How blessed we are to be given this opportunity to minister to others on the front lines of life, as it were, in the trenches of hospital waiting rooms and therapy offices, where there are other parents holding on by a thread just like we were, wondering how they can adjust to the new normal of their lives. It's a simple secret...they can't. He CAN! God and God alone can bring us through the darkest night, the deepest grief. If we can share that with one person, it's all worth it. 

Now I'm off to the Rodeo tomorrow. The latest update I got this afternoon was that God is working in Mighty ways to make this an awesome event for Seth and for Christ, and believe me, I'll be back here tomorrow night to tell you all about it!


Ace said...

Hey, thanks for stopping by and leaving me a comment! New friends are good!

E @ Scottsville said...

Ya know, you hit a nerve with me tonight. I could TOTALLY imagine you two going with it in your own ways and it totally made sense how much it would 'change you to the core'. You described it perfectly.

So I never knew it was a shock that Eli just never breathed that first breath. I didn't know...

Wow. ......and speechless. I just can't even begin to imagine.

Cristi said...

Wow that was a great post and so true.

Sonya said...

Thank you so much for sharing. Death is one of those things that no two people experience the same way and you are never the same after losing someone close to you. I will be thinking about and praying for your family.

Faith said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'll be praying for you and your family! God bless you all.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your very touching story. I cannot begin to imagine what the last two years must have been like for you. I pray that your family will strengthen more and more each day.

Shanda said...

Beautifully articulated. I cannot wait to hear how the rodeo goes!


Julie said...

Very well written. I understand what you mean. When Fred & I lost our first baby through miscarriage, we grieved differently. It was hard to deal with, but we pulled through together. Everyone deals with loss differently, but it's important to try to come together as husband & wife.

Anxious to hear about the rodeo!

Dorsey said...

Awesome post! God does answer our prayers and look out for our best interests. We truly have to trust him with all the we have in us, because sometimes it's necessary to go through painful trials to later receive his best for us. God is good and he does bless us with great joy! We just have to hang in there. You said it so well.

Anonymous said...

You always write such beautiful posts. I can't even begin to imagine how it feels to lose a child, but with your faith, I believe anything is possible for you. You've got a good head on your shoulders, lady!

Joy said...

Such a profound post.. I am not ashamed to admit I cried when reading it.

Grief is so.... hard. And individual. When David and I were grieving our early losses, we had much the same situation. He seemed to move on so easily.. and I just couldn't. I remember screaming at him once, asking "AREN'T YOU EVEN SAD?!" and he looked so hurt. Of course he was sad. But he just handles it so much differently than me.
Of course, we've come out stronger, too.. but there were days I didn't know if we could make it another day.

My heart goes out to you.
And I don't think you should be embarrassed for what you said. It was an honest answer and while it may have made her uncomfortable, it was true. I think we could all do with a little more truth.


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