“And then what happened?” Doesn’t that sentence bring to mind a child leaning forward; chin resting on hands, elbows resting on crisscrossed knees, excitedly leaning towards the storyteller? It does to me.
When I envision my future, I see myself telling stories to my children about how Mama got to her happy place. How did I get to a place in my life where I was completely at home and in love with myself, in my relationships with God, my children, my husband, my friends and my career? That sounds like a really good story.
There have been twists and turns in this blessed life of mine. Like so many others, I’ve had painful, soul-searing loss. I took my time through the stages of grief, taking each one into myself, like a woman enjoying fine chocolate. I took it in, rolled it around my mouth, fully tasting and experiencing it. Then, I moved onto the next bite. It took years to get to acceptance over the tragic loss of my little brother in a car accident six years ago.
When I was pregnant with my daughters I pulled myself out of the depths to put together a photo book, Beginning to End. I wanted them to know my little brother by face, name and story. Now, almost five years later, one of my greatest pleasures is when I’m being silly with my girls and one of them will tell a joke or a story about Uncle Zachy.
My daughters came into the world at 26.5 gestational weeks. I’ll never forget the night they were born. It started with the shock of learning I was dilated to five without realizing those cramps were labor. On TV women scream, cry, pant, I was relatively ok except for the growing panic that maybe this wasn’t just Braxton Hicks contractions. Steroid shots, labor stalling tactics tried and failed and one quick emergency C-section later, I met my girls. I saw their reddish, tiny little bodies presented at my face for a one second look before they were taken to the side of the room where they were suctioned, cleaned, weighed and put on a ventilator.
During the NICU stay I remember getting so weary of trying to project calmness and strength during the incessant phone calls, repeating stats and updates to a heart rendering amount of loved ones and friends. I was afraid to show them how scared I was because they might then be scared. I didn’t want to see my fear in anyone else’s eyes.
Now, I have a tremendous passion for showing love to families of preemies. I sometimes feel God allowed me that experience so I could support others. It feels like there’s a sort of ministry there. My girls and I often talk and tell stories about the NICU days. We talk about how I left the hospital late one night in an ice storm to go home for my frozen supply of milk after the nurse accidentally overlooked my stash that I had delivered the day before. We talk about how I left late one night and had to run back to their room for some reason. I got to the door and saw their nurse holding one of the girls, just softly swaying with her, tiny head tucked under her chin. She was showing my girls so much precious love. I’ll be forever grateful for witnessing that moment of what happened when no parents were watching. We talk about how one of them wouldn’t poop for two days and the mood struck her (in projectile fashion) as a poor unsuspecting respiratory therapist was checking her humidifier attached to the oxygen cannula. She nailed him all down his side. And the wall. And the incubator. That story is a kid favorite.
The latest twisty-turny experience has been deciding what I really want to be when I grow up. This chapter is still being written. I know I want to make it a good one, one I’ll be happy to tell. One they’ll be proud to hear. I want to show my daughters how to be fearless, adventurous and brave enough to uproot and make a change when the change is right, even when it’s hard to do. I pray they’ll have a courageous spirit to find their place in this world with grace, faith, love and hopefully with sense of humor.
What about your story? And then what happened?
Thank you, Mama, for this beautiful story of love, loss and inspiration!
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