Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Wrong Side of "What If?"


I am not a huge fan of pregnancy pictures of myself, but when Sara asked me if I wanted some taken I agreed.  I figured at the very least I should have a few to put in my baby book.  This picture has my heart though.  To me, it just says it all.  I'm excited for this baby.  I already love her beyond words.  I can't wait to get her in my arms.  But, I'm also a little scared of the "what if's."

As I enter the last full week of my pregnancy, I'm ready to meet this girl, but I'm also thinking...

What if things don't turn out the way I envision them?

What if she's sick?

What if she doesn't make it?

What if I don't?

What if she has a defect or a disability?

I hate to go down this road in my mind because, frankly, I start to cry about the "what if's."  And then I start to cry for those momma's who have lived out the wrong side of the "what if's."

The longer I'm here on this earth the more I'm realizing that there are no guarantees in this life.  There is no controlling it.  It's full of pain and heartache and just plain old crappy things that are hard for us to understand. 

None of us have to look very far to find a family that has been blindsided by a birth not turning out in the wonderful way they had imagined it.  But, when I look at some of the moms I know who have been through more hurt than I can bear to think about, I can see beauty in those ashes.  I see the hurting but I also see the strength.  I see the struggle but I can also see it being overcome.  Most beautiful of all, I see Jesus.

I often ask myself..... how do they go on?  How are they smiling, happy, despite the circumstances life has dealt them?  How do they stay so strong?

So, without trying to cause any further pain or hurt, I decided to get some perspectives from a few mother's who hold a special place in my heart. They have all been on the wrong side of "what if" and they all inspire me and have touched my life in different ways.  I often sit in wonder of their strength and I just love the way they have chosen to live out this hard life that God had planned for them.

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Kimberlee
Kimberlee and her daughter Ella (born with Down's Syndrome)

Kimberlee is easily one of the strongest women I know.  I often feel like a girl in the presence of a woman when I'm listening to what her days hold.  God knew what he was doing when he chose her to be Ella's mom.  After I sort of marvel at her courage in standing up for her daughter, she simply says, "I need to be an advocate for Ella because there are others coming behind her."

On her blog a while back she wrote, "My initial reaction {to Ella's birth} was one of unbelief and devastation. I spent many hours crying on a day that was suppose to be the happiest day of my life."

"There are times when I am overwhelmed by life as I currently know it.  There is much more prompting and teaching that goes into the dailiness of life than I ever anticipated.  I used to never visit the future because it did overwhelm me.  Every year that I see Ella developing and growing, I get more excited about her future."

When I asked her to explain this crazy strength she has, she said, "As for a quote on strength...I didn't know what to say about that...kind of weird to talk about myself that way. Ha. I asked my Mom and this is what she wrote, 'You have always been strong in independence...eager to do it yourself. As an adult you have become strong in Spirit. This is what I see now.'"

Andrea
Graham (born with transposition of the heart valves)


My sister Ann is one of those moms who could "out-mom" me blindfolded and with both hands tied behind her back.  But when her third child was born with a heart defect it sent her reeling. This is what she said of her experience:

"I wouldn't take back our nightmare experience for anything. I saw God perform a miracle right before my eyes and there was a purpose for all of it. I learned that God really is in control and no matter how hard we try to control things ourselves, God knows what is best when it comes to molding us spiritually. I had a lot of anxiety about my children before all of this happened with Graham. I worried about their safety, about accidents and about so many other things that really are out of my control.

...God had to teach me to hand my children over to Him and partner with Him in raising them. (I had to remember that He loves them even more than I do, so He'll do what He thinks is best.)

As hard as it was to see my little man off to open heart surgery and face the reality that I may not see him alive again, the experience made me such a stronger person, more grateful in a lot of ways. I squeeze him a hundred times a day and praise God out loud for healing him so perfectly.

I do have days however, that it's hard to grasp it all. When I visit new mothers and their babies in the hospital, I fight back tears and have some jealous feelings that I didn't get to experience a "normal" hospital stay. Instead of the pampering and quiet time of bonding that usually happens in the hospital, I just had to stand over a hospital bed, looking at him hooked up to so many machines for the first 6 days of his life. I have conversations out loud with God about it all the time. I have to admit that sometimes I wonder why it all happened to me, even though it did make me a better person....I have thoughts like, "What if God wouldn't have answered my prayers the way I wanted Him to?" How would have I responded? Sometimes I start to think about the future for Graham. Will he need another surgery? How will he do going through another one? All of these thoughts go through my mind and I've learned to be honest with God about them and just pray harder on my "down" days."

Charla


Nealy Shae  (August 6, 2002 - June 19 2003)
I didn't even know Charla had lost her first child to a heart condition until a few months ago. (Nealy had pulmonary atresia VSD....She had Tetrology of Fallot, which is 4 defects of the heart, and had an additional defect which was the absence of her pulmonary artery.)  Then I watched Charla's video of Nealy and cried. A lot. How could such a little beauty slip away at only 10 months old?  And how could I not have known?  Our girls, Rylie and Landry, were best preschool buddies and I still had no idea.  It's mainly because Charla has so much joy and zeal for life.  She's so fun to be around I never would've guessed at the pain she's gone through and continues to go through.  But, she doesn't seem jaded or cynical or depressed. To me she just seems so proud of her little girl and the life she lived. 

"You just have to figure out how to live for your other kids," she told me after I asked how she goes on.

 "It has always been hard to express my feelings about Nealy to other people and I feel like I don't make much sense most of the time. It is hard to describe how our life was affected and how we continue on without her. A lot of times we feel guilty that we don't grieve much anymore outwardly....We know we will be with her someday and that is a great comfort.

...while it makes me sad that Nealy is not here, it makes me so happy to know that her life continues to touch people. She was such a ray of sunshine to us."


Malinda

Brad, Jemma, Gracelyn and Malinda
Malinda and baby Gracelyn

What I love about Malinda is her openness and honesty.  She's one of those friends that's refreshing to be around because there's no faking of emotions.  She's not afraid to tell you when she's questioning life's injustice, when she needs prayer or when she's rejoicing over something. I can see how her straightforwardness has benefited her and her family greatly as she has struggled down the long road of having a sick child.


After months of doctor's visits, blood transfusions and testing, Malinda's first born daughter, Gracelyn, was finally diagnosed with hereditary spherocytosis. (This is a condition where red blood cells are abnormally shaped and could not pass through her spleen.)

"Through prayer and consultations with our doctors, we decided it was necessary to have Gracelyn's spleen removed. At 2, three years before the preferred age for a splenectomy, Gracelyn was scheduled for surgery.

I can't tell you the agony of knowing surgery was necessary and yet being OK with signing surgical forms saying you understood that death could occur. And yet, both Brad and I were ready for our little girl to feel better...for her to be able to run more than 10 feet without needing to rest, for her to have color in her cheeks! So, on Sept. 27, 2010, Gracelyn had her surgery.

I remember, after the nurse came to tell us surgery had gone well, going to the bathroom, locking myself in a stall and praising God with tears in my eyes...knowing He had granted us one more day with our precious daughter.

My husband and I were talking the other day about our kids...wondering if we had known what lay ahead with our firstborn, if we even would have had children. I'm not sure...because before you hold your very own child, you have no idea of the wonderful blessing they will be in your life. Yes, the first years of life with our daughter were rocky, but God gave us the strength to pull through. And I think that's the key...no matter what happens, our Heavenly Father will provide the strength we need, if only we ask!

We recently spent 48 hours in the hospital after Gracelyn ran a 107 degree fever. We have come to realize that hospital stays will probably be a normal part of life for us. It's something we have come to terms with, and with God's help, something we are OK with."

Kathy

Jacob, Kathy, Lyle, Luke and Kyla (the bunny is in remembrance of Alyssa)

Alyssa Rose

Kathy is one of my favorite people to run in to.  She is always quick to smile and laugh and is just an overall fun person to spend time with.  But what her joyful demeanor doesn't tell you is that she has been through much heartache. She only got to spend 18 hours on this earth with her precious daughter Alyssa.

"...when your baby dies, so does a seemingly perfect dream, all the thoughts of the future and planning that has gone on for months just disappears. My arms literally ached to hold her......Kyla has dreams of having a sister, and brothers can be, you know, in your words "idiots", :) and wishes she were here often, but we know her life is perfect in heaven, with her heavenly Father. We know that through Christ we have an eternal hope and beautiful future. We will just have to wait until our time has come to reunite. I wonder often about what she looks like, her personality, the things any parent would want to know. I think of hugging her and holding her hand as she gives us a very thorough tour of heaven.

I thank God that He allowed us to hear her cry, look around at us, be held and kissed by us, and sung to during her short earthly life. Alyssa's life was surrounded by a massively confusing medical situation (huge other story here), as well as, loving and urgently praying family and friends. It was an emotional roller coaster ride that I did not want to be on. I will admit, our faith was very shaken and stretched, beyond what we thought we could handle. In the beginning of this journey I did not want to wake up (reality), listen to music, take care of the kids, go out, worship God, I would have loved to have been able to drug my way through it, but my Dr. wouldn't let me. When something like this happens you want the world to just stop and take notice of the tragedy and wait  but it doesn't, life keeps moving on. My life was definitely forced for a while. I did pray and scream to/at God a lot, and start reading my Bible more looking for answers.

 As hard as this is to accept, and even though Alyssa only lived 18 hours with us, I believe God's purpose for her life was fulfilled, and that the significance of a her life cannot be measured by the length of her life. I have asked "why" an untold number of times, and I know God listens and carries us through these dark days. He is our Creator and sustainer "He gives and takes away, my heart will choose to say blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be your glorious name! We just have to let Him be God in a way we may never understand as Isaiah 55:8 says. Sadly, we just have to realize that we live in a fallen world, and death and suffering are apart of it.

I try daily not to take my children for granted. They are truly gifts from God that He has entrusted to us for however long He allows. This is a very hard concept. They are on loan to us as parents, but belong to Him, and letting go is an incredibly hard thing to do. Trusting God in His sovereignty is something I am still pursuing daily.

 My thoughts are not consumed by all of this anymore, but at times, especially holidays and birthdays it can be a struggle. You learn how to cope with it the best you can, but there is still pain and I'm guessing there always will be to a degree; you don't just get over it."

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Thank you to each of these moms and their families for letting me share their life stories. 

Your strength as mothers and children of God is so moving. 

While I can't see what the future for my precious baby holds, I do know one thing is for sure.  Like all of these children above, she is in God's hands and she is fearfully and wonderfully made.




My friend Amy, who has her own story of heartbreak and miracles (definitely worth reading), made this scripture print for me to hang on my nursery wall. I love it.

2 comments:

Amy J said...

Wow, what a blessing and encouragement to read these about these Mammas of faith. Thank you so much for posting... and letting God minister through you :)

Kimberlee said...

I was extremely blessed to read all the other stories represented here.

And Amy's print is lovely.
:)

I can't wait to meet your sweet baby girl.

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