When I look back on my life, I can pinpoint defining moments. Those moments of character encompass days of joy, days of sorrow, but mostly working through “hard stuff.” As I ponder the really good stuff, there is a direct correlation between “hard” and “good” in my life. There is very little good in my life produced by anything easy.
The picture of my life ebbs and flows, like the sea. I look at it, time lapse, and I picture these beautiful, fierce waves, crashing on my happy little rocks. And, man, it hurts! They’re crashing hard, crushing my structure, crushing what’s there. In the moment, I want to reach out and save what’s there because I LIKE what’s there. I don’t know anything else. But I keep watching. I watch and I wait and I see calm. You see, these tumultuous storms, these epic, life-changing waves, they never last forever. Eventually, there is calm and I look around with new eyes. I take a deep breath and I can see. I can see what these waves were doing. The storm, which felt DEVASTATING in the moment, took that old crusty rock that I liked so much and it made something new, something better. If I had jumped in and saved what I had liked, I never would have known the change, growth, and difference that I have come to love within myself.
Parenting is no exception. My husband and I kickstarted our parenting off with a journey through infertility. There are days where I will still tell you that if I could change one thing in my life, it would be this. I hate infertility. It robbed me of so many moments of joy. In the end, I was still standing, mostly in awe, in shock that two humans could survive so much, but we did. We made it through a traumatic birth, postpartum depression, and a bout of bad blood within our family. Yet, we stood. Then we decided to have another baby and we were SO happy when our treatment worked the first time. It was one of the most joyous days of my life, but it all came crashing down when our doctor said it would most likely end in a miscarriage. “Chemical pregnancy,” they called it. They called my baby a chemical. We lost that baby and those waves beat harder than I have ever felt them beat.
But as my heart grieved our baby, gone too soon, I noticed that the calm was coming again. We got pregnant again, this time to have fear control those waves and medical complications ripping us apart just as forcefully. But after his traumatic delivery and I finally got to hold this tiny person, my world was silent for a few moments, as I reflected on the goodness of labor pain. That pain served a purpose. I walked away a little bit stronger and I walked away with depth and perception that I will always be grateful for.
We would go on to have another miscarriage and get pregnant again. We lost our youngest son’s twin with that pregnancy. And, as overjoyed as I was to know we had a beautiful baby growing, I also grieved the loss of his twin and it felt wrong because people kept telling me, “Be grateful for what you have. You still have one baby in there.” During that storm, I understood the strange dichotomy of grieving and celebrating at the same time and how that complex subset of emotions is okay. Just when I had accepted this, we were surprised by a hurricane of more complicated medical issues. We ended up delivering another baby boy at 31 weeks, 5 days. It was one of the worst days of my life and also one of the best. Hard, but good.
In raising our children, my husband and I have gone through “phases of hard” three times over and we have survived. Some days, I’ll be real, survival is the goal. Survival gets me a gold coin and a free card to pass Go when I’m just done. I make a point, on those survival days, to peek in and glance at my sleeping children. I always come back to it… it was hard, but it was good. They can be hard, but they are good. I see them changing. I see their waves (sometimes, I AM their wave) and when I look in the mirror, I realize that those changes have also happened in me. It’s really miraculous, when you sit down and acknowledge your own growth because parenting can be straight up hard.
As a mom who is raising a young child with debilitating anxiety, our current storm is crashing in every direction. I didn’t even know it was possible for the insurance companies to deny and limit so many treatments and therapies. (We did fertility treatments that were ALL denied, so I’m no stranger to that.) The sheer level of intensity of this storm has cleared the harbor of any boats and I’m not sure what those rocks are going to look like. But I know. I know that I know that I KNOW that this hard will reshape everything. It already has. I’m already a different mom, a different wife, a different human being.
We all have hard stuff. Your story might look like mine or it might look nothing like mine, but on some level, we all have a constant ebb and flow in our lives and throughout our parenting. We are always changing, always growing, always moving forward. I have found hope in the hard stuff. When I acknowledge what’s happening and let the waves come and know that they will settle down, I can recognize that there will be change. In the hard, all encompassing, swollen tide and violent waves, I can inhale and exhale, sit down, and give a little smile, because inside, even with ALL this churning, I’m excited to see the change. I’m excited to look toward the beach and see how the rocks have changed. I’m excited to embrace the change and trust the good that will come.