Peace in the blurred lines between hope and heartache

Hope. Heartache. Healing.

The lines between these three are often faint and sometimes blurred. In my case, the line was a faint blue. At least on Monday. On Monday of last week, the line was faint and blue. An unexpected line that gave me butterflies of joy and anxiety all at once. A line that projected images of a growing belly for the 3rd time and questions of what kind of car we would need to buy. A line that suggested an addition to the family that would bring stress, yes, but so much joy. A line that thrust the current youngest to the middle child position in a second’s notice. A line that was filled with hope.

The line was faint though. So faint that my head told my heart to not let the love grow yet. So faint that I tried to not let any ripples disturb my dearly sought after, tranquil, inner lake of peace. A line faint enough that the ever-ready rational side of me stepped up to the plate and said – “Wait.” Wait a day or two before you teeter off the ledge and plunge headlong into hope. Because that line is faint and if you plunge into hope too fast, heartache may be the outcome. Just as it was when that faint line came and went the month before we became pregnant with our second child. And that heartache disrupts the calm. Heartache ushers forth not just ripples, but waves, to crack that glassy surface wide open, allowing the deep waters to spill forth in wet droplets that then leak down faces in messy trails. And to me, an Enneagram 9 who prides herself on being calm…collected…stable…unperturbed… at inner “peace” – these messy trails of emotion are to be avoided.

Ah, but the mind. The mind doesn’t always win out in these scenarios, does it? No, as much as I may like to think that my mind is in control of my pesky feelings, it does not always win out in these scenarios. Especially when it comes to thin blue lines that act as a tightrope between hope and what could be, heartache. No, my preverbal feet slipped off the tightrope and landed on the side of hope. All day Monday and all day Tuesday, I found myself planning for a third child. Planning with hope, the move of my two little girls into the same room so the new babe (probably a 3rd girl in my mind) would have a place to sleep. I found myself grinning in secret about the life I had started to believe was growing inside me. I found myself involuntarily thinking of our family as a family of five. I found myself hoping that when I took a second test on Wednesday, that faint line would be a dark blue line, confirming life.

But, that’s not how life always works, ya know? I got up Wednesday morning and that faint blue line that had been there Monday hadn’t gotten darker. It didn’t show up quicker like I expected it to. In fact, it didn’t show up at all. The line was gone. A clear white circle blinked up at me. And just like that, the hope had vanished. Gone were the concerns of fitting three car seats in the car. Gone were the internal bets of whether or not there would have been 3 blondy little girls in the family. Gone was the hope that in nine months, I’d have another baby to cuddle and rock. I hadn’t been planning on this unexpected hope to come on Monday, but it came anyway – and despite my desperate attempts at not letting it take root. It had. And so, when it was gone, my inner lake was disrupted a bit. Like a pebble had been dropped in the middle and tiny waves started to ripple outward, leaving me teetering in my own internal boat rocking back and forth on that lake of feelings.

I don’t know if the faint blue line 2 years ago or last week had been faulty tests (although a 5 day “lateness” both times would suggest otherwise), or chemical pregnancies, or real pregnancies that ended before they truly started – and I won’t know. But seeing those blue lines sparked hope and so the absence both times stung.

Because I’ve learned recently (through some therapy, through some reading of good books, through some intentional introspection, through some late night chats with good friends) that my tendency is to avoid – or stuff – these “negative emotions” to maintain the inner peace I value so much, I have been trying to at least give them a passing glance before sweeping them away with an easy smile, a shrug, and the words “I’m fine.” But it’s hard. It’s not comfortable – and admitting that this fine line caused a disturbance in my “peaceful” countenance is difficult for me. Which is why, when this same thing happened about 2 years ago, I told a few people in an off-hand way, but kept the sadness I felt down. Deep down. For the most part, I maintained my “peace.” Yesterday, I was listening to, “The Road Back to You” and heard some words that resonated deeply. He said, “what looks like peace, is just your desire to be unaffected by life.” Yikes.

My favorite Bible verse has always been, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” but how silly I’ve been in my understanding of Paul’s words to the Philippians. He wasn’t speaking about learning to be content when things are good and hopeful and joyful. He wasn’t talking about ignoring the not-so-pleasant aspects of life, or convincing himself that they did not bother him. He was saying that he’s learned to be content because he had experienced hope and heartache and had found the answer to true peace in God. Not the superficial peace of a calm, cool, collected demeanor, but “peace that passes all understanding” because God is with us. Peace that can be had in the midst of heartache and the midst of hope. Peace that is a tranquil state of a soul WHATEVER the circumstances. As a peace (little “p”) seeker and craver, this true Peace is what my soul needs.

It’s what your soul needs as you allow yourself to hope and inevitably, sometimes end up on the side of heartache.

I know Jesus, but I am far from living in this Peace daily. I cling to my little “p” peace when the inner waters get rocky, (and truly by God’s grace, I haven’t yet experienced the tsunami like waves many of you have in this life) instead of riding the waves while clinging to the One who is Peace himself in the midst of the storm. It’s hard and uncomfortable for me, but I’m trying – I’m practicing – by texting friends the words, “You know, I’m kind of sad about this” that Wednesday, and by writing this post for all the world to read, to let go and let those messy trails of emotions leak out. Because by allowing them to leak out, I am allowing myself to admit that I do not have the peace needed for this life. I do not have the strength on my own in this life, much as I’d like to think I do. I have nothing in this life if I don’t have Jesus.

So, as you walk the fine, faint lines between Hope and Heartache – remember – in the midst of those blurred lines can come Healing from the one who offers us Peace that surpasses all understanding.

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This too shall pass…

This too shall pass. These four words have run through my semi-sleep deprived mind many times the past 3ish months. As my due date came and went but the back pain and other late stage pregnancy symptoms remained, I thought “this too shall pass- this baby can only stay in so long.” During each contraction of my short 3 hour labor on June 6th -“this too shall pass” was the quiet voice of my mind while “ahhh it hurts so bad, I can’t do it” was coming out of my mouth. While the nurses rushed me up from the triage room, rolling me into the elevator on the bed as I said “I need to push!!!” – When the doctor told me there was no time for an epidural and I could feel the tingling in my nose signaling tears of fear were about to fall- that mantra ran in my mind hidden by the panicked look of pleading I gave my mom and husband as they reassured me that I could in fact do it because I already was doing it. When my doctor said “one more push Kiley!” I bid farewell to the tears threatening to well in my eyes and yelled some garbled war cry of pain and desperation and pushed my beautiful baby out into the world all the while “this too shall pass” was on repeat deep in my mind.

As I sat in the hospital with the nurse pushing on my tummy saying I needed extra medication to stop the bleeding in the form of pills that did not enter through my mouth- “this too shall pass” was thought with an immature smile as I laid in that bed full of all the things no one talks about but are oh so present during those first few days (let’s be real…weeks). As the doctor told us we were going to have to stay another night in the hospital because Maylee was jaundiced and we had to watch as she lay under the lights with her little mask- “this too shall pass.”

As I latched my new baby to nurse her with looming dread and painful memories of how hard the first month of nursing was with Brynn- I gritted my teeth as the familiar physical pain came along with discouraging thoughts of “not again…” Unlatching my baby a week or so later and seeing the pinkish milk dribbling from her mouth, and a pit in my stomach knowing that pink milk meant the scabs had been ripped off and blood had been drawn … again. Trying to hold back tears and failing as I told David “I just wanted this time to be different…”- I reminded myself more consciously “this too shall pass,” closed my eyes and re-latched that baby as he reassured me that we could switch to formula if it didn’t get better soon.

As feelings of guilt for missing another bed time routine with Brynn came flooding in because I needed to latch, unlatch, and re-latch Maylee in the quiet of the other room – “this too shall pass.” As doubts of my abilities to give my Mama self 100% to both kids surged and I was afraid Brynn would resent me or Maylee- “this too shall pass.” As Brynn screamed from timeout, Maylee screamed from being over tired and David and I looked wearily to each other and picked which screaming little person we would tackle- “this too shall pass.”  As early morning gas wracked Maylee with pain and my Mama’s heart with a longing to make it go away- “this too shall pass.”  As we stocked up on almond milk and coconut milk ice cream because my beloved dairy was causing Maylee to have that gas- “this too shall pass.”  As I fumbled with the nursing cover, and started having anxiety sweat bead around my temples while Maylee screamed for her food during our first public feeding – “this too shall pass.”   As Brynn said “no,” shot me a defiant death glare and expressed an audible “hmmph” for the umpteenth time – “this too shall pass.”  As I cleaned up pee from a girl who was trying out underwear and said “I don’t need to go potty” then proceeded to pee everywhere- “this too shall pass.”  As a 2am feeding turned into an hour that turned into two hours because Brynn woke screaming from a bad dream right after Maylee went back to sleep- “this too shall pass.”

This. Too. Shall. Pass.

And …it did.

My labor started naturally and progressed quickly. I experienced the worst pain of my life against my plans of a nice medicated experience (I am ALL about those meds) and at the end of it got the greatest reward- my sweet Maylee Grace. The bleeding stopped and I recovered physically much faster than I did with the induced, epidural delivery of Brynn 2.5years ago- not needing even an aspirin this time around. Maylee’s jaundice cleared and we were sent home with our little bundle.  The pesky weeks of basically wearing adult diapers and awesome mesh undies ended and my body started to feel like a human body once again. Maylee and I persevered through 2 weeks of countless hours of pain, blood, engorgement from oversupply, crying from both of us, unlatching and re-latching until we figured out the “natural” process of nursing and have been able to make good use of that over supply (although my motto remains “fed is best”). Bedtime routines were resumed and Brynn holds zero resentment towards me or her little sister whom she adores. Night time feeds dropped (almost all the way!) and sleep was recovered.  Feeding in public, while I still am not a fan, does not terrify me or dictate outings.  Almond milk is actually pretty good, and Starbucks has a new almond milk frap that does the trick. Brynn is potty-trained during the day and loves her pink and purple underwear she gets to wear. Those moments passed. They passed.

But you know what? They passed. They are gone now. Gone.

The onset of labor issued in the last 3 hours of a 9month pregnancy that I loved. When my sweet MayMay was pushed into the world, it took her out of the one place I knew I could keep her safe, it broke the physical connection we had, it took away the little whispers throughout the day to the faceless baby in my belly that only I could feel. Achieving nursing success diminished the deep feelings of determination and grit I had to draw upon to keep going. It stopped the whispers of “Come on baby, we can do it” to my tiny learning partner.  Dropping most night feeds meant dropping the extra milk-drunk baby snuggles and foggy soft singing to my little late night companion. Regaining sleep and schedules meant my twelve weeks of getting to focus all my attention on my littles had passed and I found myself pulling out the pump and bottles and going shopping for post-baby body business clothes. It meant dropping off my sweet baby who looked too little to leave at daycare, with her proud big sister and switching between 2 daycare cam feeds as I sat at my desk and pumped. It meant trading holding my little bundle while she slept during a nap, wondering how I got so lucky to be the Mama of not just one, but 2 beautiful little girls, for gazing at pictures of them both on my phone during my lunch break. With the first week of no potty accidents for Brynn came the realization that my toddler had just stepped up a big step on the ladder leading to being a big kid and was a long way past the times I held her milk-drunk in my arms.  Because the moments had passed. They too had passed.

And with each 2.5yr old tantrum that passes, my Brynn Brynn learns more and leaves one more day of innocent rage over not getting chocolate milk behind her- zooming towards bigger worries and experiences that will leave more of a mark than the absence of chocolate milk. And as I count down the months, weeks and days until Maylee is 12months old (or sooner…) and I can put away the pump, bottles and nursing bras- those days, weeks and months will be counting down until I once again have no baby to snuggle, but a toddler to chase. It will mean once again looking at pregnant mamas with nostalgia instead of sympathy for what’s going to come once those labor pains start or are induced.  And as the constant badgering of “Why Mama??” questions end, so will the belief that Mama knows everything and can make everything better.  As the early morning drops at daycare cease, the drops at school will start.  As the little voice stops whining from the car seat for chicken nuggets, that little voice will stop randomly saying “Mama, you’re my best friend” from that same car seat. Little shoes and toys tripping me after I’ve asked them to be put away will disappear, but so will the little feet and hands that go along with them.  The little hand that pulls me close during bedtime and says “lay down Mama, lay down with me!”  As blowout onsies disappear from the laundry pile, so will the chubby rolls of baby fat that are perfect for squishing and kissing.  As the over-excited “I wanna give Maylee a kiss and a hug!” exclamations and over exuberant hugs that have to be monitored with a “Gentle Brynn…” lessen, the inevitable sibling bickering will begin.  And as the difficulties that come with having small children eventually ease, the new difficulties of having grown, independent children will begin.

Parenting is hard. Being a new mom is very hard, and much of it no one warns you about or prepares you for. So I will continue to reassure myself in the midst of the numerous difficult moments that parenting brings that “this too shall pass” (despite those well meaning but damaging messages of “enjoy every moment because you’ll miss it when they are older.”)

However.

I will also be warning myself during all the incredibly sweet times that “this too shall pass.”

 

 

*** To my new mama or mama-to-be friends: Having moments you would like to pass, tears of frustration, and feelings of not knowing what you are doing in those early days are 100% normal.  But postpartum depression and anxiety are real things that are more than just exhaustion and nervousness.  We as a society don’t like to talk about the possibility that such a wonderful event like having a child does some intense things to the body and all sorts of hormones are coursing that can cause that joy of being a new mom to come with other scary thoughts and feelings.  Please do not feel like you have to just put on a brave face and fight away those “baby blues.”  Tell someone, answer truthfully when the nurse asks if you’ve been sad at that post-natal appointment, go to counseling, take medication…do what you need to do to start feeling better.  None of these things makes you less of a mom- in fact, taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for that little one whose life is in your hands.  PPD and PPA are as real as any other medical condition and should be treated as such. I personally have not experienced PPD or PPA but am very passionate about mental health in general and feel very strongly that we do such a dis-service to all the Mamas out there by glamorizing new motherhood (and it is wonderful) without properly educating and preparing for what happens/can happen during childbirth and after baby is here.  There is soooo much focus on pre-natal care (with good reason) and pregnancy support, but what about after baby is born? There are no monthly post-natal checks on Mama.  So Mama- you’ve got to speak up and do those mental checks on yourself. And let’s as a whole, do better for the Mamas of the world. Let’s check in on them, not just their cute little babies during those first few weeks-  let’s give them permission to hate nursing and cry from pure exhaustion-  and let’s encourage professional help when it is needed. ***

Ok…rant over 😉

Busyness Anticipated

This week has been and will continue to be the end of sorts and the beginning of sorts. I turned in my last paper and final for the semester, closed out my client files and left campus for the last time until the end of August.  The counters were installed yesterday, and the bathrooms are being finished these next couple days in our new house. We had our third and final sonogram to make sure baby girl is head down and getting ready to make her entrance into the world (all looks good!). Today is May 3- I’m due June 3rd, which means we’ve entered the last month of only being responsible for one little person’s life. I got offered an internship position for the Fall/Spring that I’m gladly accepting and looking forward to after my summer “off”.  We’ll be moving into our new house hopefully this weekend, giving our incredibly gracious, hospitable, patient friends back their house, space and sanity.  It’s been a good week. It’s been a busy week. It’s been a busy season. Between David and I, we’ve been in a 4 month season of 3 jobs, full time graduate school, studying for the 3rd and final CFA test, buying/renovating a house, living with friends, raising a delightfully strong, independent (read: strong-willed) 2 year old, attempting to potty train said 2yr old, growing a human, leading a life group at church, volunteering in the children’s ministry, and attempting to not let our daughter associate meal time with chicken nuggets being chucked backwards from the front seat into her car seat. We’ve had multiple ER visits, multiple car breakdowns, bodily fluids from various orifices at various times of utter inconvenience, family visits, hours of Veggie Tales songs in the car, a week vacation in CO, toddler meltdowns, sweet cuddles, tears, laughter, lots of ice cream, and little sleep. Like I said, it’s been a busy season.  And while some of the busyness is coming to an end/winding down this week, a different kind of busyness is about to begin.  The busyness that’s coming to an end- school and pregnancy for me (and work for awhile once baby comes), working late nights at the house for David- has been a busyness that’s physically exhausting and stressful at times, but is nothing compared to the busyness that lies ahead. The busyness of class and papers, installing flooring and painting and sitting in lots of traffic in between- these things can be done with dutiful preparation and a good work ethic. Which I can say David and I both have.

What’s coming is different.

What’s coming is a busyness- and with that- a tiredness that penetrates deep. What’s coming is a season I’ve been anticipating with a mixture of overwhelming joy and a knowing, nervous apprehension. What’s coming is something that can’t really be prepared for no matter how many onesies are washed and ready (currently none), or how cutely the nursery is set up (currently baby2 has nowhere to sleep…we’re working on it), how many bottles are washed (should probably try to find them…), or how many tubes of lanolin cream are ready (literally can’t even think about that right now).

What’s coming is a baby.

What’s coming is excruciating physical pain of labor immediately followed by an excruciatingly painful burst of love that causes the chest to constrict and arms to open. What’s coming is sleepless nights of diaper changes and feeding sessions that evoke a juxtaposition of emotions so intense it’s dizzying. Gratefulness that you have a baby and that baby is breathing, peeing and eating; anxiety and self-doubt from not being able to get the hang of nursing immediately even though its “so natural”; physical pain from said “natural experience”; exhaustion from  lack of sleep; love for the tiny human you grew and now get to hold and comfort; fear that maybe you aren’t doing everything just right; hilarity from thinking you could ever do everything just right; delirium from lack of sleep and routine… all of these and more all in the span of hearing the first cry that jolts you awake until the babe is back asleep full and dry and you pass out from sheer exhaustion until the next cry.

These emotions. They are the busyness that’s coming.

They are what scare me. They are what cause my nervous laughter when people ask if I’m ready. They are what I think of every Sunday when my app says that somehow another week has passed and now there’s only a month left of this pregnancy that I thought I just found out about.  When I feel my little love rolling around in my belly, those swarms of emotions start bubbling up along with my acid reflux.  I’ve had people say “Well it’s your second so you know what to expect right? It’s not as scary?” Wrong.  It’s the knowing what to expect that makes it more scary. When I was 8 months pregnant with Brynn, I had everything “ready”- all her cute onesies were washed and folded in her dresser that was carefully positioned in her cute little room complete with Etsy signs and blankets. But I was not prepared for the real work of having a newborn. The work of experiencing and dealing with emotions as I’d never experienced them before.   I was smacked with them that 8th of November as I finally pushed that giant baby out and they handed her to me, with no instructions or textbook about how to handle them.  They were just there. All over the place (just like all the other things in that delivery room).  And it’s going to happen again in about a month.

I’ve been thinking though.

Because thinking is what I do when pesky emotions are involved. I’ve been thinking about this concept that I’ve been using to attempt to help my clients these past few months. I’ve been spending months reading articles and listening to TED Talks and podcasts to help formulate my treatment plans.  I’ve been thinking that maybe the timing of this research has actually been perfect.  I’ve been thinking that maybe I’m more prepared to deal with this impending emotional rollercoaster than I think I am.  I’ve been thinking that the conversations I’ve been having with mom friends, reminiscing about birth stories, laughing about the horror that took place in those labor and delivery rooms/operating tables and the weeks of recovery that followed, have been adding needed tools of humor to my toolbelt. I’ve been thinking that David reminding me about how he “was convinced one of the 3 of us weren’t gonna make it out of those first couple weeks” has helped reassure me. I’ve been thinking that seeing my little baby Brynn transform from toddler to child in front of my eyes has been preparing me this whole time.   I’ve been thinking that being unprepared is sort of what’s making me prepared. This thing I’ve been thinking about is self-compassion.

It’s one of the emotions that I had to learn last time as I was slapped in the face with all the others.  One that I had to learn as I experienced Mom guilt for working and going to school. One that I had to learn as I had to pump for the first few weeks and feed Brynn from a bottle because we just could not get a latch that didn’t leave me bleeding and Brynn screaming. One that I had to learn as I realized that I didn’t “enjoy every minute” like everyone kept demanding I do as a new mom. One that I had to learn as I couldn’t get my year old to sleep through the night.  One I had to learn as I got up because my 18month old still cried out in the night.  One that I had to learn as I got up last night because my 2.5yr old still cries out in the night sometimes. One that I learned as I secretly relished getting up to sing her a song back to sleep because pretty soon it won’t be just her and I know I’m going to miss that specialness.

I’m not talking about self-confidence or liking myself- those I’ve never really had a problem with. I’m talking about being compassionate to myself in the midst of the emotions that aren’t the ones that are advertised on the diaper commercials.  Of being kind to myself when feeling sad after dropping Brynn off at daycare when she says “I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay with Mama.” Not ignoring the sadness or pretending it isn’t there- but knowing its ok to feel sad in that moment because I’m human. I’m talking about extending the same compassion to myself when I get annoyed too easily because I’m 8 months pregnant and just don’t feel like lifting Brynn onto the toilet for the 4th time in a row when I know she’s just stalling going to bed that I would to a friend.    I’m talking about acknowledging the fact that motherhood is not all butterfly kisses and smiling selfies –  and that’s ok.

And I think that maybe this time I might need an extra large dose of self-compassion as I experience all those emotions of having a newborn plus the emotions that I’m sure will surface as my heart expands to hold both my little loves at the same time. As an added layer of pride and surge of love occurs as I see Brynn hold her little sister for the first time, after months of practicing with her baby doll and talking to her through my belly. As my girls start to develop a relationship formed by blood but hopefully bound by love and friendship.  As our little family starts to make memories in our house that’s been prepared by the same hands that will hold our girls.  So many emotions for this self-proclaimed “thinker” to experience and look forward to with knowing, nervous apprehension and overwhelming joy.

So maybe those people are right after all- maybe I am more prepared because I know what to expect.  Maybe the fact that I’m expecting the unexpected with an attitude of compassion is what constitutes as being ready this time around. I think that’s really the only way to be ready for the anticipated busyness that’s coming.

And I think I’m ok with that.