Friday, December 14, 2007

Last Day of Normal

For a long while this is how I referred to this date last year.  It was in my thoughts as I pondered all of the unexpected changes.  It sounds awful to say it, so I kept most of those thoughts to myself.  Last year I spent this day doing things that I loved - things that I thought in many ways defined who I was or what type of Mommy I was to my children.

We went to a field trip to an Art Museum with our homeschool group.  I enjoyed the opportunity to learn and to do something fun with our friends.  I love field trips.  Before Eliana was born we typically went on one field trip a week.  I loved being able to do this hands-on learning.  We explored so many different things and a great variety of our state in our quest to explore and learn in creative and memorable ways. 

I remember on this day feeling some stress about the impending birth.  I've had my babies with midwives in the past and due to the difficulties of this particular pregnancy and changes in office policy (midwives weren't allowed to deliver any longer), I had not seen one.  I began to worry about what it would be like to deliver with a doctor.  When I shared this with some of my friends I remember one reassuring me that birth was probably not imminent since I wasn't "ready".  LOL  Little did we know I'd be in the hospital the next day.  (Though not delivering for 2 more days.)

After our field trip we went to a park for a picnic.  It was a gorgeous day and we spent several hours there with our friends having fun.  It was relaxing and was the type of day I loved being able to have with my children.

I was looking forward to welcoming a new child - we didn't yet know if it was a boy or a girl as we love the surprise at the very end.  I had thoughts of a peaceful Christmas holding a newborn and watching my children play with their new sibling.  I imagined holding, loving and nursing my baby as I had done with all of my others.  I had no fears of adjusting to a new child - I expected him/her to just fit in with our life and our routines and that little would change about how we lived our lives.

Little did I know that in less than 24 hours, my world would be shaken.  I became sick very early in the morning on Friday.  Very sick.  I had an appointment with the OB, but called to cancel as I was so sick that I knew that I could not physically make it to the office without getting sick on the ride there.  As the day wore on, I got worse and worse until I called Roger and told him to come home.  I talked with my midwife and she told me I needed to come in.  I knew I was dehydrated and very sick - and also starting to have contractions.  This was not the peaceful birth I had wanted.  I also did not realize that it was a foreshadow of things to come.

When I met with my favorite OB, he checked me out and then called the hospital to admit me.  I asked him to please come deliver my baby.  He couldn't and assured me that I'd like the OB on call.  It was a doctor I'd met before.  She seemed fine - but not the ones that I knew well.   (I'd been seen there for 5 pregnancies and due to my HG had been seen weekly - or more - for most of my pregnancy.)  I was admitted for being severely dehydrated and for having contractions.  After several hours and several bags of fluid, they were just starting to get me rehydrated, but the contractions I had been having were doing nothing to progress my labor. 

I guess I could write more of the birth story, though I'm not sure anyone wants to read it.  Well, there were some amazing blessings so perhaps I will share - though a little later.  God definitely met me in ways that I had not expected - one of them being the OB on call who was a precious gift from Him!

With this start to labor on early Friday morning - and delivery on Saturday morning - that left Thursday 14 December as the last "normal" day of my pregnancy.  When Eliana was born and the troubles started - congenital heart defect, breathing difficulties, feeding difficulties, NICU and more - I felt my dreams slipping away.  No, I felt like they were shattered.  I had a precious new baby girl - that I was not able to care for in all of the ways I knew how to parent - and it was a frightening time.

As the months wore on, and the difficulties mounted, I found myself crying often.  I cried out to God and there were times when I wondered if He were even listening to me.  I knew He was there, but it didn't always feel like He was.  We had many long talks into the wee hours as I was up most of the day and night trying to feed our little girl.

I had friends tell me that we would find a "new normal" - which I knew in my head, but didn't want.  I wanted my old vision of normal.  I fought hard to hold onto what I had - and what I thought I wanted.  It's hard to admit how much I struggled, though if you have read here for awhile, you've seen it anyway.  I wanted a healthy baby - not to be going to a variety of doctors and specialists several times a week.  I wanted to nurse my baby as I had with all of my others - not to be dealing with bottles, tubes and a feeding pump.  I wanted to go on outings and enjoy my family in a variety of settings - not be confined to my house so that my precious baby wouldn't be exposed to any life-threatening germs.  I wanted things to be the way that I wanted them.  I wanted my normal. 

Well, it's been almost a year and we have found a new normal.  Things are much easier now, though not without difficulty.  I can honestly say that we all love and enjoy Eliana so very much!  She is a delight to our family and I can not imagine our lives without her!  I'm so very thankful that God blessed us with this precious girl!  I have found new strength and comfort in God's arms.  I've learned that it is much easier to just let go and surrender to His will than to fight it.  (Though I imagine it's a lesson I'll have to learn over and over again.) 

I have learned that life is not about getting what I want.  I've learned that God has not promised us an easy life - nor do we "deserve" good things just because we have faith.  I believe that God sometimes calls us to do hard things so that we can learn how to trust Him.  I believe that God allows trials so that we can learn about His strength and His power.  I believe that we need to take risks in faith - sometimes choosing to do things that would make us uncomfortable - so that we can see God's hands at work in our lives. 

I've learned that having this special little girl has forever changed me.  My heart is much softer - and feels so fragile at times.  I feel very vulnerable and find myself tearing up so easily over so many things.  This is not "like me".  Though one of my sweet friends (who also has a child with DS)  has assured me that she also feels this way - vulnerable.  It isn't that it is wrong - but just different - and not necessarily comfortable either.

Though others may not think it - I think I'm incredibly blessed.  I would not have chosen this path - I've said that before.  But having walked this road, I would also never go back now.  I am thankful for the lessons I've learned.  I'm thankful for friends and family that have stood with us, cried with me, prayed with us and just loved on our family.  I'm thankful for God holding me when I couldn't walk and teaching me lessons I didn't want to learn.  I'm thankful for a new normal in our lives and that I can put to rest the idea of the "last day of normal".  Yes, things are different, but so much better and richer for having Eliana in our lives.

As we approach Eliana's birthday - in 2 days - I find myself reflecting on what things were like "a year ago".  We are preparing to celebrate the life of our delightful baby daughter.  I've had a friend share that this day may be hard as it also marks the anniversary of a day that was very difficult.  I'm praying that whatever God has for me to learn - that I'll be ready to learn it. 

One year ago, I was happy, content and feeling very blessed.  This year has been filled with many challenges - things I would not have chosen to experience.  These things have changed me, shaped me and helped me to grow in new ways.  Though it has taken time and many difficult steps to get here - I can say that today I feel the same way - happy, content and very blessed. 

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  James 1:17