There is something so magical about the start of the New Year. It feels like a fresh beginning, a time of reflecting on the past year, deciding what worked and didn’t work, and making plans for the year to come.
I look back on 2018 and I have a strong sense of accomplishment. I set out at the beginning of the year to turn the year into a year marked by thriving instead of merely surviving. 2016 through the end of 2017 and even into 2018 brought some of the hardest moments I have lived through so far in my lifetime. The days were dominated by hard, my own feelings of inadequacy, and so much discouragement. I felt as if I were drowning in the never ending sea of life.
I will never forget the moment I sat staring blankly ahead, no tears left to cry, void of emotion, almost feeling as if I were being suffocated. I looked up as if to search for a way out, questioning if this was truly my life. It suddenly hit me. My situation was not going to change. Maybe not ever. It was time to make a choice to live my life instead of just survive it. I wanted so desperately to move out of a place of despair and into a place of loving the life that God had called me to live.
It wasn’t easy. The start of 2018 was rocky at best. With the help of some amazing people in my life and an incredibly gracious and faithful God, I was well on my way. Slowly, the drowning feeling decreased and I once again began to recognize my own reflection staring back at me in the mirror. Laughter and dance parties soon began to replace my numbed out state of emotions. I pressed forward, not walking in the fact that I was enough but in the confidence in who God really is.
Bernadette’s journey with CPAP started in the beginning of 2018 and almost wrecked me. I sat in her room, rocking her night after night, falling asleep in the glider chair, her in my arms and the little giraffe mask attached to her face. It was a necessary evil that wasn’t exactly working how I thought it would work. I was quick to assume I had somehow failed her. That I was not doing enough to get it to work for her. What is so wrong with me that I couldn’t even get my 18 month-old to keep the mask on her face every night?!
I quickly realized I had to let it go. I had to surrender the thoughts of inadequacy and push out the lies I wasn’t doing enough and replace it with the truth. The fact is, she was a young toddler with her own opinion. She was not interested in cooperating with a foreign object strapped to her face forcing air into her airway to keep it open all ten hours she was in bed sleeping. I had to also acknowledge the fact that I am simply a human with my own limitations. Of course I would do everything I could possibly withstand to somehow get it to work, but I am a limited resource.
I kept in close contact with her team every few weeks to discuss the progress, or lack thereof in her case, to decide what would be the best option moving forward. We had to make the hard decision to allow her to go through another surgery.
I lost sleep over the fact that surgery was on the horizon. I knew that it would potentially be helpful if it was in fact successful. I was having a hard time with the idea of putting her under again. It terrified the living daylight right out of me. I had to trust that God knew. Just like He did during heart surgeries, the pregnancy, and before she was even a thought in my own mind. He was there, no matter the outcome, every step of the way.
I’ve been learning the hard way that trust is not an easy thing. In theory, I would like to think that it is an easy concept to master. Putting it into practice has been a lot harder than I would have ever imagined, especially when it’s my kid I have to watch endure these hardships and there isn’t a single thing I can do to change situation. I’ll save that topic for another day. Just know that it is an ongoing struggle that I think many of us can attest to.
Be that as it may, I pressed on. I sat in His comfort, gripping Him tightly, and praying fervently that in spite of the circumstances, if anything, this would draw me closer to Him. I can say it definitely has.
In September, I went away to a conference just before her surgery. It was a retreat for moms with kids with Down syndrome. I met some of the most amazing people there. Mamas years ahead of me, others just beginning, and even some in similar phases. It brought me so much comfort to know that I am not alone. Other mamas have sat where I have, endured the hardships even if they look different than mine, and there they are, on the other side, standing strong. Maybe with a few extra scars along the way covering their tender yet tough hearts. Hearing their stories gave me the push I needed to face the next surgery with Bernadette the week I got back.
And guess what? We made it through! She rocked it. I praised God through tears the moment I was reunited with her post-op. Oddly enough, it was the same exact room she spent fighting for her life when she was 5 months old with RSV. I walked into the room and wanted to turn right back around. I didn’t and asked God for His peace and for new memories in that very room I thought I was going to lose her in a year and a half earlier.
It served as another memorial stone. Another reminder that I could look back on knowing the scars I carry from that hospital stay, the panic I felt, the uncertainty threatening our entire stay there, but say with confidence, we made it through.
I am also so thankful for the amazing connections I made this past year at the various conferences and retreats I was able to attend. Never would I have imagined at the start of this year all the amazing things that were in store for me. Memories, connections made, time spent pouring into my craft as a writer and my role as a mother. It’s been a beautiful year.
I’ll finish with this. I have seen so much change in my own self throughout 2018. I can’t believe it’s over, but I am ready for the turning of the page, the start of a new year. I am ready to see what God has in store for me, for my little family, and for the words that flood my heart. Hello 2019!