Laying here tonight I felt compelled to write. My mind is always busy. So busy that at times (like right now), it isn’t possible to turn that switch off and relax. At any given time I have many things I could write about, talk about…I could go on forever. But tonight it’s happiness. Contentment. And the journey it’s been to get here.
I think about the Steph of a year ago and I’m almost disgusted. I shake my head in silent disbelief at the memory of who I was then. A few months out of the NICU, the scars were still fresh. While Avery was there I was strong, I had to be. But I was all the while making a mental list. A list of what I could be angry about later, when I knew my baby was safe. At those who I felt contributed to my illness in one way or another- the stress I was put under. At anyone who I felt wronged me, wronged us, during those long 16 weeks. The people who promised to visit and never did. And it didn’t stop when we walked out the NICU doors that final time. Once home I felt contained, stifled. RSV season at it’s peak, tied down with oxygen and monitors, we rarely ventured beyond the four walls of my bedroom. I became a shut-in. I think, looking back, that single solitary thing- isolation- was the catalyst of my anger and depression. It was hard. Not as hard as the NICU but hard in an even more acute way.
At home there were no nurses, no doctors. No Arick. He went back to work immediately. I’m grateful for that, the seamless transition. There would be no weeks or months of wondering how we’d survive. There was just me, at home, sad. Do you know how hard it is for me to admit this? To admit that after God granted me a miracle I still wasn’t happy? I was scared. Avery slept each night in my arms where I could feel his every breath rise against my chest, our heartbeats in tandem like they should have been for four months longer than they actually were. We got through those very long early days together. Rarely did we leave the comfort of my bed. If we left the room we’d have to move his condenser because we only had 50 feet of tubing. So we stayed there. And I grew more depressed and more angry until I started lashing out at some and completely withdrawing from others. I felt alone. At that time I had no one to talk to. I didn’t know another mother who was going through anything like I was. So I couldn’t complain, couldn’t vent to anyone. In my mind I knew what they’d be thinking. After everything, why the hell can’t she just be happy?
I can’t say what the change was or when it occurred but I think it happened around the time we moved here, to Ames. We’d just lost our baby days before and were still heavily grieving that loss. As weeks turned into months and I let go and let God, I found myself waking up happy and unburdened. Avery was getting healthier and my family was getting stronger. Abby was happier than I’d seen her in years. No longer was she in the middle of drama. We were able to eat dinner together every night. We all fell into a routine that we’d before been unable to establish. I think for the first time in a long time we ALL felt like members of a family and not soldiers gearing up for war.
I love it here. I found happiness again here. I became who I was, who I used to be before my two most recent miscarriages and a 111 day NICU stay took so much from me. So much from us. I’m not angry anymore. Most of my anger was unfounded to begin with. I can’t even say I have hard feelings anymore against those that I did. Most of those feelings were born out of a depression I needed time and help to overcome. As we’ve learned, life is short and no one lives forever. We don’t know what comes tomorrow. We still pray every night, just as we did in the NICU, that Avery can get through one more day healthy and without setbacks. Even on the hard days, the ones where I cannot forget that he has an irreversible brain malformation, I want to be happy. It doesn’t mean I won’t be scared, or worried or a giant walking mess some of the time. It just means that I choose to not ever let myself get angry and depressed to the point I change again. God has blessed us abundantly and continues to do so each and every day. I have a multitude of reasons to be happy.
Nobody said it was easy. Lyrics, right? They’re true. Life isn’t easy. But there’s so much reward, so much to look forward to. I regret wasting every second, minute and hour that I could have been happy but wasn’t. I’ve resolved to find it in every moment. When Avery is up at 3 am, thinking it’s play time…as he is right now. When I’m stressed out and scared. When money is tight and we drain ourselves dry to pay for things that the insurance won’t. When we’re so tired, so deprived of rest and time to nurture our relationship that we bicker over deciding what’s for dinner. Even when the house is a mess, the sink is full of dishes and I haven’t brushed my hair in two days. Yeah, especially then.
“For every minute you spend angry you waste sixty seconds of happiness.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson