I grabbed my purse and the black computer bag from our white Corolla while the cold wind ripped my hair out of place, blowing strands into my eyes. Throwing the bags over my right shoulder, I leaned in to grab the Starbucks cup in the console. Grande flat white. Signature drink.
Snow blew up from the ground in swirls of air and I hunched my shoulders into my Columbia jacket, and walked quickly across the parking lot.
Day 20? 21? I’d sort of lost track.
All I knew was that we were in deep with our girl. Like, in way over our heads deep.
I’d dreamed of five days in the hospital. That was the minimum for a baby withdrawing from drugs. The day she was admitted to neonatal intensive care? I thought maybe two weeks. Now we were somewhere, like, a week past that calendar date?
No end in sight.
I blew through the revolving door and the security guard smiled knowingly and let me through the locked doors.
The first set of locked doors, that is, to get into the elevators. There were two more sets to go through, once I got off for the NICU.
I sipped my flat white and smiled at the other people on the elevator as the doors shut.
“Which floor?” The older man asked. He seemed happy. His wife was holding a bouquet of flowers with a card stuck in the center that said, “It’s a Girl!”
New grandparents. I thought this, while I said, “2nd.”
They talked excitedly while the elevator lurched upward. At Floor 2, the doors opened and I stepped off.
“Ohhh, the poor mother,” I heard the woman say, “the NICU.” The elevator shut and I walked around the corner to enter the Unit.
I was so excited to see my girl! Every moment that I wasn’t with her, I thought about her and worried about her and hoped she was doing okay. Using my special NICU pass, I breezed through the doors and headed back to Unit #21, our little corner on the big intensive care unit for babies.
I’m so tired of this. My little boy was at home and couldn’t figure out why I had to keep leaving, every single day. “Mama, you stay home today?” He would smile and look up at me with those chocolate-brown eyes and I never knew till then, how torn a mother could feel between her babies.
Wasn’t he more mine? Didn’t he deserve more of me? But be it one day or ten years, is one child ever more than another to a mother whose heart receives their life?
Everyday I worried that I was doing NICU life wrong.
I was more scared and more vulnerable on those blustery winter days than I had ever before been in my life. I didn’t know how to fight for Nevaeh and how to nurture my Cub and how to love Ryan all at the same time. So, I just kept waking up, doing the next thing and praying that God would supernaturally intervene if He needed too.
Okay, so really? I just prayed please, God and thought everything else in my heart.
I had no mental capacity to pray beyond a simple cry for Jesus. I had no physical ability to do anything but drive my car 90 miles a day and hold my babies – at home and in the hospital. I had no emotional capacity to be challenged in my thought processes – as warped as some of those processes might have been.
I had a friend email me sometime after our NICU ordeal and she said that ten years later she thinks she still deals with some PTSD from her child being in the NICU.
I’m the organized one, the collected one, the brave one. I’m the one who is supposed to just – So not really, but that’s what they say.
This is the part of my story that gets really vulnerable for me.
I don’t do brokenness well. (I struggle with too much pride.)
I’m a perfectionist. A little obsessive compulsive.
And I was raised to be strong.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is, “a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.”
Last year was my year of breaking wide open and essentially falling apart inside. Shutting down. Coming apart at the seams.
I have never loved so hard and lost so much and felt so alone.
And I never imagined that I would be one to take my husband aside and say, “We need to talk. I’m really depressed,” followed by a waterfall of tears in which I choked out the words, “I’m scared of myself. I’m thinking about medicine?”
A year ago today, there was so much anticipation in my heart. I knew the risks of our YES.
There were days of struggle, knowing the losses we might face with this unfolding story – but we also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had sanctioned our yes to her life.
What do you do then,? You know, when your YES upends your life and wrecks your heart?
And I felt so much shame for breaking.
Because all my life, I’ve been the one to be strong, to hold it together, to keep moving, be fearless. I’ve lived a whole lot of, “I’ve got this”, you know?
Up until my world imploded with grief I hadn’t the faintest idea of processing.
And now I’m telling you this, why?
The gift in the dark.
The dark I still feel some days.
Yes, I know how elementary it sounds.
I know how profound this is.
Because when you truly experience the dark – inside your head or your heart or your life – you know the powerful hope of just one flicker of candlelight.
In three weeks, she turns one.
My lips smile and my heart hurts.
Another year has come to us. The unfolding of a new chapter and the journey continues and we’re moving forward, but we’ll never be the same.
And I pray that this year, we will
for someone’s darkness.
And you too?
Because the truth is –
you don’t have to know their darkness, to BE their LIGHT.
I don’t usually cry over texts, but I had a friend text me this week and tell me that I had been Matthew 5:16 to her this year.
A light for her, when I felt so much darkness myself?
Sometimes it hurts to share so publicly, and then I get texts that make me cry, and I ask God to make me braver – even in my dark.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16