Recently I caught up with a friend I haven't spoken to in a while. It's been a busy year or two for each of us, and I felt a catch in my throat at her simple, "What's been going on?" question.
What hasn't gone on? Ardent list-maker that I am, the inventory is easy enough to trot out:
1. Had Mary Brooks.
2. Almost lost Mary Brooks.
3. Almost lost my mind.
4. Finally came back to life nine months later.
5. Ran the Walt Disney World half marathon for charity and, decidedly un-pregnant, rode every rollercoaster on the property. Thanked God hourly for the chance to start fresh.
6. Found out I was expecting. (Surprise! And sorry for those loop-de-loops, baby.)
7. Lost our baby at 15 weeks. Had surgery. Stayed in bed for approximately a century.
7. Got, as we gallows humor-types like to say, re-pregnant.
8. Thought I was losingthat baby.
9. Hospitalized more than once. On sporadic bed rest. Alternately terrified and in denial.
10. Unexpectedly delivered our son six weeks early.
11. Endured a one-weekNICUstay.
12. Survived a sinus infection/ear infection/mastitis combo.
13. Thought that was the worst we'd handle this year.
14. Back at the Children's Hospital with a preemie and his fractured skull.*
15. Earned ourselves a three-day vacation right where we fought for MB two years before.
16. Nearly re-lost my mind.
17. Ran out of the hospital and swore we'd burn it down before we set foot there again.
18. Came back with a baby who wasn't gaining weight.
19. Fielded daily questions as to why our newborn was "insanely small." (Y'all, please don't do that to a girl. No one's baby is insanely anything, besides cute.)
20. Brought in a team of experts: a pediatrician, lactation consultants, occupational therapists, a hospital-grade scale and one manic mama.
21. Took a deep breath. Began to enjoy what is, in truth, a beautiful, blessed life. And a sweet peanut who may just be getting the hang of this weight gain thing.
Amidst all that, we felt called to have Bradley leave his job* of nine years; it was slowly sucking the life out of our family and our marriage - the last thing we needed after MB's ordeal. Bradley's quitting was a tremendously brave act of obedience, one that both humbled and scared the pants off a planner like me. At every point, despite the stresses we encountered, our family saw absolute confirmation it was the right decision.
One side business and eighteen months(!) of a job search later, Bradley began a new full-time position just before Chapman was hospitalized. The pressure, waiting, healing, constant change - it was heavy and unrelenting. We were refined by fire once again, and no matter how I tried to look at it through a lens of faith and God's will, there were many nights I just wanted to opt out, to be passed over, to fast forward to the easy part.
When you write it all out, that laundry list looks like a lot. (Maybe I've outlined a fabulous memoir in these bulletpoints?) I wonder, as people have often asked, how we did it. In each moment, though, you don't philosophize or quit - you can't. The only option is to push on through.
You laugh with your husband the morning of your D&C, you shuttle yourself (and your milk supply) from home to NICU and back again, you remind yourself in the Children's Hospital that "this isn't that" and your son isn't fighting for his life - even if you're fighting for your sanity. You thank God for good sleep, sweet babies and a family who drops everything for you.
You feel the promise of the Gospel and know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit's presence in you is why you're still vertical, still putting one foot in front of the other.
You wonder if you've gone through this particular whirlwind to carry other people who are fielding harder, even more painful fights. You wish you never knew about any of this and desperately want your white-picket-fence, never-had-a-panic-attack, "perfect" life back.
And when someone asks what you've been up to these last two years, you don't know how to tell her you're not the girl you were before.
"Two babies, six dozen new gray hairs and an extra-large SUV. That's what we've been up to."
(What else can you say?)
When you hang up, you ask God to use this laundry list of chaos, this hard-fought battle, this big, ugly scar on an otherwise-smooth history for His purpose. And you know, more deeply than you've ever known anything, that He's in this with you.
What comes after this laundry list, Lord? (And, not to prove I haven't really learned my lesson, but can this season be finished? Please? I'd hate to see Bradley arrested for arson, and I'm pretty sure he's serious about burning that building down.)