For whatever reason, my first memories of Shep’s drowning have made a resurgence these last few days. It’s unexpected and seems unprompted but still they’ve come, late at night or even in broad day. This Sunday I sat next to Erron in church listening to worship music but in my head I was walking into Shep’s hospital room for the first time. It was loud, from the oscillating ventilator that was pushing air in and out of his water logged lungs at 200 breaths per minute. It made his whole chest vibrate. The room was filled with staff. I remember a nurse walking me in then immediately guiding me to a chair just inside the doorway. Later, I learned she sat me down because my legs were giving out. I never even noticed. What I do remember is asking for a bag and dry heaving into it as I tried to wrap my head around what was happening.
The other night, when the memories wouldn’t relent, I suck out of bed and crawled into Shep’s, wrapping my arms around his breathing body while I begged God to make the movie reel stop. I’m beginning to wonder if I am going to have to write the memories all out. I wasn’t ready to take that on yet. It will wreck me.
But maybe it could heal me also? Writing about the guilt over Shep’s accident was certainly a game changer for my aching heart.
I think the shock of it all was, (and still is) the hardest part. I was just so unprepared, so oblivious to the fact that losing Shepherd could even be in the realm of possibility for my life. Yes, I had definitely felt that fear when he was born much too early….but nothing like the day he fell in. That very day, I’d sat by the pool with my parents and told them about the secondary drowning article that was circulating the internet last summer. I described the symptoms…just so we all knew. What I didn’t know, was that an hour later I’d be back at the pool’s edge, scrambling to reach for my beautiful boy as my mom struggled to drag his body to the stairs. His perfect skin blue, his unusually large eyes cloudy and fixed…staring. I was certain we were too late. That he was gone. I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready.
I don’t want this blog to forever focus solely on what happened to Shepherd. I don’t want to forever focus it on it. There is so much other life to write about, the beautiful parts, and the parts that are funny, the hard, the fun, and the pretty, so much more life then those terrifying moments. And I’ve learned I love to write about all of it here. But Shepherd’s accident, his miraculous recovery, and God’s peace in the midst of our pain and panic will forever be a part of our family’s story. So… to move on without really telling it may not work for me.
But it’s going to hurt to like hell to write and I’m still not convinced this is the best medium for it. As painful as it is to write, I know it’s also hard to read.
So in the meantime, I’m going to stall a bit longer with some way more enjoyable things to write about. Things that matter to me. Like sister Charlotte turning 2 next month. And my crazy talented sister-in-law, Chelsea Ahlgrim, will grace this space with some photography tips for the totally untalented moms like me, who are only comfortable capturing little moments with an iphone. The hard stuff will always be there, but right now I’m in the mood for a little fun.
I love reading about everyone’s new year’s resolutions. I love the idea of setting life goals, re-evaluating priorities…all that stuff. I’m a total nerd for “vision-casting.” I also like reading about others NOT doing the resolution thing because it stresses them out, makes them feel like underachievers…all THAT stuff. I get both. I feel both. I think I fall somewhere in the middle.
I didn’t do resolutions this year. (Besides trying to put on anti-aging cream on a regular basis.) I’m taking a year off from expectations. I did copy some friends and pick a word though. I can handle one word. Like a lot of mommas, my word was what we all want to be: present. Less face booking, more puzzles. Less cleaning, more pretend. However, even with this…I gotta walk the line. For me, it’s more of a gut check. It’s asking myself, “Do I really need to do this, when my kids are asking me to do this?” And reminding myself to stop day-dreaming about the next big thing, when I’ve got a million little great things right in front of me. But I can’t say that my goal of being present is to sit in the awareness that all of it can be lost in an instant. Of this fact, I’m already well aware. I’ve read a lot of really amazing and beautiful posts lately about being present and remembering that nothing is guaranteed. In the blink of eye, life can change. I, of all people, understand this. But living in that frame of mind all the time begins to wear on me. After a while, it makes me feel anxious… panicky. Since nothing on this earth is promised, I start to wonder about the day it will all go away. When will that be? What will that look like? Who or what, that I love, will I lose?
For me, the ability to practice intense gratitude also means wrestling with an intense fear of the What Ifs.
It’s a delicate, deliberate balancing act. Every so often, I need to step out of that grateful zone and joke, and I admit, sometimes gripe, about the ‘hard’ in life. I need to be able to say that I haven’t slept a full night through in a consecutive two week span in about 2 years because Charlotte is a vampire and would rather be up all night and I would rather snuggle her than listen to her scream. Or roll my eyes and get annoyed when Shepherd loses it over going to bed every. single. night. Because it’s a brand new outrageous idea that he’s never had to live through before, except that he did, THE NIGHT BEFORE THIS NIGHT, and he somehow survived brushing his teeth, listening to a book, and getting tucked in by two parents who are obsessed with him.
Don’t think for a second I don’t understand that this ‘hard’ I’m writing about is the most wonderful stuff life is made of. All I’m saying is, I am still trying to find that balance of savoring every moment, and not holding on to them for dear life. I have to speak some of the crazy hard times out-loud, so that I can loosen my grip. Otherwise, I might cry a lot, because I will be afraid of missing it, losing it, or messing it all up.
I started writing a post today while the little were sleeping. It was about nap time mind-games. The ongoing battle between choosing between doing the stuff you need to get done, or choosing to do something for yourself. I couldn’t finish it. It felt like whining. When I wrote it I was frustrated that I was not keeping up. I was loosing the laundry battle, I couldn’t find 20 minutes to sit down and figure out how to digitally borrow a book from the library even though I got the app for it days ago. I absolutely could not play legos with Shepherd because I had to wet-vac the carpet Charlotte spilled milk all over yesterday. When evening rolled around, I chose not to show love or patience to Erron over a tricky topic because I had used up all my love and patience before he got home. He got annoyance and brutal honesty instead. I needed a time out, and I got it when I ducked out to catch a late movie with my sister after the kids were put down for bed.
Two and a half hours later, I snuck back into a quiet house, and crept into every bedroom to spy on the person sleeping there, adjusting covers, feeling my heart so full of love that it brought on the pinprick of tears. Charlotte just got moved to a big girl bed, and she sleeps in it sideways, like she’s still in a crib. I watched the air move in and out of Shepherd’s lungs with gratitude and gazed at my husband in amazement that he tolerates being last in line as often as he does.
This week I have been obsessing over getting my house back in order, checking off my to-do list and what my hair would look like with extensions. I forgot that to two little people, I am the whole world…I can make it magical by simply showing up. Being physically and mentally present. To one man, I am the center of the universe, I have the power to make him feel like a million bucks or treat him like he’s another person to deal with when he walks in the door. It’s such a life altering perspective that’s so easy to forget.
Our Christmas decorations are down, the littles’ new toys tucked into closets and the days left in 2014 are quickly slipping away. I’m more than a little relieved to usher in a new year. Six months after Shepherd’s drowning, nearly losing him, I can say we our finally over the hump. The hard, emotionally exhausting part of the grieving process seems to be behind us. We are still struck with hard moments, a quick vision of what we saw and experienced with our sweet boy, but they are much less frequent, and we can dismiss them if we choose to. The rawness has worn off. Erron and I have survived and grown as a couple. Shepherd continues to thrive, grow, and learn new things. As parents, we have adapted to any subtle changes emotionally or cognitively we may be facing.
Erron and I slipped away for dinner last night and it was so sweet to talk about the upcoming year. Ideas for this blog, us serving at our church, plans for our family. I’m all about learning from the past… but man, bring on the new. Facebook keeps trying to sell me on “My Year in Review” by giving me a jazzed up border on a pic I posted in June of an intubated Shep. I cannot delete it from my feed fast enough. Although most of this year revolved around what happened to Shepherd, and the fallout it caused, I’d like to let the hurt and fear continue to fade away while holding tightly to all the good that came from such a terrible accident. The overwhelming love and support that was sent our way from thousands of people, many that we’d never met. The pride I feel from how hard Erron and I worked to get our marriage back on track after such a blow, and the way our family and friends circled the wagons, holding us up, when we were in our worst moments. A faith in a Good God that overflowed in the middle of my worst nightmare.
Not to mention the fact that Erron and I moved states, changed jobs and Charlotte has become this little person that is widely entertaining and lovable.
These are the moments I’d like to remember from 2014, and then I’d like to turn the page and start the next chapter. Happy New Year friends.
Shep turned three and a half on June 22, the second day of his ICU stay. At this point we still had no idea if we were going to keep him. A precious friend bought pirate decorations and brought them to the hospital room so we could ‘cheer it up’ while we fought for his life. It used to just say “Shepherd.”(Incidentally, this same friend decorated my hospital room when we found out Shep was going to be born at 32 weeks. She’s a keeper.) Now, the banner reads Shep is 4. His party is this weekend. I kid you not, I cannot look at this banner without weeping. Happy tears. I am so, so happy.
When we first got home I would cry at the drop of the hat. Like, ALL the time. A country song could do it, or just looking at Shep in the review mirror while driving. Poor Shep was understandably confused, so I finally had to explain that I was “Happy Sad.”
It went something like this: “Buddy, I’m so happy that you’re OK, but I’m also a little bit sad that you got so sick, so it makes me cry sometimes. Because I’m SO happy that you are OK. They are mostly happy tears.” He seemed to get it and now Happy/Sad is a legitimate emotion in our house which works for me because I think a lot of things can make a person feel happy/sad, or empathetic /grateful….you get the picture.
Anyway, for the longest time, I’ve been living in “happy/sad. But I look at that banner, and I am… Just. So. Relieved. Shepherd is turning 4. Thank GOD. We got to keep him. We get to celebrate 4…We get to see what 4 looks like for Shep. What a gift. I’m not sure when my perspective changed, but I can tell it’s shifted. I’m sure it’s a combination of things: time passing, Erron and I figuring out better ways to handle Shep’s emotions, and lastly, I’ve had the opportunity to pray for another OKC momma who was recently in a similar situation with her beautiful baby girl. It was such a privilege to pray for her. This momma’s back-story was much tougher than mine. I begged for her child’s life as intensely as I begged for Shep’s and am rejoicing with her like we did six months ago for ourselves. Her battle is not over, there are big unknowns for her little one like there are still unknowns for us with Shep’s future. But watching this faithful momma walk through what we just experienced helped me gain some perspective. We get to keep our precious babies here with us, in this physical world, where we can hold them, kiss them, love them… a little bit longer. What a blessing that is in itself. I don’t know this mom, I’ve only read her story, but praying for her, healed my heart a little bit more.
Whatever the reason, I’m over being sad. Shep is 4, and I’m so freaking happy about it. It’s time to celebrate.
There are currently five people that live in my house. Erron, myself, Shepherd, Charlotte… and Guilt. Guilt snuck in the back door when we brought Shep home. At first, he was a noticeable unwanted guest, his presence was palpable and overbearing, but he learned how to blend into the background….he wove his way into our everyday life so I forget he’s even there most of the time. I’m so used to Guilt’s presence that he’s like my shadow…but he’s poisoning the well.
Guilt sleeps in my bed, between me and Erron. He likes to whisper in my ear, pointing out how different our parenting styles are, and that Shep would never have been hurt like that on Erron’s watch. I believe Guilt. More than I believe my husband when he tells me Guilt doesn’t need to live here anymore. That he was never welcome in the first place. Now, Guilt is so comfortable with me, he’s on me like white on rice. When Shep is super emotional and has a rough day/week(s), Guilt reminds me, “This could have been prevented, you’re his mother, you failed.” When I’m with my parents and Shep melting down, I get tense, they get a little worried,and Guilt asks me , “Why can’t you get over this? Stop over analyzing! You are weak, and hurting the people you love with your grief.” Even Charlotte is not excluded. She’ll be sassifying the heck out of a situation and while I’m trying to deal with her, I hear guilt clucking at me in the background, “…You’ve dropped the ball on her, you focused so much energy on Shep that you lost sight of Charlotte.”
Just when I’m ready to tell Guilt to get the hell out of my house he pulls out his trump card, warning me,“You won’t make it without me…You’ll get too happy and relax. You will drop your guard again and you know what happened last time. You need me to keep your family safe, the next bad thing is just around the corner, stick with me… and you might just be ready for it.
Guilt is full of BS but he’s a REALLY good liar. So I panic, invite Guilt back in, give him some more room. Just to be safe. My head knows Guilt will not protect me, it will rip apart all that is good… but my heart is afraid.
Thanksgiving at my sweet parents’ house was challenging. I brought my Guilt with me so he could have a field day with the Guilt that lives with them, it’s insane. It drove me to hide in my child-hood closet, hyperventilating over what happened, about how close we were to having a Thanksgiving without Shepherd. We’ve all felt a little crazy at different times these last 5 months, but we’re not. Just guilty. Poor Erron is left out of this club, even though Shep is as much his son as he is mine. Since Erron wasn’t there when Shep fell in the water, I exclude him instead of letting him in, which means he usually has to deal with all of his hurt (and mine) on his own. His pain triggers mine, so he buries it. It’s not right and it’s not fair. But Guilt has me handcuffed, he’s calling the shots.
By writing this down, I’m hoping to drag Guilt out of my house and into the light, where I can expose him for what he really is: A liar, manipulator, a thief of peace and joy. Guilt is a dictator and he rules with fear.
It was an accident. It was nobody’s fault, but I’m a pleaser, I’m a responsible person, I feel like this guilt is my burden to bear….but that would defeat the purpose of grace, wouldn’t it?My guilt is already accounted for and discarded, if I can just hand it over. I’m trying, but it’s hard. It takes time, prayer, and more time. I set it down for a bit, then nervously pick it back up.
There is another voice. One that says, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls.” Matthew 11:28
This voice is gentle, strong but loving, and it does not lie to me. I’m listening.
Not too long after we got Shepherd home, I began to have this nagging feeling that I needed to do something. It’s hard to explain, but I felt like I had been given this incredible gift, and people had been so overwhelmingly kind and supportive towards our family that I believed I needed to pay it back somehow. I also felt (and still feel) that I became a different person than I was through this experience, so I needed to figure out who that new person was and what she wanted to do with this path she’d been set on.
Ten months ago, before we moved from Dallas, I was enrolled to go back to school. Slowly. One class at a time, while the littles were still little. Erron and I had agreed that once both kids were in school, I would return to work in some form, and I was not willing to return in the form of a teacher. I was looking at all kinds of options. Dental Hygiene, Speech Therapist, Physical Therapist Assistant. The goal was a job that helped people, but didn’t stick to me when I came home like teaching did, and paid enough to make working part time worthwhile. We moved back to Oklahoma, but even then, I was committed. I reached out to all my friends in all these professions and asked all my questions. I called schools in Oklahoma. I researched saleries. I was going to give myself a year to get our family settled and then I was going to begin looking for classes to take. I love, loooove being a full time mom. It’s my dream job. But I was excited at the idea of learning how to do something new, having some type of outlet, and let’s be honest…. I was excited to someday have enough money to buy pretty shoes whenever I wanted and maybe even go on some trips that required an airplane ticket.
Then Shepherd fell in the pool.
And now, I don’t know what to do. Erron and I feel strongly that right now, my role is here. Fully at home with our kids without any unnecessary distractions. I am so thankful that we agree on this, and that we can swing it. I don’t want to be anywhere else. I can enjoy Shepherd and Charlotte to the fullest while keeping a close eye on little man. His changes are subtle since the accident, but they are there, and I can identify them, deal with them, and seek outside help for Shep easliy because I am home, with a flexible schedule. I know there are moms out there in my position who are doing what I’m doing while also working full time jobs and they are super moms. I’d do it if I had to, but knowing me, it wouldn’t be pretty.
All that to say, I still wrestle with that feeling of needing to do something… to payback this gift, to make something out of what happened to our family. I think that’s part of why I keep writing about our journey. Because for now, it’s all I know how to do. I ‘d heard of other moms with this experience who became advocates for pool safety. I think this awesome, but I dismissed that idea immediately. Too many difficult emotions associated with that for me. Then I thought I’d found the perfect solution with CPR. I could become an instructor! I would host CPR house parties! I’d lure them in with food and wine and I’d teach every parent I know CPR!! But when I chased that idea down, I learned that most people who instruct are somehow in the medical field by day, and becoming an instructor was very hard to do if that was not your route in. (I’m so grateful for CPR though, that I’m still going to host that party in the spring, but someone else will lead it.)
My sweet counselor keeps me in check. She reminds me that A: I am not in control and it will figure itself out. And, B: I’m doing what I need to be doing right now, it’s still fresh, and my greatest role is being Shep and Char’s mom. I’ve finally realized I don’t really care what my future job is. And there’s not really a need to plan it all out, because even though we’ve been working together for 31 years, Life still hasn’t figured out how to perfectly follow my instructions. So, I give.
It’s kind of exciting to not have a plan. This is unchartered territory for me.
I’m all about being prepared. But there are some things you can’t be ready for no matter how hard you try. Plus I’m getting the sense that the master plan is not mine to write, and it’s a lot more interesting if I hand over the pen.
Some of you may be surprised to know that much of my life I’ve felt like a faker. I am fairly skilled at being what the situation demands…and this is especially true in the spiritual department. Growing up it was never hard for me to make the “good” decisions. I’d of told you they were based on my Christian belief system but mostly I think I just wanted to be good. Because being good made life easy in every sense of the word. And good is what I needed to be in my family at the time. By the time high school arrived, there was enough “not good” going down in my family that I made being good my J-O-B. It was no skin off my back anyway. Want to be well liked by quality friends? Be good. What to go to college and get a job? Make good grades. Want to marry a nice boy and have a nice family? Be good, so you can land a good boy. I believed in God, sure, but I think if I’m really honest, being good was just a lot more practical. And for the most part, it wasn’t hard to do. I’m hardwired to not have to wrestle with the “Should I?” or “Shouldn’t I?” of most decisions. Making the right one was just frankly, not that hard.
I will admit this: I SO wanted the Christ thing to be real. I really did. I even convinced myself I was all in, time and time again. But I could never fully find common ground between what my heart wanted and the pestering questions of my head. There was still lot that didn’t add up for me and I couldn’t ever settle on the answers. So, I faked it. To others, but mostly to myself. Again, not that hard when you wish it was true in the first place.
When Erron and I moved to Dallas right after we got married, I was basically friendless. Literally, Kidd Kraddick and Kellie Rasberry from the morning radio show became my BFFS on the drive to work. How am I admitting to this? So sad. Anyway, thanks to one of Erron’s best friends, I met a girl, who invited me to a prayer group her girlfriends had. The girls were mostly praying for their future husbands. Well, I already had a husband, but I needed friends….so off I skipped to this ‘prayer’ thing.
I can say this, because these girls are now some of my dearest friends. They were the first ones I contacted about Shep drowning and they dropped everything and drove hours to get to me. They are amazing women. But let me tell you about that first prayer group meeting. These girls took their praying ser.i.ous.ly. I was waaaaaaay out of my depth here. There was no amount of “good” that could fake my way into this. I just watched in bewilderment as these girls poured their hearts out to their God in good faith for a long, loooooong time. I half expected amazing godly husbands to just fall out of the sky bearing engagement rings. “It’s raining men….hallelujah…”
Conversations would look like this when I got home from prayer group.
Erron: “Hey! You were gone for a while! How’d it go? What’d you do?”
Me: “Um. We prayed?”
Erron: “Really?! But you were gone for, like 2 hours!”
Me: “No…really. There was a lot of praying.”
Prayer was not my thing. I had prayed HARD in high school for change and hope in my sweet family’s difficult time. My prayers were always met with radio silence. So by college, I had quit. But now here I was returning to this ridiculous prayer marathon the next week. For whatever reason, I could not tell you. Maybe I was tired with my one-sided friendship with Kidd and Kellie. Week, after week, I watched these girls wrestle with the bible, be broken, give praise, trust a God I had deemed untrustworthy, and encourage each other. And I learned a whole different side of Christianity. These girls were fun, smart, they went dancing (obviously this solidified our friendships) and they laughed all the time. But they prayed with a faith and intensity unlike anything I’d ever seen. Slowly… I took the practice of prayer back up again… and year after year, my heart grew a little softer and my soul a little more vulnerable.
Fast forward 3 years… Erron and I are parents, and I had an angry case of post- partum depression after going back to work with a 6 pound preemie. It was time I took a serious look and what I really believed and what legacy I was willing to pass on to my new family. It was grueling and humbling but I had finally come to a place of acceptance between my mind and my heart. Broken and bitter, I laid down my good and picked up His grace.
I finally began to understand that praying to God didn’t always mean you got what you wanted, even if you were good and what you wanted was good too. Many times the answer was in Him walking me through the valley to the other side. But there was still a lot of faking going on, again, mostly to myself. I am the most undisciplined person in the world…there will always be room for improvement for me on the spiritual front. On anyfront, really. I yell at my husband, I don’t eat vegetables, and I suck at memorizing scripture. I struggle daily with feeling “less than” and this layer of insecurity clouds my vision so I can’t fully embrace where I’m at, or recognize how far I’ve come
But I will tell you, when I was thrust into the terror of loosing Shep it was not a conscious choice to begin praying. It was instinct. “Jesus save my son!” were the first words out of my mouth as I hovered over his blue body. I alternated between screaming at 911 and uttering “Jesus save my son.” Over. And over. And in that hospital, when I wrestled with God about handing my boy over….I didn’t feel ‘less than.’ I felt known. I had a self confidence during those 16 days that I have not experienced in my entire life. It was hell. But it was holy. And I’m not a faker anymore.
I was at a prayer retreat this weekend with those crazy girls I met years ago. How I love them now. One of the girls asked me where I thought God was when Shep fell in the pool. I felt sucker punched because I had to admit I didn’t know where He was in that moment, and if He was there, I’m pointing my finger at him. My son is the most cautious kid on the planet. He’s almost 4 and won’t go down the slide at Chick-fil-a. He knew he couldn’t swim and that his life vest wasn’t on. Shep IS NOT A DAREDEVIL. He hardly jumped in the pool and ONLY if we were there to catch him. There were no toys in the water he could have been going after. It doesn’t make sense. And while I felt God’s presence every minute after I made it to Shepherd, my friend’s question made me confront the painful truth that there is a part of me that feels like God kind of pushed my son in the water to write this story. And I’m a little bit pissed about it. While there is so much beauty and restoration in this journey, there is still a lot of pain. For me, for my husband, for my parents. Our whole family hurt. We are still healing. Why did it have to be our Shepherd? Why did it have to involve my sweet parents?
But there is a difference now. I know my God is good. The REAL kind of good. And not just because I got to keep Shep. But because good is God’s nature and I believe he can redeem the worst of circumstances. So He and I will work out our differences and our relationship will move forward. I might be feeling mad, but my relationship with God is real enough to take it. Because I am not a faker.
If a picture could say a thousand words, this one would simply say, “October.” Best laid plans…rough outcome. I’m obsessed with fall like the rest of the country, and in my head I had this month figured out. I was feeling back to my old self, I had outings planned, the month would be perfection, we deserved a fabulous fall after this summer. (Never a good way of thinking.) And while we had some great times to be sure, the month threw in some curve balls that overall just left me whipped, feeling like I’d backtracked several giant steps in getting back to our “normal.”
It began when an ambulance showed up at a neighbor’s house early in the morning. I’d just hosted a neighborhood ladies night, so now I knew this sweet lady, and as I stood in my driveway watching the stretcher being lifted into the back of the truck my heart broke for the fear that accompanies watching someone you love drive away in flashing lights. My mind instantly went back to our experience. Screaming at the paramedics to please, please, just RUN!… into our house. Watching Shepherd being placed on a stretcher. Climbing in the front seat of the ambulance, someone buckling me in. Being told I couldn’t go in to the back where they were working on Shepherd. Begging the young driver for information on what he thought our outcome would be. Cursing the cars that wouldn’t move out of the way fast enough. The memories just wouldn’t stop coming. Thankfully, neighbor is home and doing fine but seeing that ambulance parked down the street left me strung out for the better part of a week, or more. The images I had become skilled at packing away in the back of my mind crept forward with a vengeance. It’s incredible to me how when you think you’ve got it all under control you can be utterly humbled in mere minutes….that stretch on for days.
Upping the ante, Shepherd and his mini partner in crime, Charlotte, decided to take their drama party to whole new level of horror in honor of Halloween. Picture Shep behind his door throwing things and screaming every obscene thing he can think of because Mom and Dad took away all his Legos that he refused to clean up. “I HATE this! You’re the worstest mommy and daddy EVER!” Literally just the tip of the iceberg of fun-loving phrases from Shepherd James. The rest of them are not even worth writing down. It was one of those nights where you seriously wonder how it will feel to vist your kid in jail in 15-20 years. I consoled myself with the knowledge that my own mom was imagining her jail visits with me at about this stage in the parenting game. Erron was less amused then me…and understandably so. The undercurrent of this behavior leaves us way more stressed then it used to. We are well aware Shep comes by this drama naturally, this was not our first showdown with him… we get his age, and what being 3-4 can look like. But we also know that the part of your brain used to regulate emotions is one of the first parts compromised in drowning. And we’ve seen some of that in Shep. It leaves us feeling frustrated, guilty, and wringing our hands when it comes to the correct path of discipline.
Overall, October drove me to do things I wouldn’t normally do, such as ripping open Halloween candy in the middle of the Wal-Mart isle to appease both whining kids and keep myself from screaming. Or, taking a walk down to the cul-de-sac to meet other moms and kids, pushing a giant double Bob loaded with kids and toys in one hand and a large plastic wine glass of chardonnay in the other. This was a new low for me, I’m more of a “special occasion” drinker, and I’m certainly not an advocate for drinking and operating large, heavy equipment such as a double jogger. But everyone has their limits…I had reached mine at 4:00 and we were pushing 6:30. I would have filled up our sports bottle with my adult beverage if I’d had to wait much longer for “adult” time in the cul-de-sac while the littles ran free. All that to say, I am ready for November and all of her thankfulness. I’m not the first one to catch on to the fact that the best way to break out of a funk is to focus on all the good you’ve been given. And we have that in spades. Besides, October wasn’t all bad. Halloween came with Char looking like the cutest Tinker Bell I’ve ever seen, and Shep dressed as Peter Pan …literally screaming “I LOVE trick-or-treating!!” as he spastically ran through the neighborhood. So thank you for that, October, see you next year.
One interesting thing this whole experience has confirmed for me is that Erron and I could not be more different in the ways we receive and process intense and prolonged stress. It is so drastically opposite from one another that it could be considered comical, if it didn’t make us want to throw things at each other from time to time. This is not surprising, I know much of this comes from the sheer fact that Erron is a man and I’m not. Things hit our hearts differently and what weighs on mine doesn’t necessarily stick to Erron’s and vice versa. Also, when it comes to big, life-changing events, Erron has always been a think, then act, type person while I tend to be of the jump in first, think later variety. Like a lot of guys, Erron is content to bury his emotions while I prefer to conjure up no less than five conflicting ones in a single conversation. I become annoyed that my husband does not feel the immediate need to chase his manic wife into hyper-drive and discuss every possible plan and backup plan that is critical for our family’s success. Erron doesn’t understand why I can’t ever just calm the heck down about our life and be in the present moment. So you can see, that although we were absolutley united in the midst of it….something as intense as what we went through with Shepherd was bound to eventually cause some ripples in our relationship. How could it not?
Throughout our 7 year marriage, Erron and I have always taken turns going through the valleys. I find this to be challenging but healthy, especially with kids in the picture. When we got home from Children’s Hospital in Tulsa, I could barely string two thoughts together. It felt like that newborn baby haze…once the adrenaline wears off and you’re left feeling overwhelmingly grateful for this little life you are gifted with but everything else is so, SO hard. I felt cloudy and exhausted. Erron was upbeat and practical. He was kind and tried to be positive as long as he could while I spent all of my extra energy lashing out at myself and him because of the overwhelming guilt.
Now that I feel better, I see my husband retreating into the fog. He still shows up. Still goes to work and works hard. Still engages with the kids at home and helps out. But I can see the heaviness on him. The weight of things he’s yet to process because he couldn’t. He was holding us up. It’s his turn.
Marriage is such a dance and right now Erron and I are trying to re-learn our parts. It’s hard. It can be frustrating and we have definitely been stepping on each others’ toes…but we keep taking the steps. I believe this will make us better if we choose to take this route and really address our differences and how we respond to one another. I think it already has. We both know that we will eventually find our footing and fall back in sync, moving better than we had before. And I’m thinking that someday, down the road, we could be that pair on the dance floor that make other people lean into their partner and whisper, “Dang…that couple can DANCE.”