Forever is the reward
Today I lied to someone who loves me very much. My aunt called me on the phone, asked how the boys were doing, and how I was doing. I told her I was doing fine and tried to change the subject as quickly as I could. The truth is, I’m not fine. When I hung up the phone with her, I cried.
I cried because earlier that morning, I had closed myself in the pantry so that I could sob without my two year old watching. While I sat there on the floor that hadn’t been swept in days among random items that should be on the shelves but instead are scattered about, my youngest was crying upstairs in his crib. My two and a half year old was crying on the living room floor.
I cried because during our short phone call, Holden was screaming, waking up from a nap that I fought over an hour to achieve and which lasted a whole ten minutes. Lincoln, attempting to get a glimmer of attention during those short ten minutes, had also started crying because he wanted me to play Lightning McQueen with him but instead I was talking on the phone, trying desperately to drink my cold coffee from over two hours ago and pay bills that have been neglected for too long.
Holden is 8 weeks old. For the past eight weeks, we’ve had an average of four visits to the doctor per week. Some days we’ve had three appointments with various specialists in different offices in the same day. When I wrote this post months ago, sharing my fear of having another colicky child, I felt certain that the likelihood of that happening was minimal. So you can imagine the way my heart dropped into my stomach when our pediatrician said to us, “You need to get help. It takes a village to raise a child this colicky.” Oh, trust me Doctor, I know it does. I've done it before.
In addition to his severe colic, Holden has a gamut of other health issues that we’ve been working through for the past two months. We’ve yet to nail down exactly what is going on, but between specialists at Seattle Children’s Hospital and our extremely attentive (I mean calling to check on us at 9:00pm, attentive) pediatrician, I believe we’re in the best hands we could ask for. Not having answers is hard. A lot of this is hard.
I don’t want my babies to cry or to hurt or to be sad, ever. I would do anything to make them feel better. Holden is sometimes inconsolable, no matter what I do. It’s hard enough for me to hear him crying, I can only imagine how it hurts his big brother who is so confused about what is going on. It’s been a hard transition for Lincoln not because there’s another baby in the house, but because there is another baby in the house that cries frequently, rarely sleeps, and has left his mommy an exhausted, defeated, emotional mess. I haven’t slept in eight weeks. And I don’t use those words lightly. Holden doesn’t nap at all most days, and at night I am lucky if he sleeps 1.5-2 hours here or there. There have been three nights since he was born that I got four hours of sleep. Most days I am running on less than 2 hours of broken naps a night. I am tired. In every way.
I wish I could give my big boy every bit of energy and attention he deserves and my heart breaks knowing I can’t. I know it’s just a season, and I know Lincoln will be okay, but somehow knowing that in these moments that feel so wrong just doesn’t make it any better.
After I hung up with my aunt, I went upstairs to my crying baby and while I rocked him and nursed him for the 7th time in the last 6 hours, I silently wished that I could just quit a little.
Not quit forever, not give up on my boys. But just quit a little, just for a little while. That I could wake up just one time well-rested, take a hot shower and actually shave my legs, sit down in a quiet room for a cup of coffee and finish it while it was warm, and feel like a normal, emotionally sound human being, just for a little. I was immediately overwhelmed with guilt for wishing for such a selfish thing, and so there I was again, crying.
While I was on the phone with my aunt (who is also my namesake) she said something along the lines of, “You were given the right name, because you are always given really challenging situations and you don’t deserve to be struggling like you are. After working so hard to have these babies, you shouldn't have to go through this.” My aunt has been through her fair share of heartache. Hearing her say that I took after her hit me hard. When she said it, I laughed it off and tried not to engage because I knew I would cry and didn’t want her to know how broken I was.
I wish I’d had the emotional strength to tell her at that moment that following in her footsteps in any and every way, even if it meant hardship and heartbreak, is one of the most beautiful things I could ask for. She is a mom of three boys, one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known, and gives endlessly of herself to any and every person she encounters.
Later, reflecting on what she said, I was able to breathe a little deeper and with dry cheeks for the first time today. This season is hard, and it feels like it’s lasting forever. But it’s not. Forever is the reward, though.
Forever is the amount of time I get to spend loving my boys, blessed by the gifts that they are to my life. And maybe I’ll love them better, more deeply, more selflessly because of what we’ve been through. Maybe this painful season is shaping me in new ways to be more like my aunt; loving deeper and without constraint, giving more of myself than I thought I could, and learning that it is with work and effort that we are reap the greatest rewards.
I’m working hard for you, boys. And I promise I won’t quit. Not even just a little.