Oh, Oprah, I Miss You So!

Standard

It wasn’t until I was driving in my dad’s car a few weeks ago that I realized how much I could have used a little Oprah in my life these past few years.  Dad came to babysit while I went to an unemployment meeting and I happily took his car (equipped with satellite radio) my messy mini van and I needed some time apart!  And oh I how loved the satellite radio.  Poor Griffin, who was tagging along for the meeting (I was hoping an antsy baby would speed up the process at the unemployment office ;)) had to endure me belting out one broadway song after another on the way there!

However, after a painful meeting hearing that “there isn’t much they can do from me” from a young 20 something woman, I was in no mood for show tunes on the way home.  In a horrible, disheartened and over all angry mood I searched the radio for something that fit the bitterness that had taken over my mind.  And then I heard it, the calm, logical, caring voice of Oprah as she led her life class on forgiveness.  That voice of reason and compassion was exactly what I needed to get me out of my angry funk as I drove home.

I always liked Oprah when she was on the air.  I admired her spirit and integrity as she approached guests and offered support.  Call me crazy but when I heard her talking on the radio, sitting there in my place of self-pity, it was like hearing an old friend.  In this life class she was using clips from old shows and stories from guests to examine the difficult task of forgiveness.  I listened because it was her, and since true forgiveness is hard I was interested to hear what she had to say.  But I wasn’t listening because in that moment in the car I thought my issue was a lack of forgiveness.  It is funny how advice and guidance find you when you need it.

Oprah’s first guest was a woman who was married for several years to man who turned out to be gay.  When he came out to her, she exploded, he in turn sued for alimony and most of her riches.  She of course, stayed angry.  They both came on the Oprah show, she still harboring lots of anger.  Oprah explains that during the show she kept thinking that she was in over her head.  That this anger that was festering in this woman seemed to be untouchable.  Years later the guest came back on the show – with her ex husband, to discuss her journey to forgiveness.  She explained that it came to her after she realized that all the anger she was directing at her ex husnabd did nothing to hinder his life, only her own.

Next, Oprah talked to an expert of some kind on forgiveness, maybe an author, a psychiatrists?  I don’t remember the particulars as I was driving, and busy self-reflecting as I listened.   She talked about how it was in that interview that she changed her entire view on what forgiveness means in a tangible sense.  Her guest explained to her that “forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could be any different from what it is.”  And in her “Oprah way”, she repeated the statement over and over again, changing a word or two each time to help us understand.

“Forgiveness is letting go of the chance that the past will change.”

“Forgiveness is accepting the fact that the past cannot be anything other than what it was.”

“Forgiveness is understanding that the past will not change.”

As she spoke, I got to thinking.  Why am I mad?  What about this unemployment meeting got me so fired up?  Here it is, I was mad that I had to go there at all.  I was mad that this young woman didn’t know what to say, or how to help me change careers.  But I was really mad that I lost my job.  Losing my job is in the past.  It cannot change.  Until I can forgive my district, the decision makers that decided to shrink staff to save money , I was still going to be angry.  My anger wasn’t going to change what happened months ago.  And so, as I drove I forgave them.  Not because they asked for forgiveness, and like Oprah’s first guest – not because my anger was bringing my district down – but because it was bringing me down.  I didn’t forgive them for their peace of mind – but for mine.  What is done is done, there are no “take backs”, I must forgive.

Hearing Oprah repeat this statement, now another mantra for me, led me to think about all the other things that I have gone through in the past few years.  Have I forgiven myself for choices I had made, things I did or didn’t do?  Have I forgiven people close to me for saying things that may have hurt, doing things that I disagreed with? While it is unfair to blame her, in the early stages of my grief I was mad at my mom for dyeing.  Have I forgiven her for leaving me?

I think when life gets hard it is easy to be angry.  I think it is easy to play the blame game, to look for scapegoats.  Sometimes others are to blame.  Sometimes things happen that deserve anger.  I think it is fair to say that I have gone through some of those things.  But anger is cantankerous, left alone it could fester.  You have to address its cause.

What a freeing feeling it was to drive along, listening to the ebb and flow of Oprah’s easy conversations on forgiveness and examine what it was in my life that needed my forgiving.   I felt a release, as corny as it may sound, of a weight that I had been carrying around since the bubble that protected my world a few years ago started getting holes.  I was holding on to those hard times not always as badges of honor for a battle hard-won but sometimes as excuses to play the victim for all the unfair things that I have had to endure.  As I thought of each one I heard Oprah repeat, “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be any different from what it is.”  And as I heard her say those words in my head, I let go.

So thank you Oprah!  I needed to hear this.  I needed to be reminded that my anger does nothing except hinder me, I needed to be told to let go. 

Advertisements

There is a reason for everything!

Standard

Tomorrow will be one month for the boys!  It is strange, but it feels like it hasn’t been that long.  I say its strange because when Addison’s stay was only one month-long and I remember thinking it felt like a lifetime.  I am sure there are a few reasons for this, the most obvious being that I know that my boys clearly aren’t close to ready to coming home.  I just hope they are home around my due date – January 20th!  We know we are in this round of the NICU for the long haul. 

My sense of urgency isn’t the only difference with our NICU stay this time around.  When Addison was born at 32 weeks and required a 30 day NICU stay I was terrified.  Nearly paralyzed with fear.  Every hiccup, change in stats, behavior, etc. was cause for alarm.  Not to mention I was completely overwhelmed by the entire experience – I didn’t talk to many people, waited for the doctors to approach me, took direction and updates at face value as I quietly meandered through the process.  I didn’t feel bold or confident in the whole atmosphere – it was too scary.  Not this time!  The NICU isn’t nearly as scary as I thought it was two years ago.  Which is funny, because the boys have a much scarier ride than Addison did.  I know all of the boys’ day doctors and nurses by name, I see them in the main lobby and we talk.  If I have a question, I walk out to their desk and ask it.  While we love most of the nurses, some of them rub us the wrong way and when we feel the need, we voice our opinion. 

Most impressively, I am not afraid.  Don’t let me mislead you, there are things that I am very afraid of.  Illnesses, issues, complications… However, I have a handle on the day-to-day.  I know each one matters and to celebrate just that.  With Addison I think one of the reasons I was so afraid is that everyday I was desperately trying to get to the “normal” part of having a newborn.  So each day that kept me from that was filled with fear that those normal days would never come.  With the boys, I feel abundantly patient and feel no need to rush their delevelopment and milestones, I am content to be happy with each and every small success.  Take today for example, I celebrated being able to put lotion on Carter.  Giving him a little massage made my day.  I celebrated knowing what to do as I watched Griffin’s heart rate drop, and I celebrated being able to help him pull out of it.  On Saturday, I celebrated holding Griffin in my two hands inches above his bed so his nurse could change his bedding.  There are just so many things to celebrate.  Even on days like today, when Griffin is having a hard time keeping his heart rate up, his food in his belly and had to go back on the ventilator to support his immature lungs.  Because I know tomorrow things will be different.  So I take things day by day, it is what it is and it is clearly NOT in my control but in God’s hands (thankfully – for I know I am not equipped!)

Looking back at the blog I kept for Addison, there are very few entries during her time in the NICU.  That is because I was so overwhelmed by what was happening I couldn’t even find the words.  I never did my own research online of any of her conditions, afraid of what I might find.  This time around I have taken ownership of our situation.  I participate in a web community of parents of preemies.  I read discussions, post my questions and encourage other parents going through similar things.  It gives me strength and hope for our boys.  And of course, I blog about nearly everything.  This blog has been one of my biggest sources of therapy. 

In 2009 when we went through our first bout with the NICU we had faith that things happen for a reason.  But now, in 2011 that reason is glaringly obvious.  Without the relatively easy and short stay with one little girl in the NICU two years ago, I know we wouldn’t be half as prepared, secure, comfortable, knowledgeable..for our long and precarious stay with our two tiny boys now.

Angry/Scared/Joyful/Sad/Happy…

Standard

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lately, when asked how I’m doing I am never quite sure which emotion to pick.  At any given moment I feel about 10 different emotions .  I know I have posted about this before, and I am sure it is becoming redundant – but man this is a lot to handle and it is testing every bit of strength that our family has.   And then perspective rolls in and I am once again in awe of what some families endure with such grace that it makes our struggle seem small. 

For this post I decided not to pick an emotion.  And since I am not standing face to face with someone waiting for a response but instead sitting comfortably on my couch with all the time in the world my answer to the question everyone asks is this…

So how am I feeling?

I am ANGRY because both of my boys have some pretty serious infections that they contracted from simply being in the hospital.  They have gone through a series of antibiotics and yet still, they test positive for staph epidermidis, pseudomonas and stenotrophomonas.  So now they each will have a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. 

That of course brings me to SCARED.  

I am JOYFUL because Griffin has pooped on his own many times since yesterday (he used to only poop when they gave him medicine).  I am also joyful today because Griffin is no longer on a ventilator so I got to change his diaper!!  This is the most interaction I have had with either boy since they were born.  I nearly teared up as I prepared to change him then laughed to myself as I realized that in a few months I will look back on this moment and think I was crazy for being so excited, as I change my 40th diaper for the day! 

I am SAD sometimes as I pack up the maternity clothes I will never wear, the nesting that I will never feel, the pregnancy that I never got to see till the “normal” end.  I have talked with other moms of preemies and it is such a funny thing how you mourn the shortened pregnancy.  I’ve caught myself a few times thinking about events I thought I would be attending as a quite round pregnant woman, and it makes me sad.  Which is ironic because when I was pregnant and thought of that same event and me being whale-like I dreaded it! 

I am HAPPY each time I walk into the boys’ room and see their little faces!  And I am just as HAPPY when I come home from the hospital to my busy house and my even busier two girls at home.  I am not sure I have hugged or kissed Kennedy and Addison as much in their lives as I have in the last three weeks.  They bring me happiness everyday!

I am OVERWHELMED sometimes as I drive home from the hospital alone.  Thinking about the daily report from the doctors, the changes the boys have made, and then all of the things I should be getting done at home.  Finding motivation for “real life” needs like dishes and dusting is quite difficult when you have kids in the hospital.  If I catch myself thinking in the long-term I have to stop myself immediately, the long-term is overwhelming – the short-term I can totally do.

I am RELIEVED each night as I lay down to fall asleep and think about my little fighters making it through another day.  I find myself taking a long slow breath and thanking God for giving us this day with our boys.  Knowing that each and every day is truly a gift that will hopefully bring us to a lifetime of days.

I am TIRED.  I think I could sleep for days and still be tired.  

I am HOPEFUL, in fact I am filled with hope.  I have so much hope that it overflows at times.  I have hope that in a year from now this time will only be a memory.  I have hope that my boys will have a full and happy life and will only be stronger for the way they started off in the world.  I have hope that our family will come out on top after all of this, that our finances, our needs, or emotional state will remain intact as we go through this difficult time.

And perhaps most of all I am GRATEFUL.  I can’t say enough how grateful I am for the friends and family that surround us.  We have been inundated with offers to help, food, support, prayers, kind words and love.  Each sentiment we receive strengthens us and reminds us once again how blessed we are to have all of you in our lives.  And we are so absolutely grateful for the nurses and doctors at Children’s Hospital.  It makes all the difference to be confident that everyone dealing with our boys are chasing the same goal.  What they do on a daily basis with our kids is amazing and we are so grateful for their talents and expertise. 

Ahhh…that feels better.  I am so glad I took the time to get that out!

What is strength anyway?

Standard

I keep hearing from friends, family and strangers how strong they think I am, how they are inspired or amazed by how we are handling yet another challenge.  These compliments, while wonderful and flattering, have forced me to contemplate if I am really am strong.  You see, I never thought of myself as strong – but rather someone who does what I need to do to make it through. Is that what strength is?  Just making it through?

I like this quote in regards to my approach to being strong:

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. 
Ambrose Redmoon

I am strong because I see no other way.  It is what needs to be done in that moment.  I don’t think this attitude is unique to me, I think this is how most people cope.  Because they have to. 

Don’t let me mislead you, in the comfort of my own home, or when alone in the car and my mind starts to wander there are times when I break down.  Or a random event will happen that will cause me to lose it.  For example, last year a few months after my mom died I was making dinner when I broke a glass dish.  Then Tim and I had to go outside to fix the satellite in the bad weather and we heard a crash come from the kitchen – the girls wanted pickles and in the process the jar broke.  I came inside, took one look at the mixture of shattered glass and pickle juice and went upstairs to cry.  I was crying for my mom – who knows why a series of broken things would cause me to miss her but it was one of the hardest cries I had since she passed. 

To be honest, I’m not sure that making it through the day equals strength – just a strong sense of survival.  Is that the definition of strength? For me, I just don’t see any other way.  This is what is happening to me in this moment, so I focus on just that – this one moment.   Treating each challenge as though it will cause me to spend all day in bed, or cry for hours, or break my spirit will get me nowhere.  Trust me I have tried it, and all it did was make me feel worse.  And besides, I have kids that depend on me. I don’t have time to stop and feel sorry for myself. 

Maybe strength is about perspective.  It is quite easy to lose it, feel defeated and helpless when you lose sight of the goal ahead of you or when you forget that you are not the only one in this world desperately trying to make it through a difficult time.  The week that I spent in the hospital before the boys came was one of the hardest weeks of my life, both physically and emotionally.  There were times when I couldn’t articulate what I wanted to make me more comfortable and I would get overwhelmed with laying upside down, with a catheter and contractions all at the same time.  I rolled over and let the tears roll down my face.  It was a definite low of the week.  But I made it through those few horrible hours by the time night came and in the dark I watched two Mercy Flight helicopters land outside my window.  Instantly, my feeling that I couldn’t take it any longer faded as I thought about who might be on that helicopter.  Perspective. 

I have a friend who has been fighting for her daughter’s health since the day she was born nearly nine months ago.  I’m only on day 7.   And she is fighting with grace.  Perspective. 

In a week it will be one year since my mom died suddenly.  We lost her forever.  Perspective.  

I can make it through today, by simply putting this day into perspective.  

Tomorrow is a different story – but I try not to think about that until tomorrow.