I can remember the self-talk that I showered my thoughts with when I hit 30 weeks carrying Brode. Only 10 more weeks. As soon as he comes, everything will slow down. Only 9 more weeks. Just put your head down and push through. Only 8 more weeks. Only 7 more weeks. I’ll get a break from the busy. Only 6 more weeks. It’ll just be me and my boys for a while. Little did I know that I’d journey through chaos and clutter and invited to grow in ways I wasn’t mentally, emotionally and physically ready for, but here we are – alive and a little closer to Jesus.
Ben and I like to have babies during the absolute busiest season of our lives: Vision and Fall Kick-Off Month. Ben’s responsibilities soar to new heights during the months of September and October. He can easily work 80 hours a week if he didn’t make himself come home. Bo was 2 months ahead of schedule (you can read about part 1 of his birth story here) which made his birthday September 8th. Brode was due September 14, but arrived 3 weeks ahead of schedule on August 25th. I’m not sure if it was the fact that we had done the whole have a baby thing before, or that this time the circumstances were a lot less stressful: no NICU, no emergency c-section, no threat to my life or our baby’s life, but this time around was different. Not only did Ben have so many things to get done at work, he also needed to be the sole provider for Bo while I was in the hospital with our new baby. It felt, somehow, busier, and I felt lonely. Which was not a part of the plan. Then the chaos began.
The day my mom was suppose to fly to Salt Lake to meet her new grandson and help me navigate a new normal, I got a call around 7am. My mom on the other side was sobbing and could hardly speak. Half asleep, I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or not. She managed to get the words out, “John is gone.” John is my little step-brother. After asking a few clarifying questions, I learned that John had been in a fatal car accident early that morning. Shock sets in as I tried to process what I heard. She changed her plans to fly to California and I booked a flight for me and my 2-week-old newborn a few days later to be with my family.
I don’t process grief well. In high school, I decided that I could just choose not to feel it because that seemed a whole lot easier than the alternative. I tend to place myself in the position to hold others up without thinking much about my own needs. I take on the responsibility to be the “strong one” most of the time. I try to hold everything together. The problems arise when I choose not to process and just continue being there for others, stifling my own grief or sadness or anger and not letting it out. It’s my desire to be in control creeping up. This trip was rather taxing. A newborn, recovering from a c-section on top of traveling, add in the circumstances of why we were there and you come out the other side pretty exhausted, emotionally and physically. We flew back home and I was looking forward to as much rest one could get with a newborn and 2-year-old at home. Then the chaos continued.
It seems as though 2-year-olds are a constant ball of contagious viruses with faucet-like snot running down their exuberant faces. Bo had been coughing for a week and I was doing everything in my power to keep him away from Brode, but he’s 2. I’m sure you can imagine how horribly I failed and how much touching and poking and sneezing and coughing was showered down on this sweet child. Friday morning rolled around and the littlest, teeniest cough escaped out of my 3 week old’s mouth. “Was that a cough? No. It was probably just a little tickle.” A few more throughout the day and I had every humidifier, oil diffuser and Ancient chant and dance for healing going. Saturday rolled around and he seemed pretty miserable, but didn’t seem like he was having a hard time breathing or turning blue, so we waited. Sunday night was the worst. His little head bobbing, his chest retracting and too tired to even cry about it. Trying not to lose my mind, we carefully watched him through the night and Monday morning we were in his pediatrician’s office by the time they opened.
We were seen right away and upon just looking at him, our pediatrician wanted to measure his oxygen saturation. My days living as a NICU mom were coming back like it was yesterday. Only a minute into measuring, our pediatrician said, “I think you should go to Primary’s. Right now.” Okay. Don’t freak out. It’s going to be fine. I said these things over and over to myself. So off to primary’s we went. Upon arriving at Primary’s Children Hospital, they looked at my tiny baby and immediately grabbed a tank of oxygen while we finished providing all our information. We discovered pretty quickly that Brode was Primary’s first case of RSV for the season. I looked at the doctor and asked, “Well, do we get an award?” There was no award.
4 days in the hospital and reliving every moment of our hospital stay with Bo, I was tired. I was already tired before we got there. Sick kids, hospital stays and toddlers can make for some pretty irritable tension in your marriage. Ben and I both were fighting against our own desires, expectations we had for one another and the lack of sleep and connection. We were on empty and had gotten out of the car to start pushing it. We were discharged on a Thursday and I remember talking to Ben, who wanted to go over the calendar. He reminded me of rehearsals and events and football games and our regular church plans and more football games. Every single day there were hours of time that Ben was going to be gone the weekend we were coming home from hospital. I could start to feel pressure on my seams as I tried so desperately to ignore it.
All of my internalized emotions had exploded Thursday night. I was too tired to try and withhold the tears that resembled more of a fire hydrant being activated from a massive car accident. I was sobbing, telling Ben that I felt like I was drowning. I could feel the seams busting open. I told him that I couldn’t see where or when I would be able to come up for a breath and this last week felt like I had an anchor twice my size tightly wrapped around my ankle as I sank deeper and deeper underneath the water. Ben’s response gave light into a huge realization for me. He said that he had no clue that I was feeling this way. He said that I had been covering it all up. I began to word vomit and the control.
I was dealing with a “mommy” performance trap and it was complete news to me. I didn’t realize that I was so desperate to have Ben, and even those looking in, think that I could do it all and that I was some kind of supermom. After Brode was born, I decided that I would not return to work. Which meant that my new full time job was M O M. I have never had a more challenging job, but I also found so much joy getting to stay home with my boys. I felt like because I wasn’t working outside the home any longer, I wasn’t allowed to feel like I needed help or really, that I couldn’t ask for help, specifically from Ben. I was hearing often that I was amazing, and asked how I was doing it all, that I seemed so put together that, as hard as I tried to not let those comments fuel my fire to perform and let them believe I was doing it all and all flawlessly, it did.
God had a funny, but really not-so-funny, way of breaking down my own facade of having it all together. He took my already exhausted body and mind and put me through the ringer of a hospital stay, a human husband and flipped my idea that I could control it all, on its head. I have been reminded that the only cure to my desire to perform and let people think that I known even half of what I’m doing is to focus on the justification I’ve received through Jesus Christ. I can get dressed in the morning, wake up early to put on makeup or choose not to nap when the baby naps to clean the house, but when I’m doing it to make my weaknesses or sin appear to be anything less than what they are, or my motivation is for me to feel good about myself and that I drive the ship, that’s where I lessen the work Christ did on the Cross.
I want to drag my darkness into light and stop covering it up with the lie that I have it all together, because I don’t. I’m short-tempered with my toddler sometimes, I can’t seem to get into a consistent habit of reading my bible, I care way too much if my mother-in-law can smell that the cat box hasn’t been touched in a week, I can be so incredibly disrespectful to my husband. I’m prideful and I’m judgmental. These are the things that, by defaulting into working hard to make the outside world think I have it all together, I refuse to let Jesus enter into and expose so I can be more like him. I take control of my heart condition and try to fix it on my own by just doing better or being better with the things that don’t really even matter. Time and time again, I’m brought to my knees and fail so miserably when I try to fix it on my own.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2
I don’t know if you’re dealing with a performance trap, if you’re seeking approval from others or even just from one. I don’t know what weakness you may be covering up or what kind of condition your heart is in and whether or not you even know. What I do know is that it’s about what He’s done for you and me and not about what we’re trying to do to earn it. God is the Father to those who call out to him and who are justified through faith. You are an adopted daughter of the King, who loves you and delights in you. I pray that you would walk in that truth today and drop the act. You don’t have to be perfect or pretend that you are.
Your weakness and brokenness is welcome here.