Tuesday, January 5, 2016

mustard seed mama

Dearest Bunny,

It's 3:44 in the morning and I am still awake . It's a long story and this probably won't make much sense when I read it later- but I have to write or I'll lose my mind .

At the beginning of my pregnancy I wrote you a letter and told you that I needed a rope ...  because we had just found out you have Down syndrome and I knew there would be moments - maybe even nights - like these . Spaces of time when my thoughts were running too wildly and my emotions were getting out of control , and somehow I would need a rope to pull me back to the shores of safety and sanity. And I decided that writing was going to be for me that rope - the thing that would get me through it all. Not because I feared Down syndrome ... having walked through that diagnosis and raising your big sister for almost six years now, I feel confident about your future . But because of your diagnosis there are other concerns that can trigger fear - mainly health issues and things that can go along with that "magical extra chromosome" ... and I knew that at some point I was going to need a rope. 

And up until this point I haven't needed that rope so much ... Up until now it's  been pretty smooth sailing, and my letters to you have just been updates on how my pregnancy is progressing (wonderfully !) and what we have seen of you on ultrasounds (you're beautiful !). Up until this moment I haven't needed that rope to pull me back to safety, which is why I haven't written near as many letters to you as I did to your sister. Honestly, Bunny, up until now this pregnancy has been for the most part, fear free .

But right now I need my rope .

Right now I need something to hold on to, something to bring me back to the shores of safety, something to pull me out of the waters ... because RIGHT NOW ... I feel like I'm going to drown . 

So it's 3:58 in the morning and I've been up all night for probably the 30th night in a row. At least . Give or take a few nights when sleep was not elusive and the only time I woke up was to use the bathroom. (Five or six trips to the bathroom in one night is not unusual for this mom of many at the end of her pregnancy - so I don't count those nights as "lost sleep.")

But pregnancy insomnia is not something I've had to deal with at this level in any of my pregnancies . I had some nights at the end of my pregnancy with Hayden that were like this . But nothing that came close to the intensity of what I'm going through both physically and emotionally , and nothing that didn't resolve itself after a few nights of exhaustion . 

I've written about this in my letters to Lily in the past, but I'm writing about it again right now - so I can remind myself that this is what I do when I'm facing fear... I internalize it. I think it would probably be healthier to deal with things on the outside of my body - maybe cry more or scream when I'm overwhelmed with anxiety ?? Anything other than pushing down thoughts of worry or fear inside of me until they manifest eventually in physical symptoms ... which is clearly what is happening right now . Maybe it's pride that holds me back from admitting or demonstrating that I'm struggling ? Maybe it's guilt ?  Because I know that as a Christian I'm supposed to just trust God and pray and not battle these emotions .. and letting people see that sometimes I do struggle with that would be a bad testimony to anyone watching my life ? 

Whatever the reason, dearest Bunny , I am weary of pretending to be someone I'm not, and if nothing else, writing everything down is my way of dealing with whatever demons are assaulting my soul right now. Writing is my rope. 

And if writing and exposing those anxieties means letting people know I'm not Super Mom and I don't always handle my fears perfectly or in a way that is healthy or helpful ... then so be it. I'm human . My faith isn't always perfect, and sometimes - like this moment at 4:11 a.m. - it is as small as a mustard seed indeed . It's there, but it's fragile, and I need God to take what little faith I have and help me get through this moment. 

I need a rope. 

So here it goes, dearest bunny . Here's what is lying tucked away,  down deep in my heart, until this moment when it is obviously manifesting itself in a host of symptoms - insomnia, loss of appetite, and a plethora of other physical symptoms as well. Here are the dirty little secrets that I've been pushing to the back of my mind this month, hoping that by not talking about them I can make them go away . 

I'm afraid. 

I'm afraid you're going to die.

I'm afraid that because Lily was so healthy and because she had so few of the health concerns related to Down syndrome, somehow that means you are going to have them all .

It makes no sense, but I'm afraid that somehow I have to "pay my dues" and have a baby with all the issues Lily hasn't had . 

I'm afraid that all the ultrasounds we've had to check your heart for defects - I've lost count there have been so many - are wrong. I'm afraid that I'm going to be like the mom I randomly met at my doctor's appointment last month, who had multiple scans during her pregnancy that never revealed a major defect on her baby's heart . I'm afraid that because 50% of babies with Down syndrome have heart defects and because Lily had none, that somehow you have to make that statistic come true in our family ... even though I know we don't and shouldn't live by "odds." Rationally I know that doesn't make sense, but at four in the morning after a month of little or no sleep ... I'm not being very rational .

I'm afraid of labor, sweet Bunny. Me, the mama who LIVES for labor and the whole birth experience - I get high in labor for crying out loud, bunny. I have told everyone for years how much I love that special time, and how I feel closer to God than ever when I'm in labor - because I DO.

But I'm afraid . Afraid that somehow this time it will all be too much, I'm too old or my body is too fragile or that I just won't be able to enjoy everything like I normally do - I'm afraid of the unknown and what I may go through during your birth ... I am afraid that something will go terribly wrong and I'll lose you .

I am afraid that I love you too much and I that I am too happy and thrilled to be carrying another baby with Down syndrome - and somehow that joy and anticipation is going to be destroyed . I'm afraid that if something happens to you I'm not going to be strong enough to handle it, and that somehow I'll lose that mustard seed of faith I'm clinging to right now . I'm worried that if something happens to you I won't be like the strong moms I know who have walked through the loss of a baby and been shining examples to everyone of what true trust and faith and confidence in God looks like in the midst of incredible suffering and pain . 

I'm afraid I wouldn't pass that test .

I'm afraid of thinking I have this whole Down syndrome thing figured out, I'm afraid of falsely believing we have walked through all the emotions of it already , and that there is some unknown "thing" I haven't gone through when it comes to parenting a child with special needs.
I'm afraid that somehow my confidence and joy in the fact that you share Lily's diagnosis is going to be shattered when I get to that unknown . 

And isn't that the essence of true anxiety anyway ?

 It doesn't have to have something solid to hold onto, it doesn't require facts or proof that a problem does indeed exist - it is fear of the unknown . It's an overwhelming sense of impending doom, and even when I have months of good doctor visits amd healthy ultrasounds and all the reassuring words of our team of doctors to call to memory at four o'clock in the morning ... It doesn't matter because anxiety is not rational . It goes beyond what is known and reaches into the unknown , it takes every "what if"
imaginable and turns it into a certainty in my brain. 

It robs me of reason and joy and a sound mind , and in their place it leaves a gaping hole of worry and doubt and unbelief . It is the thief that wants to steal my happiness over YOU little Bunny, and it is threatening to drown me if I let it.

I prayed before I started this letter, Baby Madison. 

I prayed that somehow God would get me through this moment, that somehow He would put me on someone's heart and they would call or text me in the middle of this seemingly endless night to encourage me, and that somehow that would be an anchor to my soul. 

I prayed for God to reach down from Heaven and help me. 

And you know what He did ?

He gave me a rope .

So here I am , writing this letter to you and pouring out my heart and hopes and fears and somehow, in the middle of my exhausted ramblings, I feel myself being pulled back to the shore of sanity . 

Somehow God has taken that tiny mustard seed of faith ... and moved this mountain of fear in my mind.

Somehow through getting all of this crud out of my troubled heart and mind and putting it into words - somehow I've exposed the lies that were threatening to drown me ... and I'm not drowning anymore . 

I have my rope . 

And my mustard seed of faith . 

And my beautiful Bunny tucked away inside of me .

And no matter what demons of fear and doubt and worry and unbelief have been plaguing me until now, I am suddenly reminded of this truth. 

God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of a sound mind. 

No matter what I am feeling, and no matter what the future holds, I need to recognize that God is in control . 

Whatever I'm "feeling" is not from the Lord. It may be from pregnancy hormones or lack of sleep or all the physical things I've gone through lately (kidney stones, endless contractions, heartburn, backaches, and carrying my 12th baby at age 47 to name just a few !) but whatever the cause - God is not the author of it all . He doesn't want me living in emotional torment over things I can't control anyway . He doesn't promise me a perfect future without any shred of heartache or pain, but He does promise me He will never leave me or forsake me through anything I go through . He will be there. 

And he doesn't expect me to handle it all perfectly anyway . 

He knows my weaknesses , He knows I am fragile and weary and HUMAN and ....

He loves me anyway.

In my weakness "His strength is made perfect". 

That means I can stop trying to be this Super Mom I think I'm supposed to be at all times. I never was her anyway, and I never will be. I'm just me, and even if that means I am prone to hiding my fears and worries until they all come boiling to the surface in an ugly way ... that's okay with Him. My hope and trust and faith is in Jesus and HIS ability to carry me through. It was never supposed to be about me anyway . It's the grace of God that will bring me through the unknown - not the perfect faith of Patti .

And now my sweet little Bunny, I am feeling drowsy and comforted and ready to rest in God - both spiritually and emotionally and (miraculously !) physically as well. I'm fading fast so I will post just one picture of you safely sleeping inside of me before I drift into dreamland myself ... 

I love you to the moon and back, Madison Faith. 

And until we meet face to face , I am ..

Always yours,

Mama xoxoxo


Natasha said...

This makes me want to reach out and hug you. What I was thinking was not that you are showing that you are failing in any way by having these fears and being honest about them but more that you are expressing them to help yourself, which is healthy and also you are providing a safe place for others facing the same as you and who may feel like you do right now.
You have experience of this from before but you still are being hit with the anxiety and what that tells new moms who have never been down this road before that its normal and ok to feel this. That they are not failing for struggling, that you are facing it too.
I want to let you know that I see great help in this post for both you and those others. I wish you much love

Grammi Faith said...

Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 105:4

You are not alone repressing your feelings/fears. I think every human being goes through these times. I miss Daddy terribly but I push down those feelings as I don't want to upset Hope. I want to call you during those "down" times and talk but I don't want to upset you. I don't even share those times with my close friends as i don't want them to worry about me. So I take my tears to Jesus and His Mother. Most times it helps but sometimes I feel like no one is there listening. I cannot hear an audible response. Then I remember to just sit and listen, read some scripture and pray my "memorized" prayers to sooth my soul.

Looking so forward to February. I can help you pack or whatever needs to be done, hold Madison, play with Lily and Hayden. You would think I would be tired of boxes (and I am) but someone else's boxes is OK. I still have about 10 more to unpack. Kitchen, bedroom and bath. Ugh!!! Moving from a 6 room home to a two room of my own is crazy. Good Will is reaping the benefits, after my children of course.

February hurry here. Love, Mom

Dawnalouba said...

Hi Patty! Incredible words. I just wanted to encourage you. Four years ago today, we lost our sweet son at one month to some serious health complications from being born way too early. Three years later we were blessed with a daughter that has Down syndrome with the heart defect that you mention. I pray that your family is protected from these fears and none of them become a reality. What I can encourage you with is this, these last few years have been some of the hardest in my life, but I couldn't have imagined the goodness that has come from these experiences. He is so faithful! I hope you are able to rest and enjoy the remainder of your pregnancy. It is such a special time. I wasted a lot of that time in fear and not trusting in Him. His plan that I know is the best even though it can be hard sometimes is out of pure love.

Anne B. said...

(((((HUGS))))) dear Mama!!! You don't have to be SuperMom....you are a lovely light that shines the love of Jesus! Continued prayers for you and Madison.

Allison xoxo said...

Praying for you ... and for Madison. Praying for peace of mind, strong body, a labor that will bring you as close to God as you have ever been, and a beautiful healthy baby girl when all is said and done. And I'm praying for sleep for you. xoxo

Monique said...

Love, prayers and hugs to you mama. Rest as you can.

Leah said...

I get the feeing of thinking you wouldn't pass the test, even if in a very different scenario, but you are right ... God will never leave you nor forsake you. You're doing great and as normal as any woman would be in our shoes. (Hug)

Mrs. G said...

I too feel like reaching out and giving you a hug. Anytime we swim against the tide, and just by allowing Madison to live you are going against the tide, there will be plenty of voices telling us how stupid we are, the decision is, how we're going to regret it, be made to pay etc. Eventually some of that negativity gets internalized only to come out when we're at our weakest. Replace fear with truth: God is not going to punish you for choosing and welcoming life, His mission isn't to stand on your neck and make you sorry.

Whoever welcomes one of these little ones in my name welcomes me. You are welcoming the Lord of the universe daily, expect opposition. (((Hugs))) my friend.

Unknown said...

I wish I had a specific word to bring you comfort! I am so sorry you are struggling so intensely! I had my last baby when I was 46 (number 11). She was born with Down syndrome. She had a heart defect and had surgery when she was 3 months old. She had many health issues but now she is 9 and she is very healthy! The journey was tough but we made it and if that is to be part of your journey you will make it also! You are very blessed! I always wished I could have had number 12! God will give you the strength to go through what ever may be ahead of you with this new baby! Matthew 6-34 is a good verse to go back to now. Sincerely, Amy Dasher

Unknown said...

Thank you for your honesty. Too many times I've heard people shamed for talking about their fears, as though God will abandon them if they don't speak only "words of faith", or that by speaking their fears aloud they will magically make them happen. Too many times I've heard people think that because they have fears they are less worthy of God's love. Use the rope God has given you. He's given it to you for a reason.
In solidarity, my sister,
Joanne MacKenzie

Race Bannon said...

You know, Netflix has a free trial month. Like, if you can't sleep...

Patti said...

Race - I actually almost called you so you could tell me some funny stories , but it was 6:30 your time so ...I thought maybe you were already at work. And also, I was trying to go to sleep, not stay up laughing .

goldenleaves said...

Patti, this post is amazing. Your letter to your sweet Madison sums up the fears that so manynof us Ds mamas have felt. Praying for you and your family that God would grow that faith from the size of a mustard seed to something you've never imagined.

Unknown said...

Hi Patti, just let it all out, cry it out if you must, God is great, and He never burdens a soul with more than it can bear. ...
Maddison is going to be fine.

Waiting for our bunny. ..

cathy said...

My Dear, Dear Friend,
It's perfectly normal to experience what you are going through...I'm sending you love, prayers & a reminder to write more, then those thoughts won't BUILD up in your heart & mind.

much love & many prayers,

Unknown said...

sending hugs and prayers! I'm sure by the time you read this you'll be confident with the last few weeks of your pregnancy. BUT I can definitely relate to your bottling of feelings comment. when there is so much going on, it's easy to put yourself last. during the end of my 7th pregnancy I was anxious and worried about the delivery. after I decided I could get an epidural if I wanted (ended up being my first successful epidural), the remainder of my pregnancy was worry-free. wishing the same for you! can't wait to meet your Madison Faith!

Joy said...

Okay, I read your latest posts in he wrong order, but I can totally relate to your fear. I'm not even pregnant right now, and I fear that. I wish I could just hug you right now, and tell you how much you mean to me. Thanks for your frankness and transparency. Like I said on the post you wrote after this, I'm praying for you!

cara said...

Oh Patti! I know how you feel. Not because I was pregnant with another child with DS, but as you know my last pregnancy with sweet Judah was so very high risk. Words of death were spoken over me as I went into Help Syndrome, and I had to be induced eight weeks early. God miraculously carried me and precious Judah through it all. He is Ever Present with you now and always. He will never forsake you. I speak now being on the other side of those real fears I experienced like never before in pregnancy and seeing God's Amazing Sovereign Hand over us both through it all. I witnessed His Perfect Timing with every detail of my labor and delivery, true answered specific prayers, healing, and the list could go on. He truly meets our every need and shines His Light ever so bright over us as we are in Him. I know you know all this, but I just want to say these things having truly been in such very real thoughts last April and not knowing the outcome- if we would make it. But knowing like you I had seen God work Faithfully in my life, I had faith, and I knew where to turn in the midst of all these wonders. I could trust in Him. And indeed, He was right there with me working on our behalf. But I was also up nights in the unknown where you are now. HE is with you my dear friend. And HE has a perfect plan for you and sweet Bunny. I will continue in prayer for you both as you prepare for her arrival and after. Picking up the Bible and just praying verses out loud really helped me through the dark thoughts. I love you dear friend and cannot wait to see Bunny baby!!!!! :) :) I pray for a healthy, smooth labor with no complications. I pray for both of you to be in great health through it all. I pray for Madison Faith to be healthy and strong. I pray for His Amazing Peace to just wash over you as you go through another labor. And you look amazing by the way! Much love! xoxoxo

nicole said...

Prayers for you, Patti. I know how exhausting anxiety is and when sleep is elusive it just compounds the problem. Blessings to you!

Kristy Sayer-Jones @ Southern In Law said...

Praying for you and your sweet family, Patti! I can't imagine how overrun your mind must be with emotions - of fear, hope, joy, happiness, anxiety, the list goes on and on.

I'm praying for comfort, for reassurance, for joy, for faith; but most of all for understanding - for understanding the immense love and faithfulness of God and the greatness of His plans for you.

Nikki said...

You are so close to holding your little Bunny. We can't wait to hear that she has arrived. Thanks for sharing your heart with us here. Your little Bunny is so blessed to have you as her Mama.

Unknown said...

I am praying for you sister. You inspire many of us. I believe more and more I am gonna have a baby. Especially now that my 4 kids want a little sister.