While everyone else in America seems to be gearing up for the Oscar performance of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (and yes, I will watch that too), I’m sitting here still thinking about 2018.
You know, I really thought that 2017, my year of whimsy, was the most transformational year of my life. But 2018 clearly took the cake. Which is even more ironic since I didn’t eat much cake at all last year. No sugar cravings. Very unlike me.
And what else is un-Natalie-like, the fact that I haven’t formally taken the time to truly reflect upon 2018. It’s not that I don’t wantto look back on last year. It’s not that it’s too emotional to look back. And it’s not that I don’t have the words to look back. In fact, I have too many words.
I simply won’t be able to do it justice. And because I know it won’t be perfect, not even close, it has left me paralyzed. How paralyzed? Well, fifty-five-days-into-the-new-year-paralyzed to be exact.
How do you attempt to construct phrases around the year that gave you life?
Not the year that I bore life.
But the year that brought meback to life.
I simply just don’t know.
But I guess I’ll start with the word I chose for 2018: first.
Not glamorous. Not clever. But simple.
Oh, it was indeed a year of firstsall right.
It was the first time I heard a heartbeat. And yes, I heard two.
It was the first time I felt a baby move. And yes, I felt two.
It was the first time I rented maternity clothes.
It was the first time I ate 7 homemade ground chicken tacos in one sitting! (it might have been 8).
It was the first time I pissed my pants in public, but luckily passing out was what people noticed.
It was the first time a baby shower was held in my honor.
It was the first time I got to decorate a nursey.
It was the first time I stood naked in front of a room of strangers. (Twin C-section is #allhandsondeck).
It was the first time I held my own baby. The first time I held two.
It was the first time I changed, breastfed, burped, swaddled, pumped, and then did it all over again two (or less) hours later.
It was the first time I have ever felt completely whole and yet completely inadequate.
It was the first time my life revolved around someone other than me.
Ding. Ding. Ding. That’s the kicker, folks.
For once in my life, it wasn’t about me.
My life will never ever again be about me.
And I’m 100% okay with that.
Almost three years ago to the date, I wrote these words on my very first blog post reflecting upon 2015, my year of adventure: “But what people did not know is that the deeply seeded adventure planted within my heart was motherhood.”
Like most things in life, you never truly realize how badly you desire something until it alludes you. And for us, starting a family, being a mother alluded me for eleven years. That’s a long time. A really long time when almost every little thing reminds you of what you can’t have.
But I believed it then and I believe it even more today, we serve a God of grandeur, of humor, and of grace. In 2015 when our home flooded, God used that flood to wash away all expectations and ability to plan and control. You know, my security blankets. I also wrote, “God restored our home to something far greater than we could have ever imagined or truly deserved.”
And you know what, He did it again three years later. God didn’t just give us a viable pregnancy. He gave us miraculous monoamniotic, identical twin boys. Created as one life, from one egg, our sons shared the same amniotic sac, placenta, but had two separate umbilical cords. Yeah, boy. Our sons are rare. Created by God during His right moment. For such a time as this. As someone once recently said, “He was showing off.” And I absolutely love that. What an honor that God chose us to show off with.
I already told you about our NASCAR-paced C-section; how our sons were born just thirty-three seconds apart. Our tiny little doctor, like an orchestra conductor on her stool commanding the attention of the robbed sterile masses all task oriented: anesthesia, Baby A, Baby B, mother, etc.
But what I didn’t share was what we discovered during that C-section. After the boys were out and that strong wave of nausea passed, our tiny little magician of a doctor was off her stool and standing by my side. “So, Natalie,” she said through her surgical mask. “You have a massive amount of endometriosis on your left ovary. In fact, your left ovary is non-functioning. I’d like to go ahead and take it out. What do you think?,” she said so matter-of-factly. I looked to Jason who was holding a barely five-pound swaddled Ryder, completely oblivious to the conversation the doctor and I were having. Looking back at her, she kept talking about insurance, and not feeling pressured or rushed to make a decision. I tuned back in when I caught her saying, “We don’t have to take it out now, but since you’re already open, I can easily remove it and tie off your right.” Looking from her to Jason, we kind of already assumed these boys would be our only but, in that moment, it was confirmed.
“Ok,” I told her. And in a blue flash, she was back on that stool with her team in place. The anesthesiologist who had been at my head the entire time, leaned in and whispered, “What little miracles these two are.” And all I could say was, “yes” as tears for the second time ran down my cheeks.
The next day my doctor came by while making her rounds and in spunky fashion apologized profusely for not catching my endometriosis. “I can’t believe we didn’t see it on the HSG.” That x-ray had been almost two years ago. So, who knows when the craziness occurred? It doesn’t matter. Endometriosis is no match for our Father. No other time, nor pregnancy was His plan. These boyswere meant to be our children.
So, yes, this year of firsts. So many things I have done for the very first time. And will never do again.
For me, motherhood has been so clarifying and so emotional. Not in the “I-cry-every-time-something-happens” kind of way. But in the “my-heart-literally-aches-for-others” kind of way.
First example. When I started back seeing schools, I made a pit stop one day at the Target in Athens. (insert Halleluiah chorus. Is that not what you hear when you see that iconic bullseyes? Weird!) The boys had to be about nine weeks old. I remember this because I was there returning all the Lanolin cream people have given me because at 8 weeks. I called this whole catastrophe of breastfeeding thing off. I was in the baby clothes section holding two yellow button top outfits (yes, I bought them matching outfits). Crews and Ryder had no yellow in their wardrobe and I had intended to rectify this. At the same time, one aisle over, another new mom was trying on those baby carriers with a little four week newborn and her little girl wasn’t having it. At the sound of that infant cry, my body literally ached for my sons. A physical reaction. For the first time since Crews had come home from the NICU, I was homesick for them. All it took was that one cry from another baby across a Target.
People use that phrase “gut wrenching” or “heart wrenching” but until you are a mom and your body viscerally aches for your child, you don’t fully know what that means. I thought I knew that feeling when my body ached to be a mother all those years. But now I truly know. And knowing, has put everything else into perspective.
These past eight months (I cannot believe they are 8 months old!), I think about two topics the most; my relationship with God, and my relationship with my friends. I confess I’ve been terrible at both.
Let’s start with God. I don’t know why He has chosen to answer our prayers. I don’t know why He has granted us more than we deserve when others so far-more-deserving are still in the midst of waiting, or heart ache, or indecision. Maybe God has given them some kind of “no.” Some kind of “not in My plans” response. I don’t get it. And I mean it when I say my heart aches for these people. Literally twinges with pain. But God doesn’t have to answer us. In fact, He probably shouldn’t. Let’s face it, we would only ask more questions. His answer isn’t the point. His love is. His grace is. His goodness is.
And now when my heart starts breaking for others, I think about His heart breaking for us. As a new mom, I want it all for my sons; health, happiness, wisdom, kindness, success, love (terrible order but you get the point). And as much as I want all of that, our Heavenly Father wants that for us even more. So, when God denies us something, or says, “just wait,” He is strengthening our faith with as much compassion and love as a Father can. And when we ache, He aches more!
Right now, my heart aches for a list of women who are longing for motherhood the first time, or the second time. I am still keeping a list of their names and when my words are not enough, I simply open that Note on my iPhone and I say their names one-by-one to our Father.
And right now, their names are appearing in my mind. And the tears fall all over again because their pain is real. But amen, so is our God! And there is so much comfort in knowing that He is sitting right there with us, holding out a box of tissues (preferably Puffs Ultra Soft & Strong), ready to hear the words from our heart because they are the words of His heart as well.
So, let’s talk about friendship. Wow, what a gift! And God has been overly abundant with me in the relationships of women He has placed in my path. Phenomenal, powerful, gracious, Godly women of faith who have put up with my selfish bullshit for far too long (sorry friends, there is no other word for it). The blinders have come off and I can now see what a terrible friend I have been in return. For the past decade I have been literally walking away from the best resources a new mother could have; other mothers. Instead of remaining seated at those tables, I have gotten up and walked out when the topic of parenting or motherhood approached the table. I have used the excuse “I have nothing to contribute,” “this is too painful,” “it’ll be better for them if I leave” instead of facing the reality that I was selfishly putting on some armor instead of leaning in and listening.
I was so ignorant. I showed up at their houses post birth without a meal, expecting long conversations, a swaddled silent baby to snuggle, and a hot beverage. You know, like in the movies. I gave one of my breastfeeding new moms wine for heaven’s sake! Who shows up to a new baby with wine?! This gal. (if this was a text message, facepalming emoji would go right here).
But not only was I inconsiderate, I became an eye-roller. Sometimes just mentally but probably more often than not, visually. I just didn’t get it and the worst part was, I didn’t really try.
It’s a miracle these people are still my friends. I’m going to assume it’s my wit and sangria making skills that keeps them coming back. But who knows? Regardless, I’m grateful! Shocked! And grateful.
Their grace for me proves once again God’s grace for us all. I will forever be ashamed of my behavior the last several years and forever appreciative they have kept me around.
For all of these reasons and so many more, I’m so glad my life is no longer about me. It has been about me for far too long. I want God to use the rest of my life to be about others. To be about Him. To be about His love, His grace, and His power.
That’s why I have finally decided that 2019 will be my year of . . .
The Big Bang Theory, Series 03 Episode 23 – The Lunar Excitation