Deep inside the heart of every mother lies a powerful and courageous instinct to protect their young, no matter the cost, even if it means their life. It’s in our nature to shield them from all harm and to be their shelter through the storm. While growing pains are to be expected, no mother wants her children to experience the cold, bitter aspects of life. A mother’s only hope is to keep them as innocent as possible, and “just let them be little”.
So, we build them up with wonder and magical moments to infuse faith into their young hearts, trusting these will distract them from the harsh reality. But what about moments that bring us to our knees in despair, when it’s hard to find hope ourselves. When we still have to scoop ourselves off the floor, muster up the strength to put on a brave face and reassure them everything is going to be ok. Even when we fear the opposite.
I think many would agree that being a parent is already one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Then when life hands you a bunch of other misfortunes it can start to feel like the walls are caving in. A heavy burden is added when we face major adversity such as job loss, illness, death, divorce, deployment, financial strain or natural disasters.
Unfortunately, I feel well equipped to understand this, because I experienced a couple of these events simultaneously while raising my son Everett who just turned 2 when we entered our storm. The phrase, “when it rains, it pours” turned out to be very true for me. Somehow, I managed to survive and lead Everett through the midst of complete devastation. I followed the light out of my dark despair, and ironically Everett was the light and he gave me hope.
It all started early summer when I got laid off from my job. I got busy right away looking for a flexible position to accommodate my motherly duties. I had a ton of pressure to find something quick or financial constraints would force us to lose everything we built together. We weren’t trying to grow our family during this time, but just two months into my unemployment I found out I was pregnant with my second child. I was ecstatic, but I already felt inadequate, now I would have to try and hide my growing belly from discerning hiring managers.
Everyone was relying on me, including this baby growing inside me. After a few months, I was able to secure a job. I was now a working mom balancing multiple responsibilities. My boss kept increasing impossible goals, at the same time “terrible two’s” were underway and Everett was having problems biting at daycare. Sadly, both proved to be no match to the heartbreaking news we received during my 20-week ultrasound.
I arrived at my appointment excited to see my baby girl on the big screen. My joyful high didn’t last long when the ultrasound tech found a few markers for skeletal dysplasia. She said, “It looks like a lethal type of dwarfism”. The word lethal would mean our baby girl would likely die of respiratory failure at birth. I jumped out of my skin and into shock. This can’t be real; I can’t even begin to process the information.
My heart hit the floor and rolled in anguish. Every dream, goal or hope for the future vanished in the blink of an eye. At that moment, part of me died. That girl in the clinic was mostly innocent, blind to the tragedies of childbirth. That moment birthed a new woman, one who is jaded, full of grief and uncertainty. One who fears the future, feels uncomfortable in the present, and gets angry thinking about the past. I’ve come to realize you cannot escape grief. The moment that I lost Audrina, grief-filled in the cracks and became a part of me.
It’s an abnormal feeling to carry a baby destined to die. In the midst of utter and complete devastation, I still felt thankful for her life. Although short-lived, she still came into existence and for that, I could only be grateful. While I was relishing in all her kicks, I was also planning her funeral, what she would wear, and how to document her short life. My favorite part of pregnancy was bedtime stories, where I could snuggle in with my two babies and enjoy the stillness of the moment. I would talk to Everett about Audrina and encourage him to feel my belly. I cling to those tender moments where Everett would kiss my tummy and say “Drina”. I had everything I ever wanted, my heart was full and I was complete.
I’ve come to understand the fragility of life, how nothing is guaranteed and every day is a precious gift. My grief is still a part of me. I have to build myself up to a state of grace just to survive the inevitable slip back into despair. These days, I lean on Everett and find comfort in his innocent, childlike soul. He gives me hope and helps me to remember there is always a rainbow after the storm.