let me tell you a story.
it’s a sad story, and that’s what’s wrong with it.
once upon a time, we lost a baby. it was the hardest thing to go through, and we felt like we wouldn’t survive. we told ourselves, “this is awful. it’s ok that this is awful. nothing will ever be this hard again.”
then, we adopted a baby. the baby had some challenges, and was not an easy baby to parent. i failed at breastfeeding the baby, and he struggled to thrive on formula. joel got a new job and had to work many more hours, far away. then, we got pregnant. i was horribly sick for 5 months, and could barely take care of the challenging baby while joel was gone. when he was home, i laid in bed and threw up. every day. we told ourselves, “this is awful. it’s ok that this is awful. nothing will ever be this hard again.”
it got worse.
we were hurt, and lost community. i experienced severe mental and physical health challenges toward the end of the pregnancy, which caused me to bomb out of my home business taking pictures. i had angry clients, a baby with delays and challenges, and a rough pregnancy. financial problems welled up around this time, and we landed in debt faster than we even realized. we told ourselves, “this is awful. it’s ok that this is awful. we’ll make it through. nothing will ever be this hard again.”
the baby was born after a terrifying few weeks of complications. she didn’t gain weight, and had to see doctors several times every week. ash had bad eczema, bad tummy problems, bad anxiety, bad insomnia, delays. i was hospitalized with mastitis. joel got in trouble for taking too many sick days, and we added piles of medical debt to our significant financial problems. we were sleep deprived and lonely and struggling, and told ourselves, “this is awful. this is really awful. somehow, we’ll make it through. nothing will ever be this hard again.”
it started, bit by bit, to get easier.
we found good professionals to help ash. though aida still struggled to gain weight and ended up at the doctor many times, her health problems grew less severe and eventually went away. i went through some awful medication trials that caused horrible side effects, but i slowly started finding medications to treat my health problems and began to function better. joel switched from orthopedics to his dream job, the emergency department. ash slept the tiniest bit better. we stopped adding debt.
but we had no script for this, and so we continued to tell ourselves, “this is awful. this is really hard,” because we didn’t know what else to say.
life had been so hard for so long that we forgot how to tell a story with nuance, with peaks and valleys, with ambiguity. oh yes, we enjoyed happy moments with our children, and bursts of hope here and there, but mostly we wondered why we still felt like we were barely surviving, even though life had changed.
and then, a lightbulb moment.
we’re telling ourselves the wrong story.
here’s another story.
once upon a time, we lost a baby. it was awful, but we are grateful that we had 9 months with him, and wouldn’t trade them for the world. we grew strong, together and apart, and developed empathy, maturity, and open-mindedness through the pain.
a rainbow baby came into our lives, and though he has challenges, he bonded to us and never ceases to be brave, curious, empathetic, and lively. joel finally got hired as a nurse after years of training, and in a few short months was working in his dream position. we got pregnant, and the baby was alive and mostly healthy. my myriad of pregnancy problems were treated by an amazing medical team comprised of crunchy midwives and high-risk obstetricians, all of whom were compassionate and wonderful.
just when i was almost overwhelmed with mental and physical health challenges, joel found me the most amazing practitioner, who has changed my life. though financial problems threatened to overwhelm us, we were never without a job, a home, and food on the table.
the baby was born, and though she had a hard time gaining weight, we were surrounded by a team of health professionals who truly cared about her. when i landed in the hospital with severe mastitis, friends pumped milk for her and we were able to keep her on breast milk even while my supply tanked and her weight stalled. a close-knit group of friends and family surrounded us, and we slowly began to rebuild.
ever since this lightbulb moment, we’re trying to write a new script. it goes something like this:
“we are strong. our children are wonderful. we may not understand how god works, but we believe that god is with us. life is hard, but good. we will never experience these moments again, and so we will cherish even the hard ones. our story is beautiful. our story is beautiful. our story is hard, but beautiful.”
but, you know, rewriting mental scripts is really freaking hard. how often we deviate into well worn channels of exeptionalism and self-pity! the line between acknowledging hard times with honesty, and perpetuating them with, dare i say it – a bad attitude – is razor thin. we’re working hard, every day, to choose a good script. a kinder script. a love-filled script.
my hope for our family, and for yours, is that the story we tell ourselves is the one that pushes us toward the best life possible.
we are strong. life is hard, but good.
our story, mine and yours, is beautiful.