Wednesday, September 28, 2011

If you believe in karma, you can't believe in her...

One year ago at this time Chip and I were dancing with Wyndham in our living room, then getting her into her jammies and tucking her as cozy as we possibly could into her bed. It was the eve of her double-foot surgery. We knew we were in for some major life changes, and comfort was not going to be one of them. For her, or us. We knew life was about to get as challenging as it's been for us in a long while.

We just didn't have a clue it was going to drag on. For a whole year. Or more.

Trust me.

We've lived through lots and lots of medical situations and injuries that require extensive care and treatment. We've been through the wringer with grief and trauma and all that it takes out of you as you process it and work your way through it. We're no strangers to doctors telling us what to expect- and having it turn out more on the "worst case scenario" end of the spectrum. I guess I could just tell you we're not rookies when it comes to recovery after injuries.

But this time it was different.

There were no medical helicopters or ambulances rushing one of our loved ones off with the outcome {literally} up in the air. We were feeling cautious, yet hopeful as Wyndham faced a few months of immobility and healing. We had several consulations of various doctors- all who agreed and supported the decision to go ahead with the realignment surgery and tendon lengthening. They used words like, "Wyndham is a good candiate" and "you should expect her to do very well" and "this is something that's been done before yielding great results, so we expect the same or better for you too". As hesitant and unsure as I was going into these consults, I walked away from them each time certain that Chip and I were making the best decision for Wyndham to have the surgery done. We felt educated and informed. We had asked lots of questions. We had exhausted other less invasive measures for a few years and finally felt like we were at the place where there really was only one best option.

So we went ahead and had her surgery done.

I dreaded it and prayed about it for over a year. I asked God for a miracle. I fully expected that at some point along the way my prayers would be heard. I figured that even right up to the very last set of x-rays taken that the doctors would come back to our room and tell us that they couldn't believe it or explain it but there would be no surgery needed. I fully believed that God wanted to use Wyndham as a real-life miracle in an orthopedic office setting. It seemed an unusual place- but I knew God could do miracles anywhere. That's the way this story went. In my head and in my heart. I wanted nothing more than for Wyndham to avoid the pain and suffering that she would endure. I wanted nothing more than for her to be able to keep going to school and be "just like all the other kids". I wanted her to keep growing and playing and laughing and signing and riding bike like she had been doing so well for the past couple of years. We certainly didn't need her laid-up in double casts. It would never be a "good time" for that. But certainly not just 5 weeks after her new baby brother had been born. That's supposed to be the time for the family to bond and nuture one another and adjust to sleepless nights and just take it all in. Because a new baby brings enough change of its own. We're no rookies in that department either.

So I knew, one year ago, as I danced with Wyndham and tucked her in and then swaddled Teague and nursed him to sleep, that the morning would either bring miracle or hurt. For all of us. Unfortunately, God chose not to heal Wyndham's feet on their own, but instead Chip gave her a nice warm bath, she had to skip breakfast, and then we hugged her and sent her off- with a smile on her face- to have surgery on both of her feet/legs.

Chip called me with an update at one point and said she had all the nurses smiling as she held out her finger for the pulse-ox and she was just being the best patient ever. I imagined that she would be. This was the first time she was hospitalized and not sick. She was as healthy and strong and happy as she'd ever been. Which made it all the harder for me.

I'm sure it was still the pregnancy hormones in my body, but I spent most of that morning in tears. I couldn't shake the feeling that it was the worst thing that I could do as a mom- sign the papers and authorize my little girl to have bone taken from her pelvis and placed in both feet, as well as have her legs cut lengthwise on the back of her calves for her tendons to be lengthened. It was as if I were signing us up for suffering. Her for the physical pain and limitations it would put on her; Chip and me for the added demands and emotional/mental suffering we would feel as we helped nurse for her and give her the care needed to get her back on her feet. I cried because I knew that everyone of us in our family was going to hurt in some way. And I had basically said, "Go ahead... you have my okay."

In my defense, I really feel that even though we asked a hundred questions, and even though the therapists supported us and the physiatrist supported us and recommended her surgeon and even though Wyndham loved her surgeon and we all seemed so confident and ready to get this done, I still feel (looking back a year post surgery) like we were not given the full scope of what the worst-case scenario might be. We were told she would be in double casts up to her knees for 8 weeks. Then she would be in some orthodics- which would be adjusted as she progressed with her rehabilitation. There was never, ever mention that she would be needing a wheelchair one year later. Or more.

That never crossed my mind. We looked at it as suffering and life-style changes that would last through the winter months, but then by spring we would be ready to breathe in the newness of springtime and feel energized and see Wyndham flourish. We never dreamed that things would take a toll on her the way they did. She hardly moved out of her wheelchair for the first 6 months at all. We never dreamed her lack of good progress would take such a toll on our marriage and family dynamics. I guess I thought Chip and I would find a rhythm and things would sort of move along differently. But we are adaptable people. We've lived through traumas and seizures and sort of expected that in taking it one day at a time we would manage the way we always do.

With humor getting us through most of it, and with the light at the end of the tunnel guiding our way. Only this time, there were too many days where none of us laughed. The pain was managable for Wyndham. But beyond that I couldn't help but grow more and more resentful as the progress seemed too slow and the recovery more demanding than any of us had imagined it would be.

I shut myself off from the world. In part because we had a new baby and 4 other kids just doesn't make it convenient to go out and do anything anywhere. But I think I shut myself out and grew a little bit more resentful everyday because truth be told, in my heart and mind we had already paid the price of suffering. And even more than Chip and me, Wyndham had paid more than her fair share of suffering. With each day that we had to lift her out of bed, and with each diaper change that we had to roll her to her side and try to bathe as she lay helplessly looking on or watched her siblings go off to school or play the games they wanted to, it just dug like a knife in my heart.

I've heard a lot about karma the past few years. You know, the idea that what a person puts out into the world is what comes back to them? Well, I believe it to a point. A really tiny one. And then I toss that notion out the window. Why else would there be so many things written about why bad things happen to good people? Or what about natural disasters- they take anyone in their wake. There is no mercy or stopping for people who have meant their quota of good. Sometimes bad just happens.

As I've watched Wyndham's life unfold over more than a decade now, I've only seen from her "good". I mean literally her life was turned upside-down and her chances to put anything out in the world were stripped before she had even sat up on her own. She never even had the chance to say a bad word. She has only shown determination and joy everytime she's had the world turn against her. And there have been a lot of times. Yet somehow, she overcomes. She's a fighter... most often with humor being her method of finding her way back too. She has always had a high pain tolerance and she always manages to be the one that makes me see the light is still there. No matter how dark it's gotten through the years.

In fact, one of the biggest reasons Chip and I have fought to keep our marriage together and have been able to find joy and happiness in life after loss and tragedy is because we have looked at Wyndham (and Brock, and all our other kids too) and we've said we want to keep it together and give them the best that we can in spite of how we feel.

But this year has been different.

I've had to fight with me (follow me here- I'm talking about the me inside of me) because I've blamed myself and felt regret and basically I have tried to figure out why the suffering we've lived with has had to follow us for as long as it has. I truly believe that God is able to change our circumstances. I fully trust Him with all that happens in our lives. So to feel pain for so long and not lose the happiness we worked so hard to get back through the years has just added to the hurt I've carried inside. It's been tough.

I've gone around in circles and tried to figure out what we could have done differently. That never helps anything for me anyway. It just makes me wish for a "do over" and we all know that can't happen. So I feel disappointed too. That even though we've tried our best, it just isn't turning out the way we imagine it to.

One year later.

I've been riding my bike for the past 4 months or so. I average 10 miles each day. I've ridden over 500 miles and in the time it takes to pedal that far I have had a lot of thinking and wrestling and praying along the way. I've pedaled some days out of frustration. I've pedaled some days out of fear. I've pedaled some days out of regret. I've pedaled some days just because I know Teagan never got to ride a big girl bike and Wyndham will never bike alone. So I've biked for them. I've pedaled some days because I can't believe how good I feel. I've sometimes wondered if I'd ever feel "good" again. {The answer is yes!} I've pedaled some days asking God to take all the pain away. I've pedaled on other days thanking Him for being merciful and keeping Chip and me together to bear the burdens and still see beauty rise from them. I've thanked God for giving me the ability to finally let go of needing answers or seeing outcomes that I've predetermined in my own heart and mind. I've pedaled and wondered why He's given me so much when I sometimes act like the biggest baby in my whole family.

One year ago I knew Wyndham was going to wake up and then be taken from her cozy home and the next thing she would find herself throbbing and her legs would be in bright orange casts and her hip would ache, but she would never know why. I am sorry that I let it happen to her. I am sorry one year later that I didn't know better than to say no. I am sorry that I couldn't change the fact that she would be in a wheelchair for a year and give up so much. I am sorry that I couldn't make it better for her. I am sorry I couldn't take away the hurt. I regret that she has suffered and been changed- even though she is content in her chair and doesn't seem to feel pain now. She isn't back to the way she was. She still needs maximum support and aid for so many daily activities.

Chip and I have found as much of a "normal" groove in the past year as we can with her needs and those of 5 other kids. We've only just begun to find our way back to one another. I am still on my way of letting go of why all this has had to happen to us. I am still holding on to the hope that even if God chooses to not reveal the answers to my questions, that I can still trust Him and know that He can work it all for good.

My faith isn't dependent on needing the answers. But it sure depends on knowing the One that has them all. That's the bottom line. It's not about karma. It's not about who has done what and how good or bad it's been. It's not about our energy being worse than another families, and it's certainly not about Wyndham deserving of something bad yet again. It's been a journey, that's for sure.

As you can see from the photos, she IS doing well. We're ALL doing well. In many regards we have nothing to complain about. We have more than we need or deserve. Would we change things if we could... yes. But we are taking things as they come. And Teague is happy to spend time in the chair during the times Wyndham is out of it.

I continue to bike as often as I can and with each passing mile I am feeling more confident that no matter what our family endures, we will come out shining. I can't say that I believe in karma. But I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt, I DO believe in overcoming. And if you believe in that, then you most definitely believe in Wyndham. And I believe Wyndham is here because God knows we all need to see what a miracle looks like everyday. I most assuredly believe in those.

Monday, September 26, 2011

...and then he was 3!

A week ago {Sept. 19th} Crew turned 3! It seems like we were just setting up his nursery and getting all the tiny clothes washed and put away in anticipation for his arrival. The next thing I know he is signing "3" and helping to select the cake flavor(s) and then holding the mixer and licking the beaters when the batter is done.

The years really do go by in the blink of an eye- even though some of the days and nights feel like they will never end! Even with having 7 kids, I will never understand the phenomenom behind that truth. We fell in love with Crew and his tiny newborn baby scent back in 2008. He was perfect and warm and squeeky at just the right times. It seems like he grew out of that newborn/baby phase way too quickly and his bright little mind was bent on keeping pace with all his older siblings. There's a 4 1/2 year gap between him and the next in line, Ava, so he had a lot of ground to make up!

I won't sugarcoat it and lie to the world here on my blog. He was a tough cookie- and still is at times- especially when it comes to his strong will and his independent nature. He has wanted to do things his way and on his own since about the 1 year mark. It's only been in the last few months that he is easier to "tame" and also his verbal skills are finally starting to develop and that makes things a bit better for all of us. Knowing that "Bobbie" means he wants to watch SpongeBob helps more than one would think!

I am just so grateful that he is smart, funny, healthy, happy (at least at various times throughout the days) and ready to learn and try new things all the time. Even if it means I've wanted to tear my hair out once in awhile. We're in this together and for the long-haul. Thankfully we have a relationship that was based in love from the very beginning. And love will see us all through!

So, to wrap this up I am going to share some random things I love about Crew being 3:

I love that he can make his own toast. It sort of gives me a small heart attack because I'm not sure what he's up to sometimes, but it makes him proud. Some of my older kids could take cooking lessons from him. Seriously.

I love that he wears Superman jammies and when he wakes up in the morning a lot of times he comes running right to me with his arms wide open ready to give and get a hug. It's a great way to start the day!

I love that he laughs at quirky things. He loves slapstick humor already.

I can't help but love that he gets mad when we tell him he can't drive a car yet. I think he gets that from Ava. She was so upset one day at age 4 that I wouldn't turn over my keys to her that she cried the whole way home from picking up the big kids from school. =)

I love that Crew loves "grown up food" over fast food or junk food, for the most part. He eats cereal/granola for several meals and snacks each week. He especially loves fresh fruit and berries on top. And he insists on pouring the milk on himself, so I give him a little cup of milk that enables him to do it without my help. He won't eat chicken fingers or cheeseburgers, but he does like corn dogs. And toast. See above. =)

I love that he stills gets way too tired and than "crashes" at nap time if/when he takes one. He has a point in the day where he needs a nap so badly, but he fights it just as hard. On the days that he takes one I often get to lay down on his bed and help him calm into sleepmode. I know he's there when he starts twisting his fingers in his hair on the top of his head. Sometimes he even makes little knots.

I love that, even though it makes me feel like I live on a prairie and I'm married to Charles Ingalls, Crew calls me "ma". It's most adorable when he says, "Thanks, Ma!" for whatever it is I happened to get for him at the time.

I love that he makes smiley faces on the driveway with chalk. He loves art time with paints, markers, crayons and LOVES playdough. But he's not so typical in that he hates to get any of it on his hands or clothes. How lucky does that make me?! =)

Okay. One more. I love that he doesn't hold back. Whether it's good or bad, he's in 100%. Which is why I sometimes want to tear my hair out, but I also know that the world holds something amazing for him and he's going to go get it with all of his heart. It might get broken a time or two... but whatever his dream is, he is not going to settle for anything less. There is a lesson in that for all of us. Even if I am a biased mom of a charming 3-year old boy.

Happy birthday to my Crewie as we sometimes call him. I am so glad to be the one to watch you grow, to teach you new things, to see you try and try and try some more, and to share the frosting from the beaters too. My life is forever better because of you! Love, Ma xoxo

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Documenting daily life...

I've had a debate in my head for a few weeks now as to keep blogging or not. As you can see, the "not" won out for awhile. =) Sure, life is busy from day to day. Three of the six kids have started back to school; Wyndham is getting more therapy services- which already keep Chip busy running her back and forth to her sessions, and summer is starting to wind down so I am trying to get in as many 10-mile bike rides as I can. It seems like there is always something to cook or clean or pick up... our daily life is routine, but not at the same time.

Even as I wonder whether or not to make note of the "stuff" going on in our lives I realize that this is the kind of stuff that is too easily forgotten. The seasons of life sometimes change so gradually that I hardly notice they've changed until I look back and see that things were once very different.

So here I am again, taking note of the really insignificant, significant details of our life. As it is- right now. With Brock (in 7th grade), Bella (in 4th grade) and Ava (in 2nd grade) in school our home has gotten quieter from 7:45 am until 3:25 pm. When Wyndham is away at therapy sessions I suddenly find myself with just 2 kids at home. Something that is a rarity and makes me think back to when I had Teagan and Brock. Crew and Teague are the exact same ages apart as those two were and it brings back a flood of memories of how that season in my life was very different than it is now. I have found that these two little guys love to play together and are very good in their play kitchen. We save all sorts of products/packages from our real kitchen and they can pretend together for a long time and are very happy at the food they make. I love getting to spend some playtime with them as I know how important it is for kids to get more individual attention.

I am glad I have a spot to "preserve" some of these really mundane activities here on my blog, because I know the years go so quickly and it's too important to not take notice of the little moments. I see how each of my kids is growing and learning and discovering new things. Every day. And new discoveries- no matter how many people have discovered them before you- are always worth documenting. I hope you are finding freshness in your days right now. Breathe it in and savor it. Because tomorrow will be a new day and you might forget just how much you loved today.