Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lessons Learned the Hard Way: On Joy

I'm going to confess something to you.

Joy in motherhood hasn't always come easily to me. 

Before I met Gabe, I had my mind made up that I

Obviously, things changed, as I've been pregnant twice and have one beautiful living girl. 

When we brought Ella home from the hospital, and I started to believe that I really really was going to be able to keep this one, a new fear took over. Yes, I had given birth and Ella was alive and whole, but WHAT IF something happened? 

What if she died of SIDS? 

What if I dropped her?

What if I'm not cut out to be a Mom? 

What if? What if? What if?

The first two months of Ella's life were MISERABLE. Awful. I was in a place that I absolutely hated (Texas) and nobody and I mean, NOBODY told me that what I was feeling was normal. When I returned to Chicago, things got better almost right away, but the turning point was when my Dad sat me down and told me

"You need to find your joy. You are going to miss everything."

For the next few months, I soaked up everything about my infant daughter. I took her on long walks and talked to her every step in the grocery store. I memorized every detail of her crooked little smile. I played with more baby toys than she probably did! 

We moved across town from my Mom and Dad and then my husband left his job and a lot of stuff fell onto my shoulders. I worked nonstop, and even took Ella to work with me. And, friends, it's hard to find joy on a deadline night, when you're haulin' a gigantic diaper bag and a one year old up a precarious flight of stairs, not knowing when you're going to be able to sit down and have a real dinner at home. 

One such deadline night, a call came into the office. Being the only one there, I answered the phone. It was my Dad. 
"What on earth are you still doing there?" he practically shouted. "I'll be right there." 
Ten minutes later, the security bell was ringing and my Dad thrust a plate into my hands. 
"Dinner." he said. "Your mother made it and it's delicious. You need to SLOW DOWN. EAT."

I ate silently, while Ella slept in a playpen in my office. That night was a big wake up call. And so, I slowed down. I worked, but I made time to see the joy. The little things. A string of beads from the dollar store. A trip to the pizza place across town. A new park. 

When we came to North Carolina in 2010, Ella was 4. Gabe and I hated each other. (seriously, we did. ask him) Life was miserable. I was depressed. I wanted to go home. And one day, Ella grabbed my hand and said, "Come on, Mom. Let's go and explore!!!" So, we did. We explored our yard. We explored the town. We hiked near the watershed, and I stepped in a pond (we actually live near the watershed now and we laugh every time we pass it, because "Mom stepped in a pond!!!") Those days with my daughter are what got me through those tough times of depression, during the awful times in my marriage.

Currently, we've been in North Carolina for nearly 5 years. It hasn't been easy, and the last 2 years, my sanity has taken a hit. My Dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and thankfully, he is in remission and recovering. We've moved 3 times in 2 years, but we're finally in a place that my whole family loves. My marriage, which suffered much since 2006, has been repaired by God's grace. 
The last week was especially hard. Losing a family pet is never easy. Losing a family pet when you're working 3 jobs, have both spouses working AND in school and basically things going a mile a minute is nearly impossible. Doesn't leave much room for joy...

Today, I took Ella to do a craft at the library. I've been feeling off and nauseous since yesterday, and honestly, I did not want to go. The thought of being in a library with a bunch of 8-12 year olds made me even more nauseous. I very nearly said "We'll go next week." But, kids can be persuasive so I went. We made super hero capes. Ella, of course, is Super Owl: Saving the World from Mice Everywhere. 

Two people asked me for use of my drawing skills today. Ella got to see an old friend and made some new ones. 
On the way home, we stopped by the Schwan's truck and bought soup. I was watching her run across a field, cape flying in the wind, when she turned back and shouted, "Mom! Thanks for today!" 
To find my joy in motherhood, I have to stop and look. Look past the immediately visible circumstances. Yes, I'm stressed. Yes, I'm tired (all.the.time). Yes, life goes a mile a minute around here. 
But there is so much joy. I just have to stop and find it.

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