Sometimes we Don’t Choose to be Strong, Life Forces Us to be #strongenough
Posted September 12, 2016 by Prairie Wife - 2 comments
A few fellow Wyoming bloggers and I gathered up this Summer to chat and offer support to each other. This blogging gig is full of ups and downs and it really helps to have people that understand your journey, and can offer sage advice, tips and tricks. During the meeting we decided it would be really fun to do some guest posts for each other! We each picked a topic and through the course of the month you’ll be seeing a few different posts from these great blogs. My topic is strength, it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about his year, and learning a lot about. I love to hear women’s stories about how they knew they were #strongenough, it inspired me to do better, and be better.
When Prairie Wife asked me to write about a time I felt strong as a woman, I struggled to nail down a topic. I know I am a strong woman. I’m strong in my faith, my opinions, and my effort. Just ask my husband. It’s just part of who I am way down in my core. But, as I sat down to identify a time I could share, there were few times that stuck out over others. Apparently, I haven’t spent much time reflecting on when I’ve felt strong, instead, I’ve just been strong. There is one experience that did continue to pop up as I thought about what I’d write about. When I look back on it, I’m not sure how I made it through, but I did. Today, as I process what it took to manage all that was happening, I feel incredibly strong.
About four weeks after my first son N was born, my mom, best friend, and biggest cheerleader, was diagnosed with Stage IV Follicular Lymphoma (You can read more about our journey here.) I was completely shocked and overwhelmed with this diagnosis in so many ways, but mostly because my mom has always been healthy. She was invincible in my eyes and it left me questioning if this perfect baby that had just come into our lives would even get to know the beautiful person he’d call Mimi. I can hardly articulate what my mom’s presence, love and support means to me. So, running through scenarios in my mind and imaging the rest of my life without her, was a punch to the gut.
Shortly after her diagnosis, my amazing husband drove me halfway to Iowa, where my parents live, to meet my dad. He let his wife and newborn son leave his side for three weeks. This allowed me to be with my mom for critical appointments and help my dad comfort and take care of her as she prepared for life-altering treatment. While in Iowa with my mom, the roles of parent and child suddenly felt reversed. She became weak as the cancer had spread throughout her body. Rightly so, she was also emotional, scared and unsure about what lied ahead. I helped her more in those three weeks than I had in a decade put together. I’ll always be grateful I was able to be present and provide emotional and physical support during this time.
On top of this experience, I was also learning how to care for a newborn, by myself. This translated to about half the sleep I was used to and minimal self care. Our newborn was also almost fully tongue tied which added a host of other challenges as a new mom. I was committed to breastfeeding but it was difficult for N to get a tight latch. He wasn’t gaining weight as he should have and our pediatrician recommended a program of formula and breast milk as well as weekly weight checks. I wanted to nurse him so badly but, of course, I was most concerned with his health and growth.
The stress that I felt in these early weeks and months is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced in my life. I was constantly conflicted between the moments of joy, love, pain and fear. It’s quite possible that my body took on some form of autopilot in order to be all I needed to be to everyone that needed me. In fact, there are complete patches during this time that have been erased from my memory. Perhaps to protect me, or perhaps because of extreme exhaustion.
During this time, I dug deep and leaned on every piece of faith I had inside of me. As a result, my spirituality has never been so strong. I had conversations with myself on a regular basis reminding myself I could handle this, I was stronger than I thought, and I believed that all would be how it should be. I was as kind as possible to myself. I didn’t criticize myself for things that didn’t matter. None of these things were very strategic or purposeful but when I look back on it, these are things that brought me through. The one conscious thing I remember doing was taking each hour or day one at a time depending on what was going on and what it felt like I could handle. It was how I was able to have some control and make it manageable.
Looking back at this experience, I feel so strong for being able to handle all that was presented in my life. I was able to put two different people who needed me more than anything before myself. I was able to keep it together, and even experience joyful times during these months, when it would have been so easy to fall apart. I gladly took on the role of caretaker during this time and cheerleader after I left, which is the role my mom has filled for years.
Sometimes we don’t choose to be strong, life forces us to be. These events created a perfect storm of chaos. It probably wouldn’t have been a big surprise to some people if I would have given up and said I’m crawling back into bed, let me know when this nightmare is over. Thankfully, that’s not what happened. And today, I’m so much better off, knowing what I’m made of and what I can work through. It offers me comfort and confidence as life unfolds and tragedies and challenges are presented.
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