What I’ve Learned {2014} Part 1

The year 2014 has been unlike any other year in my entire life. My faith has been tested multiple times. I’ve had to do things I never could have done without God’s strength. There were seasons when life was completely turned upside down. There were seasons of simply trying to survive one day to the next. Many tough decisions were made this year.

But here we are at the end of 2014 and I can still say after the toughest year of my life that GOD IS FAITHFUL.

At the end of this year, where there could have been brokenness, there is redemption because God is faithful, His plans prevail and His plans are good.

I usually summarize the year by choosing one picture per month and writing about it. There is no way one picture a month can summarize 2014! So instead I am writing about what 2014 has taught me.

There are seasons of motherhood. This year has taught me to give myself grace as a mother. This doesn’t mean that I use this as an excuse not to do the things that are my responsibility as the caretaker of my family and home. Instead it means that I am capable of recognizing what I can and cannot do during the seasons of my motherhood and I don’t try to do more than I can handle so that I can be SuperMom.

I was so looking forward to this coming year with my girls. I just knew they were going to be some of the best days of my life as I was going to spend my time teaching my little girls academically, socially and spiritually as we went about our days together. We were going to go on many adventures together as we took school beyond the walls of our home. I had been looking forward to this stage of motherhood for years. I loved the years my girls were babies and toddlers, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say that I looked forward in great anticipation when my girls became school-agers and I could be their teacher! That time had finally come!

In a matter of two weeks, all of those plans washed down the drain as I suddenly found myself in the middle of a very unexpected adoption of a newborn baby boy.

When I should have been starting our first weeks of school, I was totally separated from my girls in a city 2.5 hours away sitting in the NICU unit holding a very sick little boy.

Four weeks later when we arrived home with our son, our lives were totally turned upside down! We arrived home on a Thursday night and by Sunday I had literally collapsed from the physical, emotional and spiritual turmoil I had been through in the past month. It was an extremely humbling moment for me because I realized it was impossible for me to care for all three of my children by myself.

I wanted to jump right back into where life had left off but that was not only impractical, it was impossible! Our family was in survival mode like we had never been before, which meant we were doing good to have all three mouths fed at the end of the day. You could forget everything else. Laundry. Cleaning. Homeschooling. It wasn’t happening.

Sarge required constant care upon arriving home. He had issues learning to eat in the NICU and was first fed through a feeding tube. Gradually, he learned to eat from the bottle, but when he came home, he still struggled to eat every single bottle of formula. It was a learned art to get him to eat; an art Dave, my mom and I quickly learned. It took him an hour or more per feeding to eat his 3 ounces of formula. Do the math. At 8 feedings a day, that was 8-10 hours a day spent just trying to make sure Sarge got the nourishment he needed in a 24 hour period. It was a full time job just feeding him!

After he was done eating, he would writhe in pain, which required holding. I could not put him in a sling and go about my day. His temperature was higher than the average newborn and he would sweat in the sling in a matter of minutes. Plus, being jostled around as I walked around was the last thing his little body needed. He needed me (or someone) to sit and hold him tight while his little body endured the pain. By the time his pain had subsided, it was nearly time for him to eat again! That left me about half an hour every 3 hours where I might be able to do something that didn’t involve caring for Sarge! With a 5 year old and 3 year old that I also had to take care of, I had to have constant help to care for my children.

This came in the form of my mother. She basically moved in the first month we were home with Sarge and between Dave, my mom and myself, we survived those first weeks home. It was literally a juggling act between the three of us to care for all three children! I felt like we were a circus act and had you been a fly on our wall, I am sure it would have been pretty entertaining.

This was such a difficult time for me for multiple reasons. The most obvious being that my son was suffering and I was helpless to take his pain away. I was also extremely frustrated because this was not how I saw our Fall going down! I wanted to be able to care for my family because caring for my family is my calling in my life right now. But I could not manage on my own.

Looking back, I learned so much through this season about motherhood and the seasons of life.

Sometimes our life circumstances are so that we cannot do it all as mothers and we need to rely on help and be okay with receiving help. It is humbling, yes, but it is just for a season.

Sometimes we need to sit back and think, What do my kids really need me to do in this season? What my girls needed most was my presence. To be present with them, I had to have help with the baby. It was either take care of Sarge or take care of the girls. When I got home, I wanted to take care of everyone but it was impossible, so I had to lean on help so I could be present with my girls and still know my baby was being taken care of. And then I had to have help with the girls so I could take care of Sarge.

My mom helped daily from the day we arrived home from the hospital until the first week of December when Sarge took a huge turn for the better.

Those weeks were some of the hardest weeks of parenting I have experienced this far. I felt so torn between my children. I felt like a failure nearly every single day because I wasn’t managing my family and home like I was used to doing. I had to have help just to care for my children properly. I had to consciously remind myself to take care of myself during that time….or I would have missed many more meals.

There were days I questioned what God was doing because daily life was such a struggle and anything but what I had imagined it to be during that season.

And then slowly God began teaching me an invaluable lesson: There are season to your motherhood, Elaine, just like there are seasons to life. There are going to be times in life where you are not on you’re A-game for motherhood due to circumstances outside your control. There is a time for everything and as long as you keep what is most important priority, everything else will eventually fall back into place.

So that’s what I did. I focused on what was most important. Being present with my girls and acclimating everyone to our new family dynamics. Everything else was put on hold.

And, sure enough, it all was just a season. Sometimes life is about survival until the tidal waves settle and new normals can be found.

We got through that very difficult period and with the coming of December, things finally began to settle. Sarge’s episodes of pain became less frequent, he started drinking his bottles in 30 minutes or less, and a new normal was beginning to take shape in our family.

But not before we had to make some difficult decisions to help our family find this new normal. Making those decisions taught me about the importance of being in tune to the needs of each of my children as individuals and the needs of our family as a whole.

Oh, and the SuperMom title? That title is around to make mom’s feel guilty for not doing more or for doing something the “wrong” way. Any mom who meets the needs of their children in ways that are best for her children is a SuperMom.

Part 2 coming next.

Happy New Year!!!

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