Courage has taken many forms and worn many faces over the years. We have stared death in the face 3 times with 2 of our sons, struggled through a job loss, moved 7 times, sent all three boys on 2-year missions, struggled with my health (involving multiple surgeries and lots of diagnoses that were very frightening), and all the growing pains of raising three boys. This past year I have been faced with choices I NEVER thought I would be facing. My youngest son moved back in with us February 1st of this year as he is currently going through a divorce. He has two adopted daughters - they were 13 months and 3 1/2 at that time. Jonathon has sole physical custody of the girls and we are going through the court system to make that a permanent status. I have been grand-"momming" ever since. That was the choice for me that took a great deal of courage. Allowing myself to divert my full attention from my business to my granddaughters. I was afraid - I worried about how I would keep up with the attorney fees for the divorce and child custody. I was fearful that I would not be able to figure out how to do both. BUT I knew I HAD TO.
These days my days are filled with sticky kisses, diapers, wiping runny noses reading stories, coloring/painting, bath time, bed/nap time, chocolate milk, and lots of "I love yous". When Izze tells me she loves me, I tell her I love her more, and she responds with "I love you most". Life does not get better than that. No amount of money can buy you that kind of joy and happiness. I know, your life is filled with these things too. The strange part is, I am 55 years-old next month and currently co-parenting with my husband and my youngest son helping to raise his two daughters. I have 10 grandchildren.
This has taken a toll on my real estate business and trust me when I say, it is exhausting! At my age, I do not have the same energy levels that I had in my 20's. BUT I feel extremely blessed to have the girls in my home and am grateful I am in a position to love and care for them. When David and I married 35 years ago, we had our lives all mapped out (sound familiar?). We were going to have 5-6 children and live in a beautiful home. I was going to stay at home and be a fabulous wife/mother. Life certainly would be our own little fairy tale. We would wait at least a year before starting our family to give us time to get our feet on the ground. Our first curve ball was learning that I had gotten pregnant on our honeymoon. The second curve ball came quickly when I miscarried that baby. We had been excited about welcoming an addition to our family. In spite of our doctor's advise, we got pregnant again immediately.
The arrival of Jason wasn't everything I expected. He was allergic to milk (which took us 6 months to figure out) and had to be on medication due to a spastic stomach (the opening to empty the stomach was closing completely causing severe pain and projectile vomiting-I don't remember the medical term - it has been 34 years now). If he did not have something to suck on ALL the time he was miserable. I felt like "Mother of the Year" when we figured out the milk allergy and he became calm and happy all the time. Of course, the doctor's were not any help with that, but a good friend who went through a similar experience with her own babies. I always thought Jason was perfect - it just took us a bit to figure him out.
The arrival of our second boy, Brian just 18 1/2 months later was a rather frightening experience. He came 6 1/2 weeks early in a small hospital not equipped to handle a premie. The doctor on call refused to come in while I was in labor (you know, early Sunday morning and he had better things to do) and so the nurses were unable to even try to stop my labor. When Brian was born a nurse told the doctor he was struggling to breath. He told her he had just given him a 10 on the Apgar scale and to put him in the nursery - he was perfect! Thankfully, the nurse was not convinced, and called our pediatrician to come take a look. He had interned with premature babies back east and knew immediately he was in trouble. The pediatrician put a nurse with him 24/7 and put him on oxygen. He made it until the next morning before his lung collapsed. The doctor was walking in to check on him as the nurse came flying out of the nursery to get him. The pediatrician did not have the necessary "tools" to re-inflate the lung, but used what he could and he miraculously survived until Life Flight arrived to transfer him to Stanford Hospital - over 2 hours away. The delivering doctor had his rights revoked and was never able to deliver another baby due to the horrendous circumstances he put us in.
We waited 4 years to have our third son, thinking we just did things too fast with our second. He tried to come 9 1/2 weeks early. They stopped my labor and made it to 4 1/2 weeks early. He should have been okay, but also had problems. As soon as his head hit the birth canal his heart rate went to an alarming low. The cord was wrapped multiple times around his neck. As soon as he was born the doctor started bagging him with oxygen, but he was not responding. They could not figure out what his problem was, but without life support and another Life Flight to Primary Children's Hospital, he would not have made it. The doctor had us bring the older boys to say good-bye as he was afraid he would not pull through. It took about 72 hours, but he did finally start to have his own "systems" kick in and start working. Slowly he came off life-support.
Not exactly the life we had planned......
Life has been full of curve balls and unexpected life changing events. Most of which, I would not care to go back and repeat. However, as I look back on my life I realize that I would not have experienced any real growth if my life was lived in a perfect home, with a perfect husband, and no struggles or problems. The events of my life - and especially those of the past 7 years have created a change in me. I am less judgmental, more kind and compassionate, more quick to think the best of others. I am softer (I needed to be!), I have a bigger heart, I feel no need to criticize others. I understand that we are all struggling with some sort of trial - something that feels huge to us, overwhelming and I know first-hand how the smallest kind gestures lighten our load and make us feel like somehow, we can handle it. If you have not yet experienced that - it is coming...... I feel confident the blessings we are seeking for these girls is coming.... Just in HIS time.
So many people have said, "I don't know how you are doing this." Is there a choice? My heart says absolutely NOT! I love those little girls with all my heart and feel blessed and privileged to love on them. The rewards are tremendously greater than the personal sacrifice! There is no amount of money that can make up for the time I spend with these precious girls. Creating a refuge from the storms of life is the only option I can live with.
One of the greatest lessons I am learning is to let go of things I cannot control. Please note I said LEARNING - certainly not there yet! I have had to learn to put things in the Lord's hands and trust that in HIS time things will all work out. The fear comes from not knowing how long or how much debt..... The faith comes from seeing God's hand in my life throughout my life. I KNOW I can count on Him to get me through even when I do not understand the why or where or when of my circumstances. I know that someday I will look back on this period of time with nothing but gratitude in my heart and that I will love these girls and cherish these memories FOREVER.
I have done well in my real estate career and am very passionate about it. BUT my favorite accomplishment in my entire life has been being a wife and mother, It is my way of thanking God for my many blessings. It is my way of trying to make my world a better place. When I create a loving environment in my own home - it creates a little piece of heaven for me and all who enter to feel at peace. Someday we will realize that the things we spend most of our time on do not have any lasting impact. I will never be sorry for slowing down a bit and opening my heart and doors to my son and his girls. FAMILY. IS. WHAT. MATTERS. MOST. You can choose differently for yourself and I will not judge you, but I know what fills my soul with the most light and happiness - and it is family.
NOTE: Not everyone who reads this will understand, or hold to my beliefs. I do not write to change you but to better understand myself.