Today is the 11th day that we have been in Hawaii. It’s been raining for the last two days, and we have taken that as an excellent opportunity to stay put. Don’t get me wrong. Hawaii is amazing. It’s beautiful, warm, full of beaches, and has endless fresh fruit. What more could a girl ask for? Well, I can think of one thing, off the top of my head, but it’s pointless to even go there. So I won’t.
Sitting here with time on my hands has given me a chance to reflect on and process through some aspects of everything we have encountered over the last…year?
Life has been go, go, go, for almost an entire year. We got pregnant mid-August, found out in September, and as soon as October 1st rolled around, hello all-freaking-day-and-night “morning sickness.” I was absolutely miserable, and working crazy hours between my job as a surgery tech and Young life, and if I wasn’t on the go, I was laying on the couch trying not to die. By the end of December, I final started to feel slightly human again. Then January 4th rolled around, and everything about our life changed. Between still working and trying not to absolutely fall apart, life continued to be go, go, go. Then Ayden was born, and the craziness intensified. There was her birth, then planning her Celebration Picnic, and even though neither of us were working for several weeks, we continued to be busy and constantly exhausted. We went to Vegas for a wedding (um, SO exhausting…not to mention our flight got canceled and we got stranded there for significantly longer than we originally anticipated), and left for Hawaii a few days later. When we got to Hawaii, we wanted to see everything, and continued on our go, go, go mentality. Being on the go keeps us distracted, keeps our minds occupied, helps create new memories, etc. But now, suddenly, we have had two entire, consecutive days with no agenda, no yard to mow, no house projects to do, no dogs to take care of, no errands to run, nothing to do, and we can simply sit and rest.
Even in this very moment, at the epitome of my gratefulness for time to do nothing, I can’t help but fight guilt for doing nothing for two entire days, while in Hawaii. Especially as our trip will come to an end in a few days. Shouldn’t we be taking advantage of every possible moment while we are here, cramming as much sight-seeing, beach-lounging, fruit-eating in as we possibly can? It was such a gift and blessing for so many people to contribute to send us on this trip, shouldn’t we honor that by doing something rather than sitting on the couch and doing nothing for two days?
Sometimes, I think I have a problem. I have a problem coming up with absurd expectations that others must hold over me. Why on God’s green earth, should I be concerned with anyone else’s expectations about how I spend my time in Hawaii? ESPECIALLY considering the reasons we were sent here? Not to mention that these “expectations” others must have of my trip are completely made up. I don’t even know if anyone else has expectations for how we spend our time here. That’s all in my head, as far as I know. And if anyone DOES have expectations, to heck with them. I think it is acceptable for me and Nathan to spend these 16 wonderful days doing whatever we feel like. To do whatever we need. To focus on nothing but ourselves and each other.
Why is that so hard to do?
Maybe it’s hard to do, because when there is nothing to do, nothing to hear, and nothing to say, we are forced to become aware of how we are feeling. It’s harder to ignore something when there is nothing else to focus on. That’s why we cover our ears and yell “lalalalalalalalalalalala” when we don’t want to hear something. If we want to ignore what is being said to us, we aren’t going to continue to look the person in the eye, hear their words, and try to just magically think of purple elephants rather than the reality of their words. We are going to cover up their words with something else, to drown them out. We will make it impossible to face what we fear they are saying.
I have had plenty of moments, even hours or days, in the past year, where I don’t run from my thoughts or feelings. I’ve taken time to embrace things as they come, process things, talk/cry/scream/etc. Shouldn’t it be time I don’t have to do that anymore? Shouldn’t it be about time I am able to just breathe and not have to worry about when the next wave of despair will hit?
Well, that would be nice.
But unfortunately, that’s not our reality right now. And to be honest, it might not ever be.
The truth is, even in Hawaii, with perfect weather, beautiful beaches, fresh fruit, no worries or responsibilities from home, even under the best possible set of circumstances, we are still in the middle of a very recent loss, and our hearts are still very raw.
We have been having an amazing time here. I would have no problem staying here for many more than 16 days. There are very few things I miss about home…a select group of people, and my dogs. Other than that, I don’t miss the responsibilities and realities we have left in Washington. But even if we created the perfect group of people to be in this perfect place with us, the reality is, life here will never be perfect because Ayden is not here with us.
The reality is, we live in a very broken world, and it will never be perfect.
I do believe in Heaven, and that our baby girl is with Jesus, and that one day we will all be together. But in the meantime, no matter how good life gets, it will never be perfect, it will never be as it was intended to be. And that really sucks.
Two days ago, Nathan and I had the best day we have had since, well, since this crazy journey started. We were relaxed, we enjoyed our time together, and we talked. We had great conversation all day long, which was very meaningful to us. We talked about our relationship, and how great it is, and how we can make it even better. We talked about our future, what adopting our future children would be like, and what it will look like when we are ready to take that step. We talked about a lot of things, very deep and personal things, and by the end of the day we were absolutely exhausted, but we were very at peace. They were conversations we didn’t know we needed to have, but were so grateful we did have them. It felt like a step forward in our grieving process. It felt like progress, and that felt very hopeful. It felt as if things could be easier from here on out.
But then we woke up the next day. At one moment, I felt great. And the very next moment, my thought process went like this: Someone asked me for my address, it must be for their baby shower invitations. Baby showers. The last time I went to a baby shower I had a massive meltdown because it was a giant reminder of everything that was about to be ripped away from me, and it took me three days to even begin to somewhat recover. I hate baby showers. Baby showers. Someday I will have a baby shower for a baby I am going to adopt, and that is a very exciting thought. Bringing home a baby. Holding my own child. Introducing my child to friends and family. Does it get any happier than that? I can’t wait for that. The thought of that makes me unbelievably happy, and I can’t wait for that day. I should have had that day. I should have had all of that. I was supposed to have all of that. I should have a baby right now. I should be raising my child. I’m not raising my child. I don’t have my child. I will never hold Ayden again.
That thought process took about 8 seconds, and then I was immediately flooded with the devastating reality that everything I at one moment was looking forward to, was something I should have already had, and it was something that I have indeed lost.
It took about 8 seconds to go from thinking about what would be the happiest moment, to a puddle of tears because that day feels like it will never come, and I’ll never be ready for that day because it was already taken away from me.
I’m going to have a lot of moments like that throughout the remainder of my life. Moments that come very suddenly and overwhelm me without warning. I will continue to find healing. But wounds leave scars, and they stay with you forever, no matter how at peace you eventually come to be, regarding what has happened.
Even in paradise (Hawaii), I cannot escape what has happened. No perfect set of circumstances can magically sweep away the pain of losing Ayden.
There is something about this trip that has allowed us to have our highest highs, and our lowest lows. Taking extensive time away from any possible distractions, responsibilities, worries, etc., has allowed us to experience great joy, but also great sorrow. It’s allowed time for some deep soul searching. It’s helped us heal, even though that forces us to feel new parts of the loss that we didn’t know we would have to feel. Nathan and I were talking the other day, about how the last year, particularly the last seven months, were the hardest, darkest, despairing moments. But we have also had the most beautiful, meaningful, special, miraculous moments.
We have come to realize that there is nothing we can do to prevent the moments of anger, confusion, hurt, and loss. Those will always come, no matter what. And unfortunately, they seem to come in the moments we least expect. But we have also come to realize that even when those moments come, we will stand back up again, and we will keep moving forward.
The other day we went on an off-roading adventure, to a secluded beach. The tide was crazy high and intense when we finally made it to the beach, so we didn’t stay for long as getting in the water would have been very dangerous (the big island of Hawaii has the most drownings each year in the entire US…we didn’t want to add to that statistic). We stopped briefly at the house again before heading off to a different beach. I had gotten pretty sunburned a few days prior (yes, I had been wearing sunscreen…), but I thought I was in the safe zone. It had been three days, and no skin had started peeling. I had just turned very, very dark, and I loved it. But when I walked back into the house, I noticed something weird on my skin. And then I freaked out. My skin had decided to blister. It was disgusting. I’ll spare you the details of the fluid filled little blisters all over me…because it is quite disgusting.
I jumped in the shower in attempt to get some of the now very dead skin off. This is how my thought process proceeded:
I was supposed to be in the safe-zone. I should have recovered, had a beautiful tan, and been able to go and enjoy more sunshine and beaches. But no, nothing can go according to “supposed to be.” Just like being 20 weeks pregnant. That means you are out of the “danger zone” and everything should be fine. If you make it to twenty weeks it is smooth sailing from there. We thought we were in the safe zone, we were so happy. We found out we were having a baby girl, and we were happier than we had ever been. Everything was fine and perfect. And then everything came crashing down. Life suddenly became covered in blisters, and it felt like someone peeled the skin off of our souls. Stupid sunburn. Stupid life.
I didn’t anticipate a sunburn being a trigger for everything we’ve been through. But apparently it was. So I stood in the shower, sobbing, because my sunburn in that moment just reminded me of the injustice of our circumstances. Nathan and I have been trying so hard to focus on positivity. Even when life sucks, think of something positive. Unfortunately for me, being really tan was the positive thing I had been focusing on during this trip. I know that seems superficial, and quite ridiculous. But I kept thinking that even if we didn’t do a ton of sight-seeing, at least I got a great tan. Even if we didn’t meet the imaginary expectations of everyone else, at least I got a great tan. This trip has been very meaningful and amazing for Nathan and I, but that isn’t something you can really show to the people who sent us here. So again, in my ridiculous, irrational thought process, I figured even if no one can understand our trip, at least they can see I got a great tan, so it’s like evidence that we went to Hawaii and had a great time. I KNOW. Completely irrational, but that’s what was going through my mind.
But now my beautiful tan was peeling off of my body, and I looked like a Leper. Farewell positive thing to think about.
On top of that, it was another reminder that my body has been completely ransacked throughout the last seven months. The health complications during pregnancy, going through birth and recovery, and the still lingering health issues I won’t go into. My body has been completely destroyed.
And I have nothing to show for it.
That last thought sent me over the edge. My arms are empty, I have no child to show for everything we’ve been through.
I have nothing to show for it.
So all of this was running through my head, while I’m still sobbing in the shower, and while Nathan helped scrape all of the dead skin off of my back.
Not the prettiest picture.
It wasn’t the prettiest moment. But sometimes, our lives just simply aren’t the prettiest pictures filled with pretty moments. Sometimes our lives really are puddles of tears and piles of dead skin that has literally been scraped off our body.
Our day had started out jut fine. All was going well, and then SHA-BAM. Meltdown. But we put ourselves back together. We took our moment of despair, faced components of our grief that needed to be faced, took a deep breath, and stood up.
We managed to salvage the day, and ended up having a really great rest of the afternoon and evening. We continued to have great conversation, got out of the house, relaxed, and downright enjoyed ourselves. That’s our reality right now. We can’t prevent the meltdowns. But we don’t have to let them define our day. We don’t have to let them ruin or define us.
The meltdowns will always happen, because I really, really miss my baby girl, and I always will. But I will always stand up and keep going, because I really, really love my baby girl. And I really, really love my husband. And I really, really love our Jesus.
So, once again, love wins. Love doesn’t mean we avoid pain. Love means that we keep going even though we are in pain. And love means we will continue to have joy, continue to laugh, continue to live. Love always wins.