Scary Strong

After Marmee died, I expected to fall. I was confident that I would eventually be okay but that would come after some time in a mental health unit. In a very strange way I almost wished for the fall. I wished I could disassociate enough to not be present in my pain. When I didn’t have a mental health break down I began trying to understand why not. What makes some people break and others not? Was I ignoring my grief? Was I merely doing life but not really living it? Don’t get me wrong, there have been days and weeks where I barely functioned. Days where I have been just present enough to order take out for my kids and give them the passwords to their screens. But I was still functioning and wondered why my resiliency was winning?

I don’t think it was a surprise to a lot of people that I was surviving better than I thought I would. I’ve always been described as Strong, Resilient and Powerful, even as a young child. Alone those words sound like really positive attributes, and they are.. but they have often held double meanings.

Strong has also meant Hard

Resilient has also meant Volatile

Powerful has also meant Loud and Bossy

Over the years I’ve felt like I have needed to appologize for my hardness, but stay strong. Like I should be ashamed for how loud or bossy I come across, but still shine my resiliencey and be powerful. I’ve been at a loss for how to do that and wondered if I’ve even wanted to do that. These parts of me, the good and the messy, have served me well. They have guided me through unimaginably difficult times. They have protected me from hurt and helped me, quite literally, survive at times. That strength and resiliency kept myself, and those I loved, safe. Making quick decisions based on my emotions and what I though was my “gut” has served me well.

Anyone with trauma is going to have a well developed survival instinct and often that is what controls our reactions and decisions. Everone has it but it looks very different for everyone. As I continue to journey and become who I am, I’m realizing that I’ve mistaken that instinct as being my resiliency. Sometimes, my inner self, the part that holds my true resiliency matches up with that survival instinct. But often that instinct is reacting before I’ve had a chance to listen to my deeper emotions or logic that lies below all that protection.

Maybe this is also true for other trauma survivors. Maybe we are told we are so strong but hard or so resilient but volatile, because we actually have an over developed survival instinct working on overdrive. Maybe that resiliency is in all of us and it’s that survival instinct that is the wild card. That instinct is what looks hard, or messy or loud. Maybe we need to try and quiet her down so we can hear our deeper self. Listen to that inner being of who we were, and still are, before all that other stuff happened.

I’m learning to listen to myself more. I’m trying to be curious which part of me is guiding in any given moment and what I’m actually feeling, apart from all those protective impulses. After doing a whole lot of sheer survival in my life, this new way of thinking and processing IS HARD, especially with out my mom, but it’s getting easier.

Finding that place in my body that holds these different parts of me has been helpful and eye opening too. What I had mistakenly taken for my gut actually holds that resilient survival instinct. It’s kept me safe for so many years and sits just above my belly button. Often it bubbles up in to physical anxiety in my chest. I can look deeper though. Below my belly into my actual gut and behind the anxiety, into my heart. That is where my actual strength sits without the hardness, resiliency without volitility, and power without being loud and bossy.

My mom knew it was in me and described me as Scary Strong. She understood the dichotomy of what that meant inside me though. When she said it, she wasn’t trivializing the full scope of the my being. She knew what was deeper. She knew that the scary in me wasn’t the wall that people see but the overwhelming ability to make it through realities that should probably have made me crumble. She recognized the scary survival instinct, that was messy and uncomfortable, protected me time and time again. She had it herself, though it showed up differently. She also recognized the strong in me that was deeper and resilient and so powerful without any double meanings.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense… This is just some of my processing that that I’ve been doing lately. If you understand these ramblings I suspect you can relate and maybe this can help you recognize the Scary Strong in your own self or those around you. Maybe that awareness can create some empathy or curiousity for both of these incredible parts of our beings.

To becoming who were truly are! XO

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Becoming Thankful

Our summer was magic. I wasn’t ready for it to end. For many reasons it was a new beginning for us. We have started a new era as a family. We are done with baby gear, for one. I’ve kept a stroller for long walks and a booster seat, just in case, but all things baby related are out of the house. Essential oils have played a major role in the peace and awareness that is in our family now. We have a new, calmer normal. Sofie’s behaviours have been curbed and her abilities have sky rocketed. We are all functioning as better versions of ourselves. We are feeling how we want to feel. We are leaning into the emotions more. Becoming who we want to be.

Myself, in particular, has been changing. I’m on an interesting journey right now. Jon actually worded it beautifully. He said “you’re just letting more people see the real you.” (He’s generally not the most romantic, so this made me swoon.) My wall is coming down. I actually texted one of my good friends, after I started noticing people approaching me more, that it was scary! I’m still not sure how I completely feel about all this connecting. I like my protective wall! It’s easier. I’ve never been someone who is very approachable. My wall has served me well!

I’m realizing what being vulnerable really means. I thought authenticity and vulnerability were more similar than they actually are. I thought, in order to be authentic I was already vulnerable because I felt like I was laying myself out there already. I used authenticity as a way to challenge people to judge me and keep people at bay. It worked. In turn, I felt justified to judge them. Authenticity is something that I truly value. Part of my core beliefs. I didn’t fully understand it though. I’m embracing my journey of becoming through vulnerability. I’m realizing, in order to truly be authentic, I have to be vulnerable. It’s an easier choice to make now that I understand it.

With vulnerability and real authenticity working so well together, now comes true gratitude. I’m feeling real gratitude now. Living it. Giving voice to it…

On this Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend, I’m thankful for a lot. Here is me giving voice to it. I’m thankful for:

  • My compassionate, thoughtful, insightful, balancing husband. He’s a ridiculously incredible, capable father and we do life so well together.
  • My Livi. Her heart is pure gold. She is compassionate, kind, emotionally wise beyond her years and gentle. She is quite possibly the best big sister I’ve ever met and I don’t know what I did to deserve such a precious, sensitive soul in my life. I love her goofiness and willingness to help anyone.
  • My Sofie. She is my brave, warrior princess who could survive anything! I am always astounded at her ability to overcome on a daily basis. I love her dance moves, joy and empathy.
  • My Evelyn. This kid has enough passion in her to fill a stadium. She is my experiential learner and as scary as that is for me it really is so very beautiful. She is independent and keeps trying even when its hard. I love her humour and how she says “well….” before answering a question.
  • Livi’s grade 2 teacher, Mrs. N. Livi has come home every day since school started with wonderful stories about how much she loves grade 2! Her favourite subject is now writing, which was her least favourite last year! She told me she LOVES Mrs. N! One of the most beautiful things I’ve heard is that they end each day going around thanking a classmate for something! I feel like this might be a magic year for Livi.
  • Sofie’s EA, Mrs. I. This is her 3rd year with Sofie and I think this is the best year yet! She is thoughtful, kind and patient. She loves Sofie and Sofie loves her!
  • For Sofie’s ENT and Anesthesiologist during her tonsil and adenoid surgery last week. Here is the full story..

When Sofie had tubes put in over a year ago she was already stirring before we were in the recovery room. She metabolizes anesthetic and freezing very fast. She woke up in a sterile environment, in a bed with bars, with nurses caring for her and no mommy and daddy… just like in the orphanage. She screamed and thrashed and fought and raged for 3 hours, until Jon and I decided to just take her home and hope that calmed her down. The nurses didn’t know what to do for her anyway. The second we stepped outside of the doors of the hospital she started to calm down.

I was TERRIFIED we would have a repeat experience and didn’t have the option of going home this time, since we were planning to stay at least one night. I asked, begged, pleaded with anyone who would listen that we be let in the recovery the second she is there too. My doctor listened and heard me and know I wasn’t crazy but said he didn’t have the control once the surgery was over. I teared up imploring the anesthesiologist student who was the first one I felt really listened and understood. She brought out the head anesthesiologist who cam up with a plan to get us in recovery asap and try a bit of a different med cocktail. I was thankful but still very anxious.

Then the most cathartic, beautiful, respectful gift was given to us… the doctor came out to update us that everything went fine and brought me back in to the operating room while she was still intubated. Walking in, I knew this was an honour. I knew not all parents could handle seeing their child like this… blood still being cleaned up and a tube breathing for them. I knew that our ENT had talked with the anesthesiologist and told him our concerns where not false and I was not a helicopter parent. I knew the anesthesiologist was the one in charge and allowing me to be there in this moment.

They say people don’t remember what happens that early from waking up but I know Sofie could feel my presence and was comforted. She started to stir with the tube still in her throat and bolted to a sitting position, not uncommon for this med cocktail, I was told. Blood spilled out while they removed the tube and she leaned in to me, not the nurse, as we were on either side of her. I fully believe she felt my energy even if she wasn’t conscious of it.

I was allowed to carry her from the operating room to recovery. This is where it all hit me. She was waking up. She wasn’t crying. She felt safe. I was so honoured and respected by the operating staff at Children’s hospital.  Sofie was in my arms and the team was walking with me down the hall. It was cleansing for both of us, from the trauma we experienced last time. Tears of thankfulness were welling in my eyes and I still don’t think I adequately expressed how grateful I was through my awe.

And through it all… Sofie didn’t cry. Not once. Just shows how attachment is SO vital in so many areas of life.

  • For my family and their ability to always make me feel loved! One sister brings me tea and baking often and makes herself available for errands when I need. My other sister helps with childcare as often as she can. My mom is beyond incredible and helps with everything. She taught me how to be a mom and even had a pot of delicious vegetable soup for our dinner the night we came home from the hospital.
  • For the friends who have been part of my journey this summer. It’s been pretty rad and they have been my sounding boards, my supporters and my challengers.
  • For tea. Need I say more?
  • For a beautiful house, in a beautiful city, in the most beautiful province in the most beautiful country.
  • For essential oils that help facilitate positive mental health and good physical health!
  • For courage and creativity and communication and strength and vulnerability and authenticity and for becoming.
  • For my journey. I don’t know why now is the time… but I’m thankful. I’m excited. I’m scared. And I think I’m ready.

Pee Hills Pt. 2

More on those life changing pee hills I mentioned in my last post.

Photoshopped because not enough room for the writing … but you get the idea.

Just to make our life a little more interesting, right in the middle of our two days of house buying and selling we had our biggest “pee hill”. We found out we are pregnant.

Yup. Unexpectedly, blessedly, terrifyingly pregnant.

We had no idea. We were actively trying not to get pregnant. We weren’t even sure we wanted to be pregnant again. We knew we wanted another child, we just didn’t know how we wanted that child to come to us. Adopting from the foster system had been swimming around in our heads. I guess it was decided for us!

Although this has been quite the shock and I was having a hard few days with the idea, I am taking comfort in the fact that this really does feel meant to be and God-lead. Sunday we made an accepted offer and listed our house. Monday we found out we were pregnant and Tuesday we sold our house. I’m sure Jon would not have made an offer on the house if he knew we were pregnant.

The only reason we found out on the Monday was because I was sick with a sinus infection and went to the clinic for some antibiotics. I knew I was one day late and I hadn’t had any of the usual pre-menstrual spotting but I figured it was because of the stress and excitement of finding and buying a new house. I thought I’d just be extra responsible and get a quick test before the doctor put me on antibiotics, just to be safe.

As I walked in to the exam room I saw “PT poss” on the paper the nurse had hung on the door. It didn’t register with me at all. I remember thinking that was a weird short hand to say I wasn’t pregnant. I was in a bit of denial I think. Then BAM. The nurse says “yes, your pregnant”. I started hyperventilating and the nurse stared at me terrified she’d done something wrong. She thought I was expecting a yes and that I was a bright, fast yes on the test. I reassured her that it was a good thing but that I just wasn’t expecting it.

My head was swimming. I just sat in the room for a few minutes mumbling “holy shit” over and over.

While waiting for my meds I grabbed a Congrats card for the Daddy to be. I quickly wrote a silly note about  Jon getting to be snipped sooner than we thought. He actually took a full 60 seconds to register the card was talking about him. We are both shocked and still processing it but we are getting excited now.

So, knowing my conception date, I’m 7 weeks pregnant. I was only on day 4 of my cycle when I got pregnant! I still had my period that morning. I ovulated two weeks early. We had been using this rhythm method with “capping” it for birth control for 6 years. I am very regular… or at least was… and we thought we had this whole birth control thing in the bag. Apparently, your body changes as you get closer to 30 though! Oops. I’m  only 5 weeks pregnant based on my last period but I know when we conceived. Not sure if we are going to do a dating ultrasound or not. I doubt it. Either way I figure I’m due around Christmas.

I still have mixed feelings. Of course I am so excited to be blessed to bring new life in to this world again. I can’t wait to feel baby kick inside me and see who he or she grows to become, but I feel guilty. So many children have already been born and need a family. This world is so over populated already. And then there is Sofie. She still needs me.  She still needs to be carried, sleeps in the crib, fights me and tantrums. How is a new baby going to affect her still present need to be constantly reassured. She is not ready to share me yet.

I’m scared too for the health of this baby. Because the possibility of being pregnant was so far out of my mind, I was not watching what I ate, drank or did. We made a retaining wall this month and I moved big heavy allan blocks. I had sashimi twice around 5.5 weeks pregnant. I wasn’t on a prenatal vitamin until this week. I even had a Bailey’s paralyzer almost every night for about 2 weeks in there. If you know anything about how I mix drinks you know I don’t cheap out on the alcohol. It is out of my control now and I need to let go. God knows what He is doing. I’m trying to trust Him to keep my baby safe.

I’ve cried tears of anger and confusion, fear and resentment but I think that is all ending now. Joy and excitement are creeping in and I’m looking forward to hearing this ones heart beat in the next few weeks. I’m feeling like we are where we are supposed to be in God’s hopes for us even though I don’t understand it. This baby is meant to be here and he is going to be something amazing in my life.

I am so blessed.