1,095 Sleepless Nights

Motherhood is the hardest thing I’d ever hoped for.

Oh, it was easy for us to get pregnant. A few short months of trying and 2 pink lines glistened on the still-wet stick. The next morning I excitedly gifted Matt a onesie to announce our newfound parenthood.

The hard part came later. At 3:30 am on May 29, 2012. I worked tirelessly to push Audrey into the world after the longest shortest 3 hours of unmedicated labor. Matt stood at my shoulders, afraid to look on, until Dr. Singleton declared, “Look at that full head of dark hair!”

We both got brave that day. Something about parenting grants courage you never knew you had and urges you to actions you swore you’d never commit.

Like when we swore she’d never sleep with us. We’d be a scheduling family. My copy of Baby Wise was dog-eared, highlighted, and almost memorized. Of course I’d keep it bedside just in case, for any midnight reminders. The first night home we bundled 2-day-old Audrey into her newborn ‘jamas, laid her gently into her freshly pressed crib sheets–blanketless obviously, because we didn’t want her to suffocate like all those books said–and kissed her goodnight. She lasted all of 3 minutes in bed alone…or was that me? So, in she came to snuggle between us and nurse all night long. Neither of us has slept through one single night since.

Like when I thought motherhood was for me. Exasperated from relentless “whys,” sleepless nights, and sibling sqabbles, I recently grumbled under my breath, “I don’t even like being a mom.” OUCH! How could I be so selfish to express that I wasn’t happy as a mother because it’s been so much harder than I could’ve ever expected? God reminded me that He called me to be a mother out of obedience to Him. It’s not a hobby. It’s not for cute, convenient instagram photos (even though I do have a lot of those!). It’s not for my pleasure. It’s for obedience to love these precious gifts He’s given me and show them Jesus every moment in every day. That’s HARD. But by His grace and through the Holy Spirit’s power, I can do it.

Three years later, I’m someone I never even dreamed I could be. Because of a little girl who shares her daddy’s eyes, her momma’s smile, her sister’s laugh, and her heart with the world. Audrey is a strong, creative, curious, inquisitive, brave life giver. She kisses Annie’s boo boos and pats her consolingly. “It’s ok. I’m here. I gotcha,” she comforts.

She’s a backseat driver who knows the directions to all of the places we frequent and loudly protests if we take an alternate route.

She’s an organizer who instructs her teenage aunt the precise angle to place dyed Easter eggs in the empty carton to dry.

She’s a dancer, a singer, a hope-to-be musician, especially looking forward to next year when Ms. Aunt Jessie will teach her “inscruments” at school.

She’s fun and funny, learning recently that she can evoke laughs from any audience by repeatedly chanting “booty.”

And most of all, she’s a precious reminder of the gift of life. How grateful I am that every moment of every day I get to see God in a square, chiseled face framed with long blonde curls with a voice who calls me “Mommy.”

Happy Birthday to my Audrey girl. I’m so thankful God chose me to be your mother.

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#heartforannie FAQ

1. Is Annie still sick?

Yes. Annie will always be “sick.” There is no cure for her heart defect. But she is not currently exhibiting symptoms of having a heart condition. We live our life as if we have two “normal” girls, something that we NEVER dreamed was possible. Our days parenting Annie are like any other parents’ days: She wakes us by giggling and bouncing on us, calling “Da! Da! Da!” and trying to suck down Audrey’s overnight milk before Audrey wakes up to discover the theft. She eats yogurt and oatmeal and strawberries and a banana and cereal and Teddy Grahams and eggs for breakfast, then smears the mixture all over her face! The rest of the day we alternate between awwwws after she kisses and leans in to love Audrey and No,no! after she repeatedly smacks Audrey’s face, pulls her hair, and swipes her toys. Little stinker! See? All very normal. Right?

Annie just won this one.

The faces of victory and defeat.

2. Does Annie still only have half of a heart?

 Yes, and  we hope that she always will. We pray that her native heart can be enough for her and provide a high quality of life for her whole life. I’m thankful that a heart transplant is an option in the medical world, but I pray that Annie’s birth heart is always salvageable because it is her own.

3. How can someone live with only half of a heart?

 I have no idea! But I’m so glad that God revealed a miraculous heart reconstruction to the doctors who invented the Norwood, Glenn, and Fontan procedures. Currently, the right side of Annie’s heart does the work that our right ventricles do: pumps blood from the heart to the body. But then, because her pulmonary arteries are now connected to her superior vena cava, the return blood flows passively from her body into her lungs.

Glenn heart physiology

Glenn heart physiology

4. What’s next for Annie?

 Annie will continue to have regular cardiology checkups. Like this one that she had today.

I mean, she loves him!

I mean, she loves him!

She will likely have her stage 3 Fontan procedure at CHOP during summer 2016, still TBD. That’s really all we know. We ran into a cardiologist turned friend recently and were reminded (because of my pestering questions) that even though the Fontan is the final stage, it’s not really a great heart physiology either. In other words, while Annie isn’t currently acting sick, at some point (tomorrow or in 4 decades???) she will.

5. How do we do it? 

Not very well. I worry a lot. I use oils to coax me to sleep at night. I envy days passed when I only knew from afar about suffering and questions and hurts of other families like ours. It’s hard to relax and enjoy TODAY that we have with Annie. I’m often tired of being “that family” who has to respond with grace when acquaintances pepper me with prying questions and blunt comments. And just today, walking back into the hospital, I professed wishing it were different.

But it’s not. It’s how God created Annie and how He envisioned our family and He didn’t make a mistake.

So the best answer to how we do it is cling to hope in something besides Annie. The joy of parenting Annie isn’t enough to sustain us in this life. We need something more. So we rest in Jesus and the joy found in His finished work on the cross that makes us right with God.  And we rest in the comfort of knowing that a good God is directing our steps and making Himself known in Annie’s sweet face.

I’m still wrestling with it moment by moment, but isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?