two years and counting...

Happy Anniversary to myself! Today is the 2 year anniversary of my full spinal fusion, and also a huge milestone since it is the longest I have gone in the last 6 years without having a surgery!

I can't believe how much my body and life has changed. I have freedom and limitations, pains and relief. I am thankful for the great things having the surgery has provided to me, and am learning to accept the things that I am not able to do because of it. To think that two years ago at this time, I was still under anesthesia in an operating room is just amazing. Here I am in my living room, listening to Christmas music and enjoying the last few days of having a Christmas tree. My baby is sleeping in his room, and I am not experiencing any burning leg pain at the moment. How life has drastically changed for the better! All that horrible, scary, darkness was worth fighting through. Even if my results were half of what they seem to be now, I would do it again.

It made me laugh today that I am STILL using my handy-dandy grabber. But now I am using it to pick up pacifiers that have been strewn across the house, or random toys that fall behind the couch. It saves my back from bending, and with that heavy child to carry, I am trying to find as many ways to do that as possible! Who would have thought that little invention would prove to be so helpful, two years later. It goes to show that yes, there are permanent changes to my body from having my spine fused. BUT...there are ways to do what I love, I just have to find new ways to do them.

It was a wonderful Christmas for our family this year. My family came and we celebrated the birth of Jesus at my home, with my precious little guy roaming around eating wrapping paper and trying to keep up with his older cousin Eva. It is truly a gift I will treasure forever, this time of happiness and joy. Two Christmases ago, I had the dread of the surgery hanging over me, which made it really hard to enjoy my favorite holiday. And last Christmas was overshadowed by the loss of our failed adoption. So this year was very different in that I got to simply enjoy the day with a feeling of peace and fulfillment.

I know that many Christmases are left in my life (Lord willing!) and that they may not all be as happy as this one was, so I am thankful for one that was simple and full of joy and babies laughing.

some thoughts on Christmas, loss, and hope...

I have been getting my house ready over the last week to celebrate Christmas. This has been such a sweet and special time, since it will be our first Christmas with Jude. I got to pick out his stocking, get some cute Christmas pj's and have already bought a few baby toys to go under the tree. But as I've been doing these things with such joy in my heart, I am also reminded of how sad, hard, and disappointing our last Christmas was.

About two weeks before that Christmas, the birthmother that had chosen us to adopt her unborn baby went into labor and told us to come to the hospital. We were so excited. We were scared, as any new parents are, but also so excited to meet and hold that precious baby. We were thankful that she wanted us to be there from the moment he entered the world, and that we would get to have those memories forever.

I will never forget the moment when that all changed in the empty hallway of the hospital in Jacksonville. When the attorney that was representing us told us that she had changed her mind. That she didn't want us there anymore. That we needed to leave.

I've been through a lot of hard things. A LOT. But this was definitely harder than any surgery, any recovery. All the hopes and joys, and the dreams and plans, and all the love that we had for that tiny felt like it was all for nothing. It felt like it was a nightmare. To have been so close to having our hopes fulfilled, and then have them dashed to the floor in span of a was devastating.

Christmas has always been my most favorite holiday. But last years felt like a funeral. I went through the motions. We did all the celebrating, the church services, the visiting with family. I tried to put on a brave face with all but my closest friends. All I really wanted to do was lay in bed and cry. And I did do that a lot. It was so hard to hear about the joy of Christmas, when I felt anything but joyful.

I don't pretend to know what it is like to have gone through a miscarriage. But I do know what it is like to have loved an unborn baby, to call it our own, to pick out a name, to buy him clothes. I know what it is like to excitedly call your family and friends to let them know the amazing news, that we would FINALLY be parents! I know what it is like to decorate a nursery, to pick out blankets and toys, to put a car-seat in the the back of the car with hopeful expectation.

I know what it is like to drive to the hospital expecting to leave with a baby.

I know what it is like to leave empty handed, and brokenhearted.

It took me a long time to process these feelings, the sadness and loss. And once I realized it truly was a loss, not just a disappointment, I was able to heal.

We were blessed to become Jude's mom and dad not too long after that first adoption failed. It was tempting to think that was what 'healed' me. It wasn't. Jude was not a replacement. That other baby is a real person, a separate baby that I loved and lost. I still think about him and his birthmother frequently, and wonder how they are doing, hope that they are okay.

What healed me was believing that God was working for our good, even through something as painful as that experience. Just as I trusted him to take care of me through 4 spinal surgeries, I trusted that He saw the entire story, not just this painful chapter, and knew how it all ended. He also knew what it would take to get us to the right end.

Christmas is about God coming to us in a very unexpected way. And I believe He is always coming to us in unexpected ways. Sometimes those ways are full of joy and happiness  Other times they are difficult and painful. But I believe He is always with us, always working for our good. That adoption failing was painful and sad. That baby was meant to be part of our lives for only a short time. We are meant to be a part of Jude's life for as long as we live. If that adoption hadn't failed, we wouldn't have Jude. And I can't imagine my life without him and his smile.

I will always have a piece of my heart that belongs to that baby I never met. And that's okay. I don't have to stop loving that baby, to love the one I hold in my arms every day.

So this Christmas, as I enjoy all the firsts with my son, I can also appreciate how God has brought us together. How God has healed me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He was with us in that hospital in Jacksonville on that sad day, and He was with us when we held Jude for the first time. And He will be there with us through all the joys and trials we have yet to experience.

I hope you all have a blessed and joyful holiday season. I hope that if you are suffering like I was last year that you will feel a sense of peace, and a hope that God is working for your good, even if you can't see it yet. And if you are experiencing joy, I hope you are able to share it with everyone around you!

Merry Christmas
And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever

And so this Christmas I'll compare the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That you were born so I might live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

-Relient K "I Celebrate the Day"