Breaking Up with Self Pity

It’s taken me ten months to admit the truth to myself — I am drowning in self pity. I haven’t been dipping my toes or gingerly wading in the pools of self pity. No, I have been diving in deep, pouring buckets over my head, in self pity.

I did not mean to end up here; it just sort of happened. Somewhere around month 5 of our NICU stay I began to shower my hurts and shattered dreams and fears with heavy doses of self pity. I would nurse my angry, irrational feelings. After all, I have had a difficult pregnancy. Who wouldn’t feel a little sorry for themselves in this situation? These tiny, seemingly harmless excuses would flutter through my raging brain and heart and without knowing it I was soon bathing in a sea of self pity.

Now, almost three months post- NICU life, I’m still wallowing in it. Why do we have to be the ones to work so hard? Why us? Why me? Why Uriah? The whys and the whines and the wishes eat up hours of time, energy, and emotions. I didn’t really know the extent of my wallowing until this week when Uriah got his (awesome, amazing, incredible) stander and specialized chair.

In one sense I was thrilled to receive equipment that would help his posture and muscle tone but, in a far more honest sense, I looked at my son strapped in the contraption and wanted to cry. Cry in rage because it feels so unfair that we have to go through this. Cry at the injustice of my baby boy not being able to do what others are doing at his age. Cry in frustration over (get this) having another (awesome, amazing, incredible) piece of equipment fill my house and take up precious space. Cry in, I admit, exhaustion because what if I’m not doing enough therapy to help him catch up?

I know my feelings are to be expected; after all, I am only human. But being human isn’t an excuse for living in self pity.

I want to share 5 ways I plan to overcome my habit of wallowing in self pity. This will not be an overnight experience; choosing thanksgiving over pity and joy over grief takes time and practice.

  1. Admit and repent of choosing self pity instead of rejoicing in the Lord always

Humbling myself and agreeing that I have been focusing more on myself and what makes me feel good (pity partying) is the first step to breaking the habit of self pity. Plus, my LORD promises to help those who humble themselves and give grace when in need.

2. Stop repeating the same story over and over and over and over again

It’s so basic. To stop wallowing in self pity I need to stop talking bout what makes me want pity. Instead of focusing on my woes it would be healing to focus on what’s current in my life. Like, instead of telling a friend my horrific birth story, I should spend the time talking about the great milestones Uriah is accomplishing or the hilarious joke Dalton told me or a  yummy recipe I just found.

3. Serve others by becoming interested in their needs and stories

I have become so self-absorbed. Self pity does that. To break my habit I will become more involved in others than in myself. I will ask about their stories. I will take time to pray for their hurts and grievances. I will be active in meeting needs when I am able.

4.  Get a fresh perspective of my situation and find the blessings in every storm

Instead of focusing on how far behind Uriah is I will start focusing on the amazing gains and milestones he has accomplished, the incredible joy he brings us, and the awesome blessings our situation surprises us with every day. Sometimes to break the habit of self pity we have to take a step back, get fresh perspective, and enjoy the blessings that every storm brings.

5. Start over every day

To really conquer the habit of self pity I have to start new every day. I will feel down, I will fall back into self pity, and it’s very possible that I will grouch and grump and whine and complain. But I will start over every day. I will rely on my Lord’s present grace to overcome my habit of focusing on myself.

And I’ll print this powerful (adorable freebie) and place it where I can read its truth every day.

Have you ever experienced a time of self pity? How did you overcome it? And if you are currently in a wallowing season of life would you like some prayer? Leave us a comment below and I’ll do my best to respond and bring it to the Lord in prayer!

Also, follow this Dropbox link to get your own 8.5×11 copy of the cutie above. 🙂

With lots of love, blessing, and coffee,

Frannie

Our Family’s Fall Time Bucket List

Fall is finally approaching our corner of the Midwest and we are already enjoying every sunny yet perfectly chilled day, changing leaves, and blossoming golden rod. Now that I don’t break into a soggy, soaking sweat each time I step outside, Uriah and I have been enjoying one mile walks to our down town center. We’ve had the best of times.

As wonderful as fall is we’re enjoying an even greater blessing, Uriah’s good health. With no sickness hanging around I’m planning a few fun fall-themed activities. After all, this will be the first fall he is well enough to enjoy! 🙂

With a little bit of planning I think we can conquer the bucket list I made above. Since traveling with Uriah currently means traveling with several pieces of equipment and requires two drivers at all times I want to keep things simple to avoid burnout and frustration. I’ll also be following this cute tutorial for the hand print banner! 

Of course, Uriah won’t be able to do all these things; he’s not old enough or ready to drink hot chocolate. But he can watch Momma mix the drinks up, play with marshmallows, and smell the spices that are required for all the deliciousness. And playing in a creek merely means dipping his toes into the running water since full swimming is a little out of his league. But that’s the beauty of this list; it is adaptable and flexible to your own special family and needs.

Follow this Dropbox link and download your own adorable Fall Favorite (free!) printable. 🙂

With love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie

This Time Last Year: Learning About Hydrocephalus

September 8th, 2016 I drove to our high-risk specialist for a twenty-two week check up on Uriah. I remember feeling pretty good about our appointment; it had been at least four weeks since my last emergency room visit where I lost blood and thought, for the third or fourth time, I was miscarrying. Although, to be honest, we had had so many difficult issues in my pregnancy that getting an ultrasound always made me feel slightly uneasy — like, today might be the day I again learn something is wrong.

But we were doing okay; my subchorionic hematomas were disappearing, my misdiagnosed miscarriage was beginning to be a past memory, and we had a closet full of little girl dresses for our daughter. (Since we had been told it was a girl a few weeks prior).

I settled onto the little recliner and let the technician wave her ultrasound wand over my growing belly; we chatted but I could tell something was wrong. Small tears trickled down her face as she tried to remain professional. A sinking feeling settled in but we pushed through the exam. When I told her we we’re expecting a girl and asked for a confirmation I got to experience one of those funny moments when I’m told, “No, it’s a boy; see here?” I laughed to myself because, why shouldn’t the gender be wrong; it had already been a chaotic first pregnancy why not add a little comedy to it? I imagined naming him Isaac for laughter since it was too silly not to laugh.

She left and it took an abnormally long time for our doctor to appear. Again, the sinking feeling filled me. I had seen tears, hadn’t I? Eventually, the specialist arrived and, by the look of his face, I knew I could ask confidently, “Something’s wrong, isn’t it?” He asked me how knew and I commented on his very sweet but teary-eyed tech. He nodded, I asked to get off the recliner and sit in a real chair. Bad news shouldn’t be received while reclining.

Your little boy has a condition called Hydrocephalus. His brain is being compressed. His femurs and thigh bones are measuring short. This often goes hand-in-hand with trisomies. Like Down Syndrome? Yes, or Trisomy 13 or 18; both are incompatible with life. You’re son will need to be born in a specialized NICU by c-section; I recommended delivering early in a hospital in St. Louis. 

What do we do now?

There a number of tests we could take to rule out the possibilities of trisomies but I’ll be honest, they run a risk to the baby and premature labor. I won’t even offer a termination because I think you won’t accept one. You mean an abortion? No, we wouldn’t considerate that. We’ll need to do weekly ultrasounds to keep track of the baby’s head circumference and growth.

I’m not really sure what happened after that; I know I thanked him for his kindness and confidence in our God Who believed all life deserved to be born. I also told him to thank the teary-eyed tech for being so kind.

I scheduled the next appointment, walked to the car, unpeeled a banana and began to cry over that messy breakfast. I cried and I cried. I wanted to call Dalton but he was working and I hate giving him bad news over the phone. I wanted to call Mom but knew I wanted to talk to Dalton before anyone else. So, I called my wonderful friend and husband. The good news is that you’re having a son. The bad news is that there are some problems with his brain and bones. Maybe a Trisomy like Down Syndrome. Can you come home?

The day proceeded slowly; I cried while I drove home. Cried over how unfair it was to receive more bad news. Tears over the thought that my precious baby could be suffering that moment. Fear of the c-section and grief of losing the home birth we wanted. Tears because what did this mean for our little boy? What did a compressed brain mean for his future? What did a Trisomy mean? Could we really be one of those families who experience a child born incompatible with life?

The rest of the afternoon was spent at home with Dalton, who is an amazing comforter. I remember our land-lord showing up to do some painting in the house and Dalton asking him to come back later, we just got some bad news, he said. We chuckled over the gender mix up and ate ice cream, exhaustion filling our hearts.

I talked with our parents; telling them about the dubious medical diagnosis. Mom and Dad worked with some wonderful friends who had a precious daughter with the same diagnosis. They quickly called them and received the amazing love and understanding and practical advice you get from someone who has been in your shoes. Mom and Dad called back and told me about the connection and repeated the hope our friends had given.

And then I went to bed. The day had ended and we had survived. This precious baby boy with difficulties was still growing, still miraculous, and still ours. I’d spend the next few weeks re-writing my new birth plan to include a c-section and NICU two hours away; I’d google Hydrocephalus and then wish I hadn’t. I’d feel moments of pity and grief. I would write this blog post and we would begin to receive countless prayers and love from our friends and family. I would connect with a private Facebook group specifically for those with Hydrocephalus and I would be embraced by an amazing community. I would write this post 8 days after our ultrasound sharing all the blessings God was sending our way.

Little did I know my water would break in 10 days.

It’s amazing to be one year from this event; it feels like yesterday. Maybe that’s because our live’s went on a 9 month pause?

Yet, if given the chance, I would change none of it. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, I still cringe when I think of the memories. And yes, I wish I could make easier on Uriah.

But look at this precious baby. Look at what God has done in his little life. Look at the joy, the fun, the sweetness, and the miracles he has given us. 

I imagine that this time next year the bad memories will hurt a little less and the new ones, the memories we make this year, will be closer to the surface. I want Uriah’s first library visit to be the memory I think of this time next year. I want to remember the friends we’ve grown closer too and the family too. I want to reflect on how adorable and healthy Uriah is and how blessed we are.

I hope my reflecting over the past isn’t turning into a broken record for you, sweet readers. I process life through words and writing and, to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the hurt broken dreams bring. So I’m sorry if my reflection bores you; but this is how I work through life’s experiences. This is how I ponder God’s hand and how I move on from the pain and rejoice in the midst of it. I admit I’m still learning to get over the hurts and difficulties  but I thank God for His perfect will and plan for our lives — including all of the pain He’s helped us walk through.

With love, blessings, and coffee, 

Frannie

Parenting is Hard and Holy Work

We’ve officially been home from the NICU for 74 days. Having Uriah safe and in our own little nest has been more exciting and more fun than ever expected. I love having him to kiss and hold and read to at any moment of the day. I love watching his developing milestones take place on my own living room floor. And I adore the moments I catch him smiling because he’s happy in his home.

But motherhood is a lot more than I ever thought it would be. About once a week I find myself having a mini-anxiety session where I ponder the question all mothers do … am I doing enough? On top of that, I fancy having a child who requires special cares multiplies our fear that we are failing our little people.

Eventually, that worry snowballs into a once a month cry-fest where I turn to my husband’s strong chest and sob tears that have to come out. Stuttering cries fill our small bedroom because what if Uriah doesn’t develop properly because of me? Because, as all special need parents know, playtime isn’t just playtime any more; it’s physical and occupational therapy. Eating isn’t about getting your baby to latch or getting them to like all their food groups; it’s about watching for silent aspiration and pneumonia. And every time you run out of the house for thirty seconds to drop the garbage into the bin you run back in because what if your baby’s ventilator disconnected from the trach. It’s rereading the Resuscitation Instructions once a week so you’re as prepared as possible for something to go wrong with your medically complex child. It’s greedily counting the medical supplies shipped to your home once a month and then going to the store to buy all the regular things your ordinary yet not so ordinary baby needs.

It’s so much and sometimes I feel like I don’t measure up.

Mom, if you ever feel this way, I know. I feel all the feels with you. Parenting is responsibility. And special cares or not, it is hard.

The beautiful thing is that this hard thing we’re doing? It’s a God thing. Children are gifts from God; they’re not add-ons to your already full life. They’re not the next step in life. And they are never mistakes. God’s Word makes it clear that our babies are fearfully and wonderfully made and rewards. And if God is in it it is holy. And all that hardness? It’s meant to make you more holy.

So, that baby who is fussing, or that toddler who is out of control, or that teenager who lives a busy and sometimes wildly confusing life, they’re all God things. (He’s also there for all the one’s taking care of an ailing spouse or family member.) It’s holy, hard work but that means God will be in it.

I cannot tell you the times I have seen God come in an lift my weary heart. He did it from the very beginning, during my misdiagnosed miscarriage, through the very scary first trimester, when my water broke at 24 weeks, during my 63 days on hospitalized bed rest, and during the 7 months Uriah lived in the NICU. God showed up and personally walked us through the hardest season we have endured.

And He’s here. God is still walking me through the nights when I feel like I simply didn’t measure up. He’s here, ready to bear my burden and give me grace, on the days when I’m afraid I didn’t do enough.

He’s here and He is more than enough. 

Sweet friend, I know. I know that this blog post isn’t going to fix the anxiety-filled nights or worried-filled days. I know that you can enter the morning feeling like Wonder Woman and go to bed feeling like a stinking pile of failure.

Despite how you feel, I want to encourage you to embrace the truth — that this hard work you’re doing? God will walk you through it if you let Him. And He will let the hard work be holy work if we let Him work in us.

I’d love to hear about your experiences of parenthood? Tell me your stories! I love hearing from you? 

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie

Welcome Home // The End of Our 218 Days in the NICU

Hello, sweet, sweet peoples!

It has been far too long. There’s been a lot going on (not to mention a laptop needing a repair shop). Most wonderfully, we are home! After 63 days of hospitalized bedrest and 218 days in the NICU (281 all together!) the Duncan #partyof3 finally made it home.

We were discharged from St. Louis Children’s Hospital June 26th; we’ve been home a grand total of 42 days. It is absolutely glorious! Forty-two days to begin adjusting to having a baby at home. Forty-two mornings waking up to being in the same house, in our own beds, and forty-two nights of baths, snuggling, and enjoying every moment together at last.

Here are some pictures of our days together! (Click on them for a larger view) 🙂

We are so thankful to be home. Uriah’s life has been a full adventure and God has been exceedingly good to us! Sometimes, as I rock Uriah to sleep, I ponder the events of the last 10 months. From the moment my water broke at 24 weeks (and even beyond that!) all the way to Uriah being born and having multiple surgeries, close calls, and the difficulties living 2 hours way from home God has been present, loving us and preparing us every step of the way.

There is still a lot of growth and development we are working on but Uriah is making amazing progress! He just weaned off his oxygen (woohoo!) and we will begin discussing ventilator weans at his next appointment. His g-button has healed nicely and we do weekly tastings of thickened milk; sadly, it’s still not safe for him to eat by mouth (due to silent aspiration) but, Lord willing, we will get there. These things just take time, patience, and hard work. 🙂 His VP shunt seems to be working perfectly! We had his 6 month shunt anniversary in May; it’s often said that if a shunt lasts 6 months it is a good possibility it will work for quite a time. Below is a comparison of his first MRI (on the far right) taken at birth, to an MRI done after the shunt was placed (middle), and the most current MRI (far left). See the amazing difference in those white areas of the brain? That is the brain’s ventricles shrinking as the brain expands and the excess cerebral fluid drains away. What a blessing!

As far as personality and development Uriah is absolutely wonderful! He has the sweetest, funnest personality ever. He loves to chew on everything, stick his tongue on Mom and Dad when we kiss him, talk around his trach, roll on the floor, play with his toys, and listen to music and Mommy read. He loves snuggling with his bear-bear (a grey, silky bear and blanket) before bed and then he sleeps a full 8 hours (usually). He’s always happy to wake up and start the day — a true beam of sunshine in our lives!

 

Some things we are looking forward to? Starting weekly physical therapy visits! 🙂 Uriah loves to roll around but before he can start crawling he needs more muscle development in his neck, core, and arms and tummy time plus therapy will really help! We’re also excited for his highchair which should be arriving this week! I can’t wait for him to have a special place to sit with a tray! And, one day, we’ll feel more comfortable taking Uriah on trips so we can go visit our family. That will be exciting!

There’s so much more to share but I’ll hold off till a later day; I can’t wait to begin writing again. Being home is, for me, such a special time and I adore the mundane, daily tasks I get to accomplish. Cooking, baking, decorating, cleaning … it all has a new meaning after being away since last September. 🙂 I’m sure one day I’ll grow tired of the never-ending tasks but for now I savor them and squeeze them in between the moments of play, snuggling, and work with Uriah.

In the mean time, thank you all for your love, prayers, and friendship. I so appreciate your being patient with my lack of commenting. Our laptop is currently out of commission but once repaired I hope to be back in this community again. Until then!

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie