Strength Through Pain

I cannot pinpoint a day where I discovered my strength but I recognize a time, a period in my life, that made me strong even if I didn’t realize it at the time.  I recognize that finding strength through pain, as much as we may not choose it, is a powerful life lesson.  Don’t ever underestimate the force of strength that develops in you through life’s painful experiences.  Sometimes God gives you trials that strengthen you beyond anything you believed possible.

This is my story (and my family’s story too) of just such a pain that produced a strength in me I did not know I was capable of.  It isn’t always easy to reflect back on these experiences, but so important to recognize your growth. And, to appreciate our blessings.  I am sharing this to encourage you to seek out the lessons and positive take-aways from difficult experiences.  Find another perspective on life’s hard times.

My Ryan’s Introduction to this World

4wks old and in the adult ICU because his pneumonia could put the other babies at risk.  This was not my son’s first trip to the hospital and it would not be the last.  My son is 9yrs old now but he had to fight for this life that he is living.

Ryan was born with the umbilical cord wrapped twice around his neck.  As they pulled him out they had to cut the cord to free him, causing him to lose blood.  My brief celebratory moment of becoming a Mother for the second time didn’t last for long, they took him away immediately.

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I never got to Hold him the way You Usually do.

Living in a small town meant he was rushed off in the ambulance to Cape Town, an hour and a half away, where he would be able to get the treatment he needed.  He was premature and his lungs were underdeveloped.  They gave him a blood transfusion and they kept him there for 10days.

When I think of his introduction to this life my heart aches for that little baby.  I, in the meantime, drove to the city with my husband with a fresh C-Section wound.  If you are a mother you will know there is nothing on God’s green earth that could have kept me from him.  We cried, prayed and waited for 10 days while the Doctor and nurses watched over him and nursed him back to health.

Finally we got to take our Beautiful, Perfect Little Boy Home.

His 3yr old sister was not allowed any friends over and no birthday party this year, I’m sorry.  We had Granny’s and Grandpa’s and a special cake for the special girl, and she was brave, never once feeling hard done by.  I am still so proud of her for that.

All seemed normal, if you think not being able to kiss your child is normal.  We loved him, cuddled him but stay away from his face!  He was so vulnerable, his immune system weak.  And, on top of that he was a Winter baby so the threat of infection was high.  We weren’t home for long before he started coughing.  I immediately took him to the Doctor.

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A Baby Coughing is Not Normal.

She sent us back home with some meds.  Within days we were at the Emergency Room knowing we’d been given the wrong advice.  Off to the city again.  This time it was pneumonia.  His little body struggled so much.  His one lung collapsed.  They told me not to rub him as a way to comfort because his body was hyper-sensitive and it would hurt instead of comfort.  I cried and prayed and felt completely worthless to help him.  I can clearly see his chest heaving through every strained breath and the pain still feels so real.

But, every day I showed up 3 times a day for my boy.  I sat with my hand on his little head watching his tiny body struggling for breath and sang to him.  I found a courage I never knew I had.  At the time I just did what I needed to do.  I am a Mother, it is natural (and necessary) to be there for my babies.  But, now I know how much courage it took.  I know that I pooled together ALL my resources; blood, sweat and tears to show up instead of collapsing.  I was broken but still there, my fierce love for him pushing me forward.

The Hospital Teaches many Things

So much of life happens in hospitals.  Like airports, there is jubilation and sadness at every turn.  For us, going through a life-threatening illness with a newborn, it was an extremely difficult time.  But, life has a way of putting things into perspective, even during lows like this.

Just across from Ryan in the ICU a young woman was brought in.  She was about 17yrs old.  She had been out having lunch with  her family when she collapsed.  Celebrating one minute, in the ICU the next.  Her family paced outside the ICU and we sat beside my son while we watched their story unfold before us.

She was declared brain dead and the decision was made to take her off life support.  Her young life was over while my baby fought for his.  This is life’s tragedy, the theatre of life playing out in front of us.  While I mourned for the loss of another human life I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the strength in my son’s tiny frame.

The thought of losing him was more than I could bear. How can you love someone so much that you haven’t had a chance to get to know yet?  The bond is beyond my comprehension.  I am forever grateful for the Doctor, the nurses and the grace of God that looked after my boy during his first month on this earth.  I cannot bear the thought of how different life would have been for us if we had gone home from the hospital without him in our arms.

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Don’t take Anything for Granted

I share this story because the message to my heart was never to take a single moment for granted.  We were given a chance to share this life experience with a special boy and I am forever grateful for that.  Through the years, the ups and downs and challenges of parenting, we always go back to this day when we almost lost him.  I go back to that sad knowing inside me that somewhere out there is a mother who is mourning still after 9yrs.

I did not lose my son that day but the pain I felt was one of loss, of mourning.  When people talk about ‘your why’, this is it!  Love, in my opinion, is always your why.  That love that you feel for the 35cm long frame of a newborn baby is more powerful than anything.  It is your reason for every single thing that you do.

Take Away Your Strength and Leave the Pain

Lessons come to us throughout our lives in many shapes and forms.  Quite often we don’t see them until after they are taught.   This experience was, in a way, more like connecting to the core of my being and laying the foundations anew.  It has made me stronger in my love for my family, stronger in my ‘why’, and stronger in the knowledge of who I am and what matters to me.

Try to look at your difficult times and see the lesson.  I honestly believe that there always is one.  It could be a lesson on perspectives, on boundaries, on fears, on honesty.  Know that there is one.  Life is tough, but when we are able to learn and to grow from our experiences we become stronger people.  Most importantly, though, we become people with bigger hearts.  People who are empathetic to the struggles of others, people who care.  Be someone who learns from their past in order to make the future a better place.  Finding strength through pain may not be the way we wish to learn life’s lesson’s but who are we to question the process.  May your pain make you stronger, kinder and wiser.

A Side Note

I just wanted to finish this off with a little side note on my choice of photographs for this blog.  My beautiful baby is a strong 9yr old boy now and I get to love, cuddle and enjoy him every day.  This blog is about focusing on all the things we have to be grateful for, not a reason to dwell on the moments that bring us pain.  I could have put up a photo of the moment he first made his appearance, the umbilical cord visible around his neck, but I wanted to put photographs of my healthy, amazing and happy child.  And, I wanted to celebrate my blessings, of which I have many!  I have added happy moments and left out the ones of him in the hospital.  I hope that when you think of your sad times you are able to do the same.

Much love,

Steph x

If you enjoyed this blog head over and read Mindsets That Hold Us Back

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