Grace

What I know now….

It was a little over 5 years ago I entered into the classroom for the first time. It’s crazy to think it was that long ago, yet, it seems like yesterday. Nick and I had just moved to Sugar Land, I was coaching a 10U select team with a seasoned and wise softball coach, and I had decided I would also help with the high school softball team when it came time.

At this point, Nick and I had barely been married a year; he transferred to a new city he had never lived in before and honestly he didn’t like it. I had already dealt with 3 deaths of people close in my life in the first 6 months of our marriage. We had bought our first house so we were also navigating new home ownership for the first time in the midst of all these changes. It was fun and hard. I was working over 70 hours a week trying to be the best teacher I could be and gone for the weekends with a traveling select softball team. Needless to say, I was busy. Nick decided to look for a new job 6 weeks after his transfer down with Chase Bank. Nothing really seemed ideal at this point. Our marriage was strained but at least we had each other.

Then, in the midst of it all, the following January,  Nick and I made the decision to take in his mother who needed our help. She was in really poor health, at the time, and we knew it was the right thing to do – no matter the timing. She has Parkinson’s and, at the time, she had this diagnosis for 10+ years but the condition of her health 5 years ago made it apparent that we needed to help, get her to see the best doctors we could in Houston and try to keep her alive. It was a really scary situation for everyone and not a very easy transition. Overall, we made it work and now she is in much better overall health. For the last year or so, she has lived on her own outside of Dallas. We couldn’t be more happy about her progress.

But this isn’t what my blog is about, really.

During all of this, at my job at a Christian school, I kept hearing this word: GRACE. I heard it a lot. I heard it a lot in terms of my teaching. You see, I am a tough teacher (or I was). But what I had a hard time understanding back then was how to get the kids to be motivated. What I really mean…. is I didn’t know how any student couldn’t love school as much as I did. BIG WAKE UP CALL.

My first year was R-O-U-G-H. I learned I’m the 10% of students that actually did what the teacher said as far as homework, studying, reading, etc. Now, I wasn’t the brightest student but I worked my ass off in school. I had a hard time motivating those students who weren’t like me as a student. I was young and so that presented another issue of authority – I was rigid and unwavering. The principal at the time was hard on me – really hard on me. I think he knew I was good but also knew I had a LOT to learn. So GRACE kept popping up in our conversations. I think by the end of that year I would have vomited if I had heard that word one. more. time. GRACE.

A few days ago I was driving the boys home from “Donut Friday” and I thought about all this. I laughed because ironically our daughter’s middle name is GRACE and I laughed at how fitting it feels to us to name her that. Because guys, 3 kids under 3! We will need the GRACE we can get. I realized in the car how I really didn’t understand the word, GRACE, at all until I had the boys. I was virtually screamed at until blue in the face my first couple of years of teaching about giving GRACE and it fell on deaf ears, again and again and again. To me, it was an excuse. A scapegoat. Instead of holding students accountable for their actions…. we needed to give them GRACE. I’m not going to lie, there were times where actions and consequences didn’t match up in certain situations and I vehemently disagreed with some decisions regarding GRACE being given but nonetheless I still didn’t fully “get it”.

I don’t know why it took until having my own children but somehow something clicked. I realized in that moment in the car that the reason I couldn’t understand GRACE back then is because I was trying to protect myself from feeling vulnerable. Seriously. I mean if you look at the snip-it of our lives the first year and a half of our marriage, it was insane. Nick and I went through a TON and honestly, we felt alone as a couple. Not many people our age were dealing with as many elements of life at once and so it was hard to relate to anyone. So, I really don’t blame myself for guarding myself like that but it was a HUGE factor in how my life has shaken out in the last few years.

Then, we had the boys and we are 8 days away from having this little girl and it clicks. I haven’t taught a full year of school in 2 school years (though I have started the last 2) and I finally get it. I get WHY I had a hard time giving GRACE when I walked through those doors over 5 years ago. LIGHT BULB MOMENT. 

I couldn’t give GRACE to them because I couldn’t give it to myself. 

Wow. What a heart stopping moment at 38 weeks pregnant with your 3rd child and your beautiful boys behind you. If you know me, you probably aren’t surprised. I am my biggest critic – TO A FAULT.

But how could I have given something to someone else that I didn’t experience to myself for myself? I couldn’t. There was no way.

How did having kids do change this for me? They show me it every day. Every day they give me GRACE. Every. Single. Day. Every day I feel it. I see it. I live it. I’m not perfect and pregnant me is FAR from perfect. But my boys (including my husband) love me through it anyway. They show me every day through their actions, their kisses and hugs at bedtime, when they help clean up their toys and even when they just want to snuggle.

They forgive me daily from my faults. They show me GRACE. And I will forever be grateful for that gift. Because when I step back into that classroom one day, I won’t be the same. I will still be tough but I can give something else (and probably more) to them that I have finally experienced from being a mother.

 

It’s the toughest job I’ll always love.

 

Rachel

Fantasy vs. Reality

Accepting change

Over the last 3 or so years, I have been seeing a counselor. Sometimes consistently and sometimes not. Usually when I am not seeing her consistently is when I really should be – funny how that works. In actuality, it’s really not funny. It’s actually pretty stressful for me when I take breaks for extended periods of time. Anyway, my counselor has been key in helping me sort through many of my life changes. I don’t know if it’s HER or if it’s just the fact that I have someone outside of my life to talk to; an objective person helps so much. If you haven’t tried it, you should!

Fantasy vs. Reality is a hot topic in our sessions. Fantasy – what you think or dream up to be in a given situation. Reality – the actual situation at hand. Some people can just roll with whatever happens in the reality even if it’s different from what they thought; whereas, others (**cough, me, cough**) have a harder time coping with the change. I’ve generally had a harder time adjusting to given changes in my life ever since I can remember. As I have gotten older, I’ve coped with some changes and have had harder time with others. I mainly struggle with the ones that have drastically changed from what *I thought* would be how life would work out.

For example, one thing that I thought would be easy would be having children. Isn’t this what we all think? At least, what we all think when we don’t have any perceived medical diagnosis, anyway? You get married, buy a house and have children. After all, it’s the “usual way” people do things. Now, I realize not everyone does this in that order and that’s totally fine. But this is what I thought it would be for me and my husband.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. Actually it was the exact opposite. About 3 years into our marriage and 2 years of no baby, I became suspicious of a possible issue. Nick and I were open to having kids but it wasn’t an intentional act of trying and tracking; however, I felt something wasn’t right. In the summer of 2014, after finally convincing my husband of doing some tests, we found ourselves at the Houston Fertility Institute at their Sugar Land, Texas location. We were told in our initial consultation that couples have a 25% chance of conceiving in their first year of trying (that’s WITHOUT any perceived issues) and then after that the numbers drop significantly: down to 5% per year and it lowers every year after that. Talk about a punch in the gut! We were in our second year of being open to children and BOOM, a scientific kick in the pants.

We went on to do some testing. I was having feminine issues with my cycle anyway and during “that time of the month” having a lot of pain. Anyway, the results from my tests weren’t good. I had stage 3 to stage 4 endometriosis. According to Mayo Clinic, endometriosis “is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs” (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/home/ovc-20236421).

I don’t think I could have been more devastated. This is not what I dreamed up, remember? This is not how it was supposed to be for us. This made our chances of having a baby even less. Unfortunately, if we wanted to do any fertility treatments it could and would make the disease worse as it feeds off estrogen in your body; so, if we did do anything, we would be taking the risk of making this worse for us. We just weren’t ready to take that risk. In fact, we were actually trying to avoid it as much as possible. I was 25 years old – this shouldn’t be happening. 

Nick and I opted for me to undergo surgery to remove as much of the endometriosis as possible so we could possibly try to conceive on our own. Here’s the deal: endometriosis grows microscopically so anything they could see and remove, they would but it didn’t mean I was necessarily in the clear. It’s constantly growing. So following the procedure, I would have monthly injections that would essentially put me into menopause to try to reduce the legions as much as possible. I wasn’t too excited about it. Surgery, in general, is usually pretty rough for me – I’ve had a few in my life to know the general gist of what would happen post-op. My body takes forever to get rid of the anesthesia.

The laparoscopic procedure was slated for 90 minutes. The doctor would blow my stomach up with air so they could see the organs and be able to manipulate them to burn off the legions – hopefully without damaging any other organs. The worse part of it was that my ovaries had huge cysts on them. Taking those out wouldn’t be easy and in fact, it would be so important for the doctor to be precise as to not damage my ovaries further. Every time they take a cyst out, they would be taking part of my ovary (not enough to cause permanent infertility but that was definitely a risk). Then, there’s the whole we “really don’t know what it will be like until we are in there” uncertainty and you always hope it’s better than the doctors expect. 

Little did I know this 90-minute-you’ll-be-back-on-your-feet-in-3-days procedure, turned into blowing my stomach up a second time and a 3 hour procedure. Of course, I didn’t know any of this until I woke up from the surgery. The whole 3 days back on your feet was a LOAD OF CRAP. It took me well over a month to feel “normal” again. You know that fantasy vs. reality thing I was talking about before – yep, I was not happy. In fact, I was angry. Well, let me take a step back – I was very glad the doctor took her time – I had such a bad cyst on my fallopian tube that had she not taken her time, I could have lost it or woken up with a cut open abdomen. So, I am very thankful that. But I was still mad. I was so uncomfortable for weeks! Have you ever had gas pumped in your stomach for any procedure, IT IS AWFUL! Again, this is not what I was expecting. And I had a very hard time accepting that.

Honestly, this whole time I had a hard time dealing with the reality of what was happening and how this was my fault. My body’s fault. Nick, in no way, made me feel this way – this was something I was personally dealing with. In fact, he was amazing during this process. I think if you are the one with the diagnosis in the relationship, it’s normal to have these feelings. But it still sucks, to say the least.

By September 2014, I was on those menopause shots. Okay, again – totally not fun. Talk about a wild roller coaster of emotions, literally. But this, again, was our best chance to combat the endometriosis from growing back quickly and to potentially start trying when all this was over. A medically induced menopause at 25 years old – that was really hard to wrap my mind around it. I wasn’t supposed to have a cycle while on this medicine…..until I did. THAT WAS AWFUL. If you’re a girl, you know an unexpected period isn’t fun at all. Nope. Not at all.

After 3 months on the shots, I had an ultrasound in December 2014 and I was devastated. The cysts had grown back. Not as big but they were there which meant the shots really didn’t help. Maybe they did a little bit but the cysts were there. THE CYSTS WERE THERE! SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL! I was screaming inside on that table. I felt like I had put my body and my mental health through absolute torture the last 6 months! For what!?!

Nick and I ended up right where we didn’t want to be…..

Facing the biggest personal and financial decision of our lives…..

Here’s to everything in between (including the crap),

Rachel