Kate is 13! I can’t believe my baby is a teenager. I know it sounds cliche but it does really feel like my youngest was a wee babe just a few weeks ago.
Boy, has it been a year of big change. I can’t say one event hurts any less than the others but this one currently tugs at my heart the most.
It took us so long to have Kate. It seemed like every baby was a struggle. Not only did I struggle with fertility but when I finally became pregnant I suffered with severe morning sickness. Though it was really morning, afternoon, evening and all night sickness for nine solid months.
Thanks to famous sufferers like HRH Kate Middleton of the United Kingdom the condition hyperemesis gravidarum is a little more widely known but at the time it was a vaguely understood condition that translated into regular trips to the emergency room for IV treatments, rapid weight loss, extended bed rest and chronic suffering.
After my first two children were born we decided perhaps we should be done bringing babies into the world. It was a difficult decision and I struggled with it for years. I had always wanted to have at least 5 or 6 six kids running around and with only two I felt like I had failed.
But even more than fighting feelings of failure (as if I just wasn’t women enough to be able to manage pregnancy as well as billions of other women had before me) I very powerfully felt like someone was missing. I’d load the kids in the car to go to the grocery store and I would be struck with this sinking feeling that I’d forgotten someone. The feeling wouldn’t go away. I knew there was another baby I wanted to bring into our family.
So the Viking and I decided to try for one more. The decision felt so right. I knew that as soon as we started trying I’d quickly become pregnant. But I didn’t. Month after month my pregnancy tests came back negative. I didn’t understand. I knew it was right to bring another baby into our family. I was willing to go through whatever struggle necessary to bring get her here. But I just couldn’t get pregnant. I’d pray and study and visit doctors but there was nothing physically wrong with my fertility. I grew angry and confused and questioned if God actually heard my prayers. But I would just feel a gentle prompting whisper, “be patient”.
Patience hasn’t every really been one of my strengths but I tried. Finally, I just gave up and accepted that we would never have any more children. So I went back to work to pursued my career. Which is when I finally got pregnant.
I suffered with extreme nausea again but it wasn’t as hard on me emotionally. I suppose because I waited so long to have her I was prepared and I wanted her so much, I didn’t care what it took to get her here. I wanted my baby in my arms.
And then she was here! Five weeks early at a tiny 5 lbs she was born during a snow storm. I remember she didn’t cry, she just squeaked a little and blinked up at me as we got to know each other. Then I was whisked away for a tubal ligation. After three incredibly difficult pregnancies my OB, convinced me that for the health of my family and myself I needed to be done having babies.
I left the hospital determined to enjoy even minute of my last baby. But instead I was slammed with postpartum depression. I didn’t suffer from depression after my first two. In fact I felt like I was on an emotional high. But with Kate, I couldn’t seem to get a handle on my emotions. I was in a daily street fight with depression. And boy oh boy did I get sucker punched.
It’s funny, even though I have become a mental health advocate, educator and fully understand the underlying biology that leads to anxiety and depression it’s still difficult to admit how much I struggled. It’s so easy to associate shame with depression as if the sufferer has done something wrong.
My mental health left me consumed with feelings of failure and inadequacy for a very long time. Depression is insidious. It doesn’t just steal you joy, it implants the irrational thought that your lack of happiness is a personal failure. Which makes depression so much worse.
But no matter how dark my days felt, Kate carried this remarkable joyful light. She carries a little bit of sunshine everywhere she goes and has the ability to share it with people who need it the most. Maybe she was born with this trait, maybe she learned how to do it by imparting her light to me. I don’t know but those big blue eyes just twinkle and you know that no matter what you’re struggling with it’s going to be okay.
So Kate turning 13 and it’s a little rough. As thrilled as I am to see her grow into a remarkable, and tall!, young woman I feel like I didn’t get to enjoy her childhood years as much as I had hoped. Her early years slipped through my fingers and honestly some memories are blurred by that postpartum darkness. But now that you are married and Noah prepares to graduate from high school and leave for two years she’ll be the only child living at home for the next six years.
Sometimes I didn’t understand why it took me so long to get pregnant with her, why God would withhold a good and righteous desire of my heart. I felt like He wasn’t hearing my prayers and that somehow that reflected his lack of love for me. Now I see Emma, that sometimes God withholds blessings until we really need them. He knew what struggles were coming for our family. Maybe he held her back a little bit longer so she would get to have her parents to herself for a while. Or maybe he held her back because he knew how much we’d need her light now that you’re both moving out. Who can really say but to me those six years I had to wait, now, feel like redemption.