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I often see moms post about how sad they are that their babies are not newborns and tiny anymore, or sad that another year has gone by, and perhaps I could have related to that feeling a few years ago.
But, I just can’t relate to it now. I realize that my perspective is different than most, which is why I feel like I need to share it, especially this month.
I’m not sad that our boys are bigger, or that they are continually learning and doing new things. I doubt that I will ever look back with tears and want to go back to those newborn days.
I’m thrilled and delighted that they are ABLE to get bigger. That they are ABLE to grow and learn. Why am I delighted?
Because Tori wasn’t given that opportunity. Because Krabbe robbed her, and us, of a normal childhood. She stayed little, like a newborn, for her entire existence. She never learned to talk, walk, laugh, play.
We would do anything, anything, to have her here today, in full five-year-old glory.
And it is with that perspective and passion that I write, parent, and live.
I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude, amazement, and joy with every new milestone reached, and I don’t look back at their newborn pictures with sadness (disbelief that they were ever that small, amazement at how far they’ve come, but not sadness). Part of that is because newborn twins are seriously challenging and I don’t want to go back to that phase, but it’s mostly because of Tori, our precious baby girl who was taken from us too soon. I LOVE watching them learn and grow as healthy little men.
What makes me sad is that there are babies born each year with a treatable condition but that their ZIP code determines whether they have a chance to live or not.
What makes me sad is that families like ours, families with so much love for their children, have to say “see you later” to their child and be separated from them until we get to Heaven.
I fight for Newborn Screening for Krabbe because I don’t want anyone else to go through what we’ve experienced. I want babies born with Krabbe to have the same opportunity for life as any healthy baby. I want their parents to be able to see their children achieve typical milestones. I want their children to grow up.
I know motherhood is challenging and it’s easy to be frustrated. I get it. I have my moments like anyone else. However, in those moments I remember that not every child gets to grow up, like my Tori, and I remind myself that I have so much for which to be thankful.
I pray that you can do the same. ❤
Not long ago I opened the calendar app on my phone and counted the number of weeks between Tori’s birth and the onset of Krabbe. I was surprised to find that she became fully symptomatic at exactly twenty-three weeks. To the day.
That’s how old the boys are today.
Our healthy, strong, Krabbe-free identical twin boys are the same age today as Tori was when a horrific disease began to steal everything from her – her smile, her laugh, her ability to swallow, and eventually her life.
As I was typing this, I momentarily thought “I wish I would have known that she’d never smile again so I could have treasured it.” But my next thought was, “Hmmm…would I really want to know?”
So often we say that we would, but is it ever a good idea when it’s something we can’t change? I think in most instances we’d end up worrying so much about what was about to happen that we would be unable to be fully present. Instead, I will treasure the smiles she did have as well as the smiles from her brothers each day.
I have been asked many times if I think I have some degree of PTSD, and after considering the question, I can honestly answer no. Sure, there are things that will never be the same about me – or my parenting – after Tori (for instance, I definitely check to make sure the twins are breathing far more than I expected to do), but I most certainly do not have PTSD. Brennan would tell you the same. We are living in joy and peace.
And that leads me to wonder why.
Why are we okay when so many who’ve walked in our shoes aren’t okay?
I had a conversation with my chiropractor during my most recent visit and it helped me in unexpected ways.
She remarked that she has loved seeing how Brennan and I have walked through this journey with grace and joy (we take no credit for that), and she loves how we’ve chosen to live out our faith. Her encouraging words (and great adjustment) would have been enough, but the Lord chose to continue to speak through her.
I told her that I often wonder why Brennan and I seem to be set apart from so many who have lost children, how we seem to be handling it so differently than most, even than other believers.
It’s not that we never think or talk about Tori (quite the opposite). She’s very much a part of our home and we will make sure the boys know everything about their big sister. It’s not that we’ve “gotten over it” because you really don’t ever “get over it” when you’ve lost a child.
(Side note: who defines what that actually looks like? Who makes the rules? Not getting over it doesn’t have to mean crying all the time or living your life depressed. It simply means that you are never the same, but it has such an unnecessarily negative connotation. We will never “be over” losing Tori but we also choose to live the life we think she’d want us to live – she’s in Heaven, happy as can be, so why wouldn’t she want us to live in joy?)
I expressed to her that I feel sorry (not pity, but genuine sadness) for those who can’t move on, who cry daily, who can’t seem to find joy in their lives after a tragedy like child loss. I mentioned my blog post about not visiting Tori’s grave. That we’re different but I can’t figure out why. That I wonder if we’re “doing it wrong” because we’re genuinely doing well and so many around us aren’t.
And then she said this: “it’s because you don’t let it define you. It’s because you find your identity in something (someone!) greater.”
In that moment, it clicked. She is totally right.
It’s not my identity. I’m not a victim, and I’m not a martyr.
Yes, I lost a child. Yes, it was terrible.
And yet, losing Tori doesn’t define me.
Did it impact me? Of course. But that’s not what defines me. The love of God (and my love for Him) defines me and my life. His mercy and grace overwhelm me and fill me with abundant gratitude. His faithfulness reminds me that we will see Tori again in Heaven for an ETERNITY. In a perfect place. With perfect bodies. No Krabbe. Forever.
I could elaborate more, but I already did in Even So, Joy 😉
We all have to choose what defines us, and I choose to NOT be defined by child loss. ❤
As I watch Tori’s brothers today, I am amazed at their strength, at their smiles, at their health. They are doing things that Tori was never physically able to do – before or after Krabbe – and each new achievement is worthy of celebration. Every milestone reached fills us with awe.
That’s why I wanted to count the weeks.
That’s why I wrote a note on the calendar to pay attention to their development at twenty-three weeks.
Not because of PTSD. Not because of grief.
But because I am so indescribably thankful for God’s blessings to us. For his faithfulness. For His love. For every smile that these precious boys display. Everything. I don’t deserve this abundant life He has given to me, but I will embrace it and praise Him for it.
Even so, it is well with my soul. ❤
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