Tuesday, May 21, 2013

swinging and bending, part 4: the breaking.

{image found here.}

Read the first part of this story, 

and the second part,

and the third part,

Round and around and around we go...
The reason I hold on
'Cause I need this hole gone.

Funny, you're the broken one,
But I'm the only one who needed


i was 24 years old when caleb was born.

we brought him home, and i remember immediately feeling protective.  at 4 lbs, 9 oz, he could only eat from a syringe with a small tube hanging from it, guided into his mouth by either mine or ben's pinky finger.  he struggled in almost every area--sleeping, eating, pooping, gaining weight, and mostly, in being content.

his screaming began at around 10 days old and was followed quickly by his seizures.  with his screaming, something inside of me broke--the dream of having the happy, fat, cooing child.  idealistic hope was gone and replaced with desperation.  i quickly turned into the mother i had previously judged and scorned; ignoring all of the books i had read, i resorted to doing whatever it took to silence his cries.

when the seizures were finally diagnosed at 2 1/2 months, another piece inside of me broke.  the piece that knew what faith meant.  i became a mother full of fear, and without knowing it, began to believe that i was singlehandedly keeping this tiny, sick boy alive.

ben was an amazing father and i knew he loved caleb deeply, but seemed to have a more casual attitude toward the instructions we were repeatedly given about his care by specialists.  his mantra of "oh, he'll be fine" terrified me, because it meant i was out in this scary world alone with a special-needs baby.  his actions deepened the fear.  we would talk about how we were going to handle big family situations with caleb, and i was in sync with what the doctors were telling us, to be extremely cautious.  ben would say he felt the same, then change his mind when we actually got in the situation.  i couldn't understand what was going on, and internalized it as somehow my fault.  that he thought i was too crazy, or overprotective, but didn't want to tell me.  so i tried to stuff down the confusion and distrust, not realizing it manifested itself as more fear.  even though there were others around supporting me...i felt i was the only one truly bearing this burden.  i became a control freak, fueled by anxiety and "what if's" that would run through my head all hours of the day and night.

ben and i have talked about this point in our lives many times, and how it was a crossroads for us.  up until then, we had been a strong team, weathering the outside storms between extended family together.  now the rain began to pour inside of our safe place, the winds carrying me to one side and ben to the opposite.

"i felt like i lost my wife,"  he has said.

"i felt like the carefree, worry-free, easily happy person i was--died.  and, i felt like i could no longer trust you to be honest with me, because you didn't want to hurt me,"  i have said.

so, there was that.

we had hoped that having caleb would help bring about a merger to the sides of family who were still contending, and maybe he did.  but it seemed like more of a cold war began, where no one really spoke to each other at family events, just passing icy smiles and nervous glances.  i was so focused on dealing with caleb, that i stopped noticing.

we lived in the basement apartment of my parents' home until caleb was 10 months old.  they had a marriage that had been full of ups and downs.  when things were good between them, they were great.  but during the time we were living there, signs pointed toward them taking a turn for the worse.

i had been witness to this for many years and had grown somewhat of a callous skin to it, but after living in a peaceful, virtually contention-free marriage for 2 years, the understanding of just how unhealthy things were became glaringly acute.  i grew up only knowing this as my only perspective on marriage, and thought it was normal.  i now knew it was not.

this was ben's first time to have a front row seat to some difficult moments.  because he loved them both, and he could not change or help their situation, this began to take its toll on him.  i could see him beginning to separate from them, requesting more space and a clarity on boundaries to define "our own family time." i could understand his desire, but because i had slipped back into my family role as buffer and peacemaker, i didn't see these new boundaries as necessary.  i felt needed, and worth more when i played this role.  boundaries and separation took that from me.  i wavered when it came to upholding them, continually giving excuses for this justification or that. but the truth is, i didn't know how to say no without feeling guilty, and i didn't know how to feel good about myself unless i was acting the part of the "good girl" that i had played for so long.

however, i did have my eyes opened as an adult viewing my parents as an adult.  even though i was still young in married life and motherhood, i began to see them as equals.

during the year we were there, i saw a cycle in their relationship that scared me, because it resonated inside as patterns of my own. enabling one's anger by allowing mistreatment, at the sake of "doing whatever it took" to make another happy.  then, because of fearing the anger or huge emotional reaction, becoming passive aggressive and covertive, using small twists of reality to portray a situation so it would be easier for another to accept.  using self-lies to justify these twists, that the intent behind doing it is to really "help another."  then the lies would be caught, and the reaction was so harsh and forceful that it caused it all to begin again.  i wasn't doing this in my own marriage, but could see glimpses of where i had done it in other relationships, past and present.

i distinctly remember having one specific conversation in that basement.

"why are you allowing this?"  i asked.

"because, when the time comes for me to die, i want to be able to look my Father in Heaven in the eyes and tell him i did everything i could.  that even if it meant taking the aftermath of the anger i didn't deserve, and staying and loving and trying, never giving up--no matter what--that He will tell me i did a good job."

"but," i replied, "i feel like you're just the pillow, catching another's fall.  which is great for the one falling, to have something soft to land on.  but what happens to the pillow?  it's flattened, with all of its feathers slammed out of it.  misshapen and crunched.  why would God want you to sacrifice yourself for another, at the risk of your own demise?  i understand selflessness in a relationship, but not to this extent.  why are they worth better treatment than you're worth?  that just doesn't sit right with me.  what is Jesus for, then?  what is His sacrifice for?  He took this, so that we wouldn't have to.  He is the pillow, not you.  He is the Savior, not you.  but if you continually put yourself in His place, then the one falling will never have to learn to rely on Him to catch their fall, if they can always rely on you.  meanwhile, you're breaking apart here.  i can see it.  i have seen it, for years.  and when you say 'no matter what,' do you really mean that? do you know what you're saying?  what if things get worse?  do you have any limits, any boundaries?  will there be anything that will cause you to say to yourself 'I deserve better' and demand for it to stop?"

that night, somewhere deep down, i was also speaking to myself.  

i could see the damage they had caused each other through the years.  i could also see myself in these things, through them.  the problems in my past relationships became obvious, recognizing the enabling and savior role i had accepted either to change the other or in an attempt to feel some sort of self worth.

in my marriage it was still difficult to detect because both of us had the same unhealthy piece of wanting to be the pleaser, instead of one extreme and another.  when we talk about it now, we can see it inside of the situations surrounding caleb.  neither ben nor myself had been completely honest, stuffing down uncomfortable emotions so we wouldn't have to have uncomfortable conversations.  our dishonesty, though small and unintentional,  caused a resentment to form that took years to understand and undo.

what was finally clear during that year in the basement apartment, was where i had learned and formed this unhealthy, codependent, enabling part.  i had been watching it unfold in front of me for my entire life.

luckily, ben and i still loved being together.  we both pushed our uncomfortable feelings aside, and tried our best to enjoy what we could of being a young family under stressful situations.  we celebrated the milestones caleb would make, breathed an enormous breath of fresh air as his continual crying finally began to cease when he was around 5 months old, and found our new normal creating happiness within the reality of life with our difficult, but miraculous baby.  in many ways, our love strengthened during that time.

ben was hired at a new job about 2 hours south, and we decided to take it.  by this point, we were waist-deep into appointments with specialists and physical therapists and developmental pediatricians for caleb.  my life was consumed with him.  and because of the fear that had taken on full force, i rarely trusted him with anyone besides myself and ben.  when i was around, sure.  but leaving him?  no way.  i had told myself i wouldn't be able to forgive myself if something happened to him, and since no one really knew how to take care of him the way i did, if something happened when i left him to--heaven forbid--go on a date with my husband, that would also be unforgivable.

as the breaking inside continued, i clung more tightly to the only thing that was becoming familiar to me:



Rachel Chick said...

Isn't life such a beautiful journey? I read this and look at how you have grown over the years and it's so beautiful. It makes me look at myself and how a loving God transforms each of us through our experiences. It's truly lovely.

Thank you so much, as always, for sharing Lynsey. Your courage is inspiring and a blessing to me and as I talk to other people about their challenges, your voice is often in my mind. Thank you for all that you've taught me. I love you forever.

Nana said...

You are awesome and I just want you to know that you sharing this takes great courage and I love and respect you very much! So much for a young family to handle and deal with. Sending hugs your way!