Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stand Up On Top of Your Struggles: My 2011 Journey

As 2011 comes to a close, it's a time for reflection. It's always a time for prayer and finding a more deeper intimacy with Christ; but with a new year comes even more a time to find God, isn't it so?

This year, I won't paint a pretty picture of happy-go-lucky Faithful Mama. This year was the most difficult so far for me. I think this is why I decided to start back up with writing. I needed an outlet; and swimming laps twice a week was not enough. I know I have a good life. I know things could be much worse. This is just a reflection of the hardships I overcame since December 2010. I write not only to you, so that you may, in turn, reflect on your past year, but also for myself. I need to do this for me. It may sound selfish, but sometimes we need to find something that helps us overcome obstacles. Finding your faith is the best way for that by far. For me, writing is the second best.

It all started on December 16, 2010. I was 10 weeks pregnant with Faithful Baby 3. It was 7:30am and we were on our way to drop the boys off at their Grandma's house so that we could get to the hospital for Mr. Faithful's first of five endoscopies to check for cancer and to stretch his esophagus. *He has a condition called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). If left untreated, it can lead to Barrett's Syndrome and esophageal cancer. We turned out of our subdivision and not two minutes down the street we were t-boned by a car that never saw us. His car pushed our van across on coming traffic and into a store parking lot. He hit us going (we think) at about 35-40 mph. We were doing 35 mph and had the right of way. He must not have looked on our side and just never saw us. It was horrific. As soon as it happened our engine shut off, both front air bags deployed. It smelled of smoke (now in retrospect it was the air bags that smell of sulfur). Our oldest Faithful Boy was screaming and crying. Our middle Faithful Boy didn't make a sound *scariest thing ever to go through that and not hear your baby cry*. It was my door the car hit. The car came within an inch of my legs. I struggled to open my door, but at that point I had super human strength so that I could get to my Faithful Babies. I got my door open, grabbed Faithful Boy 1 and we ran as far as we could as Mr. Faithful grabbed Faithful Boy 2. I called 9-1-1 and they showed within a few minutes. A Good Samaritan stopped and offered for my sons and me to stay in his truck to keep warm as Mr. Faithful checked on the other driver. Thank God for that man in the white truck. It was a cold winter morning and my kids (and myself) were traumatized. We were all taken to the hospital via the ambulance and were diagnosed with moderate whiplash. Thanks be to God no one was hurt worse! However, I was so scared I might lose my Faithful Baby 3 with a miscarriage, or that the baby would have problems after birth. Thank our Heavenly Father he was just fine and is now a healthy six month old baby boy!!

Shortly after that accident, Mr. Faithful went through many endoscopies. This is where they take a scope down your throat and look with a tiny video camera to see if there are abnormalities in your esophagus and stomach. He has a very weak esophagus and has had very bad acid reflux his whole life. Over the years the acid has made his esophagus wear down, which can lead to cancer. In February, we had the longest two week waiting period to discover he was cancer free. It was the longest two weeks of my life to find out if my husband had it or not. It made me appreciate him more, and helped me with my faith as well. I realized that I must leave all things in God's hands and offer my worries to Him. He knows what is best for everyone. If Mr. Faithful had cancer, we would be able to find peace through Jesus Christ. We were united once again in a way I cannot describe to people of no faith. We were very relieved to find out he was cancer free, but he is not in the clear. His GERD is a lifelong disease, and we try to manage it through diet. He will never be in the clear and will always have to be aware of his health.

With the accident and Mr. Faithful's health, he became depressed. He had a very hard time (and still does) offering his stress to our Lord. With his depression came a lack of desire for anything, including being the man he usually is for his wife and children. It was a very hard time as I was pregnant and I've been a stay at home mom since my first was born. He is our sole income, and come April, his stress wreaked havoc on his body...mainly his digestive tract. He was hospitalized twice. He had extra endoscopies and a colonoscopy to see if he had Crohn's Disease, Celiac Disease or again to check for cancer. He was off of work for two weeks during this month due to his digestive system basically making us think it was shutting down. He couldn't eat, could barely drink without having a terrible reaction. It was any food, even the most healthy we could think of.

Thank God for the Elizabeth Ministry! My fellow ministers provided us with food and fellowship during this extremely difficult time. We had no money for food. Our church family as well as my parents helped immensely! I realized at this time, I had to be the stronghold for my family. I am grateful for the hardships God provides us with; through hard times we gain wisdom, love and humility.

After his recovery, Mr. Faithful at this point finally admitted it being severe depression he was suffering from. He decided to heal himself spiritually first. So he began to attend private RCIA to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. He never went through this sacrament as a child and felt he needed to make his Catholic faith concrete. I was so proud of him! He still has yet to receive the sacrament, but he is making strides in completing the class! It's been a long hard road for him to be the sole provider for a family of five. As his wife, I understand how difficult it is...working 12 sometimes more hours a day, 7 days a week with no time off, to come home an hour before the kids go to bed. He misses us. We miss him. But we are grateful he has a job in this economy. We are grateful I can stay home to be the mother I am for our children. To be able to be their primary teacher instead of leaving that work to a babysitter. We are grateful. Only through the grace of God do we get by; and God provides who and what we need at the exact moment in time we need it.

Another hardship I had was the birth of my third Faithful Baby Boy. I was healthy. I swam laps clear up until about 38 weeks (until I started getting contractions lol!). I went into labor at my nephew's baptism! I did not trust my own body and listened to Mr. Faithful and we went to the hospital way too early. That was one big mistake. I feel like I was raped during this childbirth. The nurse I had was terrible. She was rude, mean and made me uncomfortable to the point where I think she wanted me to be in pain. I wrote a letter to the hospital about my terrible experience. I am not going to go into details here. I don't want to scare anyone. But what I will say is this...I am going to become a doula and lactation specialist so that I can help other laboring women to avoid this in hospitals. No woman should ever have to endure what I did with the birth of my baby. Despite how hard my labor and delivery was, I went through my third natural childbirth and had a very healthy and happy 8 pound 5 ounce baby boy. He was my saving grace during a very hard year. I love him to pieces and am so blessed to have three healthy and happy children!

The week we were home after Faithful Boy 3 entered our lives, Mr. Faithful *again, not going to lie* was a beast. Mr. Faithful, I love you, but it's true. He was mean, he was callous to my needs as I healed from a traumatic childbirth, he was short tempered and selfish. This was totally opposite from the man I married! What happened was a mystery to me. Instead of doing the cooking, cleaning and taking care of the other children like he did when our middle child was born, he became his doppelganger! I was so happy to have my newborn. And I was also happy that I hadn't experienced the "Baby Blues" like I did after Faithful Boy 2 was born. But Mr. Faithful made it so difficult to be truly happy and celebrate the life we created. It was a bittersweet week for me. I will never be able to get that week back and will always try to remember the happiness I had in my heart despite the hardship.

While Mr. Faithful's attitude changed, so did our older Faithful Boys. Kids sense stress. They are very much tuned into their parents' matter how hard you try to hide your feelings from them. Our boys are very well behaved for the most part. With Mr. Faithful's attitude, quick temper and always telling them 'No' it made them act out negatively. When I am home with the kids they are great! We have fun; they are polite; they respect each other and me. As soon as their Dad gets home, total opposite. Mean to each other; screaming for attention; disrespectful to their parents. He soon realized what was happening and he told me he had an inkling that he needed to have a blood test. He scheduled himself to see our family doctor...

He had his hormone levels checked and Mr. Faithful was right. He suffers from low testosterone levels. Some of the symptoms over the past year made it clear this was what he was suffering from this whole year. Lack of drive for anything (sexual and non-sexual activities), hair loss, muscle mass decrease, mood swings, fatigue & insomnia, even sleep apnea. In retrospect, I noticed something was wrong when two people he knew died within a few weeks of each other. Both of them he hadn't spoken to in almost two decades. I found it odd that he was so upset about their deaths. At this point it made sense why he was so affected by them...his hormone levels were going crazy!! He is now on medicine to get the levels back to where they should be. Boy I tell you, with this man it's always some medical issue!! But I love him dearly and am glad he is willing to do whatever it takes to get back on track. He is my rock...and even though this year he wasn't a very sturdy one, he's my rock. I know he'll be back sometime soon, and he's worth waiting for.

Nothing like ending my year with another hardship right?! Tomorrow is my birthday (yay for 31 years young!!!). I get to spend it talking to my doctor about possibly having a condition of my own. I noticed I have lost hair on both sides of my head near the temples. My Mama Faithful and I did some research and this could possibly be Hypothyroidism, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. And we also thought that since Mr. Faithful is putting a testosterone gel on, that I could be getting the male hormone into my body and have an overabundance. Oh my goodness this worries me!! I'm a breastfeeding Mom as well...what does any of this mean for Faithful Boy 3??? Please pray for my visit tomorrow that it's just stress...I can handle that lol!

Another year, a new age, a new me. A new intimacy with Christ. A new year for intimacy with my husband. A new outlook on life. Be blessed Faithful ones, reflect on your own 2011. Was it all you hoped for? Could it have been better? We all go through trials and have crosses to bear. God never gives us more than we can handle, and He always will provide a way out from under the stress.

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." ~1 Corinthians 10:13~

Have a very safe, happy and blessed new year. Make 2012 God's year to reign no matter what your struggles are.

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