Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Feeling Gratitude for Past and Present

We decided to have a quiet Thanksgiving this year and because of that I've had some time to actually think. As a mom, this chance is rare. You don't get many of these opportunities because you're pretty much bouncing between things to be done or places to be, that when you finally slow down for the day, you fall asleep. You don't think, you just DO, until you can't possibly DO anymore. 

Now that I'm not packing for a holiday road trip or the reverse of needing to get things done before company arrives, I'm thinking. Sometimes this can be a bad thing, like when your mind is in a bad place, but for once in a very long time (and I'm actually scared to admit it) things are actually okay. Maybe even good.

Calvin has been in a really good place with his asthma and immune system (again so scared to type that and jinx us but is there really such a thing as jinxing?). It is what it is. You get what you get. You only have so much control and then it's luck. I need to grasp that we're going to have bad spells and I'll deal with them, I always have. But I should enjoy when we're in a good place without waiting for the bomb to drop, right? "Be present Nicki, be present."

To what do we owe this reprieve? It certainly isn't antibiotics or inhaled steroids. We've been trying something different. We have been working hard to get Calvin's body healthy enough to possibly fix itself. There's a theory that if you give the body what it needs to stabilize the chemical, emotional and physical state, it will heal itself. To help us do this, we started seeing an amazing Chiropractor (who hails from Wadena, Minnesota - Holla!) and we started giving Calvin strong doTERRA essential oils regularly. 

We hadn't thought this was possible in the past for two reasons. For one, the doctors told us it wouldn't help, we shouldn't bother with Hocus-Pocus. They had no faith in it. Secondly, we simply couldn't afford to give it a try. When you're spending so much money on chest x-rays, medications, tests and doctor copays; there isn't room in the budget for expensive oils and a trial run at Chiropractic treatments. All of which may or may not work.

The opportunity to take a chance came when I was offered a job caring for this awesome little baby every day while my kids are at school. It is so sweet to get my baby snuggles and giggles in, and it's great to have some extra income too. This allowed us to try the natural route while hedging our bets with the traditional treatment. I believe you have to find a balance between the two worlds when treating a disease.

I'm still nervous to say that it's working but I really think it is. It's been two months of weekly Chiropractic treatments as well as daily oils and Calvin has made it through two respiratory colds without needing massive doses of his rescue meds or developing pneumonia. I think that's huge, I know that's huge. So, yes that has to say something. 

His ailment hasn't only had external influence though. His close and frequent brushes with life threatening illness has made him weary. Sure, he tends to be more careful around germs, and what parent doesn't want that? But it's also caused unhealthy fears, the likes of which we've had to seek professional help for him to be able to process them correctly. He was fearing his own death which is still hard to talk about. It's one thing for me to be afraid for him when his lungs are failing to extract enough oxygen from his breath, but much harder when your child is aware and feels it. Luckily we found a great therapist to help him and give him some coping skills. Over the past few months he's worked hard and as of this week, he has graduated. 

As I sit here I feel a sense of relief I haven't felt in seven years. That's seven long years of dreading every childhood illness, many of which became prolonged and severe. Seven years of collective impact on our family's lives in a negative way. We've had to live a completely different life from your average family with healthy children. Yes we've learned to adapt to each new situation/predicament we find ourselves in, (and there have been many) but it hasn't been easy. 

Thinking back to this time seven years ago, three month old little Calvin had his first bout with pneumonia. Back then we lived in a garden unit ONE bedroom apartment in the city. East Rogers Park on the far north side was not the greatest neighborhood, and our apartment was far from deluxe. But with a mortgage payment on an empty house in Minnesota on top of rent, it was the best we could afford at that time, and for quite a while after.

Ariauna was almost two years old so we set her things up in the one bedroom. The other room which was meant to be the living-room / dining-room / kitchen also served as our bedroom. It consisted of an inexpensive airbed mattress and old rocker-recliner. Inevitably the airbed mattress sprung a leak and left us sleeping on the hard floor for two weeks, until my in-laws caught wind of it and kindly bought us a new one. Calvin slept in a Pack 'N Play next to our bed. We ate at a small folding table with folding chairs. The heat was free but the radiators were mounted on the ceiling, obviously the plumber was never taught that heat rises. No dishwasher, no in-unit laundry and no parking anywhere near the building by the time I normally got home from work. Eventually we were able to rent a parking spot behind a Laundromat 2 blocks away for $150/month. That way I wouldn't be stuck driving around the neighborhood looking for a spot to park and then carrying two babies who knows how far to get to our apartment for the night. 

I lamented the fact that I had to send my kids to daycare after only six short weeks with them. I was robbed of their baby years. I'd drop them off with a Mrs. Jackson in Maywood in what turned out to be a pretty rough neighborhood, but I had no idea. It was reasonably close to my work and she was in my price range. She was good enough but she wasn't me. She wasn't their mom. It wasn't what I had imagined for raising my children. Calvin kept getting sick, sicker than a normal child would in a daycare setting. One day Mrs. Jackson called and Calvin was panting to get enough air. We thought he'd get better at home but he didn't. Then his lips started turning blue and Brett had to rush him off to the ER because we couldn't risk the time it would take if I was to try and find the hospital in this new city (getting lost happens a lot to me) and there was no time to spare. I completely trusted my husband but I was the mother of that really sick child and I couldn't be there with him. I sat in the apartment instead, waiting with Ariauna and trying to be her mother. Trying not to rob her from a normal childhood and my panicked thoughts were with my sick baby boy. 

Ever since Calvin's first emergency room visit, it was one hard sickness after the next. There were more agonizing times stuck in traffic with a baby who was struggling to breathe. The moments we spent rushing Calvin to the ER are the longest most terrifying moments of my life. The fear and heartache I felt during his lengthy hospital stay when he was six months old is still with me to this day. I hardly slept because I had to keep him from taking the oxygen tubes out. All those hard times we had to hold him down while he screamed, just to give him meds and nebulizer treatments. So much time, energy and money was spent on keeping his airways open, constantly trying to make him better. We struggled in every aspect of our life and we were alone. There was no family and none of our friends around to help. And forget about meeting new friends, there was no time for it. 

My regular days started at 5am. We'd get everyone ready and out the door by 6:30am because I had an hour and a half commute each way to Hillside. It was the only job I could find doing what I had done in Minnesota. I drove a two door Chevy Cavalier, with two little people in my backseat. It was small but afforded me the ability to feed Calvin a bottle while I stagnated in the famous Chicago traffic. Maybe it wasn't as dangerous as some people who drive with one hand on the wheel and one on the bottle, but I still didn't feel great about it. I had to work. I had a long commute. It was the best we could do at that moment, but it still burned me to know what we left behind in Minnesota. The secure job, the easy commute, the great daycare lady and all our friends and family. 

That's not even close to being all of it. Some of it I can't believe I actually lived through without losing my mind. The roaches, the mice, the Christmas Eve sewer backup in our bathtub - we lived through quite the rough patches, but at least I LIVED THEM with my best friend and whom I consider the best husband, and the best Dad. I had what was most important and our difficult experiences have made us the people we are today. They have lead me to the place I am right now. As I take the time to think about all that was and all that is, I am so thankful. 

I feel so much gratitude for what IS now. We took the chance all those years ago, to move to Chicago and we hoped. Brett had a great job opportunity that would provide for our family. Minnesota couldn't offer us that. His job might have been the only great thing in our lives right then, but it's carried us to a better place today. That hard choice was right. We've made new friends and I'm so grateful for them. There are still struggles and unknowns with Calvin's health, with life in general. But I can make peace with that today. I can let it be, let it rest and I can enjoy the gifts in this moment.  

When the day is done, I steal into my children's bedrooms and kiss their softest of cheeks and quietly whisper in their little ears, "I love you." As I shut off my bedside lamp and snuggle up next to my husband, I know I am lucky. I love my little family. I am sleeping in a real bed, in a nice home, in a quiet and safe neighborhood. Nothing is ever perfect but it can be better than what it was. I want to take a moment to notice. 

I have so much to be thankful for. No one knows what struggle the night or the next morning might bear, but I am going to choose to be content and be happy when it's mine TO BE. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

Although it was an old rocking chair in a 
not-so-nice-apartment, and I never had enough 
time with them... I had this moment that I will 
cherish forever and I am thankful.