The Last

FullSizeRender-3

Our first meeting, a few seconds after she was born.

When I was pregnant with “Baby LeBlanc #2,” as she was called for most of my pregnancy because she wouldn’t cooperate for sonograms (so they could only give us about a 40% accuracy of her gender) I was in a state of “mommy bliss” I guess you could say. At the time, I never thought she would be the last of my children. In fact, I thought I would have many more babies – “give me all the babies!!!” was more of my thought process at  the time. Ryan and I wanted more children. Ok, maybe just three or four. Even after colicky baby #1, Chloe was the light of our life and after only a year, we began trying for #2 and quickly got pregnant, so I didn’t even think twice about having a third. I wanted to wait a year or two, but after that I just assumed it would be as simple as the first two, right? What I didn’t know, was that every month that passed during my second pregnancy would be my last time experiencing it forever. I also didn’t realize that Cammie would be my last baby. I was naive and young, still in my mid twenties. What did I know? When it didn’t happen, we tried and tried some more. I cleared the shelves of every ovulation predictor kit in all the Walgreens within ten miles of my home. I researched what was causing my sudden infertility, along with my new health problems, I cried and worried, prayed and one day when I was diagnosed with three different tick borne diseases, all in the late stage phase, the years of trying and failing made sense. I had even passed them in utero to Camdyn. I was struck with the sudden realization of how very blessed I was to be able to have a baby at all, let alone two! We decided to keep trying, but be cautious because of my declining health.

FullSizeRender

FullSizeRender-7

FullSizeRender-6

But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after – oh, that’s love by a different name. She is the babe you hold in your arms for an hour after she’s gone to sleep. If you put her down in the crib, she might wake up changed and fly away. So instead you rock by the window, drinking the light from her skin, breathing her exhaled dreams. Your heart bays to the double crescent moons of closed lashes on her cheeks. She’s the one you can’t put down.  Barbara Kingsolver

FullSizeRender-2

FullSizeRender-4

FullSizeRender-1

The waiting turned to years and years have found me in my mid thirties, with no more babies, but two amazing girls. Hindsight is 20/20. I didn’t know my Camdyn Grace would be my last. She was the last I felt of the little baby kicks from the inside, hers were the last tiny hands to reach for me when she was sick, she was the last suckling babe that would waken in the night at the very moment the milk on my breast and blankets startled me from a sound sleep, telling me it was time to feed my newborn – my own body completely in tune with the baby’s body I bore. Nothing in this world is more lovely and pure than that bond. I wish I had done more, I wish I had… I wish… I wish. Having her is one of the most amazing things I have ever done in this world and I am so thankful for her life.

When Camdyn was about three, I read her “Where the Wild Things Are.”  Around that same time, we were going through a hard time with her health and behavior. We were seeing different doctors, family counselors and specialists. We now know her issues were caused from Lyme disease, but at the time her insomnia was becoming such a problem that she couldn’t control herself during the day. She would have violent angry outbursts and three-hour fits, among many other things that were hard to “diagnose” as health or behavioral.

IMG_1561.JPG

When we read “Where the Wild Things Are,” it seemed to strike a chord with her. She could relate to the “wild” and she knew it wasn’t her fault. Just like the boy in the book needs to “go get his wild out” and then come back and be a boy again, Cammie saw that it was ok for her to have emotions, and that there were healthier ways to express them as long as she wasn’t hurting anyone. As she got older, the Lyme disease got worse, the tantrums got worse, and the wildness got more out of control. It was very hard on all of us. But even in the beginning when it all started, I knew it wasn’t her, it wasn’t my Cammie. She knew it, too. I knew she couldn’t control her angry outbursts. After every episode she would cry and apologize. It hurt her to be out of control, as much as it hurt us to watch. It was an exhausting, emotional roller-coaster. Cammie always knew that her family was there for her – we were in it for the long haul, and we were figuring it all out together. When we started treating this awful disease a year ago, most of the issues subsided, and thankfully she is able to sleep better and have more control over her emotions during the day. Her joint pain and headaches have also subsided and symptoms are to a minimum.

I tell this story because now this book holds a very special place in my heart. Around the time we started reading it, I would tell Cammie a line from the book after every tantrum, “Don’t go. I’ll eat you up, I love you so.” It was my way of letting her know everything was going to be ok, and no matter what happened I would love her the same. Nothing – absolutely nothing could change my love for her. She might go wild now and then, but I could be her soft place to fall. We still say it to each other often. It’s our little thing.

She is the last one. The sweet and sassy. The spitfire. The athlete. The superhero. The cartwheeler. The artist. She is a force to be reckoned with. She is the dancer. She is the dreamer. She is all mine. She is my last.

“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”  Shakespeare

IMG_1729.JPG

Oh, Cammie. This growing up thing has got to stop. Happy Birthday, baby girl. Please don’t go. I’ll eat you up, I love you so.

Love, Mommy

Chasing Childhood

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but never found the right way to finish it. After a sad milestone moment for my baby girl this week, I was able to finish my thoughts.

littlegirls

Tonight Cammie ate 7 hot wings and the rest of Chloe’s leftovers. She went to a playdate this afternoon where her best friend since Kindergarten talked about getting married someday and having three children together all while he pushed her on the swing. She will turn 8 in a month. I guess maybe that is why I let her splash in the rain puddles in the restaurant parking lot. I guess that is why the dirty floors and dusty furniture don’t bother me that much tonight. It’s also why I let her wear pajama pants to school this week.

FullSizeRender

Chloe has developed a love for music and singing, so we gave her a guitar for her 10th birthday. Along with the guitar, I passed down some of my special guitar picks. I remember holding one of these picks while my cousin showed me how to play a bar chord for the first time while on a family vacation when I was 15. In high school, I held a clear pink one between my nervous, shaking fingers while I played a song I wrote for a few boys in a garage – hoping they would let me into their band. (They did.) The following years of playing gigs and making music together are some of my happiest memories from adolescence. I used my favorite blue pick during college while playing guitar with my boyfriend at the time in a drafty room in an old loft apartment – the same room where he would take his last breaths just a few months later. Many cherished memories that seem like yesterday, only a little faded around the edges… like an old photograph. Clear and focused in the center, but dim and slightly blurry if you look too closely.

My fairy believing baby grew up too much over the weekend. She finally figured out that I was her tooth fairy. She sobbed and got upset. I’m not sure her melancholy was merely for the revelation of the non-existence of fairies, but I saw in her eyes a sadness in the understanding that she was growing up. It was hard seeing my 7 year-old facing the hard truths of life. Her lips quivered when she lamented that she wished she hadn’t found out until she was 18. I don’t know if I could have kept up with it that long, but I would have tried my best…because I’m a mama and I don’t want my girls to grow up just yet. I’m actually hanging on for dear life.

girlssummer_14

It was brutal being hit with the reality that we are passing through the elementary years at a frightening pace. I’m not ready for the “baby” and “little girl” years to be through. I had just gotten the hang of that part, now it is almost over and we are thrown head first into the shaky ground of tween angst and the beginnings of hormonal drama. I, too am sad for the reality of a home no longer enveloped in the certain type of magic and mystery that is only present when little children are living there. I will desperately miss the gleeful shouts upon discovering fairy dust and hand written notes left under pillows. I cried right along with her.

Sometimes I can’t breathe, it hurts so bad this stuff of being mortal, of growing up, and passing on. We are a quick blink in time, a tiny dot on the historical radar screen. We are all fading to specks of dust. Sorry for sounding like Debbie Downer, but thinking about this lately has made me even more determined to get well and live fully. I want to squeeze every ounce out of each day. Life is just so short.

I don’t know what those without the One True Hope do when thoughts of growing old take root in their brain, but I cannot fathom the darkness without knowing of His light. We have a beautiful life to live here, and an even better one waiting for us in the future…one that hopefully includes clouds you can eat, fairies, mermaids, and other magical creatures and of course, our beloved pets. I’m not an expert on heaven, but I’m almost certain these will be there simply because children exist.

1peter124

In the meantime, I’m relishing the sweet parts of their childhood that are left because there are many more memories yet  to be enjoyed. So, I’ll just be over here telling my girls to keep believing in fairies and unicorns and chasing down their childhood, begging it to stay.

childhood

Through the Lens of Love

IMG_0318

I often think in terms of loss with this disease. I feel robbed of  what was supposed to be the best years of my life. Stolen days, remnants of a social life, distant dreams, and goals that have taken a backseat to my health. My purpose,  passions, ambitions – all  vanished. I will never get the time back that Lyme disease has ripped from my life and it haunts me daily how much time was “wasted.”

But the Lord continually reminds me that while there may be some loss, so much has been gained through this journey. Not only did I discover a strength of will and courage inside myself that I didn’t know existed, but I found a brave girl buried beneath the one who often lived in fear of the world. I am no longer living in fear. I am brave. I have become courageous.

Brave. Courageous. Strong. I never would have used those words to describe myself a few years ago. Now I hear many loved ones in my life who encourage me and tell me that I am all of those things. I think I am slowly starting to believe it. Maybe. But it has only been because of HIS strength that I am here at all. Jesus is my courage.

IMG_0323

Throughout this journey, I have learned to lean into my Father as I have never had to do before. Debilitating health brings you to your knees like nothing else will. I have cried, shouted, and yelled at God many times over the last few years of pain, frustration, and agony. I have repeated scriptures to myself in the wee hours of the morning and He came in close and stayed with me in the pain. I have heard Jesus along the way, reminding me that He is with me. He isn’t going anywhere and that is more than even family can promise when things get too hard. He understands the loneliness. He gets the ache. It’s more than I can bear, but not more than He can bear. So, I hoist this burden of sickness off my back and he takes it – freely, lovingly, without hesitation. He knows. He sees. He is there. I have prayed loud, bold prayers for healing and have whispered quiet, two-word prayers in the dark – begging Him to take a tiny bit of the pain from my body so I could sleep. And He has. He will never leave me or forsake me. He is here in the mess with me and promises to give me a way to endure.

“No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (GNT)

God has brought people into my life that I would have never met if not for Lyme disease. Many nurses, fellow patients and sufferers, loving and concerned doctors who truly fought for me and wanted me well and so many beautiful people who pray for me daily. Letters, emails, calls and messages from strangers have shown me that my battle has not been in vain. Many have a correct diagnosis, are getting treatment, or have prevented themselves or their loved ones from getting Lyme disease because of my story.

A nurse came with me to Bible study when I was beginning my natural treatment journey years ago. We knelt in front of a cross, hand in hand and I had the honor of praying with her as she dedicated her life to Jesus and asked for His peace in her life. Our paths would not have crossed if I had been well.

God has a purpose that is far above my own. Where I may only see an obstacle that needs to be removed, He sees through the struggle and makes beauty out of the ashes of this diseased life. I’m beginning to realize that even in the pain and trials, the struggles and heartache – God creates a plan, a way, a hope. He moves – in spite of me, and in spite of Lyme disease.

IMG_0324

I guess it also goes without saying that living with a disease for so many years has given me a profound love and empathy for sufferers of chronic illness. My heart is moved and opened to the sick and hurting in a way that only personal experience can bring. I am drawn to help others who are sick or suffering in any way I can and I’m excited to see how God will use this season to help the hurting.

Through it all, I am reminded every day that I am not alone. God has brought immeasurable good through this journey. I can’t look at my disease through the lens of loss anymore. I now see beloved faces, hear familiar voices, and have many “total God thing” stories to tell about the faithfulness and love of God.

I can honestly say that, even though it may have taken years –  I now see my disease through the lens of love.

bestrong