I laid motionless in the ICU unable to speak looking out the window at the flowers my husband sent me from the Middle East. I watched the clock slowly move, and I just breathed. The ventilator clicked on and off in an easy rhythm as a Julie Roberts movie marathon played the background music. My husband and I had been apart for six months, and this is how we would meet again.
The day he arrived my ventilator was removed, and I ate and stood for the first time. They transferred me to the mother-baby unit. I held our babies. In the moment he came through the door, I was trying to swallow my medication. Sitting with my hand held in a "wait" position with a glass of water to my lips, I painfully swallowed the pills and awaited his embrace. It was a far from perfect reunion followed by a seemingly perfect hug.
He smelled of Middle Eastern dust and lack of showering, but he tended to my needs. He fed me my first tastes of broth. He held a soft pillow to my wounds as I used my breathing machine and was forced to cough. He helped me learn how to get out of bed, and he held me up as I slowly shuffled through the hospital halls. He curled up next to me in my hospital bed and slept as I tried to sleep.
Against all odds, we were reunited after fighting our own wars. He had come home to a wife that he was told was dying, only to find me regaining my strength. We praised God for my miraculous survival. On top of it all, we had two healthy babies.
It seemed so perfect - our hallelujah.
What I failed to explain about those first moments of our reunion was the agony I felt when I had to tell my husband that I couldn't have any more children, and the convulsive tears I cried as I shared my memories of the terror I experienced the night our twins were born. I felt broken as I tried to get my dismembered body out of bed to feed two screaming infants while my husband slept easily in a jet lag comma. When the babies stayed in the nursery at night, I would be up crying while he slept - the swift drop from multiple gestation to menopause putting me in a hormone-driven delirium.
After being released from the hospital, I couldn't ride in the passenger seat of the car without fearing for my life. I would wake in the middle of the night in a sweat from flash backs of bleeding to death and the physiological reaction to my hormones dropping. My body was in pain, and I was sleep deprived. Everything felt like it had fallen apart, and there was no way back. I secretly wished that God had taken me home to heaven that day instead of leaving me to live in this state of physical and emotional pain.
I was so broken.
I quickly learned that surviving a traumatic situation is a blessing, and that surviving survival is something different entirely. A broken hallelujah.
During the day, I had to be strong and put a smile on my face. I was the wife of a soldier, a soldier who desperately wanted to go back to war. My job was clear - for his sake, I had to prove that I could handle the rest of my recovery on my own while caring for our three young children. He wanted to be sent back, and I wanted that for him. The months spent in limbo while he waited for word to return to the Middle East were some of the worst of my life. I blamed myself for all of it. I was so sick that they had to send him home, and now he couldn't go back to do what he so desperately wanted to do.
Our perfect reunion was a broken mess of unmet expectations.
My recovery was slow. My physical healing took a full calendar year, and it wasn't until after that healing was complete that I could deal with my emotional issues. Postpartum PTSD had me stuck in that one moment in time. I had to take purposeful steps forward in order to break from that hold. On top of that, my menopause symptoms served as a built-in reminder system which pulled me back in time whenever I had physical issues. The sleep deprivation brought on by two infants didn't help me deal with the menopause. I spent most of my days sitting on the floor exhausted and surrounded by spit up.
I was angry and sad.
I never thought my life would be like this.
It all changed for me one Sunday when our pastor gave a sermon on God's love. I started crying uncontrollably in the middle of the sermon. It wasn't the "tears lightly falling down your cheeks" kind of cry; it was the "snot flowing out of your nose and tears taking off every bit of makeup" kind of cry. It was disgusting. I honestly thought that if God really loved me that He wouldn't let me live like this. If He had really loved me, He would have taken me to heaven. But the message of the sermon was clear - God loves the broken, the messy, and the gross. He still loved me when I was resentful and angry, sitting on that spit up-covered floor. He wouldn't have saved my life if I wasn't alive for a reason. The fact that my life was not everything I dreamed about didn't change the fact that God loves me and has a plan for my life.
My dreams are not always what He plans.
This post was written in conjunction with a link up with
Prodigal Magazine, and a link up with
#borninourdarkness on love.