We had children, as many of you did, because it was the next natural step. We were blessed that it worked fairly easily and we were prepared for the basic social responsibilities of shelter, food, safety, and education. We figured they’d be pretty cute (we were right) and that we were above-average in our ability to handle stress (we were wrong). We knew we would pray for them and take them to church. We knew that we wanted kids.
I don’t remember discussing the “yes, but WHAT ARE THEY FOR?” part of kids… the “big picture that gets you through the mud” part. I subconsciously assumed the usual: kids teach you about God, kids keep the world going, kids pay for your nursing homes. Kids are necessary and lovely and hard.
But then Rylie was born. And then Rylie was broken. And I began to question the point of such heartache. Why have kids if it is going to be THIS HARD? Is it fair to Rylie? Is it fair to her brother? Is it fair to us?
And I became afraid. Afraid of doctors. Afraid of having more kids. Afraid of anger. Afraid of therapy. Afraid… that I could not do it and I would fail. I would fail Rylie. Afraid.
I am not, as you may think, a strong person. I am not gifted in patience or passivity. This past year with Rylie has brought me to my knees both spiritually and physically as I begged for answers and rest. Clarity and help. Motivation and a supernatural heart. Why wasn’t it coming more naturally? Wasn’t I made for this?
What was I missing? What in the world was I missing?
I had to back to the beginning.
I expected Rylie to be born… and I expected Rylie to be fine. I expected to deal with ‘girl’ emotions in junior high and heartbreak in high school. I expected to right the few wrongs of my childhood, teach her to ride a bike, and to make handmade Valentines for her Kindergarten class. She would grow up, possibly start a family of her own, and continue the circle.
I did not expect for her to be broken.
I watched my child sit through hours of intense speech therapy drills last week. I watched her perform over and over again, stumbling through language that is so easy for me. On the last day, I heard the woman demand, “Say KNEE! KNEE.”
Rylie, distracted and head down, impulsively yelled “KNEE!” She looked up, put her little hands to her little mouth, and grinned. And then she clapped. And then she yelled again, hopping in her seat. “KNEE! KNEE! KNEE!” She has never been able to say that before. I can’t wait to show you the video. It’s remarkable.
Watching that miracle from behind the glass mirror, I realized my truth: Rylie is NOT broken. She is the very image of God. God, who knows what it is to hurt. What it is to be misunderstood. What it is to have people define you by their fears. What it is to love unconditionally. Rylie is a lot of things, but she is NOT broken.
Her story does not stop at her diagnosis, and, therefore, neither does mine.
What is Rylie for? She is for redefining norms. She is for healing old hurts. She is for second-chances. She is for seeing God in a tiny little body, fighting to be heard. She is a messenger. She’s a game-changer.
I had it all wrong. And, I’m sure I will again. But I am certain that I would not have learned this lesson without my child. Not so effectively. That’s what she is for.
And I am not afraid anymore.
I am a lot of things, but I am not afraid.
Some brilliant quotes from email answers you sent in on the ‘strategy‘ post:
I can say that a good reason for having kids is WOW you really understand uncondonditional, overflowing, heart-gonna-burst-it’s-aching-so-much love. This parental love is so different than familial love or romantic love.
I see the worst of life everyday at work, and it is only though trust and faith in God that I have hope that my kids will be okay in this crazy scary world full of all the wrong choices.
I still have no clue what I want professionally or in some ways personally either! I applaud any and all who choose to be parents, there is an honor and a love that you deserve for taking on what is such a huge responsibility, and risk to your heart and soul to leave yourself vulnerable to a little life that can bring so much joy but also so much terror and fear through all that can go wrong in the world.
I heard a saying once, and I know I won’t get it right, but it was something like, “Children are proof of God’s hope for the future.”
Why would God call us to do that? First, to bring him glory through the using of our gifts in his kingdom. But secondly, because it is the hardest, most selfless (when done well…yikes…need to remind myself of that ALL the time) thing I will ever do. It reminds me of how God doesn’t respond to me when I mess up, and reminds me of how I should treat others when they sin, err or fail me. It is a huge lesson in humility, in dependence on God, and in self-sacrifice. It reminds me of the book, Sacred Marriage, and it’s principle: what if God designed marriage to make us holy rather than happy? Challenging stuff, especially in our church world today.
I am sitting here typing this with a house full of kids (well actually 2 are at school which is a beautiful thing) and for the first time in 9 years I am thinking, why did I have kids, because they don’t clean, they cost a ton on money, and half of time I’m not sure I want to claim them as my own—and surely, it isn’t proving what a wonderful person I am–NO WAY. So, I guess it has to come down to God. I had kids because God made me. I didn’t plan it–He did. He made me desire my husband and created this really strange and excitingly wonderful way to make them. And then He held me in His hands as I held them in mine–and he hasn’t let me go yet, so I haven’t let go of mine.
God’s plan for me and having kids was different from my idea, but has humbled me to not always knowing what He has planned for me. I was given a child in an unhealthy marriage and unable to have children in a healthy marriage. It is hard at times to understand the reason behind that. Having [my son] was not planned and when I think back to the circumstances it is truly a miracle. I do know that having him has taught me true love, great joy and some of the deepest pain and tears. The level of each of those emotions cannot be matched in any other relationship.
I can only imagine how much more I will want children once I am with the person that I want to have them with. I mean my goodness… They’ll be these true, living, breathing symbols of love and commitment and a marriage covenant and thinking about that makes me giggle.
All you have to do is love this baby and teach him about Jesus.
We wanted to have kids so that there would be more nice people in the world. We figured that we are both nice, we would be nice to our children and therefore they would probably be nice also. So far I think that [our daughter] is a positive addition.
February 2nd, 2011 at 3:50 pm
Katie this is incredible. Beautiful. Profound.
I am speechless.
February 3rd, 2011 at 2:44 pm
Pretty incredible praise from one of my favorite writers. Thank you.
February 3rd, 2011 at 11:54 am
February 3rd, 2011 at 11:56 am
conquering fear. you hit the nail on the head. what a complicated and beautiful gift from God she is.
parenting is often so far from what we expect it to be. i’ve been spending time with my sister-in-law who, struggling with postpartum depression, is finding that the birth of her first child is not at all what she anticipated.
prayers for more breakthroughs for all of you…
February 3rd, 2011 at 2:44 pm
It is. You’re exactly right. It’s so very different- in both fantastic and incredibly hard ways- than what we expect. And I think we need to talk about it more. I think the more we talk about it honestly, the less afraid we will be to admit that it’s so incredibly HARD and sometimes you just plain don’t want to do it. How much more would we be able to help those around us if we knew!
I hope your time with your SIL is good. I hope she feels some comfort just having you around. And I hope she knows that she is not alone and that it WILL pass. It doesn’t feel like it, but it will pass. It will change and Spring will come!
February 3rd, 2011 at 12:42 pm
I am Teresa’s sister and I have to tell you, having a special child from god myself (Cici) who has Downs Syndrome, has been one of my three miracles from God. They say God choses very special parents for these special children but I know that because of Cici my family has come closer to God and I thank God for that every day. If I had to do it all over again there is no doubt that I would. My favorite part about Cici is watching her make people smile because of her love and kindness. God’s will be done.
February 3rd, 2011 at 2:40 pm
Analiza, I soooo remember you from high school! Thanks so much for stopping by… and for sharing about CiCi. I’m sure she is an absolute joy to both you and those around her.
February 3rd, 2011 at 7:38 pm
I think you are strong and thank you for your honesty. I have been so blessed to spend time with moms who are honest about the joy, pain, difficulty and fun which come with the job title mom! We pray for your sweet family every night!!
February 3rd, 2011 at 11:41 pm
Thank you, my friend, for being so real.
February 3rd, 2011 at 11:42 pm
BTW – I gave you a blog award! Check out my blog (www.smallcoppercoins.blogspot.com) for the details!
April 22nd, 2011 at 12:20 am
Wow. God’s timing always amazes me.
I have a child with sensory integration disorder,
diagnosed about a year ago. She has been on a steady decline this past year and I have come to believe that school is just too much for her right now. My husband and I have been struggling with our decision about what will be best for her next year (home school or continue with regular school). This post and “The Facts” from January 31 helped me see everything much more clearly. Your “facts” about Rylie helped me understand my Zoe so much better. And the fear you mentioned really resonated with me and helped me see the heartache I feel at knowing my child is not what I expected her to be and that I feel unprepared to be her mommy.
Thank you for sharing your journey. It is such a comfort to know someone understands. Your words put on paper what I have been trying to get out for months. You have given me peace and hope. Bless you.
April 22nd, 2011 at 2:01 pm
Oh, the schooling. THE SCHOOLING. It’s so difficult, right? I mean, Ry started ‘school’ at 2 and a half… and I cried every day. I mean… who sends their 2 year-old to school?! It’s a hard road, and I am here to tell you… follow your HEART. Talk to everyone you can, listen, pray… and then follow your heart.
It is hard to admit disappointment and fear. I’m glad my words helped, but please know that I need your words, too! Thank you!!!
April 22nd, 2011 at 9:59 am
Hi 🙂 I ended up here from your post on SortaCrunchy. I just wanted to say I really appreciate your thoughts here. As a mom of a girl who had multiple speech “issues” I can completely relate to the fear you describe. And also the joy you are finding in it. We waited and prayed for our daughter to communicate with us for so long, and it was a slow process in coming. But, I just wanted to encourage you…all those worries about her and how things would go as she got older are gone now. She’s nine, and she has her quirks of course :), but she is amazing. And I don’t worry about her like that anymore. Not at all. When we were in the middle of dealing with all her therapy and wondering what to do and if it was helping, I never thought there would be a day when I wouldn’t worry about her development. But I honestly don’t anymore.
Your little girl is beautiful, and you are totally right that God will use her in your life in ways you couldn’t have imagined!
April 22nd, 2011 at 1:59 pm
SO GLAD you stopped by. Your comment gives me hope that this will not be the #1 joy and #1 struggle in our family forever. That seems impossible right now! Thank you for your sweet, sweet words. Happy Easter!
September 20th, 2012 at 7:59 am
I have read this post three times from start to finish. It’s simply beautiful. And I have to say to you what one wise friend once said to another, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” ( – Christopher Robin) I am so blessed to have an opportunity to know you better!