Friday, August 3, 2018

Triggers, Trauma and Healing

Morgan woke me up at 3 am crying.

She has done this the past two nights. There was no nightmare, she was not in pain or sick (thank goodness – I dread when that one gets a stomach virus). She was scared to the flush the toilet in their bathroom.

My family can all attest to the fact that at 3 am I am not the nicest person.  I have difficulty maintaining a patient tone in my voice and my nurturing skills are still fast asleep. My children know to yell, “daddy”, in the middle of the night, but Matt has been out of town.  I am taking the time to tell you this because at 3 am when Morgan was crying over flushing the toilet I did not lunge into, “Just FLUSH the toilet! It’s 3 AM!!!”.  I totally got why this simple act was causing her so much stress.

Earlier this week Morgan’s older sister, Bekah, simply flushed the upstairs toilet and quickly ran down the stairs trying to get her words out in the middle of her panic. “It’s overflowing!” Matt and I snapped right into “they’ve overflown the toilet mode” because due to our plumbing and having young kids this is a normal occurrence – unfortunately.  I quickly turned the water supply valve behind the toilet, but the water didn’t stop. I thought, “lefty loosey, righty tighty, yep I am doing it right”, but water continued to gush out of the toilet bowl onto the floor. 

As I looked at Matt with panic in my eyes to say, “it won’t turn off” I heard, “There is water coming out of the ceiling!” from the floor below.

And this, my friends, is the point where I caused trauma to my children.

I left Matt in the bathroom as I rush downstairs to see water gushing out of our air conditioning vent, across the top of our entertainment center and running perfectly into the back of our probably paid too much money for oversized flat screen television.

Commence the panic.

I ripped the plugs for everything in our system out of the wall. Then proceeded to yank the TV off the entertainment center while unplugging the cable box and speaker cords. Matt was headed out to turn off the water at the street, Bekah was crying, and Morgan just stood there stunned. I just kept crying “no, no, no!” in complete disbelief that the water was going nowhere else but into that very spot.

We did get the water to stop, we did calm the girls and reassured Bekah that this was not her fault.  We will have to eventually be adults and replace the subfloor in the upstairs hall bathroom.  I did rearrange my living room, but I have not dared plug that TV back in yet. I am waiting for it to completely dry and for Matt to be home.

Last night at 3 AM I did not lose patience with my child. I flushed the toilet for her, patted her on the head and told her that everything was fine. I understood her trauma and her trigger.

I understood the tears because a couple of months ago I was reminded just how strong triggers could be.

In a small town about an hour away from my home, I was pulled over after stopping at a traffic light.  When I saw the patrol car veer into the lane behind me I knew I had not broken any traffic laws, but still, his lights came on and I pulled to the shoulder of the road. As he pulled in behind me another squad car pulled right in front of my minivan blocking my ability to leave.  I looked in my rear-view mirror to see an additional local police officer and a state trooper. If you are counting, that is four patrol cars.

I had not been speeding, I was not intoxicated, I had not been texting and driving – I had done zero that was considered illegal, so why was all this necessary? They actually did exactly what I wanted them to do, they were pulling over a vehicle with a stolen license plate – at least that is what they thought.

“Ma’am, do you know that your license plate was reported stolen?”

My mind traveled back a few months when a very inconvenienced acting sheriff’s deputy stood in my driveway collecting information to file a report that the Depart of Motor Vehicles asks for in order to replace my stolen license plate. He quizzed me about the possibility of me forgetting that I removed it or the possibility of one of my family members removing the plate without telling me.  He never mentioned or warned that I should get this matter resolved quickly or I would wind up blocked in on the side of the road in a small Texas town by four officers.

The small-town officer who initiated the traffic stop was so nice and he fully understood. He even apologized for making such a scene as soon as we began our conversation. I had no reason to think I was in trouble and after the first three minutes of our interaction I had no reason to be sitting in a tidal wave of fear. That kind officer even stopped traffic so I could safely get back onto the two-lane road that ran down the center of town.

I hear BrenĂ© Brown’s voice reminding me that “should equals shame”, but all I can say is I should have been able to drive away saying, “dang, that was crazy” and go one with my drive.

Instead, I crumbled. My hands shook as I whipped the tears from my eyes. Matt thought I had been in a wreck as I called him (using my handsfree blue tooth) crying.

Trigger: something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of his or her original trauma.

Triggers have been the most frustrating part of my healing, they make me feel crazy (a statement my therapist is so tired of hearing me call myself). But when sheriff deputies show up to end a domestic squabble that has taken place between my neighbors (unfortunately an occurrence that has happened multiple times this year) and I panic due to the irrational thoughts filling my mind that I will be arrest - it’s difficult to call those thoughts anything but a bit crazy.

And when I am repeatedly triggered by the same visual item (ie a police car with lights going) I know my healing isn’t done. I know that I need to continue my work with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to help reconnect my thought pattern correctly. I will probably share more about this treatment in the near future.

Now, I am not saying that Morgan will need a full course of EMDR treatment to move past the trauma of the bathroom flooding, I am saying I understand her irrational fear of flushing the toilet. I get it – therefore, for now, I will stand by her when she flushes or even flush for her on occasion. I get the fear. Just as I need to remember to be patient with myself when triggers appear, I will remember to be patient with her. 

Click here to read more about the exact trauma related to this post or read my full journey by clicking here

Sunday, July 22, 2018

I Did Not Want to Like You

I did not want to like you. True that could be taken as a horrible statement, but it’s the honest truth.  I did not want to open my heart to you. I did not want to let myself grow any sort of attachment to you. There is absolutely zero that you did to cause these feelings. My feelings are not because of you, but because of those that came before you. 

One of the more challenging things that I am learning to deal with as I  live this close to my father in-law’s ministry, to his (now our) home church, is the attachment to his staff. Oh, over the last eight years I have learned the many similarities between "corporate America” and “church business”. I have also seen and felt the many differences. 

I feel almost uneducated when I say, “I did not realize people would see their position in a church as ‘a job’. Something they would leave to pursue advancements, something they would leave because it wasn’t working out.” Why I thought people would stay in their positions as an Associate Pastor or Director of a Christian Education or a Social Media Coordinator at one single church for their entire career is beyond me. 

I think this level of stability is what I wished for like a child wishes that it was their birthday every week, the way we wish for Summer to be here (or in my case for summer to END!). 

I have been so fortunate to have family style connections with the staff at our church - to love unconditionally and to receive that love back, to lean in, get close and be so attached. 
So attached that a few years I sat in agony across the table from my dear friend thinking, “how in the world am I supposed to compact what she has meant to me into a 30 sec blurb for her going-away video?” I am attempting to avoid the overdramatic, but it was crushing. She fell into the friend group I call, “I loved you before we moved here”, those are the people who loved on us, who we were bonded to before we came to live in Northwest Houston almost five years ago. Some of them are there because they loved on Matt as he lost Nici, some are there because they welcomed Shelby before they even met me. I am so blessed with an amazing church family and that’s why when one of my loved ones leaves to pursue amazing callings and new positions that are so deserved it is still so hard. 

It was hard to see my teenager’s face crumble when she learned her youth leader and longtime family friend (again, who we connected with before we were members) was leaving to plant a church. Then, like dominos my dear friend (mentioned above) left for an amazing position in a state district office. More recently, someone who Shelby grew very close to and I just adored left for a great position at the national level doing exactly what God called her to do, but man did it hurt. I feel almost selfish now sitting her (in tears) worried about my feelings and how much it hurt me (and Shelby), but I feel like I need to express those feelings - as crazy as they may sound. 

I did not want to like you because I made a vow to myself that I would not get attached to any more staff at my father-in-law’s church. 

Let me clarify - any more NEW staff. I am stuck with the love that I have for the ones that were there before. I have even turned to my closest friends and said, “If you say the word ‘call’ or ‘move’ I will most definitely die!” Yep, dramatic I think is one of my gifts. 

Also, feel like I need to say that I have heard countless times that while my father-in-law is human and might have “some moods” as Morgan would say, he has been called “the best pastor I have worked for” by multiple staff (current and former). So it’s not JAGdad running off his staff. 

After our last dear friend left our church I said, “I will not get attached to anyone, again. I will be polite, kind and smile, but I don’t want to know them. I don’t want to hear their story, I don’t want to let myself love them.” 

So a few Sundays ago after you spoke to Matt and I, with that smile that is so hard to resist, I turned him and said, “Damn it, I like her. Ugh, I did not want to like her!” Ah, yes, I cussed inside the walls of the church, but softly and just in front of Matt. 

This was not my plan! I resisted the urge to help you move into your new home, I’ve kept my distance, but ugh you pulled me in time and time again with your ability to be so real, so understanding, so dang likable! 

And now I am this crazed woman thinking, “I really want to know more about her. I think we could be friends. I wonder if she and her husband want to come over for dinner?” The me from months past (you know Dana January 2018 version) is so irritated by my eagerness to make friends with you!  

Moral of the story: God’s not going to let me not love those he wants me to love. If He has a plan for me to connect with someone then stand back because He is going to make it happen no matter how much I fight it. 

I feel like God has to remind me that I did not lose Jon, Rhonda or Meredith and though I can’t just walk into their office to distract, I mean chat, them on a weekly basis they are still in our lives - Rhonda and Meredith especially. And though all of the feels flood back when  I run like a fool across the worship center to hug one that showed up unannounced those feeling give me the opportunity to say in person how proud I am of them and how much they are loved! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Dear Twenty-Something Single Child Me

When I was in my mid-twenties and had one child I used to see parents in the mall who had multiple children and I would think, "Oh, man, they look so unhappy, so stressed, so tired".  My ex-husband and I would actually have conversations where we would say, "having multiple children looks so miserable, let's not have any more".

Today I realized I was making that face that I saw on those parents years ago and wish I could go back to tell that mid-twenties me something very important.

What I didn't realize in my mid-twenties was that mother was probably up at 1 AM with a sick teenager worried if her daughter ate something bad or if the stomach flu was going to take hold of her house.  (thankfully it was something she ate and she is fully recovered)

That mother, then woke up before the sun so that she could get some work done before taking her last baby to enroll in elementary school.  She spent the morning holding back tears while her five-year-old was beyond excited to be big. 

After registration, that mother took a very hyped up five-year-old to the grocery to by chicken noodle soup, crackers, and Gatorade all of which the five-year-old felt she needed to scan in the self-check line.  Needless to say, it took the mother longer to check out than it did to select her items in the store.

After having a semi-stressful afternoon at work that mother took her big girl on a scooter ride to get her other daughter from school because almost kindergartners do not walk, they ride scooters.

They ride scooters and practice tricks that make their mother almost have a heart attack. The mother, then, has three work phone calls as her daughters beg her to go the park and her teenager is asking, "what's for dinner?".  Though tired and stressed from the day's work, she feels that she owes her girls some fresh air.

Little did she know that her middle daughter would ride her bike so fast that it would make the five-year-old daughter angry.  And that daughter would begin to pout.

And refuse to continue riding until her sister came back to ride right next to her.

And that moment is when the mother made that face - the tired, stressed out, unhappy face,  but still utterly adored her daughters.

And though she was tired, she was so happy that she took them out and allowed them to be kids.

Which reminded her that she was so happy that she decided to have multiple children, even if her youngest had enough attitude for five children.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

They Are Gone - There is No Good Title for This

The last 24-hours have been really, really hard.  Emotions ebb and flow through sadness, anger and hurt. At this moment we cannot find joy in what has happened. Even saying that Nicole is at peace in heaven with all six of her children lunges you into sobs because it is just not fair and it all sucks.  I have no educated words to help explain this pain.

Multiple families walked into this Easter morning full of sorrow, asking "why?".  E and J are just as, if not even more, distraught and heartbroken as we are.  I know their attachment to these six children grew just as strongly as ours did.

Matt and I were both taken completely off guard at how strong the grief kicked us in the gut last night.  This is the finality that I prayed would not have to be felt, the end to Nicole's genetic legacy here on earth. The re-opening of the wound somewhat to grieve Nicole's death again in such a strong final passing.  She is gone and every part of her is now gone as well. Urgh, that hurts so bad and makes me so dang angry (know that I have filtered that sentence for your is way more PG-13 than it appears to you right now).

Even though I clearly can write my anger and sadness, we really have no words. We all need time to grieve. Time to feel the pain, to be angry and walk in the sadness for a while. Time feel what life is like now after this final piece is gone.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers for E, J, Matt and I as we walked through the last two weeks of this journey. Please continue to lift E & J up in your prayers. Pray that all of us find peace after our time of grieving.

Orginal Post: Attention Prayer Warriors

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bekah, the Future Author

Last month I received a wonderful surprise from Bekah's teacher!

All of her focus was put into writing this amazing book.

By Bekah
Boy Jesus
Born in a Stable

Along Time
There were no 
beds in Bethlehem

There was an angel in the ski
she said, do not be afraid
I've come here for a reason
you much come with me

I am taking the liberty to translate a bit for you, for instance, "you must cum wits me" - God, love her! 

The King prayed to
the baby. The Shepherd prayed too. 

Baby Jesus is finally alone.

Poor Baby Jesus, it's hard to have so many visitors. 

I could cry. This was just too precious not to share. Bekah has such a big heart and that heart beats for Jesus. She is most certainly a little kindergarten evangelist. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Morgan's Magical Unicorn Birthday

Last weekend my dining room became magical as we celebrated Morgan's 5th Birthday!

 I had been collecting unicorn party supplies since the Fall and so many times I was tempted to change the color theme. Like, when I found these invitations.

Click Here to Find them on Etsy

 Matt was out the town the entire week before Morgan's party, so I decided to give myself a break and order her cake from H-E-B.

 Games didn't really happen this time, but we did have the traditional pinata.

 Morgan still gets super embarrassed when people sing Happy Birthday to her! Silly girl!

Presents followed cake which always causes some sisterly drama. 

Poor's hard to watch your sister open a cool new scooter. 

After the party, we tested out the scooter!

I can't believe she is five already. It was a rather emotional birthday for this mother...more on that later this week! 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Attention Prayer Warriors

We are in the middle of a sermon series at church called, Thy Will Be Done.  Taken from the words Jesus gave us in the Lord’s Prayer, the timing of series is a bit eerie as my family faces an event that is so dependent on only God’s will. 

It is His will and things happen in His time, but I want to ask for more.  I want to ask, beg for the Lord’s abundant favor because, well, this is important - this is big. 

My friend, Emily, sent the best prayer when I asked her to pray for this situation. 

Lord, please be in this. Breathe life into E. Give strength and comfort to J and to Matt and Dana. This situation is so complex and yet you knit life together so often. You know the future of these embryos, Lord. You understand everything, more than we can fathom. You feel the hurt and you rejoice in the goodness. You are good. You are always good. You are life. Lord, hear our prayers!

The last two embryos were implanted into their adoptive mother on Wednesday. Everything went perfectly but now is when the prayers are most needed.  Our families are praying fiercely for these babies to survive the next few weeks and that their parents receive a positive pregnancy test.  Then, the prayers will change to their growth, development and ultimately a healthy delivery.  This is where God’s will comes into play, well, actually he has been in all of this - seriously. It has been an amazing God’s timing, God’s people series of events. 

If you know me in everyday, real life then you probably know about the sextuplets and if you are completely lost, thinking possibly Matt and I are having more children then please keep reading. 

I learned very early on, like before our first date that Matt and Nici had six embryos frozen before her first round of treatments in hopes that after chemo they would begin a family.  That family was not in God’s plans for Matt’s life, but he made a strong vow that these six babies would have a chance at life.  

On our third date, before we had even kissed, after a few beers were consumed, I gave Matt a big offer.  I guess with visions of John and Kate plus 8 running through my head I offered to carry and birth his children.  Yep and to think he still married me.  That would not be the last time I offered to have the children I lovingly call the sextuplets.  

Shortly after our engagement, Matt started working on the adoption papers to find the sextuplets a loving family.  He was not doing this because he was about to marry a crazy woman, but he felt that it would be unfair for a child of his and Nici’s to be born in our marriage.  Not to mention just the pure heartache that would probably be there, you know? 

Years passed and each April when we would pay our storage fees for the embryos I would ask, “Are you sure you want to adopt these kids out?  We can have them if you want.”  Even, after the birth of Morgan, I was asking.  I went between “is he holding onto them for a reason?” and “is my husband really that big of a procrastinator?”.  It really was a complicated, full of feelings mixture of both.  

Then, one day God stepped in only a way that He could pull off.  He worked, again, through one of my dear friends.  That friend had heard my telling of the sextuplets' story many times and knew the struggle Matt and I were both having with the situation at hand.  Then, I am telling you in a Holy Spirit way, she read a post by an old friend on Facebook stating that she and her husband were looking to adopt embryos.  And the universe aligned.  

As the adoption talks began almost two years ago, I stepped back and offered support, but did not want to be a part of the decision making because even though there was a very odd attachment that had grown between me and these children, I am not their biological parent. I hope that makes sense and doesn’t come across as if I do not support their adoptive parents because I do, 110%. 

This really is one of those situations that is stirring similar emotions to the way I feel about Nici - I am just shocked at the emotions that these sextuplets bring up in me.  How in the world can I love children whom I have never met? 

The past two years have brought peaks of joy and pure despair.  After the first two embryos were implanted we quickly learned that E was pregnant.  Heartbreakingly, we received news sometime later that E had a miscarriage.  The loss was a blow to all of those involved.  When J and E were ready, they implanted the second two embryos, but those babies did not survive the implantation.  Heartache, again, waved through our families. 

Many months passed and we received an email from J saying that he and E had healed from these tragedies and they were ready to implant the final two embryos. Honestly, this is when serious fear set in for me.  The next few months will either bring joy, complicated yes, but still joy or something so very final.  Our families are facing the prospect of there being a little Matt/Nici combination walking this earth or the finality of this story.  Ugh, that is so hard, so emotional.  So much that we cannot do, all of which we have to give to God. 

And this is why I am asking all my prayer warriors to pray.  Please, please pray.  We want life, we want survival, we want good to come out of this story.