Finding Our Way Home

Yesterday I woke up feeling achy, nauseous and plain old sick. At first, I chalked it up to the extra glass of wine last night while enjoying a quiet movie with Jordan, but as the day wore on I knew wine was not the culprit. It was way worse than a wine headache.

I couldn’t figure out why my legs no longer worked, nausea filled my tummy and my mind was so foggy, but then it hit me. I have not stopped moving since Marjorie was diagnosed over three months ago, not to mention the stress of the past year. From the hospital to Jacksonville to home to Jackson Hole to Baton Rouge to moving into a new house to multiple doctors appointments in between. Woah. Just writing that sentence wears me out.

Exhaustion. Complete and utter exhaustion. My body went kerplunk. I literally spent all day yesterday upstairs in our guest bedroom while Jordan took care of the kids downstairs. Even though I give public talks about listening to your body, it doesn’t mean I do it perfectly. I have taken breaks where I have been able to, but to be honest the opportunity to rest has been far and few between. Yesterday, however, my body knew it was finally safe to collapse so I listened and allowed my body to rest.

As I laid in the quiet bedroom upstairs, I watched the rain work its way through the thick moss on our oak trees outside. It hit me that in a few short weeks will be the one year anniversary of that fateful ambulance ride to the hospital, which ultimately led to Marjorie’s early arrival.

One year. 365 days. It feels like five years and five minutes at the same time. It is a strange feeling. One year.

Today, as my strength slowly returned, I found myself unpacking boxes in Marjorie’s room. It was like living out the year all over again. Cards, gifts, crosses, blankets, prayer blankets, holy water, clothes and more clothes. So many gifts that I will never be able to send thank you notes for them all or tell every individually how much each and every one meant. The love we have received is simply astounding and overwhelming.

As I thumbed through cards and tiny, doll sized clothes, my mind went back to those early days in the hospital when I laid on bed rest praying for baby girl to stay put. Those days were terrifying. Every minute felt like an hour and every day was a victory.

My mind then went to the day she was born. The physical pain was unbearable, but the real excruciating pain was my intuition telling me something was wrong, really wrong. I thought back to holding Nurse Amy’s hand as she tried to reassure me, but I could see the worry in her eyes, then to the wheelchair ride down to the OR prep with my mom, husband and the kind PA who shared in our tears. My stomach turned as I remembered the ice cold OR room filled with strangers in masks until my OB came and held my hand as they administered IVs, a duty she did not have to do. The humanity we saw and felt that day still brings me to my knees.

I then came across a box of clothes she ‘wore’ in the NICU. Her first dress, no bigger than a small plate. She wore it on her one month birthday. Today, I placed it in her lap as I took her 11-month old picture today. Yes, I am one proud momma.

As I continued unpacking Marjorie’s room, she napped peacefully upstairs. I opened a large box and pulled out her “SMASH Cancer” cross. I hung it with pride because it is her story. It isn’t her whole story, just part of it. And it is part of my story and our family’s story too.

But as I hung pictures and placed books on shelves, my heart saddened with a memory. This was the room I envisioned the day Dr. Gauger said those words, those four words, “Your daughter has cancer.”

This was the beautiful pink room I told Marjorie about as I rocked her at 4am the night we found out.

“Listen to your momma,” I told her sternly, “You will get through this and come home to us. You will come home to our family. You will come home to your new pink room, the room with your monogram on the wall and ballet shoes in your closet. You will come home to the house we are building for our family to grow up and grow old in. You will come home to us healthy, my sweet baby girl. Do you hear me?”

Marjorie woke up from her nap, snapping me out of my memory. I quickly pulled her out of her swing and held her tightly,  rocking her back and forth. She looked at my tear stained face and giggled.

I whispered in her ear, “I love you so very much, my precious darling girl. You have no idea how much I love you.”

She doesn’t and she will never know this love, until she has a daughter of her own one day.

It’s been a long year. A year of transition, of ups and downs, of tears and joy. But through it all we found our way home. My girl is home. The battle isn’t over, but I find joy in the ordinary. Tonight, my babies are tucked tight in bed, Manning surrounded by his trucks and Marjorie surrounded by her perfectly pink walls. We are home.

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