A year ago I could barely see the forest for the trees. We are by no means out of the woods but life is improving. We sleep, we eat, and we play. I am (mostly) the mother I want to be. But times of celebration are hard. They seem to open the floodgates to a full range of emotions that would prevent me from functioning if I felt them like this every day.
It began shortly before the birthday. I noticed a heavy weight on my chest and difficulty breathing. That turned into actual chest pain before I connected it to the milestone of Lemon turning two this week. We have a lot going on without much time for me to look at my feelings about it. I almost prefer not to look because then I have to deal with what comes up. Watching her blow a candle out of the top of her lamb burger made me cry. Together she and I had prepared smashed zucchini for icing and slivered cooked carrot sprinkles (big sister’s idea) but in the end she only felt like eating the meat. I’ve been crying on and off all day, and probably will be through tomorrow, her actual birthday.
We have come so far since her birthday last year. I have plenty of evidence that what we are doing is strengthening her system and she is one happy, grounded little Buddha. But there are still so many parts of the puzzle yet to be solved. For two months she has had a nasty rash that circles her mouth and chin. It waxes and wanes throughout the day. I have spent the last 8 weeks rotating in and out each of her 10 foods including each brand of olive and coconut oil we add to her broth, and nothing seems to make a difference. I have also confirmed that none of her lamb is ground on equipment shared with other meat – no I don’t’ grind it at home. I just can’t.
I notice this pattern in my head a lot: the “I can’t do it” thinking. Some aspect of Lemon’s world that needs adjusting swoops into my awareness and my head defiantly says “No! I can’t do more.” If it turns out the bagged organic shredded coconut I use to make coconut milk (one of Lemon's main sources of fat) is contaminating her food supply and causing this rash on her sweet face God help me, I will have to crack the actual coconuts every other day. I think I am going to crack.
Recently while my parents were in town for a visit, my five year old announced that she wanted to start an intensive gut-healing diet to resolve her belly aches we've known about since she was old enough to say "tummy hurts." As it turns out Lemon's struggles with FPIES have shed some light on what's probably happening in related ways for my older daughter. We have all learned way more than we ever planned to know about the gut - immune system - brain connection, and now these are tools that can help us make informed choices for our health, even in the case of one small but intuitive five year old. Knowing that for me this undertaking would mean many more hours a day in a tiny, hot kitchen all I could think in the wake of her announcement was "Now?! No! I can't do more!!!"
But I knew that I would do whatever she needed. I have promised both of my girls that I will do anything in my power to support their healing. It's important to me that they feel strong and secure in their bodies so they can become what they need to be in the world. I am realizing this means there will be times when it all feels like way more than I can handle and I am completely overwhelmed. I have days when I feel lost, when I look at them and their vulnerabilities and I want to crumble. But I know I am in the right place.
It's all sort of crushing and raw lately. But these moments are my chance to embrace what's happening around me and see what it's about. The more I remember to breathe through the "I can't do more" moments, the more okay I am with feeling lost and overwhelmed, because that is a part of my story. That's what wholehearted love for my children feels like.
My heart is heavy, but I think that's because it is really full. Wishing you a very full heart tonight, and lots of healing and love wherever you need it. I will end with some words from one of my favorite voices in the world.
"Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. They come together and they fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy."
― Pema Chödrön