This is an old picture – a little more than ten years old, to be exact. That baby on my lap (for yes, that IS me, waaaay back in the day) was marking her second birthday on that day, although we didn’t celebrate on her actual birthday because she was sick with a stomach virus. I have a long-standing tradition of taking pictures of my children on the morning of their birthday and I wasn’t about to make an exception just because K was sick. What’s a little throw-up compared to a long-standing birthday day picture tradition, right?
She’s smiling in this picture because she must have been feeling OK at the time. I know that I took her to the pediatrician that day and she got a shot of Phenergan to stop the incessant vomiting (for this is my child who can’t stop once she starts), so this must have been between upchucks and before the doctor visit or she would have been sleeping off the drugs. And she’s smiling with her eyes closed because that’s how she smiled at that age. She’s still in her pajamas because I’m a firm believer in wearing clothes that offer the most comfort whenever I or my kids are ill.
But look at my face. Do I look a little pale? Notice that I’m wearing a two-sizes-too-big t-shirt: my “feeling bad” clothes. If you didn’t know what to look for you’d never know that this was one of the darkest times of my life. Less than 24 hours before this photo was taken, I’d had a D & C at an outpatient clinic to finish a miscarriage that didn’t quite resolve itself. That was my second miscarriage within a year, and I had been 11 weeks along in my pregnancy before it all went wrong. It was a roller coaster experience, where over the course of several OB visits we went from seeing the heartbeat, to not seeing it, to seeing it again but it was very slow, to no longer seeing the heartbeat. When the doctor told me I needed a D & C I purposely scheduled it the day before K’s birthday because I didn’t want to associate her birthday with my sorrow, although you can see that’s exactly what I’ve done anyway. And I can tell you that what I really wanted to do the day of this picture was curl up in my bed with my arms around my cramping and empty abdomen and immerse myself in my grief, but when you have a toddler to take care of there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself or indulge in a pity party. Honestly, I think having her to care for kept me from falling into despair
I chose this picture because I believe that every one has a story. That person who cut you off in traffic? Maybe he just got some bad news from a doctor. That store clerk who was a little snippy when she rang up your order? Maybe she’s worried about how she’s going to feed her kids dinner tonight. Even the people around you who are smiling and laughing might just be hiding some of the most heartrending anguish you can imagine, and you’d never guess it.
I also chose it as a reminder to myself to be transparent. In those days if you had asked me how I was doing I would have said I was fine, even though I was anything but. I was raised to keep my troubles to myself and I believed it was wrong of me to burden others with my pain. I know now that God has created us to be in community and we are expected to bear one another’s burdens, and by keeping mine all to myself I might be denying someone the opportunity to do what God Himself has called us to do. That’s not to say that I’m supposed to spew my ugly all over anyone who asks me the time of day, but within my circle of friends and community, it’s OK to let down my guard and let my smile slip. I don’t have to wear a mask in the company of other caring believers. The phrase “fake it ’til you make it” – well, I’ve tried it and it doesn’t always work.
I’m linking up today with http://www.crystalstine.me for Behind the Scenes. Check it out and join us!
(Sorry for the downer and the unedited pic. )