staying at home: infusion day

not too very long ago, as i pushed my way through the daily grind of stay-at-home-momhood, it occurred to me that stay at home parents face a unique set of challenges and possess a unique set of strengths.

before i go further let me clarify- every type of parenting is hard. single parenting. working parenting. mixed family parenting. adoptive parenting. special needs parenting. it's not a contest or a competition. we're all in the trenches. 
parenting. is. hard.

all the kinds of parenting share some of the same hard things, but they all each have their own unique hard things, too. and since i'm a stay at home momma, i'm up close and personal with the uniquely hard things that go along with stay at home parenting.

so as i got to thinking about these unique challenges and strengths, i also got to thinking about some of the other stay at home parents i know, and how they handle not only the struggles that come with being at home all day, every day with their kiddos, but also how they handle their OWN stuff on top of that.

cause some of these women i know, they've got some big stuff to handle.

and when i couldn't stop thinking about all of these things, i decided i needed to stop trying to stop thinking about them and start documenting them instead.

so i’m starting a new long term project with no timeline and no agenda other than to capture the realities of what parents raising their kids at home face every day. because there are some days when i feel like i can’t do it anymore, and i simply need to know that i am not alone in order to keep pushing forward, and i’m guessing i’m not the only one who feels that way.

i’m kicking off the project with a woman who is, day after day, my inspiration. she has a heart for God, a heart for others, and a heart for her children that never fails to amaze me. she faces life with grace, poise, faith, and strength, even in the face of difficulty, heartbreak, and uncertainty.

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this is my best friend, meredith. 10 years ago, meredith was diagnosed with crohn’s disease. an autoimmune disorder that affects the GI system, crohn’s disease has no cure and involves pain, uncertainty, medication, and lifelong dietary and lifestyle changes.

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when meredith was first diagnosed, she was newly married and working as a teacher. she was started on IV medication infusions to control her symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. every 6 weeks she would have to take a day off of work to spend several hours in the hospital to receive treatment alongside others with chronic illnesses. as she and her husband started (and then grew) their family, meredith stopped working to stay at home to raise and homeschool their two children. after consulting with multiple doctors and spending weeks praying and researching, they decided that she would continue with the infusions throughout her pregnancies and while breastfeeding. this meant that she now had to find time for her infusions along with childcare for while she was gone. on several occasions she even had to take her infant daughter with her to the hospital.

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and then meredith found out about a program that would allow her to receive her infusions at home. after jumping through the hoops inevitably present with the doctors, the insurance company, and the nursing program, she was able to set it up to have a nurse come to her home every 6 weeks to administer her treatment. this allows her to not only receive her medication in the comfort of her own home, but it also removes the stress of finding and arranging childcare- and, now that she’s expecting another baby, keeps her trips to the doctor’s office to a minimum.

while this change has its obvious benefits, it also presents its own set of challenges as well. on top of inviting a nurse into her home for several hours every 6 weeks, meredith also needs to keep their daily routine going while hooked up to an IV pole. she has to deal with the immediate side effects of the medicine while she continues to be a mother and a housewife.

she plays, fixes hair, makes lunches, does potty runs, settles little bodies for naps, snuggles tears away, cleans up messes, and dances to goofy youtube videos, all with an IV in her arm and a smile on her face.

to add to the balancing act, the day i was there taking these photos, she was still in the process of unpacking and organizing after their move just a week prior, AND she was taking care of two extra kiddos for the day. still, she continued on unfazed, handling the day with a positivity i’m not sure i would have been able to muster even on a normal day.

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the truth is, being at home with your kids every day can be a lonely and never ending cycle of caring for others. laundry, dishes, meals, messes, dressing, pottying, teaching, playing, negotiating, refereeing, guiding, loving, the list continually grows as it repeats itself. to say that it is easy for your own needs to get lost in the shuffle is an understatement. there is a certain beauty in meredith’s situation- her children are learning compassion and understanding for what others are going through. she is teaching them by example how to persevere when circumstances become difficult to endure. she is showing them how to lean on the Lord and His strength when your own falls short of what you need. it is not easy, but in the end, it is so very worth the struggle.

let's tell the truth

here's a little story for you.  it's called "life is really freaking hard with young children but you should take pictures of yourself doing it anyway".  it goes like this:

you have a baby.  you love that baby more than anything ever in the entire universe.  you take pictures of everything the baby does, (including but not limited to the first time a snot bubble appears).  you want to take some pictures of you with the baby too, but you want to wait to take pictures of yourself with the baby until you have a chance to shower and look like a human being again.  you go on taking all the pictures of everything the baby does with your phone while simultaneously trying to survive the endless days of diapers and booger noses and meal after meal after of carefully prepared food that ends up on the floor.  eventually you realize you still haven't taken any photos of yourself (at least that have your face in them) with the baby because you still feel like someone took the word "frump" and stuffed it into what used to be your body but you're pretty sure is now just a floppy skin bag with a few oily strands of hair sticking out of the top.  so then you take a deep breath and decide to get over it and take some pictures with that baby... and the other two babies that have arrived in the interim.  those pictures look like this:

 

10 years later, you get a shower.  after that you go buy jeans that actually fit you.  you wear those jeans while cooking food that you get to eat before it gets cold, and then you sit down on a sofa that's not covered in legos or old cereal or mystery stains that you covered with a dish towel last thursday. once you sit, you pour over a photo album that has pictures of you with a mom bun and crusty pajamas and babies who are looking at you with expressions that have "you are my world" written all over them- and you don't even care that you used to look that awful.  because those days were hard, and long, and you cried, and you wished they would end while also praying that your babies would stay little, and you have these photos as proof that they happened, and they were real, and that you all made it out to the other side a little stronger and closer and happier because you loved each other when things weren't beautiful, and you still love each other now, and you know you'll go on loving each other because you made it through the trenches together.