Almost 11 years ago, I was happily pregnant with my second child. Blissfully dreaming about a healthy baby, my biggest fear was managing two babies under two years old. I was completely ignorant of all that could go wrong. After all, I was healthy. I ate well. I took my vitamins. I didn’t drink or do drugs. I did everything that is required of a pregnant woman. I was owed a healthy, perfect baby. Issues happened to other people. Not us. But, as often happens in life, God had other plans. And those plans came in the form of a child born less than perfect. Problems came in the form of a child who would face challenges I never imagined, with something that never crossed my mind was even a possibility. Because other people have babies with a cleft lip and palate. Not us.
God had other plans…
But, because God had other plans, I was blessed with the most beautiful child I have ever laid eyes on. Not perfect, mind you. But beautiful.
And through this child, I have learned more lessons. I have learned what true beauty is. I have learned what a fighting spirit looks like. (Hint, it has nothing to do with size and might, money or power.) And I have learned that whenever you think that bad things, hard things, imperfect things only happen to other people, you are so very wrong. And just when you get bold enough to think it, God is probably going to put something in your life to prove you wrong. To humble you. To make you better.
…for me to be humbled through the birth of my boy.
Because before Connor, I was not better. I was arrogant in my confidence and control. We had a great life, a beautiful family. We were, by all accounts, living the American dream. We were so attractive in our own eyes that we could have been a Norman Rockwell painting. I was vain. I had a vague understanding of what a cleft lip was, but thought it only happened to people who did something wrong. Or poor people in another country. I pictured Operation Smile ads in the back of Cooking Light and was even so obnoxious as to think (albeit not consciously) that with all of the problems in the world, why would we send our hard-earned money to that charity? Isn’t it just cosmetic?
I’m very embarrassed to admit this. But it’s my ugly truth and I own it fully.
Thankfully, He is in control.
And then God reminded us that He is in control, that there is no such thing as perfect. And He gave us the blessing of being humbled and changed. By a child.
In Connor’s short life he’s had five major surgeries and multiple minor ones. He’s endured pain I can’t imagine. He struggled to simply take a bottle for the first 12 months of his life. He looked different. People either stared or acted as if he was invisible. People judged. People asked me what I did wrong to make this happen. He had speech issues. What was easy for most babies was hard for him.
But what wasn’t hard for him was strength. And will. And perseverance. That little child fought hard and defied odds. He never cried. He would just work and work and work to master things that others can do without thinking. He was and is the definition of grit, that business world buzz word, and he doesn’t even know it.
Now we’ve watched him grow into this amazing young boy. He’s ridiculously smart and strikingly handsome. He’s kind. He has empathy and shows it. He’s resilient and he has a depth that comes only from someone who has been through some stuff—someone who’s got dirt under their fingernails and callouses on their soul. And he’s 10, people.
I wish you could know him. He’s really quite awesome.
And for me, well, this definitely changed me.
I have learned so much by being his parent that I can’t even put it into words. People often say that God gave him to me because he knew that I was what Connor needed in a mom. I see it entirely the other way. God gave Connor to me because he knew what I needed. I needed to learn empathy. I needed to be humbled. I needed my heart to grow. And to open. And the only way that could happen was for the image of perfection I had carefully crafted to shatter in full.
Friends, this is why I chose to share my story with you. Life is not easy. If you haven’t yet had your image of what should be shattered, buckle up. It’s coming. And I’m not saying that to be mean or to scare you. I’m saying it because it’s true, and you should embrace that shattering. Because the beauty on the other side of challenge is astounding and life-altering and amazing.
But you have to let yourself get there. You have to keep going, even when going seems impossible. And if you do, you realize that what you thought should be, that image in your mind, it pales in comparison to what you’ve been given. Because what you’ve been given is a gift.
For more stories of strong women, we recommend:
Battered Faith: Holding on to Hope Even When You Struggle
For the Woman Who Wants to Be Strong
When You’re Desperate to Know the Reason for Your Pain
A Woman’s Grit Is Her Biggest Asset for Success
I Never Wanted to Be a Pregnant Widow
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You’ll enjoy this episode from This Grit and Grace Life podcast: How Do I Know What Defines Me? – 078!