As well-adjusted as I felt they were, one day a comment from my 4 year old blew me over. We were sitting in the back room of our little local library, listening to a "Bike Safety" presentation by one of our local police officers. He was using his kids to help demonstrate how a helmet should fit and the safe way to ride. The event got over and we packed up to leave. On the way home, Piper asked, "Where did that policeman get his kids?" These were kids she saw around town and I thought maybe she just didn't put the relation together. I told her they were his kids. She said, "No, but where did he get them from before they were his?" I wasn't understanding her question, obviously. She went on, "You know, how the police took Bryer. Who did that policeman take his kids from?"
I felt my heart take a leap in my chest. This poor little girl, in one question, illustrated her warped sense of these trusted officials in our community. I wanted to erase everything my innocent 4 year old had been exposed to. I had been so careful to talk positive about policemen and women. But none of that positive talk could erase that they had taken her baby sister away from us. I tried not to tear up and told her they really are his. "They grew in their Mom's tummy and that policeman is their Dad." Then I went over again, like we have again and again, that police are good guys. "They are there to help us. They took Bryer just to make sure that our home was safe for her to come back to."
I never want my kids to be afraid of policemen. If they are lost or get kidnapped or need help, they should feel safe going to an officer. But this whole process has violated my feelings of safety and the policemen being the good guys - and now also my sweet 4-year-old's trust also.
After the conversation with Piper, I realized we needed to arrange something very purposely to help form our kids' impression of officers. It wasn't enough to just wave or say hi when we saw a police officer (which I thought would be enough of an example for my kids). After talking with Jason, I gathered enough courage to call this officer's house. There was no answer so I left a message. I asked their family to dinner. I prepared for the time he or his wife would return my phone call. I would give them a brief explanation for what we are trying to teach our children and how we hoped he would come to dinner in his uniform, so they could have a positive experience and see that police are just nice people in uniforms that can help us. I never got that call back. Even thought I would have loved to have that experience for my kids, I don't blame that family. In a small town, maybe that was an awkward situation. Maybe they thought I would be buttering them up for something. After all, charges could be filed at anytime, and that puts them in an awkward situation. But if there's one thing I have learned, it's how to stand up for what's best for my kids - no matter how uncomfortable it is or outside my comfort zone, some things just have to be done. Picking up the phone to call this family was not an easy thing for me, but I hoped it would patch my kids' trust in that authority.
July 20, 2011
I'm reminded again and again that faith does not come when things are easy. Faith is scary when we don't know what is ahead of us. But, like the kids song says, "Faith is like a little seed. If planted, it will grow." So I hope that my tiny seed of faith is sprouting because I need it - for me, for Bryer, for Jason, for our whole family to grow and learn from this. I have to believe that when I lay Bryer down for a nap, that she will be okay when I go to check on her. I have to have faith that God will help her continue to breath while she's sleeping and that He will watch over her while I'm not right there with her. If I don't have faith, then anxiety takes over and I let worry overtake my emotions.
Sometimes we go through things and don't know the 'why' or see the blessings until it's all over - or maybe until years down the road, maybe not even in this life. Mandy and her family have been a great blessing to our family, to see them progress after she started praying for Bryer in the hospital. I'm so thankful that God has allowed us to see this change as He works in them. It helps us understand 'why' we were asked to endure this challenge.
Then it was Relief Society Meetings, our women's study group, on Sundays. Then it was for all 3 hours of church services on Sundays. I loved watching her grow and get to know her, but then she stopped coming all together. She wouldn't return my phone calls, I felt like she avoided me in the store, I didn't know what happened or how I could help. She explained to me now that it was too hard to come to church and try so hard and watch our 'perfect family' sit still in the pew in front of her and know she could never have that. She was comparing our kids, who had been taught their whole lives how to act in church (and lots of times still struggle to be reverent), to her kids and their few months in church. It's just not fair to compare our weaknesses to another person's experiences.
Obviously no one has a 'perfect family,' but that's what she saw. I felt awful for her. I had never intended to act better than her, and in fact the opposite - I was excited to watch the changes she was making and how she was growing spiritually. She was humbled while we were in the hospital with Bryer and started praying for our family. She saw that - in her words - 'even we had problems,' and she watched how we dealt with them with faith. When she asked if there was anything she could do while we were gone, I asked her to keep our pew warm at church. She has not missed a Sunday yet. Mandy's husband, Jamie, started coming too along with 4 of their kids.
Their family has grown spiritually and Jamie was baptized this month. This big, lumberjack of a man, who started going to church with Mandy just to keep their kids calm, has now decided it's not just for her anymore. He's ready to commit and turn his own life over to the Lord. His testimony of our Savior has developed as he's seen prayers answered, watched faith grow in his wife, and now for this event has traded his rough, logger edges and full beard for a white jumpsuit and momentum to move his family in a better direction. Inspiring, really! I lost my breath for a minute as I watched Jason baptize him and all the sins of his past life be washed away in an instant. He hasn't always had the easiest life or made the best decisions, but his decision today will shape the way he and Mandy lead their family from this time forward. Isn't that what we all need to do? Start new - every day if needed, and try to do better? I know they will still make mistakes and still have struggles, but it was neat to see his dedication to turning his life onto a better path. He's given up a lot of things for the good of his family. Sacrifice in a very Christ-like way.
If this is the 'why' - so that someone else can more fully comprehend the Lord's love for him - then I am willing to grow also through this challenge and accept the role that God has asked me to play in Mandy and Jamie's changes. This did not happen because of me or because of Bryer or because of Jason. It happened because the conditions were right for God to work miracles. I'm humbled to be part of those 'conditions.'
|Raini, Mandy, and me in 2007 with our babies after a cooking class when Mandy started coming the first time around|
|Mandy's first temple trip in 2011 - Raini, Mandy, and me|
|Bryer with her Benik thumb separators - |
encouraged that she is bringing one of her hands to her mouth
I picked up 4 of her kids just after 5. The kids played while the last of dinner cooked and I dished up. Her kids' ages are staggered with mine, so they all play really well together. It was such a blessing to have her kids over. At the dinner table I heard our oldest kids talk about the creation and how big foot couldn't be the link between apes and humans because God created humans and apes separately. The girls wore their dress up clothes to eat and the little kids were fascinated with the candles on the table. It was a blessing to have them over for a dinner party. I felt something, a little less like a shell. Unlike a robot, I needed to feel my divine purpose for something. I needed that feeling of service in my heart. No more self pity for what Bryer couldn't do or couldn't see or how she could be as she grows, I just needed to serve.
I read an article titled Hope from a church conference this past April. He talked about how hope is one leg on a 3-legged stool. The other 2 legs are faith and charity. I couldn't agree more. The thing that I go back to when I have that sadness that Bryer won't ever see my face the way other babies do, is the hope she will be made perfect in the next life. When we are all resurrected, reunited with our bodies, we will be in our perfect form. Bryer will be perfected! Bryer. Will. Be. Perfected. It's an amazing thought to experience my daughter in her fullness. I don't know how people cope during difficult times without the knowledge of the gospel. I don't feel like my difficult time is over and I have the gospel. I know it also relies on faith and charity - those 2 other legs. I feel blessed by having charity in my heart. To be able to help others. To have these sweet kids over for dinner or give service, not 'even in my time of need,' but 'especially in my time of need.'
On a positive note, Bryer is passing toys between her hands now. She only uses her left hand to put things in her mouth, so when I put things in her right hand, she's learned to transfer it over to her left hand in order to put it in her mouth and check it out by mouthing it. It's a small miracle, but a miracle nonetheless. I feel guilty of being so busy the past 2 days that I feel I haven't 'tuned in' to her to read every single one of her cues. It's more of going through the motions. Sometimes I just need a little break of every little detail. Not because I don't want to give her what she needs, but it makes me seriously crazy if I don't. I have too much child development information rattling around in my head constantly to be organized. I'm a better Mom if I have a break (even if that's having a crazy day that I just talk to her while she's in her bouncy seat and get things done by going through the motions). I feel refreshed and ready to tackle more days when I give her unconditional stimulation and sensory experiences and provide rich communication skills.
Her therapists have been phenomenal - not just for Bryer, but for our family. I didn't see it coming, but God did. He put these women in our lives to be supports for Bryer through us. I feel very blessed that his hand has been in the choices of who comes to our home. The things I struggle with are trying to find a balance of padding things for Bryer so her senses aren't overloaded and still making a life for our 4 older kids. Her OT has been wonderful at helping me find a balance and tips and tricks to use to keep Bryer happy so she can be along for the ride.
|Bryer and her amazing Occupational Therapist|
|Bryer and Piper|