05 Mar Momspiration Monday // Kaitlin’s Story
We aren’t your “typical” family, whatever that is. We freak people out. We’ve received more casseroles than a church potluck and our hearts are more blessed than the state of Texas. We couldn’t blend in if we tried. We are a military family with over six deployments and nine moves to our record.
Jonathan (6) has a penchant for ties, newsboy caps, and Legos. He is trying out the popular bald look, thanks to chemotherapy he is undergoing for a cancerous brain tumor. He is also diagnosed as on the Autism Spectrum.
Then there is William the Conqueror. William loves to dance, wear bowties, and laugh at ‘boy noises’. Everything about him has “extra”- an extra chromosome that gives him Down’s Syndrome, extra physical challenges and extra charm. He too, rocked the bald look. He put walking and talking on hold to conquer Acute Myloid Leukemia at age two.
Our Team’s Rookie is Elizabeth Joy. Before I was pregnant, Jonathan informed me he would have a sister named Joy. He was right about everything, down to her birthday. She is three months old and a redhead like her Momma. Lord, help us all.
The trouble all started when God gave us exactly what we prayed for. For years I was told pregnancy was unlikely, but the test was positive. My husband immediately took my hands and prayed, thanking God and asking that our child would bring glory and honor to him. We prayed that our child would be strong, courageous, and able to overcome hard things for God’s glory. That was our prayer with each of our three children. We expected God to answer those prayers with a resounding yes, but we never pictured the way that “yes” would be accomplished.
A lot of my motherhood is fairly typical. My hair is usually in a ponytail, my mini-van is littered with toys and French-fry corpses, and we have cereal for dinner more than I care to admit. We laugh, dance, and yell things like, “Get that fork out of your nose”, “Your brother doesn’t belong in the fridge!” and “If I step on one more Lego they are going away!” Motherhood is full of victories and failures, all in the same day. It’s hard.
Fighting the good fight of motherhood started to crush me. Each year brought something harder. 286 appointments in the first year. Feeding tubes and surgeries. Delays, deployments and being questioned on how I raise my sons. I found My People. Faithful friends stood beside me in their stained yoga pants and ponytails, ready to go to battle with us. These warriors with babies on their hips and Algebra homework on their tables assured us we weren’t alone. We walked for Down’s Syndrome Acceptance, made meals for one another and made runs to pharmacy. We fed each other’s children and spirits. We asked the hard questions about marriages, medicines, and medical bills.
We pressed on, but things just got harder. I admit, I wondered if I was failing at faith. I felt totally weary and restless. Why did God feel distant? Why did the balance of my responsibility and his sovereignty feel like a see-saw? Was this a test of faith I was failing?
One day, crying at the kitchen table the day before William’s surgery, I realized what the biggest failure of all would be. If they remember how I held their tiny bodies and sobbed but never saw the joy and confidence that comes from trusting the Creator I have failed in my task. If I hide how I am being totally poured out, depleted, and emptied from them and don’t see me cling to the Savior, they won’t learn how to do it. We have the chance to teach them to trust God when it doesn’t make any sense.
This year was supposed to be our year to regain our footing and to reclaim the “lost years”. Only two weeks into Kindergarten, Jonathan dropped to the floor holding his head. 24 hours later my husband was flying home from overseas, my son had flown by helicopter and booked for brain surgery, and 17 nurses had asked me to remain seated so I wouldn’t go into labor and cause bigger problems.
In the midst of strain and sorrow, Joy did come. Elizabeth Joy arrived only hours before Jonathan’s daily radiation, which is exactly how life works. Sorrow and Joy are intertwined.
Again and again God has shown his faithfulness to sustain us and to give us the faith we asked for rather than the comforts we want. God allowed our prayers to be answered. Our children have brought glory to God not through their abilities and health, but their disabilities and cancer. Our children are strong, courageous, and able to overcome hard things for God’s glory.
If you have to stand out, stand strong. Our family is hilarious, messy, and strong, and we refuse to give up. If this is what the first seven years have brought, the next seven will surely require seatbelts and stronger hairspray.
That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it. It may look NOTHING like your story. You may relate to parts of it very closely. The fact is, the kids you have are YOURS, no matter how you got them. You have been given the chance to raise beautiful little souls into something.
Here is my best advice for when the hard times come- and they WILL come.
- Build your foundation before the crisis. No one builds a house when the flood is coming. They shore up and protect what is there. Suffering reveals true character.
- Ask for help. Mothering is a team sport. Pour into your marriage, if you are married. Find women of all ages and backgrounds who LOVE your child. Lean on each other.
- Get a great play-list. William’s cancer theme song was Shake It Off. We probably gave Taylor Swift five thousand Youtube hits. On hard days we have dance parties to celebrate the small things.
- Stay intentionally grateful. As we walked into the hospital yesterday, Jon said, “It’s a nice, sunny day!” We practice finding the positive. It’s sunny out, we found a parking place, we can walk, we have friends, God answered a prayer today, etc.
- Look outward. The best way to avoid self-pity or sinking into your circumstances is to look to others. When you are praying for others, encouraging others, and helping others, it is hard to feel like a victim. Instead, you are on a team of victorious underdogs!
- Seize every opportunity to be kind.
Pray for us, bless our hearts. Who knows what that redhead will bring.
Kaitlin Erkkila is a Texan wife and mother who follows her military man around the world. Thriving through Jesus Christ and Coke Zero, she currently lives near Baltimore, Maryland with a time-share at Johns Hopkins hospital. This redheaded extrovert would hug you at the first meeting and counts laughing as a hobby. A teacher in her former career, she now navigates mothering plot twists like Autism, Down’s Syndrome, cancer, and trying to get three kids to bed on time.
Do you want to share your story of motherhood with others? Do you have a momspiration you’d like to nominate to share their story and encouragement? Email us at [email protected]!