We took a trip this week to the beach. 8 days of ocean and sun and rest. I was very anxious about going, with the current circumstances of life. But it was needed and so much better than I anticipated. It was good to be in a new environment, where every room in the house didn’t conjure up another memory of sadness. It was good to break routine, to need sunscreen everyday and have sand stuck all over my body. To nap and to read and relax. To simply have regular companionship and help throughout the day…
I’m always a last minute packer, and I always inevitably want my house completely clean for when I arrive back home. Not the best two things to be coupled together…. So the Friday before we left, I’m relatively certain I fell apart no less than 3 times crying over suitcases, laundry, and unmopped floors. But it all got done just like it always does.
We loaded up bright and early Saturday morning, and I was braced for a loud and eventful car ride. Last year when we went to the beach, she woke up for all of 30 minutes. Knowing her the way I do, I knew there would not be a repeat performance of that this year….I love my baby girl more than I love life itself, but she does NOT love her car seat after about 30 minutes and she usually feels the need to let others know how much she isn’t enjoying herself. I had a bag of ‘goodies’ packed and prepared. It was really more like an arsenal for “Try this next!” But she surprised me, as she often does, and was mostly content for the entire 8-9 hour drive.
Magnetic letters & numbers on a cookie sheet= quiet driving :)
I felt the same quiet excitement that I always feel upon arriving at a vacation destination. Relief and anticipation. It was raining lightly and overcast, but as I walked out onto the balcony of our condo and looked out over the white sand and watched the waves rolling in, cresting white foam and filling the air with the scent of salt, I couldn’t help but be awed. I have seen this same ocean countless times throughout my life, but it doesn’t matter. It still screams the majestic artistry of the Creator. And the lulling of the waves brings a sense of peace to me, always. Even when it storms.
The first night we were there, I thought we were probably in for a week-long trial of poor sleep. Abi Kate, much like her momma, is a creature of habit. When she is ready to go to sleep, she needs her bed, her room, and her music. We brought the pack and play, which obviously can’t compete with a mattress. We brought her music….And I’m pretty sure this might make me sound like the crappiest mom ever, BUT… she totally slept in the bathroom connected to our bedroom the entire time we were there. Her pack and play filled up our room and honestly, she sleeps better in the dark without distractions (aka a closed door.) I was pretty sure I had reverted back to newborn days when she woke up every hour from 1 am-7 am our first night there. I couldn’t blame her much. I never sleep that great when I’m away from home. She clearly did not prefer her bed or our bed, so I finally waved my white flag of surrender and got up at 7 with her. I know that’s a pretty typical wake time for most toddlers, but that’s an hour and a half earlier than she gets up at home… Coffee was my BFF as usual. I braced myself for naptime that next morning, but she decided to gift her momma with sleep. For every nap and every night after that. She still woke up about an hour early every day, but there were no middle of the night wakings or crying when it was time to go to sleep. So…. Sleeping in the bathroom for the win!
I was so excited to get her down to the beach that first day. She was only 4 months old when we went last year (holy cow), and I knew her experience would be so different this time. If you’ve ever gone to the beach solo as an adult and then later in your life packed up an infant or a toddler for the beach, then you know what a crazy long process this is. I remember last year thinking, “Good Lord it takes so blessed long to get her sunscreened, dressed, hat on, bag packed, get myself ready, nurse her…. “ by the time we’d get to the beach we’d be 30 minutes out from her next nap time. And while it still definitely took time to get it all together this year, prepping a toddler for the beach was way easier somehow. Maybe I was just better prepared… Anyway, we get down to the beach and it’s slightly overcast but still humid as the day is long. We sit down in the sand and she starts digging for all of 5 minutes. And a big ole truck starts driving by, blowing the whistle, telling us all to get off the beach for a tornado warning. WHAT?! Seriously. I thought my brain was going to explode. My immediate response was, “Can tornadoes even happen here?! How is this possible?!”
Thankfully, it cleared up for the rest of the week. The sun was out in full force (I have the proof on my lily white burned skin), and the water was refreshing in the humidity.
Playing at the Splash Pad by our pool
Pruny feet-- the sign of a day well spent!
She took her first "ride" in the mechanical toys at the mall... NOT loving it.
Out in the waves with Daddy
On our first night there, I texted two friends and asked for prayers for sleep. And minus the first night of Abi Kate’s all-night party, sleep came to me in ways that I’ve craved for 3 weeks. No hours of restlessness from racing thoughts, no dreams that replay the sadness over and over again. And with sleep comes clarity and renewal.
Date night :)
One night, Tommy, Rachel, and I grabbed some chairs & drinks and went down to the ocean around 9:30. We were far enough away from the shore to stay dry, but close enough to feel the spray of water and sand as the wind blew. It was too dark to see far out and too dark for others to see my face. And the crashing waves drowned out our quiet, short conversation. At some point we all stopped talking and just sat there watching and listening. And the waves reminded me of a few things…
I have yet to be in the ocean since giving birth that I haven’t thought of labor. In Alpha, we teach about the mechanics of contractions-- how they follow a wave-like pattern strengthening as they go, peaking, and then slowly releasing. My midwife with Abi Kate referred to contractions as waves. She told me that when they came to “get on top of the wave and ride it down,” just like I would if I were surfing. But after laboring twice, I’ve found that what works best for me is to truly surrender to the power of the ‘wave,’ to let it crash over me and take me wherever it needs to. And while I sat in the sand thinking about this, I couldn’t help but find grief to be the same way. I have braced myself against the thoughts and memories, trying to “get on top” of them. But what’s been best is to just let grief be what it is…. Sometimes small waves that I can stand up through, sometimes ones so big that I’m not sure I’ll resurface. But letting myself grieve as often, as long, as light, and as hard as I’ve needed-- that’s what has been most helpful. So I stopped fighting those memories and closed my eyes. And I went back to the moments before I was even certain that I was pregnant. That day while I juiced for us at lunch and the smell sent me running to the bathroom… I let myself think about later that day when I knew for sure I was pregnant, touching my stomach and saying, “Hi, baby. Mommy loves you.” I remembered as much as I could about each day all the way up to the present….and it helped.
It’s always bittersweet when a vacation comes to an end. I started my mornings like this at the beach…..
I love Tennessee. I love its simple beauty, that we experience all 4 seasons here, that there are green hills and dark mountains in the east, that trees and rivers abound all across the state. But it’s pretty hard to compete with that view.
My sister said this week that it’s interesting how people try to “get away” from their lives by going on a vacation. But the truth is, problems and struggles follow you wherever you go. Destination doesn’t undo reality. And she’s right. Our present struggles found us 9 hours away in an environment completely different than the one at home. I wish the sand and sun did melt all sorrows--even they aren’t strong enough for that. But it brought a quiet reprieve, took the sting of the sadness, and allowed me to begin feeling a sense of normalcy again. Laughing out loud at jokes, enjoying good food and too much of it.
Tommy came to me one night while we were there and said that he did want to name our baby. We’d both been kind of torn on that, but I think getting away helped us make some decisions. So we spent some time on Father’s Day evening looking up names for her, searching out their meanings. We haven’t decided on anything yet, wanting to give her the name that is just right.
Home welcomed us back with comfort and with memories-- both happy and sad. But sitting on the couch last night, looking through the book of names, I recognized healing happening right here…. I think the Tennessee sun is hot enough to melt troubles, too.
One of my friends has been diligent to regularly send me scripture in the last few weeks. As I was reading through the chapter she’d messaged, I found myself crying, from bittersweet joy at this verse.
“…The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong…” Isaiah 58:11
I can't find any beautiful words to describe how and what I felt. All I could think was, "Thank you, Jesus."