By Judy Krasna, F.E.A.S.T. Executive Director
When people hear that my daughters are triplets, they always ask me how I managed with three babies. Truthfully, I don’t have an answer. Looking back on it, the first year was total insanity. No sleep for 9 months, non-stop feeding, changing, and soothing, and no downtime at all, ever. To say it was exhausting is a gross understatement. But the bottom line is that we didn’t have a choice other than to step up and do the work. We were the parents, these babies were our responsibility, and we had to care for them to the best of our ability. And so, we rolled up our sleeves, and parented these three tiny humans. We washed and filled 27 bottles every morning. We endured the whirlwind of each day and each night. There were no shortcuts.
Was it hard? OMG yes. It was an enormous job, and at times we felt like the babies demanded more than we could give them. But we did it, because sometimes life throws unexpected situations at you, and you have to deal with things that are beyond what you think you can manage. It is in these situations where you find the strength you didn’t know you had.
When my daughter was hospitalized last year for a serious infection after giving birth, she asked if we would keep the baby with us while she was in the hospital. For 2 weeks, my husband and I took on the role of parents of an infant. If someone had asked me whether I could care for a newborn for 2 weeks, I would say hell no. I’m too old for sleepless nights, I don’t have the energy that I had when I was a young mother, and I’m too out of practice at caring for such a tiny baby. But again, it was one of those situations where we had to step up as parents and grandparents; our daughter needed us, our grandson needed us, and so we did what seemed too daunting to even be possible.
That situation gave me tremendous appreciation for my mother in law. It seems that post-delivery infections run in the family, because after my son was born, I had to be hospitalized for 2 weeks; I was so sick. My mother in law not only took care of a newborn, she took care of three 8-year-olds as well. I cannot imagine how she did it. She was considerably older at that time than I am now. Again, it was one of those situations that pushed someone beyond what they would consider to be their capacity; one of those situations where if someone asked you if you could do it, you would reply “absolutely not.” But in reality, if you had to, you would.
No one asked me whether I could handle my daughter’s eating disorder. It was just thrown at us. It was hell. It took me back to my daughter’s first year of life, when I struggled to keep up and to do what needed to be done. It seemed impossible. 3 meals and 3 snacks a day, every single day. The meals bled into the snacks, which then bled into the meals. It was excruciating, sitting in that chair in the kitchen opposite my daughter for hours and hours, waiting for her to eat. There was also all of the driving to and from treatment, dealing with the hysterics and the moods, and watching the eating disorder transform my daughter into someone who I didn’t recognize. It all felt huge, even with a spouse who shared the burden with me. It felt much bigger than anything I could possibly handle.
Oh, and I still had to work, and go to the grocery store, and cook meals, and pack lunches, and do laundry, and be there for my 3 other kids to the greatest possible degree. It seemed absolutely impossible to juggle that many balls at once, especially when some of them were so crushingly heavy. Dropping the balls wasn’t an option, and so I kept on keeping on, because I had to. But also because I was stronger than I thought; more capable of handling the impossible, more adept at carrying heavy things, and more durable than I imagined. I didn’t recognize my own strength at the time, but I see it now because it is reflected in every parent in our community. I see your strength. You, too, are stronger than you think. So many of you are stretched beyond a reasonable capacity, you are carrying the heaviest of burdens, you are doing the impossible–and you are doing it all with incredible tenacity, skill and perseverance. You are getting the job done, because you have to.
When it feels like you can’t, know that you can. You can do whatever it takes to help your child. It feels daunting because it is daunting. It feels scary because it is scary. It’s exhausting, and it’s frustrating, and it’s probably the hardest thing you will ever have to do. But when you are put in a situation where the impossible is expected of you, you discover that you can do the impossible when you find the strength you didn’t know you had.