The preschool teacher smiles and hands over my son’s art. As my eyes meet the page—though the medium and colors may vary—I know they will inevitably meet a cyclone of color.
I gently cup his shoulder and hold out his artwork as I inquire, “Hey buddy, what did you make today?” A toothy grin emerges between his paint-streaked chubby checks, as he proudly exclaims, “eh stoooom!!!”
A storm. This masterpiece of his, created on repeat, litters our household. Whether hung crooked on the fridge concealing previous drafts or crammed haphazardly into our everything drawer, various renditions of “a storm” fill the cavities of our home.
Over time, as I learned about his temperament—his spirited personality—it was no coincidence a storm was his choice creation. It is remarkable he could externally express the “big feelings” that internally ravaged his tender 3-year-old body.
As the years passed, storms saturated our lives. Gone were the days of circular scribbles on paper. He could now successfully wind his body and emotions into a never-ending cyclone. It was inevitable—our child would experience this world more intensely than most. It was our sacred job to figure out how to guide him. Any expectations I held about parenthood flew swiftly out the window, littering a paper trail along the lanes of my journey.
I understand the point of the cliche, “After every storm, there is a rainbow.” At least, that’s what we hope for amidst the devastations that flood our lives. For those of us who are all too familiar with miscarriage, stillbirth, or any thief that has stolen our flesh and blood too soon, babies after loss claim the title of this familiar phrase.
After the crushing loss of our first baby a year prior, which left us pleading for light in the midst of heavy darkness, a flicker appeared. Our “rainbow baby” took his place with undeniable force.
In moments of profound struggle, I honestly questioned the meaning of this gift. How did we recover from devastating loss, only to gain a stubborn child who never plays by the rules? Some days, I felt I deserved something easier, more manageable.
In my formative years, my mother regularly communicated I was entitled to a life that cooperated with all of my dreams and plans. A posture of entitlement was hemmed into my fabric of being.
After I lost a child and then struggled to parent a strong-willed child, my entitlement was consequently shattered. Clearly, life hadn’t cooperated with my plans.
Over the years, I paddled through uncharted waters to learn to show up to my complicated emotions and accept what life actually gave me. This required intentional work. A combination of practices including yoga, writing, and mental health therapy ignited a posture of presence in my life. I could now sit with the feelings of discomfort inherently laced into parenthood. What’s more—I learned I could always begin again.
“No, no, nope, not gonna,” my son wails. A storm has taken captive our house—chairs flipped, books strewn on the floor, and piles of laundry poured out of their baskets.
I ask him firmly to find a safe space to calm down. We have all the gadgets—trampoline, crash pad, weighted blanket—you name it. Yet, my son refuses to use these tools because, when in his “red zone,” all bets are off.
“I can’t handle this anymore!” I holler. Without delay, I carry his flailing body to his room, stomp into my own room, and ditch my anger in a cloud of dust.
In the quiet of my room, I thrust my middle up into a downward dog. After a few minutes of hang time, my neck lets go of its death grip on my shoulders. I feel the oxygen expand the deflated balloons inside my chest that fuel my breathing.
After the storm has blown over, I join my son in his room. He promptly collapses into my lap, limbs spilling every which way. We take big breaths together. I listen to his big feelings. We apologize and repair. And, we agree to begin again.
Evidently, the things I think I want aren’t always what will serve me best. They will always fail to stretch, shape, and shift my heart in unexpected ways. The countless storms—generated by my rainbow—formed and fashioned me into who I am today. I took a deep dive into the sea of discovery and resurfaced with who I could be. And—who I could be for my son.
I thought I deserved a neat, tidy, predictable rainbow after the storm of grief. Instead, I haphazardly picked up the debris of a storm and pieced together a new narrative. And that has made all the difference.