The Day I Stopped Swimming

You may have seen on social media we announced a move to Charlottesville with my parents. Following a year of going back and forth to there often, having my sister – the final family member who was close enough to us for help – move an hour away, and counting up the amount of time that Shannon and I were here alone for various reasons since moving back August 2020 – it made sense to not renew our lease. Where to go is a huge question mark so to my parents where there is stability, consistent extra hands, closer to my other sister and brother, and no rent just made sense. My word for 2021 is “Be Still” and I have tried so hard to not make a move unless I am sure it is the one God is pulling me too…and as hard as this one is, there does not seem to be a clear answer so I am going with the option of no choice until things shake clear a little bit.

Our Home Christmas 2015
Getting Used to Home Life March 2020


We don’t own this house and the challenges we have faced with it over the last two years it seems so obvious to close this chapter. Due to some bad interactions with the many stairs in the townhouse we have had to call 911 for Danny several times when his lungs were really fighting back (something they may choose to do again if things get more complicated with current %s). My wrestling the trash cans, a yard, snowy steps have been a challenge as a pregnant lady, new mom, and with my family moving away. Following Danny’s 2nd transplant and the two strokes during surgery, he was not able to walk well at first and we really wondered if this house would work. Using my “Be Still” test there is plenty of evidence to say good bye…. but the 6+ years here, the moments I see layout from inside these walls: when we got the call for new lungs, when we were homestudy approved for our adoption, the afternoon I told Danny I was pregnant, started exciting new career paths and maybe absolute most memorable of all – our period of really remarkable good after the first transplant, not evening mentioning and the bunch of little moments like Christmas trees or drinks on the back deck….. Walking away from this house puts these moments of happy so far in the rearview mirror. And when I have learned to describe what our family is going through right now: trauma healing (all 4 of us {even Q} and honestly, it is really hard) – letting these moments go feels like a huge loss.

At Home Dinner Date February 2017


Being who I am, I have wracked my brain why this is so hard. I have tried a million different ways to make it not feel like a failure …. including the truth: in this season I have never, ever been on my knees so much or spent so much time with our Lord and sometimes when you do that He is going to make you face the things that need facing. This house to me has been a symbol. Danny and I have hung in there as long as we possibly could being “like everyone else” and it felt like a badge of honor. 1 transplant costs $1 million plus….. infertility is $20,000+…… adoption prep is a lot…. we had all these external circumstances and yet we were still able to maintain a home for our hopefully growing family. I have worked two jobs to keep us here, Danny has lost organs over making a nice yard (we know now his efforts out back may have aided in the lost of the first set of lungs). God calls us to not care for symbols and things, and boy has this one been a big symbol in our life. But honestly I think it is more facing the inability to be self sufficient that bears so much weight. When it snows we are SOL, when the medical and baby and amazon (cause we are locked away) trash gets so full and I was up all night with S and Danny is sick the basement and we miss dragging the trash cans around to the front – we are screwed. When I am alone and realize we don’t have enough milk for the morning for S, there is no one to call. We aren’t keeping up with life…. we aren’t making it all happen the way we thought. We lived with the whole “if you work hard enough, even if your different you can still make it work” and leaving this house I feel like I am saying “well, you can’t and we did not”. So maybe God is calling for a little more acceptance of life as it truly is. And maybe a new way to find solutions.

Baby Month is here! Picture following my Heppes Birthday Dinner March 2020


February 2019 I got up from the hotel bed 8 months pregnant ever so carefully to keep my vomit just at enough level to not get violently sick until I was near the toilet. At this point Danny was living in the hospital full time. We had gotten the news that if Danny did not get organs he would not live to meet Shannon at the end of March and my midwives were not open to inducing before 39 weeks. The battle of if we could or should try to survive another transplant had been the majority of our conversations and they were hard, heavy and often I reached to pat my growing belly just to assure it was still there… She was still there… we had waited so long to experience having a baby and now when we should have been putting the final touches on a nursery, instead were thinking about where to put a hospice bed, I had to literally reach for her to make sure in the nightmare I was living, I had not lost her too. It was so strange, I was very aware of everything going on and knew that the reality of welcoming a new family member and saying good bye to another one was very possibly my fate. Yet, as I fought sickness again, was losing sleep and felt so alone I had called my mom a few times to literally just come and sleep in the hotel room with me (we said it was for other reasons – help take care of me or be there if Danny really took a turn …. but honestly, it felt better to just not sleep alone) I finally hit the limit. I could not do this anymore. What my head and my heart wanted… what I had ALWYAS done: put myself VERY LAST when it came to Danny’s needs wasn’t possible. My body was literally giving out on me… and as frustrated as I was, it was hard to be mad at it when it was growing our daughter. I did the hard thing, I told Danny and his family I could not live at the hospital anymore. The conversation was not well received and I received my first message of being a  failure when I had to give up. I was giving up. In the moment it felt more like after treading water for months and months I just had to roll over and float to try and survive. I knew it meant some potentially horrible realities, but I physically did not have anything left in my tank. A few days later I would go to my baby shower and see the amazing smiling faces and feel the love.. but deep down felt like a pretty big mess. Celebrating the growing of my family, when I had just announced the inability to be there for the person I wanted a family with… the family I already had…that week haunts me. And that is the start of when I felt like I stopped standing strong and fighting for our life.

The Season of Living in Baltimore that Go Round June 2019
Danny is back with home with Quinlan February 2017


The weeks after that would change MANY things. COVID…… Danny was approved for lungs and his treatment plan transitioned to getting him stronger instead of just keeping him stable – he would eventually be able to wait for lungs outside the hospital…. we would make the choice to have my family members move in with me for baby watch…. and Danny would live with his parents – limited stairs and they could care for him – then eventually I would move to Charlottesville. I have rarely said this outloud because it sounds so ungrateful, yet I think the lack of releasing it is part of what is eating at me. All of these choices piled onto my feelings of failure. In the moment I was exhausted – physically and mentally and it did feel good to just have choices made. But looking back I wasn’t being me…. we were not being us. Should we have fought to be under one roof? What would the hospital really have done if I said I need my dying husband and my mom in labor and delivery with me – at this point masks weren’t even a thing so how bad would it really have been COVID wise? Would there really have been such a push back? All of these moments… all of these experiences are over a year old and still, I can’t seem to stop reliving them. Wondering which one was THE one that really pulled my life out of my hands, left me at the mercy of decisions and I had stopped making them for myself. Saying good bye to this house is not the first…. but it may in fact be the last one to end this season. There are no good options and so I just give in to the one that makes least amount of waves…… so what else will have to give into? What else will I have to just accept? These feelings are what is making this so hard. 

View Outside Our Bedroom Window January 2019
Celebrating First Birthday March 2021


I am a smart girl. Smart enough to recognize that everything that has happened just is. In fact right and wrong decisions in 2020 didn’t even really exist – we ALL were just living with the motto of doing the best we can as we faced unprecedented situations. My world felt heavy and full…. but I am not sure there is one person out there who does not feel that choices were forced upon them and often it was just treading water in-between floating on your back to give yourself just enough to get to the next day. – FOR US ALL. Also smart enough to be getting a lot of help for all this trauma that is trying its hardest to remain alive between my two ears. Because here the truth is – I am afraid that this time I am awake enough and choosing the unknown and it is reasonable that is scary because I tried not to choose it so many times before and yet it remained the destination. But there is also some truth, that belly I kept touching to assure it was still there has turned into my joy that is very much here – making life full and crazy and funny and beautiful all day (and night often) long. God gave us this amazing gift, so I have to trust if he is asking us to let go of other perceived blessings it is for a reason. Sometimes our hands have to be made free to hold the right things. We are in the final few weeks with this house and each weekend I come by the emotion gets a little less. Today, I decided to try something different…. sit in its walls and write what’s been rattling around my head and heavy on my heart. Honesty lets us release it… and writing it allows me to see the silver linings peaking through (it strange, but it always does). Perhaps the largest being I have a place to go…..I have my family to help…. our world is messy, but it still has all of us alive in it. A house is just a house…. a season of life is also just a season… maybe this one is really going to come to a close with this final step of acceptance… maybe we are in for world of new challenges…. but nothing is forever, except for God so I am walking towards him for healing and for what He holds ahead.

Packing Weekend in Ashburn June 2021

Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!

Jackie


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