Tuesday, April 15, 2014

the pain of being born

He’s lying eerily still with eyes open wide. Only hours old, every once of his new life is foreign. In an instant I feel everything he feels and I ache for his new world of discomfort. Harsh buzzing florescent lights, first experience of stabbing hunger, sharp loud noises and cold sterile air causing angry purple splotches on his fresh new skin. His only calm found directly on my bare chest and inside my heart. Overwhelmed and grateful, I understand the pain of this foreign land because motherhood feels like that for me. My hands shake I am so scared. I kiss the top of his head and whisper, It’s going to be okay, we will figure this out together.

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I cradle him in my arms, my son Greyson now nine months old. We are getting the hang of this new world. My tears splash onto his face as I sit at my computer reading. The song, Face of a Faith plays in the background…

You are the light I follow

You are the face of a faith I love
Oh my darling believe in me

And my intense love for motherhood continued to create a trail of tears down my face. I was reading a birth story of a beautiful little girl unexpectedly born with Down syndrome written by her fiercely loving mother, Kelle Hampton. I almost envied the perspective Special Needs seemed to shine into Kelle’s world. I wrapped her words around both Greyson and me…

Life moves on. And there have been lots of tears since. There will be. But, there is us. Our Family. We will embrace this beauty and make something of it. We will hold our precious gift and know that we are lucky. I feel lucky. I feel privileged. I feel there is a story so beautiful in store...and we get to live it. Wow.

The story has begun...

I wondered if called to greatness, if I could love in this raw and beautiful capacity. Kelle’s words and her blog, Enjoying the Small Things became part of my parenting routine. She gave me permission to feel and give letters to all the feelings I could never find the words to describe. She was there, lifting me up and holding my hand along the way, helping me appreciate the simplest of moments.  I had no idea at the time that her collection of words was also paving a road for future me.

When Greyson was 22 months old he received the gift of a brand new baby brother named Parker. And although each stage was still new, the role of Mother came much more naturally the second go round. Greyson didn’t seem to care for this new gift and would have preferred we sent it back to the store. Instantly, Grey turned away from me. Days went by and he didn’t want me to hold him. He wouldn’t even look at me. One night my husband Michael brought him to me for a goodnight kiss and I instead received a slap across the face. Sobbing and hormonal, I chalked it up to the abrupt change brought on by the arrival of a new sibling. The distance between us grew as the days went by. I would enter the room and no light turned on in Greyson’s eyes. There were times I called his name over and over again and he wouldn’t even look at me. I didn’t know it was possible to feel such huge rejection from someone so tiny. The pattern continued, something is terribly wrong screamed my gut. Many little differences noticed, collected and compiled in my mind. He barely spoke. He didn’t call me Mom. He didn’t seem to notice other people when they were around. He wouldn’t walk on grass barefoot. I had no idea that all these things placed together had a name and soon after, Greyson was diagnosed with autism. And so now our story had also begun. I too was a mother with a child of special needs. 

Now Greyson is four years old and Parker is three. They are my wildest dream come true and fill my days with busy, purpose and content. Both boys have been diagnosed with autism. And I realized long ago that of course I love them fully in the raw capacity I envied in Kelle. We are Moms, that’s what we do.

In December of last year while scrolling down Instagram, I saw an announcement on Kelle Hampton’s feed. Write: Doe Bay, a writer's retreat on the Orcas Islands April 10-13 of 2014. My heart pounded in my chest as I tried to imagine myself as the type of girl who would go- because I wanted to be her. I haven’t left Grey overnight in four years and had never left Parker -even for one night. Put the oxygen mask on before assisting small children wasn’t meant for a Mother of two with autism, I told myself. My children would suffocate. Practical me and fun me got into a huge debate. I had just turned 40 and my bones ached for adventure. The trip was still four months away- What If you just signed up and cancelled if you change your mind? I negotiated with myself.  I told husband Michael the news excitedly and his face went flat. That’s too long to be gone, he said, I have to work. Who will watch the boys?

I NEVER GET TO DO ANYTHING, I screamed intensely, pissed off tears flying hastily, years of sad bubbling over the top. I never go anywhere. I love to write. I need this with every part of my soul. I’m so scared of what will happen to me if I don’t go. I knew it would save me- from what I didn’t know. Michael was shocked at the intensity of my response. Then you have to go. We will sign you up. I was exhausted from the polar conflict in my mind. No, you’re right. It’s a terrible idea, I pleaded. He grabbed the computer, found the information and clicked to sign me up. Panic slapped me across the face. No- I don’t want to go. That’s weird anyway- I don’t know anyone going. I don't leave the boys. It was too late, he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

My suitcase lies still unpacked in front of me, memories spilling out onto the floor. Not quite ready to let go. I did it- I leaped into the ice-cold water of Write: Doe Bay and it was an excruciating new existence. The first night was unbearable, I hate it here, I want to come home, I whispered to Michael on the phone. There was barely cell service I had to stand still pressed up against a small spot in our cabin to get reception. I’m certain it was just the pain of being born.  And slowly and completely I came unraveled and broken completely apart. I think I had to be shattered in order to be put back together again, newer and better. 

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And beautiful Kelle was everything I expected and then some. She's an amazing person and writer, but at the end of the day- she is also one of us. Just a girl and a Momma with a knack for true stories and perspective, a computer, and a heart that leaks constant love.

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I laughed a thousand times, and cried almost as much. I needed both desperately. And this girl Annie, she has a permanant room in my heart.

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(Photo credit Jesse Michener) I admired the amazing Nicci from Dig this Chick, A story weaver and lover of every day moments. My kind of girl. In my next life I hope to marry her. 

And also the inspiring, fierce Claire Bidwell Smith. In my next life I hope to BE her. Her Memoir, The Rules of Inheritance is about grief but even more about grace and running directly into your fears. She's one of the bravest souls I've met.

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And here are my lovely roomates, who already feel like family. Tammi, Elke, Angie, and Michelle, I can't wait until next time. 

And now I sit, sort and gather my thoughts. I ache from lonely without the constant companionship of some of the most amazing and unique souls I’ve ever met. 

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Sometimes you have to travel far to find a lost you.

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photo credit Jesse Michener 

I fell in love a million times in a million ways over the weekend. All of our stories, and the beauty and pain born released within the sacred retreat walls are forever locked inside my heart. 

The journey was intense, light and hilarious- it was a great many things. I miss every person there with a dull and unbearable exhaustion inside.  But the beauty, kindness and love I found I will forever share going forward, especially with my boys. The time away makes for much better Moming. For the first time in so very long, I can finally breathe. I don't even need the oxygen mask.


Join me on Facebook and Instagram @lifewithgrey


  1. OMG! Your beautiful way of words brings me so much joy! I look forward to a book soon~

  2. I'm so proud of you!! You sound like a caterpillar that struggled out of her cocoon to find herself a beautiful butterfly. :-) I think sometimes we get to become butterflies several times in our lives... :-)

  3. So glad you went! Looking forward to hearing how it all went while you were away and any lessons learned.

  4. I thought you were smarter than to fall for that egomaniac as she exploits her kids for an income. Wow. Pathetic. GOMI is also disappointed as everyone thought you were actually legit. Guess not.

    1. I am not sure what purpose your reply offered other than to attempt to slander Chrissy…and to do so anonymously. It is ok to not agree with who she has chosen to be inspired by but it would have been much more useful (and caring) to offer your discomfort in a private message. This resonates as self-serving and not a growing opportunity for you or Chrissy. What makes it more uncomfortable is that it's posted after she lays her heart on the table. Please consider leading with love at least to people trying their best.

    2. Thumper's dad was right - "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say nuthin at all"
      I have no idea why people think the world is entitled to their opinion. You are free to disagree, but if it offers nothing constructive, why not chalk it up to a difference of opinion and move on rather than making hurtful comments? Be kind.

    3. Dear Brother or Sister Anonymous- Where is the wound that hurts so bad, you must hurt a beautiful sister like Chrissy to relieve it? May God show you the compassion you need so badly and send someone to care for and heal you. You are in my prayers. Hoping that tomorrow is a better day for you.

  5. You are amazing. Brave.

    Keep breathing.

  6. Chrissy you are amazing. What a brave thing to do this weekend as well as to post and share the experience.

  7. Lisa from Tennessee/Ohio (more TN now I think)April 15, 2014 at 8:46 AM

    Anonymous, until you walk in their shoes, you have no right to judge ANYONE.
    Chrissy, I'm so glad you went. I know it had to be hard for you, but it sounds like it was so worth it for you! And your boys will be better for you having gone; you need to take care of you too, yanno! :-)

  8. Wow. Classy. What makes you think she cares what GOMI thinks?

  9. And that ^^ was directed towards the mean spirited comment above, by the way.

  10. I am so glad you went and it was everything you thought it would be and more. I started following Kelle Hampton recently and when reading her birth story....I sobbed. It was so amazingly moving.
    Keep doing what you are doing. You ARE making a difference! Especially for people like me who have just begun their journey in the world of autism. Some days your words were all I had to make sense of something that made no sense to me whatsoever. I just knew I wasn't alone and sometimes that is all you need to know.


  11. I must stop reading this at work....crying at work is not a good idea. Good for you Momma! So proud of you!

  12. As a mother who has both Down syndrome and autism written in my story, I love and learn from both you and Kelle. And I'm so grateful for you.

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  14. You, my dear, are a great many things and I will be forever changed by getting to know you. And in reference to the comment above, I know for a fact that you are legit. Too legit to quit. xoxo

  15. Love that you shared a post so quickly after returning!
    I love reading Kelle's, Nici's, and YOUR blog. I appreciate the perspectives from you and often feel inspired, reflective, and grateful after reading your posts and theirs.

  16. Hi Friend! It looks like you had a fabulous group of women at the retreat! I am so happy you went & recharged for Chrissy - she's an awesome lady & deserves to follow her own dreams.
    Not sure what was up with the judgy anonymous post before mine & I know it will bug you, but please don't let someone who hides behind an "anonymous" post dampen your experience.
    Love & happiness to you, sweet Momma writer! xoxo Jen

  17. Chrissy, this is gorgeous - the writing, the experience, everything. I know what you mean about Kelle's blog - she can take my breathe away sometimes, and you did the same with this post. Leaving home is so hard, and must be an even greater task for you considering the responsibilities you leave behind. I applaud you for taking the time to do something good for you soul <3

  18. This made my heart smile. So happy to have met you & heard your story. I have much admiration for you as a woman and a mother.

    Love (& sparkle fingers) to you and your boys.

  19. "Sometimes you have to travel far to find a lost you." This. You put it so well. I'm so glad you came. Your boys are so beautiful. I'm so glad I got to know you and hear your story this weekend. You are a true inspiration.

  20. There arent enough words to describe how beautiful This post is.
    I am a teacher of students with autism, and I believe parents
    Of these students are strong hard working and brave souls. I can tellHow deeply you love
    Your sons but your mama heart needs time to
    Your self. So glad to see you had a beatiul weekend 😍❤😍

  21. Mama! Loved meeting you. Your strength, no bullshit authenticity. Your vigor, compassion and willingness to grow. I sincere look forward to knowing more of you! xo

  22. I'm so proud of you for going! I can't imagine how hard it must have been. But look at you now. Born again. Good job, Mama. My mom always tells me to make sure I take care of me (feed my soul), because that in turn helps me to be a better mama. Truth!

  23. Beautiful! Your words and pictures actually make me feel the emotions you describe. Sounds like an amazing weekend, and I hope the inspiration feeds you for a long time to come!

  24. Love, love, LOVE your take on your Doe Bay experience. Your emotional outburst about needing to go and then quickly recoiling when your husband agrees sounds exactly like me. Far, far too often that recoiled feeling wins and I am stopped from doing what I want, what I NEED to do for myself. Reading your post felt like a victory. Thank you for the inspiration and guidance to allow myself to do something for *me*.