When “Don’t forget to take care of yourself Mama” makes you want to punch a wall.

It is a phrase that is often delivered by well-meaning friends, family members and doctors. Delivered to you with the best of intentions. And it is often offered to you by the very people who know how hard it actually is! So why does this phrase often incite frustration and cynicism inside the sweet mamas receiving these words instead of the support and comfort they were intended to deliver?

It might be because she is sleep deprived to a level comparable to torture. Her brain is functioning at subpar levels and now focus, logic and emotional processing are extremely impaired.

It might be because she has tried to “sleep when baby sleeps”- but baby doesn’t sleep. Or, as soon as baby falls asleep and she puts him down, he wakes back up. She finds herself broken down once more by how close she was to rest and is convinced that she may never sleep again.

Maybe she has more than one child, and when the baby rests she is making sure to give her toddler one-on one time. Maybe she is postpartum and her hormones are all over the place. Maybe she promised that she would breastfeed and is determined not to give up, but the fight for success in this area is suffocating her physically and emotionally.

What if she just went back to work and it is taking all of her to perform her job well, and return home with enough energy to care for her kiddos, make dinner, try to keep up the house and still connect with her husband?

What if motherhood is so much harder than she thought? What if she is not the mother she thought she would be? What if her children’s needs are much more than she imagined? What if all of her hopes and ideals about motherhood have been challenged beyond repair?

Now imagine you see her, and you can tell she is weary, tired and emotional. And you put your hand on her shoulder in response to her venting and say, “Don’t forget to take care of yourself, mama.”

Even the most well-meaning comments can feel like punches in the stomach when your physical and emotional state is under water.

I have felt this “punch in the stomach” more times that I can share. I have been in a place where hope felt painfully impossible to even think about.

Knowing all too well how this feels, I have found myself wondering lately, “How did you end up becoming someone who says this to other moms? As I share with others about the nutrition and fitness program that I am a coach and client for, I have wrestled with this message of self-care to the mamas out there, when I know how it feels to be in the trenches.

I recently put together a montage of photos of my 3 children and I from the past 10 years. The photos spanned from pregnancy to birth to toddlerhood including both painful and precious moments we experienced. The message that I shared over this collection was meant to acknowledge how powerful motherhood really is. It holds power in the weight of its most miraculous and most painful experiences and memories. Motherhood holds power in the dichotomy that most of us could not wait for this season of life, yet once in it, we realize it is SO MUCH MORE than we could have ever imagined in both incredible and exasperating ways. It holds power in the ways that it has involved, impacted, and changed our minds and bodies. So much power that the thought of taking care of yourself when you have such a great responsibility to take care of others seems not only impossible, but even, dare I say- irrelevant.

Yet, even after acknowledging all that, how is it that I have found myself on the other side of the motherhood “fence,” encouraging other moms to NOT forget themself in the process.

Have I stumbled upon the “secret” to self-care? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Do I have it all figured out? HECK NO. Is my life easier now and without struggle? As Pete the Cat would say, “Goodness No.”

But just like the meaning behind the former name of my blog, “Yesterday’s Kurta,” every yesterday has a story to tell.

While living in India, every Kurta I wore had a major story to tell. A story of hardship and discovery. So just like every yesterday has a story to tell, every person has a yesterday- A unique experience that could provide encouragement and connection to others who might be journeying through something similar. Each person is also in a different season of life. This means that they’ve already traversed through your current life season. Even more, one thing we all have in common even if our experiences or seasons of life vary, is that loneliness and discouragement are always beckoning on our doorstep. Always “prowling around like a lion waiting for someone to devour.”

Reflecting on our yesterday’s often provides us with the ability to offer others relevant wisdom and comfort. And when reflecting with an attitude of thanksgiving, we can see just how far we’ve come. Sometimes the ability to tell someone I know what you’re going through, you’re not alone, and I will help you go through it can be priceless.

When I am facing a challenge, or helping others I am often reminded of the book, “Going on a bear hunt.” With every obstacle the family experiences on their journey to find a bear, the chorus that repeats is,

“We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,

What a beautiful day!
I’m not scared

Oh look! It’s some long, wavy grass! (Or thick mud, or a dark forest, or a pond, or a snowstorm, or a dark cave…)
Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go around it,
Got to go through it!

We’re Going on a bear hunt By Michael Rosen

Every person has a forest or a snow storm or pile of muck that they couldn’t go over or under, but had to go through.

For me, one of my “forests” was when my second child had horrible colic for the first 6-9 months of his life. I think back to that time and recall so many tears, so many books rummaged through for help, so many walks by myself because I needed a break from the crying (that despite all of my efforts) I could not relieve. So much gripe water, and trial and error with formula that always ended in projectile vomiting. Then I spent 8 weeks dairy-free to breastfeed because that was the only option. My sweet poor babe was on both C-omeprazole and Zantac to relieve some of the pain of acid reflux. The pediatric GI somberly informed me that the small sphincter at the base of his esophagus just needed more time to develop and time was one thing I had no control over. I remember thinking during his pregnancy (which was very painful with constant braxton hicks starting at 24 weeks) that maybe he would be an easy baby. Wishful thinking.

As hard as it was, his pregnancy toughened me up a bit and prepped me for his colic. And now that I think of it, his colic may have strengthened me for his childhood. Over his 8 young years of life we have been managing Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Navigating all these challenges potentially built in me a stronger base that would ultimately prepare me for my third child, who I did not know was going to have Usher’s Syndrome which comes with its’ own set of unique challenges. The needs of my children have broken me down in so many ways, but the ways that I have been rebuilt are priceless. Every single struggle has sent me running to Jesus. And with HIM and all that this life has allowed, I am much stronger than I ever was or ever thought I could be. My mind likes to tell me lies about who I am and what I am capable of, all based on how hard things have been and my feelings in those moments. But Jesus gives me strength unimaginable. He give me strength to consider hope, when everything around me tells me otherwise.

So back to the beginning. How am I able to offer those (sometimes irritating) words to other mamas out there now?

Maybe I have simply arrived in a new season of life. Maybe I have more room to breathe to consider taking better care of myself. Maybe I am less sleep deprived, maybe my kids are in school, maybe I have help.

Or maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t stand NOT taking care of myself anymore.

I started to look around and realized that the waves were never going to stop coming. The obstacles on my “bear hunt” were endless. I had and continue to have legit reasons to explain my lack of margin in my life for self-care. But I tired of them. I tired of the hamster wheel of struggle, of treading water and receiving a life raft just moments shy of what felt like drowning.

So maybe you too feel a weight on your back when someone tells you to take care of yourself.

Maybe it’s because you’ve tried before and “failed.” You’ve seen others succeed when you couldn’t and it hurts like shame.

You see no light at the end of the tunnel and no possibility for hope. The obstacles are too great.

I want to enter into that space with you and say, I know. The weight of what you are feeling is real. It really is all TOO much. There really IS no margin. And having a hope for something better often feels like a trick.

But the alternative to hope, is bitterness and resentment. The alternative to trying is being stuck. The alternative to asking for help is relying completely on yourself, burning out and falling prey to isolation, cynicism and becoming someone you swore you would never become.

Sometimes it takes one simple moment of humility, acknowledging you need help to take care of yourself. One simple prayer asking Jesus to show you how. One simple decision to break the pattern of giving up, and begin the habit of taking one baby step at a time towards healthier choices. As mamas we know all too well what “baby steps” look like. If those sweet toddlers keep getting back up, so can we.

“That’s great… for you.”

I was in a parent workshop listening to a speaker talk on the subject of behavioral therapy for children. I could sense that there were parents in the room, like me, who were in the thick of the struggle. But there were also parents in the room who were on the other side.
The side where victory or freedom or hope lives.
During the talk, I had to frequently battle the voice in my head that said, “Your situation is more complex, your child’s’ struggles will never be fixed, you will never be on the other side.”
I hate that voice. I believe it to be the voice of the enemy. The “Father of lies” who wants us to remain trapped in discouragement, devoid of hope.
But I have become aware of it enough to prepare myself before attending these talks. I prepare myself by praying- “Lord help me hold every thought captive to you. Help me hear what is it you have for me today.”

Looking out over the city (India)

Sometimes when I share about the program I am a coach for and how much breakthrough I personally have experienced in the areas of strength gain and reaching health and fitness goals, I imagine a person out there on the other end, receiving my message thinking- “That’s great that it worked for her, but it will never work for me.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have felt this way in so many areas of life.

It brought me back to the days of sleep training, breast-feeding and behavior training. The days when well-meaning mothers and friends would share how their child is sleeping through the night, or how their child could listen and obey right away, or 1-2-3 magic was the key. They were not to blame, but I often felt so discouraged.

But then I remember when I read the book Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child and applying those strategies literally changed the game for getting our firstborn to sleep through the night. But I hesitated sharing about that book because even though it worked for me, I didn’t want to frustrate someone else.

Because so many times had I sat around the table with other moms listening to their success stories thinking that’s awesome… For you… But it won’t work for me.

Flying solo with all 3. Wondering if things will ever be simple again haha.

I can even recall the days when I felt like shouting on the rooftops that prayer and turning to Jesus was the answer for those who were struggling and in pain, but I feared offending them.

How often do we see the success of others and think there has to be a reason that they were able to reach their goal, a reason that sets them apart from me, a reason that makes success more possible for them than it is for me?

How many times have we been told that we just need to try harder? How many times have we been told that we just need to believe it and speak it into existence? And how many times have we still NOT experienced victory?

If you have read my blog post “On the other side” or “Hope” I wrote it because it was a significant moment in my life when I could tangibly feel and see what it was like to be on the other side of a struggle.
Seeing Jackson’s progress with speech and language development ever since he received adequate hearing has provided me with the most profound experience of recognizing and celebrating growth, change and victory. But it was not even close to a quick fix to get there.

Jackson winning the sportsmanship medal!

In a lot of my blogs I talk about the blessing that suffering can bring. Trust me I do not enjoy suffering, in fact I used to avoid it at all cost. I would not make a move, make a decision, even consider taking a risk unless I knew that the probability of success was substantial.
It took me 10 years to get to a place of willingness to move overseas for fear of the struggle. But I have realized that it has been the struggle, the long-suffering, the day to day battle, that has made the awareness and ability to embrace being on the other side so sweet.

We cannot predict how quickly success can be achieved for others, but we can share our struggles and our wins in hopes of bringing others closer to being on the other side of their struggle.
Everyone’s struggle looks different and everyone’s victory looks different. In fact one mother may receive seven different methods for getting her child to sleep through the night before she applies it and it works. Does that mean the mothers before should not have shared?

One woman may try hundreds of diets or fitness programs before she reaches her health and fitness goals does that mean all of her previous efforts were in vain?

Which brings me to the question,
is it OK to share what has worked for you?
My belief- ABSOLUTELY.
If someone is grieving, I’m gonna pray for them.
If someone needs help with math- I will DIRECT them to someone who can (lol).

And if someone wants to improve their health and wellness, I can’t wait to share about the FASTer Way!

Retreat & Re-Entry

Some days, all you dream about as a mom is a minute alone. You look forward to that moment when the kids are finally asleep and you can rest your head, or kick your feet up. So when the moment arises that you are packing up for a weekend away, at a hotel, for an incredible conference/retreat/getaway, or whatever it is for you personally, why is it that anxiety sets in? I mean, I was counting down the days for this trip, and the moment it arrived, I doubted if I should go.

For me, I was headed to a Coaches’ Conference for the business I work for, The FASTer Way to Fat Loss. On the drive there I had to talk myself down from the temptation to turn back. That first night in the hotel, I had to focus on all the strategies I knew for calming my brain in order to sleep. It really wasn’t until 19 hours later when I entered into the conference room that I felt a NEW energy wash over me.

FASTer Way to Fat Loss CEO Amanda Tress giving the welcome address!

It was a foreign energy.

One that I am not used to.

Give me anxious energy, stressed energy, hostile energy, complicated energy, multi-tasking energy, young kids energy, family management energy, parent/marriage juggling energy……these types of energy you can infuse in me all day and my body “systems” will feel as if they are operating status quo.

But give me energy that is sharp-focused, full of hope, inspiration, and comraderie, like the kind I experienced this weekend…..and I was not only pumped but a little scared?!

I mean, I have been on weekends away, and women’s retreats, I have been to training conferences and the like, but I have never been to a weekend away that called upon my “person” as much as this.

What I mean to say is, attending this conference was like drawing a line in the sand and saying, “I am a coach. I want to be a better coach. I believe in myself, I believe in this program and I believe in the possibility that this opportunity brings for myself and for all those I get to serve! I knew it when I registered, and I knew it when I entered the room. The energy spoke for itself.

A foreign energy. One that scared me and challenged me with excitement at the same time.

With every passing session, from the welcome session, the breakout sessions, the session that broke me and built me up all at the same time, the energy kept rising and creating new pathways in my brain and in my body.

Every time I met someone that I had been waiting to meet, that had had impacted my life through this program and every time I met someone new that inspired and challenged me in significant ways, I felt excited and worried at the same time.

Photo with the Pro-trainers for the FASTer Way to Fat Loss

It was nearing the end of the conference, when we were asked what our main challenge was. It was then that I understood why “anxiety” had attached itself to “hope” all weekend long.

Without hesitation I answered the question during our round-table discussion and said, “I’m on a a mountaintop right now, where everything feels exciting and full of possibility, but I know that when I walk into my home, into my family dynamic…

(and I quote)….. “I am going to fold to the reality that is …”

…to the reality that is…

When I said it, I could fill the tears rise and my throat tighten. I felt ashamed and honest at the same time. Even so, I felt it important to share the reality of my heart, because I desperately wanted to walk away different. The impact that the weekend had warranted change.

But the reality at home was significant too.

At home, I had my husband and 3 children waiting for me. A husband who believes in me and watched the kiddos solo…. for me.

I had 3 children waiting for me, who were used to my sole attention being them. I had 2 boys with special needs waiting for my return because they are used to me attending to their needs, interpreting what they cannot and assisting in regulations that do not come natural to them.

I had a family back home that I loved with everything I have, but also a family that required everything that I have.

I battled the thought… how dare I? How dare I consider to try to be something else or something more?

Gracelyn asking if she can wear Jackson’s Mini-Mic to be his helper for the day.

There was an amazing woman sitting beside me, who without hesitation responded to my comment about “walking into my home and folding” and she said- “But you know what self-fulfilling prophecy is, right?”

For those who may not be sure, “A self-fulfilling prophecy is the psychological phenomenon of someone “predicting” or expecting something, and this “prediction” or expectation coming true simply because the person believes or anticipates it will[1] and the person’s resulting behaviors align to fulfill the belief. This suggests that people’s beliefs influence their actions.” Wikipedia

When she said this, I felt it in my core.

A little backstory- I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Sports Coaching. I gained my Master’s degree in Exercise Science, all with the hopes of becoming a Sport Psychologist. The idea of Self-fulfilling Prophecy was something I wrote papers about. I knew what it meant.

At that moment, I could hear the voices of so many women providing practical and tangible application of the strategies I had learned over the weekend and it felt possible to continue to grow and develop even upon entering my home environment simply by creating and applying an action plan, implementing one tool at a time.

The first tool, was going to be Mindset.

My mantra, “Keep hope alive.”

Check-in at the Conference.

I prepared my heart for the things I knew to be true, and spoke to my heart about the things that I want to be true.

I asked my husband when the best time for me to arrive home would be, because for our family, transition is difficult.

As much as I missed them all, It would not honor all my husband did parenting solo for the weekend if I returned whenever I wanted. It works best when we can prepare the kids for transitions which we can mean, new environments, or simply the addition of more people to the room.

It was actually best for everyone for me to arrive home when no one was there.

It felt weird to come home, to an empty home. But it also gave me time to reflect.

When everyone arrived, I was ready to embrace and exchange stories with each child and it was incredibly sweet.

The next day however, was incredibly hard.

The novelty of missing one another had worn off. My daughter had actually been away for the weekend on a trip with her friend. She was also returning from a mountain top experience. Her retreat was priceless. She is the older sister of 2 brothers….hard enough as that can be- she is the older sister of 2 brothers with special needs. She needed the retreat, but the re-entry was hard.

I can feel her struggle as strong as my own.

My precious Gracelyn.

While away, I never forgot how challenging it can be, trying to provide enough attention to each child, while simultaneously trying to buffer the challenges on each sibling that hearing loss and autism can bring to a group dynamic. I never forgot, but when I felt it, I did grieve again as if it was new. Strange, how that can happen.

I even took all 3 kids solo to the Orlando Science Center with the hopes of re-engaging with them in an exciting and memorable way. Very quickly I was reminded of “The Battle of the Voices” that emerges on car rides, the Oppositional Defiant Disorder that is present whenever Dad is not, and the stress that results from impulsive behaviors that literally create separation and the fear of losing a child.

I decided to sit all 3 of my kiddos down on the carpet in the hallway and let them know that I was debating on going home. I let them know that we could not stay if they could not be respectful of others and listen to their mama. After some time we decided to head to the playground area so they could get some energy out and I could sit and collect myself.

Shortly into that time, Garrett approached me and said, “I can’t have fun if you are not.” And he rested on my lap and tried not to cry.

My sweet Garrett.

As much as my heart pained knowing that his heart did, I couldn’t believe how proud I was of him “feeling” for me- something that did not come easy for him.

Soon after that Dad arrived. We were able to salvage the afternoon somewhat and end the day on a good note.

That evening my husband asked me, “Where are you at?”

In our language this meant he wanted to know how I was after the weekend I had and the “Re-Entry.”

I was able to tell him that I went from a hyper-focused weekend of positivity and possibility to one of anxiety, cloudiness and fear. But one feeling that was present as well was this intense desire to keep hope alive. I knew that the life that I was creating for my family and myself was important. I knew that the weekend that I had just had was significant to our life. And I knew that it was not going to be easy, but it would be worth it- to keep hope alive and keep moving towards my goal of being someone who brings hope to others.

I have chosen to wage war on the battle between hope and despair. I have always believed that my God is sovereign and faithful and has never forsaken me where He has lead me. I have decided to remember the energy I felt this past weekend and to live in the way that I encourage my clients to live, one step at a time, one day at a time, progress over perfection, full of hope and a fiery spirit to keep trying!

I hope that here, in my writings, you can find connection and hope too!

Favorite quote from the conference!

Phone calls & field trips.

“Hello?”

“Hi Mrs. Braucher this is the school nurse, Garrett is complaining of a stomach ache, can you come pick him up?”

For weeks, this exact phone dialogue was on repeat. After the first couple phone calls, as any “good mama” would, I picked him up and kept my eye on him throughout the afternoon. It’s amazing how fast kids can recover from a stomach ache once they’re home watching TV and requesting snacks, am I right?

But as any “smart mama” would (this is where I would insert the sarcastic laughing emoji) I could see through the facade. As consistent as the “stomach aches” became, the one consistent truth that remained- Garrett wanted out.

School has never been easy. In fact, if I could homeschool him (and I have tried twice now) I would. Ever since Pre-K, while Garrett was physically in school, we would receive a phone call for one reason or another, and when we picked him up- we would receive the dreaded “report.” Failure to stay in his seat, failure to follow directions, failure to keep his hands to himself, failure to wait his turn, speaks out of turn and the list goes on and on. Most littles one struggle with these same issues when they are learning to attend school. I would tell myself and others would tell me as well, “He’s just a boy being a boy, “He’ll grow out of it.”

When the same issues stick around grade after grade, and the reports evolve, any “smart mom” would begin to wonder, right? The reports got a bit more interesting though…

“Mrs. Braucher, Garrett cut his classmates hair.”

“Mrs. Braucher, Garrett peed in the grass during recess.”

“Mrs. Braucher, Garrett won’t stop kissing the girls.”

“Mrs. Braucher, does Garrett have a lunch account? He continues to get school lunches and claims they can ‘put it on his tab.'”

And over the years the phone calls started to get more impressive….

“Mrs. Braucher, Garrett has a lady bug stuck in his ear.”

“Mrs. Braucher, Garrett says that he was stung by a bee, a wasp, and a hornet simultaneously.”

This sweet boy of ours makes me laugh and smile greater than I ever could have imagined, yet at the same time makes me want to shout his name like the names Alvin the Chipmunk and Dennis the Menace have been shouted before.

There was one phone call in particular though that required some intervention. The day the school nurse called and said, “Mrs. Braucher, Garrett said that he has a dairy allergy and that he had chocolate milk for lunch and he needs to see a doctor immediately.”

This kid.

If you have a child like Garrett, a witty, clever, brilliant child that can manipulate like the best of them, never let them know things you are not certain of yourself. They may just use it as ammunition.

We had speculated a possible gluten and dairy sensitivity over the years. But we didn’t know for certain. In fact, we had removed dairy from my diet as a nursing mother, and gluten from his diet twice already. I also was not a stranger to the notion that these “food allergies” can be deemed the culprit cause of ADHD, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder and the like. But we were also in the midst of discerning if Garrett was battling an anxiety disorder along with his ADHD. He was already taking ADHD medicine and I hesitated to place him on a second medicine, so navigating the root cause of these “stomach aches” as potentially a food allergy was the next step.

Unfortunately, the pediatrician required bloodwork in order to confirm this theory. For me personally, I will consider everything, and will pray and discern what I feel the Lord is leading me to do for my children. Somewhat easy for me to say, however getting THE CHILD in question [with anxiety] to get bloodwork done is a whole other basket.

See, for Garrett, over the past couple of years we discovered it is necessary to make “field trips” to certain doctor’s appointments. This is our best chance at success. And success in this case equals “going through with” the appointment and not say, exiting the building and running down the street. Which HAS happened. Thus, our hope is by the 2nd visit, he will go through with the appointment. So we had our “field trip” for the blood work and surprisingly it went well!

So, when Garrett told the nurse that he ingested dairy and it was time to see the doctor, I decided to capitalize on his request and took him straight from school to the lab. Always better when he thinks it’s HIS idea.

I wish I could say our “field trip” prepared us for victory. But ultimately, what happened during the bloodwork was not a complete surprise. I think deep down I knew it would happen, but I was so hopeful. Maybe that’s why it hurt so much when it happened the way it did. Garrett was able to get through the check-in process, the waiting room, and sitting in the lab chair. They even were able to demonstrate tying the band around his arm to locate a vein. Once the blood work process began, that’s when the fight kicked in. He screamed, lashed out, head-butt and bit. He did anything to anyone out of defense.

I know that these reactions are not isolated to a child with special needs. Getting a shot or blood work can be scary and painful for any child, and even adult! But I think the difference is, when it was over, no hug or embrace, no sticker, lolly-pop or words of encouragement was going to help him recover. The anxiety, the pain, the adrenaline and the inability to self-regulate took over and he continued to physically and verbally take it out on me. I knew his fear and anxiety had turned to anger, and I was the scapegoat. I could see that his nurses were in shock (even though I gave them forewarning) and one of them even began to yell at him. I could see that they wanted to teach him a lesson and protect me. And I appreciated their concern. trust me, I do not condone this behavior. But knowing what I know about him and the needs that he has, this was all so much more than a boy being disrespectful. And this was not the first time I was the recipient of this verbal backlash. Hence, why we take these “field trips” or “practice runs.” But regardless, no level of prior experience, or special needs education and comprehension can remove the pain I felt. It took everything I had to get both of us out of that building.

Once we made it outside, he refused to get into the car and hid behind a column for about 10 minutes. I let him while I just cried. As hurt as I was, I could only imagine all of the emotions he was battling. I could see it on his face. Fear, anger, shame, confusion. FIGHT AND FLIGHT at it’s finest. When we got into the car, we both cried for a solid 15 minutes. It was one of the first times that I experienced his geniuine remorse. Even though, about an hour later he was fine. I saw remorse nonetheless. Something that most of the time, he had lacked and brought us concern. He even asked me if he could keep the bandage on his arm and wear it at school to show his classmates of his bravery.

Part of me wanted him to do so. He needed to be able to celebrate victories if he was going to be able to do it again! But I kept battling the question, was it really a victory? He seemed to feel so. But I wasn’t fine. I was grieving.

I still am.

In fact, I am not just grieving the struggle and heartache that can come with some of these experiences of being a parent of a child with special needs. I am battling shame and loneliness as well.

See, I actually wrote everything that you have just read in this blog post, over 3 months ago.

This particular doctor’s visit happened in June of 2021.

Today is October 4, 2021.

I tried to sit down several times in the past few months in an attempt to finish this blog.

Then I settled on the idea of writing something unrelated to special needs because I have felt so broken and messy in this part of my life. I doubted that I had the wisdom or right to write on such a topic.

Navigating the topic or the life with a “special needs child” or a child with “extra needs” or a child with “more” can feel so overwhelming. I have one son with an obvious need. He now has 2 cochlear implants and is progressing amazingly in his therapy and at his special school for children with hearing loss. I am so grateful for all the growth and celebration we have experienced this past year with and for Jackson.

But my sweet Garrett. My incredibly bright, witty, charismatic, Garrett has struggles that are not as visible and can often be mistaken for bad behaviors and bad parenting. We have have watched him grow from this adorable curly haired 4 year old boy with the greatest “Garrett-ism’s” and no fear/no filter personality, to a now 8 year old boy with the same quirks, but the fearlessness has more clearly presented itself as a struggle with impulsivity, and the “no filter” has brought on concerns of autism spectrum disorder.

We have been through so many evaluations, received a new diagnosis every year, have trial and error-ed our way through prescription medicines and dietary changes. We have struggled with shame, frustration, failure, and loneliness in this arena. And when I say we, I mean all of us. Not just us parents, but his siblings, and he himself have struggled with the impact that a social/mental/learning disorder can have on all facets of life.

It is so easy to misunderstood and it can be quite isolating when all most people see is the ” behaviors” that your child exhibits without the full understanding of where they come from. It can feel hurtful when instead of validation, as a parent you are offered correction after correction with a pinch of judgement and a splash of failure. And so for me- It can also be tempting to think- “I’ll wait until we get through this season, or until we have the next evaluation, or until we make headway in therapy or until I have it all figured out before I even consider that I have anything worth sharing with the world.”

If I continue to “wait until”, I will be waiting forever.

So today I will write.

Not for the mere purpose of “airing my dirty laundry” or to drop a “Dear Diary, I had the worst day ever” type of post into the google-sphere. But because I feel compelled to share about my journey with anxiety and with parenting children with extra needs. Back in June, I was not finished processing my experience and emotions from that particular doctor’s visit. I even struggled with this nagging voice in my ear that was telling me I have no right or authority to share on the topic of parenting children with special needs. A condemning voice whispering that I have no right at all to share about life’s trials because “it could always be worse.” Maybe that voice was the enemy, intending to prevent me from being transparent with others. Because sometimes the greatest encouragement can be simply reading someone elses’ words and connecting with them, realizing you are not alone. But the enemy wants us to feel alone. He wants us to always doubt God’s presence or goodness. So he capitalizes on our struggles and whispers lies to keep us held down by the weight of our pain.

I also hesitated to share my experience because I respect the fact that I am sharing about a real person, who one day will be an adult himself. One day in the future, if he reads these stories, I want him to ultimately see how “human” I am, how very much I love him and will never stop, and how very big our God is.

So today, in the middle of the mess, in the thick of the dysfunction, in the heat of the troubles-I am going to write to remember.

I am writing to remember that life has been messy and hard, but never once has God been absent. I want to infuse it in my brain. I want my children to know it. I want other moms to believe it and to take inventory on their past experiences with a new set of glasses. Not the rose-colored ones, but not the tinted ones either.

When I draw near to Christ, I have eyes to see and ears to hear. I am able to look back and see how he has prepared me for such a time as this.

I look back on the day that we received the news that Jackson has Usher’s Syndrome. I reflect on the various diagnoses that Garrett has collected over the years. And I continue to process the recent news that all of his challenges explain how he too, like so many amazing children before him, hold a special place on the Autism Spectrum. I remember all of the feelings. I still experience them now. Sadness, pain, worry, confusion, anxiety, guilt, grief. Some days can be so heavy with life’s challenges that it feels like you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other to keep going. It can feel like if you stop moving, the waves will overcome you.

But I have committed with my heart to remember that with Jesus, they won’t. With Jesus, the waves may keep coming, but HE is still greater than the waves.

With Jesus, I continue to be guided towards relationship with HIM and to prioritize self-care. You see, God chose me to be the mama for these kids. I may have to remind myself every day, but He did. And he did not choose me without promising to equip me. By the power of His word and the power of the Holy Spirit guiding me into specific friendships, specific doctors and therapists, special grants and scholarships, I continue to keep going.

He will never leave me or forsake me. This is true for Garrett, Jackson, Gracelyn and Adam.

This is true for all of God’s children.

This is true for you mama.

You are not alone. You were chosen to be his mom or her mom.

God WILL carry you and strengthen you, and be the parent when you are bone-dry.

His promises are forever.

“For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

Getting out of my own way.

How many times have you been annoyed by a recent fad? Or tired of seeing everyone jump on the bandwagon; confident that the latest trend will be short lived, until the next latest and greatest gains the attention of the masses? Have you ever found yourself feeling a little proud for not “buying in” yet at the same time, wondering how SO MANY people are all sharing positive experiences about the same thing?

It’s tricky. As people, we innately share what we love. We naturally share with others what has worked for us! Sometimes our thoughts, opinions and experiences are requested. A lot of the time however, it is unsolicited. Before social media, advice and recommendations were more sought after, and then delivered by others we know and trust, or books, internet searches and professionals etc…

In the age of social media, anyone and everyone can share their two cents. We scroll through our feeds in an effort to connect with others, and often instead we read about the latest news (unsure if it is factual), the latest trend (unsure how long it will last) and the latest business opportunity (unsure if it is worthy to be trusted.)

This is not news to anyone. We all know this is what we will be exposed to on social media. There is a lot of garbage content, a lot of frustrating posts and a lot of opportunity for confrontation. But that’s not just social media. That’s life. Content, be it good or bad, fruitful or damaging, positive or negative, true or false is everywhere.

So how do we filter all the content? And how we manage the content that we contribute? Because let’s be honest, none of us our innocent when it comes to sharing content. If you are on social media, at some point in time, I’d wager that you shared your opinion, your like, your best selfie or latest cute kid pic. And why do we do this? I still believe it has to do with connection.

As humans we were created for connection, for relationships. When we post, share, like, comment- we experience something. It could be joy, or laughter, validation or impact, justice or freedom.

Before we moved overseas, I was not on social media as much as I am now. Instead, I used to journal. Writing down my thoughts, questions, prayers, and experiences was like therapy. Yet, in the thick of young motherhood, I stopped journalling. Even though I had all these experiences, all these feelings, all this content that I wanted to document, process and share, I just didn’t have the same freedom of time. I think that is when I began getting more involved with social media. Being either pregnant or breastfeeding over the course of 7 years provides less time to physically write, but a lot of time to scroll.

Mamas, you feel me?

Social media made a way for connection in those endless nursing sessions, or sleepless nights. I enjoyed reading positive content and feeling connected with others, but I wanted to be sense of encouragement for others too. So when I experienced freedom and encouragement from a book, or scripture verse or sermon, I felt compelled to share it. When I experienced a sleep training victory, or a moment of pure joy with the kids- sharing about it made it eternal and potentially valuable for someone else. And when I began experiencing such an incredibly positive impact with the use of Young Living Essential Oils, I wanted others to experience the same positive impact in their lives!

(To read more about the impact of essential oils, click on the photo below or link here) http://heatherbraucher.com/2020/06/03/mommy-ing-with-anxiety-and-oils/

When we moved overseas, social media proved helpful for maintaining connection but the time zone difference made it a bit more challenging. So I started writing a blog and sharing it on social media because it was a great way for me to capture our experiences as a family overseas as well as an efficient way to give more than one person an update on how we were doing at the same time. The connection I began to experience was life breathing! Being so far from everyone I knew and loved, not knowing many people at all, including the local language as well as living in another time zone, created a thirst in me for connection.

(Check out that first blog by clicking on the photo below or the link here!) http://heatherbraucher.com/2019/04/12/the-journey-begins/

When we moved back to the states, our life was in such an unpredictable state. And the pandemic only added to that. For us, and I believe for many, social media enabled connection during a time when we people were literally forced to be physically distant. I began sharing more and more about essential oils and started a business with Young Living. And I loved it!

BUT.

I realized, I had become THAT person. The type that was sharing on social media about a recent fad that I had bought into, that everyone was annoyed by. I was the one offering unsolicited advice, making cheesy videos, memes and …….(gasp)…….working for an MLM…….(gulp)…….selling something.

AND even worse……… I LOVED IT.

Let me clarify. I loved sharing with others what was life breathing for me, in an effort to bring life to others. I had hoped that I would become one of those social media unicorns with a solid team of others sharing the business, changing lives, and helping to support my family financially.

From a business perspective, it did not take off as I had hoped. But I loved every single minute of running a Young Living business. I loved making cheesy videos, and memes and making creative content to share. I loved exploring the social media platforms and all of the fun, creative tools you could use to share your message or your content. I loved being a part of something, a community of other like-minded individuals who supported one another and encouraged each other to continue working to make a positive impact on the world around us. In a way, running a virtual Young Living Business during a pandemic, 3 months after moving back to the states, in a completely uncertain season of life was such a blessing. I am so glad that I got out of my own way, and gave it a try, despite the stigma that can come with running a business such as this.

(To see more cheesy photos or join my YL group on FB, click the photo below.)

In March, 2 years after I started, I made the decision to stop pursuing Young Living as a business. I love essential oils, and will continue to share and connect anyone with these incredible products, but I was discerning in prayer that this season was coming to an end. I did not know what would be next and I did battle discouragement, and a sense of sadness because I really did enjoy it. As a mama of 3 young kids, 2 with “extra” needs, this was my outlet. This was the thing that was just mine. This was the way that I could potentially bring in an income and help support my family, and also help others. I grieved that it was ending. I worried. The dynamics of our family and the needs of our children require me to be at home. The medical expenses that acquire from caring for two children with “extra” or “special” needs is significant. But I could feel the Lord pressing upon my heart, “Trust me.”

(To read more about life as a parent of special needs children, click the photo below or the link here.) http://heatherbraucher.com/2020/05/13/mothers-day/

I anticipated a long season of wait. A long season of unknown. But sometimes the Lord works fast. Especially when we are listening. What HE had in store for me next, I NEVER would have guessed.

Find out what in my next blog!

Hope

How powerful are the moments when all of our senses leap with incredible awe and joy? Have you had one of these moments recently? Or maybe it has been so long since that you can hardly remember what that feels like.

Yesterday, our 5 year old son told us he was ready to take the training wheels off of his bike. We had tried this a couple times before, but in the end had to replace the training wheels until a later date. This time, I could see it in his eyes and I too had a feeling, he was ready.

But the moment of watching him get on that bike and ride off into the sun, the feeling of complete joy and awe that washed over me; I wasn’t ready for that. The cheer that bellowed from my heart for his victory was so great, yet also so unexpected.

To be honest, the experience took my breath away. Complete awe and joy.

How could I expect anything less? I witnessed my 5 year old son reach a goal, experience victory over fear, and enough balance to get the job done. This milestone is huge for all children! But for Jackson, with a diagnosis of Ushers Syndrome, and the placement of a cochlear implant, balance has always been in question. In fact, so many things were, are and remain in question for Jackson. With progressive hearing loss, the concern of whether he can hear us has been in constant question. With Usher’s syndrome, the potential for future vision impediment, loss and possible blindness leaves us in the dark.

And if I can be transparent…..the past few years we have battled several seasons of feeling in the dark. In 2017, after a decade of praying, wrestling and discerning….we felt the peace in our hearts to pursue the longing and fulfill the leading to move and serve overseas. The day of our flight to visit our future country, Adam and the kids were in a serious car accident that left Gracelyn in the hospital for a few days requiring surgery on her face. The following months felt dark with sorrow, grief and fear.

In times like this, the temptation to doubt God, choose anger and submit to fear is powerful. Prayer, counsel, healing and the “peace that passes all understanding” lead us back to continue what we began and rebook our trip. And it was incredible. We returned back to the US with the choice between two states in India. Our leading towards one of the two was confirmed. We were excited and anxious, yet hopeful. When you make a decision to move your young family of 5 overseas, it is no small feat. But when that decision gets challenged again and again, darkness seeps in once more.

The option to move to the city of choice was not possible for various reasons. I often shouted in my mind, “Lord! What are you doing?” Doubt, anger and depression set in once more. Resisting these feelings was much harder the second time around. Yet one day, I found myself able, to sit in peace. I believe I sat in the peace that our Great Creator, our Sovereign Lord, the one who sent his Son to live and die so that all may know God and have living and eternal hope, MUST know something I do not. HE must have closed that door for a reason. He has a greater view than I. And HE is worthy to be trusted.

So when we felt the confirmation to choose the other state in India to move to, and the hope of what was to come washed over us once more, you can probably guess how we felt when the month we were supposed to depart, we found out that our youngest had bilateral hearing loss and required hearing aids.

And when the week before our flight to depart the US, we found out that he has a genetic disorder called Usher’s Syndrome, you can imagine the grief, confusion and utter despair that we ensued.

So how then did we still go? How then with so much pain behind us, and grief and uncertainty ahead of us, did we still move to India? And why do I keep revisiting these experiences and sharing them on my blog in different ways again and again? I think back to the incredible history of the Israelites and how many times they were reminded to remember. In Exodus 13:3 it is written, “Remember this day, the day you came out of Egypt….” In Deuteronomy 4:9 Moses says, “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.” I can’t stop remembering and I can’t stop learning from these past few years. And I wish I could let you feel what I felt. It is hard to put into words when you feel peace to walk into the unknown.

There were a handful of tangible things that provided us comfort in moving to India even though we were only just beginning to identify what our son Jackson’s needs would entail. The most powerful factors however, were the past experiences we had of walking with the Lord that included trusting HIM with our tomorrow’s and seeing how HE never left us in our yesterday’s. I believe these to be the ingredients of hope.

When I look at our nation today, hope seems to be hard to experience. We are a people being flooded by fear. Constant fear robs us of the ability to trust. We live our lives daily, waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” Our brains and bodies are skilled at retaining memories of trauma. And on the contrary, we require intentional study and the practice of mindfulness to retain and extract memories of joy. I believe it is the experiences that involve the most senses that are easiest to extract. This explains why when we smell a familiar scent in the air, it often brings us back to a very tangible memory.

One of our first meals upon moving to India. The same restaurant and the sae

So when Jackson rode that bike, I shouted, and lifted my hands in the air and ran after him. The more I engaged all of my senses in the celebration, the more I couldn’t stop! I was encompassed by the feelings of great joy and thanksgiving. These are the moments I do not want to forget. These are the fibers of hope.

When we returned to the US, after only 9 months of living overseas, heartbroken, exhausted, confused and worried, the moment I saw my parents for the first time I could not stop crying. My intense tears held inside every emotion possible. I was grateful, to be actually physically hugging them. I was grieving, over how far away we felt from one another. I was resting in their arms, as a daughter who needed her Mom and Dad. I was exhausted from carrying the fears and experiencing the struggle of watching Jackson’s hearing decline and realizing that in order to get him the care he so desperately needed, returning to the US was imminent. I remember every detail of that reunion as if it still resides in my 5 senses right now. It was an experience involving both extreme joy AND extreme sorrow.

The months to come brought both joy and sorrow as well. We experienced more darkness and uncertainty every passing month. The expedited move back to the states, the choice to move to N.Y instead of returning to Florida, did not exactly fulfill the immediate need, getting Jackson cochlear implants. We were at the mercy of the U.S medical system and a worldwide pandemic. The very system that we knew would provide the care that Jackson needed, although has always been hindered by scheduling and insurance was now rightfully preoccupied with a pandemic. Little did we know In December, upon arriving after our rushed exit from India, that Jackson would not receive his cochlear implant until September 2020. Little did we know that his surgery, our next home and place of employment would not be in N.Y, but Florida. That almost one year later we would return back to the same townhome and the same job that we left when we moved overseas. So many months of grieving over what was, anxious over what was to come, and waiting for God to reveal the answer.

I took walks in our neighborhood when we returned to Florida, remembering the walks I use to take before we moved. Each time, I asked myself, “God, did we really go? Did we really move to India, or was that my imagination?” Some days, it felt like I needed to check the pictures for proof. Some days, I was angry. Shouting, “Lord-it took me so long to be ready to go! Why would you finally give me peace, and desire to move overseas and leave everything I know, with my 3 young children….only to send me back no less than a year and in hurry and angst?”

Then, I hear this still, small, voice speak to my heart, reminding me that every day, every year, every moment is but a thread in the tapestry of my life that HE is weaving.

I have experienced heartache, we all have. In so many different forms. But OH THE AWE I have experienced too. To hear my son speak and communicate with words upon receiving hearing aids and now cochlear implant. To witness the resilience of my children. To see the incredible growth in my spouse. To hold the Faith in Jesus, that I always prayed I would have. I am in awe of how HE has worked in ALL things for my good.

I always thought moving overseas was going to be my greatest challenge. Little did I know, that God was using the journey of my heart to trust HIM completely with my life and the life of my husband and children. Little did I know that HE would use India to prepare my heart and mind for all that was and is to come.

When I was younger, hope came easy. In fact I couldn’t understand a cynical point of view.

When I became an adult, it was easy to become cynical.

When I became a mom, I thought there was no other choice.

Life can appear to hand out mountain after mountain, disappointment after disappointment, heartbreak after heartbreak.

Becoming jaded does not take much effort.

Becoming hopeful….. that is the real challenge.

Becoming hopeful…..that is a gift.

I have become hopeful once again. I am experiencing hope because I can recall on HIS faithfulness. I have hope because of HIS promises.

I do not have hope because life is easy and everything works out.

I have hope In HE who overcame death. I have hope in HE who promises life eternal, free from suffering. I have hope in the God who has never left my side.

I am finally ready to say goodbye to India. For now. In HIS perfect timing (however refining the wait may be) God has revealed what’s next. In a few days, we will officially become Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA ) staff once more, but this time, here in Orlando. I can’t wait to share all that HE does next.

— Grateful to be a servant of the MOST HIGH

1 Peter 1:3-9

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.