My baby is turning 4 in March. Aside from all of the “I can’t believe my baby is growing up so fast” thoughts, I’ve had one profound realization that has wrecked me. The day she was born was the day I lost myself.

Most mothers can relate on some level. When you have kids, especially more than one, it is too easy to become consumed with their needs and put yourself last. I remember being so overwhelmed my entire pregnancy by the thought of having 2 under 2. Shortly after she was born I felt so much guilt for spending my entire pregnancy worried.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant my husband and I found out our baby girl was breech and had a brain abnormality. The doctors told us to prepare for her to go to the NICU and possibly need a shunt. On March 31, 1:51 pm, she was born by cesarean section at 39 weeks. A perfect, beautiful baby girl. We spent 10 hours together before the nurse took her to check her vitals. I never got to spend the night with my baby girl until we brought her home 7 weeks later. The joy of her uncomplicated delivery was abruptly stripped away.

I’m not sure that you can fully understand where I’ve been unless you have seen the NICU team stumped by your child’s condition, unless you’ve been told your baby may not make it home and if she did she might not have a great quality of life. That she may not walk or talk, be normal. It cut a hole right in my heart and even though she’s doing great today I can’t unhear those words or forget those feelings. I can’t forget the soul crushing feeling of thinking I was going to lose this child that I had spent 9 months selfishly wondering how I was going to split my attention between her and her older sister. I couldn’t control the tears thinking what if those are the only memories I have of her.

Family, friends and complete strangers pleaded God for a miracle for my sweet girl. On the day of her scheduled lung biopsy, she began to improve! Our prayers were answered. She continued to improve and get stronger, Warrior Princess as a stranger turned friend so lovingly called her, was ready to come home at 7 weeks.

For the last 4 years she has gotten every doctor visit, type of therapy, toy and service I could get for her. I fought for her to get everything that would help her be as strong and capable as possible. She is an amazing, resilient miracle.

At some point during baby girl’s first year, my husband began experiencing anxiety. It crept in slowly until it took over our lives.

I remember going to the grocery store one night by myself, aka a sanctuary for every mom. He called me halfway through in a panic about something that I can’t even recall now. I had to pay for my groceries and rush home. These types of scenarios became our norm.

I began to build a wall around Kristal. The only way I knew how to stay strong for my family was to become solid and numb. If I cracked I might not be able to put myself back together. I didn’t share much of what was going on with anyone, because I didn’t want them to look at my wonderful husband differently. I wanted to protect him. And so I pulled away from anyone who wasn’t family. Kept them at arms distance.

Our greatest struggle came right after we witnessed a true miracle from God. Our faith should have been the strongest it had ever been. But the enemy found a small crack in the foundation. That tiny crack almost brought our house down. But GOD. Just when I felt I couldn’t go on like this anymore, when the thought of our lives being like this forever felt like a thousand tons on us, when the weight of caring for my family felt like prison chains… he was right on time. Something as simple as a new car helped my husband begin to take control back of his life and breathe new life into our family. Through God’s strength in him he continues to get stronger every day.

Now here we are, almost 4 years from the start of all this and I can finally see the light. My husband’s anxiety has greatly improved. The weight of our family doesn’t sit on my shoulders alone anymore. I feel like it is safe to slowly tear down the wall I built to protect my family and myself. It’s ok to spend some time focused on me and finding out who I am again. The hardest part is letting people back in to see the unchained me. It felt like I carried the weight of the world alone for 4 years, even though I know it’s not true. As I tear down and soften these war-torn places of myself I am trusting God to fill them with people that will be there to help hold me together when the next storm comes so that I don’t ever have to lose myself to save my family again.