I’m Not Okay… But I Will Be

It’s not easy or comfortable to be vulnerable. It doesn’t feel good to put my issues out there for the world to see, pick apart and then question me about it. Especially about things that are very personal and so difficult to navigate.

But I’ve learned a lot about life through diving. See, there are some athletes who are amazing from the beginning. They just seem to dominate from day one rarely losing or failing like the rest of us. It’s almost like they are so gifted that they don’t have to work as hard as everyone else. They manage to coast mostly on talent alone for quite a long time. But win after win, it means less and less as they begin to take it for granted.

My coach, Kenny, and I after coming from behind to win the 2000 Olympic Games.

I was always one of the athletes that was the last to get every skill. I was the one that started everything late, that struggled and failed over and over and over again. Speaking as the athlete that always came from behind, the beauty in finding victory after incredible struggles is far more beautiful, joyous and meaningful than an easy win. The most amazing triumphs that give you chills and spill tears from your eyes are the ones that come from hard fought battles. It’s why we always love the under dog, the unexpected champion. It fills us with encouragement and excitement and it leaves us with hope.

Life mirrors sport this way. The more difficult the journey, the more pain through the pursuit, the harder you have to fight to overcome, the more meaningful it is when you finally triumph.

So here I am, openly sharing my pain and heartache with you. It’s not to complain, dwell in depression or bring you down. I’m explaining it the best I can so that you can understand what we’re going through. When you walk a hard road with someone sharing in their burden, grief and pain you can also rejoice, praise and revel in the excitement when the victory comes. And friends, this victory will come.

But today in this moment, no, I’m not okay. I traveled across the world, met and loved on my baby girl, and then had to leave without her. My heart aches, I fight with fits of rage, and I can only manage to go a couple hours at a time without crying. For those of you who may not understand the weight of this, let me give you an example that may help you see through my eyes a little better.

My son turns 4 today, and we found out we were pregnant with him after we began the adoption for our daughter in Ethiopia.

Imagine you’re pregnant… for nearly FIVE YEARS. As if that alone wouldn’t drive some people to the nut house, imagine during that super long pregnancy that you are considered “high risk.” There are ‘scares’ every few weeks. Enough that every time the phone rings, you hold your breath in fear that the doctor might say there is no heartbeat or there is an unexpected catastrophic issue or survival is uncertain. At every corner there is a chance you could lose this baby. This baby that you have carried, prayed for and loved so deeply even though you have never met her.

Imagine that after nearly five excruciating years of this constant stress, the closer you get to birth every fear you’ve had begins to surface and continues to be very real possibilities. Then imagine that despite the stress and fear for so long, you finally give birth to this precious, long prayed for child. You get to hold your perfect, beautiful, beloved daughter for the very first time. You get to touch her, kiss her, snuggle her, and hold her tight as she sleeps on you. You feel her strong heartbeat and her tiny little breath. You count her adorable little fingers and toes. You smell her sweet head and fall even more in love with this mini angel of yours.

Snuggles with our little girl in Ethiopia.

Then without a moment’s notice, someone takes the child from you, and you are forced to leave the hospital without her and without saying goodbye. You have no idea when you’ll get to see her again. It’s very difficult to get any word on her condition, so you have no clue how she is doing. At best you get some lost-in-translation updates on when she might be able to come home. But even those change from day to day, sometimes even hour by hour. You are left feeling helpless and desperate.

Perhaps that begins to paint a more vivid picture on why this is so difficult.

But let me be clear: as hard as this journey is and as much as it hurts, I know with confidence that God is at work and will redeem this story. I know without a doubt that this little girl I barely know halfway around the world is worth every tear, every heartache and every minute of waiting. I know that the victory belongs to God and because the road has been hard, our joy will only be that much greater.

“O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” – Psalm 10:17-18

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