You are the strongest person I know.
So many people have said that to me over the last 3 months and my initial response was “well, I’m not sure about that, but if I’m strong it’s becauseI have to be.” But I’ve since realised that I am strong and I am courageous.
Because my life fell apart and there was no way to hide it. The day I started telling my friends that Leo was in NICU was the day I let my guard down. I admitted that I was feeling vulnerable. Since then I’ve never felt more loved, stable and most importantly courageous. What we went through with Leo has given me the strength to take on the world, because one of the things he taught me was that it was ok to be vulnerable.
I’m not good at crying in front of people (I’ve never actually been a cryer), asking for help or admitting that I need it. I like to have my shit together and be organised. I may not wear a lot of make up but I like to think I take pride in my appearance and I have a standard that I like to keep both at home and in public. But over the course of Leo’s week long life I had to ask for help, I cried in front of rooms full of people, I let people watch me sleep and I absolutely did not have my shit together. I welcomed photos being taken of me without a shred of makeup on, wearing my pajamas having not slept for days. I hung out in a room full of friends and family with an adult nappy on for crying out loud. But vanity left the building the second my baby’s life was in danger and we swallowed a very large dose of perspective. Now I’m happy to have those photos plastered all over my house and I’m proud to tell Leo’s story and live my life after his death. Because I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable and admit to the world that it’s totally shit that my son died and in doing so, he taught me all about courage and strength.
I’ve recently rediscovered Brene Brown, who coincidentally has just released a Netflix special, and says that we have to “to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen” to get the most out of life and feel worthy. She says we have to “love with our whole hearts even though there are no guarantees, to practice gratitude and joy in moments of terror, because to feel vulnerable is to feel alive.”
So don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt, that it’s not scary, that you have your shit together. Don’t be afraid to admit that everything has gone terribly wrong. Don’t be afraid to fail. You don’t have to go through a life changing, tragic event to learn the power of vulnerability, you just have to shift your mindset from believing that being vulnerable makes you look weak to understanding that it’s a sign of strength. Nobody is perfect and you need to embrace vulnerability to succeed, belong and feel worthy. Trust that the real you is capable of so much more than the fake you that has to waste time and energy trying to be someone you’re not. It’s time to celebrate the joy in this moment without worrying about what “might” happen, what you look like or what others think.
The other thing about being vulnerable, as we found when Leo was in NICU, was that letting people know what was going on and how we felt, meant that we didn’t have to try to muddle our way through it all alone. As the famous saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved and now I’m really starting to understand the mechanics behind why.
I didn’t write this post because I want to re-write Brene’s books, I just wanted to highlight the part that vulnerability has played in the journey we’ve been on over the last few months, and the strength and courage that we’ve been able to harness in the face of adversity as a result.
If you want to learn more and haven’t seen her TED talk, here’s Brene - and frankly she does a much better job of explaining all this than I do! And while you’re at it, go and watch her Netflix show as well. And then read all of her books. It’s disturbingly good stuff.