This too shall pass

When I was going through something difficult as a child, I remember my grandma often reassuring me, “This too shall pass.” On the surface, the phrase seems almost trite, another platitude among many. But as I’ve thought more about it, I’ve realized that it actually touches upon a very deep truth that so many of us are unwilling to admit: everything on earth is temporary. Everything, eventually, will pass. 


It was the summer of 2020. I drove into the maze of the hospital parking garage, trying to find a spot close to the entrance. Kyeler, our then foster son, had been home from the NICU for two days and he already had two specialist appointments on the docket. Before we left home I made sure that his supplemental oxygen tank was full, the tiny needle pointing confidently to green. 

I got out of the car, set up the stroller caddy, and fit my sleeping babe’s car seat into it with a satisfying click. I delicately untangled his oxygen tubing and positioned the silver oxygen tank underneath the stroller. As I did, my heart caught in my throat—the needle was now pointing to red. Empty.

Kyeler snoozed away, completely unaware that he was no longer getting supplemental oxygen, while I went into full on panic mode. How was this happening? I was sure we had a full tank just an hour ago! I raced towards the hospital entrance, bypassing the COVID screening line, and called for a nurse. Ignoring a screening line was a major faux pas, but did I really have a choice?

A woman in navy blue scrubs came running and asked me what was wrong.

“It’s my son,” I told her, forgoing any pleasantries or foster care explanations. “He needs oxygen and his tank is empty.”

This kind nurse calmly told me to wait in the lobby while she retrieved a full oxygen tank for us. I sat down and tried to take deep breaths, acutely aware that Kyeler was currently unable to do the same. He had woken up and was now blinking at me with his wide blue eyes. He was probably hungry. At some point during this excursion I would have to mix a bottle of thickened formula (one tablespoon oatmeal to three ounces prepared formula) and feed it to Kyeler using the techniques his NICU therapists had taught us to minimize his aspiration risk. 

I felt so unbelievably in over my head. Here I was, 6 months pregnant, with a 3 month old foster son who had run out of life-giving oxygen on our very first outing. 

“This too shall pass,” I repeated to myself as I waited for the nurse to return with Kyeler’s oxygen. 

I knew I shouldn’t be wishing away these precious days, but at the same time, I was eager to arrive at some magical motherhood destination where I felt more confident, more sure of what I was doing. If I was being honest, I was already wishing for the day when Kyeler wouldn’t need oxygen or thickened formula. When he didn’t have five specialist appointments a month. When I didn’t wake up to beeping heart rate monitors in the middle of the night and worry that he was going into cardiac arrest. When we didn’t have any more foster care court dates that sent me into a tailspin of worry. 

The nurse came back with a giant silver tank, blessedly full of oxygen, and hooked Kyeler’s tubing to it. I thanked her profusely and pushed the stroller to the back of the COVID screening line, where I awkwardly mixed together a bottle. Once we got back into the hospital and found our waiting room, I fed Kyeler his bottle, positioning him on his side and allowing him to breathe after every three swallows. He eventually drifted back to sleep as I briefly closed my own eyes and patted his back, grateful to be holding this tiny miracle in my arms.


On the morning of September 28, 2020, I waddled into the OB/GYN clinic for my 38 week prenatal appointment. “I’m having some pain in my belly, but I think it’s just Braxton Hicks,” I told my doctor. She nodded in agreement, assuring me that was normal at this point in the pregnancy.

“I’m also starting to lose my mucus plug,” I mentioned offhandedly. My doctor again nodded encouragingly. She measured my stomach and pronounced everything right on track. At the conclusion of our visit she said cheerily, “See you next week for your 39 week appointment!”

I walked slowly out the clinic door, my contractions growing more painful with each step, and wondered if I could handle another two weeks of this. I stopped to get a coffee for my husband on the way home, and then spent the morning caring for our 7 month old foster son. Or trying to, at least.

Five hours later we were at the hospital, and an employee was rushing me via wheelchair to a delivery room. I immediately tossed aside my clothes and climbed onto the hospital bed. 

“Would you like an epidural?” a nurse asked. I shook my head no (talking felt too strenuous) and tried to breathe. Despite the contractions coursing through me, I was determined to stick to my plan of having an unmedicated delivery. In that moment, everything I learned in my prenatal classes flew out of my brain and was replaced with an entirely new world—a world called Pain.

The intensity came upon me like a great torrent, ripping through my body like no sensation I had ever known. Josh gripped my hand and pressed cool washcloths to my face. I had memorized dozens of birth affirmations during my third trimester: I am strong. I am capable. My body was made for this. I thought of them only sporadically. My new inner mantra became: This too shall pass. 

Push push push! Breathe. This too shall pass.

Push push push! Breathe. This too shall pass. 

Push push push! Breathe. This too shall pass. 

“I can see his head! He has hair!” Josh started shouting after I had pushed for close to two hours. I tapped into my last precious reserves of mental and physical strength and pushed with every fiber of my being. Out came our child, a slippery mess of a thing, still blue but pinking up quickly. I don’t remember hearing him cry or even how he looked the first time I laid eyes on him. I do remember thinking: The pain is over. And in its place is pure joy and relief, in the form of my darling 8 lb 1 oz baby boy. 


Last spring, my two toddlers were asked to be ring bearers in a wedding. Josh and I ordered them white button down shirts, khakis, and beige suspenders with matching bow ties. 

On the day of the wedding, we arrived at the venue an hour before the ceremony, armed with snacks and hair gel. Tiny comb overs on tiny toddler boys wearing tiny suspenders might rank as one of the cutest things I have ever seen. It made up for the fact that they both refused to walk down the aisle during the ceremony, insisting that Josh carry them down instead.

It was our first time taking the boys to a wedding, and man did they know how to party. Kyeler made the rounds during dinner, sitting on just about every family member’s lap to strategically consume the maximum amount of brisket and mac n’ cheese. During the bride and groom’s first dance, our one-year-old niece pushed Kyeler out to the dance floor and the two of them swayed and giggled, a first dance in miniature. CJ alternated between dancing with Josh and playing ring-around-the-rosy with his cousins, stopping only to ask me for swigs of water from his Camelbak. At one point he was dancing (wiggling) so vigorously that his suspenders and pants dropped straight down to the floor. 

Josh and I bopped around the dance floor and tried to do the Cupid Shuffle while each holding a toddler. We drank sparkling wine and ate wedding cake and took dance breaks outside in the cool evening air. When we were getting dangerously close to the Past Bedtime Meltdown Zone, we said our goodbyes and buckled the boys into their car seats to head back to the hotel. 

I laid in that comfy hotel bed feeling so grateful to fall asleep surrounded by my three favorite people in the world. In that same breath of gratitude, I also realized with a jolt: It won’t always be this way. This too shall pass. 

One day I won’t fall asleep surrounded by noise machines and pack n’ plays. One day my boys will go to weddings on their own, with dates of their own, and they won’t run to me asking for sips of “wa wa.” One day maybe I’ll be the mother of the groom on the dance floor, holding my grown child tight as we sway to an overly sentimental song and I squeeze back tears. 

In both the good times and the challenging ones, I remind myself: This too shall pass. And life, I find, is all the sweeter for it.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Words to Carry”.

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