• Alicia Assad

The Unexpected Gifts of Adversity

That moment your life changes in a way you did not expect, or want it to….

Something excruciatingly painful happened? Now, you must cope.

Ever been there, that place you NEVER wanted to be?

Has sadness ever left you wondering, why? Why me?

Adversity is something we are inclined to avoid, but what if I tell you there is a benefit to struggle?

I know. You didn’t want this to happen. You wish you could fix it, cover it up, run from it, and pretend it didn’t happen….

Sometimes we can’t avoid what is hard, fix what is broken, or keep what we love.

I’ve been there…a few times.

Having made it through adversity to a place of resilience and growth, I am grateful for what I survived, because it revealed my calling to be a storyteller. Here is how:

Failure motivated me to write.

“It’s a good thing that baby latched or we would have wheeled you straight to the psych ward.”

My obstetrician’s tongue-in-cheek comment was referring to the lofty expectations I set for myself with a natural labor and delivery: I didn’t meet a single goal. Heck, the first time I held my daughter in recovery after cesarean surgery, I didn’t feel anything…not an ounce of love for her.

I felt like a complete and utter failure.

By the time my daughter was 8 weeks old, I found myself in therapy for postpartum anxiety. For someone who spent her entire life on a pursuit of happiness to admit she was unhappy, this felt like rock bottom.

When motherhood knocked the wind out of my perfection sails, I started writing to cope. Word-by-word, I pieced myself back together again as the feelings in my heart became the thoughts in my mind. After making sense of these emotions in my journal, I was happy.

I continued writing privately as I surrendered into motherhood. Eventually, voices in my mind would nudge me to publish my work: Just share it…this needs to be heard….someone else might feel this way too…

For four years, I wrote in isolation, wondering how I would ever find enough courage to bare my soul to the world.

Trauma gave me courage to share my work.

“Mrs. Assad, your son’s burn is so severe, he might not make it. You need to be prepared for this possibility.”

When I heard this comment as doctors stabilized my son, I was eerily calm. Later on, I started to crumble as I was struck by the gravity of this situation. See, the moment a pot of boiling water came crashing down on my toddler, I was heading to an appointment to decide on inducing my pregnancy the next morning.

I had a four-year-old at home, a two-year-old fighting for his life in an ICU Burn Unit, and a baby in my womb with a life-threatening birth defect requiring surgery.

Instead of ruminating, I composed an email to my girlfriends, asking for help. From this vulnerable moment in the most difficult experience of my life, my writing organically emerged in the world.

My story was forwarded along and eventually even strangers were reaching out with love and support. This is when I started blog for ease of communication where I posted entries laced with gratitude and hope, which chronicled a time of fear and pain. Through my son’s two surgeries and our month-long experience in a hospital during the final month of my pregnancy, the process of writing and sharing kept me calm.

My baby was born three days after our discharge from the burn unit. That he did not need immediate surgery was nothing short of a miracle. I returned home a mother of three with a blog and a writing voice, but the story hadn’t ended.

Loss inspired me to choose a positive narrative.

“Eddie, no! My baby……our baby….noooooo!!!!!”

I heard his heart beating on a sonogram just hours before he slid painlessly out of my body into the palm of my hand. This pregnancy was our hope that after a long year of recovery from trauma, there was a rainbow in our horizon.

I sat there with him for a long time, my boy. He was really just a fetus at 15 weeks, but still, he was my baby, a personification of my hope. I didn’t want to lose my baby or my hope, so I held onto what I could when I was forced to let him go and move on.

I know: you don’t like hearing about this pregnancy loss any more than my toddler’s scald burn.

I’ll spare you the details of the bloody mess I was in the ER, the cremation my husband and I did on our own because the hospital refused to issue a death certificate…the pregnancy that wouldn’t heal through two surgeries, the threat of a hysterectomy, and chemotherapy to rid the remains of my loss….

None of it was normal. I didn’t want to live it, nor do I want to tell it; but it happened. In honor of the life that I held in my palm for just a moment, I must hold onto hope. Those pain-filled moments where I wondered why? Why me? The only answer I could come up with was simply,

This will make me stronger.

I vowed to find and maintain a positive perspective so that I might inspire someone else to do the same…

…or at the very least let them know they are not alone.

Struggle is why I write.

Hope is why I share my most intimate words.

The positive narrative I choose? That’s what I know will help me face whatever it is tomorrow brings.

Now I’ll leave you with a simple question:

How might your adversity allow you to grow?