The watermark always rises


“I hope you don’t ever get a chronic health condition,” I snarled at him. “I could never take care of you.”

And I meant it.

We were 12 days into a chronic sinus infection, had our first child who was only 15 weeks old, and had just opened a business. I was in that sleep-deprived “what the heck do I do with this baby” place and my husband was laid up in bed like he had ebola.

But life is all about expanding your threshold isn’t it? Now, 6 years, 2 more children, and one cancer diagnosis later I find myself doing the very thing I swore I couldn’t withstand.

My husband is a boat dealer and I’ve always kind of had a thing for boats. I grew up on the lake and I would watch the watermarks as the rains came and left. Leaving their mark every season. You see a watermark is the highest point that the water reaches- usually in a torrential storm or a flood.

When I was pregnant with my second I stayed up countless nights crying because I was certain there was no way I could love another child as much as I loved my first. I just knew that my heart wasn’t big enough for two. I loved my daughter with every cell in my being. How could I possibly have room for one more? And the watermark rises.

Those of you who have more than one child can probably relate to this feeling. And you can probably relate to the outcome as well. When my second child was born I felt like the Grinch on Christmas Day. You know, when “his heart grew three sizes”. I expanded in a way I never knew possible to accommodate and encompass this new being with which I had been blessed.

And I learned from it.

When I was pregnant with my third child I didn’t worry at all that I would be able to love him. I knew that my heart would again expand to allow the amount of love necessary for him. I knew he would be just as loved as the other two without diminishing anything.

And such is life. And the watermark rises.

Three days before he started chemo I found myself balled up on our bedroom floor retching with sobs. “I don’t know if I’m strong enough to be the woman you are going to need,” I cried out to him.

And I really truly didn’t.

But again, I expanded to meet the needs. I found it was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be to put myself aside and to care for my husband. I was able to fulfill all the needs of my young family throughout the process, the trauma.

And the watermark rises.

Now we are one year out from diagnosis. The cancer came back. Well, it “came back” to us. According to our doctor this “in transit metastasis” was probably always there but just too small to see on any scan. And last week we started our first round of high dose immunotherapy to combat it. The funny thing is that last year the sadness came in swells and surges, debilitating me as the flood waters in a hurricane do. This year my head is above water. The treatment is an easier course and the fear has been dulled by the expanse of time. And so my watermark has risen. My threshold has increased. And I don’t fear the way I did last year. I am able to move through the tribulations as if on a life raft. 

You don’t really know your limits until you are put to the test. And I assure you you are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit. So, Mama, if you’re scared or alone or doubting yourself…Have faith that you too can pull through even when it seems impossible. The watermarks are always rising and you have to do your best to stay above the line.


If you liked this please read What I didn’t expect to get from cancer or Lessons Earned

8 thoughts on “The watermark always rises

  1. I love the analogy you used, comparing the different ways we expand and grow to the always present water mark, which continues to rise, over and over and over again. Beautifully written and expressed, and thanks for sharing this unique perspective to help all of us remember that we can trust that we are up to the task, even when we sometimes doubt our own ability. The watermark rises, and we adapt (and grow, and learn, and love). Beautiful.

  2. I really liked the way you used “watermark.”
    Usually, as water rises in a lake or river or?, the vessel holds more water, as your heart did.
    Well chose metaphor. Hopefully the cancer will subside.
    Best to you and yours, WayneC

  3. Lauren you are so gifted in speaking from your heart. I know you will be able to stay above the watermark regardless of the height of the water b

  4. David is so lucky to have you. You are a remarkable woman. You are also talented and are able to write honestly about what you are going thru. I’m sure that is comforting to others who are facing such obstacles .

    I remember a friend many years telling me that she held her new baby in her Sr ms and walked around the ding table that first night home – round and roud, sobbing and asking, “What have I done ? ” She didn’t think it was normal to feel that way .

    Your blog let’s people know the are not alone in their fears. Thank you.

  5. While reading this, I relate to your fears. When Trey was ill, I too was afraid, I could never allow myself to be open to the innocent love of another child. I was closing down. That was until a darling little boy gave me a gentle hug. A hug that pulled me back from my despair. You know who that beautiful child is. He will always hold a special place in my heart. Love heals the hurt.
    You probably have heard of the analogy of the little duck gliding along so serenely, but underneath the water he is paddling like crazy.

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