the night before Toby

Let’s turn the pages of my story back 11 years. Are you there? It was 2005. I’m sure there were all kinds of world events happening and significant political and pop culture figures, acting heroic or nuts, making headlines. I don’t remember any of it. I was engaged in the battle of my life at the time. The challenge: staying pregnant long enough to have a baby too big for doll clothes.

It had been over 4 months since we figured out I needed to stop walking around. It must have been July when I took to my bed, right at about 4-5 months of pregnancy. If you haven’t followed my story, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes to this point. My first baby was born at 24 weeks and survived with severe disabilities. (He’s great) My twin sons were born 4 years later, also at 24 weeks gestation and only lived for 2 days. When we took the leap of faith to try for another baby, I knew I was going to give everything I had to keep that baby in utero for as long as possible. The next baby was my Toby. Now you’re caught up.

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My change of venue: the hammock with R2

Sidenote: this blog was started at the start of that bedrest, in attempts to a) tell everyone my updates at once and avoid phone calls and b) amuse myself, because watching Fear Factor was causing contractions.

That Christmas of 2005, I was just wrapping up 17 weeks of strict bedrest and buckets of medicine and various spiritual treatments. Now, if you’ve never done bedrest, you might be thinking, “that must have been nice” or “I wish I could lie down for 4+months…” Trust me, it wasn’t and you don’t. It’s a special kind of hell, bedrest. There’s a myriad of physical aches and pains and complications, especially when you have another child, but the real trick is in your thoughts. Bedrest is almost exclusively a mind game.

You know that feeling when you’re standing on a ledge and you worry that if you think about it too long, your thoughts will make you fall over? (I don’t think I’m the only one who does that). It’s kind of like that. You are lying down and, for me, trying not to go into labor. Imagine trying not to think about what might be but definitely is happening in your body while you are not allowed to move. For months at a time. “Don’t make it happen,” you think, like that’s something you can even control.

If you made it this far, congrats. I’ll cheer it up now that I’ve convinced you it was bleak. 11 years ago tonight, I was wrapping up 17 weeks of bedrest, including a Christmas that I spent on my side, couching it whilst my family members ran snacks to me and tried not to stomp too hard and make me go into labor. I was a glorious 34 weeks pregnant, my personal record (to this day) when I decided it would probably be okay to go to the movies and get some post-Christmas joy. So off we went. I walked from my house to the car and then from the car to the theatre to watch Lion Witch and the Wardrobe and then the next day I had Toby in my arms. Oops.

Tomorrow he will be 11 years old, my gorgeous genius of a rainbow baby that I begged God for and then worked desperately to keep. It’s been the best 11 years of my life.

 

my children and their OTHER life

I’ve got this sinking suspicion that my children have a life beyond me. The other day, my 9 year old told me,”You don’t know everything about me,” and I immediately replied, “Yes I do,” but guys, I think maybe I’m wrong.

You know that thing, now that we’re grownups, when we tell our funny story in front of our aged parents and they’re like, “you did WHAT now?” Well, depending on how aged they are, there might be more questions. I’m pretty sure I’ve told about the time we shot bottle rockets into traffic multiple times but every time my mom is freshly shocked. That might be a different thing.

But in general, when you say, “this one time, (chortle, chortle), we tied the cat to a whole bunch of balloons and threw him out the window*” or, “that time that we sat through 4 movies in a row at the dollar theater” and then we always follow up with, “where were our PARENTS?”, real judgy-like, like we are currently doing better.

In reality, while we are telling funny stories and drinking adult beverages**, our children are somewhere nearby, having a life without us. Mine are still pretty open with me. “Mom, read my journal,” they say, like I didn’t read it the night before while they were drooling on a library copy of Wizard Cats. “Today we went to school,” it reads. “It was fun.” 6 weeks from now I will discover that on “fun day” my child covered another child in leaves and pine needles in what might have been a school escape experiment. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll find that out when I’m 70, sitting calmly in the midst of my grandchildren and their parents, asking “Where were YOU, grandma?” And I won’t know, because my children have a secret life.

In reality, I was right there. I was on the couch when they swung from the staircase on a scarf. I was sitting outside the bathroom when they poured nail polish remover in the bath. I was at the table with them when they put eggnog in their cereal instead of milk. I’m right here, all the time, close enough to get sneezed on and somehow they still have surprises.

I found this apology note a few days ago, about an incident I am unaware of. I’m mostly pleased, because, 1. apology 2. I didn’t have to referee and 3. forgiveness

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Sometimes, my children think they are having a secret life, programming the piano to play their song instead of actually playing it, or hiding under the counter and eating all the grapes or poking giant holes in the front yard with a stake they might have pulled out of someone else’s yard- but I do know and I just weighed the options and decided to stay out of it. The trouble is, I think I’m gonna forget which incidences were willful ignorance and which ones were actual ignorance.

But someday, I hope I am sitting on the couch, listening to my kids tell about a full, funny childhood and all the adventures they had while their children have a secret life RIGHT THERE IN THE MIDDLE OF US. Someday, babies. Until then, I’ll just read your journals.

 

*this story for illustration purposes only
** coffee and name-brand soda

to mothers of miscarriage

I gained entrance to an awful club about a decade ago. Before I joined, I thought the membership was pretty exclusive, but now I know there are way too many of us.

Statistically, 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. That’s a staggering number, and it doesn’t even factor in late losses, stillbirths and the rest.

When I said goodbye to my twins, I had no idea of the sisterhood surrounding me. Now I see us, in the grocery store, in the elevator, sitting in churches, mothers without our children. Even when there are more children, our hearts know who is missing.

“I don’t know what to do,” they tell me, “I am so sad but I was barely even pregnant…”

“I shouldn’t be so sad,” they say, “my mom/husband/doctor/friends say something was wrong with it/the baby is in heaven/we weren’t ready for kids/it wasn’t really a baby…”

 

Listen, mamas… you should be so sad. In a perfect world, no mother would ever have to live in a world without their child. You, however briefly, carried the soul of your child in your body. You are connected forever. You are their mother. Name your baby, mourn your baby, remember your baby. If someone can’t empathize with you or understand that, then thank God they have not had to experience that kind of loss, but don’t let their comprehension control your emotion. You know, we always know, deep down inside, who we carried.

Someday, on the other side, we will sit by a river with the children we always knew, always loved. We will know them and they will know us. In that reality, we will finally be complete. Until then, we remember them, and we offer the hand of sisterhood, the grace to weep and remember.

Evan and Rees are 12

My twins would be twelve today.

I live just outside eternity. My mother heart knows that my children are just out of my reach, through a veil. There, in the safety of that world, they grow and they play without any of the risks and suffering of this side. In that world, they know my dad and other loved ones I lost a long time ago. In that world, they are fully healthy, whole and loved.

If it had been up to me, they’d be on this side, blue eyes and dark blonde hair, full of jokes and witty thoughts. If I got to choose, they would be wrestling for possession of the Wii remote, eating too much cereal, outgrowing shoes at an absurd rate.

I’d be baking an imperfect cake today, and they would make fun of it a little, but not too much, because they wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings.

If I got to pick, they’d be climbing in my bed at night, smelling like sweat and boy-feet, wrapping long arms around me and telling me about their days. “Go to bed,” I would tell them, sternly, because I would see them again in the morning and this contact would not be all I ever had.

Even knowing they live in perfection, I’d choose this side, where they would sit across from me, disappointed and confused by the darkness in people. I’d explain learning to love broken people, even as they held back tears because they are big now, too big to cry about being rejected. I’d cradle their fuzzy summer haircutted-heads and ache that I couldn’t keep them from sorrow. Still, I’d pick this side.

They will never know a broken bone, a broken heart, a bee sting or a fall from grace. I’m grateful for that. But a mama will always wish her baby was in her arms.

Happy birthday, boys. You will always be loved.

“The Talk”, or what is happening to my life?

I think it might be time to tell a couple of my kids about the birds and the bees. Not literally, they have literally been aware of birds and bees for some time now. In fact, one of my children will only go outdoors to get in the car, because of bees. (solidarity, Toby) But in a metaphorical sense, I think it’s time to talk to my kids about sex. If your internet filters let that through, let’s continue.

We’re approaching puberty here, which fills me with terror. I still have tiny red cowboy boots in the closet, aren’t they still that size? WHAT HAPPENING

Maybe it was time a long time ago, I don’t know. We have talked about babies, and some body and puberty basics, and even pornography, because this generation is super tech savvy and the internet is a cesspool. With all this openness, however, I have kept the actual sexuality parts of the conversation… out of the conversation.

My own education was pretty limited. I remember a “uterus” talk when I was about 4 from my oldest sister (who was grown, with kids). Then I gathered some highly inaccurate information from a couple of “last chance” boys that got sent to our private school.When I was about 13, I think my mom might have taken a good solid shot at teaching me but all I remember is some cave drawings and crushing embarrassment, and then I went to public school and gathered a few more inaccurate details on the bus. The rest of it learned on the field, if you will.

When Toby was about 5, he put a couple of things together. “I think I know where babies come from,” he told me, “and I do NOT want to know.” I took that cue and did not tell him. But I’m thinking these days that I want to be the first voice on all this (or pretty close to the first) because 2016 is VASTLY different than 1988, when I was 10.

I’ve got a couple of quandaries. First: awkward.SO AWKWARD. “Not for me,” you say. “I talk openly with Henna and Barista all the time. They are very comfortable with their 4 year old sexuality.” Bully for you, great work. I am just having some trouble making the words come out of my mouth. I mean, they know their body parts and all, but geez.

Secondly: how do I say “This is good and great and wonderful and normal but DON’T PLAY DOCTOR or explore these topics with your friends and also GET MARRIED first. I am just giving you some info for you to hang on to for 10-15 years.” ? I hate anything that seems like sex and sexuality is illicit or unholy in and of itself, but I also want some great boundaries. There’s a spectrum here and I tend toward the fundamentalist side of it despite myself. I think I have a better grip on how I want to handle “modesty” and shame but this is tricky stuff.

Anybody want a soapbox topic? Why is all the burden for purity on the girl? Why is there something inherently shameful about being female, with feminine features and shape? Is it really right to make our daughters carry the burden of their male peers’ burgeoning sexuality? Isn’t that really on the boys?  < / soapbox> </ for now>

Back to the ol’ B&B. So I asked the internet, and you guys have lots of book suggestions and I am going to read them. The kids in question are endlessly bookish so it will probably be relatively painless for them to work through this via mom-blushingly-reading-a-book and then doing a brief Q&A, which will open the lifelong Q&A.

Also maybe I need to round up some cave drawings.

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