Elise loves her baby brother Jack. It was love at first sight.
She quickly noticed his dark hair, and said, “I hope it stays dark like mine.”
Now school has started, and whether it’s the fact that Jack’s hair is lightening or that Elise has seen so many homogenous families at her school, she sadly said to me, “Jack is going to look like you. I am the only one who looks like me.” And I remembered the wise words of a counselor (who noted how we good we are at talking but not always just sitting with Elise in her emotions), and I just said, “Yeah,” and put my arm around her and pulled her close and she snuggled in.
I’m sure the topic will resurface but for now that’s what she needed – to be pulled close by the ones that love her. So as someone who likes to fill silence with words, it is good for me to remember to pause and show my love because all my kids to feel my love as much as they need to hear it.
Last week’s craziness started with a phone call from my husband saying he had lost his keys and couldn’t pick up our 4 year old. I had exactly 45 minutes before the school closed to pick her up and thankfully I made it. Then Elise came home with hurting gums which ended being something stuck in her gum like a splinter. Our beta fish indigo died – many tears were shed by the girls. Maggie’s been on breathing treatments for two weeks trying to get rid of her cough/bronchitis. And that was all by Tuesday.
And Jack has decided that being a baby is not for him. He’s rolling over and scooting across the ground like an inch worm, so it’s looking like we will have a super early crawler. But it’s okay with us if he slows down since he’s just 3 months old.
Then Thursday, I had a hemangioma removed from my nose and then the spot cauterized. I didn’t realize I would wear a foam pack for 72 hours. Luckily, I only had to make through one day of work and had the weekend to recover. Hoping this coming week is much less exciting.
In February 2014, I started subbing and my husband and I switched cars. He took the SUV, and since I had a longer commute, I took the sedan. It took some getting used to, but when you drive it almost everyday you acclimate quickly yet I had reservations.
I worried often about getting in a wreck in the smaller car. I would envision tragic scenarios. It didn’t matter whether I was going to work or meeting friends; I was fearful of not returning home – all because we switched cars?
For months, I felt this fear. But where did it come from? I had my share of fender benders but never anything major.
In September, we met with a counselor to talk about some things we heard from one of our daughters. In that session, we talked about grief. We talked about our own experiences with grief and how we learned to grieve. And I recalled a time in my life when I experienced grief (while thinking this wasn’t supposed to be about me, but that’s how those things go).
As I got ready to leave for work the next day, my oldest daughter hugged me goodbye, said she loved me, and told me to be careful. Immediately I flashed back to around 24 years ago, when one of my best friend’s mom died in a car wreck, and the pieces finally connected
About twenty-four years ago, I got the news that my friend’s mom died in a car wreck and I was immediately devastated. I remember my hand me down orange shorts with orange polka dot top stained with pink paint. I remember throwing myself on my bed in my room and just sobbing. I remember walking down the street to find my friend at a neighbor’s house. I remember walking down the aisle to pay my last respects. I remember going to school in my funeral clothes – floral top, black pants, and red flats with a shiny bow. And that’s all I thought I remembered.
As I drove to work that day I remembered some of the words I heard about the event: “She was in her husband’s company car…She wasn’t in her suburban.” And that’s when I realized what I had internalized – bad things happen to you when you drive your husband’s car instead of your giant, safe SUV. That’s what I was doing – driving my husband’s car instead of my SUV. And I felt relief; relieved to know where the fear was coming from, relieved to let that fear go, relieved to relax about my commute to work, just relieved.
I was 9 or 10 when that event happened, and it took me over 20 twenty years to make sense of my thoughts around this event. But my daughter, whose own questions prompted this journey, was an infant when she first experienced grief – the loss of her birth family. My daughter is 6 and is processing her story and might be for some time. My job (and my husband’s) is to support her, to be with her in her grief – not fix her or rush her. While it won’t always make sense to us neither did my fear about driving my husband’s car but it was still real to me. And my daughter’s thoughts and feelings will always be real for her, so they should be real for me as well.
The first time I woke up this morning was at 3 am because my three year old was standing by my bed lamenting that she had to sleep alone. I confirmed that she did have to sleep alone and tucked her back into bed. Next I was awakened at 5:50 because the same three year old had gone potty and wanted me to wipe her – glamorous. I had no hope of going back to sleep then, so my Sunday started earlier than planned.
The plan was to all go to the early church service, but Maggie has been fighting a cold this weekend and started complaining about her ear which meant I took sick duty and Elise and Scott went to church. I decided to make Maggie to urgent care and she’s totally fine (of course), just a cold. So, Maggie and I decide to hang out at Target until Elise gets out of church. On our way to Target, Scott calls because Elise’s stomach hurts and he’s bringing her home early — change of plans, picking up Elise.
Now what? Elise is a worrier and often that leads to stomach complaints, so I made the decision that Elise was not sick. I told her that Maggie is not sick; she just has a cold. I announced that we were going to Babies ‘R Us to pick out toys for the baby and would go to Chili’s for lunch because I had a gift card. Miraculously upon hearing those plans, Elise’s stomach started to feel better.
Those girls had so much fun picking out toys and baby paraphenelia. They picked out multiples of everything – something for a boy and something for a girl. And I think they will be smothering the baby in all the toys they picked out. Elise even picked out the Mamaroo swing because you can pick car ride or kangaroo or I don’t know what else, but Elise already knows how to work it. And they’ve made plans to come back after we find out the gender because they were dying to pick out clothes.
Then we had a nice all girls lunch at Chili’s without one stomach complaint. We even got dessert because why not. And as a special bonus both girls passed out in the car on the way home – win!
So my 3 am wake up call didn’t turn out so bad. We had a lovely all girls morning. I definitely need to plan more of those.
I have two girls and I wouldn’t change that for anything. Now that I’m pregnant, I get asked often if we were trying for a boy. Honestly, I don’t understand that question.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that I have no control over whether or not my baby is a boy and neither does my husband. We got pregnant because we wanted another baby, and probably because I finally talked Scott into it. I had to promise that three was it, but I feel like I have time to change his mind (and mine) in the future — ha! (I promise Scott’s heart skipped a beat when he read that sentence; I like to give him a hard time.) But we didn’t get pregnant because we needed/wanted that boy; we got pregnant because we agreed we wanted one more baby – no gender expectations applied.
I also get asked if I have a feeling about what we are having, and I don’t. And I was wrong about both my girls. The adoption agency told us to expect a boy and I thought Maggie was a boy, though I don’t remember why – wrong on both accounts. Elise, on the other hand, told me she was having a little sister two days before I found out I was pregnant with Maggie, and she called this baby a he in a video. I am curious to see if she is right again. All I can tell you is that this baby feels bigger, but my husband is six and a half feet tall so big babies can happen no matter the gender.
I am not sure how the expectation to keep trying until you have whatever gender you are missing originated, but I feel like it gets connected to the labels moms use to identify themselves — boy moms, girl moms, adoptive moms, stay at home moms, working moms, etc., and I am sure there are more categories that I am unaware of. So if we have a third girl, then I am just a “girl” mom, but I don’t think I have ever identified myself as a “girl” mom because I don’t feel like I’m making parenting choices because of my child’s gender. (I do identify myself as an adoptive mom because it influences my worldview and changes how I parent.) And I don’t think my parents made different choices between my sister, my brothers, and me. They tried to be fair, have the same expectations of us, and give us opportunities to try things whether we were a boy or a girl.
And growing up I tried everything – cross stitch, craft classes, softball, summer camp, band, cheerleading, track, dove hunting, and sign language. I’m not an athlete and I don’t have the patience to do cross stitch or crafts correctly. So by high school, band, summer camp, and dove hunting were what I chose, and in college I learned sign language. I have great memories of all those experiences and I’m grateful that my dad invited me on that first hunting trip where I was the only girl. I want my girls to have the same wide variety of opportunities that I did regardless of their gender. I want them to know they can be the CEO that all the boys report to. Well maybe just Elise will do that, Maggie would like the world to just sit in a comfy chair, watch tv, suck their thumbs, nap, and eat peanut butter sandwiches all day. And if we have a boy, he gets choices, too because the gender of my child won’t change that I am mom.
All the labels – girl mom, boy mom, stay at home mom, working mom, adoptive mom, etc. – don’t change who we are. We are all moms, and that’s really the only label I want — mom.
Throughout our relationship, Scott and I have had different circle of friends during different phases of our life. We had circle of friends in college; some of those we have been able to stay in touch with as geography allows. Then we had a new circle post college and another one when we were engaged and newly married. Then we found ourselves moving from that circle of friends to a new one, and yet another one when we started the adoption process. And now, after starting new jobs and moving almost two years ago our circle of friends changed again.
When we get together with our current circle of friends, we call it family dinner. All our kids are there. It’s usually loud, sometimes spontaneous. We do outlandish things like family sleepovers and preparing meals that are not ready until 10 pm — outlandish to a planner. I have even started a fire in someone else’s oven. But no matter what brought us together or what happens while we are there, the time together is always life giving, restorative. It’s just what we need.
This past week each of our families dealt with some heavy issues, leaving us all worn down. So when I sent a text to give my update and check on everyone, the response was, “Want to meet for dinner tonight? I/we need a family dinner.”
I hope you have close relationships that love and support you, and selfishly I hope this circle stays intact. Family dinner – we all need it.
My Maggie is three, and she’s opinionated. When we say something she doesn’t like, she is quick to respond, “No, I an’t!” (instead of ain’t). It’s cute because she’s three, but the older we get the response becomes less cute.
There are so many times I just want to be like Maggie and say, “No, I an’t.” I’m not doing anymore. I’m not taking one more step.
Like joining this 7 day challenge – “No, I an’t.”
Or putting whiny kids to bed –- “No, I an’t.
Leaving my house after I get home from work – “No, I an’t.”
Learning how to teach a student whose needs I have no experience with – “No, I an’t.”
Apologizing to an extremely sensitive daughter – “No, I an’t.”
Or meaning the lyrics to Oceans, “ Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.” That sounds scary – “No, I an’t.”
But if I said no to everything that is hard, I would have nothing. If I said no to things that scared me or I thought were beyond me, I would never learn. If I said no to swallowing my pride, I would lose my relationship with my sometimes whiny and sensitive daughter.
So, what do I do instead? Besides vent a lot? I rely on the support and encouragement of my husband and close friends and lots of prayer. And I usually repeat the process several times – flip out, calm down, try again.
And thankfully, tomorrow is another chance to try again.
Wednesday morning started with a text from my mom, “Your dad is having chest pains, and we are going to the ER.” Which threw me back to 10 years ago when I got a phone call from my mom telling that my dad had had a heart attack and was having surgery — it also happened to be 10 days before my wedding. This time I’m not getting married, but it’s still chilling information.
My siblings and I waited for updates. He did not have a heart attack. All the tests the doctors ran looked good, but they were still going to take a look at his heart. Then the news – he needed bypass surgery – crack you open and borrow arteries and veins from other parts of your body surgery. (Thankfully I didn’t know the full extent of what bypass surgery entailed until after he had successful bypass surgery).
The next morning, I decided that I wanted to go to the hospital. I wanted to be there. My husband and I cleared our plans with work, notified the kids’ teachers, coordinated schedules with my siblings, and headed down on Friday. And then we waited.
I can’t remember if I prayed or just tried not to think scary thoughts while DJing Taylor Swift and playing movies for the girls. But eventually, I got the text that he was out of surgery and doing well. As we got closer to the hospital, I finally told the girls that Papaw’s heart was sick. He was in the hospital and wouldn’t be at the house.
My oldest has been learning about heart disease through Jump Rope for the Heart, so she immediately asked if Papaw had heart disease and if he had heart surgery. We explained that he did have heart surgery, would be in the hospital for a while, and that they couldn’t see him because he was too sick. Then my husband dropped me off at the hospital and took the girls to my parents’ house.
The weekend was filled with siblings working together to fix clogged sinks and tripped breakers, install solar lights, coordinate meals for everyone, and take turns visiting dad at the hospital. It was hard; it was busy; and it was good.
As we got ready to leave Monday, I knew I was going to be emotional. I wished I could stay longer, but I appeased my worry by volunteering to make sure my mom had meals for the rest of the week.
So Monday morning, I sat with my dad a while, and since he was still in ICU the girls couldn’t see him. As we left he hospital, I became upset, and Maggie grabbed my hand and said, “It’s okay. Daddy (talking about my daddy) will be okay.” Elise argued with Maggie about her use of the word daddy because their daddy wasn’t in the hospital while starting to cry. Elise asked, “Could you please never cry when you leave the hospital again because it makes me cry.” Uh, sure.
Then we took the girls to look in my dad’s first floor window. My mom flashed the light from her phone, letting us know we were at the right window. The girls could see his hand wave and say I love you through the glass. And then it was time to leave.
As we were driving home, Maggie immediately passed out, but when she woke up she said, “It was just really thick glass and I couldn’t see. I could only see a reflection….sometimes you stayed at the hospital a long time. The first time Papaw was sick and we were driving to Mamaw’s I had tears in my eyes because you weren’t there.”
That confession is enough to make a mom get all upset again. My sweet girl missing her Mamaw and Papaw and mom and holding it all together even though she didn’t really understand what was happening. Elise woke up singing Taylor Swift and then joined our conversation. We talked about how tired Papaw was and that you are tired when you are sick. Elise could tell he was sitting so she wanted to know if he could walk. I explained that Papaw could walk but that your heart makes your whole body work, so when you have surgery on your heart, it makes your whole body tired. That seemed to appease them as they started asking for snacks and movies.
Now, we are home and settled in. The girls want a few more hugs and kisses than usual. But we are here and we are good. While my parents are there, taking my dad’s 6-week recovery one day at time, we will be here waiting for more updates and hoping for no more unexpected news.