Monthly Archives: February 2013

Being a Mom

I just finished reading John Green’s The Fault in our StarsIt is brilliant and beautiful, and written with a younger audience in mind than my almost-30-self ( I’m not ashamed to read young adult fiction).

The story is about Hazel and Augustus, two teenagers who have battled/are battling cancer. They meet in support group and fall in love. Hazel is an only child, and her cancer is terminal. At one point in the story, Hazel is in the hospital, surrounded by her mother and father, and she’s fighting to breath and her parents are weeping and telling her that it is okay to let go but Hazel can’t, she doesn’t let herself die, her lungs keep fighting even though her brain tells her to give up. And as she’s fighting for breath and for life, her mother buries her face in her father’s chest and says:

I won’t be a mom anymore.

This weekend, the Hubs and I went to Walmart (ugh) to buy the makings of our garage gym (aw yea!) and ran into one of our neighbors, the sweet woman who lives across the street. We chatted a bit in the line and then she asked, in that way that has a second, deeper meaning, “How are you guys doing?”

It’s rare that the Hubs and I have to answer this question in tandem, and so we both trot out our go-to phrases, “there are good days and bad,” “We have a lot to look forward to,” “We just try to keep busy” and on and on. Our Neighbor’s eyes welled up with tears and she said, “Well I hope you guys get pregnant again soon. You’re going to be such good parents.” And then she thought for a second and blurted out, “That was really insensitive of me to say. You ARE parents. You are good parents.

A lot of the condolence cards and notes on Facebook reiterate this:

You will always be Hudson’s mommy.

And I appreciate the sentiment, I really do, and there is a part of me that really believes it, too. But I’m not a mom, really. Not in daily practice.

I don’t have a baby to mother. I am just as useless around babies as I was before I had my own. I never got to develop that 6th sense with my daughter about what her cries meant. I never set a routine with her, determined her bed time, created a “take-turns on diaper change rotation” with the Hubs, figured out her feeding. I’ll never get to watch Hudson take her first steps or clap my hands with her first words or drop her off for school or take her to piano lessons or hate her first ex-boyfriend or ground her for staying out too late or hold my breath as she backs the car out of the driveway for the first time by herself.

But I am a mommy in my heart. As Hudson died in our arms, one thing I remember saying over and over was “Thank you for making me a mommy.” Being a parent isn’t just about the practical application, the daily tasks or interactions associated with having offspring. Being a parent, being a mommy, is also about what happens to the royal You when you have a child.

Your hopes and dreams shift from You to Them. Your sense of self is enlarged, because you just created this amazing little being so you know you’re pretty incredible but that all pales in comparison to what you’ve created. You would do anything for them… cliche though it may be, it is the truth. Your personal needs, they take a back seat. Your sole purpose goes from existing to providing. All you care about is making the world you need to make for your child. When you realize that You are not important anymore, and when you realize that you and You don’t really care… you’re a mommy.

That doesn’t change just because your child dies. I would still do anything for Hudson. I’m humbled. My priorities are different, larger. All I care about is creating a world for my children (well, along with creating more children, of course). When your child dies, you don’t go back to You.

It’s good for You to take a backseat at a certain point in life.

Always an ambitious woman, I was surprised at how motherhood struck me. When Hudson was born, I realized that there is no career I have a higher calling for than Mommydome. I don’t know if I will ever have it in me to be a stay-at-home mom, but that doesn’t mean I am not a full-time mom.

I’m always going to be Momma Dub. I’m always going to be Hudson’s Mommy. Whenever Baby Dub Dos arrives on the scene, I will be thrown into that wonderful missed-out-on world of Daily Motherhood Practice…

…the diaper changes
…the feeding and sleeping schedules
…the sixth sense about cries
…the millions of experiences I’m missing without our girl.

And those experiences will be new for me, but the whole being a mom thing?

I can’t even remember what it was like before I was a mom.

Mommy & Hudson

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The theme is babies

I don’t know if it is because of how fixated on procreation I am, or maybe how simultaneously fixated on missing our beautiful should-be-seven-month-old, but for whatever reason babies are like, everywhere.

Maybe I notice them more because of how badly I want mine. Or maybe the universe is giving me my baby fix while I wait for Baby Dub Dos. Whatever the case, I feel like I’m being stalked by babies and I cannot escape them.

Babies are a resounding theme in books I read. This is not on purpose, people! I’m not seeking out books about having difficulty conceiving, but the last two novels I’ve read had women in their late 30s unexpectedly getting pregnant after counting themselves out of the baby making game.

I’m not on the prowl for literature about losing a child, yet the authors I’m reading have a propensity for killing off young children with reckless abandon.

What gives?

I read to escape, yet the books I’m reading do nothing but drive home other aspects of the loss that is always on my mind.

Parenthood is a theme in the movies I watch. It’s not like I’m renting “What to Expect when you’re Expecting”, people. I was surprised when the parent-child dynamic was a prominent plot line in the newest Die Hard movie. I was shocked when the film “Looper” drove home so violently the lengths a mother will go to for her child.

Even the TV shows that I’m watching have babies like, ALL OVER THEM. ‘Modern Family’ brought a new baby to the cast. The rerun of ‘Law and Order’ was about an abandoned baby. I don’t even like ‘The Mindy Project’ but there it is on a Tuesday night with women going into labor like it ain’t no thang.

Enough is enough.

I already have contemplated giving up Facebook. I’ve explored in detail the dangers of perusing the Internet. Music I hear on the radio gets me all choked up and missing our girl. I can’t give up reading, and movie-watching, and TV-watching too.

Or can I? I gave up alcohol and caffeine and soft cheese for the duration of my pregnancy. Maybe I’ll fast from all forms of popular entertainment until we GET pregnant again.

At this point, I’ll basically try anything.

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Those dates that stand out

A year ago today, this happened.

A year ago today, we found out we were having a girl, and my whole life changed.

I had this vision in my head about how our family would grow. Before a year ago today, my vision of our family always started with a baby boy. A big bro for any daughters we might have in the future, a little buddy for the Hubs, my little athlete to be a soccer mom for.

And then the words “Little Lady” flashed up on that ultrasound screen, and my vision for our life changed completely. And it didn’t take long for me to be completely sold on a little girl first.

Our little girl – headstrong and willful and a bit of a show-off. Our little girl – beautiful and strong and determined. Our little girl – unable to stay.

February 13 will always stand out, that day we marveled at our strong and beautiful baby on the ultrasound screen, the day we shared the news with our family via colorful cake pops, the day I cried a little bit because I realized that at some point I’d have to deal with a teenage daughter.

And I may still have to deal with a teenage daughter at some point, but it won’t be Hudson. Not in this life.

On Valentine’s Day 2012, I got roses at work from my hubby. The note card read:

Happy Valentine’s to my two ladies.

I’ve kept that card to this day. It made me cry then and it kind of chokes me up now. It was that note that made me realize that have a daughter first was the only way things could be. It was that note that made me realize that seeing my husband become a father was well worth sharing his attention with another girl.

I’ll never forget those days in 2012. February 13 and 14 marked the days that my vision of our family changed. Hudson changed our world on February 13, and she changed our world when she was born, and she changed our world when she died. She is missed every day, in big ways and small, ways that I wouldn’t have suspected and ways that will surprise me years from now.

She is the start of our family and will always be the Big Sis.

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Seven Months

Here we go again. Another month passed, another milestone, another mini-birthday we’re missing with Hudson.

Seven months.

I’m guessing I’d have had to buy some baby clothes by now. The 0-3 and 3-6 month outfits we were given as gifts/hand-me-downs would probably have sustained us to this point, but my 6-9 stash is a little lighter. I’m sure Momma Sue would be happy to subsidize an entire winter-to-spring wardrobe for our no-longer-little baby girl.

What else happens at 7 months? Mobility, maybe some crawling attempts. Maybe we’d start introducing a little mashed up veggie goo to our girl’s diet. Maybe that would make for some grody diapers. Maybe she’d be working on some gibberish noises that I’ll convince myself are “Momma” and “Dada.”

But we don’t have a seven month old today. We have a seven month old heartache. A seven month old missing piece. A seven month empty family.

This weekend, a younger couple that I went to school with lost their baby boy. Different circumstances, but same heartbreaking result. A totally uneventful pregnancy was followed by a sudden and irreversible disaster. Devastation. Parenthood and loss in the span of 24 hours. My heart throbbed all day when I heard. I don’t know the couple well, but I know where they are right now, and I know that it is a very, very dark place. No matter what kind of a support system they have (and I hope and pray they have a tremendous one like the Hubs and I do), the next days and weeks in their life will be their worst.

You do start to come out of it, slowly, day by day, moment by moment, one heartbeat, one breath to the next. You laugh at things sooner than you think. You catch yourself in the middle of the afternoon and realize that you haven’t cried yet. You start to get hopeful, you start to believe that life will be alright, you gain confidence that you can, in fact, face the world and even participate in it. You can be this new person.

I know this because I’ve lived it. But they don’t know this yet.

After Hudson died, I could not wrap my mind around time passing. I was told to wait 6 months before trying to get pregnant again, and I bawled about it the rest of the day. Time couldn’t pass fast enough for me. I’d mark off the weeks from Hudson’s birth, from her death. But I don’t do that anymore. I do become painfully aware of the 11th, and of the 14th, but on any given Wednesday I couldn’t tell you the number of weeks it has been since Hudson was born.

Looking back on the past seven months, it doesn’t seem like it could possibly have been that long. I’ve left a job and started a new one. I’ve written a novel. I’ve run a half marathon and raised over $1000 for the Forget-Me-Not Foundation with Hudson’s Heroes teeshirts. We’ve paid off all the medical bills. We’ve bought a new kitchen table, installed a ceiling fan, put in a tile back splash in the kitchen. I’ve held other babies and been to baby showers and been to baby birthday parties and somehow did it all without completely falling apart. I’ve fallen more in love with my husband than I ever thought was possible. My life has changed in ways I’d never have planned for myself. The last 7 months have felt like mere moments and eternities at the same time.

A lot of healing can happen in 7 months.

 

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The Life you Want

I have to admit, finding the time to write here lately has been a challenge. You find time for the things you want to find time for, which would explain my watching a Law & Order marathon with my husband, hosting a Super Bowl mini-party, and making a second batch of home brew, all in the last silent-on-the-blogging-front week. I also spent a day at home with the flu, found out about a few more pregnancies (none of which are my own) and gender reveals (girls, girls, girls), and found an excuse to interpret my tingling gums as a pregnancy symptom.

Thanks, Google!

I haven’t felt like pep-talking myself here, and I also have learned that if I write too many dark-themed posts in a row here, I start to get concerned texts from family and friends and free-passes to skip baby showers.

I have been busy, but I’ve also been bummed. We are officially behind schedule on Baby Dub Dos, and I realize that writing about our future progeny so openly is only putting more pressure on. I sometimes wish that I’d lied and said I don’t want to get pregnant right away – then I wouldn’t hear that second question when my friends ask me “How are you doing?” and I wouldn’t feel like I needed to openly and loudly order a beer or a caffeinated beverage at every get-together. “Nope – still not pregnant – look, its a beer!”

It isn’t that life in general is bum-out worthy. I had to tell my husband the other day, “I really have to stop thinking that just because I’m not pregnant, my life isn’t good.”

I started a new job, and I’m good at it, and I enjoy it. Used to be that would be enough to have me floating on cloud 9! People who have known me long enough know that my career endeavors have always been high priority – whether it was my 40 hour work week as a Shift Supervisor at Starbucks during college or my high school days as a top Replay Card seller at Sam Goody. I’ve run a million dollar business, I’ve helped build a start up, and now I get to put my mark on our community’s fast-growing theatre. I’m a hard worker, and I do my best to make any endeavor successful. Having something I’m so passionate about (theater and the arts) to pour my talents into (marketing) feels good. But it isn’t the life I want for myself now.

I’m getting in great shape. I lost all the baby weight in about 3 months, but I still didn’t fit into most of my pre-pregnancy clothes (pregnancy stretches your s*** out, man). So I trained for and completed a half marathon in under my goal time (just barely). After the holidays, I started a return to whole foods eating practices, and picked back up with Shaun T. and Insanity. I now weigh less than I did when I got pregnant with Hudson and I am starting to rock some legit abs. If I keep it up, I’m going to be in my best shape when I turn 30 in April, just in time for the beaches of Maui. I might even finally attain the Goal Weight that I’ve been shooting for since HIGH SCHOOL. But this isn’t the body I want for myself now.

I have this amazing husband, an over-the-top family, and these incredible friends. Losing Hudson has made me appreciate PEOPLE so much more, because when you lose your baby you realize that life in general is a miracle. You are a miracle. Every life makes this indelible impression of the world, however short. I have a deeper appreciation for the ways that my friends change the world, I try to listen better, to be more present, to call more often (though I know I still fail in this department), to make time for people, to love them for all of the ways that my life would be empty without them. I’m grateful for this new perspective… but this isn’t the perspective I want for myself now.

I should ban myself from Facebook. It seems I can’t log on without reading of another pregnancy, and every time I see those announcements (“Bump Ahead!” “Best Big Sis!” “Mommy’s Due with Baby 2!”) I am ashamed of myself for my reaction. At about the same time as I think, “Oh good!” I also get near-drowned with this tidal wave of resentment at how effortlessly it seems these people get to experience the happiness of adding to their family.

I know this is irrational. And I want to make sure that any of my pregnant friends reading this know that I don’t “hate you because you’re pregnant” (This is verbatim from a friend after she told me she was expecting: “Please don’t hate me because I’m pregnant.” I promise, I don’t.). FAR from it, I’m all for pregnancies. I don’t resent my pregnant friends. I resent my own life. I resent the fact that we don’t get to experience happiness effortlessly, ever again. Every happy moment is always shackled with the harsh reality that we should be experiencing it with Hudson, too. That’s a For Life problem that will never go away, not when I have another baby, not when I’m done having babies, not ever. I’ll always miss a life that didn’t get to last, and I’ll always miss the life that I was supposed to have with her.

The life I want for myself died when Hudson’s heart stopped beating.

A friend of mine who lost her daughter (I’m horrified at how many friends of mine have experienced this kind of loss) sent me a message on Facebook in the weeks right after Hudson’s death. It has been several years since her daughter died, so she was coming at things from the perspective of somebody a bit removed from the horrific Right-After. She told me that life will be “fuller, although you miss her, and always more precious BECAUSE of Hudson!” She’s right. Life is fuller, even with this gaping emptiness, and I don’t need years removed from her death to recognize it. Sometimes I just need to make the time to make this the life I want, because I don’t get another one.

What’s that song… love the one you’re with? I am going to love the life I have. There’s so much to love.

See, I’m doing it even thought I didn’t want to… I’m pep-talking myself.

I guess I can’t help it.

I may perceive things as though other people get to experience happiness effortlessly, but I wouldn’t trade three days with Hudson for a lifetime of effortless happiness, no matter how hard things get in this dreadful Just-a-bit-After.

I say “I may perceive things as though…” because it seems like time has passed so quickly for other people, that yesterday’s pregnancy announcement is today’s gender reveal and tomorrows labor and delivery. The days are long but the years are short. I don’t know the months, years of trying that may have gone into a friend’s pregnancy announcement. Not everybody writes a blog where they announce to the universe that they are trying to conceive. We have friends who spent years and thousands of dollars trying to get pregnant, and after IVF failed, they got pregnant right away… the good ol’ fashioned way. We knew they’d been trying and were overwhelmed with joy when they shared their good news. It seems like it took them two seconds to get pregnant, but at the time it felt like forever. It seems like only yesterday my SIL was telling us she’s pregnant. Now we’re counting down the days to delivery. Being pregnant with Hudson felt like an eternity, but my SIL’s pregnancy is flying by. The days are long but the years are short.

So you make the life you want out of the life you have. What seems like eternity to me now will seem like the blink of an eye when my wriggling wrinkled baby is placed in my arms, taking their first steps, blowing out their diaper for the umpteenth time, saying their first words. I will look back at the place I’m at today and I will want to tell myself to be patient. I will want to tell myself that life gets more and more beautiful with every day, and that there is beauty to be appreciated in these bummed-out days, too. I will want to tell myself to appreciate The Hubs, because he is a selfless, caring father whose world revolves around his baby (and you aren’t even the least bit jealous). I will want to tell myself to keep kicking a** at work, because what you think is hard now pales in comparison to midnight feedings and diaper changes (and you’re pretty darn good at that stuff, too). I will want to tell myself to snap a few more pictures on the beach in Maui, because those abs are long gone (and you’re cool with wearing maternity jeans throughout the 4th Trimester while you “nurse off” that baby weight). I will want to tell myself to make a few more phone calls, take the long weekend trip, buy the plane ticket, because once you bring home baby, every relationship changes (and you’re cool with having to coordinate baby-free dates from time to time, but watching each others’ kids grow up together is pretty cool, too).

I can’t change the fact that Hudson didn’t live. I can’t get back the life I wanted for myself. I can only make the most of the life I have now. Sometimes, I’m not strong enough to do that, and I feel sorry for myself and I stop making time to blog, to pep-talk, and that’s okay. I have permission to do that, as long as that isn’t where I stay.

But today, I’m glad that I made the time to write about where I’m at. I am glad I unintentionally pep-talked myself into a better day. I am glad that that is the kind of person I am. I might not have the life I wanted for myself, but I love the life that I have.

It is, simply, beautiful.

Our beautiful, fierce little red head.

Our beautiful, fierce little red head.

 

 

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Numbering your days

I recently decided to pick up this book:

20,000 Days and Counting, by Robert D. Smith

On Smith’s 20,000th day of life, he went on a little personal retreat and made a plan for the next 20,000 days. This book is your personal road map for making the most of the time you are blessed with here on earth – with little, easy to digest nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout. I would recommend it to anybody who is as obsessed with the passing of time as I am.

I’ve been alive 10,878 days. Exactly 3626 times as many days as Hudson was alive.

Three days is a long weekend. Three days isn’t even half of a week. Three days is  all it takes for a little human being to change the world. She leaves ripples in her wake that will turn into tidal waves of change. She was, and is, amazing.

In the 20,000 Days book, Smith mentions a video called “When I Die: Lessons From the Death Zone“. I watched it this morning. I want you to go watch it right now.

I’ll wait.

…Life screams at you with its intensity.
I saw my children born, {…} and I saw the incredible, massive potential of that moment. And when my father died, and the air left his body, it was as powerful as the air entering the body of my daughters.
He died very beautifully at 9:30 tonight. Gail is in rapture and says that she felt total bliss from him at the moment of death and that it was a message for all of us to not be sad.

I’m not going to lie to you. I laid in bed, hugging my giraffe print body pillow, and I cried as I read those words on the screen of my Kindle Fire.

What would it feel like to die? What did Hudson feel as she passed from this world into… what? Without a grasp of any kind of language, do you think her intent as she died in our arms was a message for all of us to not be sad?

I have a lifetime of waiting to find out.

What I do know is that in her three days, she was surrounded by nothing but love. In her three days, not a moment was wasted. In her three days, people focused on her with an intensity no other human being will ever know in a longer lifetime. We memorized her face, we drank in her incredible, massive potential, we prayed fervently, we willed the universe to help our daughter hold on.

And perhaps, that moment when she let go was total bliss for her.

Every once in a while, something somebody says to me in the aftermath of Hudson’s death will burn into my brain, and my mother dropped one of these on me very shortly after Hudson died. My dad is a pastor, so he spends a lot of time with people in their dying days, with families in the dreaded “after”. From hospital visits to funerals, my parents have more experience than the average adult with death. And my mother commented to me on one of my particularly bad days, “It has always struck me how tenuously we cling to life.”

Tenuous. Having little substance. Flimsy.

My grandfather died on my birthday last year. He had a long, painful battle with cancer. Over a year before he died, we thought we were going to say goodbye to him. He’d been on life support and the decision was made to take him off of the machines that were keeping him alive. As family gathered around him and sang hymns and prayed together, we all were thinking in the back of our minds that these were our last moments with Grandpa. But his attachment to life was more tenacious than tenuous, and he somehow fought back to us, against all odds. We got another year (and some change) with Grandpa.

When Hudson’s heart stopped on July 14, my Grandpa’s recovery flitted through the back of my mind. In those moments, I tried to live in two dimensions: the dimension where my daughter was dying in my arms, and the dimension where my daughter was fighting to live in my arms. I wanted to cherish the minutes I had with her because they were my last, all the while clinging to some tenuous hope that she might be stronger than the force taking her away from me.

That’s kind of what life is like. In every moment, we are living and dying. We are one stupid mistake from death in every moment. We are one freak accident away from life. We are as old as we’ve ever been and as young as we’re ever going to get, RIGHT NOW.

Let life scream at you with its intensity. You don’t have to know how many days you’ve been alive to know that each one of those days is a gift. Number your days, or don’t number your days…. but live them.

 

 

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