Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Mom

Being a mom is HARD. It's more difficult than anything else I have ever done. It's being "on" 24/7. It's making sure someone else's needs are met before yours. It's walking around with chipped nail polish because you do not have the time or energy to find the nail polish remover. It's pretending your roots don't show because you do not have time to go to the salon. It's smiling when you want to cry, singing when you want to yell, and eating when you are standing up because if you show weakness and sit down, you will instantly just have to get up again.

However, for each sleepless night, each molar that took longer to come in than it should have taken, each projectile vomit incident, each visit to urgent care, each fight over hair brushing or teeth brushing, I silently exhale and know deep down that being a mom is who I was meant to be.

Yesterday, I was a flotation device in the pool. My main purpose was to keep Miranda buoyant. For hours, we just played and splashed and laughed in the cool waters. Every time I asked for a break or to get out, my stubborn charge pouted and refused to leave. Eventually, it clicked to me that one day (maybe soon!) she will not want me to be the one in the pool with her. So I stopped complaining and just enjoyed being with her.

When we finally did take a break, it was to use the restroom. For the first time ever, she walked in by herself and did not need me. I hovered in the foyer area in case she called for me, but she didn't. In some ways, she needs me less and less. When she came out of the stall, her suit was all twisted, and part of her tush was hanging out. In some ways, she needs me more.

I will never know what it would have been like to parent Allie the way I parent Miranda. I do not know what kind of child Allie would have been and that keeps me up some nights. I was supposed to be her mom every bit as much as I was supposed to be Miranda's mom and it guts me that I was robbed of that chance. 

I refuse to spend my life in a cloud of anger. That's not fair to anyone, including me. 

Going back to work has been such a gift for me. It has given me something to do and be, aside from Allie and Miranda's mom. Working has made me step outside of myself and my comfort zone and forced me to think about how I can help others. I am so grateful for the opportunity. And it shows. If you ask Miranda what I do when I go to work, she says, "You help people, mama." I guess I do. And they help me, too.

At 44, I still need my mom. So I know, in a way, Miranda will always need me. I look forward to a day when she lets me have some time and space back, but I also dread it. See? Being a mom is hard.

I am so lucky to have it so hard.








Sunday, June 3, 2018

Adoption In My Heart

Today was the Adoptions From The Heart Annual Picnic. We love this event. It is close to our house, it is early enough in the summer that it's not too hot, and it is a wonderful place for Miranda to see other kids like her. Adopted kids.

We have never shied away from using the word adoption in our house. We have read books, colored pictures, and even "adopted" a toy puppy for Hanukkah one year. We have explained how adoption works and how families are formed by love first, and genetics second. She has never questioned anything we have told her about how families come to be, and I thought we were handling it very well.

Until Miranda asked me recently what it was like being in my belly.

Uh oh.

Then she put a ball up her dress and said, "Look! I am a mommy now, too!"

Yikes.

Then, the icing on the cake at lunch on Friday.  Miranda looked at me with a mouth of grilled cheese and asked, "Mommy, did I hurt you when I came out?"

Crap.

Gary and I decided it was time to have "the talk". We had been talking about it for months now. We knew the day of the AFTH picnic would be as good a time as any.

We sat Miranda on the couch and took a seat on either side of her. We began by telling her how much we loved her. Then we reminded her that we were going to a picnic today that celebrates adoption. We asked her if she remembered what adoption meant. She shook her head no. So we said it is a word that means families are formed in lots of ways. 

In a brief sentence or two, we told her that after Allie died, we couldn’t get another baby in my belly. So we found M who already had one, but was unable to do everything she wanted for her baby. So she picked us to be Miranda’s parents. We all met before Miranda was born and decided that mommy and daddy would be the ones to be the parents of this little baby. We brought her home from the hospital, and she’s been ours ever since. 

That was pretty much it. I said something about how M will always be in her life, and if she has any questions, she can ask her or she can ask us. And it did not have to be today - it can be whenever she thinks of them.


Exhale. 

Miranda simply smiled. Gary asked if we could all get hugs. Miranda happily complied. And that was that.

The foundation has been set. At the picnic, we made sure to point out that many of the children there were adopted. She seemed more interested in the ice cream truck, to be honest.

I think we are over one hurdle, but I am not sure what obstacles are still going to be in our way.

I hope that as long as we are open and honest with each other, we will be able to face anything.

I love being Miranda's mom. I know how lucky I am that I get to be the one she turns to, day in and day out. I know Gary loves being a dad - her dad - more than he ever thought possible. Here's to hoping that our love is enough to answer her questions and settle any fears. After all, love is all you need, right?


Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Grief Bomb

For years after Allie died, I was worried about each and every pregnant person that I knew. Or read about. Or heard a story about. If I saw a pregnant woman walking down the street, I would walk the other way. If I had to talk to a pregnant woman, I would make eye contact only. I would never dare to look at her swollen belly.

When my sister-in-law was pregnant with my niece (and later my nephew), I changed my behavior slightly. I did this for her sake as well as mine. We both had to be comfortable around each other, and there are things you do for a family that you simply cannot do for others.

While I still do not attend baby showers or buy presents for babies until there are here, I have relaxed a little bit and not freaked out when I hear someone is pregnant. My cousin had the most adorable little boy last month so my mom, Miranda, and I took an almost 6-hour road trip (round trip) just to welcome him to the family, smell his delicious head, and feed him a bottle. It was more than worth it.

I let my guard down. I forgot to be scared. I felt almost normal.

And then a baby died.

There was a baby that was growing safe and sound in his mommy and was due in late June. I talked to his mom about his upcoming arrival. Not a lot, but more than I ever had before.

That mommy is having a funeral for her son this weekend. 

I do not know all the details. It's not my business to know. What I do know is that he was alive one day and then gone the next.

People were afraid to tell me. People were afraid for me to know.

It was like someone set off a grief bomb.

I took a minute to feel sorry for myself. "Why does this keep happening?" "Is there any way it's my fault?"

Then I realized it was not about me. It's not about the me that I used to be.

What I am now, since surviving the most horrendous tragedy ever, is a bit of a subject matter expert. Once I let the tears escape my eyes, I dried them off and got to business. I gathered information on grief counseling and support groups and a list of "do's and don'ts." I took the sadness from my past and used it to help make someone else's days less sad. 

I took on grief from the other side.

I do not believe that everything happens for a reason. I do not believe that baby is in a better place. I do believe in the power of love and compassion to get us through.

To Anthony - I am sorry we never got to meet. It's cruel. It's unfair. You were very much wanted and are very much loved. I remember you. I will make sure you are not forgotten, even by the people on the periphery of your life. That is my promise to you. 

Please say hi to my girl if you see her. I suspect you will. 


Monday, May 7, 2018

Leaving My Mark

For as long as I can remember, I have always had this fear of not being remembered. I do not know how or why it was so important to me, but I never wanted to be forgotten. Who does?

Yesterday, my mom and I took Miranda to the local high school to see their spring musical, Fiddler on the Roof. While that high school will not be the one that my daughter attends, it was the one that I went to many many years ago. 

Miranda was excited to see where her mommy and uncles used to go to school. It's much bigger than her school (after all, it has a pool and a planetarium), but she was not too overwhelmed. She liked walking the hallowed halls and looking at the lockers and was very worried about where the students ate their snacks. Then we walked her into the back of the auditorium where my name was displayed on a plaque stating that I was the "Best Actress" for my senior year. There it was. In wood and bronze. Proof that I was to be remembered.

I have a lot of happy high school memories. Many of them were on that stage. I can close my eyes and still smell the costumes, the paint from the sets, the blisters on my feet and the nervousness in my stomach. I can feel the stage lights on my face and the feeling that washed over me when the audience responded to my different characters.

Some nights, before the curtain would open, I would reach up as high as I could and put my fingerprint on something that I thought might not get wiped down right away and therefore serve as proof that I was there. That became something I did whenever I would go somewhere new. I used to try to leave my invisible mark as a sign that I was there. In my old dorm rooms. In the house I lived in during my college years. In my first apartment. Before selling my first car. I never used ink or anything permanent. I just had hopes that if someone wanted to know I was there, they could somehow see my fingerprint and know.

I did not do it in the hospital after I delivered Allie. I am not sure I ever did it after she was born. I have often said that her death changed me. Not all of the change was good. Her death took away my innocence and naivete, and it was not until I was in my old high school yesterday that my old tradition came back to me.

The thing is, I have finally come to terms with the fact that I will be remembered. I have been fortunate enough to impact and be impacted by so many people. Most recently, I have chosen to go back to work in a field that directly lets me help others, thereby solidifying that I will not be forgotten.

So if you see me reaching up high and pressing my index finger upon a surface, simply smile and let me be me. 

Here's to leaving our mark!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

4 Days Till 7

My Dearest Allie,

Your birthday is this weekend, and yet we have no party planned, no presents purchased, no outfits picked out. Somehow, you would be seven years old on Sunday. I cannot wrap my brain around that. 

I just witnessed your cousin Ella turn the same age. She was born two weeks before you, you know. You two were supposed to be the best of friends. Well, your sister has made sure that the strong bond of friendship is there so don't you worry about that! They are adorably close, and Miranda idolizes her.

Speaking of Miranda, I like to think that you are someplace watching over her, but I will fill you in on her activities nonetheless. She just turned five, and we had a super fun party at Chuck E. Cheese. Miranda was glowing with all the attention that she got, and there was so much love in that room. Many of our family and friends were there to celebrate her, and she loved every second.

Your little sister is heading to kindergarten in the Fall! How can that be? I was not my best when I went to register her. I was feeling your absence pretty strongly, and kind of yelled and huffed and puffed when they told me I needed forms I didn't have. Oops. I guess even at my age, I am still learning appropriate versus inappropriate behavior. 
 
We are gearing up for the "adoption" talk. Miranda commented Grammy last weekend about growing in my belly, so we know it's time to really explain what adoption is and not just use the word here and there. I do not anticipate that it will be a hard conversation. The bottom line is that after you died, we knew we still wanted to be parents, and so we found the best way to do that. It's remarkable if you think about it.

Selfishly, I wish you were here to help us tell her. But then I wonder if she would be here at all if you were still here?

Daddy is doing well. He was traveling a lot for work, but that seems to have slowed down a bit. I am glad because we work well as a trifecta and I do not like it when he is not here. Your daddy thinks I am strong, but truth be told, he is what keeps me going some days. Lots of days.

Everyone else is also good. But I suspect you know that.

My new job is not so new anymore, but Allie, it's great! It's super fulfilling, and I feel like I am making a difference. It's nice to be in the non-profit sector again. For me, if feels more about the work than the bottom line. I fit in there, and I look forward to going in three days a week. I know, crazy, huh?

Well, the weather around here has been really off for April, so I am not sure how we are going to celebrate you on Sunday. If the rain and cold stay away, we will visit your tree. Miranda wanted to go to a playground and laugh and have fun on your birthday, and I have no issue with that! Maybe we will pack a picnic lunch. We will probably also release some balloons at the end of the day so be sure to look for them.

Alright, my sweet girl. It's time for me to go. I do not talk directly to you too much anymore because it hurts my heart, even after all this time. Today, though, you were exactly what I needed.

Allie, I love you more. I always will.

Love,
Mama 


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Just Thinking About Tomorrow

Tonight, I am having trouble with my words. There is so much I want to say, so much I want to convey. The windows are open for the first time all year, and the sounds of Spring are permeating our home. And yet, I am sad.

Seven years ago on the night before Good Friday, we had our last Labor & Delivery Class. I mentioned to the nurse that I hadn't felt my daughter move as much as I liked. She told me to go home and relax and eat something sweet and start to count kicks. 

The kicks never came. The next day, on Good Friday, I delivered the most beautiful seven pound, 2-ounce angel. With my hair and Gary's long fingers and toes, she took our breath away. Although to be honest, I think we stopped breathing the day before.

Every year, I struggle with the fact that I have to mourn twice - once on Good Friday and once on Allison's actual birthday which is April 22nd. 363 days, I celebrate her. Two days, I grieve her.

Tomorrow night, I am hosting my first Passover Seder. Just my immediate family, but with all the kids, it will be a full house. The focus on cooking all day and the attention to all the details will surely keep me preoccupied. I think that's why I offered to host this year.

Tomorrow is also the anniversary of my father's death. He died the day before Miranda turned one. I think about him often. Who would he be now? Who would I be if he were still here?

Saturday is Miranda's fifth birthday. We are excited to celebrate this milestone together and rejoice in all that is good. It's hard to believe this very weekend, two years after her sister's death, our rainbow baby was born and changed the course of our lives forever.

Sunday is Easter with Gary's family, and it's been a long time since we have all been together. I can hardly wait.

So much has changed in our lives in seven years. I miss my innocence and my naivete, but I am proud of my strength and perseverance.

In my new job, we often talk about "trauma-informed language." I was told in my interview that I speak it well and have been told that a few times since. I think it's from the grief counseling and support groups that I have learned how to speak and listen in a way that is soothing.

Miranda is starting to understand bigger concepts as she is getting older. Twice in the last month, she has told complete strangers that she had a sister who died before she had a chance to live. It GUTS me to hear her say that. But she says it with a smile. To her, she is keeping the memory of her sister alive. And I guess to me, she is, too.

During Passover, we ask "The Four Questions" as part of the Seder. One of them is, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" Well, for me, the answer will be simple. "On this night, I mourn those who I have lost, but I celebrate their memories, and I am embracing all the love that is around my table."

Now please pass the matzo ball soup!


Monday, March 12, 2018

How Did It Get So Late So Soon?

The title of this post comes from not me, but from Dr. Seuss. Seemed rather appropriate since his birthday was earlier this month. Miranda has been studying and learning all about him these past few weeks. She has always been a fan, but I think her admiration is growing.

I feel like time is literally racing these days. I am really enjoying my new job and am so glad I accepted this position at this stage in my life. Hats off to all the full-time working parents who manage to get it all done. Part-time work has got me FRAZZLED! However, I am getting into the groove of it all and already can tell that I am more productive in my off hours than I was before. I am also more present on my days with Miranda.

Speaking of which, our little rainbow is almost 5. WHAT THE HECK? Tomorrow morning, I will sign her up for kindergarten. She is bright and courageous and strong beyond her years. We have a visit with her birth mother this weekend. I wonder how the conversation will go. This precocious young girl is starting to ask "how people are made" and other such questions which we can answer and will, but M may need to fill in some blanks. 

Miranda is also asking more and more about death. On a recent car ride, we were talking about Allie's birthday next month. She asked if we were going to celebrate it. I said of course. Then she asked when she died. I was forced to say on the day she was born. Many questions then followed, and I was glad that I was driving and I did not have to look her in the face with my eyes full of tears. She deserves to know the truth, and I think she will know it sooner rather than later now.

I used to think that parenting after a loss was particularly hard. I now take that back. Parenting, in general, is hard. 

Miranda and I went away this weekend for the first time by ourselves. We shared a bed (which we had never done before), and we experienced some other "firsts" as well. My takeaway? I do not care how hard parenting is some days. I love it. I was made it to it. My other takeaway? Miranda needs her own bed. She kicked me all night long.

I am starting to fear my own mortality. I want to be around forever. I want to do and be everything that Miranda needs to be. And I want to be alive to keep Allie's memory alive.

In Harry Potter, there is the idea of a "Horcrux." Essentially, they are objects that hold pieces of your soul so you can never die. Now in the books, they are evil, and I won't say much more in case I was not the last person on Earth to read the series. I have to say I like the idea of a Horcrux for me. I like knowing that I could put a piece of my soul in various pieces of jewelry of picture frames or furniture pieces and live for as long as I was needed. 

Since that is not likely to happen, I just have to keep doing the best I can. And being the best I can. Some days I succeed. Some days I fail. I guess that's life, right?


The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Mom

Being a mom is HARD. It's more difficult than anything else I have ever done. It's being "on" 24/7. It's making sure s...