Friday, September 7, 2018

The Wheels on the Bus

The first time Miranda rode on a school bus was several years ago. We went to Longwood Gardens with some friends, and we had to park at an auxiliary lot and take a bus to the actual venue. Miranda and her friend Sammy shared a seat, as the anxious parents stared in disbelief. No car seats, no seat belts, no fear. They loved the bus more than anything that day.

The next time Miranda rode a bus was last summer. Her camp had weekly field trips in which buses were needed. Often, Gary and I heard more about the bus and who she sat with, then the actual field trip.

Fast forward this past summer, when she had field trips and swim lessons, so she was on the bus twice a week. 

The day before school started this year, all of the parents and students in Kindergarten got to experience a trial bus ride. Miranda has pretty much become a bus expert.

Today, Miranda took the bus to kindergarten for the first time. She will only ride it on the days she is not in daycare, and today was one of those days.

She barely made it into her seat before I started to cry.

Gary must have expected that I was going to lose it as he stayed home this morning to help me put her on this bus.

It's one thing to know she is going to take the bus to school. It's quite another to let your baby climb those steps, pick a seat, wave goodbye, and then just be gone.

When I was pregnant with Allie, I would see the big yellow bus drive by, and I would get so excited that she would one day be on that bus. When Allie died, the same bus would taunt me from the street, driving right by our house as there was no child to be picked up or dropped off.

Today that changed.

Today it all came rushing back.

Today I am sad. And happy. And relieved. And grateful. And pretty much every other emotion, too.

It's hard to be a parent. It's especially hard to be a parent after loss. You get smacked in the face with old memories and hopes as you are literally in the middle of making new ones.

I am so proud of Miranda. I am also so proud of me. I let her get on that bus. I encouraged her, even. I think what makes me a good mom is putting Miranda's needs first, even at the expense of my own needs sometimes.

The key is to also make sure my needs are met. I went for a long walk after the bus pulled away. I logged on and did some work. Now I am writing. And at 12:02, I will be standing on that curb, jumping up and down, waiting to see my baby as she gets off the bus. Then we have the rest of the day to play.

Sounds like a pretty good day if you ask me.

Waiting for the bus

Away she goes!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Wishes For Everyone

Miranda, like any five-year-old, makes wishes all the time. She whispers her dreams when we throw a penny into a fountain or when she blows on a dandelion freshly plucked from the grass.

Up until recently, her wishes have been for a "real live unicorn" and "a pet jaguar." In the last few weeks, her wishes have changed.

Now my daughter wishes for Allie to come back to life. She thinks if Allie was here with us, she would like Miranda the best. She's probably right.

Lately, she also wishes for all the people that have died to come back to life and to never again die.

At five, she is just as comfortable talking about death as she is life.

Honestly, she talks about her sister more than we do. Today she wanted to go to her creek to bring her a fresh flower. The other day she asked me what grade she would be in this year if she were here. She also asks me often when we are celebrating her birthday.

I wish I had two daughters starting school next week. Not just one.

I wish I had two daughters sitting in the tub right now. Not just one.

By definition, a wish is to feel or express a strong desire or hope for something that is not easily attainable; want something that cannot or probably will not happen.

Well you can guess what I think about that!

And yet, it's ok to wish. It's good to dream. I think it's healthy to want something that's unattainable. It's a good lesson. I just wish that lesson was not at the expense of my first child.

A rainbow baby was born to a friend of mine a few short days ago. I was miles away when I heard the news, and yet I broke down in tears. Happy tears. Tears of relief. To have a rainbow baby is so so sweet. I am thrilled my friend will be able to experience that joy.

I am going to take this opportunity to wish for a few things that I think can come true. An easy transition to kindergarten for Miranda and her friends next week. A happy and joyous start to the school year for all the kids. More rainbow babies for the moms and dads that so desperately want them.  Blessed memories of the babies that wear wings. 

Maybe some wishes can come true after all. But so help me if I wake up to a real live unicorn in my house tomorrow!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

I chose this quote from Muhammad Ali for two reasons. One - we love all things butterfly in this house. Two - it's a quote about competition and my topic today is competition.

You see, my living daughter is in competition with my dead one.

Ouch, huh?

Miranda is jealous that we have a picture of Allie's feet hanging up near our fireplace. The feet make an image of a heart, and it's the only photo of Allie that we have displayed. And yet Miranda feels threatened by it.

Miranda is jealous that we see butterflies and think of her sister. She wants to be the butterfly. She has even told me on more than one occasion that she wished we named her Butterfly, instead of Miranda. Um, no.

Is it that we talk to much about the daughter we lost? To be honest, I do not think we do. Is it that Miranda is envious that someone came before her? I could see that as she got older, but not at five. I do not care how precocious she is!

Where does this sense of envy come from? And why does she feel that there is a competition?

Last night at dinner, Miranda glanced over at the picture of Allie's feet and asked why we did not have a picture of her feet framed. I explained that we only had a limited time with Allie and that image was one of our favorites. I went on to say that we are lucky enough to have enough time with Miranda that we can take all the photos we want. We do not need to have an image of her feet. We have her face beaming back at us from pretty much every wall in this house.

She paused and then asked me why M gave her away? WHAT THE WHAT? I guess the adoption talk did resonate. Why, though, was it only talking about Allie's death that she questioned where she came from? I calmly explained that M did not give her away. She picked Gary and me to be her parents because she knew we could provide the kind of life for her that she deserved. A family with a mommy and a daddy. Her own room. The chance to go to preschool and meet friends and get a head-start on learning. Cousins. Extended family. Vacations. And so much more. That seemed to satisfy her for now.

I love that Miranda is so thirsty for knowledge, both in the classroom and out. I wonder, though, how much what happened before she was even born is going to shape her? And why is she in a competition with someone who clearly cannot compete back?

Both of my girls are so special to me. My heart is bursting with love for each one. Different love, of course. Allie's love is that of a proud parent who feels a surge when she gets the opportunity to talk about her. Miranda's love is that of an actively parenting adult who gets to see her daughter interact with new kittens, get her tiny ears pierced, and prepare for kindergarten. (And that was all just last week!).

I do not want to sell either of them short, and I want to make sure I am doing right by them both. In a way, I want them both to float and neither to ever sting.

Time will surely help me figure out how to keep explaining life to the one while remembering and honoring the other one in death.

What a tangled path I walk on every day. It's a wonder I don't trip more.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Healing Cycle

I have been doing a lot of self-reflection lately. It could be because Miranda's starting kindergarten next month or it could be something that has nothing to do with her whatsoever. 

Usually, I do my best thinking with words. My writing is a therapy session, and for a long time, I needed a lot of therapy. 

It's been almost a month since I have blogged and I think that might be a record for me. 

I am not proud of that record, but I am pleased that I need less and less therapy if that makes sense?

I have a new "sister-in-loss" if you will. A friend who is now walking in my shoes and is brave enough to reach out to me and share some of her feelings. Many of our talks have spiraled me back to the Spring and Summer of 2011, and it's scary and daunting, but it needs to be done. The only reason I was able to heal was that I also found my tribe when I needed them most.

Going back seven years, I am reminded of how damn sad I was all the time. Every time we passed a pet store, I used to ask Gary if we could adopt a new kitten. His answer was always the same. No. But why? Zoe, the cat we had, would not have been a fan of a new roommate. And a kitten would not take the place of a baby. I so desperately wanted to take care of a living being, but a cat was not the answer. Not then.

Fast forward to now. Zoe has been chasing mice in heaven for over two years (ok, fine...she's been sleeping and ignoring the mice). My heart is healed, as much as it can be.  Miranda is five years old and able to help out. And I found a kitty that looks like just like a superhero. So it's finally time.

T'Challa (the one that looks like Black Panther) and his litter mate, Luke Cage (Miranda named this one), will hopefully soon be ours to take care of every day. To snuggle and love and cherish and play with and bring new life into our house. Not because we need it, but because we want it. That is a big difference.

These kittens were rescued and need a forever home. I think that home is ours.

I have also been thinking about me. I have not been putting myself first lately. In the work that I do, we talk a lot about self-care. I really need to be in a good place before I can be of any good to someone else. And I am not. 

I can't remember the last time I laced up my sneakers or chose something healthy on a menu. What happened to me?

Life. Life happens. For me, it's easier to be "lazy' than smart. And it stinks because it's such hard work for me to be good to myself. By writing it down, I am hoping this action makes me more accountable. For my family, our new kitties, and for me!

I think we are all worth it.

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!"


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?"


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.


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. 

The Wheels on the Bus

The first time Miranda rode on a school bus was several years ago. We went to Longwood Gardens with some friends, and we had to park at an a...