Right Where I Am: 8 months 1 day

Still Life With Circles has started an amazing project for baby lost moms – it is the Right Where I Am Project.  http://stilllifewithcircles.blogspot.com/2011/05/right-where-i-am-project-two-years-five.html

So, here is my “right where I am” today:

It has been 8 months and 1 day since my twin boys were born, Quinn died the same day, Trace followed him 4 days later.

A lot has happened since then, we adopted a 9 month old baby girl in early April – but although it makes me mommy, it does nothing to take away my grief.

Today, Memorial Day, I stood in the shower and cried.  I feel like the world wants me to be back to normal – I have a child now, but that doesn’t take away what I lost with my boys.  And that doesn’t make it all better.  I love her dearly -AND I miss my boys – all at the same time. They are separate, independent things.

About two weeks ago my MIL watched my daughter for 2 hours while I was on a business call.  Afterwards she said to me “I’m so glad you don’t have the twins” – apparently she was trying to express that she was overwhelmed taking care of just one.  But I was so angry with her – I stammered and shook my head and told her not to say it – never to say it again.  I still cannot fathom why someone would feel it is okay to say that.  We would never say “I’m so glad your mother died, she would have been such a burden on you”.  So, why is it okay to say you are glad that my children aren’t here?

After discussing it with my DH, he wants me to “fix it” so there isn’t tension between us.  Yet, he knows if I bring it up to her, she will just justify what she said as me being too sensitive or that it wasn’t what she meant.  Yet, the truth is that her motives really weren’t relevant in the moment- knowing that she didn’t mean to hurt me (assuming the best case scenario) did nothing to lessen the stabbing pain that took my breath away when she said such a terrible, horrible thing.  And frankly, trying to discuss it with her and hearing her being defensive would almost be worse than the original offense.  How is it that she gets to be mad at me for stopping her and telling her not to say that?  How does this make sense? I honestly don’t know how this issue gets resolved – or maybe I just don’t care to resolve it.  A line has been crossed that can never be un-crossed.

I don’t want to be the bitter woman whose children died…but some things are just sacred. Some things that should just go unsaid – even if they are in your head.  I can’t and won’t apologize for feeling this strongly about it.

Somehow this whole thing threw me right back to the angry stage of grief.  Not surprisingly, shortly after this incident, I got a sore throat – the kind that comes when your body needs to speak out and you feel that you can’t say what you feel.  I can’t make it go away.  Perhaps it is telling me that I need a way to express how mad and sad I still am.  Maybe this post will help.

And that, my friends, is the ugly truth about “right where I am” today.

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Mother’s Day

This is my first Mother’s Day that I can celebrate being a mother!  

But the emotions are not quite so simple.  As I contemplate this day and what it means, I find myself weepy and emotional, happy and sad – I guess bittersweet is what best describes my feelings this Mother’s Day.  I’m sure these emotions have been heightened by an event that I won’t recount here, but that felt a bit like an unexpected sucker punch – totally catching me off-guard and reducing me to tears and speechlessness.  People can be so cruel and heartless sometimes.   

Yet, I am beyond grateful to be experiencing my first mother’s day – both as a mom to Ashlyn, but also and as mother to Trace and Quinn.   It would have been so much harder to experience this first Mother’s Day without having this delightful little girl in our lives – and still I am sad for what I have missed with the lives we had imagined for Trace and Quinn.  I guess it is normal to have those conflicting emotions – so this Mother’s Day will be especially bittersweet, as a mother of 3 (two in heaven, one in my arms).   

And to all of the mothers whose children can’t be in your arms, or those who desire motherhood and haven’t yet had their wishes come true, my heart goes out to you too on this special day where we celebrate all that is motherhood. 

I remember the days of infertility, before I was a mother, how I wished I could ignore that day that so poignantly made me feel like a total loser for not being able to get pregnant and have children – how I hated Mother’s Day back then.  And now, I think how difficult it must be for the birth mother (or first mothers) who selflessly make the loving choice to have someone else parent their children. I imagine the loss and sadness they must also feel on this day.  

To K, the woman who gave birth to Ashlyn and chose us to be her parents, words could never express how much we love this little girl and how thankful we are to you for the incredible and difficult choice you have made. 

So, wherever you are in your motherhood journey, I wish you peace on this day that has so much emotion wrapped in one little word – mother.

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One Month

Yesterday marked one month since we brought our little Ashlyn home just days shy of her 9 month birthday.  One month of joy, and laughter, and tears, and being overwhelmed with all that is motherhood – along with trying to get to know each other and figure out how we work together.

First, let me say this little girl is a joy.  When she smiles, her whole face lights up.  And when she laughs – the whole world wants to laugh with her.  I take her to stores, and seriously, people stop me every time to tell me how beautiful she is.  Of course we believe that, but it is sweet for other people to notice her.  She is outgoing and loves checking everything and everyone out.  No doubt she is a curious girl that loves activity.  People always say “those eyes” – they are beautiful and expressive and there is just nothing like my daughter’s eyes. 

The first week or so was a little tough around the bedtimes – much screaming ensued (more hers, but probably some from me as well).  Thankfully, getting her on a schedule, and used to her bedroom/crib, and settled with us and knowing she will see the same things/people every day seems to have solved that miraculously fast.  Normally, there is barely a whimper at bedtime – aside from the typical “life is too interesting to sleep so I want to fight it as long as possible” scenario. 

And thanks to the generosity of family and friends, this girl has a wardrobe that both Michael and I envy – far more stylish than both of our wardrobes put together.  And she wears it so well. 

To everyone who has sent us gifts, please forgive my delay in getting thank you notes sent out.  I’ve been rather busy trying to learn 9 months of parenting in just a few weeks.  But things are settling down and I am making progress. 

I was looking at the pictures from when we met her, and when we first brought her home – and although it was only a month ago, I am struck by how different she looks to me now. 

She is crawling like crazy – and pulling herself to standing all of the time – and staying standing!  I’m sure it is only a short time before she will be walking – holy heck!  She is eating chunks of food, and so far we can’t find any food she doesn’t like.  Yea!  I’ve been making purees, and also giving her chunks of soft food as she as transitioning to steak and potatoes (well, not for awhile).  

But, she just popped her 5th tooth – it was a toughie.  At least we think that is what happened this week, but maybe she caught a bug at the same time.  We lived through our first feverish, congested, cranky baby days.  Poor thing, I just wished I could take it away and make her feel better.   Those sad eyes made me want to cry.  But, yesterday she woke up fever free and happy!  The sun was shining and life was good again.  

She loves her white bunny lovey – do you have any idea how often a white lovey needs to be washed?  Pretty much daily – I’ve got to buy 3 (or 5) more of those while I can get them.  But it is so soft and so cute, she (and we) are just drawn to that lovey. 

She’s also a dancer – loves to shake to the music or just sway back and forth, so darn cute, I think we have another musical person in the family – she seems to particularly enjoy 80s pop music.  LOL  Her favorite toys are the ones she can chew on – particularly Sophie the giraffe.  A friend brought one over, and all 3 girls at the playdate were jockeying for time with Sophie.  Them French folks are smart!  That toy has been around since the 60s I think.   She also likes the ones that make the most noise – although she and Rusty (our Shih Tzu) would be very happy if I let them both trade toys – he’s attracted to her toys, and she would like nothing better than to chew on one of his rawhide or chew toys.  Rusty is so sweet with her – likes to lick her (give her kisses) and tolerates an amazing amount of hair and collar grabbing while we are trying to teach her that she must be gentle with the animals.  Max, our 19 year old Siamese Himalayan cat, just tries to stay out of her reach. 

She loves her Daddy – and he’s wonderful with her!  My heart just melts when I watch them together – teasing, playing, loving.  For a man with no experience with babies, he’s a pro now, and as we speak is on his first outing alone with her.   Yea!  

In some ways it is hard to believe that a month has passed – it went by so quickly, and yet our lives are so incredibly changed that the days before Ashlyn seem a long time ago.   I do realize how incredibly blessed we are to have this little girl in our lives.

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Our Little Miss Sunshine

Since this is a public blog, I’m still trying to figure out how much information we want to share with the world about our LMS (Little Miss Sunshine).   For now, I’ll just give you a few details – perhaps over time I will feel more comfortable about sharing more.

In mid March we received a call from our agency telling us that although they almost never do adoptions for anything other than newborns, they had a unique situation they wanted to discuss with us. 

An 8 month old baby girl’s birth parents had selected us from their website, and although it was out of our “filters” (newborn) they wanted to give us a chance to consider the situation.  Fortunately, she is healthy and since birth had been well cared for by her birth mother who loved her, but was already raising other children and really wanted this little girl to have two parents.  The birth father and birth mother were married but split up prior to her birth.  The birth father had not been involved in her life. 

We agreed to a phone call with the birth mother and saw our first photo of her and LMS.   The call went amazingly well.  It wasn’t nearly as awkward as I had imagined it might be, and at the end we mutually agreed that we wanted to pursue this further. 

I will admit that my two biggest fears were:

1)  Would I be sad about missing out on the first 8 months of her life and missing out on mothering a newborn

2) Would we have any issues with attachment, or transferring the attachment. 

I thought about missing the newborn stage and what that meant to me.  In some ways, it made me sad; in other ways, I thought maybe it would be easier on my struggles through the grief of losing Trace and Quinn to not have a newborn.  And although I had always imagined we would adopt a newborn, I can honestly say that I quickly felt at peace with giving up that little piece of the dream.  I think I am more sad that we missed that time with her – more than just missing mothering a newborn. 

On the second issue, I literally reached out to psychologists, attachment specialists, adoption people, adoptive parents and anyone I thought could provide some insight.  I received very good pointers, things to look for, and suggestions for transitioning the attachment.  To each of you who responded to my pleas for insight and advice, thank you so very much. 

So, we moved forward with the adoption – not without some drama along the way – but we brought her home about 2 1/2 weeks ago.  We literally borrowed a crib mattress, car seat, etc. and had enough stuff to get us through a few days and decided we could figure out what we need along the way.  So, it has been a couple of weeks of just getting to know each other, and figuring out what we really needed and what we should have never bought!   Trust me when I say I am VERY familiar with Babies R Us, Target, and CostCo. 

She is a very healthy, happy, and somewhat opinionated and stubborn little girl.   Her smile lights up the room – seriously, she smiles with her WHOLE face! And, her screams can pretty much curl hair – it’s how she routinely lets us know when she is unhappy with a decision we’ve made (such as bedtime, diaper changes, etc.).  She eats well and seems to love all kinds of food – I hope that lasts!

She and the dog are becoming fast friends – he is usually never far away from her, although he’s not a fan of the screams and high pitched noises.  The cat is still trying to remain an aloof bystander – rarely close enough to be within her reach.  That’s probably best for everyone. 

I don’t think she understands about cameras yet – it’s hard to capture good photos because she is always in motion.  Seriously, the girl never sits still except right before she gets sleepy.  It is almost like you can see her winding down – the movements gradually slow down and finally stop.   

Did I mention that she sleeps through the night?  The first few nights were a little tough – we make the rookie mistake of letting her fall asleep on us – then the minute her butt hit the crib it was all screams.  But, now we’re getting into a good routine – in bed around 7pm, and sleeps until about 7am.  We’re still negotiating on the naps though.  🙂

People keep asking how it feels to be a parent.  I think they want some answer about how wonderful it is and how it is just like I imagined.  Sorry to disappoint.  The truthful answer is that it is overwhelming much of the time.  But, oh-so-rewarding.  Just a big toothy grin or a hug from this little girl can make my day.  I feel chronically behind – it’s hard to catch up on what was supposed to take 9 months to learn, but we’ll get there.  I worry about what I don’t know yet, and the things I do know but haven’t been able to achieve. 

I have to say that one of the things I dreamed about was watching my husband become a father.  And now I melt when I watch my husband so naturally being a loving, sweet father to this little munchkin.  It makes me love him even that much more.  

So, maybe the best answer is – parenthood is hard work, life changing in ways that you only know when you experience it, and sprinkled with amazing moments of “this is why we worked so hard to be parents”.

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AWOL for good cause!

So sorry that I’ve been AWOL. It has been a whirlwind of a month, and we are up to our ears in parenting our little 9 month old baby girl. So much to learn and do, I feel like I’m playing a tough game of catch up. But, we’re doing very well – transition is going as well as we could have hoped. She’s teaching us and we’re learning along the way. 🙂

Today, DH got her up this morning and when he walked in our bedroom, for the first time she reached out to hug me and for me to hold her. Melt my heart!!! 🙂 That is the first time that she actually was in someone else’s arms and reached for me instead. She is a very social girl, so she’s usually happy in anyone’s arms, but this time she wanted me. I know it seems small….but to me, it was BIG! Happy mama!

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Joy

I do realize that I have been rather quiet of late – it is because much has been going on in the background.  A lot like a duck that looks calm and serene on the surface and is paddling like crazy under the water? 

The last two weeks have been full of highs and lows.  But I am pleased beyond words to tell you that we are welcoming the most beautiful, sweet, curious and amazing 9 month old baby girl to our family.  This is night three that she is in our house, and our worlds are upside down in the best possible way.   We are truly smitten! 

More details to follow, but I simply couldn’t let this day end (well, it has to still be Tuesday in Hawaii) without sharing our joy with those of you who have also shared in our sorrow.   It is bittersweet but mostly sweet.  She brings smiles to our faces and a feeling in our hearts that simply cannot be described.

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6 months

6 months ago today I became a mother. 6 months ago today, my first born son died. 

This upcoming date has been on my mind for quite some time.  And although there has been a tremendous amount of other stuff going on in my life to distract me, I woke up this morning thinking of that day.  6 months, seems so recent, and yet seems so long ago.  The day my life was changed forever.  I pray that it remains the worst day of my life. 

I can barely remember the person I was before I was pregnant with the twins. But, I no longer hate the person that I am after losing them.  Progress comes in small steps I guess.

Aside from the hour I spent thinking of that day and my boys in the pre-dawn hours this morning, I was very busy with other things today.  Things that distracted me and reminded me that life does go on.  Not always the way I imagined, but I’m trying to take the pieces and make a new picture  – hoping that it will be beautiful in its own way. 

Quinn and Trace – my precious boys, you are in my heart and mind, and my heart still bursts with overwhelming love for you both. I am missing you something fierce today and wishing that things were different.

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