Saturday, August 25, 2012

Beauty Surrounds Us

Floye Mae was in her sixties when I was born.

One of my clearest memories is sitting next to her as a small child and carefully tracing the wrinkles on the backs of her hands. Her skin was no longer smooth - it was mapped with lines and spots, every one telling of her age.

But I remember, more than anything, how absolutely beautiful I thought she was. Her wrinkles, to me, were simply part of her. Her eyes were lit from within, and her fingers were still graceful with a crochet needle. Her hair was a pure white, and as young as I was she spoke to me like I was all grown up. She loved me, and I loved her.

I was thinking tonight, not just about Mae, but about all the women I grew up with. I remember them all as so...beautiful.

Their voices raised in praise during worship...

Some had beautiful smiles, or eyes....

One or two had grace

Others had the gift of bringing alive the Bible and making me want to grow in knowledge...

In some I saw incredible strength - a core of steel.

Some sparkled - literally. Great big broaches or earrings in the shapes of parrots and palm trees...

It is my mother's laugh that makes her beautiful to me. The special gift a mother has of making you feel her love in every touch - she has given me that during some of the hardest moments of my life.

They love me, and I love them.

All of these women - and I don't know that any of them would call themselves beautiful. But, it's true. They were, and are...the most beautiful women I've known.

Appreciating their beauty helps me see my own. It helps me see the lines along my hips and the gray hair I found as beautiful. It helps me see that one day, God willing, age will create a map across my body - every child and heartache and joy will be in those lines and spots. Every trip I've taken and home I've made with my family...every prayer I've offered - will light my eyes.

Knowing them has made me unafraid of the future. I do not fear 30, 40, or beyond.  I simply remember Mama Sug, who taught me to make pie crusts. Or Ms. Emma, who smiled and laughed at all her husband's pranks - even when he was old enough to know better. Mae, who taught me to crochet and loved to hear me sing. My grandmother, who truly has a take no prisoners attitude. And so many others. So many other women who showed me how to weather life well.




Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Truth

I am still young enough - and Dancer & Diva still small enough - that I am often asked, "Are you planning on having any more?" 

Or, if my children are not with me, "How many kids do you have?"

If I am visibly pregnant, "Is this your first?"

There is a moment, any time I get those questions...I freeze. Literally. My heart seizes, and the breath whooshes from my lungs. My smile tilts, and my brain ceases to work.

I never feel compelled to hide any of my children, including those I've lost. I feel no obligation to gloss over their existence. 

I don't always share them. Though it has gotten easier in the last few years to see who to share them with. There is something - perhaps it is mother's intuition - that tells me: this person will not turn away
The most hurtful words, though, are from those who deny their very existence. Because they were born still - because they never took a breath outside my body - these people think my babies aren't real. They are not even a footnote

Not worth mourning.

"Oh, it was stillborn!" they say. "Well, at least you didn't get to know it."

The words are not enough, angry enough, to tell you what this makes me feel. To know that some consider my children, conceived in love and birthed in love and grief, to be nothing.  

So, I am sharing some of my words. They are not eloquent. They were born of anguish. They were a prayer. And hopefully, they help someone understand...

Each one of these children, much loved and missed, was a person. A real part of our family. And each one takes pieces of me with them.


One More Moment

Please, Don't Go.
Stay with me a little while
Still and quiet
Beautiful to my eyes

Let your simply being
Comfort me
Give my heart peace
And light joy in my soul

Like something wounded
You came into this world
Warm, but gray
With eyes tightly shut

All those fingers
And long skinny toes
Dark, dark hair
And peace I've never seen

Wonder fills me.
Even as tears
Soak my face
I stroke yours

Too still, Too quiet
You have broken me
Pain covers me…
I will never find all my pieces

Please God, put me back together
I pray…I know He hears me
But He will not give you back
My perfect baby.  My Kasey.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Sweet Side

I love the bible verse about Mary treasuring memories of Jesus, pondering them in her heart.

What mother doesn't understand that? I treasure memories of each of my children. And I ponder...silently, out loud, here.

A few days ago I managed to wake up and get out of bed before anyone else. Trust me, this is a feat of epic proportions. Diva thinks sleeping until 6 AM is late.

I moved quietly around the kitchen, trying to decide what to make for breakfast, when I heard a quiet click and the pad of little feet coming around the corner. And there was Diva, sleep rumpled and soft - holding out her arms for Mommy.

Picking her up, I slipped back into her room and sat down on her bed. With her head on my shoulder and her arms wrapped around my neck, we whispered to one another.

"I love you, Mommy."

"Oh, I love you, baby."

I told her she was beautiful and sweet. I smoothed my hands over her hair and back while I whispered to her how special she was.

It was a precious moment, one I definitely treasure. Because they are increasingly rare.

Every little old lady at the grocery store who pinched their cheeks and told me to, "Enjoy it, they grow up too fast," was right. They do. And the bigger they get, the harder it is for me to scoop them up. Plus, the bigger they get...the less they want me to.

It's a hit to heart. You want them to grow up. You spend your time and effort ensuring they know how to be responsible, independent, etc. But then you want to cry when you realize they are outgrowing the kisses and cuddles that made their infancy, toddler years, and childhood so precious.

So I think what I'll do is simply treasure every hug and kiss and cuddle I can get, and when I'm thinking about throwing their teenage butts out of a moving car...I'll ponder them in my heart.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Retreat! Retreat!

"How did you get here?"

I see that question on people's faces.

I hear it when they ask about foster care, adoption, surrogacy....as if the thought never occurred to us!

I feel it in their silence.  

It is amazing how, in their desire for you to move on and get over what has happened to you, they miss how incredibly hard this whole thing has been. How we have searched and floundered for just the right answers - and how we have come to discover that there just aren't any.

I could recite facts and figures - the percentages the doctors gave us, the amount of money it would take to even consider adoption, the number of times we have researched and debated and  cried.

But, really, how can anyone understand - except those who have been there?

I do not even know how I became that woman. A woman haunted. Pitied by some and avoided by others. A woman whose presence creates an unease in others. 

Even I have asked myself, "how did we get here?".

I certainly did not plan this future when I met my husband at a summer BBQ ten years ago. The day I married him - clouds did not hang over the exchange of our vows ominously. And I could not fathom this being our reality the night Dancer was born and he placed her in my arms. As I unwrapped her swaddling to count her fingers and toes and as I held her to my breast...this was not my intention.

It has felt like a whirlwind, almost like we were caught up and buffeted by a force too powerful for us to conquer. The want and need for another child, the push and pull of the doctors and nurses, the hope.

Ours are not the only prayers being offered. Churches full of people have prayed, friends and family have pleaded with God just as we have. And the hope that God will intervene on our behalf still lives in my heart, even as I try to squash it.

Perhaps that is how we got here - a surfeit of hope.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Everything New

Even though I hated it, there was a part of me that felt our TEM (truly epic move) was a new beginning. This was a chance to begin something separate and apart from the tragedy that has dotted the last few years. And I felt some...relief.

It was a chance to unburden myself - I could heal and pray and....become someone again. Someone not rolling from one grief to the next, from one hurt to another. I could do more than survive.

"We are finished." we said. Finished listening to the tug in our hearts for more children, finished listening to doctors' theories, and finished praying for something that has become an impossible dream.

And now, we are pregnant again. Unintentionally, unbelievably....I don't even have the words.

I thought about not telling you.

But, I can't help you - and you can't help me - if we're not honest with one another. 

I already know the likely outcome for this child - even though I pray that this one is the one that makes it. I know what physical, emotional, and spiritual pain I will endure...

But, I saw our baby today at the doctor's office.

Beautiful.

Two arms and legs, a beautiful back and fat little tummy...

Absolutely Beautiful.  

There are no words for that either. The twin strands of pain and despair that twisted themselves around my heart today. And who will know - unless I tell them - that you can feel those in complete equality and harmony? That you can thank God in one breath for another day with your child, while begging in the next for just one more? 


Or that you can find yourself with no hope - and every hope - all at once?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Contains Brief Nudity

Important Note: We just moved here. Keep that in mind.


The conversation between Casanova and myself went something like this:

Diva stripped in the middle of the dance studio today after class.

Hysterical man giggles. 

Why?

I DON'T KNOW!

Where were you?


I wasn't looking. I just turned around and....and there she was, calmly and methodically stripping.

More hysterical man giggles.

Where was everybody else?

They were all filing right past her on their way out the door.....

(Excuse me while I bask in my total and complete humiliation) *face palm*

So...what did you do? 

I lunged, covered her with my dress, and started yanking up her tights....sigh.....I think I scared her.

At this point, Casanova lost what little composure he had and laughed until he cried. I think I may change his name to appropriately reflect the level of aggravation he causes me. Suggestions?   

Now, this isn't the first time Diva's stripped in public. The dance studio in particular seems to be her favorite place to explore her nudist tendencies. I have, apparently, failed to instill the proper amount of horror in her at her lack of modesty. 

Granted, this is not the worst thing that could happen. And, too, I know I have years before it really matters. 

But, really?!! Public nakedness? This is what I'm up against? I'm all for healthy self-esteem, but this carries things a little too far!

I really wish I was one of those moms who thought my kids were perfect. Not that I'm complaining that I have them - hopefully you know me better than that. But, if I thought they were perfect...my days would be quieter - more peaceful. I wouldn't have to worry so much about whether or not I am screwing them up.

And while a little pre-school stripping is not the worst that could happen - there are other scarier things out there. Every mom I know fights the guilt and worry that somehow she has permanently messed up her kids' psyche.  But, as one friend reassured me, "Everybody needs something to talk about in therapy." 


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Growing Pains

I feel....transplanted.

Like the conditions are harsher and I'm not sure...how do I put down roots here?

I get up and go to church. I dress up. I smile....and I pray someone sees past the smile to who I am.

I push and push to get Dancer into a good school - and I do - selling myself as much as her.

I wander around our new grocery store and I keep thinking, "will this place ever feel like mine?"

I feel....tentative.

When did I become so unsettled?

The kids were quick to establish ownership. This is our house, and my room. This is where we shop. That is our church.

I know they aren't completely settled yet. Casanova said exactly what I was thinking this morning at 4:30 AM.

"It's worse than when they were infants. Somebody's up every two hours."  And he wasn't kidding.

At least when they're infants you expect the sleep deprivation. 

I guess more than anything I am bewildered. That's a good word, isn't it?  

Disoriented...confused...

It's not just the weather that's different here. The houses and stores and people are different, too. I sometimes feel like I'm navigating uncharted waters without a map. Hence the bewildered-ness.  And no, that's not really a word. But, I'm trying it out. I can do that...I was an English major.

Even though we moved around a good bit in Texas....it's still Texas!

And there are things I miss.

I miss my friends. I miss knowing that they could drop their kids off, or I mine - with little notice. I miss having someone right down the street that doesn't mind whether I'm smiling, laughing, or crying...they still love me. I miss knowing my place.

How long before I have my place here?

How mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, LORD, how long?

Turn, LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.

Psalm 6: 2-4


Monday, August 6, 2012

Shhhh, it's a Secret.

For three months after we lost Kasey, I couldn't go into a church. I would sit in the parking lot, staring at the church...and I would panic.

Sometimes I would make it inside, only to turn around and leave within minutes.

I just could not do it.

I was finally able to sit through a worship service. But, I have a big secret...

Sometimes, church still hurts.

I am not, I believe, in any danger of ceasing to believe in God. But, I do not always believe in a good God.

"When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be - or so it seems - welcomed with opened arms.

But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become."

                                                                                                   C.S. Lewis
 
That is the danger. Not that I will stop believing in God, but that I will begin to hear only the silence, and that it will overwhelm me. That it will sink into my soul and I will not be able to hear Him anymore.

Friday, August 3, 2012

What Not to Say...

There are three (adult) people I talk to every day: my lovely husband, my mother, and a wonderful friend from college. If I go more than a day or two without talking to any one of these people...my world feels just a little off.


Amongst the shared horror stories of raising heathens and debating Bible doctrine, both of which we do on a regular basis, we also like to make up our best "10 Things Not to Say to..." For my friend that blank is army wives. For me it's mothers who have lost children.

And, for the edification of those who want to know...here is some of my list. Because at some point, you will know one of these women...or you will meet one. I want you to be someone they remember with a sense of peace, not sorrow.

1. "You are so strong. I just don't think I could do it."

All variations of this are just wrong. I didn't think I'd ever have to survive one of my children, let alone five! It is not something that any of these mothers plan for, expect, or want to happen. And they are only as strong as they have to be.

We only get up to care for our families, or go to our jobs, or do the grocery shopping because it has to be done. Not because we have some super deep reservoir of strength that outweighs yours.


2. "God just needed another rose for his garden." or the ever popular "God needed another angel."

Again, not helping. I personally do not believe that my children are inanimate objects on some bush in heaven...or that they are angels. Beyond my personal beliefs, though, is this truth....God did not need to take my children for anything.

3. "God's got a plan." and "Someday it will all make sense."

I addressed this briefly in another post - the idea of God's plan. And, do not misunderstand me...I believe there is one. But, in this particular instance - this phrase is not comforting! Because, I can tell you without a shred of doubt: this is never going to make sense to me in this life.

4. "When are you going to get over this?"

I don't think that there is really any explanation needed for that one, but I will provide a note.

You do not ever get over losing a child. You move on, or you heal (mostly), or you learn to live with it...but you do not get over it.

And I have to come to understand that people wanting you to is a measure of their discomfort over your loss.

5. "You're so lucky you only have two (one, three, etc.) Just imagine if you had (fill in the blank)!"


I do not consider myself lucky to have ‘only’ two. And, neither would they. They love their children. Just as I do mine. And they would not consider their lives easier to have lost even one of those precious children.

A Final Note

I believe in the good intentions of most people. Perhaps it is my rose colored glasses, but I do not believe that I am surrounded by people who want to hurt me. But sometimes they do.

In this particular situation there are only a few phrases that really count.

I love you.
I'm praying for you.
I'll call you tomorrow to see how you are. 
What can I do for you?

You can write a card on their child's birthday or due date. You can make the family meals so they don't have to. You can send her a card on Mother's Day or him one on Father's Day.

You can be unafraid to ask how they are - and unafraid to accept an honest answer.


You can let them know they are not alone.