How to Spot a Parent

I was leaving the Barnes and Noble by my job a few weeks ago and I spotted a Dad.  He didn’t have a diaper bag or a t-shirt that identified anything other than the job he was working.  There wasn’t a stroller around him or a child he was looking after. There wasn’t a mom around, looking to him for support and he didn’t have a baby strapped to his chest in a carrier or sling. I could see his fatherhood in his stance because he wasn’t standing still.

Parents with infants learn a hip swaying motion that is most soothing to little ones.  I would say it’s instinctive but it’s really a learned ability. Babies like the rocking and swaying.  They like the smooth flow in a side to side direction. It soothes them and soothing a crying infant can soothe a tired and stressed parent.

If you look around, you might see parents without kids doing the hip sway without kids around.  I do it when stressed or tired and it soothes me.  I don’t do it on purpose.  It’s become part of who I am.  I felt such a strong connection to this man in the simple body language learned through many sleepless nights that I felt the pull of his fatherhood in a way that brought me comfort.  I asked if he was a Dad and he was surprised when I shared my observation, but it was a connection that pulled me out of my thoughts and gave him something to chuckle over, breaking up the monotony of his day. He recognized the sway once I pointed it out.

I think of this so often lately.  Who we become as parents is a transformed person.  My reality before kids will never be a reality for me again.  It’s impossible to go through so much and become that selfish child I was.  I will never be able to cook a meal for myself and not worry that my kids might not eat if I’m not the one to feed them.  It’s impossible to think only of myself without wondering how my actions will affect my kids.  In dating, I had to learn that some choices need to be made for my sake, as my children need to learn to adapt.  They need to learn that I matter and I need to show them this by proving that I am capable of loving myself too by not sacrificing everything I am for who I want them to become.

I’ve been pregnant.  I’ve given birth.  I’ve lost children.  I’ve stayed up all night with sick children, catching projectile vomit in my bare hands.  I’ve kissed feverish foreheads and smelled the sickened breath on parched lips. I’ve sat in a cool bath, trying to break a fever with a limp child.  I’ve woken throughout the night to comfort and care for my child, only for him to wake and feel well enough to not allow me to take a nap, even if he was keeping me up all night.

In spotting a parent, it’s the subtle things.  It’s not flinching in a store when you hear a crying baby.  Or seeing a mom grab her breasts, as this sound so often made my breasts tingle and my milk would “let down.” It’s the sway that becomes it’s own source of comfort even when there are no babies around.  It’s over explaining because you’re used to the many questions that come from the curiosity of a child.  It’s being able to be aware of details without giving your full attention because you have the peripheral vision of parenthood that often feels like eyes in the back of your head.

It’s being who our children make us and knowing we’ll never be done, so long as we live, because we never stop being parents, even when our kids are no longer in our arms, or even our homes.

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What Helps Me Through Miscarriage Grief and Clarity Through the Pain

The shock of loss is one of the most profound perspective shifting traumas I have ever endured.  I’m learning there’s a gift through loss if you are open to it.

The gift of vulnerability.

I admit to being one of those hardened single moms.  I know I’m not the only one and that’s the sad reality of families that transition.  I felt strong and independent.  I was making ends meet with family support.  I was making my own choices and doing my own thing.  Letting someone in was the hard part.  With the boyfriend that was consistently choosing me, no matter how hard I pushed him away, I was constantly on guard, and looking for him to fail me.

When we lost our children, I was completely vulnerable. I was lost and directionless.  In the past week and a half, I wasn’t looking for anything as grief worked through us, but I found every time I started crying, strong arms wrapped around me and cradled me.  He took care of me, making sure I ate, and seeing to all of my needs.  I stopped looking for failure and discovered he’s a better man than I deserve for the way I’ve treated him.

Problems that seemed to be insurmountable are now insignificant after going through our loss while holding hands.

Finding strength through adverse reactions.

I am a strong woman with an intense personality.  This is who I am and I am content with defying what is expected of me.  I’ve learned that my strength can inspire and offset others.  I’ve had people tell me they needed me to help them through my loss in the past week.

Finding your voice sometimes means saying nothing.

I’ve had people push their needs on me, and I’ve decided it’s not my job to make others feel better about how I feel or what I am going through.  Sometimes that means ignoring calls.  I’m the only one that can decide how I grieve and what will comfort me.

Connection is healing.

I was lucky to find Natural Grace Funerals.  They have picked our babies up from the hospital and will cremate them for us.  Aside from the crematory fee, they work pro bono for miscarried children.  When I spoke with the director, she told me that she is also a mother to twins. We shared a moment of knowing that no matter how small they were, this was something I need to do and as a mother, she felt the same way. We’ll release them into the ocean.

Earlier this week, I went to Armstrong Garden Center to look for the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow bushes we will plant in their memory.  My boyfriend likes purple and I do too.  I saw the plants in my neighborhood growing up and the idea of seeing them and thinking of our children (we named them Sunny and Rain) was comforting. I was asking questions of one of their staff and told her about the miscarriage.  As I was leaving, she handed me a couple of crystal angels with purple wings as a gift to keep my angels near me. Other than the plant, I never discussed purple or that I have a lavender scrapbook for them. She told me about a friend that had just lost a 15 year old child and we shared a hug and tears.

4.26.2017

Connecting with someone else is healing for me, but being open to the words she offered and the hug that came with it was healing for her as well.  Connection is what binds us through our community and with our humanity.

Letting go can feel natural.

I’ve been purging junk all week.  It started with heavy weeding in the garden.  Then I started clearing out things in the storage shed, and laundry room.  I started cleaning out things in the house.  For so long I held onto junk.

When I worked at a mini storage, a woman once told me that she had to go through her mother’s things because she was tired of making monthly installments on delayed grief.

I was doing that too.

I finally went through that plastic bin full of pictures and sorted out what was mine and my ex’s, and each of the kids.  I set aside family pictures and wedding things for the kids because who we were as a couple is part of their identity.  They’ll want that one day.  As I was cleaning out the bathroom, I realized I still had a bottle of the ex’s shampoo and I realized it didn’t hurt to let go.  It felt liberating.

For the twins, I had started a scrapbook and today I will complete it and put it on the shelf.  I won’t wait to process it all.  It’s painful.  There is so much longing and I miss the feeling of life inside of me, but I can’t be the mother my sons need if I’m intentionally waiting to live again.  I’ll celebrate the process and really enjoy the memory of the time I had with them, but then I will give myself permission to let go and to cry, as I have been.  Sometimes several times an hour.

Grief and loss are natural, but not normal.

As I know this pain will ease up and pass as life cycles with change, transition and rebirth, I also know that I’m where I need to be.  I need to feel the loss.  I need to accept I will not always have a smile on my face.  At the same time, there has been laughter.  It’s not that I can forget my babies or compartmentalize my feelings.  Life is full of variance and joy comes with the pain.  I’m experiencing each moment as it comes, specifically staying away from alcohol or anything that would numb my feelings.

Sometimes there’s laughter.  Sometimes there’s tears.  Sometimes I cling to my boyfriend with intense desperation because I can’t handle the surprise gut punches that remind me I’ve lost something wonderful and incredible. What I’m feeling is completely natural, but life only offers moments of grief every so often.  We are built to get through it to appreciate the lows as well as the highs, but it’s not constant.  This pain is natural, but living in it constantly would make it normal and that would take away from what we are given to grow through. And I’m growing through it.

Actively Grieving Through My Miscarriage

Last year we (the collective world touched by Prince’s music) lost a celebrity, and my post about grief at that time feels so naive and superficial to me right now.

On Wednesday I went in for a nuchal translucency exam on my twins.  Immediately the tech asked about my due date because they were measuring small.  As he checked different things, I thought they were still because they were sleeping. He looked for what should have been a heartbeat, and I watched the screen, not seeing what we were looking for.  Not imagining any kind of connection. He said to relax as he checked numbers outside and came in with my doctor who wanted to see me early.  I told her it didn’t sound good and she admitted we needed a conversation.

In her exam room, she looked from different angles and took a deep breath before explaining that their hearts stopped about a week ago.  The phrase “genetic abnormality” is supposed to assure me there was nothing I did or could have done, but my children were gone.  I still looked round, but in the week where I had lost them, my breasts weren’t as sensitive and I was really clingy.  I felt like an emotional vacuum and no touch was too much. I began imagining I felt a kick or a nudge, knowing it was too early for that.  My body knew but refused to accept they were gone.

I left and went to my son’s school for a meeting I knew I had to attend . . . A meeting that was pushed back for my appointment.  I saw my eldest son laughing with his friends, and couldn’t control my sobbing.  I talked with one of the school counselors because I knew my kids would need his support after I told them their siblings were gone.  I sat through the meeting, present and asking questions, assuring the team I was okay and would be okay.  I got through it.

The next day and every time I’ve woken up my hands were already searching for my children, and I knew they were gone.  Today was the first time that realization didn’t cause tears to fall before I opened my eyes.

I grew up in a church family and I’m familiar enough with pro-life propaganda to know what “gentle suctioning” would do to my children.  I begged to let them pass as they would have eventually but the evidence and concern for my safety meant I had to walk into a hospital so they could rip my children out of me. Words like “infection” from the death in my womb and “bleeding” out from blood thinners meant the risk to my own life and the children I still have to raise meant I had to do the impossibly painful.

I cried as my boyfriend drove us there.  I cried as he held my hand and walked me in.  At this point it had been day 3 of crying together and in shifts, relying on each other for strength and solace. I tried to hold it together and when I told my nurse the abortion was because they had died, she held me as we cried together. She took my last positive pregnancy test, and then let me keep it. I cried in pre-op, waiting for the doctors to talk to me and cried while they did.  I was numb as they wheeled me into the operating room for my last glance at the ultrasound. When I realized they were gone and there was no turning back, I sobbed as I let them move me and work around me to put me to sleep.  I woke up reaching for my children, knowing they weren’t there anymore and sobbing that they were gone.  My nurse drugged me into silence with both dilaudid and percocet and a prescription for 800 milligrams of ibuprofen for when I was out of hearing range. Her relief began when I was too drugged to cry for a pain she couldn’t soothe. Even through my pain and the opiates, her relief was such a contrast from what I felt.

It’s been a haze of tears.  I’m seeing the stages of grief, but they’re not really stages.  They overlap because feelings rarely take turns.  The stages like to reappear at random times too. And it comes in waves.  Sometimes you can see it coming.  Sometimes it hits you without warning.

Acceptance came first.  The first call I made was to my sister and the moment I heard her cheery voice I couldn’t talk.  The words finally came with a flood of tears and the depression that is never far from me. It’s fresh when I get new emails from Destination Maternity, or when I got home today to see the maternity clothes I bought, but didn’t wear.  I knew it was a high risk pregnancy and I might not see them born.  Denial hit right before the abortion.  They might call it a dilation and curettage because that name gives it clinical space, but I had to walk in and let them do it, hoping they would still be alive.  I bargained that they could stop growing and give their heart a break for a few days and start up again.  Life doesn’t work that way though.  Anger hit when I was looking at their last ultrasound and the resident assumed the pictures were bringing me pain and not the fact that my hope had died in that moment.  The overlap of emotions means I sobbed when all I wanted to tell her was to stop talking.  Sometimes silent presence is all that’s required of you.

There’s a plan.

I found out Wednesday and we’ve received a stream of love and support from our families since then. In spite of not being able to talk to many people.  I have one sister that gets the majority of my meltdowns and raging tears.  My parents calls are never ignored, nor are my children’s.  I can’t handle talking to most other people, and they are kind enough to text me.

Today I told my kids (by phone) without fully breaking down, knowing their Dad will support a pain they will keep from me.

I’m alone at home right now.  I’m putting away the maternity clothes with the ultrasounds and Easter plush baby sheep I gave the baby’s Dad for Easter. I will have to get laundry done to finish putting it all away. I’m putting away pregnancy books and prenatal vitamins and all evidence that their short lives have made in our home before everyone comes home.  As I’m feeling the cramps from the procedure that remind me they’re gone, the stretch and mourning echoes in soft sobs throughout the quiet of my home as I prepare for the noises of tomorrow when my home is too full of life for the hollow space I feel inside of me.

We’ll celebrate the lives we were able to witness.  They will always be our children. We’ve given them names.

I’m looking for a necklace that will remind me of them because I don’t even get a lock of hair. Honestly, that may be too hard right now. We’ll plant a couple of trees around the house for them.

I’ll find ways to be active and outdoors because working through it actively is where I will find my healing.  I keep hearing time heals everything, but I call bullshit on that.  You heal when you take what life has given you, pull it apart and put it together in a way that helps and heals, rather than festers and closes you off.  It’s messy and unkind.  I have to write. As much as this blog post feels like a journal entry, it’s about healing, and I have to hope it brings someone else comfort as I’m digging through the details to find my own. It’s raw.  It’s real.  Maybe it’ll get proofread in a few days.

I keep hearing that there is no loss as painful as that of a child, and we lost two, but I’m not sure that’s true.  I’ve been a granddaughter, an aunt, a niece, and friend . . . and this is my first time as a parent.  It’s the most pain I’ve ever felt.  There’s no way to downplay or minimize it, but I’m sure there are other losses greater than my own.  I can’t see this as the bottom because so many have risen from it.

Through the pain I’ve found compassion for others.  Compassion has been extended to me.  In spite everything that has passed between us, my ex has been the Dad our kids need in supporting me to support them. He is a great Dad.

Through the sadness, there has been laughter.

Through their loss, I’ve grown in ways that I was stubborn against just last week. The short time we have shared as parents has pushed us into better people than we were to the world and each other.  At 11-12 weeks gestation, they’re frequently called “fetus” and “tissue” but they were our babies. We had plans for their lives.  We wanted to watch them grow and do great things.

You have to work through the pain and get used to the tears.  You can’t numb yourself away because grief will make itself known in other areas of your life.  I’m sticking to Yoga pants for now, but my belly is already smaller than it was.  I can see my feet again when I look directly down when just a few days ago it was just my belly, full of life and hope.  I’m just not feeling as round as I was.

There have been similar losses in our families throughout our lives.  It’s given us compassion and understanding for our loved ones.  It’s given us an opportunity to help others work through their own delayed grief.  It’s given us ways to work out issues that used to feel so big to us, but are completely insignificant now.

Pride isn’t an Option in Parenthood

Motherhood breaks down a woman’s pride fairly quickly.  Parenting will do the rest.

Your body will strip your pride in pregnancy before you realise how powerful it really is.

I’m lucky enough to only seriously experience morning sickness with my last pregnancy.  Having two placentas means insane levels of HCG which will make you feel like your thyroid is out to get you.  Specifically, it was terrible nausea and frequent vomiting, a racing heartbeat, severe weakness and weight loss.

Being sick for no obvious reason is specifically humbling.  Vomiting out of your car window and continuing on your commute is a bit hard to do with your head held high, but I managed.  Dry heaving because someone took a bath in their perfume is uncomfortable enough, but it’s also insulting to the person who now knows they stink. In pregnancy, bladder control can be iffy and gas happens much more often with the relaxed muscles of pregnancy. Hormonal changes can mean your body is creating a whole new brand of funk. Breasts will swell, then sag.  That mom walk that feels confident starts to sway into a waddle because my center of gravity is constantly shifting. A grocery run with mild hunger becomes an indulgent pregnancy craving smorgasbord, complete with odd and indulgent smiles from strangers.

Giving birth and seeing the life created and growing in you is one of those powerful moments that really does make it all worth it in the end.

Strangers will claim ownership of your body.

I’ve had strangers guess the sex of the children in my belly.  I’ve had them question my sanity over carrying so many children (8 and 9 growing as I type). I’ve had strangers reach out to touch my belly. They’ll critique and judge your parenting at all ages and stages because even if they aren’t the community helping you raise your child, they’ll expect being in public makes you subject to their judgement and opinions.

*Side note on belly touching: If you are on a date and touch a belly without consent, you’re being rapey. Really, at 20 weeks, the highest part a baby reaches is mom’s belly button (still mom’s body).  Any time before this, you pat that area, and you’re touching my intestines.  Even if lunch was epic, my bowels don’t need the encouragement, and if you’re going to reach lower to actually touch my uterus, I would hope for dinner first.  Maybe flowers.  Jewelry is always encouraged. When they start kicking, I’m likely to encourage the touching and show you exactly where my belly is going alien outtakes on us both.

Your children will change your pride perception.

Littles are sweet, but they will embarrass you.  They’ll stink, and cry at the wrong times.  They’ll puke on clothes not meant to experience spit up.  They’ll make you into living zombies.  They are so cute and helpless that you’ll put up with it and continue to try to make them into humans others would want to be around.

They will find their voice and repeat favorite and inappropriate phrases.  I remember my little one saying “fuck you” to someone when my mom took him to church.  They each went through phases where they learned the fastest way to hurt mom was to tell me that they hated me.  They took the one fear they had, of rejection and not being acknowledged and turned it into a weapon against bedtime and desired activities.  I had to push past that pain and by the third child, it was hard not to laugh at such pint sized rebellion. (Even on his worst day, my youngest is not capable of doing what his autistic brothers did in search of self regulation.)

They’ll get older and rather than say they hate you, they’ll try to convince you that you really don’t love them.  They’ll need more reassurance that they are loved and valued.  You’ll learn in that first game of tic-tac-toe, that it’s really not fun to beat the pants off of the kid you just taught to play.

Being prideful means you aren’t being compassionate and that isn’t the most connected way to parent. In my home, I’m frequently wrong and sometimes I lose my shit.  I try to always apologize to my kids.  I acknowledge the ways I was wrong.  I ask for their feedback and make communication safe.  Sometimes they’ll call me out before I see what I’ve done. I don’t get to always be right because that would mean I’m wrong. Sometimes I have to listen to well meaning grandparents, even if that brings out the rebellious teenager in me.

With my teenagers it’s hard to remember that they aren’t grown men.  I have to be intentional with reminding myself that they are still the sweet and sensitive boys that look to me when things are scary and painful.  I have to ignore their size and their attitudes and the ways they remind me of their father.  I have to be the one to come to them, over and over and likely into adulthood.  I think of the times older friends and my parents will talk about not being called, forgetting that the phone works both ways.  My mom is great with checking on me several times a week and I hope hers is an example I never forget.

You can’t be prideful and parent at the same time.  At least I don’t think I could.  You learn with your kids and pride assumes you know all there is for them to teach you, forgetting that the lessons never end, even into adulthood.

Why Dad Has to Look Great, Even Through Divorce

I might give more clarity than is appreciated by my ex on my blog, but not to our kids.  They don’t read my blog.  They don’t always want to do the reading for homework and Mom just blathers on. I don’t lie to them but I defend their Dad to them all of the time.  They are free to express themselves in my home, so when they call him names, I’ll remind them that he loves them as much as I do.  When they justify their opinions, I remind them that we can all be a bit selfish or lazy, but that doesn’t mean we love anyone else any less. I remind them that having them do chores around the house prepares them for life alone and their Dad is doing the right thing by teaching them independence.  They help out when I need them to but I resented feeling like a slave to my parents, and will never ask my kids to do work I won’t help them with. I might not like their Dad as a person and my life is so much happier without him but I admit, my kids have a good Dad.

Why do I defend him? Because even in the ways Kid1 splays himself across my couch, he is in every way his father’s child.  I love my sons.  Every part of their personalities is special to me.  There are even ways where I see their Dad or grandfather coming out and those are special.  I know them and I know where they come from and they’re my kids.  I want them to feel safe talking about him to me, and they do. Because I defend him even when I don’t want to.

We get our first sense of identity from our Dads. It’s how we fit in his world that tells us we matter.

My relationship with my kids started in pregnancy.  I was talking to them before they had ears to hear me.  I had that bond or connection, and I still do.  The act of growing up means we are part of our mothers and spend a lifetime learning independence from her.  Even as an adult, I see the ways I follow what my mom did and the ways I try hard to distance myself from her.  I see it in my sense of style and the way I give my kids affection.

When a child is born, they still rely heavily on the parent they attach to, but the smell of mom can soothe a crying baby because that feels like home.  It’s instinct.  When they get older, they start to look to the other parent, (in my case my Dad as well as my children’s Dad) to see where they fit.

Mom is different from Dad. There’s a sense of safety when a child gives mom a melt down.  Mom understands and will make it better so they can safely fall apart.

With Dad, there’s a distance that holds a different sense of security and safety.  They will behave differently.  It’s not just me.  Most seasoned moms will tell you their kids are different people, depending on who is around.

When it came to angry tempers and who was more capable of losing their shit, it was always me.  The pressure of keeping a clean house, behaved kids and his needs met was overwhelming.  My needs were neglected and it looked like anger.  I was scary.  Without fail, I could tell my kids to behave or I would call their Dad, who was usually more patient, and they would behave.  They listened to his authority without him needing to raise his voice.

Our home feels different now.  I have certain rules, but I allow flexibility.  I will ask them to shower after dinner, but I’m flexible with showers as long as they happen before they leave for school in the morning.  I will ask them to go to bed, but in bed with devices is okay as long as they’re asleep before I am, and even if they aren’t, they won’t be punished for brains that won’t slow down. I don’t worry about what they wear to school as long as their bodies are comfortable and warm.  Much of this is very different from their Dad and most homes because as mom and head of my household, I can do it how I want to and giving my kids more control and authority over their bodies is important to me.

But I’m not Dad.

When my niece was younger, I asked her brothers to step in and be the man in her life.  I asked them to take her out and play basketball and spend time with her.  I let them know that if the men in her life don’t give her a sense of value, she’ll believe any boy that tells her he’s the only one that cares about her and that will groom her into his victim.

My Dad has always been part of my life.  To this day, I see my Dad fairly often and we talk.  I’ve become more open with him than he probably appreciates at times.  Growing up, I still had Daddy issues to reconcile.  It was mainly that he was present and my Dad, but he wasn’t the person I imagined him to be.  He failed the rules I set for him in my head.

My Step-Dad was patient beyond measure.  He gave me rides, bought me things I wanted, was kind and patient.  I was terrible to him.  I called him “Penis” and sometimes to his face.  I treated him like the name Step-Dad meant I was to step on him.  It was years of patience and I couldn’t see him as a decent man until 5 years into his marriage to my mom.  Now I’m so blessed to have him in our lives.  He’s been a terrific grandfather to my kids.  He spoils them.  He loves and cares for them, and he looks out for me.  Step-Dads are really special and mine is a great Dad.

I’m lucky to know my brother in law as a great Dad to my nephews.  They live separately from me, so I don’t know all that happens as they parent, but I’ve seen him guide my nephews in a way that they are respectful, responsible, and caring.  Of course, my sister had a great deal to do with that too (because my family is filled with badass warrior dragon slayer women), but I’m not writing about moms.   He has been present and involved in their lives.  He has given structure and discipline as well as encouragement.  He has put being their Dad above being a person in the ways where selflessness has been more common than selfishness.  That’s a great Dad.

There’s a holiday schedule for my kids.  Easter is coming and I get the Saturday before Easter and their Dad gets Easter Sunday.  We used to visit his family and I wanted the kids to keep that tradition and enjoy a quiet day with them where they don’t have to house hop and we can just enjoy each other privately.  For Christmas I get Christmas Eve.  My mom started having celebrations on Christmas Eve so we could spend Christmas Day with our spouse’s families.  Without a spouse I was planning a hike alone but a friend invited me to share their Christmas meal.  I sat at the table and watched a Dad hold a baby so his wife could eat her meal.  I watched him connect with his children and guide them with love.  He knew the needs of his children as well as his wife did.  I was so blessed that night by being able to watch a man be a great Dad to his children in supporting his wife.

I remember taking a picture of the mess Kid3 made in my hair when he wanted to brush and style it for me.  It was fun for him but it reminded me of all of my bad hair choices as a child.  I cringed.  I couldn’t go out like that.  The smile on his face made it a moment worth remembering through the selfie I snapped.  Yesterday a facebook post almost moved me to tears.  A friend posted a picture of her husband with their girls.  He was proudly wearing the polo shirt and tie his daughter picked out to go out and spend time with his daughters and a niece.  That is a great Dad.

It seems to be an anthem among single moms that there are no good Dads out there, but that’s not true.  There are many amazing Dads out there and it comes down to a choice to be that person.  Just like moms, it’s a moment to moment choice. Sometimes we shine with patience, love, care and understanding.  Sometimes we fail miserably and hurt the children we love with impatience, anger and selfishness.  The great ones never quit and learn with the kids coaching them to greatness.

Entering the Pro Choice or Pro Life Debate

I’m pro choice.  I always have been.  I have had one of those in the trenches motherhoods that taught me not everyone is cut out to be a parent and it’s not a decision that should ever be forced on anyone.

When I was a teenager, my mom gave me a book on Christian abstinence, but also made sure I got birth control if I needed it at the doctor.  I had boyfriends, and I didn’t always practice abstinence.  I had tried every temporary form of birth control available before I finished high school. With the amount of time I spent peeing on a stick, it’s miraculous that none of those tests were positive until Kid1, 8 years after losing my virginity and after getting married.

I think back to the possible fathers in my expression of experimental irresponsibility and I’m grateful that I never had to face a pregnancy with the boys that were all ephemeral ideals of lust with hope for love. It was usually infatuation.  I liked the boys that liked me back, and it’s only in my late 30’s that I realize how much better it feels to be selective and picky.

When I imagine what life would have been as a teenaged mother . . . In a relationship that was built on teenage hormones . . . During a time when I was unable to take care of myself. . . A pregnancy created out of irresponsibility is what I escaped and  I’m so grateful I never had to choose when I was unable to make a decision from a place of empowerment. In my youth I was never put in a position to have to choose.  That only came once I was married.

I never had anyone force their decision for my fertility on me. The parts considered private have always been under my control. I couldn’t imagine the way I would feel about a pregnancy resulting from incest or rape.  Still, we have politicians trying to use “Beauty from Ashes” as a natural consequence disguised as a euphemism to help stomach the idea of being brutalized and further victimized by legislation enforced by men who will never experience the consequences of their control. Thank you George Faught.

It’s not just a financial decision.  It’s emotional.  It’s religious and ethical.  It becomes physical and affects families.  No one person’s ideals should force itself on people they will never meet.

I would want the women I love to be able to choose when or how she has a child.  I would want her to feel safe and protected in making choices for her body.  I say this but as for me and my body, I’m pro life.

When I was pregnant with Kid3, I felt extremely lonely.  My poor OB doctor stood uncomfortably as I sobbed and contemplated a late term abortion over several appointments.  Late at night I would sit on the floor next to my sleeping husband and cry.  My son would kick and remind me of how much he wanted to live, and so he did.  My reward has been his light and love and hope.  He has inspired me and encouraged me with his sweet smile and the way his tiny arms would wrap around me for a hug, patting my shoulder with his tiny hand.  I made the decision then, that any child trying to fight for life within me, would have every opportunity I could offer.

The test of your belief is how firmly you stand on your word as difficulties and finances assert their authority over you. When you say you believe in life, do you put your money where your mouth is? Do you pass judgement from the high tower of the distance you keep from your own life? If you found a young mother in need, would you try to support her with a kind word, or anything she might need?

A pregnancy for me would involve daily injections of blood thinners and be high risk.  I know this. My last pregnancy delivered prematurely.  I’m 39 this year.  The risk of birth defects jumps with that 50% fertility drop once a woman hits 40.  My youngest is 10 and I have long gotten rid of all baby gear and maternity clothes.  I would need a bigger car for my minor children.  All of this said, my personal stance is pro life.  A child trying to stick to my womb deserves every chance I could offer it, but the point is, it’s a choice I would make, no matter the cost.

A woman should have the option to do as she chooses with her body.

Teaching My Child To Give

In my flustered push and pull through getting Christmas together for my kids, I was trying to see if I missed anything from my kid’s wish lists.  We were in the car and I asked my boys if there was anything else they wanted that they didn’t tell me about.  They’re getting better at telling me what they want.  For a while they were afraid to want anything.  At some point I made them feel like wanting things was a negative feeling.  At some point I taught them to function and live in scarcity, and I get to teach them to live abundantly as I learn it myself.

My oldest son looked timidly at me, then tried to tuck himself away shyly into his hands and shirt.  My 15 year old reminded me of a turtle.  I could see his fear and uncertainty, so I encouraged him to talk to me.  He told me about a friend of his that wasn’t expecting much for Christmas.  My son understood that his friend was living on very little income and he understood that because it has been our reality.  He asked if he could buy his friend a $40 game and pulled a little wad of cash out of his wallet to show me he needed my support.  I’ve been trying to teach them that they don’t need help.  They don’t need me to rescue them.  They could use my support though and I’m happy to offer it.  They can be supported through their journeys, and here he was, putting that lesson to work.  I asked what he was willing to do if I had said no.  He said he was prepared to ask his friends if they would work together.  I mean seriously? I get to raise this kid.  I get to be this young man’s mother.  That night we went to two Walmart’s and a Target.  We also survived Kid3’s meltdown.

We got home and with my support, he wrapped it himself.  Then I had a moment of fear and it became a lesson for my son, and a lesson to me.  My lesson was how my past so strongly influences my future.  For me to worry about a reaction I had received and given . . . my hang ups on gifts . . . I get to look at that.  I get to examine and change things.

In talking to my son, I realized my fear was about the many times I had given or received a gift and the emotions that go with that. It was about the times I received a gift that wasn’t what I would have wanted, but something the giver would have wanted, without any thought to who I am.  It’s more honest than polite people would ever admit.

I wasn’t always great at gift receiving.  Especially when it came to my Dad.  I was never satisfied with what he offered. He’s given me jewelry, and it was always large and not something I would ever choose to wear.  I would accept it and complain later.  I once asked for a keyboard so I could learn to play the piano.  It came several years later, and in my teenage selfishness, I couldn’t appreciate it until my ex gave it to one of his friends. Now I remember that not every Dad is around or generous, or half the man my Dad is.  His gifts are treasured.

When my boys were young, I would try to find gifts for them, and they would be more interested in the box, or smearing peanut butter and yogurt on walls, because sensory integration dysfunction is an adventure that way.

I remember one Mother’s Day I was so upset that I didn’t receive what I wanted.  It was a few years in a row of receiving less or other than I hoped for.  Honestly, I would have loved a solo hotel stay with a full Kindle and room service. I was very vocal about it too. But I was in my mood and pretty angry at my ex.  This was about seven or eight years into my marriage.  I remember being able to count off the ways I was disappointed until the day my son handed me a gift he made for me.  That was when I realized receiving a gift was about how much I could show the giver their thoughtfulness was appreciated and I really didn’t have to be so selfish.

So back to my really considerate son . . . Here he was, about to gift a present to a friend and I worried about his friend’s pride in terms of the gift.  I worried about it being something that wasn’t wanted, and I worried that my son’s generosity would become a source of pain for him. I will always want to protect him.

I told him to think of giving as the gift he was offering.  He told me about a game he had given to his brother that was lost and how angry he was.  I pointed out that once you give a gift, you stop worrying about what they’ll do with it.  You give a gift as an act of love.  You don’t worry about how it would be used or if it would be immediately discarded.

It’s too much to expect a gift to live the way you want it to and the greatest example is the life of a child.  I gave the world my kids and it’s hard to accept the world might abuse my children and it’s hard to accept that my kids won’t always behave the way I want them to. I get to send them out after caring for them the best way I know how, and I get to hope there is enough love to cover them.

As I explained to my son, giving is about giving and not how it’s received.  Once we give a gift, we don’t worry about how it’s received or what is done with it.  We find our joy in thinking of someone else. We think of how much they’ll like the gift because we’re not giving what we would want, but what they would appreciate and find useful.  However it’s received doesn’t matter as much as the love we put into giving it.

Then I told him to consider how much joy he found in thinking of his friend.  I told him to think of that and consider how much others enjoy giving to him.  I told him to accept gifts with that same feeling because of how great it feels to give.  We would want others to experience our joy in receiving.