Wednesday, May 25, 2011

One Year Ago...

It's hard to think that a year ago one of the most important men in my life left me, and shortly after another important man entered. The two men have never crossed paths, but I have spoken before of my thoughts about their resemblance. They are two peas in a pod. Leo is just like his Grandpa Grady. He is just as mischievous, stubborn, and playful as his Grandpa was. He likes his cookies, and he teases puppies to NO end! And I know that he is being watched over closely by his Grandpa.

This last year has been full for me. It has been full of joy and full of sadness. This year has been full of grief and full of new life. It's amazing to think of the many transformations that can take place. How one day can change it all. One year ago today my thoughts were consumed with trying to bring Leo home. Not realizing that I only had moments left with my Dad. How many times do I wish I could go back to those last moments? Honestly, probably too many to count. But my focus goes back to trudging through this first year. And I often am amazed at how far my family has come.

This past year our family has struggled through the holidays, the mundane days, and the celebrations. We celebrated my Dad’s 60th birthday the day of his funeral, and we enjoyed his favorite Oreos. We even found some of his hidden chocolate in the garage freezer. I then warned Mom that she was going to find hidden candy all over the house. We struggled through Father's Day, thinking of the one card we wanted to buy.

We had two new boys enter our family, both named for the one person we all miss. Every day we wished that Dad could see his two newest grandsons, and still be there to see his older grandchildren grow. Some of the kids asked difficult questions, others assumed that Grandpa was in the sky with balloons (that was Miss E, she was on a big “Up” kick at the time).

The holiday season loomed over us like a dark, stormy cloud. However, Dad sent us a message at Christmas that told us loud and clear that he is happy where he is. In January we learned that my Mom, who may not have looked at it in years, would be sure to start searching for her wedding album when we had snatched it for a surprise on their 40th wedding anniversary.

We have laughed, we have cried, but most of all we have survived. Something that this time last year, we weren’t sure was going to happen. This past year passed in a haze. There are months I don’t remember, summer flew by in a blur. Special times stand out in my memory: meeting my son for the first time; bringing him home; introducing my two children to each other; finally introducing Leo to his grandparents and extended family. All of these moments so special, but something was missing from all of those moments. A piece of me was gone.

However, I look at our family today and I see healing taking place. We all are walking around with a little bit of relief, a relief that is generated from the realization that we made it through all of the firsts. Our survival mode is slowly going away, replaced by confidence. A confidence that comes from the awareness that, although we miss him terribly, we can make it through the day… the week… and the year…

Dad, we miss you. We would love to have you back here on earth with us, but we know that your time is not our time. Thank you to you and Mom for creating a wonderful family. Our family may be missing an important link, but we now hold a newfound strength. Thank you for giving us that strength to carry on without you. We feel your presence as our lives change, and please know that we need you here with us as much as you can be. We will love you forever, and we will miss you always.


Monday, May 9, 2011

For All the Mama's in Our Life...

This post was for yesterday, but I never got around to writing it. It kept rolling around my head, so I had to let it out...

I wanted to thank all of the Mother's in my life. So many of you have shaped me into the person I am today. I have learned something from all the mother's that surround me. And I don't know if I would be the Mom that I am without their influence. I wanted to personally thank some very special mother's that help not only me, but my children as well.

First and foremost, my Mother. She is an amazing woman who gave everything for her children. She is the ultimate Mom, who has so many more children than the four of us. Growing up, I can't even count the number of times my friends would count my Mom as their Mom too. She is there to sympathize when we need sympathy, to pick us up when we are down, and to push us on when we seem stuck. Thank you Mom for being the amazing woman you are. Your support, your strength, and your love is what has kept me going for 30 years. I love you!

Next up, my Mother-in-Law. My children are so lucky to have this strong, compassionate woman to call "Grandma" (Trent and I are pretty lucky too). We truly appreciate her assistance in raising our family. She has always stood behind our family, advocating for us and cheering us along the way. She is always the first to be at our house when we need help, and she is always asking to do more. We wouldn't be the family that we are today without your help. Thank you Kathy for showing me that unconditional love for your children will not just stop when they are young, that it only strengthens as your children (and their families) grow up.

There is one amazing Mom in my life that I probably quote about 5 times a week. She is a full time Mom, that is always working for her children. Her insight into parenthood, health, and the Royal Wedding are profound. This is the woman I call right after my own Mom, and she has known me just as long. She is the one I always wanted to be when I grow up (I still do). She is the one that will listen to me complain, who will listen to me cry, and the one I have clung to through the most difficult times in my life. She makes me laugh, she makes me cook (because she has some pretty amazing recipes), and she makes me want to be a better Mother. Thank you Cindy for being such a great sister, friend, and Mother!

I have one friend that has been with me from the beginning of my journey through motherhood (as I have been there for hers). We have experienced pregnancies together, an adoption, children's ear infections, children's constipation, discipline issues, and major life changes. Although we have only known each other for 4.5 years, it feels as though we have known each other so much longer than that. It has been amazing to have a confidante in motherhood. Someone that knows just as much about my kids as I do. Someone that can walk into my house, sit down with my kids, and know exactly what they need. Thank you Katy for such a great friend (and you can copy me whenever you want)!

My Book Club Mom's have become such important women in my life. Each one an amazing Mom (except for Audrey), and each one giving me support in various parts of my life (except for Audrey). Just kidding Audrey, you are an amazing Mom and I am so happy to have you in my life! But don't let it get out that I said anything about you being "amazing". Jess, you are so... so... so RELIABLE! You are a strong person, a GREAT friend, and fun person to see... at every event! If you stop reading the books, then we will have to stop calling it "book club" because the rest of us aren't as reliable! To Peyton, who has the patience of a saint and is such a FUN person to talk to. Your support and guidance has been amazing, and Miss E. still asks for you about every other day! Becky, you are the nicest person I know (it's probably because we're distantly related). You have an amazing family, and your passion for your job is SO admirable! Anna, you are so much fun to talk to about so many different topics. And I am humbled to be able to call a chieftess (sp?) a friend (do we have to bow down to you, or not? I always forget). And most recently Sara! My kids love you SO much, and I truly appreciate your help as we have transitioned to a family of four. I'm so excited you have joined our amazing group that we call "book club"... Although it would be more appropriate to call it "Mom's Club that meets monthly to get us out of the house on Sundays".

There is one Mom that has been my adoption partner in crime. We talk on the phone at least weekly. We discuss hard topics like adoption, trans racial families, infertility, and potty training. We met by chance, and we have become forever friends. I'm pretty sure if we lived in the same town we would never leave each other's side. Thank you Nikki for the late night phone calls, for the great advice, and for the Gap money from God (He is truly giving, isn't He?!?). I can't wait for Baby I to come home!

Lastly, I wanted to say thank you to my oldest and dearest friends. All the amazing Mom's that I don't get to see as much as I like. But when we do see each other, we can always pick up on each other's life. You are all amazing women that have been with me from way back. We have some pretty fun memories, and we are always creating better ones every time we get together. I love seeing you become some of the most amazing Mom's, Mom's to be, and practically Mom's I have ever met. Happy Mother's Day Jill, Roni, Sarah, Jill, Sonia, Brandi, and Nikki'! We've come a long way from Carey's (although we would all go back in a second if it meant cheap beer, our pajama's, the dueling banjos, and the best dart games ever).

There are so many more women I could list off right now, but I would never stop! It's true when the say that "it takes a village to raise a child", because I don't know if I would have made it this far without MY village. All of these amazing women (and many more) have made me more patient, more creative, more smarter (just kidding... I think), and more compassionate. Thank you to every single one of you. You are all truly amazing women that I aspire to be!

To all the amazing Mama's in my life, and across the world, I hope you felt the immense love that surrounds you as we celebrated Motherhood yesterday. I wish you joy in your journey as a Mother, I wish you peace in your decisions, and I wish you perseverance in the hardest job known to humankind. Happy Day After Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Every Mother Counts

Within the last week I have been learning more about Christy Turlington Burns' upcoming documentary "No Woman, No Cry". It follows the maternal health crisis worldwide.

One night, when I was seven months pregnant, I woke with a start. I was panicking because I realized that women actually die in childbirth (this thought was news to me for some reason). What if that were me? How would Trent handle it? What if I never met my baby? I quickly calmed myself. Because really, women haven't died from childbirth since the early 1900's, right? After a trip to the bathroom (and a stop for some tums) I slipped back into my dreams repeating "no one dies in childbirth anymore, NO ONE dies in childbirth anymore."

"No Woman, No Cry" has one startling (to me) statistic. Every 90 seconds, a woman dies as a result of childbirth. I can't help but remind myself that I was almost that woman. Thankfully I had access to a wonderful medical team that acted quickly and effectively. Because of that AMAZING medical team I am here to hold my daughter's hand, to rock my son to sleep, to snuggle up to my husband and discuss our future. A future that almost didn't involve me.

It is difficult for me to talk of pregnancy for too long, only because I think about my experience every day. Somedays, I have to admit, that I'm angry that I can't get pregnant like every one else. Other times I am thankful, because I know that if I WERE to get pregnant I would be scared that the same thing was going to happen again. Other times, I feel selfish because I should be happy to have experienced pregnancy once. And if it weren't for the hysterectomy, would I have my little Leo with me now? Probably not. I would give anything (including my uterus) to have both of my kids with me now. Every night, no matter what my emotions are, I feel lucky. Lucky to be alive, lucky to kiss my husband, and LUCKY to have had the chance to get to know my children one day more.

I am not trying to write this post for sympathy or attention. I am trying to bring AWARENESS to the extremely IMPORTANT topic of maternal health. Because every day I learn of someone new that has experienced hemorrhaging, or placenta previa, or fetal distress. It brings to light that the number of women experiencing complications from childbirth is much larger than I ever thought.

Did you know that 90% of those maternal deaths are preventable? So what happens to the women who DON'T have access to medical care? I think about those women constantly. Because EVERY mother deserves a chance to live to see her child born. The chance to see her child grow. The chance to watch her child become everything she ever dreamed they could be.

As Mother's Day approaches, I want to honor the mother's that will never be. These are the mother's I cry for, I advocate for, and I pray for. Because I believe with my whole being that Every Mother Counts.