Friday, March 9, 2012

The Door

I woke up this morning and cried.
It was today.
The appointment was today.

And, yes, we'd talked about it.
Yes, we'd said we were done.
Yes, I know in my HEAD that I just can't have more.
It was my HEART that was the issue.

Today, Justin would get his vasectomy.

It really did have to happen. Not only am I of "advanced maternal age", but each pregnancy has been harder and harder on me physically with this last one ending in pre-eclampsia.

At first I couldn't really pinpoint why I was so upset over it. Why I felt so unsettled.
But then it hit me.
It's been a long road for me.
It's taken so much of my energy - emotional and physical - to have these children.
It's hard to settle into that that chapter in my life that I've devoted so much to, is ending.
The time of trying and hoping and holding my breath as I sit waiting in the bathroom
- Squinting my eyes to see if there are two pink lines.

"Were you trying for a boy?"

That's the number one question I get asked when I tell people we just had our fourth daughter.

We weren't.
What we were doing was bringing to fruition the only dream I've ever had that really mattered.

Becoming a mother. That's what it was about.

I've thought about it for as long as I can remember.
From the time I'd stuff blankets up my shirt to make it look like I had a belly.
From the time I did photo shoots with my Cabbage Patches and then carried those photos around in my Velcro wallet.

I even planned what their names would be.

(The librarian giving me funny looks because she'd never seen an 11 year old checking out a book of baby names before.)

I always knew I wanted more than two.
Being one of only two had made me long for more siblings. I wanted a playmate.
Someone who got me unlike anyone else.
Especially since MY only sibling was a BOY that liked shooting things and drawing things on graph paper.

I dreamed of Thanksgiving tables filled with family.
Laughing and yelling to be heard and even arguing. Because that meant passion. And a family was the thing I was most passionate ABOUT.

I dreamed of traditions.
Of stairway walls lined with photos of toothless children and shots from vacations where at least one kid looked disgruntled.

I'd see a mother and her children out in public and find myself completely unable to turn away.
Taking in the subtlety of the looks that passed between them and the magic of what they were to each other.

It so overtook me, that when I found myself pregnant and single at the age of 22 and a friend of mine exclaimed,
"You can't be a mother NOW" I realized that yes I could.
I was made for it.

And mother I did.
From an apartment the size of a birdhouse.
We shared a room. We had no AC, and hardly any money - but she never missed a well-child visit. She was always clean and well-mannered. She was reading full books by the time she was three.
And when you ask Alena now what she remembers of the time when it was just me and her, she just remembers ME.
And HER.
And happiness.

That's it.

When Justin and I met, we never had that "it's all about us" phase, because it never was.
Alena was already there and therefore, we were immediately family.

A month after we got married, we sat at dinner in a crowded restaurant and decided WHY WAIT? - We were going to try for a baby then.
We knew we wanted kids, and who knew how long it would take.

And try we did.
For a year.

We tried everything.
Every convoluted idea, every herb, every theory.
I put egg whites places no egg whites should go.

It almost drove me crazy.

Then, after a year of trying,
I got pregnant.

Alena was elated.
Justin was scared. And a little deer-in-the-headlights-y.

But when I started bleeding a few weeks later, I was more crushed than I've ever been.
That pain was so deep and scarring that I will never forget it as long as I live.
There were weeks I don't even remember.

I have never cried more, prayed more, begged more than I did then.
PLEASE don't let me lose this baby.

But I did.

I cannot explain the pain that I had at that time in my life.
I felt hollow. And teased.
I wondered why God would answer my prayer and then yank it away.

But I chose to trust and believe. And believe me, it was a choice.
I chose to pull myself up from the pit I was teetering by, and move forward.
To try and hope again.

Then a month later, I was pregnant again.

With Chloe.

Chloe who has been different and special from the beginning.
Chloe who sparkles.

I was scared to even breathe wrong for fear that it would happen again.
Thinking back, I didn't even enjoy that pregnancy at all. I lived in constant fear of loss.

Every child is special. Each one unique and wonderful.
Chloe just reminds me to trust.
Chloe reminds me that I was never forgotten.
That I was heard.
She was the answer to so many prayers.

Each pregnancy was hard for me. Multiple trips to the doctor. Multiple scares. Multiple ultrasounds.
I got used to staring at the primary colors of the mobile that hung above the exam bed in the ultrasound room.
The room where I'd have good news.
Then not so good news.

My pattern became have one, then lose one, with miscarriages between every one of the girls.
Three in total.
All three painful and challenging in different ways.
They challenged who I thought I was. My beliefs. My marriage.

It's something you never get used to.

But then, with the birth of each girl, over and over I have seen that God's plan is the best plan.
That we just cannot see the beauty He has planned for us until we're in the middle of it.

That what feels like painful and cruel stripping of our dreams is actually the pruning of our branches so that real growth can happen.
So that the fullness of our potential can be brought out.

As I sat on the bed this morning, changing the baby with tears dripping down my face, I don't think Justin understood.
WHY on earth was I saying all this NOW?
Hadn't we discussed it?
Hadn't I been around as he scheduled the appointment and made plans for it?

But no logical plan changes who I am, and who I am is wrapped up in being a mother.

It's hard to turn to the next chapter, when so much of your time and thoughts have been wrapped up in getting pregnant.
In staying pregnant.
It's almost been a full time job.

I know I have to close the door at some time, but
closing that door is SO hard.

My hands are shaking as I do it.

I'm not ready to see the door right next to it that leads to more freedom and independence.

I just want to stand and look at the back of THIS door for awhile.

To remember, in vivid detail, what lies behind it.

A finally positive test.
A fluttery kick.
The feeling of a warm baby being placed on your belly for the first time.
Big, gummy smiles.
Pudgy hands with dimples where the knuckles should be.
The sound of soft, sleeping breaths being breathed into the crook of your neck.
The weight, and the warmth of them.

Just let me stand at the door for awhile longer.

What's behind this door is the most beautiful, magical thing in the world.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tessa Green and the Tunic of Torture

Most of the time I'm happy to have all girls.
Even when I see people's eyes bulge out when I tell them I have four.

When I see families of all boys, and the mom just sits near-comatose, eyes glazed, while the boys scream like banshees and poke at things
(like other kids' eyeballs)
with sticks, I count my blessings.
I don't think I could handle all that bashing.

Girls play differently.
Most of the time.

For example, I can set my girls up with crayons and paint and they'll sit quietly for over an hour "creating."
Hearts and stars and smiling princess faces.

I tried giving my daycare boys crayons one day and after I finished cleaning up the crayon marks on the hardwood left by one, I turned around to see a thousands bits of blue wax covering the other one's mouth.
The crayon was nowhere in sight.
Until later when I changed his diaper.

Therefore, most of the time I'm happy.
Except with one huge difference between boys and girls that I have found.

Girls have opinions on what they wear and boys don't.

I've found it starts, as most scary things do, around age three.
The age of independent thought process.
The age of disdain for every thing you, as a parent, do or say or think.
The age of total lack of reason and the love of tulle.

This last weekend, as Tessa entered hour two of her crying fit over a tunic top she didn't like, my sister in law - mother of three boys - chuckled and said, "I can't say that's ever happened to me. I just pick things out for them and they put them on. They never even comment on it."

She's livin' the dream.

But it doesn't matter what you hand a three year old girl.
She's going to hate it.

You could see it and think it's perfect and there is no earthly way she's going to find any fault.
And you'll be wrong.

The seam in the socks isn't straight.
The tag is itchy.
The waistband is too high and she "can't like" pants touching her bellybutton.
The neck is too tight.
The sleeves are too long, too short, too puffy, too tight.
And my all time favorite:
"These pants go all the way down to my feet."

Which is confusing, because isn't that the very NATURE of PANTS?

I try explaining to this darling three year old that when I see children who's pants DON'T go all the way to their feet, I usually look at their mothers funny.
I judge.
I can't help it.
I contemplate handing them $15 and pleading with them to head to Kohl's immediately, and maybe even leave their kids in the car while they shop to spare them public embarrassment.
A child's life is hard enough with peer pressures and home haircuts gone wrong.
Don't add waders into the mix.

On Chloe's birthday, I put Tessa in a brand new ADORABLE outfit.
It was one of the cutest outfits she'd ever worn.
I couldn't stop looking at her. Hearts for eyes.

I asked if I could take her picture.

The look she gave me in that moment was like something out of Children of the Corn.
Her pupils dilated and changed color.
I almost turned to a pillar of salt.

Then it started.

I knew it was coming.

With her eyes locked on mine, she slowly reached up and tugged at her neckline.
A look of distress formed on her face.
A silent look that needed no explanation.
Then she writhed her spine into a slight "S" shape.
She did 3 short exhale grunts.
Her lip curled up on the left side.

She was waiting for me to ask what was the matter.
I knew this, so I didn't.
I just stood and waited to hear it.

"I don't lllliiiiiikkkkkeee this shirt" she whined.
"It's too long down to my legs."

"That's because it's a tunic top. It's supposed to be long."

"I don't like tunic tops."

"Yes you do. Because I say you do. That is what you're wearing. Get over it."

This is when a fit began that I thought would never end.
I was pretty sure she'd still be crying over that tunic top as she entered her freshman year.
It was a battle of wills like you can only imagine.
A battle of wills that ended with me giving up and telling her to go upstairs and grab the brand new dress on her dresser that I had actually bought for her sister, but would let her wear just to shut her up. I knew she liked dresses. I thought it would be a clear win.

She was gone for 15 minutes.
When she returned, she was wearing the dress.

She was also wearing the exact same expression that she had been wearing with the tunic top.
Her nostrils were flared.
There were the beginnings of tears in her eyes.

"What on EARTH is the matter NOW?"

"I don't like these sleeves."
Cute little ruffle cap sleeves that they were.

"What is wrong with the sleeves?! They're adorable. There have maybe never even BEEN better sleeves."

"I don't like how they stick out."

Oh for the love of God.

"Look. You are either going to wear that dress with those stick out sleeves, or you are going to march back upstairs and put back on the tunic top. End of discussion.Those are the choices."

You would have thought I told her to wear chainmail.

It went on and on.
The party was about to start.
I tried distracting her with the thought of cake and balloons and friends arrival.
To no avail.

Those sleeves were just too darned stick-outy.

With two minutes until the party started, she arrived back downstairs wearing the tunic.

All of that for nothing.
Square fricking ONE.

Last night I got her dressed for Kids' Club at church.
I picked out a sweater and some jeans.
Jeans that were too "long down to her feet."

Another battle ensued.

I pressed on, though, and wouldn't let her change. I knew if I let her choose, she'd pick something like she'd picked earlier.
Last years' spaghetti strap Easter dress with size 2T stretch pants underneath and sandals.
It was raining.

I took her to kids' club, dropped her off, ignored her forlorn look, went shopping and returned to pick the girls up 2 hours later.
The MOMENT she saw me, from across the room, with a mouth full of cupcake she yelled, "Mama! I DO like these jeans now!"

She'd been thinking about those blasted pants for two hours.
But good. She likes them now.
That's one item of clothing out of 200 that I can put in the "safe" category.
At least for five minutes until she decides the pockets are too deep or the button is too button-y.

Good grief.

This is why little girls end up at the grocery store in rainbow tights, a tutu, and rain boots with their hair uncombed for days.
Because of opinion.
Because those girls' moms finally just gave up trying to control the beast and let their little girl pick what suited her.
Even if it's inappropriate for the weather.
Even if it makes it look like you are running a group home for troubled youth.

I'm just scared of doing that with Tessa.
I'm scared that if left to her own devices, it wouldn't just BE rainbow tights, a tutu, and rain boots, it would be a dog collar and black nail polish and leather pants.

And she likes Katie Perry's hair.
Maybe even a little TOO much.

And God help me.
One day I'll have yet ANOTHER three year old girl.

Just when Tessa's finally done fidgeting with her sock seam, it'll start all over again.
I'm not naive.
I know it won't skip one girl.
Even the most mellow of souls has extra sensitive skin to "itchies" at age three.
It's an actual medical condition.

Maybe I should go ahead and put myself on the prayer list at church NOW...

Either that or just buy about 30 of these and be done with it.