Today’s PTSD Life Lesson

Today’s life lesson; PTSD is internal. I have known for years that it is real, and painful, but today I learned that it is internalized. It requires no thought or trigger to paralyze you. Four years ago my youngest child was born in crisis. She then spent 9 days in the NICU. Fortunately she is fine now. But those initial NICU days have left an indelible mark on me.

Four years ago today I discharged myself from the Hospital where her emergency c-section occurred and made my way to the hospital where she was in the NICU. Four years ago tonight, after 57ish hours of waiting I was able to hold my baby girl. The following days were filled with fear, tests, needles, pumping, and more fear before finally hearing the glorious words that we were being discharged.

For NICU families PTSD is quite common. Those initial days after a baby’s birth should be filled with joy, excitement and dreams for the future. But for families in the NICU, whether for hours or for days, those initial days are filled with anxiety, guilt, sadness and fear for the future. Instead of happily getting to know your new little love; you are getting to know them with wires attached, with nurses looking over your shoulder. The incessant sounds of beeping pervade your mind, intermingling with the cries of the babies whose families’ can’t be there, usually because they have been there for so long. For us, as we counted the hours that turned into days, I met moms whose days had turned to weeks and now they were counting months. And I saw families wishing for days or months in the NICU who instead were met with tragic loss of their beloved babies.

We are lucky. We are blessed. Though everything was scary and awful, we only spent 9 days in the NICU. And our little one is happy and smart and healthy. And while today I have tried my best to marvel at her beauty, to clean my house or sit by our pool, somewhere inside me is the frightened mother who didn’t know what was wrong with her baby, why she had seizures, why she was so small, why her levels were off and why her platelets kept dropping. Today my mind wants to cry, wants to run, wants to hide.

Be gentle with us NICU parents. Even those of us sitting with our healthy happy little ones. We know our outcomes are good. We know we are lucky. We are beyond thankful. But we are scarred. And sometimes, perhaps seeing a new baby, or perhaps the date, perhaps a sound, or a smell, our scars surface and no matter where we are or how much time has passed we are back there in those initial days, a scared and frightened new parent whose world feels nothing like what we expected.

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Why don’t need we talk about it?

Seven weeks ago our family was blessed with a positive pregnancy test. We told very few people and cautioned the children not to say anything and not to get excited because it was too early. It was hard for them to contain their excitement and for some reason I thought that reminding them of how fragile pregnancy can be would somehow protect and shield them from the pain if something were to happen.
Last Thursday at 11 weeks and one day I learned the pregnancy was not viable. Not telling people, trying to have them not get excited, reminding them of the fragility did nothing. No one was less heartbroken finding out than we would be if the whole world had known.
I understand part of the reason society encourages people not to tell is because of the fragility, the high rate of miscarriage, but so what. There is a high rate of divorce, but no one tells people not to get married. Why do we hide our joy even if it is fleeting? And why don’t we talk about the pain if it is so common?
For us there were many reasons we decided not to share, and even as we were approaching the 12 week mark and had begun to think about how we would share the news, I was hesitant. This was baby number 5. We were overjoyed and will welcome biological children and adopted children till there is no room left in our home, because our hearts will always have room. But not everyone feels the same about big families and I did not want to hear snide or snarky comments about adding more children to our family. I am also an “older mom” and did not want to hear lectures about the possibility of a child with a disability. The disability world has been a world we have been part of for years and we would welcome a child with a disability the same as any other child, we have talked of making the choice to adopt a child with a disability.
I am lucky and blessed and I know that. I often feel that sometimes the gift of “always putting things into perspective” is not the gift it seems. It sometimes negates your feelings by always comparing them to someone else’s worse situation. It is important to be able to do, to know when you are lucky, but that doesn’t mean you should push your own feelings away. This is a time, however; when it has been helpful. As I lay crying for the loss of this baby, I am comforted by my 4 babies. As I think of what could’ve been for this baby I think of my friends who have lost children. A life is a life and I am saddened at the loss of this one, but I am so grateful for what I do have and though at this time it does little to slow the tears, it is still a comfort.
Pregnancy is all enveloping. As a pregnant mother every thing you do is tied to the small human you are growing. Sometimes you make a conscious thought, like less coffee. Sometimes you are just doing what your body is asking for, like eating more. Today everything I do is still tied to the baby. I am forcing myself to eat because I need to but am so acutely aware that I am no longer eating for 2. This morning I was aware that I could’ve had a second cup of coffee, but I could barely choke down one through the tears. Everything is still tied to the idea of pregnancy, even if it is now gone. We will try again. At my age who knows if it will happen again. This time we were blessed with it occurring quickly. Perhaps it will take months, perhaps it will not happen and we will turn to adoption, which we had always felt called to do. Sitting here my mind is swarming. It tries to tell me to feel better, to do some things I read about and try again. The next sentence reminds me of my age. Then I begin to think positively again, to tell myself I have had 4 babies this way. Maybe I should just move on to adoption. Seems that no matter what I tell myself, myself is countering with something else. In time I am sure it will all come clear, or it will just play out how it is supposed to. Either way, I know I am not alone, I know that almost every woman I know has had a loss. My heart goes out to you, it breaks for you and with you. And if there was ever a time you wished you could speak to me about your pain, your loss, but felt you shouldn’t, for that I am truly sorry. Know I am here if you want to talk, or ask questions.  This whole process is made even more difficult because since no one talks about it, I don’t know what is normal and keep having to call my midwife.  I know some people are private about all matters and ones such as this especially, and that of course is fine. People need to do what makes them comfortable, but the idea that we should not talk about the loss of a pregnancy, of the dreams that went along with it, or the pain, both physical and emotional, that accompanies the loss, that baffles me.
And now, that we are facing the heartbreak of a pregnancy that is no more I don’t want to hide it. I want to talk about it. I remember once reading an article about how we should always tell because by not telling we were invalidating the existence of that baby, even if it were momentary. I have thought a lot about that in the last 6 weeks. It makes sense, If miscarriage is so common it seems like it should be something we can talk about it. It is painful, it is heartbreaking. But hiding it doesn’t change that, just as hiding my children’s joy in this pregnancy did nothing to shield them from the pain they are now experiencing.

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The Beauty of Slow

IMG_6003I am always in a hurry.  I am almost always running late, or worried about upsetting people if I am late for something. I am pretty much constantly feeling behind and therefore rushed.

I work several part time jobs, and homeschool 4 kids.  We have many pets and live next door to my mum who sometimes needs a bit of help with things.  We are busy and on the go.  And I am mega disorganized.  It’s not a good combo.  Our family has taken the “Orange Rhino Pledge” (unfamiliar with it? Check it out – no yelling, more loving! ) and there is a picture of an orange rhino in our mudroom, because this is the room where the fact that I am always running late and disorganized really comes to light – “where are the shoes? Where are my keys? why aren’t you dressed yet???? We are going to be laaaaaaate!!!” My hope is that the orange rhino might remind me that even if I am stressed and truly late, I don’t need to yell or turn into the Hulk.  I don’t like me when I am angry.

I hope that I can indeed master the orange rhino, but I hope more that I learn to accept where we are at each moment.  I don’t want to be always worried about where we are supposed to be, but just breathe in and know where we are now.  I am working on practicing mindfulness, working on paying attention to the present and working on remembering the joy of life.

Children, especially little ones, really get this.  There is no hurry.  There is no late.  There is no worry, not about yesterday, not about tomorrow.  There is right now.  And it is beautiful.

This morning, after lamenting about my to do list, I had to walk back into the house from our pool.  My 2-year-old wanted to go with me.  I have taken on some extra temporary work and it has turned my children into magnets.  She told me she was “the walking police”.   She walked backwards, in front of me, the whole way.  Hands up, telling me when I could walk and when I should stop.  It was a long slow amazing process.  She was happy.  I did not feel rushed.  We heard the birds.  We smiled. We lived, in the present moment.  She did not fear falling over even though she was backwards the whole way.  She went slowly and happily.  And I was so blessed by the moments, by not hurrying.

Children have so much to teach us.  Their wisdom is such a gift.  As I continue my journey to become more present in each moment I will think of the backwards “walking police” who took me on a slow beautiful journey through my own wondrous front yard.

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On Raising Peter Pan and Tinkerbell

IMG_7163I think it is pretty clear to anyone who has read the blog, or met my family, that we don’t really fit into any boxes that have been set up by the world. Even within the world we have chosen to live in, this freer world, we still don’t fit in any box but our own. We are too Christian for the Unschool groups, not Christian “enough” for the Christian groups. Too crunchy for the mainstream people, too Disney for the crunchies. But we like it here. We often say we live in Neverland, it is even our license plate. We choose to live here, and for us it is a positive place. It was not until recently that I realized our ties to Neverland go deeper.
We are Disney Junkies. We go to Disney World and live in the magic at least once a year. That isn’t it…..I played Wendy in Peter Pan as a kid….still not it……I look at my kids and see it… I am raising Peter Pan and Tinkerbell!
I have 4 beautiful amazing children. Two boys, two girls. One of them is a Fairy Princess. His name is Patrick. Since babyhood he has put towels on his head and danced around in a tutu. Princesses and fairies are his favorite thing. He identifies as a boy. People out in the world always call him a girl and he always corrects them, sometimes getting frustrated and irritated. I have been explaining to him for years that people just assume a person with beautiful long blonde curls, carrying a Barbie and wearing pink shoes is a girl. He used to always have a tutu on over his clothes so it made sense, I guess, but he was not able to understand it. In Neverland where we live the fairies can be fierce and feminine, dainty and masculine; mermaids can be tricky and sweet; heroes can be Amazons as easily as they can be Hulks; Indians can be princesses and warriors, and he can be a boy who likes girl things. The freedom to choose your gender is definitely emerging everywhere. People are free to be who they want to be and that is amazing. But the gender roles are still narrowly defined. We have long given girls the rite to play sports and wear pants. But what about the rite for a boy to do ballet and play with Barbies? Patrick is a boy. He is young, only 6 years old, and he is a boy who wants to be a Fairy Princess. And I am glad he has the feisty spirit of Tinkerbell so he can continue to be who he wants to be.
His sidekick at home is Peter Pan, a boy who does not want to grow up. He is independent, bright, responsible, smart, but childlike. He loves toys, and freedom, playing and imagination. He loves his family. And he does not like to identify his age because the mainstream world has such ridiculous connotations of what it means to be “a teen”. When he was 10 people started to make a big deal about “double digits”. He was upset for a bit, but then realized the number didn’t matter. He chose to see The Wiggles live on his 10th birthday and when someone handed him a “10” candle, he broke it and said “the numbers don’t mean anything”. The birthday that just passed brought a lot of anxiety. Now people said he was a “teenager”. We had long talked about how different ages are viewed around the world, how the concept of age changes over time and that he has the freedom in his life to be who he wants to be, and it does not need to be defined by the ridiculous ideas that society assigns to a particular number. I remember getting in to the teen years. I still played with dolls, I got a long with my mom, I used my imagination. I liked boys and music, spent time with my friends, but I had the freedom to make all those things work together. I hated seeing how teenagers were portrayed in the media, hated that people would think of me that way. Martin is the same. But here in Neverland he has the freedom to age at his own pace. Don’t misunderstand me, he is not immature. He is not shirking responsibility. He is just embracing all sides of himself. Martin has a few friends who are a couple of years older than him and I remember both of them visiting us in Neverland at different times. I would watch them jump headlong into the cartoons we were watching, play with the action figures with an excitement that showed they were not able to play that way out in the “real world”. I am glad that Martin has many friends who still embrace the child inside as they expand their horizons. And I am glad that my Peter Pan knows who he is and is comfortable with himself and his interests and does not let the number define him. If adults can be 29 till they are 85, he can be whatever age he feels.
The narrow definitions we have of age, and gender are definitely widening. Johnny Rotten is about to tour with PIL at 59. Mick Jagger is rocking out at 72. Caitlyn Jenner just became herself. I hope that these people are showing the children and adults of today that people do not need to live by the definitions that society sets up. Gender identification in children seems to be improving. I hope that as age identification in adults changes it will make its way down to kids as well so that they can be who they are, like what they like, not what society determines they should like “for their age” or their gender. Until then, I am glad to be living in Neverland.

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I got it from my Mother.

IMG_5968My Father died 8 weeks before my 6th birthday, my half-brother and half-sister decided at that time that they no longer wanted anything to do with me, and so my mom was the only immediate family I had. I have long struggled with the fact that my family did not look like anyone else’s, and while I had wonderful childhood, I was lonely. That aside, since really it is a post unto itself, it was wonderful and filled with joy and imagination. As I went through what most would call those “awkward teenage years” I noticed that there was not that much awkward going on in my life. I watched the teens on tv argue with their parents and waited, in fear, for the days when my mother and I would no longer get along. Time went on and my house was where we went in High School to hang out. My mother brought us m&ms and chips and dip and we lay around and watched movies. Obviously I ran with a mild crowd of geeks, all making “good decisions” and not getting into any trouble. They welcomed my mother with open arms and told me how much they loved her. No one told me it was strange that we were so close. Don’t misunderstand, we had arguments, everyone has arguments, but there was not teenage rebellion going on – no “I hate my mother” phase.
And then came college. I made the decision to commute to college because it was what felt right to me. People commented, told me I was doing the wrong thing and I am sure there were those who blamed my mother and thought she was keeping me too close – but she had nothing to do with it. The freedom to make that decision was mine, as were most of the decisions I made growing up. I was in control and knew I wanted to stay home. My hair was purple. My nose had a ring in it. I had ripped up fish nets and combat boots and spent many nights at punk and goth concerts all over Boston. Any many times, if I was too young to get in, or if it was a band she liked, my mother went to. I am sure people thought it was strange, but to me it was normal. When I went for my first tattoo, my mom came with me. That was just how I did things. When I met my husband and his punk crew, my mother bought them groceries and let their bands practice in our home.
Life continued to march on and I married and became a parent. I had run a special needs daycare in my early 20s and had built an addition onto my mother’s home to house it and that is where we lived, and still live. I am again sure that people muttered under their breath about not moving away from home. My oldest child was born and we began to make choices that went against the norm. We learned eventually that these choices we were making were called “attachment parenting” and “natural living”. My mother often wonders where she got me, because I am so “different”. I wondered how I could raise my children to make the “right” decisions in life, to be secure in my love and who they are. I wondered what did my mother do that helped me be who I was?
And then our family found itself at an unschooling conference. And I listened to speakers talk about the life choices that we had made and one of them mentioned how “attachment parenting is meeting the needs of your child.” How “people don’t question it when you are meeting the needs of a baby, but when you are meeting the needs of an older child people question you, tell you that you are spoiling them and so on….” I sat dumbfounded in my chair for I had figured out right then and there where my mother got me. She was an attachment parent. I co-slept. I had my needs met. When my father died, in many ways I grew up very fast, and in many ways I clung to childhood with a great ferocity. I played with baby dolls until I was at least 13. I played with barbies, and my little ponies well past what people would consider “normal”. I spent many nights out to fancy dinners with my mother and her friends because she liked to share her life with me. I sucked my thumb for years. If people would tell my mother I had too many toys, or that I shouldn’t be playing with that I was, or doing what I was, she told them I had lost my father, that was enough, leave us alone. I was her friend and she parented me with love and respect. That is how I grew into the teen who maintained a loving respectful relationship with her parent. There were no crazy rules in my house growing up – there was nothing for me to rebel against. I was never grounded. I saw it in a flash – and was moved and thrilled to go home and tell my mother. It was comforting to my mama heart to think that I could maintain the closeness with my children as they grew in the same way my mother and I had because I too was raising my children in a loving respectful way.
So, I rushed home to share this exciting news with my mother. She was not impressed. When I pointed out similarities, like co-sleeping for example, she said – “that was different, your father died”. Yes, the circumstances that led me there were different, but the results were the same. I came to her bed weeks after my father died in the middle of a thunderstorm and left many many years later, when I was ready. She never pushed me out of the room, she never clung to keep me there. She waited till I was ready and facilitated the process when I was.
Two years later she is still not flattered, pleased or impressed by my great moment of clarity. She still wonders constantly where she “got me” since I am so “different”. But I would like to thank her anyway. Her parenting choices, made by different motivations then the choices I made, raised me in a home where my needs were met and I was able to grow up, at my own pace, into the person I am today, who has had the confidence to make choices that go against the norm in order to meet the needs of my children and raise them in the same loving nurturing environment I was raised in. Thank you Mom, I love you.

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A Love Like This

10530835_10204192618205848_2386275122874410609_nThere are many things I wish for my children’s futures. Health, happiness, a fulfilling role, whether that be as a parent, or in a job they love, are some of the obvious ones. I want them to find their passions and find the time to engage in their passions. I hope that we have instilled in them good values. I hope they will treat others with respect. I hope they will treat themselves with respect. And I hope they remain close to us emotionally, well, honestly my hope is they stay close by physically too. I hope they always know they can talk to us, laugh with us, cry with us and rely on us. I hope they always feel secure in our child parent partnership.
There is one thing that I hope for my children that will be the foundation for all else in their lives. And that is a love like I have with their father. I grew up with one parent. My father died when I was five years old. My mother never dated and has remained completely true to my dad still, even after all these years. I really didn’t have much of a role model for what a parent partnership should look like. Many of my mom’s friends were also widows and the friends’ homes where I spent a lot of time didn’t really have the best 2 parent relationship role models. I have a hard time sharing my opinion with people and live in constant fear of upsetting others by saying what I think. So when I found myself dating I learned to not share things because it was just easier. I was scared of arguments within a relationship so I made sure there were none. I allowed myself to be bullied and mistreated in this process and really did not think too much of it. Then, I met this skinny punk rocker named Kevin. When I entered into the relationship I thought it was just for fun. He is 4 years younger than I am and had just turned 18. We shared a lot in common, a love of toys, tv, punk music, playing with kids. It was fun and slowly I started to see there was more there than I thought. We began to talk beyond the fun stuff, to talk religion, diverse music, history, life. This guy was the smartest person I had ever met. He took interest in things I loved- Sign Language, Deaf Culture, Theater. Things were still fun, but there was so much more.
Just a few years into our relationship I began to have a little Deaf girl live with me part time. Kevin loved her and took care of her, learned to sign, treated her like she was, and still is part of our family.
We got engaged, we got married. Our napkins said “today I marry my best friend”. Truer words were never spoken. He was at that time my best friend. Of course, I loved him. I wanted to spend forever with him. But the most important thing to me, was that day, I was marrying my best friend. Shortly after marrying we started a family. In my head I thought we would be just another normal family, but after our son was born I soon saw we were doing nothing “normal”. But it was ok. This best friend of mine had given me the strength to be myself. We could argue, we could disagree. And it was ok, actually it was necessary because Kevin LOVES to argue. With this best friend by my side I have become myself. My hippie, homesteading, attachment parenting self. I didn’t set out to be that person, though, I was headed there when I was younger. He didn’t set out to be that person either, but that is who he has become as well. He doesn’t just support my choices for our family. He is an active part in them. We share philosophies for parenting, and for life.
I have many friends, but very few close friends. I have struggled with that typical “bff” relationship that seems so prevalent in our society. For a long time it bothered me, why didn’t I have a girlfriend that was my BFF? What was I doing wrong? Then, I started to pay attention to my friends and what they were saying when we were together and discovered why. I consider myself a good friend, I am always there for people, but I don’t need to run to the phone to call a girlfriend when something good happens, or when something bad happens, or just to chat, because that role is already filled.
They tell you that the passion will fade, so it is important to marry someone who is your friend. And I believe that can be true. That fairy tale love that many feel when they are dating, or getting married, that probably does fade and if that is what your relationship was based on, then indeed there will be trouble. But, I will argue, that isn’t always the case. For me, as I have become more of who I am, as I have grown as a person, as a wife, and as a mother I have experienced something different. I have watched my husband grow and change in the same ways and I have fallen more deeply in love with this man I call my partner. There is still passion. It doesn’t happen every day, our love is not new, but there are days when my heart beats faster when he walks in the room. Times when he looks at me and the smile on my face and the sparkle in my eyes feel fairy tale worthy.
To our children, I wish for you courage to choose to live how you want to. I wish you health, and happiness. And I wish for you love. Long lasting love, strong love. Love that happens with your best friend and partner. A love like I have with your Dad.

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Shine Brightly Firefly


Each month or so the YEAH Council of NH features a new “Portrait of Disability” on their website. It is part of my job to manage the website.  This month, with it being September, I wanted to feature Pediatric Cancer Awareness. We always have some factual information, statistics etc, and resources, both local resources as well as online. Then there is a personal story. I work with someone involved with Cancer Lifeline of NH and she offered to help me find a person to write a story. I have a dear friend who just lost her daughter after a 5 year battle. I thought about asking her, but it seemed too soon. So as I thought more about whether to go through the lifeline, or ask my friend, it occurred to me, that this time, I would write it myself, instead.
I will begin by saying I am unbelievably fortunate that my experience with Pediatric Cancer is not first hand, which is what all the personal stories have been so far. My story is luckily as a bystander. But it is as a bystander whose life has been forever changed, whose eyes have been forever opened. I am one of “those people”. “Those people” who now make me angry. I turned my back, shut my eyes, changed the channel. When Christmas time came around, the one time a year when Pediatric Cancer seemed to rear its head. I couldn’t handle it. I shed a tear. I hugged my kids. I said a prayer. I turned away, because I could not handle it. At one point I even left a job because of it. I have worked with disabilities my whole adult life. I am comfortable in the disability world. At one point I took a position case managing those with chronic health conditions. Pediatric Cancer was one of those “health conditions.” Shortly after taking this job I gave birth to my first child and knew full time work was no longer for me. I looked to jobshare my current position, until I had to do my first intake on a dying child. A child dying from cancer. My heart broke. And I knew, I could not do that job anymore. So, I walked away.
And then, my friend’s 3 year old daughter was diagnosed with Ependymoma. And from a distance I watched a world unfold. A world that I wish I knew nothing about. For 5 years I watched my friend’s life as a cancer mom. Her tireless work for advocacy, for treatment, attention to siblings. All while showing constant love and devotion to her beautiful daughter. I watched her pray for friends on their own Pediatric Cancer journey. I watched her support them, advocate for them, laugh with them and cry with them. I learned the horrid statistics. The number of children diagnosed each day. The number that lose their battle each day. The horrible treatments that they undergo. The fact that so little money is given to research. My children played with her daughter. They live far away and Facebook was how we kept connected. We followed her blog, her Team page. Anxiously waiting for clean scans. Shedding tears for disease progression. Always Cam had a smile on her face. She truly was awe inspriring and amazing. Giving to others on the same journey as her. There were times I wanted to hide from my friend’s posts. So many cancer mom stories. Her friends’ tragic journeys. But I could not anymore. A family I loved was suffering, their friends were suffering. My eyes were open and I could no longer turn away.
This Summer things took a turn for the worst. Cam was put on Hospice. My heart broke so severely. There were some good moments. Harry Styles came to her home to fulfill her dying wish. She and her family were special guests at a One Direction show, meeting the whole band. She continued on Chemo and we continued to pray. And then came the horrible news we never wanted to hear. Campbell Grace had earned her wings. She is now free from pain. The sadness I feel for Cam’s mom, dad and sisters goes so deeply there are not words to truly express it. I am sad as I watch my own children try to wrap their heads around the death of a little friend, one who “did not even make it to double digits” as my oldest constantly laments. We traveled to NJ to mourn the loss of this amazing child. The community came out in huge numbers to honor her and her family. This amazing child changed so many lives. Touched so many people. Blessed us all with her presence. And yet, despite battling for years, trying countless treatments, numerous surgeries, accomplishing victory after victory against the beast – learning to do her scans, and treatments unmedicated, raising awareness and raising funds. Despite years of prayers, she still lost her battle. I am angry. Angry that my friend has to go through this. Angry that her family has to miss their little girl, every day, forever. But I am most angry that after 5 years and 1 day battling for her life, and losing, that she is considered a SURVIVOR, because she made it to 5 years. She is not here. She is not a survivor.
Her mother has had a saying for years – increased awareness, equals increased funding, equals a cure. That has become my mantra. My family is doing 30 days of awareness for the 30 days of September. But we will not stop there. There needs to be a cure. There needs to be an end to these families who lives are being ripped apart. Whose children’s childhoods and lives are being stolen away.
I want to thank you Campbell Grace, and I want to thank your parents. Thank you for all you have done for the Pediatric Cancer world. Thank you for the brilliant light that you shone. Thank you for opening my eyes to this brutal world of Pediatric Cancer, I promise I will not close my eyes to it again.

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Just Trying to Help

IMG_1832Last Spring I posted on Facebook as a proudly gushing mom about all the work my oldest child had decided to do around the house. At the time I was about 20 weeks pregnant and was feeling super tired and overwhelmed that day by the amount of items on my to do list. My oldest child, who was 10, decided to swoop in and rescue me!! On his own he decided to fold and put away all the laundry, clean the upstairs playroom, pick up our bedroom and vacuum the upstairs and the downstairs. I was so proud and so happy! So of course I posted it on Facebook. The reactions were astonishing. There were some who were so pleased with Martin for helping Mom out and voiced their admiration. There were many who simply “liked it”. And then there were many who automatically assumed that he had done something wrong. That he was somehow trying to atone for something bad he had done, or trying to get something out of me.
Martin was angry; angry that people would assume that he has some ulterior motive other than helping out an overly tired overly stressed mother. Angry that instead of assuming he was coming from someplace good, they assumed he was coming from some place evil, or conniving. I found the whole thing sad. Why on earth do we assume the worst of children? Why do we assume that in order to do something nice they either need to be making up for something bad, or trying to get something?
Is it a result of the rewards and punishments system that so many families use? The system where children are made to do things in order to get something? Approval, $5, something special ; in exchange for emptying the trash? Or a fun event that had been planned being taken away when that chore is forgotten? Or is it a result of a disconnection between the parent-child partnership, perpetuated by the media that is constantly trying to drive a wedge between parents and kids? It is reminiscent of the response to bullying that goes something like “well, kids are mean.” Children are not inherently mean. They do not sit in their rooms and plot how to hurt or destroy. They are not evil masterminds. Children respond to the environment; the home, the school, the society; in the same manner they are treated. We don’t assume if our friend stops by with a surprise cup of coffee for us that they have somehow wronged us and are trying to make up for it. So, why do we assume if our children do something nice that they are somehow coming at it from a place of negativity?
The situation saddens me. Our family is a unit that works together to help our home run. My son saw that I was struggling and took it upon himself to help – not for the praise on Facebook (he didn’t know I would post), not to get something out of me, and not to make up for something he had done. We have an open line of communication. If he had done something wrong he would’ve talked to me about it, we would’ve worked through it, and unless that thing was intentionally dumping a pile of crumbs on the floor vacuuming would not have figured into the equation of how to solve said issue. If he wanted a new toy he would have asked me how he could earn the money to get it, not do some chore and automatically expect money thrown at him. It saddened me to see how hurt he was that people assumed he was coming at this with an ulterior motive, but it saddens me more to think of all the adults out there that are actively parts of children’s lives and are always assuming the worst of them.

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Trust Birth


It has taken me 3 months to write this, though the ideas words and feelings have been bouncing around my head for that long. And now, with my beautiful sleeping baby girl on my lap, it seems like the right time.

I gave birth to my fourth child in July. I was definitely more excited for this baby’s birth, then I had been for the previous 3. I firmly believe that each of my babies was born exactly how they needed to be, even if they were not ideal. With baby number one I was TERRIFIED. Terrified and completely uneducated. Uneducated not because there was no one who tried to educate me, but because I was afraid. Not of being mom. Not of caring for a baby, but the actual birth process. I was too afraid and certainly had no trust in my body or my baby’s ability to get out. So it was a highly medicated birth, but I got my beautiful baby boy and all was well.

I did not set out to be an attachment parenting hippie mom, but that is who I became, and I quickly learned to listen to and trust my baby, practicing co-sleeping, and extended breastfeeding. But I had not yet learned to trust my body or to ask a lot of questions. So when baby number 2 was breech a c-section was scheduled. And it was the perfect way for her to be born. After birth we found out she had bi-lateral congenital hip dysplasia. She entered the world just the way she needed to and was tandem nursing with her big brother minutes later.

With baby number 3 I had come into my own a bit more. I knew a VBAC was possible for me, and I was fortunate to have an OB on my side. I found out later none of the other docs in the practice thought I could do it. It was a medicated birth, and the epidural was definitely the worst part. But it was a VBAC. And it was wonderful and empowering.

So, for baby number 4 my hopes were high. I was ready, ready to trust my body, to trust my baby and to trust the birth process. I am too much of a worrier for a home birth. Not because I think they are unsafe, but because I am a worrier. I worry about everything, logical and illogical. A worried body is a tense body and I knew for me, the best place for this ultimate birth experience I was envisioning, was with a midwife, in a hospital. I found the perfect practice and had a wonderful pregnancy. But then, my birth hopes started to fade. The baby was persistently not in the right position. Sometimes breech, sometimes transverse. We tried for a version; unsuccessful. I cried. I cried and felt frustrated. I tried everything. I wanted that dream birth for me. I wanted to trust my body, and my baby. But my body was failing to do what I thought it needed to do.

On a Tuesday night I will never forget, I sat researching. I still had 2 weeks, I would not give up. The baby would flip. I put my trust in my body, and my baby. I sat on my bed and called her by name, even though we didn’t know she was a girl yet, I knew, deep inside. As the night progressed the baby seemed to not be moving as much. I woke up in the middle of the night and the baby would still not move. I tried everything, ice on my belly, poking, pleading with her. She had always moved, throughout my pregnancy, anytime I needed her to. We were connected, deeply. And now, she wouldn’t. So I called the midwife and In we went. Slightly over an hour later I had a baby, a tiny 4.5 pound baby, my placenta and cord did not look good. I did not hold her. I did not see her. I barely heard her. There were doctors, specialists, midwives, and fear. That night, as things seemed to be settling and I thought that maybe I would soon be with my baby she started to have seizures and was whisked away in the middle of the night to another hospital far away from me.

I had failed. My birth dreams had failed. The next 9 days are a horrific blur. EEGS, MRIs, blood tests, fear, tears, frustration. And finally the ability to bring home by beautiful baby. Still tiny, but doing just fine. When I was able to start to think clearly I heard the words the midwives had said to me over and over. “If you had not paid attention, if you had not listened to your body, listened to your baby, she would not be here.” Horrible to wrap my head around those words. And then I translated those words. I had trusted birth, more importantly, I had trusted my baby and her ability to tell me what she needed.

Her birth was not the beautiful amazing empowering birth I dreamed of. In fact, it was a horrible nightmare. But it taught me something important. Trusting birth, trusting your body, trusting your baby; those words don’t always mean what you might think. And even a traumatic birth can be empowering.

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My Son, My Friend


I remember one night at our kitchen table when my oldest child was just over 2, we were eating dinner together and laughing, sharing in the joy of our life. At that time my husband was working second shift and so it was just my boy and me most nights. I remember that night so clearly as we sat at the table enjoying our time together, and I thought how much I enjoy my son, and what a great little friend he was. And then I froze. I had been told so many times that you can not be friends with your child. You could not, and should not. I remember realizing that indeed I did think of him as my friend and was really reveling in the joy of our friendship until I remembered those words well-meaning people often spoke to me. I felt sad for a few minutes, but then I put it out of my head and continued on with our happy life. Our son was still nursing and sleeping in our bed at that point. If I didn’t listen to people about those things, why focus on this one?

​Nine years later, my son is still one of my best friends. Most of the time I don’t think much about it; our life doesn’t really look like anything society would consider a normal mainstream life, so why focus on this one “out of the norm” issue? I do think about it when I see the memes and e-cards floating around Facebook that talk about “I am your mother, I will be your worst nightmare, not your friend, because I love you….etc., etc., etc. “ I think about it when I see those because those make me so sad. I wonder how many moms actually feel that way? I know there are people out there who think I am crazy for thinking those e-cards are horrible. I know there are many who want to pat me on the head condescendingly and tell me to “just wait until my kids are older”, others who just shake their head at me, and maybe a few smiling with me as they hug their child, knowing they feel the same way I do.

​I wonder sometimes if people really understand the meaning of the word friend, or how to be one. I love my friends. I don’t want to see them get hurt. If they are making mistakes, or wrong or scary decisions, I talk to them about those decisions with love and caring. I want the best for my friends. I help them when I can. Aren’t those the ways to guide a child as they follow their path to adulthood? Maybe the difference is not in how people see their friends, but rather how they see their children. My children are not a cog in a machine. They are not soldiers in my army. They are not a piece of clay for me to mold. They are not my pet, or my property. They are amazing human beings who bless my life every day and I am privileged to walk alongside them as they journey through life.

​I am sure there are many who say it doesn’t work. That you simply can not be friends with your kids because they won’t listen to you, or they will take advantage of you, or they will simply run wild. I would again ask how those people view friendship. I happen to be living proof that it does work. I did not think about it too much until I was older, but my mother definitely raised me as her friend. We went to concerts together, classical, and goth. We did theatre together. We hung out together. She came with me when I got my first tattoo. We had a mutual love and respect. I never took advantage of her, never ran wild, and I think I turned out ok.

​My son is funny. He is compassionate and caring. He has amazing taste in music. He loves Disney, Star Wars, Comic Books, Cosplay and Imagination. We can talk about religion, books, modern society, our thoughts, our dreams and our fears. We have so much in common and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. Isn’t that what anyone would look for in a friend?

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