I still remember the day I took the second pregnancy test
It was the day after my 40th birthday and the test the day before my 40th birthday was negative.
And suddenly the line appeared and the thought of you became a reality.
I was a little overwhelmed, as your sister was only 18 months old and I was still breastfeeding her.
Let’s also face it that I was old, a geriatric mother, an advanced maternal age mama who had been too busy chasing educational dreams (or were they nightmares?) to have children earlier.
Shortly after I learned of your existence I had a dream about you, that you were a little boy. I bought a few little boy things and tried to imagine having a boy after having only a girl. What would I do with a boy? All I had was a family name to give a boy.
Finally, at week 20 I learned you were indeed a girl and I could breathe a little easier. Phew, I knew what to do with a little girl. I was horribly sick with morning sickness with you and I swear to God if men were able to conceive and feel like that like they were having the worst hangover of their life, day after day, week after week, like some long drawn out real life Groundhogs Day movie, we would have developed a safe effective medicine that really works for this issue long, long ago.
That being said, I loved dreaming of you, I worried if you would be as cute as your sister, and that of course turned out not to be a problem. I worried when we hit the deer in the road at 5 in the morning on my way to work, but you were safe and snug in utero.
When you finally decided to make your debut, with me going into labor on your grandmother’s birthday, but you not arriving until the next morning, I was surprised at how squishy you looked. I am sure I swore through some of the pain of delivering you, and I remember trying to roar like a lion through contractions and that roar cam out as more of a mew. Regardless, after I caught you, I brought you up to my chest and I said, “I love you baby”.
Before we knew it you went from having to be held in mommy’s left arm all day to scooting around on the floor on your butt, because you refused to crawl. We called you scooter for a few months there, but you quickly outgrew that nickname when you stopped scooting and started walking, chasing after your big sister.
I watch you grow and I am amazed at how smart, funny, witty, and talented you are. It may be hard to be the little sister sometimes, to watch your older sister do things you can’t yet do, and to feel how unfair it is that she is simply older and gets to do other things. But make no mistake, you have your own talents and skills.
When I see you run, I know you have “it”. You remind me of my brother, who was quite the runner, with a grace and ease when you run that is something to behold. You may chose to be a runner or something else, and I don’t really care, all I really want is for your to be happy and healthy, but you probably have that natural ability that could help lift you above the others should you train hard and go that route.
You also have your own musical talents and remember that you and your sister started piano lessons at the same time; therefore you will always have two more years of piano experience than she has had. You started playing when you were 4 I think and I thought it was already late to get you started since your daddy started playing when he was 3.
I hope you keep writing and creating. Drawing, coloring, cooking…there is so much for you to do in the world, so many ways to express yourself.
I still try and get used to the idea that you don’t want to walk or hike, at least that is what you always say, but once we get going, you always have fun, you always lead us along. I hope though that someday you will truly love the adventures of exploring in the outdoors, discovering the beauty all around, and love it such a way as to always be finding ways to connect to nature.
This may be the year that you beat me down the ski mountain. It will be bitter sweet for me, knowing you love to fly like the wind, and knowing I will have to watch you sail by me, someday even letting you go to fly on your own.
You are my baby, my special angel, my daughter number two.
I still remember the day I took the second pregnancy test
This is me, a baby crying in a crib
One night, all night…
It’s just a story, but somehow I remember
This is you, so relieved when it stops
I never cried out for you again.
This is me sitting in the dark space of my bedroom, after I called to see when you would be home
Counting minutes, 5:30, 5:31… 6:00 and you are not home
This is you, not knowing I was counting
Not knowing that 30 minutes of loneliness is just too many minutes.
This is you, going through great pain
And not knowing which direction to take
This is me, watching the family fall apart
And saying it was all okay with me
When the universe flung us away from each other, a family crumbling to pieces.
This is you, living a sort of new life
A new family, a new way of being in the world
This is me, coming home on weekends
Torn between an independent 15 year old’s life
And still wanting a family.
This is me, taking things too far
Dangerous behaviors in search of love
This is you, not answering my phone calls
Days, weeks without connecting
Not knowing if I remain in this world or somewhere else.
This is me, making myself sick, over and over again
Hopeless and anxious about the future
This is you, telling me to figure out
How hard can it be to take a bus somewhere and get help
For a deadly illness.
This is you coming back closer to me
Trying to be the person I needed in that moment
This is me struggling to balance it all
Teetering on the edge.
This is you, saying goodbye to me
Who knew these would be the last real words face-face
This is me, running and pulling up my roots
Looking for someway out of the mess of the moment.
This is me, trying to connect with you
Phone calls unreturned
This is you, disowning me for an error not of making
Both of us preferring to not do the work to bring us back together.
This is me during our last phone call
Where I tell you I am pregnant and I want you in our lives
This is you two weeks later, on a ventilator
When the hospital calls to say your story is ending
And in minutes you take your last breath.
This is us, our last moments together in a physical space
Your body is already cold and your spirit has gone
See, yes, this is you
Flying away from me again, up to the heavens where you belong.
It may be hard to imagine
But amid the noise, screams, blood
God was there
Holding out his loving arms to those babies
Whose lives he could not spare
God was there in all of his love
Throwing up his armour
Protecting those in fear
Glowing brightly as the new born angels
Were drawn to heaven near
They were gently gliding into the light
If you had listened closely enough
Amongst the chaos and the fear
His whispered voice was heard
I am here, my angels, I am here
Those 20 tiny little angels
They heard that voice, clear as a softly chiming bell
Moving beyond our day and night
He gently released their earthly bounding
And they were enveloped in his loving light.
Laying in bed
A vision comes to me
standing in a bikini
She is not at the beach or by the pool
She is in the house
Standing by her bedroom double doors
Frowning at the camera
The bikini is red, white, blue
Stars and stripes forever
It may be 1976, the 200th Us birthday
She frowns at the camera
My father took the picture
and in the days before photoshop
He sculpted her body
With a black pen
He marked out the extra weight around her abdomen
Black pens marks on her arms and thighs
Scars on the picture
Reflect her suffering from her imperfections
She was not morbidly obese,
barely overweight, 5’6″, 140-150 pounds
And yet it was not what he wanted
So he chose to mark her up
Years later, a similar set of pictures
Pictures of my brother before his death
Shorts and overweight, Father encouraged him
Go off the medications, lose weight
Mother suffered from this critical eye
Brother dies, off his medications
And me, I shrink away because of this scarring
Fearing the marks, the shame, the fat, the padding
The difference is that it is easier for me
I do not hunger the same way
I love to work out and move my body
I care for my health
And yet I know somehow, I have been marked
The black ink fading onto me
Staining my body
Scratching my picture.
Call it epi-genetics
I can feel those scars across the family
The shame, the frowns, the disgust
The fear, the pain, captured in the picture.
The greatest joy, the greatest challenge
Being a mother
I am not sure why
God has blessed me with such angels
though they seem to offer so many opportunities
for doing things differently in life
Learning to be patient, compassionate, open
Trying to let them grow at their own pace
Thoughts of being a mother, lead to thoughts of my own mother
And this is where I get stuck
again and again
Stuck in that muck of not knowing
The why, the how
Of not being able to walk into
how she was or was not as a mother
Of not being able to mourn the loss
of her love, of her presence
She was right about so many things for me
And I do seem to mourn how distant we were those last years of her life- was it me
or was it her?
Or both of us, lost in this muck of life.
When I received the call from the hospital, it was a beautiful sunny day in Northern California
The Sunday of memorial day in 2005
I had just graduated with my PhD and I was pregnant with our first daughter
My husband was away gigging and the phone rang
My mother was in the ICU, throwing PVC’s, already several MIs
She was 500 miles away
What did I want done?
They said she would not make it, would not last the 8 hours until I could get there to say good bye.
So I directed them to remove all life support and let her go
I called my husband and he headed home
I sat and chanted for her, chanted her toward freedom in death
Two days later I saw her
at the funeral home
We had to wait while they prepared the body, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes
30 minutes to wait and this would be the last time. In two more days I would pick up her ashes
They rolled her body into the chapel, her face exposed.
She looked relaxed, salt and pepper hair, such few wrinkles
I stood their with my daughter in my belly, my husband at my side,
In this town where I had gone to college, and lived for too long
where I had brought her to after her first stroke.
And I said good bye and we cried.I had the feeling of the three generations together, though my daughter would never meet her grandmother.
I still have her ashes. I also have some of the ashes of my brother and now my mother in law as well.
What to do with these fine grains of dust
the dust of what once was, the dust of the memories that drift by
They do not somehow offer enough to connect her to me and me to her
I do still feel so unable to go there; how do I get to those feelings? How do I create a container for them to be viewed?
Unable to walk into the loss of the mother and remembering her all the same
She gets up early, before me even, and I hear her stomping down the stairs
Stomping, stomping down
Stomping, stomping back up
How does a 6 year old make so much noise with her 43 pound body?
She is happy
She colors- diamonds, she calls backgrounds, she colors the man’s beard
I make coffee, sip it slowly
Do some reading
She is the best kid in school
Kind, loving, caring, generous, helpful
She is sweet, fun, and beautiful with blonde hair and big blue eyes
She has a “boy”friend and a best friend
She can count to 200
She writes her own stories and makes her own books
And then it is yoga time
I pull out my mat
She joins me quietly
and we begin
We stretch up, side-side, backwards, forwards
I reposition her little awkward body
That is not yet graceful
We chant; I say:
Aum, Shanti, Aum
Aum, Shanti, Aum
I chant (Aum, Shanti, Shanti, Aum) she sings, I chant, she sings
And then we both sing
Asking for peace, love, ease.
She is 6 and she has school
She needs to eat, make lunch, get dressed, hygiene attended to
She is 6 and I give her some tools
I hope she will remember
Though we are still technically a few days away from the Fall Equinox, this weekend has felt like Fall in New England. The weather has been gorgeous with cold nights and mornings, warmer days, but a hint of crispness in the shade. We have had clear blue skies, puffy clouds, and the foliage is just beginning to hint at the promise of an extravagant color show to come. Yesterday I did a 6 mile run through the woods and the perfectness of the day filled me with joy, gratitude, and a glowing appreciation for this beautiful area of Western Maine. Apple picking and pumpkin hunting need to be added to our weekend agendas, and thoughts of the last fair of fair season in Maine (The Fryeburg Fair) bring about excitement to our young girls thoughts. They ask about rides, cider, donuts, and ice cream.
So, yes Fall means that there may be new temptations as sweets and sugar seem to continue to abound in the landscape of life. I have made it 5 weeks sugar-free, and a common question has been, so what has changed for you? As I have written about before, the changes have been subtle, and I have come now to appreciate these questions (mostly from yoginis) as a chance to really reflect on what the benefits have been.
I have lost some weight, but now I need to focus on making sure I get enough to eat that I don’t lose any more weight, as being underweight may affect the immune system. Losing weight was not really the goal of this change in lifestyle. I feel more “even” and do not have nearly the extreme swings and sudden outbursts in temper or loss pf patience with my kids that I had before. My energy and endurance are improving, and the other day I noticed with my running that I am able to do about 10% more mileage in a given time period then I was able to do before without feeling any more effort.
But I have to say the greatest aspect of being sugar-free is that my anxiety has decreased greatly. Things that would normally send me into an internal stomach knot, I am now able to contemplate, recognize the feelings, and start to breathe through them. I feel as if I am more aware of my body in yoga, and I am able to find my edge and then back off a bit to be in a greater state of focused relaxation. On the days I don’t work out, I don’t feel quite as antsy I usually do.
I still have not gotten my lab work done (hopefully I can do that this week), but my hope is that with the elimination of sugar and the associated processed foods, perhaps my high cholesterol levels will have come down. I think this will be a huge supportive factor in continuing this process.
I also know that I need to be gentle with myself, and I need to focus on an eating plan. I am currently reading the book the Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program, (SATRP) and the author, Kathleen Desmaisons, has some great ideas about how to change your diet and lifestyle. I honestly had never thought of myself as a sugar addict,I was doing this as part of my yoga training, but when I look at her definitions and the lifestyle of a sugar addict, I realize that indeed I fall within the parameters of the sugar addict. I prefer to not eat breakfast, I prefer to eat a sugary treat as my first food of the day, I get hypoglycemic episodes, and I had my special foods and treats that nobody else was to eat.
With the SATRP, Desmaisons has a gentle and long-term approach to supporting the recovery from sugar addiction. Although I don’t feel I can completely start from the beginning of this program (you start by eating breakfast everyday that has a protein source), I would like to incorporate some of her ideas, such as eating 3 meals/ day at regular times and incorporating some protein, equivalent to 1/3 of daily needs, with each meal. I did order some protein powder to add some protein to some of my meals; I think being a vegetarian may make this a challenge. I have found some protein bars that are sugar-free and meet this criteria, and I will combine those with a piece of fruit for a meal. Hard boiled eggs and cheese will be my friends, as will veggie burgers, Quorn products, and beans. Desmaisons also recommends a potatoe before bed to increase serotonin levels and she offers an understandable and somewhat scientifically sound explanation for how this might work in the body and brain.
I know this will take a lot of planning, and trips to the grocery store, but I think the nurturing of my body is worth the effort I will need to put forth. I know that should I opt for a sugary treat, I should combine it with a meal to decrease the impact on my blood sugar and spend the time to really reflect on how my body-mind-spirit feel after having the treat. In all honesty, I almost want to have a treat to see if it really does make me feel woozy/ foggy, but perhaps I will wait until the fair to try it out…
This week we are camping in Maine at a coastal campsite in Freeport. The great thing has been the ability to drop my older daughter off at farm camp, and then cruise into Freeport during the rain and drizzle and go shopping.
I am still madly in love with Freeport, and of course LL Bean. Did you know that the number one tourist attraction in Maine is shopping? I like to go in to LL Bean and look at the clothes, but I do find that they are often out of stock in my size on the floor. Then I know what styles I like, so I can order them online. I also tried on some girls larger size clothes and confirmed that I can still wear a girls 16, which is going to be fun for a few years as my daughters and I can buy the same outfits (LOL). Of course, someday they will grow up and enter into tween-dom, and likely not want to wear the same clothing as their dowdy old mother.
There is also a Mexicali Blues store here in , for all of your hippie accessories. For my husband’s upcoming old-man birthday, I bought him a Jerry Garcia song book and a Maine deadhead sticker. What do you get the hippie was has everything he needs anyway?
The campground is a lovely place right on the coastal bay in Freeport. We survived a pretty intense rain storm where 2 inches of rain fell in about 4 hours and the winds were howling (the winds are of course a great deal more scary then the rain, because of the potential for tree limbs falling). The only issue we have had thus far is with the outhouses. They are literally filled to the top and when I went to the office to check, they said, sorry, there’s nothing we can do because the clean out is not scheduled until tomorrow. I of course informed them that I was a nurse and I was very concerned about the possibility of an illness such as Hepatitis A spreading easily in such an environment; the young ladies at the desk just smiled and nodded. Luckily there are pit toilets and it is worth the extra walk to ensure a bit more safe environment.
And the last challenge is remaining sugar free while camping. Eating nuts and fruits seems to help a great deal and I am on day 11 of 21 days. I am still not sure where this venture is leading me, but eventually, I think I will at least find some balance in my diet and try to stay away from foods with added sugar on a regular basis. My hubby went shopping for me yesterday and he came back to the camp completely disgusted that he had such a difficult time finding foods that do not have added sugar; he called the nicotine of the masses, but the problem is that most of us are completely unaware of what we are eating and its origins. So, if there are certain products I want to buy, like spaghetti sauce, dressing, or salsa, then I will need to learn which brands do not have sugar.
Maine is a beautiful place to spend the summer. Everything is incredibly green, the days are warm, and the thunder storms are spectacular. Roadside farm stands abound with berries, corn, squash, cucumbers, and flowers. I have been indulging all of this week on warm blueberry pie with ice cream, which also means I have been running 5-7 miles/ day to keep the pudge at bay.We made a trip to Albany earlier in July where I received a professional recognition award from my alma mater, and two weeks ago we went to music festival in CT. Ahead of us, the girls have a dance camp next week, and then following week, the older one will go to day camp at farm while we also tent camp as a family at the sister campground. We may also take a drive up the coast, as there is so much of Maine we have not seen.
It’s nice to just spend time chilling out. We are fortunate to have the most amazing summer home; my husband’s father and mother purchased this property on a lake in Western Maine some 48 years ago and now hubby owns it along with his 2 brothers. We are the only one’s who live locally enough to access the property regularly, and to be honest, I sometimes feel like this property is mine! The girls love it here as well, as they get to go to the beach almost everyday, ride in the ski boat, go fishing, and swim to their hearts’ content. Being at “the camp” feels like vacation, and I think we all experience a sense of peace and ease that we don’t have at other times in our lives. It’s easier to meditate here, it’s easier to sleep and rest here. I also find that without the daily distractions I experience elsewhere, I am more likely to get to work on writing and other projects then I would be at home.
We have had a dear friend from college visiting this week and that takes away some of those lonely feelings and my pity-party attitude of I don’t have any friends here. She has been helping a great deal with the girls, acting like their second mom, and this has allowed me the time to finish prepping two of my three Fall courses, while I also continue to write an article that needs to be done by the end of this month.Tonight we are going to have a picnic dinner on the beach, then take a boat ride at sunset and light off some balloon lanterns in memory of those we have lost in the past year. My husband’s mom passed away, my father died, and our dear friend lost her husband (who was also my husband’s best college friend) to lymphoa.
It has been only about a month total I have been “off” from work, and, as I mentioned, I am really experiencing a sense of ease and relaxation that is hard to come by during the school year. However this makes me nervous, because I have this crazy idea that when the wheels start spinning again, I won’t be able to keep up. I also get concerned about just how hard and fast those wheels spin during the school year. I need to find ways to maintain this peace and ease on a year-round basis, though I am entirely grateful that I have these two months to rest and rejuvenate.
But for today, right now, I know what I can do; step away from the computer and spend 10 minutes meditating before the kids return from swimming at the beach, hot and tired and looking for Mommy comfort.
Moving across the country, I remained hopeful that I would be able to foster some new friendships once I arrived to Maine. I would like to say that my job and the kids are pretty demanding of my time (a tenure track position in a university), but the reality is that I have had difficulty making and keeping friendships over the years.
In order to reach my level of education, I was in graduate school and working during most of my 20’s and 30’s, though I was able to maintain a few close relationships with some college friends which was really all I needed at that time.My husband and I regularly socialized with these friends on a Friday or Saturday night and these were fairly “easy” relationships, supportive, with a common history of having gone to the same college and living in the same town. We spent holiday and vacations together.
And then a job opportunity took me to Northern California, and since that time I would say it is challenging to form friendships. In California we lived in a town of 1000 people, so it was easy to know who people were and I found that I could go to events and activities and not have to worry about knowing folks; my husband knew everybody and folks felt they knew me by association. But there were not coffee dates or long walks with friends on the beach; I was either busy teaching or taking care of the two kids we had after I finished my graduate studies.
I think I am a pretty friendly person, and I tend to connect well with others. Part of the issue of forming friendships is that I am introvert; I like to spend my free time alone, walking in the woods or on the beach or reading a book. The other part of the issue is that I feel overwhelmed with making plans and obligating myself to building a friendship. I would also say I have trust issues with building friendships. And I like to discuss matters of spiritual and intellectual development, that perhaps many folks would not be interested in.
My husband and I did form a friendship with a couple in Northern California. We spent time going to see bands play, we watched each other’s animals when we traveled, and we celebrated some holidays together. Things changed when I got pregnant and had the first child, and I could not devote the same amount of time and care to pet sitting their animals. They came over to visit the baby when we first came home from the hospital, but the relationship rapidly changed and faded.
Then there were the friendships with other parents, but they usually revolved around the kids and everybody was so busy, it was often difficult to come together outside of kids’ events.
Now that I am in New England, things haven’t changed much. I found that going to church is an easy way to socialize, but it does not obligate me to forming deep friendships. There is something about the spiritual community that offers a feeling of connection that endures, though this is not really friendship per se. There is also a good source of parenting support within the church community. I got to a yoga studio, where it feels like a community, but of course we don’t really know each other.
I also have colleagues at work I have bonded with a bit; likewise, I have colleagues across the country that I work with on various projects. These are very satisfying relationships, but I would be hesitant to call most of them friendships.
I am not really sure how to go about forming those BFF type relationships. I am not sure where my endurance would come from, nor the time and energy. For me, I think this may be a spiritual issue, one I need to release to God and ask for guidance around, trusting that God is bringing the right people to me.