Monday, April 24, 2017

Rock, Rock

I guess rocking is one of those things that never ceases to be soothing, no matter how old you get.

Maybe it was for that reason that I spent a lot of time in a rocking chair after Rip died.

It was an old rocking chair of my great-grandmother’s that my parents had recovered while I was in the hospital, a bright apple green that went perfectly in the nursery that was not to be and yet still was. All those months after Rip and before the arrival of Gracie, I spent countless hours in that rocking chair- rocking my pain and wondering if there would ever be anything other than pain to rock. 

Praying and rocking and vivid apple green are things that flash to my mind when I think about this time in my life.

This weekend, I put Sam down and was on my way to do the same for Gracie, when I heard him calling out. Taking her with me, we all fell into the big rocker together and I felt the weight of their bodies as they drifted off to sleep.

Not everything in life wraps itself in a pretty little bow, and this story doesn’t either, but in that gentle back and forth motion with two chests rising and falling in time I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so thankful. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Oh, The Places You Will Go

Dear Gracie,

Ironically, this is very hard to put into words, but I’m going to try.

You are learning to read, baby girl. Its funny, because up until now I haven’t seen that spark in you- its been your brother who will bring book after book to me and beg for more. 

But as you start to sound out your words, and I see it click- first cat, then bat, then mat…allllll the rhyming words... your eyes lights up and sparkle. We are so much alike in that way. You want to be good at it, really good, before you let yourself love something. 

Let me tell you though- please don’t wait to fall in love with books.

Just go for it. Let me help you, you don’t have to be perfect at this.

I remember sitting with your great-great grandmother on her screened porch, drowsy with summer breeze and and Hawaiian Punch, and falling deep into the world of Ellen Tebbits.

To this day your Pop still thinks the word “fresh” is a good substitute for cool because Claudia Kishi said so when we were making our way through The Babysitter’s Club.

I always stand a little taller because I am Anne “with an e”, as girl with red hair once taught me. Much later, the girl with the red hair and I both grew up and lost someones we loved very much but didn’t lost our “e”-ness.

There was a great man who wrote about the place you live like nobody else. His name was Pat, and I got to meet him once. He taught me that words can also heal.

Gracie, the books you read will become part of who you are, they will take you places you need to go and bring you back when you move a little too far from where you want to be.

So sweet girl, as you tell me so often, put your finkin’ cap on. 

Keep going, and to quote another word lover, “Will you succeed? Yes! Yes you will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed)”


Your book-lovin’ Mama

Friday, January 20, 2017

Little Brown Coconut

I have not been as good at documenting Sam as I was Gracie, mainly because once there was a Sam there was also a Gracie and I didn't have time for much of anything.

That said, lately my baby boy is turning into a big boy and there are things I don't want to forget.

In between fighting like cats and dogs, my boy and my girl really do love each other and it makes my heart happy to see them play. Sam has called his sister "GC" since he could talk but just the other day he started calling her "Wacie" and hasn't turned back- despite my repeated urgings. The artist formerly know as GC finally told me I needed to let it go.

Other recent heartbreakers were when wawee turned into water and Bammy turned into Sammy. I get that a thirty-year-old asking to get in the wawee wouldn't be so cute, but why'd it have to go so fast?

This morning after breakfast as I cleared his plate,  I said, "Why thank you Sammy, it was a pleasure doing business with you. Please come back again some time!"
And he shook his little finger at me and moved his head and said," No, no Mama. You no say dat. You jus say tank you." And waltzed out of the room. Burned by a two-year-old.

Despite his cool exterior, Sammy-boy is still my cuddle bug. He is currently in a little Daddy stage (traitor) but will give full body hugs and big kisses on command.

Current loves are all things Thomas the Train, turtles, Moana, and trolls. He tries to mash his hair to look like a "Wholl" (aka stick straight up) and hollers "Mama you mess my wholl haiw upppp" if I have to touch it for any reason.

With his little silky bowl cut and big brown eyes, I could eat him with a spoon. However, he is not one for nicknames, and will be quick to correct you should you forget.

For instance, "Sammy, you are just a little brown coconut"

(Affonted) "ME not a yitta bloun totanut! ME Sammy Askell Awwis!!"

Sammy Haskell Harris, don't ever change, we could not love you more!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Birth Story

A young mother tries to stay still, despite the waves of fear and excitement coursing through her body.

The needles and medical instruments all seem much larger than she imagined, but she is not the same girl who started this journey eight months ago and so these things are no longer cause for (much) concern.

She knows that no amount of fried chicken and sweet tea consumed, no number of TLC's A Baby Story watched, no amount of diligent internet scouring has prepared her for this moment-the moment she will meet you, her firstborn.

And she is right. For when that moment comes, when she sees you for the first time, she said is no longer she. She is, and will always be, we.

This story could be almost anybody's, but it is ours, my sweet Rip boy. And while everyone who graces God's green earth has a different ending to their story, your birth story, like many others, is a miracle.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"Good" Grief

I wrote a post using this same title soon after Rip died. 

At that point I was trying to figure out the whole grief thing, and felt like I was failing miserably. Looking back, I was doing pretty darn well- which is to say I was getting up each morning, putting one foot in front of the other, breathing in and out. I was living. I was doing my best. And when you are at rock bottom, that really does mean something.

Fast forward six years and, through no desire of my own, I’ve gotten better at grief. Or, actually, I’ve just gotten better at being a parent to a child who does not live on this earth.

I remember that first October, my first Infant Loss Awareness Month. I was such a nervous wreck that if I didn’t say or do the right thing, nobody would know how much I loved my son. The same went for his birthday, the day he died- really every day. I felt such a need to prove my love, that I had not, would not, forget Rip that I worried constantly if I was doing it right. 

Somewhere in the past years Rip became such a way of life for me that the fear went away. Just as I’ve become a more confident mother to Gracie and Sam as they grow, the same is true of my relationship with Rip. He is separate from me in the hardest way possible, and yet with me in ways that my other children will never be.

The last couple of years I’ve used the day Rip died to ask others to do something good- and it was great, so many people sending funny and touching stories remembering our boy. But, every year I worried nobody would. And it made that day feel heavy (heavier) than it already did. 

So this year, our family has decided to do something nice for someone each day of Rip’s life. Secretly. It takes all of the pressure off and still allows us to spread the good thing that he is and forever will be.

It is a blessing and a curse to be someone who looks continually for the good, because sometimes it can be awfully hard to find. But this is how we choose to put the good in to our grief this year. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Because of a Brown Dog

I remember the weight of your fat belly in my hands, and the velvety soft of your ears and nose. And the puppy breath, but never the teeth. You were never a chewer- just one of the many things that set you apart from the rest.

From the beginning, you had your master. You loved him best, and you respected him most. 

And then there was me, maybe half mother, half sister- you respected me almost none but I think that’s why we had a little more fun. Where you were always aware of your place with your master, you were very rarely so with me. Many times you made your 90lb self very comfortable directly on top of me. A not-so-silent brown shadow who followed my every move.

There was a time when my belly grew big and I had to go away for a while. You visited me outside this new place and walked along my wheelchair. You brought normal to its very opposite.

When I came home everything was different. Your master had to go back to work and so you were left to stand guard. We moved from room to room, me crying, your eyes worrying and tail thumping. You never left me.

Eventually my belly grew big again and this time we brought home something new. You were not impressed.

One day your master set this newest loud creature on top of you. You let out one of your loudest sighs and gave a resigned thump of your tail. 

From that day your role in the family was a little more in the background. But as the little creature grew bigger (and unbelievably, louder) I would occasionally find the two of you curled together. Her feet using you use the worlds most dependable step stool, her head on the warmest pillow.

By the time he came into the picture you were fully on board. You withstood tail pulling and hair grabbing with a full-on doggy grin. These were your people and you loved them with your whole heart. 

Yesterday was your last day with us. You and I took one last ride over the bridge, air blasting and windows down. Even though you did not feel good you loved the wind blowing in your ears. We did not discuss that time I accidentally rolled your head up in the window and then panicked before I could get it out. We just played some good tunes and smiled at each other in the rear view mirror.

You got to say goodbye with your head in your master’s lap, exactly where I know you would want to be.

What I hope you know, 

Is that we know how to love unconditionally

We know how to go to the bathroom with someone watching our every move

We know how a warm body after a hard day makes all the difference

We know how to sleep through one choosing to groom himself directly beside our bed

We know how to forgive

We know how to keep going

We know, really, how to be a family

All because of a brown dog.

We love you Dock Brown. Always and forever, buddy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

C is for Complicated

I came across an article yesterday by Lisa Ling entitled, “Why I regret my c-section”.

Articles like this always give me a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I don’t-can’t-regret my c-sections because for me there was really was no other way.

The condition I had with Rip meant that “natural” childbirth would mean imminent death for my child. And, honestly, my first c-section didn’t phase me in the least. After 6 weeks on hospital bed rest and all of the joys and tragedies that followed my body and what it did and did not go through were the least of my concerns.

When I got pregnant with Gracie shortly thereafter my extremely respected high-risk doctor told me I was not a candidate for a VBAC because the risk for uterine rupture- putting my child’s life and my life in danger-was too high. Tell that to a mother who just lost her baby and I will show you a mother who signs a consent form faster that you can get a pen uncapped.

It wasn’t until after my c-section with Gracie that I started to have some feelings of-well, I don’t really know what.

For me, “the more you know” does not turn out to be a good thing on the operating table. The second time I knew what to expect and for someone who likes to be “in control” (insert hysterical laughter here for all things pertaining to childbirth) being literally tied down to a table is fairly panic-inducing. Okay really panic-inducing. 

After my healthy baby girl was born (hallelujah!), I had complications that resulted in a really gory, painful eight weeks post-partum. Let me tell you, if you want to test your partner’s love for you- have an extremely nasty issue that you yourself cannot care for. That’s love. 

It was not fun. It was hard and scary and also for me, somewhat in perspective because I had a living, breathing child.

Ling’s issue was somewhat similar, a nasty infection after the birth of her second child. She has every right to feel regret about the way she birthed her child, and to talk about it…but the thing that gets me is that at the end of her article and of so may of these c-section articles is the statistics on c-sections in this country. And she does a very good job of pointing out that some are medically necessary but there is a large rise in others that aren’t and surgery is a big deal and comes with risks and shouldn’t be entered into lightly. Which is all so true and I agree wholeheartedly. 

But at the end of the day, the light that seems to be cast in the articles is that c-sections, even when medically necessary, are the wrong way to go. Like, sorry you had to take the losers way out.

Many articles I’ve read go to great pains to talk about how c-section babies have more incidents of asthma (which Gracie does have) and don’t get certain bacteria passed to them at birth that are needed to help fight allergies. Basically its another breast is best argument but with much higher stakes.  So yeah, I have some complicated feelings about my c-sections.

I would absolutely not choose to have a c-section if I had the choice. But I don’t. Didn’t. So I can’t regret it. Don’t. Didn’t.

 I’ve had three of them. The first allowed me 7 days with my son. I have two additional living children. I guess that’s the bottom line I wish they would put in these articles.

Let’s try to avoid generalizations and leave it to individuals and their medical professionals to come up with a plan. It may be complicated, but in my book any method of receiving a healthy baby is a good one.