Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Are you okay?

Today, while I was sitting at Gracie's ballet class, I got an email from BabyCenter.com. It was alerting me that someone had answered my question.

My question, apparently, was from 2010, where I had written the following:

"I am pregnant with my first baby and have been diagnosed with a conditioned called vasa previa. I am going to have to deliver via c-section at 35 weeks- does anyone have experience with this?"

What I received today was not, in fact, an answer to that question...but a question from another mother who herself was facing the same situation. It was the only response I've received in almost five years. It read, "I too am facing vasa previa and am set to deliver at 34 weeks and 1 day. I found your post and wanted to know- are you and your baby okay?"

How to answer this question?

I mean there is the obvious answer, of course. But there is so much more to it than that.

How do I tell her that I cried today, nearly five years later, because I lost that baby. I also nearly cried today because I couldn't find my living child's purple shorts and we were late for school.

How do I explain that I am living the most normal of abnormal lives?

Do I tell her that my daughter, who was born almost exactly a year after my son was lost, told me today-apropos of nothing-that she really, really (really) loves me.

Do I tell her another mom from ballet class told me how smart my other son was and how proud that made me? Do I then tell her how she asked me if we would have more kids and I struggled for five minutes as to whether to tell her about the baby who I never got to watch grow up?

Do I tell her how, every day, I feel like the luckiest unlucky person who ever lived?

I'm not going to answer her question. I can't. There really aren't words.

Am I okay? No. And yes.

Is my baby okay? No. And yes.

Something tells me that might be more than she really wanted to know.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Because He's Happy

My baby boy turns one tomorrow.

You know how everyone is put on this earth for a purpose? Well, Sam's purpose seems to be to bring happiness wherever he goes.

Really, I can't remember a time since I knew of his existence that he has not brought a smile to my face, and there are very few times that he doesn't actually have a smile on his pudgy little face.

Our Sammy boy is sweet, sensitive and silly. He has a goofball grin that I wouldn't change for anything in the world. He is only now starting to stand up to his big sister and its hilarious to watch the two of them interact. Two minutes of sibling love usually results in ten of sibling screaming, but man are those two minutes good for the soul.

Sam is still a mama's boy- something that I know will change as his daddy, then his friends and eventually (horrors) girls come into play. For now, though, nobody fixes like Mama and I would be lying through my teeth if I said I didn't love it.

That belly laugh- not to mention that belly- are my favorite things on the planet. Sam continues to have more hair than most grown men (and some women) I know, and is currently on haircut number five. Unfortunately, one of the only times he cries is when he gets his hair cut.

Sammy currently has seven teeth (four on top and three on bottom) and tooth number 8 is thought to be responsible for several recent sleepless nights. Mama and tooth number 8 are on the outs.

When I think back over the past year, its such a blur, but its a happy blur. I got a little emotional thinking about this day last year- all of the anticipation and then the overwhelming joy this boy brought to our lives. Yes, this baby boy healed me in ways I didn't know I needed healing, but more importantly he brought his funny, quirky Samuel Haskell Harris self to the world and he made it a happier place. And if he can do that in just one year, I can't wait to see what he does next.

 Sam- bathroom selfie August 2014
Sam- bathroom selfie August 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Just a Place

Today I went back to the floor of the hospital where Rip was born for the first time in almost five years.

Its something I've wanted to do/ been dreading for that same amount of time.

When my dear, sweet friend had her baby girl unexpectedly and early a few weeks back, and was going to be at that same hospital while her precious babe learned to do all of the things she needs to do in order to get to go home, I couldn't wait to drop a meal by and give both of them a squeeze.

Unfortunately, my lovely mama friend is also no stranger to hospitals when it comes to her littles, and this was the very least I could do.

The visit had very little to do with me, but as it drew near the significance of what I was about to do did start weigh on me.

Every time I pass this building I feel something...part of me wants to run inside and part of me wants to run away.

This is the place I sat for nearly seven weeks of my life, unable to leave and practically unable to stand, completely dependent on others, waiting for my sweet boy to be born. The people inside became like family.

This is also the place where everything fell apart, quickly, the place where when I finally did leave it was in the dark of night chasing after an ambulance carrying my newborn son.

And then again, its just a place.

I walked into that building today to see my friend and felt- nothing. Well, nothing but gratitude to see her and the precious bundle of love that is her daughter.

I had to ask where the maternity floor was...I had to follow the signs to the elevator...I had to buzz into the maternity wing. I was just a visitor here.

I kept waiting to feel something, some whoosh of fear or anxiety or panic. But nothing came.

I was most nervous going into the level II nursery. Nervous to see where I once sat, where I once felt so completely unglued and afraid.

Today, I sat holding a perfect little girl, who made me laugh as she gave her mama the stink eye. A perfect little girl, who will be going home when she gets good and ready. I felt nothing but peace.

Today I needed to see for myself, five years later, that this hospital is no longer the place where the girl who was pregnant, or the girl who left in the dark of night, exist- those girls are both gone. Well, they have been transformed into a mother. A mother of three-one sassy little girl, one happy little boy, and one always perfect baby in heaven.

There is nothing left for any of us in that place. Turns out it is, after all, just a place.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Here is the church

A couple of weeks ago, as I rocked Gracie to sleep, I started to teach her an old nursery rhyme I'd forgotten about.
I took her hands and folded them together-here is the church
I raised her index fingers- here is the steeple
I opened her hands and waggled her fingers- open it up and here are the people!
She loved it as much as I had and made me repeat it over and over until she had the motions just right.

A week ago yesterday, a gunman walked into a church- the Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, SC, where we live- and killed 9 people as they attended Bible Study. The man was white and the victims were black. He reportedly killed in order to "start a race war". By all reports, the people in that church were some of the best of the best. Christians in every sense of the word. The actions of their families and friends in the aftermath of this tragedy speaks to that more than anything else.

The outpouring of love that enveloped this city in the days to follow has truly been remarkable. I have watched the morning news with tears flowing down my face, as black and white and all races and hands and arms have come together to embrace. We cannot fool ourselves into believing that racism is not alive and well, but what I have seen time and time again this week is that there is hope. And love. A lot of love.

We went to church this Sunday and Gracie sat in my lap. At the end of the service, we stood to sing the last hymn. Somewhere along the way she took my hands into hers and and started to move them.

"We shall overcome, we shall overcome"
Here is the church
"We shall overcome someday;"
Here is the steeple
"Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, "
Open it up and here are the people
"We shall overcome someday"

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Testimony is one of those "Sunday School" words that used to make me squirm a little bit...still does, if I am completely honest. The definition of testimony that I am most familiar with is the one that I am least comfortable with, that is a public recounting of a religious conversion or experience. The very thought of getting up in front of a bunch of people and talking about God makes me feel all jumpy inside. I mean, blaring my beliefs all over the world wide web, sure, but in person...not so much.

But I recently discovered that I was in need of reminding of my own testimony, a different kind of testimony, the one that is defined as evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something or, in my case, two somethings, to help me through some late night worrying sessions. I thought maybe this testimony was worth writing down so that those two somethings might read them one day.

Growing up, I loved to visit my grandparent's farm and play with the toys they kept for all of the grandkids (because everybody knows other people's toys are the best toys). My happy place is and has always been the ocean, so I would spend hours building boats out of legos so all of the mismatched tiny dolls could travel the seas. The problem was, once I built the boats I would start to worry that my little charges would fall off into the water. So then I would build walls. Then I would build windows into the walls. Then I would be afraid the windows were too big so I would build walls in front of the windows. Eventually my lego friends  would have been better off staying on dry land.

Little did I know that this was actually just training for what it would be like to be a mother. You want your children to be able to experience great things...but nobody tells you how terrifying that will be.

So, when I lie awake at night and think of all of the ways the world is a scary place, I need to know that there is Someone in Charge. I need to KNOW there is a God. Back to my testimony.
I gave birth to Rip on November 11th. 11/11. I picked his birthday. I picked that day because 11/11 has always, from childhood, been a lucky number for me. Rip died and everything I ever knew about God and the world was forever changed.

But somehow, I knew the only way I had any hope of survival was to keep talking to the God I wasn't sure I knew anymore. And the numbers 11/11 kept popping up. The first blogpost I wrote after Rip's death was at 11:11...and I can assure I did not have the presence of mind at that point to know what time it was.

What I wanted more that anything else in the world was a baby in my arms. In my grief addled brain, I looked months ahead into my calendar and decided I would be pregnant on 4/21/11- the 111th day of the year.

In those months I learned that a baby after loss was called a rainbow baby. Like the number 11/11, rainbows are something I've always looked for and considered to be lucky. Parke and I went on a trip not long after Rip died and I prayed to see rainbows- we saw five.

On April 20th, 2011, I was 1.5 weeks past the time I should have received a positive pregnancy test. I was beyond broken. It was a stormy day and I fell to my knees and prayed in desperation. It was not a prayer like I've prayed before or since. It was a prayer that said I did not know if I was brave enough to take one more breath unless I knew that there was hope in the world. It was a prayer that asked specifically for a rainbow. It was a prayer that brought a peace like I have never felt when I looked out the window and saw the colors in the sky.

The next morning, on 4/21/11, I got two lines. I was pregnant. On the 111th day of the year.

I saw more rainbows during my pregnancy with Gracie that I've seen before or since.

I gave birth to Gracie on December 22, 2011. One year, one month, and eleven days after her older brother was born.

Gracie healed a huge, gaping hole in our hearts. There was another hole, a hole just for Rip that would never be filled and that we would never try to fill...and then there was a hole that was the hole of a boy mama with no baby boy in her arms.

So I prayed again, I prayed and prayed for that baby boy.

I read a bible verse, I don't even know which one, and it said there would be a boy, and I believed.
Parke and I went back to that magical place and there was just one rainbow this time, and again long after there should have been two lines on a stick another baby was on his way.
Sam filled my boy mama arms.

This is my testimony. This does not explain why some people can't have babies or some prayers aren't answered. This does not explain cancer or unspeakable tragedies. This does not explain why Rip died. This is evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something. And I guess this is also a public recounting of a religious conversion or experience  if we want to get all Sunday School about it.

The thing is, the oceans are still just as beautiful as they were when I was a kid...and just like then, no matter how high I build those walls, I can't always keep my little people safe. So, sometimes I need a reminder, two little reminders, that its not always up to me.

Friday, March 20, 2015

This Girl is on Fire

Ages 2.5 to 3 have proved to be the most...challenging...with Gracie. Luckily, they have also been some of the most entertaining. Here are some favorites of late from my best girl:

Leaving School
Gracie: Mama, are we leaving?
Me: Yep, we are getting the heck outta dodge
Gracie: This isn't DODGE, this is SCHOOL!

Playing early one morning
Gracie: Mama, did you poot?
Me: NO?!?!
Gracie (very seriously): I fink your breath smells like a poot
If you need me I'll be brushing my teeth for the next century

Running into an old boss of Parkes
Man: Is this your baby brother?
Gracie: Yep. He feeds off Mama's chest ALL OF THE TIME!
I have no idea why she phrases it like that- it makes it sound like Sam is some sort of jungle beast.

Gracie's class has a clip system where each child starts out on green and is moved to yellow or red should their behavior warrant it. A few days ago, Gracie was sent to her room for some back-talking - after a few minutes I went to check on her and found she had taken all of the clips off of the bottom of her window shades and was clipping them to various areas in her room...
Me: What are you doing?
Gracie: Mama, you've been moved to red. You will stay there unless you can be good today.
Later, after Parke said something smart...
Me (kidding): Gracie, Daddy is being rude.
Gracie: Don't worry, Mama. I've already moved his clip to yellow.

Gracie, holding an empty toilet paper roll up megaphone style
And now, presenting our very own baby. The one, the only, SAMUEL HASKELL HARRIS!!!!
I really don't know where she gets this stuff

We love, love Gracie and Sam's school- but occasionally Gracie picks up some phrases we would rather her not- these include
and, my favorite,
To which I always reply, "You are exactly right, I'm your mama"

Playing with some new bath toys 
Me: Gracie, what are your new fish named?
Gracie: Sally, and Sally the FOOL!
Calling them like she sees them, I guess

After Sam does one of his roll/twirl/dive deals
Oooooooh, Sammy! You've got some MOOOOOBES!

Deep conversation on the way to school
Gracie: Jesus is in our hearts
Me: Yes! That is exactly right, Jesus is everywhere
Gracie: Yeah, like we can chew him up and eat him and then visit him in Heaven on a purple balloon

Needless to say, this girl keeps us on our toes and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future! 

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Story of Sam

The other day I was reading back through old posts, trying to piece together when Gracie had some milestone or another so that I would know what to expect for Sam. I ended up reading almost a year's worth of posts and crying/laughing/smiling through them all.

This blog really serves as the best record I have of my children. Despite the 5 million pictures I have on my phone, I am way too disorganized to put together a proper "baby book". So, this is it. And now, for the first seven months of Sam's life, I have nothing written down.

I learned long ago that beating yourself up over things you can't change is pretty pointless, I really try to go with the "just do better from here" method.

So, let me start at the beginning. The story of Sam.

Sam was the only one of my children with whom I was in no hurry to evacuate the premises. I loved being pregnant with him-which is an annoying thing to say, I know. Annoying, but true. And because I was perfectly happy in my roly poly state, I really had not given much thought to the actual birth day. I remember having a very out-of-body feeling at my 38 week appointment, it truly had not sunk in that this baby had to come out.

And it really didn't sink in until the very early morning drive to the hospital. As Parke and I tiptoed out of the house, leaving my mom and a blissfully unaware sleeping Gracie behind, I just lost it. It all hit me at once. Here I was again, having this baby who I already loved more than life and everything that was to or could change in the next few hours came crashing down on me. Every thought of what could go wrong, which now seemed multiplied by a million because it not only affected me and my life but that of my innocent baby girl, hit me like a ton of bricks. I cried and cried. Luckily, Parke is very accustomed to such outbursts and though he must have been scared to death himself, he just patted my leg. He also did not eat anything for breakfast out of solidarity with me. He's a good egg.

By the time we reached the hospital, I'd pulled myself together. Before I knew it, I was in a gown and hooked up to a million machines. There is a moment, at least for me, when they wheel me back to the operating room and away from Parke and put me up on that cold metal table surrounded by beeps and cold, cold air...and I want to run. Just for that moment, but I want to hop off that table and take my big belly with the baby safely inside and run like crazy.

That moment always passes, but I will say I think that this was my scariest c-section. In actuality, it was the best one- or the one with the least complications- but sometimes you just know too much. Once Parke got to the room and the doctors started their work I found myself screaming in my head to just get the baby out. Outwardly, I think I appeared pretty calm- well, until I started shaking uncontrollably, but I was assured that was due to all of the drugs (Side note: Drugs and I do not get along. At all).

After what seemed like way too long, I felt "some pressure" (this is what doctors say during a c-section- it actually feels like someone is pulling all of the insides out of your body...which..yeah, eeeww) out came Samuel Haskell Harris. Emphasis on the "Hair". The actual first words I heard anyone say as my child entered this world were, "that child has more hair than any caucasian baby I've ever seen".  He was 7 lbs 2 oz of hairy perfection.

The next moments are still so clear to me, even all of these months later. They wrapped the baby up and Parke held Sam's head next to mine and I just kept kissing that head- I remember how soft his hair and skin were in comparison to the rough fabric on his little hat- and I just kept telling how much we loved him. Over and over again, "I love you, we love you".

He looked like his sister. And his brother. And also, just like Sam.

I won't bore you with the rest of the recovery (as I said, drugs are no friends of mine), but after the initial shock to my body wore off I can honestly say that my hospital stay with Sam was probably as close to heaven as I'll get on this earth. I've never felt such euphoria. I was just so very happy. I can't even explain it, because of course there were plenty of hard parts to come, but for those three days I loved my little bubble with my little boy. Gracie came to visit and my heart almost burst holding both of them at the same time. And somehow I felt that first baby boy of mine there too. The actual events of those days are fuzzy, but the feeling I have when I think about that time is so clear. Love. Pure and simple love.

The best part? The story of Sam was just beginning.