Tuesday, September 16, 2014

He asked for her!

August was a crazy month - Jackson turned 4!  Four, people!  And Addison started preschool (Jackson went last year too).  Wow, these babies are growing up!  In all of the chaos, it is always stilling when a child says something that brings you back to what matters.  Today, as I was driving the kids home from preschool Jackson said, seemingly out of the blue, "Mommy, why we don't see T any more?  I miss her.  I love her."  T is his birth mother.  And oh my gosh, my heart broke.

Let me back up.  When we began this adoption journey, the scariest thing (think like big monster with gigantic teeth dripping with saliva) was this whole birth parent situation; not the actual birth parents, just the whole situation.  We wanted to be parents SO badly, and the thought of our child having other parents was more than we could comprehend.  We feared that those other parents could somehow take away from our role in our child's life.  Would he love them more?  Or maybe just like them more?  Would he wish we were them?  Would he reserve some of his love for them and only give us some?  Could I really be his mom when another woman carried him in her womb and gave birth to him?  Very.  Scary.  Stuff.

Cut to today, in an innocent moment in the car.  My son asked for his birth mom.  And I did not feel one ounce of fear.  I just felt a little sad, because I worried about how I might engage T as she just had another baby and is deep in the infancy stage with him which has meant some distance from us (more than the already too-much-distance-for-me we already had). I asked Jackson if he missed her and he said yes.  He told me again that he loved her and I assured him that she loved him too.  I told him I would try to set up a time to see her and he said, "No! Call her now!"  I told him I would text her.  He asked if she could skype with him.  There was a sense of desperation in him that I had not heard before.  And I couldn't make it happen for him.  I texted her, and I have not heard back.  Once Jackson was placed in my arms, THIS became my biggest fear - that he would need those "other" parents and I would not be able to provide the comfort he needed.

Luckily, Jackson is 4.  While I doubt he has forgotten that conversation or his desire to see T, he has moved on emotionally from it for now.  I have some time.   But his birth father, A, has already cut all ties with us.  It was too much for him.  I just want to make sure that Jackson has access to his story, his birth family.  I just want him to be whole.  So when he asked for T today and told me he loved her, I felt nothing but desperation with him - to get him to the person he wanted to see and to assure him of her love for him.

My love for Jackson is not a love you can plan for, it is something that overtakes you and consumes you.  What I didn't know back when I had all of those fears was that this very love would be strong enough to push out any of my own fears.  I would face any scary thing on this earth for this little boy, to make him happy, to make him whole.

Adoption is a beautiful thing.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Everybody and Their Dog

So one of those times in the time-space continuum seems to be upon us.  You know those times.  The ones when it seems that every woman of child bearing age, her sister, her dog and her next door neighbor are all PREGNANT.  When I was in the clutches of infertility and resulting despair and grief, I was often told that it was all in my head - that many people were pregnant all the time and I was just noticing it more.  And I was made to believe I was crazy so many more times than I can count - because in our majority culture, grieving deeply and not hiding those yucky emotions = crazy.  Yet, here we are.  I have 2 sisters pregnant, 3 staff members at work pregnant, multiple friends pregnant (many of whom had miraculous "surprise!" pregnancies which packs an entirely different punch) and, yes, even people's pets are procreating successfully!  I show up to group trainings out of town and 3 out of the 8 attendees are...yep, you guessed it, pregnant.

I have taken this opportunity to notice my reactions to all of this, now that I am on the other end of my struggles to conceive.  Each time I get a pregnancy announcement, each time I walk into a room that holds multiple pregnant bellies, I notice.  Immediately, I notice.  What I don't experience, though, is that sinking feeling in my stomach that makes me feel like I have to throw up or that heavy pressure in my chest that threatens my ability to breathe.  This suggests to me that those years of pain did not disappear.  They are attached to my very being and are along for the ride and can rise to the surface at any given moment.  But, when they do surface, they do not hold as much power.  The whole process reminds me of a cut on my finger that I received about two months ago while cutting up vegetables with a newly sharpened Cutco knife (ouch!).  It was so deep, bled like it could fill an ocean, and hurt like...well, a lot.  My stomach turned and I felt dizzy and I cried against my will because the pain and fear was so so big.  It healed slowly, with time and with careful application of medicine and bandaids.  Today, you can barely see the scar.  You have to look very closely.  It has faded into the smoothness of the skin on my finger.  Yet, when I move my finger a certain way or, God forbid, bang it on something - wow, the pain is there; not as intense as the day the knife sliced it open, but definitely there.  So when I am bombarded with multiple pregnancy announcements and baby showers and births and generally all things baby, it is like banging the "cut" in my soul that resulted from so much loss and pain and I once again feel a dulled version of the searing grief.

What happens next, though, is what I find so intriguing. I immediately see my son's face in my mind. And then my daughter's.  I instantaneously and uncontrollably feel my love for them in the pit of my stomach and in the depths of my heart.  I remember that without the pain that led to my deepest wounds so far, I would not have them.  That thought is too big to bear - and so I don't follow those memories much further.  That must be healing.  It is not erasing, or disappearing.  It is healing.  I think the expectation is that once we have our baby(ies), we no longer get to have feelings about pregnancy, babies, fertility, or loss.  I'm here to tell ya', I have those feelings whether they are "permitted" or understood, or not.  Only they have transformed in their meaning.  They now serve as a reminder of the elasticity of my heart and the resilience of my soul.  I am always in awe as I watch physical wounds heal over time.  What a magical thing my body is to be able to do that!  What a gift it is to know that our souls have the same power.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

It Takes a Special Kind of Person To...

I'm sure you've heard people say this in reference to many things.  Heck, I know I've said.  I often hear it about my work. "Wow, Faith!  It takes a special kind of person to do the work you do."  Today, I heard my husband say it.  It was in direct response to my ongoing dialogue about wanting to eventually adopt a child from the foster care system.  I pointed out people we know (even peripherally) who have already taken this path.  His response was, "It takes a special kind of person to do that."

I disagree.  And I've been thinking about this statement that we all use so soften.  And I've come to think that maybe we use this statement to distance ourselves from the action that we know needs to be taken.  Maybe, just maybe, when we say that it takes a "special kind of person" to do something, what we are saying to ourselves is, "Well, that special person is not me, so I don't need to feel guilty that I'm not doing it."  Guilt is a difficult emotion to endure...and our egos move us away from it very effectively.  However, I would argue that guilt is a necessary emotion that we should not only not avoid, but should lean into.  It is with a healthy dose of guilt that we move towards doing the right thing, that we try to right our wrongs and that we sometimes choose to move past our comfort zones.

I said to Jason when he made this statement, "We are special people.  YOU are special.  Look how happy and loved your kids are, how they are confident and social in their world, how sensitive they are, how smart and funny they are...YOU are a part of that.  YOU have it in you."  He replied that he's already exhausted, pushed to his limits some days, short on patience and lacking the relaxation time and sleep he wants to have.  I wonder, does he think that these "special kind of people" aren't also exhausted, overwhelmed, pushed to their limits daily, and often question what in the world they got themselves into?  You see, when we defer to the "special" people to do hard things, we also put them in an angelic-type box.  And then what we do is leave ourselves out of the box because, of course, we know we are nowhere near that divine level of patience and kindness.  And then what happens then?  We become inactive.  People suffer.  In this case, kids in the foster care system suffer.

As I read this to Jason, making sure to get his permission to post this, he pointed out that guilt is not in the equation for him.  There are other reasons for his resistance to this idea.  Maybe even reasons I will get to explore here later. That is his experience, and he has a right to it.  But, I do think guilt plays a part in how we use this phrase, and why we use it...in some situations.  I also think it can play a part in dampening our emotions and moving us away from scary things.  If my unconscious guilt stops my thinking there (you know, that part that tells me there is this special breed/class of people somewhere out there doing said good deed) then I don't have to roll up my sleeves, put on my galoshes and trudge into the deep, dark, murky water of "hard stuff."  So, if guilt is in your equation, or even if it is not, maybe it is worth exploring?  Perhaps the reason you can't or won't do something is just the surface.  Perhaps there is more to be learned about yourself.  And perhaps someone else could benefit from your self exploration.  Perhaps...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Things I Didn't Expect...

When Jackson was 17 months old, we lost all contact with his birth father, "A."  He had visited Jackson three times (not counting the social worker bringing Jackson to meet him when he was discharged from the hospital) by that point.  The last time we were together, we met at a Children's Museum, had a wonderful day, and promised to meet up again soon.  We even sent pictures over text of the kids sleeping in their car seats after our big fun day together.  Then he stopped responding to all texts, emails and phone calls.  Just like that.  Luckily, we are in touch with his parents (at his request, he urged them into our lives, and we are so thankful that he did) and they finally passed on the message that A decided he did not want to be involved in Jackson's life anymore.  They gave their impressions as to why, but because I have not talked to A, I do not feel comfortable speculating publicly.  I was not prepared for the feelings I would have in this situation.

My first, gut level feeling was sadness.  Intense grief.  We love A, and Jackson is a piece of him.  It was our pleasure to share the amazingness that is Jackson with A.  It's clear that Jackson takes after him in many ways.  The thought of Jackson not having that connection with his biological father broke my heart.  I still cry when I think about it, the pain is that deep for me.  I remember saying to my mom over the phone soon after we received the news that no, A was not just busy, he had intentionally stopped responding to us, "Mom, I don't get why I am so sad about this.  I can't seem to shake it."  She said, "Honey, your dad did the same thing essentially."  Oh yeah.  Shit.  While the situations are completely different, as a child, I felt abandoned by my dad.  I still do in many ways.  Whether he actually abandoned me, whether he really loved me...or not...were not important pieces of information as a young child. All that mattered was that I would go a year or more without talking to him and I often waited three years at a time to see him.  On a deep level, I was not feeling Jackson's sadness, I was feeling my own.  As I processed it more, I was also feeling sadness as Jackson's mom.  Because now it is ME who will have to try and explain to him why A stepped out.  It is ME who will have to try and help him understand that A loves him, even if he can't show him that love right now.   And it is me who knows that no matter how many times I say those things, Jax will feel what he has to feel.  I can't protect him from this.

Which brings me to feeling number two in this story.  Anger.  Raging, burning anger.  Because he is hurting MY son.  Yes, I know he is technically "our" son (with A obviously included in that "our"), but when someone is hurting him, he becomes MY precious baby to protect.  How dare he step out and leave me to pick up the pieces?  How dare he leave me to answer questions that only he can answer for this sweet boy?  How dare he NOT want to see this little boy who wears dimples and a smile just like his, whose laugh brings joy to everyone he meets, and whose sensitive heart most certainly has some origin in him?  I just don't understand it.  He is rejecting our son.  And I don't approve.  Not one little bit.

These are feelings I did not expect to experience in these ways going into this whole adoption thing.  The power that birth parents hold over our children is staggering.  At the beginning of the process, I knew expectant parents held power over ME.  I knew that it was they who would decide if I was worthy of being a mom.  I also thought I knew that once papers were signed, the power was all mine.  I could make this hypothetical child into anyone I wanted to.  I could raise him my own way.  Looking back, I'm not sure how I missed this.  I saw birth parents as a beautiful addition to my child's life and didn't think to prepare myself for what would happen if his birth parents actually hurt him.  And of course, I could never have known how vulnerable my heart would be.  I am at Jackson's mercy.  If he hurts, I hurt. If I even think there is a chance he will hurt, I hurt.

Nope, I did not expect this at all.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sharing my Story

So, a few things have happened recently that have led me to think that the time has come for me to think more, talk more and hopefully write more about my story;  specifically about how I became the mother of two children who are a mere six months apart in age.  I think the part of my (our) story that many people find so fascinating is the open adoption part.  I often say that I don't get that, how people are so surprised and, dare I say, impressed by our story.  I know so many other parents walking that same road.  And yet, somehow, it just isn't talked about in the broader culture.  From my perspective, being entrenched in the adoption world, it is just life as normal.  Yet, there are these reminders that have become frequent lately that suggest that the life we are living with our children, with our son's birth family, is not "life as normal" for everyone.  I've decided I want to share our story, and I want to try my hand at writing about it and see what comes of it.

Two things happened recently that have led me here.  First, a friend of mine has written an amazing book that I will be posting a link to here, on my blog, when it is released on Amazon on Memorial Day.  It is about her long and arduous road through infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss.  In her book, she talks about her fears and anxieties about adoption.  When she describes how difficult the concept was to her, how impossible it felt to her that she would be able to love a child who was adopted as much as a  biological child,  I realized that I have something to share with her, and with other parents or parents-to-be out there.  The second thing that happened that my sister found herself talking with a woman she had just met about our story.  The woman shared with my sister that she had placed a baby for adoption many many years ago and that she had also adopted two children.  She said her birth son found her when he was an adult but only met with her once because his adoptive parents had such a hard time supporting him in this relationship with his birth mother.  I thought, how sad.  When my sister finished telling her about our relationships and our view on adoption, the woman had tears streaming down her face.  She asked my sister to thank us (thank US?!  Still blows my mind). And then I thought, perhaps my story is not just useful to other potential (or current) adoptive parents?  Is it possible that our story, our hearts, could also provide support, hope and encouragement to birth parents or parents considering placing their children for adoption?

What I know is this: if there is even a small chance that I could add something to our culture's story about adoption (which, let's be honest is an inaccurate and fear-based story overall), then I should write.  I don't know where my writing will go, but I am committing publicly, here.    So stay tuned...(for the few of you still around:))

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I wanted to share...

Well I am still here, just barely:).  A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for a professional newsletter about adoption and shared it here on my beloved blog.  I got a wonderful response.  I was asked to write a follow up recently and learned a lot in the process of writing the follow up.  I am not sure if anyone is really here reading anymore, but if so, I wanted to share here.  This has really started me on a journey of wanting to write more about adoption.  I am amazed at how much fear, anxiety and ignorance is out there around the topic of adoption.  Maybe I will be back here writing some thoughts out and hoping some of you will still be around to read them.  In the meantime, here is the article I wrote.  Happy reading!

Quieting the Adoption Ghosts: A Personal and Professional View
By: Faith Eidson, LCSW, IMH-E® (IV)

It has been two years since I wrote “Adoption Ghosts,” and I found it challenging to think about writing a follow-up to that piece.   In that article (MIAIMH Infant Crier, Winter 2012), I described how I came to adopt my son, Jackson, now three years old, and how he came to me.  I also described ways in which our story of adoption impacted our developing relationship.  As I prepared to write again, I found that I kept asking myself “Who am I?” and “Who is Jackson?” and “What does this all mean?”  In asking these questions, I realized I was stuck.  I don’t know the answers to any one of these questions.  It is hard to write about something that feels unknown and undefined.  After careful thought, what did become clear was my own process of exploring the unknown, and how different I feel now in the process than when I wrote that piece.   I also stumbled upon some fascinating and, I think, key themes in my own development as a parent that seemed to parallel the development of so many of us in the infant mental health field. 

Who is Jackson?
Jackson is a bright, charming, artistic, observant and sensitive three-and-a-half year old boy.  He has the chubbiest cheeks that are so fun to kiss and he loves to laugh and make people laugh.  He adores his family, plays confidently with his sister, impresses his preschool teachers and draws any stranger to him when we are out in the community.  He has been drawing people’s attention and compliments since the day he was born.  

We adopted Jackson when he was five days old.  He has a birth father, whom I will call Tony, and a birth mother, whom I will call Molly, who will forever impact who he is in a multitude of ways. What we remember of Tony (he stepped out of Jackson’s life when Jackson was one year old and we have not heard from him since) is that he is kind, empathic, athletic and a gentle soul.  He also tends to see things as “black or white” and shows little flexibility in many areas of his life.   He loves sports and he enjoys doing puzzles in his spare time.  What we know of Molly is that she has a troubled past and has made some unhealthy choices, but that she also is a compassionate and kind person.   She is gorgeous, and she seems to have a magnetic quality to her.  Molly has an artistic side and is creative and currently runs her own business in fashion.  She can tolerate seeing multiple perspectives and she can think outside of the box and take risks. Both Molly and Tony are extremely intelligent and resourceful.  From the first time we spoke with them, we liked them a lot and felt drawn to them.

Who am I?
I am the kind of person who likes to understand things, to master them.  I enjoy exploring my inner self, and I have immersed myself in a field that allows me to help others on their path to understanding.  I am the mom of two children, born only six months apart.  I am the wife to my high school sweetheart.  I am a giver, and I seek connection with everyone.  I am also a therapist, supervisor, trainer and consultant.  I am these things, and so much more. 

What does this all mean?
That’s a good question!  As an adoptive parent, we spend months or years wondering who our child will be.  We often don’t know race, gender, biological history, or even when or how our child will be born.  We are asked to preference categories (do you prefer a white baby or a biracial baby, what medical needs are you willing to accept, boy or girl, mental health diagnoses of biological family that are acceptable?), and it seems to be a desperate attempt to contain the uncontainable; to define what our future child will be, which is futile.  In the excruciating months of waiting, I did a lot of wondering and attempting to master the things I could master.   I read books, blogs, articles, really anything I could get my hands on, that were written by adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees.  I began to talk about the kind of adoptive parent I was going to be and what kind of relationships I was going to strive to have with my child and with his or her birth parents.  Then we found out I was pregnant.  Then we learned that Tony and Molly had chosen us to adopt their baby, due in two months and predicted to be a girl.  I began a new line of planning: we will have this kind of relationship with Tony and Molly, we will do these things with our baby, we will send these mementos to Tony and Molly - you get the idea.   I had images of this baby and who she would be, melding versions of Tony, Molly, my husband and myself into one picture.  Then our dreamed about baby was born, and in that moment of learning that he was a boy, I believe something shifted within me.  It was the beginning of the development of a more complicated “me” that I am not through exploring or understanding.  I have noticed this shift both in parenting and in my professional realm.

When I wrote “Adoption Ghosts,” I was describing my process of “making sense” of things as Jackson’s mom and in my narrower role as his adoptive mom.  As I write today, it seems I am in a different process of accepting that there is no “right” way to make sense of any of my observations of and interactions with my son.   His sensitivity and “slow to warm” personality could be a genetic marker from Tony or it could be that his experiences as our first child led him this way, or it could be a mixture of those two things and many other unknown factors.  When he gets angry and pushes me away, I could analyze it, as I did in the previous article, and worry myself into a frenzy that he is re-experiencing his early days of life…or I could wonder about his development, e.g., the normality of an 18 month old to get angry at mommy when she leaves him in a contained area, the difficulty of a toddler at his age to calm himself quickly, and the expected ambivalence he is beginning to experience in his relationship with mommy.  When he shows a particular skill, such as putting together puzzles, I could attribute this to his biological father enjoying and excelling at puzzles or I could wonder if he learned to love them because we provided so many opportunities for him to enjoy them or I might hope that he has already begun to internalize his mommy’s intense persistence at tasks until mastery is accomplished.  Since child development is not linear, it is not possible to ever really know what makes them the way that they are.  As parents, and as therapists, we take guesses.  We follow threads back and try to figure out where they began.  In figuring out where they began, we can avoid feeling as overwhelmed by these “threads” of emotions, beliefs and behaviors that inevitably become tangled within relationships and begin to look messy.  The problem is, even when we have it “figured out,” there is no way to know if we are right.  As professionals, we talk about our ideas so assuredly, as if our clinical hypotheses are reality.  As parents, we often talk about our children’s traits as if we can see a causal link between daddy’s years playing basketball in high school and his daughter’s love for basketball: “She gets that from her daddy.”  It makes us feel like at least some things are predictable.  What I am learning is that they aren’t actually predictable, and when we expect them to be, we might become disappointed.

Since bringing Jackson home, I have noticed a shift from needing to know and understand (and conquer) to allowing myself to entertain and explore.  In the end, does it matter why Jackson has a difficult time saying goodbye or why he seems particularly drawn to art?   Even if I made guesses, the answers would be just that:  guesses.  There is no way to ever prove my hunches.  He is who he is.  Whether he gets his incredible charm from Tony or Molly or my husband or me, it doesn’t matter.  I just love it.  Whether his anger boils over and he reminds me of myself at times and also triggers my worry related to his biological family history of mental illness, it doesn’t actually matter in that moment.  I still have to figure out a way to respond appropriately and to support him through it.   To do that, I have to be right with him in those moments.  If I allowed my head to go to analyzing in the midst of those interactions (my common response to fear) then I would leave him behind, which is exactly what I would never want to do.   It is incredibly freeing to realize that I can’t know these things, and therefore don’t need to search for the answers. I can just be me.  I can just be his mom; and he can just be Jackson, my sweet baby boy.  We can live in the moment together. This is not to say that the many threads that weave together to make us unique are not worth exploring.  They absolutely are.  When we pick a thread of ourselves, study it, feel it, notice where it is damaged and frayed and then notice where it glimmers in the light, we know our whole selves a little bit more. When we do this for our children, or for the children and caregivers we serve, we help them to know themselves a little bit more.  The danger lies in moving from observing, noticing, exploring and wondering to knowing and doing, and then getting stuck there.  I have especially noticed this tendency in adoptive parents.  We can become so focused on the adoption thread, that other threads seem to fade into the background:  the child’s temperament, our own histories and personalities, environmental influences since their birth or placement with us, and many other pieces that come together to make our children who they are and make our relationships what they end up being.  It can be tempting to look for and find the adoption strand in many interactions with our children.  While it is important to hold the adoption theme in mind, it is also important to hold our minds and hearts open to exploring other important pieces of the whole picture. 

As I experience this shift in thinking, I can’t help but notice the parallel to our work with children and families.  There is a development of the professional that starts with an intense need to “know,” to convince others of our “knowing” and then to fix what it is we think we know.  In our beautiful field of infant mental health, we talk about the importance of just “being with,” but I know I struggled with this concept for years.  I still do, if I am being honest.  However, my experience in adopting my son and entering a world that was so foreign to me - only to be led down a path of unknowns towards my son, who is perfect just the way he is, has given me the gift of learning what it really means to “be with.”   Similarly, it is possible for clinicians to become so focused on one piece of the story, that other pieces of the story seem to disappear – it can be a parent’s or child’s trauma history, particular ghosts that appear in the story, and/or the interactions in the present that seem particularly problematic, even critical, needs for focus and response.  While we are so focused on seeing and fixing this one important piece, we fail to notice others, such as beautiful moments of connection between the parent and child, particular strengths the parent has demonstrated despite their traumatic history, or possibly our own history and how it has become intertwined with the family’s story. What I have learned to practice and promote as an infant mental health specialist and mentor is no less important in my life as a mommy.

So, can I do this? A reflection…
Adoption is a leap of faith.  Some might argue that adoption is a slightly larger leap than is made when having children through birth, due to all of the unknowns that accompany an adoption situation.  Adoptive parents spend so much time before actually receiving our child trying to wrap our brains and hearts around who will soon come to us and how we will manage it.  Then the baby  (if the child is placed during infancy) is placed in our arms and what we worried about before that seems inconsequential when compared to the “bigness” of that moment.  Isn’t that how attachment begins?  It is this intense desire to know another, and along the way we learn to know ourselves a little more deeply.   Jackson came with all of his systems ready to attach.  How could I not fall in love?  Even if it did not happen immediately, that was ok.  Writing now, I have the benefit of time with him.  With enough time, our relationship has had opportunities to wrestle with rupture and to be strengthened by repair.  Within all of those hard moments, those awe inspiring moments, and those ordinary-every-day moments, we learned that we are ok together.  We are confident in who we are within ourselves and who we are to each other.  Sure, there will be more to come.  I could worry about how he will come to understand his story as he grows older or how I will find the right words (because if I use the right words, it will hurt less, right?) to explain to him how he came to us.  However, when I feel my heart going down that road, I remind myself of our solid relationship and our intense love for each other right now.  Similarly, I wonder if that might be the gift we bring to the families we meet professionally and have the opportunity to be with and know?  We see them in this moment, and we feel tenderness for them in this moment.  We may not love what came before this moment and who knows what will come after it.  But when I sit here, in your kitchen, and we talk about the kind of mom you want to be for your baby, I am holding you and caring for you.  So maybe this concept of “holding” that Winnicott so beautifully gave us has an anchor in being present in the moment.  With this concept as anchor, every step taken forward into tomorrow is taken together.  Our todays and tomorrows become intertwined, even after we leave those relationships. Our time together will always have “happened.”   Maybe that is what I find so comforting and so grounding about my relationship with Jackson – the past three-and-a-half years of loving and liking (and sometimes not liking!) each other will always have happened.  Our paths toward the future are forever united.  Why would I ever want to untangle that and try to analyze what makes him him?   Or what makes us us? He will show me what I need to know, when I need to know it, if I can only stay present and pay attention. 

I can do that.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Baby Girl is Three...And Mommy is Struggling

My baby girl is 3.  THREE!  I have to say, I am very surprised by my strong reaction to this particular birthday.  I cried when each of my babies turned one, but so briefly.  I'm pretty sure I was too tired and too overwhelmed to really explore my feelings too much.  Then two kind of flew by me...then Jackson turned three and started preschool  and I thought, "It's ok, Faith, you have one more baby, she's not three yet!"  So I was able to enjoy Jackson's turning three and moving out into the world (ok, there were some tears, but I made it through). The problem with that is that Addy was soon to be three, and I had to deal with it then.  Now.  Ugh.

There are many reasons why "3" is such a big milestone - it seems like they can do so much more by this age.   They officially leave the "toddler" phase and move into the "preschooler" stage.  But, for us, Addison's third birthday marked the last time I would nurse her.  I had set that age as my "limit" about a year ago when it became clear that she was probably not going to wean herself.  As it got closer, I dreaded it.  We were only nursing right before bed, but it was our time.  It was special and comfortable and intimate.  We both relaxed and bonded together before she went to bed.  If I could have continued nursing her, knowing she would eventually wean herself, I would have.  But I honestly don't think she would have weaned any time soon...and I just couldn't see myself with a kid in preschool who nursed.  I know this is a cultural limit set for me...but I still can't seem to get past it.  This breaks my heart even more because I am giving up something we both love because it is not culturally acceptable.  There were also some medical reasons that led me to wean - too many times that I needed a medication but couldn't take it because I was nursing.  I am looking forward to one less complication in that area.

Bust mostly I'm just sad to say goodbye to the last piece of "babyhood" we had left.  I absolutely adore that my children are growing and thriving.  I know that I am blessed beyond words to have two healthy, happy and amazing babies (big kids!).  I just wish it didn't have to go by so fast.  As much as the days can be hard, I know that each moment is a gift, and those moments are so fleeting.  I spent so much of my life waiting for the day I could hold my babies, rock them, nurse them.  Then those days came and I was in a fog and then they were gone.  Just like that.  Addy cried the last two nights and asked me "when can I nurse again?  It's not my birthday anymore?" It killed me to tell her that she won't nurse again - because I knew that it meant that I won't ever nurse my baby again. How did such and amazing and magical part of my life fly by so quickly?  I sure do love my babies, and I love parenting them (ok, most of the time:)), but I don't like the part of parenting that is so bitter, so heartbreaking.  I don't like saying goodbye to some of the sweet phases, to the first steps, to the first "mamas," to the bottle feeding, to the first giggles.  The bottom line is, I suck at change.  I like things to stay the same as much as possible. And, of course, children never stay the same - ready or not, they plunge forward into newer and more complicated areas of development and we, as parents, spend our lives frantically trying to keep up while we desperately try to capture the beautiful moments in our memories and dump all the hard ones from our minds.  It's too much, I tell you!

I do know, though, that with each new stage comes loss AND fun.  For this new stage, Addy and I had our first pedicure together.  I took Addy with me to a pedicure when she was just a couple of weeks old and she slept in the stroller.  I remember dreaming of the day I would take her to get her own nails done.  That day finally came.

Gosh, I love her.  This parenting thing sure is a trip, isn't it?