Wednesday, January 8, 2014

No More Church

I stopped going to church somewhere around 2 1/2 to 3 years ago. The difference between what I believed to be true and the things my pastor was saying became too wide for me to ignore it any longer. The judgement and hypocrisy was too much to handle. I also didn't want my children, including my newborn, to grow up in a church where they thought hate statements and intolerance and not loving other people, despite what Jesus taught, is the right thing to do.

It started with the vague and general statements about politics. And a few homophobic comments thrown into the sermons. Added in were strong encouragements to help out a specific crisis pregnancy center so they could save more babies from being aborted. And then it got more and more and soon it seemed like everywhere I turned was one person or another talking about politics and sexual identity and surgical procedures. Except none of it was done in a way that was unbiased, or loving, or informative. It was judgmental and mean and not at all compassionate.

None of this fit with the God that I knew, and still know, in my heart. None of it fit with what I know of Jesus. The double message of "love your brother" and "these groups of people are horrible sinners" made me incredibly uncomfortable and sad. I felt like I couldn't even be myself or share my worldviews for fear of being ridiculed or taken out back for some re-education.

Here is what I believe: We are put on this Earth to love each other. It doesn't matter if I am straight and you are gay. It doesn't matter if I am blue and you are red, or maybe we're both purple, but different shades. It doesn't matter if you will spend every last dime you own trying to make abortion illegal while I will be staunch in supporting the rights of women to make that choice for themselves. We are people and we are called to love each other. Politics, sexual orientation and identity, and medical history have no place in church.

Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinions. Their beliefs. Their thoughts. But when those opinions, beliefs, and thoughts make me feel physically uncomfortable, it's probably time for me to bail out of that church and find a new church home. Or no church at all, since I'm quite certain that this area of Texas doesn't have many liberal churches. It makes me sad to think that other people may have been pushed away from their church home because of outspoken opinions by the church leaders. Somewhere in that congregation of 5000 people, there are gay people. There are other liberals. There are women who have had surgical procedures to remove products of conception from their uterus. And you know what? Those people are just as deserving of God's love as the conservative, straight, never-had-sex-until-she-married woman in the front row every Sunday.

We all come to God broken, having made bad or questionable choices. Picking through the Old Testament to tell everyone why they're wrong is maybe not the best way to bring people to God. Let's gently meet people where they are. Let's love them as they are. Let's get to know them and see the beauty that is in all of us. Let's see God in each other. And then we can understand that it doesn't matter if you're straight or gay, or pro-life or pro-choice. or liberal or conservative or middle-of-the-road. Those labels have no bearing on our hearts.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Open Adoption Roundtable #33

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points--please feel free to adapt or expand on them. 

A straightforward prompt for the end of the year: What did you learn about open adoption in 2011?

I think what I learned about open adoption in 2011 was less about the process and aftermath of open adoption and more about myself as a person. From the point where I decided to place Baby Girl for adoption I felt less than. Less than potential adoptive parents. Less than my friends. Less than my sister. Less than other mothers I knew. Less than myself. I didn't feel good enough anymore. I felt like a failure and a horrible person. That feeling persisted long after Baby Girl's birth and placement. It stayed after her adoptive parents cut me out of their lives. It lingered around and made me feel terrible all the time. I became depressed and was diagnosed with depression and PTSD stemming from the c-section and placement. It was an awful, terrible, very dark time for me.

Slowly, things began to get better. I think that Baby Girl's APs did me a favor, in a way, by cutting off contact. It was horrible for me and it completely shattered me, but it forced me to move on and get past it and get better. I couldn't focus on her and her life so much because she was just gone. I had to hope that I would hear from her when she turned 18.

In October 2010 I discovered that I was pregnant. Again. This happened soon after Baby Girl's explosive first birthday and it was not planned and sad and awful in its own way. Once again I was not married and not in a financially secure place. There was one major difference, however. I knew for a fact that I would be parenting this baby, no matter what. I was not about to throw my cards in again and hope that I would find APs that would keep their word. I just couldn't take the heartbreak again.

In June of 2011 Baby Boy was born and a switch flipped in me. That sad, dark, depressed, empty part of my heart was filled up with new baby perfection. I think some people expected that Baby Boy would make me miss Baby Girl less, but the opposite happened. I thought about her more. Every time I looked at Baby Boy's tiny sweet perfect face I would see a little bit of her. When I nursed him I thought of the two days in the hospital when I nursed her. When I changed his diaper I thought of the few diaper changes that I did for her. I saw a little bit of her in him, and it healed me.

Over the summer I got an unexpected email from Baby Girl's AM asking if we would like to get together for dinner to celebrate her 2nd birthday. I said yes, of course. It went fairly well, although it was awkward and hard to know what to talk about. Not having spoken in so long did give us a chance to catch up. AM shared some information about Baby Girl that left me feeling that perhaps I did make the right choice for her. She needs things that I cannot provide yet. I don't think that I would be the best parent for her and her situation. That realization started giving me peace about my decision. A peace that I never truly had until that dinner.

We saw them again for lunch the week after Christmas. We exchanged gifts and caught up and it was less awkward than our previous meeting. AM talked about how relieved she was to know that now I could understand how crazy things were with a baby in the house, and I might have more sympathy for her not having a photo book done.

When we left that lunch I felt like that big weight with "Less Than" stamped on it had been magically lifted from me. I am not Less Than anyone. I am actually More Than many people. I may even be More Than Baby Girl's APs in some ways.

My open adoption experience has broken me to pieces and it has helped me treasure my children in ways that I never have before. It has helped me have compassion for others and opened my eyes to how very human all of us really are.

On a Boycotting Rampage

Right before Christmas I officially starting boycotting Nestle in my home. They have been violating the World Health Organization's rules for marketing of breast milk substitutes (aka formula) for longer than I've even been alive. I don't want my money to support unethical marketing practices that lead to malnutrition, illness and death in thousands of babies' lives each year. So I went to Baby Milk Action and copied the list of the known products and retailers that are connected with Nestle. It's a really long list. I'll say that we now have no Gerber products in our home (which is hard to do with a 7 month old baby!), or Purina, Friskies, Alpo, Stouffer's, Alcon, L'Oreal, Carnation, Willy Wonka, Body Shop, Garnier, Lancome, Maybelline, or Redken. That's just a partial list of the partial list that I have. There's also the fact that Nestle is a Swiss company, so the profits don't even stay in the US! Considering how very badly we need to keep our money in our country right now, I think that supporting US companies is even more important.

At a playdate last week I found out from another mom that Chik-Fil-A has lobbyists that are spending their time working against gay rights. So the restaurant chain was added to the boycotting list. I'm really going to miss their milkshakes...

A long-time friend, who owns an adorable baby store called Baby Phases Tot 2 Teen, has been losing business to After talking to her more I discovered that Amazon is doing a couple of shady things. First, they don't pay sales tax in the states where they have their distribution centers. There is a very huge distribution center in the metro area where I live, which means that the schools in my area are being robbed of sales tax revenue that could be adding to the budget. Seriously, don't take money from my kids! Secondly, started a campaign before Christmas for people to go "shop" local retailers, take photos of items, and upload those photos along with the cost of the item(s) to the Amazon website. This allowed Amazon to undercut the small business prices and make more sales. That hurt retailers, and it hurt them during the holiday season when they make most of their money. That hurt my friend. So, buh bye

I'm also boycotting my church. Not that they ever got a ton of money from me anyway, but I'm adding them to the list, nonetheless. In their defense, they are giving more money to organizations both near and far that go directly to improving people's quality of life. That being said, it's a huge church campus that's used for half the day on Sunday and a few hours on Wednesdays. They recently did a remodel on a new building that more than doubled the total square footage of the whole church. They do have a great new space for children's programming and community groups, but it's still a HUGE chunk of real estate. And because of all those buildings and that land there are mortgage payments, electricity bills, water bills, and more. It costs thousands of dollars to keep the buildings going so they can be used for 15-20 hours a week. It seems wasteful and unnecessary. It doesn't help that they often preach against homosexuality and gay rights, and make comments that are distinctly political. That's not why I go to church. Jesus loves everyone. He doesn't care if people are gay or straight, if they were married when they had their baby, if they have lots of money or none. He loves all of us anyway. And I am certain that he wouldn't condone politics or discrimination in His house.

And speaking of politics... Brawny paper towels are made by a company owned by the Koch brothers, Koch Industries. For those that don't know who they are, they started the Tea Party and their companies are huge polluters. I am certainly not a supporter of politicians and others who do their best to keep people poor, unhealthy and uneducated, so I do not support the Tea Party and its goals. I also do my best to live a green and sustainable life. Which means that I make sure not to buy Brawny products. Some other companies and products under the Koch brothers' umbrella are: Angel Soft, Zee, Dixie, Mardi Gras, Quilted Northern, Sparkle, Vanity Fair, Georgia Pacific, Invista (which produces a large line of textiles and plastics), oil & gas refineries, chemical manufacturing, and many many more. I do own a car and it does run on gasoline, so chances are good that I can't boycott them 100% because I have no way of knowing where the gasoline that goes into my car comes from. But I can make a conscious decision where possible.

And last, so far, I'm going to be boycotting my bank. Right now I am a Chase customer and I have been happy with their service. But I'm really not happy with how they were involved in the whole financial and real estate melt-down that happened in our country. Chase still managed to come out on top, even though they were part of the original group of banks and financial institutions that were gambling with other people's money. I'm just waiting for this green bank to open up so I can transfer my accounts and my kids' savings accounts. The new bank is called e3bank and it was started by a former member of the US Green Building Council.

Do you know of other businesses that aren't on my list and maybe should be?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Open Adoption Roundtable #28

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table.

"Lori of Write Mind Open Heart, an adoptive parent in two open adoptions, has up at her blog a set of eleven questions about open adoption which were posed to her by JoAnne, an adult adoptee in a closed adoption. There are some questions there about the role adoption professionals played arranging contact in your adoptions and how you understand the legal weight of any open adoption agreements you may have."

My responses are listed below each question.

1. Can the adoptive parents really go back on their word after the adoption has been finalized and do whatever they please in regard to updates and pictures? 

Yes, they really really can. Baby Girl's parents did this to me. During my pregnancy we (myself, my big kids, and my mom) were all promised over and over that we could see Baby Girl "whenever" we wanted to and all we had to do was to call, text, or email to set up a visit. As time went on it became glaringly obvious that Baby Girl's adoptive parents were pushing our family further and further away. At her first birthday dinner when we expressed a desire to see her more, we were told that they thought that our contact had been sufficient. A week later I received an email from Baby Girl's adoptive father stating that we would no longer be in contact and I was free to mail pictures of our family for Baby Girl.

After looking further into the laws in my state I discovered that it doesn't matter that we signed an agreement about the frequency of visits and contact because in order to enforce it I would have to go to court. And even then there's not a whole lot that can be done to enforce the visitations. 

2. Who is the go-between for communication with most Open Adoptions: the case worker, the placing agency, or the lawyer handling the adoption? 

Baby Girl's adoption started out private because I knew her parents. I went to church with them and we were friends of sorts. During my pregnancy we decided to go with the agency that they had used for their previous adoption because it was just easier for everyone involved. My primary contact was my caseworker, but more often I spoke directly to Baby Girl's adoptive parents. I haven't spoken to my caseworker in probably a year or more because I feel like she lied to me and used me and I'm still so angry with her and the agency that I have no desire to speak to them at all. 

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages for each of the above contact persons? 

The only advantage to using a 3rd party for contact is that you don't have to tread quite as gently when you're communicating with the adoptive parents. With the caseworker I can say whatever it is that I'm feeling and how much I hate what's happening and tell her what I want, and she communicates all of my thoughts and feelings in a very non-confrontational way. 

4. How can case workers be involved in Open Adoption as well if DHS are already so understaffed and the budgets are maxed out for the thousands of forgotten children lost in the system? 

Since my daughter's adoption was not through DHS and our agency is a private adoption agency, I don't have an answer for this question. 

5. Is there an incentive such as money for the adoption agency to be still involved indirectly and indefinitely for an Open Adoption? Does it cost the prospective adoptive parents more money upfront for it to be an open adoption? 

As far as I know there is no ongoing cost or higher initial cost for an open adoption instead of a closed adoption. Even with a closed adoption the agency is required to maintain records for a certain number of years. And it seems to me that open adoptions tend to fall into 2 camps after a while: they either close at the request of the birthmother or the adoptive parents or the relationship becomes open enough that the agency isn't needed as a go-between any more. 

6. If the contract is legally binding, what happens to the adoptive parents if they don’t follow through? Is there really any legal recourse for both parties that are clearly spelled out? 

As with any legally binding contract, enforcement comes through the courts. If the adoptive parents aren't following through then the birthmother/birthparents will have to take the adoptive parents to court. That requires money for attorneys and time to go to court. And all kinds of hard feelings are caused and dredged up. Since the primary reason for birthmothers to place their babies for adoption is financial difficulties, most birthmothers don't have the required resources to pursue legal action against the adoptive parents. And if the birthmothers could take the adoptive parents to court, and win and have the agreement enforced, then the adoptive parents are all mad at the birthmother which makes everything more difficult. So, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. Isn't adoption fun? 

7. What deters the birth parents from coming to your house unannounced? 

As a birthmother, this question is rather insulting. I know and understand that Baby Girl is part of two families now: her birth family and her adoptive family. I don't show up at people's houses unannounced anyway, but I wouldn't do that to Baby Girl's parents either. The main reason is because they hold all the power in their hands. If I make them angry enough they can take away what little contact I do have with my birthdaughter. I'm between a rock and a hard place and I have to behave myself. 

However, that didn't keep Baby Girl's adoptive parents from showing up, unannounced, at our house on Christmas morning. Don't even get me started on how hard that was for my family and me to handle! 

8. Do you know if there are any court cases where it’s obvious that there are loopholes in Open Adoption that need to be addressed? 

I'm not sure what kind of "loopholes" this question is asking about. Loopholes that allow the adoptive parents to take advantage of the birthparents, or loopholes that allow those evil birthparents to contact their children? Loopholes that let the adoptees find their birth families? I think that, overall, most states are pretty good at making sure that the birthparents have few enforceable rights, with no loopholes to speak of.

9. Just like there are issues with closed adoptions and we have the outspoken activists’, etc., are there any Open Adoption opponents or vice versa that are working to be the voice for the birth mothers as well as the adoptive children and their best interests? 

I don't know if there are official organizations for birthmothers or not. I know that as a birthmother who was burned by the process and by the system, I use my voice to educate people about the process and what really happens. I can't say that I oppose adoptions 100%, but I do think that there needs to be WAY more transparency in the process so that birthmothers truly understand what they are getting into. And I think that the laws need to be changed so that it's not so easy for adoptive parents to say what they will to get their babies and then walk away from the birthmothers.

10. When is the adoptee old enough to choose if they want contact or not? What if they are the ones who want to break off ties with the bio parents?

I think that age probably depends on the adoptee and how he/she is feeling about it. At age 18 when the adoptee is a legal adult, he/she can decide to seek the birthparents and there is nothing that the adoptive parents can do about it. If an adoptee is younger than 18, the adoptive parents can restrict contact if they want to. But with things like Facebook and email it's getting easier to find people and harder to control who is contacting whom.

I think that all birthparents understand that their child may not want to know them later on in life. It's a deep fear that we all have. With one hand we hope for a future with our children in it, and with the other we hold the fear that we will never really know them. If the adoptee breaks off contact then there's nothing the birthparent can do. Stalking your child won fix it. You have to pick up the pieces of your heart and move on. 

11. Are there any support groups/legal aids for birth mothers where they can get honest answers with their concerns for open adoptions?

I don't think there are. I researched open adoption like crazy when I was pregnant and I didn't come across anything like this. I got the most honest answers from other birthmothers that I knew. But wouldn't it be great if there was a place for potential birthmothers to go for a host of honest answers about open adoption and what it looks like and feels like?

My Love/Love Less Relationship with Breastfeeding

This week is World Breastfeeding Week and all over my Facebook news feed have been articles and blogs and thoughts and pictures about breastfeeding. I decided to throw my own two cents into the large assortment of breastfeeding stuff out there.

I knew as a little girl that I would breastfeed my babies when I grew up. It was how my mom fed my sister and I, and how all of her friends fed their babies. My mom tells me that I didn't even see a real baby bottle until after my second birthday and I was fascinated with it because it was so strange.

Being a mom that has breastfed my two big kids, pumped exclusively for my birthdaughter and is now breastfeeding my new baby, there are things that I love about breastfeeding, and some things that I love less. I won't say "hate" because really there's nothing I hate about breastfeeding.

In no particular order...

1. I love that it's free. Not only do I like saving money, free is my all-time favorite price. Throw in being a perpetually broke single student momma and free looks better and better. I stopped nursing Hannah when I went back to work when she was 8 weeks old. I didn't have a good pump or good support on how to pump and store, so I didn't. I tried valiantly with the little manual Evenflo pump that I had, but it just wasn't enough. We went to formula, which was about $20 for each large can of powder. The can would last for about 4 days, which meant that we were buying about 8 cans of formula a month. That's $160 a month just to feed one tiny little baby. With breastfeeding I feed and water myself, which in turn feeds my baby for no extra money. Plus, breastmilk comes straight from the tap so I don't need to buy bottles or bottle warmers or anything else to get the food into the baby.

2. I love that it's easy. First, let me define what I mean by "easy" because breastfeeding is not easy all the time, and certainly not in the beginning when mom and baby are both trying to figure out what they're doing. And that goes for first-time mommas and veteran mommas. "Easy" means that I don't have to pack extra supplies and equipment to feed my baby when we leave the house. I don't have to make special shopping trips to buy formula. I don't have to wash extra dishes (bottles) so that I can feed the baby. I don't have to get out of bed in the middle of the night and go into the kitchen, heat water, mix a bottle, and bring it back to my now screaming baby. At 3 am when he's hungry, I sit up a little bit, put the baby on my stomach, help him latch on, and fall back to sleep. There have been entire nights where I've apparently nursed him, but don't even remember it, and when I wake up in the morning he's sleeping sideways on me still latched on. I do co-sleep which I think makes breastfeeding about a thousand times easier.

3. I love that I can feed my baby anytime, anywhere. If we're at the lake, the pool, the children's museum, the movie theater, a friend's house, the farmer's market, the grocery store, the mall, church, or one of a hundred other places, all I have to do is stick baby on the boob. It takes seconds to get him attached and I can (usually) continue doing whatever it was that I was doing before I started feeding him.

4. I love less nursing in public (NIP). Yeah, yeah, all of us breastfeeding moms are "supposed to" love "whipping out" our breasts wherever we are to feed our babies. But the truth of the matter is that NIP can be really uncomfortable for us. People stare, and sometimes give you dirty looks. I swear that others are staring because they're hoping for a nip shot. I'm trying to wrangle a wiggly baby without exposing myself to the world and there's no way a cover works because my baby, like about 99.9999% of the rest of them out there, hates having anything over his head or face. I have managed to get my technique down much better since Baby Boy was born, and I know I had it down with my other two after the first few weeks. But I still live in fear that someone will come up to me and say something rude, or try to kick me out of wherever I am because I'm nursing my baby.

5. I love that, right now, I'm the sole source of nourishment for my baby. I love that I am forced to take breaks to sit down and feed him. That it's just the two of us, staring at each other. I love kissing his little hands and nibbling his tiny fingers while he's nursing. I love talking to him and singing to him. I love the way the weight of his little body feels in my arms and how he curves around my body. I love how we fit like two pieces of a puzzle. I get tremendous satisfaction for every ounce of weight he puts on and every inch he grows because I did that all by myself. I grew his whole self inside me, and I brought his whole self into the world on my own, and on my own I am keeping his whole self alive. It's a pretty amazing feeling.

6. I love less that I'm his sole source of nourishment. Like most anything, breastfeeding can be a double-edged sword at times. Like when I really need to get dinner made so we can all eat, or when I'm trying to email my financial aid advisor and need both hands, or if I have to pee really really badly. Some things just don't mix well with breastfeeding. It would be so super convenient to have one of the big kids mix a bottle and feed him for me. I suppose we could do that, but that's not what I want for my baby. So, I just deal with it. I've learned how to stop doing anything right in the middle so I can feed the baby and then go back to whatever it was I was doing before. I'm also getting much better at typing one-handed.

7. I love knowing that I can keep breastfeeding when I go back to school and/or work. Thanks to the modern marvel of super efficient double electric breast pumps, quitting nursing when going back to school or work is a thing of the past. And thanks to the Affordable Healthcare Act, breastfeeding is now more protected than ever because certain employers are mandated to provide time for pumping and a private location for pumping that is not a bathroom. So when I start school in a couple of weeks I'll be able to take my new BFF, Ameda, with me to school and clinicals and I can pump and store the milk. Then when Baby Boy is at daycare he'll be able to keep getting breastmilk. No formula needed!

8. I love less the whole process of pumping and storing. Pumping, like breastfeeding, can be a lot of time-consuming work. Especially in the beginning when you're still getting it figured out. I started pumping when Baby Boy was 1 month and 1 day old so that I would have a supply in the freezer ready for when I went back to school. Right now there is about 37 ounces of frozen breastmilk in my freezer, enough to last him at least 2 days at daycare, if not 3 or 4. That stash will be added to as I pump while away from him and store it for future use. Pumping can be a hassle. And hooking up to the pump almost always makes me feel like a Jersey cow. And unless I take the extra time to use a hands-free pumping bra or something, I have to hold the flanges onto my breasts for the 10 minutes or so that I'm pumping. Boooooring. However, it's pretty cool to see how much milk you're making and it's extremely satisfying to build the stash in the freezer. I could do without washing the pump parts and bottles, and hauling the pump and the accessories around all over the place, though.

9. I love the health benefits for both of us. Women who breastfeed their babies have a  reduced risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and cervical cancer later on in their lives. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the more the risk goes down. Breastfeeding also burns an extra 500 to 800 calories a day while you're just sitting there! Breastfeeding helps the uterus return to it's normal size after birth and it helps balance out postpartum hormones which can help reduce the risk of developing postpartum depression.

Babies who are breastfed are healthier because they are getting momma's antibodies to fight of infections. That means that momma misses less work/school which makes everyone happy. Recent studies have also shown that breastfed babies have a 73% reduction of SIDS. Breastfed babies are also getting food that is customized specifically for that baby at that time of day at that stage of development. The composition of fats, vitamins, and other nutrients in breastmilk changes throughout the day, during each feeding, and throughout the baby's nursing life.

10. I love less that I don't actually lose weight while breastfeeding. Okay, this one I might actually hate. For a large percentage of other nursing mommas out there, they can eat whatever they want while the pounds melt off of them. Yeah, not so much for me. When I'm breastfeeding I am starving almost 24/7. It's even worse right after I'm done feeding the baby. I'm not a skinny momma to begin with and it's really depressing to see that the weight I lost right after he was born has come back. I'm trying to not eat as much, but it's really hard when I feel so hungry all the time.

So there you have it! What do you love, and love less, about breastfeeding?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Well, it's been about a million years since I've written anything here. Mostly because at first I was really busy being a pregnant nursing student. Then I was really busy being pregnant and hot and getting ready for baby to be born. And more recently I've been really busy being the mom of a newborn baby boy.

It's been really weird being the actual mother of an actual new baby. When your youngest child at home is 11 years old, and the last baby you had was placed for adoption, having that new baby in the house is a little odd. However, I am loving just about every minute of it. The couple of episodes of inconsolable crying weren't so fun for either of us. But even waking up at 3 am night after night can be fun because I get to stare at my little baby guy and memorize every little part of his sweet self.

I feel like I didn't really get to enjoy my big kid's babyhoods. With Big Boy I was 19 years old and so young that it didn't occur to me to treasure our moments together. I mostly spent my time wondering when he would go back to sleep, or get older and more interesting. We were totally broke and I was more focused on the fact that I couldn't buy lots of cute baby things than on the actual baby himself. I know now that I also had some post-partum depression that went totally unrecognized and, hence, untreated. I think that it would have helped our bonding a whole lot if I had some therapy and possibly some medication. I waited for 3 months for his "real mom" to show up! I clearly was not handling first-time motherhood all that well, and I was too afraid of looking stupid or incompetent to ask for help.

With Big Girl I had a 17 month old little boy and a husband that I, frankly, hated. I was also working full-time as the only financial support to our family while my husband got high all day long. Oh, and the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy we had his friend and the friend's girlfriend couch surfing at our house. They stayed for over a month after Hannah was born as well. Nothing like having unwanted barnacle houseguests when you're enormously pregnant and then have a new baby. And when Big Girl was only 10 weeks old I left my now ex-husband and that opened a whole new can of worms.

So many things took the focus off of my babies. I didn't know how to get it back. I didn't know that I should get it back. I was so young and so overwhelmed that it was all I could do to keep my head above water. It seemed impossible to even be a good mom, much less one of those gushy loving every second of motherhood moms.

And now here I am again. The mom of a newborn. I'm still stressed out because I'm in nursing school full-time. But I've had the summer off and Baby Boy will be 11 weeks old on the day I return to school. I've been able to sleep in with him in the mornings and spend hours a day just staring at him and cuddling him. My time off has allowed us to get breastfeeding firmly established while building a good supply of frozen breastmilk for use at daycare. This time around I'm much less focused on the stuff aspect of motherhood and more focused on the baby himself. I get to see my older children interact with their baby brother and get to know him on their own terms. I see how thrilled they are when he smiles his big gummy baby smiles at them. They'll be over the moon when he starts giggling at them, I just know it.

Here we go again!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Letter to My Son

I know that I haven't always been the best mom to you. I know that our life together has been pretty rocky. I know that I haven't always fought for you the way that I should have and that I have fought with you entirely too much.

You tell me that you think I favor your sister and that she's my little princess. I want you to know that although I do love your sister deeply, you have a bigger piece of my heart.

When you were born I was 19 years old. I was still a baby and I had no idea what I was about to get into. When you were born I became a mother and a woman all in an instant. I became your mother and that has forever changed me for the better.

When you were still a tiny baby boy we would spend hours just staring at each other. We could communicate without words. I could tell what you needed by the way you would breathe, or blink, or wave your tiny fists or kick your little legs. You hardly cried at all because you didn't need to. You and I had a deep connection that didn't need words or cries. You were a little piece of my soul, of God, of sunshine and perfection all put together into the shape of a little person. You were mine and I was yours.

When I named you, I chose a name that meant "courage" and "faithfulness". I know how hard life can be and I wanted you to have a name that meant something good, that hopefully those qualities would become a part of who you are and they would help you. I think it worked. You are one of the bravest and most faithful people I know. You keep loving me even though I have not been very good to you. I need to learn that from you, how to be more brave and faithful.

Of course you know by now that life isn't perfect. It just can't be, not all the time. Even though I loved you so deeply I still resented you. I placed the blame for my life taking a drastic turn on you and your existence instead of on myself and my own choices. I was terrified that I would never have any kind of life, that I would miss out on all the things my friends were doing, that I would be trapped in this "mom" role forever and it would be horrible. What I didn't realize then was that by you being in my life I would have more of a life than I could have possibly hoped for and that I would experience the world in a way that just wasn't possible without you.

In my place of fear, I began to withhold my heart from you. I thought that would protect me somehow from something too big and scary to name. I didn't think about how that would hurt you. I didn't consider that you would need me to be strong for you and to show you that it is okay to love another person so hard and deep that it hurts. I didn't think about how you would need me to show you how to love yourself. I didn't know that you would not see in yourself the many things that are incredible and worth love.

I am so sorry. More sorry than words can say. So sorry that I don't even think I can feel the sorry all the way.

The other night when we went to the hospital for you to be evaluated, and you cried when I told you we were leaving, my heart broke. It shattered. I saw what my actions had done to you and it broke me. I saw that by blaming you for my actions and choices and keeping my heart from you I had put you in a cage where you are trapped. I don't know how to make this right. I don't know how to fix it. The only thing I can think of is to go back to the beginning, but starting now, and to do what I should have done then.

I need to give you my heart all the way. That still scares me because I have been hurt by so many people. But you are worth whatever the price is that I have to pay. I'm going to say that again to make sure that you understand it: I give you my whole heart right now. And if my whole heart is crushed into dust it wil be worth it because you are worth it. You are the most worthy thing I have ever done in my life.

You are smart, funny, sweet, helpful, intuitive, creative, strong, loving and simply wonderful. When you are not home the house is quiet and boring. You bring life to my world and to the worlds of the people around you. I have more fun when I am with you, just by you being there. Watering the plants is more interesting with you. Lying on my bed reading is better when you are next to me reading your own book. When you play your flute I hear the music of heaven. Please don't stop playing, you are so good at it and you will only get better. I am amazed that you can make any noise come out of that instrument at all, much less the beautiful music that you play. I can't even read music, you bring it to life.

I know that I'm hard on you a lot. I'm still trying to figure out how to help you be the best you without being mean about it. I see how amazing you are and how amazing you will be as an older teenager, and an adult, and I feel like I need to push you to be the very best you can. I am terrified that you will make bad choices that will ruin your life forever. I worry about the people you hang out with at school, the movies you watch, the video games you play at friends' houses, the bad influences that surround you that I don't even know about. How can I possibly protect you from everything bad in this world? How can I expect you to fully live your life if I keep you in a little box forever?

When you make choices that cause problems for you it kills me. I feel like I failed as your mother, that I did something wrong. And I get even more scared that something bad will happen to you and I'll lose you forever. Or I won't be able to fix it. Now that you are older I can't just put a bandaid on your wounds and kiss it better. Now your wounds are on the inside and I can't even see them. How do I heal a hurt that I can't see or touch?

I don't know if everything in this letter will make sense to you now. But I want you to have it now because you need to know these things. You need to know that I love you more than I love any other person alive. You need to know that I will do anything for you that I need to. You need to know that you are an amazing person and you have great worth. You need to know that it is not your fault.

I love you, Kaleb. I love you all the way to the moon and back. And as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be.