Winter

One month ago we moved Baby Boy into his new home and family.

He is well, he is loved, and he has a bright and hopeful future. We get to have a relationship with him and have visited him a few times. For all of that, we are grateful.

I have been quiet in this space for many months. Life began to unravel from every direction in the beginning of Fall and the words that normally lay a path between my brain and heart, tangled and bled together and abandoned me.

This is a winter of deep sadness coursing through every day. We are functioning: working, cooking, eating, playing, sleeping, driving, reading, talking and even laughing. But there is an ache that never leaves and rises up and swallows me in a moment. Tears spill without warning, especially when I stumble into stillness or monotonous activity. The empty space in our home, at our table, in our car, in the shopping cart, at family gatherings, and in every single memory, thought and decision I’ve made for over a year, crushes me with the weight of his absence. The pain I feel from his perspective, wondering what happened to us, is a terrifying chasm I constantly have to back away from.

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I’ve never known grief like this before. I have never felt such powerlessness and anger at a decision, made by strangers, whose words can rearrange a child’s family like a doll in a dollhouse.

We are back to a family of four, but not one of us is the same person and we are not the same family. It’s too soon to know who exactly we are yet. Or to describe the grace that has accompanied the suffering.

I’m thankful for the words of others; the poets and musicians and truth-tellers. They have buoyed my soul, strummed a melody for my tears, and defined my lament.

Dear friends and family members walked closely with us these last few months. They have been ministering angels. One such poet-friend sent me these words the morning after a particularly devastating day.

When we held the tiny package of you
We saw your sweet face, your precious hands
Your funny toes
But we didn’t know
That you were a catalyst
That would propel us into
The deep water wading of faith
We didn’t birth you
But you birthed us
Into people we weren’t before
The flood will lessen
The waters recede
And we will keep going
Stronger than we were
Before your sweet face
– AK

I don’t have any deep closing words to that right now. But if you are one of the lucky ones who has seen Baby Boy’s toes, I know you are smiling.

 

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January Moms

Earlier this month a friend and I threw a baby shower for another friend who was pregnant with her fourth baby, her first girl. Being literary types, my friend and I thought it would be fun to read aloud a charming selection from a book or poem hailing the special bond between mothers and daughters. As we scanned our shelves and memories for such relationships in literature, we came up with nothing. Well, nothing that would encourage our dear friend embarking on daughter-rearing.

(Why are all my favorite stories bereft of good moms? Strong child protagonists often have mothers who are either dead or absent (Anne, Harry, Pevensie children, Pollyanna, Heidi…), wicked or neglectful (Mary Lennox, take your pick of fairy tales), or too precious, practical, or silly to be true (Marmee, Ma Ingalls, Mrs. Bennett). Oh, there are exceptions (I love Anna Hibiscus’s Canadian mother, raising her family in Nigeria with a houseful of in-laws, and Mrs. Quimby has the patience of a saint), but it’s a shame that great children in literature rarely spring from normal, loving, good moms.)

I have known this friend since before we had children, and I know she is going to be a Mom of moms to her little girl. The kind of Mom (with a capital M) who will never be “mother”, but who evolves from “Mama” to “Mommy” to “Mom”, and plants herself right there, flourishing in that title.

Karen

Gorgeously nine months pregnant

I recognize the type – the woman who inhabits the role of “Mom” not as a back-up plan, or to get out of an unfulfilling career, or to improve or “recreate” herself through her children, or to tack on the job to an already full life. A woman like my mom, whose three grown children still sit in her presence and are washed over with love, acceptance, and encouragement.

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Me, Mom, Baby Sister

My mom, like my friend, also got surprised by a January baby of a different gender after she thought life was complete with a couple of girls who were well past the “little” years.  Mom was also labeled “advanced maternal age” by her healthcare practitioners during her last, unexpected pregnancy (I did a little calculating one day and realized that my mom was exactly the same age, to the week, as my friend when my brother was born). And like my friend, she is also a “Mom of moms”.

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Mom, surrounded by her daughters, granddaughters, and mom.

My friend gave birth to her baby girl last week – perfectly formed and lovely, coming at just the right time to a houseful of boys who adore her.

Annaka and Jack

My friend, who I would normally describe as “perky”, is now subdued and quiet, like a January garden. Words and energy come slow due to lack of sleep and the pouring out that comes with the first weeks of tending to a new life. It has been seven years since she last did this, but it is all coming back to her, and she glows in the familiar patterns and delights of tiny fingers and toes.

My baby brother turned 22 this January. Sometimes words and energy come slow to our mom, too, due to sleepless nights of a different cause. When she took a few days off work this month to surprise Baby Brother in Seattle for his birthday, she came home glowing from good sleep and the joy that comes from spending time with her January baby who has turned into a strong, smart, loving man.

Taylor

We spent a happy January afternoon with my mom on the tail end of her mini vacation, watching the Seahawks beat the Packers, making some apple-y dessert, and chatting about 22-year-old Brother and such.

Grammy

Good Moms become good Grammys

These two moms are what come to mind as I search for something good about January. It’s been a dark, dreary month and I pretty much despise this time of year – dark, wet, gloom coming off the high of Christmas (and Hawaii). But light and happiness broke through with the birth of a baby girl to a mom-friend I love, and the birthday of a boy whose mom always has the power to make me warm in January.