I remember the day the nurse brought my freshly birthed daughter back into my room after being cleaned up and examined and thinking, "What the hell? What do I do now?" At barely 20, I was woefully unprepared for the trials motherhood thrust upon me the moment I pushed that baby out of my nice, warm uterus. I've been dog paddling in the pool of parenting ever since.
It ain't pretty. I barely have my nose above the water, and every now and then a wave comes and threatens to take me out. Parenting is hard. And it is painful. Beyond the obvious feminine aspect of gestating, labouring and delivering, being a parent hurts. Worse than if you slam your finger in the car door or get kicked in the face by a four year-old Arabian stallion.
(A demonstration of what type of creative cusser I can be in both instances.)
Just when you finally learn to live on two hours of sleep, succumb to your infant’s every demands, become adept at diapering with one hand and feeding with the other, and accept there will never be a moment of sexual intimacy between you and your partner again, the little buggers go and change the rules on you.
The next flaming hoop of fire to jump through is when your darling precious learns to walk, talk and pee in a pot. Preferably the ugly plastic one you bought special for the occasion and not one of the pretty stainless steel ones you received as a wedding gift from an uncle, and left on the floor so your kiddy could bang on it with a wooden spoon...
(The real reason I call myself a redneck...my children pee in whatever receptacle they can find...or in my son's case, right off the freaking front deck.)
If you are lucky, both you and your child survive this landscape fraught with hidden obstacles relatively intact and bonded stronger than ever.(Say 'hamburger' for mommy's friends darling. Be a good girl. See!!! I told you!! Isn't she the sweetest thing?! Snicker. Hangaboogers. My kid is the greatest!)
Then like a stalk of corn in the middle of my mother-in-law's garden, they grow again, thereby changing the rules of the game, once more. Every stage brings with it new rules, new dangers, new dilemmas and better rewards.
I never expected to enjoy parenting this much. As a teen I vowed my uterus would remain unused. Wasted anatomy. I wanted to save the world and make millions while doing it. There was no room in my vision to include children. Falling in love changed that.
(Forgetting about grade nine sex education and the value of rubbers may have also played a small part in my attitude adjustment.)
Yet, before I reached 25, I had squeezed out three little angels, pretty much solving the mystery of how babies are made.
By boarding the parenthood train, I bought a ticket for disappointment, sadness, anger, laughter, love and loss. I silently agreed to give away the biggest part of my heart to these dirty, blonde rugrats who often don't protect the soft side of their parents.
(Ask Boo. He's been kicked in the man grapes more than once.)
You must give of yourself wholly and put your heart out there so that your children can run off with it when ever they choose. It's written in the fine print at the bottom of the contract.
There is no pain or reward greater than being a parent. If someone had told me seven years ago, that I was going to deliver a baby most people wouldn’t want, most people wouldn’t understand, a child most people chose not to see, I would have said told them they were off their freaking rocker. Bad things happen to other
people. Not Boo and me. We had reached our quota for bad things. Surely, God or Nature or my fucking uterus wouldn’t be so cruel as to stick us with that.
Proof I am a natural blonde.
Except, we weren't stuck, we were blessed. If you had told me seven years ago that this child would be the best thing to happen to us, our marriage and our kids, I would have laughed uncomfortably and then ran screaming from the room, to search for some alcohol.
And if you told me 653 days ago, when I walked out of the hospital with nothing but a wad of tissue in one hand and an big white plastic bag in the other, that I would want to walk that path again, fight with bureaucrats and beg for a ticket on that train, I would have probably strangled you with my bare hands.
The stakes of this parenting game suddenly got a whole lot higher. We don’t often think about our children passing away. Sure, we fear it. In an abstract way. The same way, we fear they will be stolen from us while shopping in a crowded mall, or snatched by some stranger on the street. We know the possibility of death exists but if we sat and actually understood what it would mean to lose our child(ren) we would be paralyzed with fear, unable to give them the space they need to grow.
I knew something was wrong with my pregnancy with Bug. I used to tell my husband that I had an alien baby inside me, and I was only half joking. I would complain to my doctor about my size and my fears and she would quickly dismiss me. I would leave half annoyed she didn’t hear me and half relieved she didn’t listen.
When Shalebug was born, and all the doctors and specialists kept telling me he wouldn’t live long, or be normal, my heart cracked with every word, every prophecy they uttered. I knew that my love couldn’t save him, but I was hoping it would prolong his life.
I believe it did. I never prayed for him to heal or be normal. I never asked God to fix him or make him whole. I couldn't bring myself to wish for him to be anything who he was because who he was to me was bloody brilliant.
Instead of hoping to change him, I hoped for him to walk through life with grace and dignity and love. I hoped he felt no pain. And most of all, I hoped every night when I went to bed that I would wake up to have another day with him.
Wishes don't always come true.
People ask what I fear most, now that I have been through this nightmare. I could say not much, having walked through this fire and survived. But being the boob-oogling, over-emotional, hyper-hormonal woman I am, I can't lie to you.
It would be wrong to say I fear losing a child. There is no word to describe the terror and anxiety I feel when I think of life with out yet another of my kiddies. The word 'fear' simply doesn't touch it.
I think what I fear the most is losing the ability to try. To try and live without the shadow of grief clouding my every movement, every choice. I would rather love and lose a child than be too scared to try and parent again. I can think of no better way to honour my son and help my children through their pain than to remember how to laugh, to love and to live. How to try.
To learn to ignore the shackles of fear and remember the bonds of love.
Because, in the end, all we have are our memories of the ones who touched us, made us into who we are today. If we don’t accept the chance of dying we can never really live.
And that is my truth.
Which I will be reciting over and over to myself as our final adoption meeting advances upon us like a steam train next week.
Yes, I really did force him to wear that dorky hat. He's still pissed.