Tag Archives: family

Astro Was Too Difficult to Say

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I searched for you
wanted to bring you home
and into our hearts
give my children something I never had
help them learn about dogged devotion,
joy, attachment
the responsibility that inevitably comes with love

I didn’t expect your moose-iness
or that you’d be part muppet, part Barry White
or that my son would want to die if you did
that he would create a whole religion based
off of your patience and unwavering fidelity
that when the world became far too overwhelming
the only chance he had to regain peace
was waiting in the fur of your neck
and the deep quiet of your dark eyes

NaPoWriMo Day 30

Make It Count

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Every miserable day
and good one
near the water
or in a hospital
I try
I try
I try
My manta of gratitude
for functioning legs and serotonin uptake
quiet moments
and every last hug
for a soundtrack
and friendship
and good enough health
for those I love to make it to sunset
then sunrise
Repeat
Repeat
Repeat
Chaos and uncertainty
are too tight socks
pinching circulation
and leaving deep ruts
but limbs intact
if a tad blue
When I manage to roll them off
a more seamless state slowly returns
The heart relentless
doing its work
Pushing
Pushing
Pushing

NaPoWriMo Day 27

Wake and Embrace

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(World Autism Awareness Day)

In the spin of your DNA
we handed off plenty
unintended delights and equally unintended glitches:
the soft blue of your eyes
and misaligned bite
bad cholesterol
paired with unbreakable bones
admirable height
along side an uncertain pancreas
prolific whiskers
and dark blond hair
a steady heartbeat
supporting shy veins

All this I see
and feel gratitude for every unremarkable and astounding attribute
shake my head and sigh
about those less than ideal items
that have floated along the gene pool
and may eventually bloom in your frame
as part of our heritage

All blameless and natural as breath:
a propensity for developing auto-immune disorders
the history of strokes, faltering hearts, and cancer as we age

All this I see
and may even apologize for unwittingly passing along some physical flaws
yet know with certainly I am powerless to control the DNA
good or bad
that molds your body

So why is it I feel so differently about your mind
and your mental health?

Why am I eviscerated with guilt
over the genetic code
that dictated the formation of your neural pathways?

It too was constructed from the same cluster of cells
that left your skin fair
and makes your smile dazzling

I had no more control over if you inherited
genes for addiction or OCD
or a brain built non-standard
than I did over the shape of your thumbs

Perhaps I’m plagued by doubt and guilt
because I’m told almost daily
that psychological differences or mental health issues
are a character weakness or parenting failure
something you choose to indulge
versus something as biological as diabetes
or neurological as Parkinson’s

We are judged
minute by minute
by those who have no idea
how horrifyingly impossible it is for you
to often hear the actual words that people speak
because those words and their intended meaning
are being drowned out or altered by the emotions you are feeling

Or by people who struggle to understand
why you are entirely incapable of concentrating
because the seam of your sock
is pushing into your toes
and the sensation is so overwhelming
that you can’t think of anything else

And that much of the time when you are in public
you are able to converse with ease
make eye contact
and act very like the people around you
so people assume that you should be able to do that all of the time
and if not all of the time
at least most of the time
and that if you don’t behave in a way perceived as rational
it must then be your free choice
instead of your body’s will

My perfectly imperfect, beautiful child
who is no less or no more than every other child and ancestor
who like us all carries both darkness and light
and just like everyone is challenged and gifted
may the world rise to meet and embrace you
offer you kindness even when you confound them
may everyone wake and become aware
that although you may not always be predictable
or conduct yourself in a way people may fully understand
that you have much to contribute
and are eager to find your place and acceptance
that your existence makes all our lives richer
you, as you were made, are worthy and wonderful
may you love and be loved
for the remarkable person you are

 

NaPoWriMo Day 2

Got You

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It was not the usual way. There was not nine months to prepare, but rather three days.

When the adoption agency called and told me there was a baby girl, born, in the PICU, and did we want to be her parents?, that was the moment I became Sierra’s mom. Not later, after we saw her for the first time at the hospital. Not even after that when we had to give the adoption agency our final decision — were we willing to adopt this tiny baby whose life had started off with so many challenges? This baby girl who got pneumonia the day she was born, who couldn’t suck on a bottle without choking, who had received no prenatal care, whose birth mother was developmentally challenged, who the very-experienced-PICU-nurse told us had something seriously wrong with her even though tests were not yet identifying any major health issues, whose birth family had a history of significant medical and developmental challenges, whose birth father and ethnicity was listed as unknown.

I became a mom the moment I heard that voice on the phone say, “It’s a girl. She was born about two weeks ago.” Everything after that didn’t matter. Everything after that was just what happened next to our family. Yes, we agonized, in a way, over the decision for the first few days before we were allowed to sign the official paperwork and take Sierra home from the hospital. We were fearful, like any new parents, about the health and well-being of our newborn. But never once did I ever feel any desire to walk away from something I could have walked away from. We were not legally obligated at these early points to parent this child, certainly not at the inquiry call, or the follow up call once our pediatrician talked to the doctors caring for Sierra, or even once we first saw her and realized much of the information we’d been told on the phone was not accurate (such as the baby weighed 7 lbs at full-term birth; she was barely 7 lbs at three weeks when we first met her. She weighed 5 lbs when born). Yet, it didn’t matter. None of it mattered. She was my daughter from the moment I heard the words, “She’s born.” I loved this nameless, faceless, genetically unrelated, and still unknown baby fiercely, before I ever saw her hazel eyes and auburn hair.

I felt it. I felt motherhood. I felt it in the stillness that folded around me in my busy, noisy office where I took the call from the adoption agency that told me she was born. I knew it by the way my breath left my body and I didn’t need to draw more oxygen into my lungs for days – not until I finally got to see my baby and lift her up in my rock-steady hands and rest her sweet head on my shoulder. These hands knew preemies well, having helped my sister care for her preemie twins when I was a teenager. I saw my daughter, held my daughter, for the first time two days after I became her mother; took her home from the hospital three days after we met.

My husband and I had just three days and two nights to transition our lives and our home from childless to child-centered. We’d drive from Baltimore to Prince George’s Hospital every day to visit Sierra for as long as staff would let us stay — and stop at Babies R Us on the way home to buy as much infant gear as we could stuff into our car each trip: a crib, changing table, glider rocker and ottoman, onesies, rattles, bottles, diapers, booties, sleepers, stroller, sheets, pacifiers, diaper genie, car seat…

When we’d arrive home with the bounty each night, we’d spend the rest of the evening assembling everything and setting up the nursery. It was just us. We had no family in the state, no church home, and few available friends as we were relatively recent transplants to the area.

As we’d build the furniture, we’d turn over every medical opinion and report we’d heard that day about the health of our daughter. We’d spin it around and around like screws into misfitting pilot holes. The information was confusing and troubling, flat out frightening at times. This baby had yet to pass through our front door or rest her body on these newly-purchased giraffe-speckled crib sheets, but she couldn’t have been more our own. We agonized over her potential future, like any new parent who had been told their newborn may be at risk for… What? Some vaguely awful uncertainty. We worried for her, but I sought to adopt, in addition to my baby girl, my Grandma Jo’s advice to ‘not borrow trouble.’ So began this parenting journey of dealing with whatever this particular moment offered, reveling it or reviling it accordingly, but keeping the focus on right here, right now. (…there is no other place I’d rather be :))

My baby girl made me her mother the minute I knew she existed. Later, when I gave birth to a son, it was clear to me that love arrived no differently. Not with adoption. Not with birth. I’d always suspected that and claimed as much, but how could I really know, until I had experienced becoming a parent both ways? How your child comes into your life is irrelevant. That they do, is all that truly matters.

As to the rest, what happens, happens. Parents dream of bringing a healthy child into their home. Dream of the best possible outcome for the baby. Want the world for their child, and hope that the world will always be kind and generous and gracious to their offspring. Some get mostly that, others don’t. We are all fragile, imperfect beings. Babies arrive DNA already spun and as dads and moms we do your best to help them achieve the most they possibly can with that glorious, preset double helix.

We love them. We love them strand for astounding strand, regardless of how or when or why they arrived in the shelter of our arms and homes and hearts.

I love my daughter, who grows older and yet doesn’t grow up the same way most other children do. Happy 21st Gotcha Day to my remarkable Sierra Jule. Thank you for confirming for me love is love is love is love. That we eventually found each other is what matters. That I get the honor of being your mother…is everything.

 

October 23, 2016
Julie Ayers

Twenty One Days

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You had a different name
penned on the card
affixed to your bassinet

I missed the first three weeks
when your life,
a fine thread, barely held

Those absent days
plagued
seemed endless as space

Impossibly small you
untethered by family love
adrift in vast wards

I didn’t hear your first cry
wrap you in my arms
and nuzzle you close

When your wet, weak lungs
made them intubate
I didn’t know there was a you

Those twenty one days

before we met
before I took my place
before I became your witness

before I acted as your voice
before I first saw and loved you
before I was your mother

Seemed an enormous failure
on my part
to find and protect you

A love feed irrationality
that’s finally begun to ebb slightly
after twenty one years

your mother

 

October 2016
Julie Ayers

How A Mother Makes Her Morning Cup Of Tea

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As the sun rises orange fire
she walks barefoot to the kitchen
in a simple, summer nightgown
washed by years to softness
a faded brown
spotted with small dots
that for some reason make her smile

She sees the dishes
left in the sink by small hands and large
a cereal bag, half full
resting against the empty box
glasses on the counter
next to an empty milk jug

Their curly-mammoth of dog
trailing her
she opens the porch door
to let him out in the lushness of dewy grass
fills his bowl with food
and opens the window overlooking the garden

She moves about the kitchen
rinses, repackages, tidies, seals, recycles
loads everyone’s dishes in the dishwasher
wipes the counter
and goes to the basement
to the extra fridge to get a carton of skim
notes it is the last one
and writes “Milk” on the grocery list
when she returns to the kitchen
before pouring some into the steamer

As she puts the milk away
she realizes her daughter has used the last of the chai
goes back to the basement in search of more
remembers the laundry is in the dryer from last night
beach towels from the pool
she pulls them from the machine
folds them
and places them in the waiting beach bag on the floor
scoops the rest of the clothes into the laundry basket
and heads upstairs with the tea
“CHAI” is written emphatically on the list

As she sets down the pen
her mind engages in an unbidden inventory
spotting a gap in open-fridge-image in her head
she picks the pen up again
“Cider,” for her son
she smiles

The box of tea finally in hand
finally open
twenty minutes after her insouciant entrance
into the morning light of the kitchen
she pours the dark liquid
into an ordinary cup and puts it in the microwave
adds a splash of heavy cream to the skim in the steamer
pushes the button until it glows red
the white mass begins its swirl

Chai box placed into the fridge
she stands on tiptoes and reaches
pulls her favorite cup down
from where she’s hidden it
placed high on a shelf
tucked inside of a stack of deep bowls
out of her diminutive daughter’s reach

Something she’s set aside
just for herself
an item that holds
adorned with rich, soft color
tiny, raised dots like Braille

Once filled by tea and milk
the feel of the warmed surface against her palm
like a long-awaited caress

An oasis
sometimes as ethereal as a mirage
her moment to sit
and sip alone
with thoughts of nothing less
than sunrise and birdsong

She can’t bear to think of it dropped
one more piece potentially lost
to the demands and confusing chaos of family

In her mothering world of limitless care
and constant nurture
which she embraces and willfully chooses daily
she holds this
unbroken

 

July 3, 2016
Julie Ayers

The Packaging

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Everyone had their favorite box.
Boxes dating back generations
passed on in wills and as gifts.
From small, ornate, metal ring boxes
to humidor-like wooden boxes.
An antique, oak box with lock and key.
One box beautifully carved and finished,
boosting the nameplate “Rose.”
A sprinkling of more obvious jewelry boxes
and yellowing hat boxes from the 1800s.

How did a family ever accumulate so many boxes?
Was there some genetic compulsion to seek them out
and possess them?
Or did the boxes speak more
to generation upon generation
of family members who had been taught
how to encase the mundane to the horrific
in a sturdy layer of lovely?

 

Julie Ayers
NaPoWriMo Day 13