Tag Archives: parenthood

A Beautiful, Ordinary Day

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Grass was cut, four loads of laundry washed,
folded and tucked away, the dog was walked,
bills paid, errands run, three pharmacies phoned,
rugs vacuumed, Deebot dismantled and cleaned
and reassembled but still stubbornly suction-free,
workout completed, dinner cooked,
kitchen tidied, and children chatted up.

No illnesses or injuries and trips
to the emergency room, no awful news,
no meltdowns, no car trouble, no impossible
gauntlet of a schedule to try and maneuver,
no wasted time in circular phone menus,
no unpleasant encounters, no regrettable
food or fashion choices made, no puppy
accidents to clean up, no doctor’s
appointments or lab work drawn,
not one single thing was broken
– physically or emotionally.

Day 19

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Just LIke You

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I was not born with preternatural patience, or designed
with a temperament well suited to long stays in hospitals,
or a back better tailored for the rigors of countless nights
spent in bedside sleep chairs. I didn’t have an aptitude
for biological or psychological sciences and, in fact, actively spent
my younger years recoiling from any unpleasant bodily fluids
produced by others — like stomach bile and blood, feces
and vomit. I couldn’t even manage to stare down my own
stitched up wounds after surgeries or wash away the dried blood
from healing incisions. I had no special affinity for the medical
fields and disliked chemistry class. I was the wanderer

in the woods. The girl writing poetry in the lilac hedge. I dreamed
of being a reporter and novelist, raising two children, named
Casey and Zenobia, and taking them backpacking in Central
America. They would be precocious free-thinkers, tiny
social activists who lived their convictions. They would challenge
me intellectually, morally, and emotionally. I would watch
them storm with confidence into their wide-open world.

But I don’t get to craft the storyline of my actual life.
This is no tidy fiction or poem to be worked out neatly. Swirls
of genes and forces of nature and economy hold sway. I get
what I am given when it comes to DNA and health. My choice
is how to lift and carry every interesting abundance offered.
Other than being gifted the privilege of parenting children
with special needs, there is nothing special about me.
My children are not my children because I was well suited
to meet their needs. I have learned on the job, like every parent,
how best to help my children be their best. Or at least to aim
for that mark. Time on task has taught me how to keep
my medically fragile child alive, how to function on regular,
daily doses of restricted sleep, how to hold down a job
outside of my home while being a full-time medical manager
for my high needs honeys, how to bake cakes and change g-tubes.

I am just like you.

Every day, I choose.

Day 10

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

Mothering

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She wished their lives
were filled with coconut covered
bunny cakes. That most days
were consumed with coloring
Easter eggs and running
on soccer fields. Mother/
daughter pedicures were
inked into the monthly
calendar. They all snuggled
up for Saturday movie nights.
Once a week, they hosted
a family game night. Everyone
helped prepare meals:
chopping, sautéing, stirring.
When any one of them hurt,
the others circled up, provided
comfort and encouragement.
They ate most every meal
at the same table at the same
time. She wished she could
spend all her time planning
adventures instead of scheduling
medical appointments, doling out
kisses rather than pills.

NaPoWriMo Day 11

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