BUSY IN BRISTOW: Mother’s Day Blessings

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there … today is your day! Hopefully, you’re getting a break … you’re not cooking, or cleaning or you’ve chosen to go to your favorite restaurant for Sunday brunch, or you’re sitting with your family at church receiving a blessing.

I talked to one mom last week who said she’d be celebrating with her mother and her grandmother, so three generations of women put forth their ideas of what would make their day perfect and planned together. Because we don’t live closer to extended family, we don’t have generations to celebrate with, but I do get to tailor craft the day to my own likes. So today we will be sleeping in, and I’ll write my column while drinking quantities of coffee; then, we’ll go on a hike, visit a winery, and attend evening mass. A few years ago, we visited Ticonderoga Farms where the kids got to go on slides all day while I enjoyed them enjoying themselves, but I decided that today we’d do more grown up things.

Although I’m one of those bookish moms who sometimes grumbles that I don’t get enough peace and quiet to read, I am also one of those moms who almost didn’t get to be a mother at all, so feelings of gratitude are just a quick stroll down Infertility Memory Lane. Our first baby would have been born in November of 1999, but I had a miscarriage in April near the end of the first trimester. I was 27 years old, and after grieving and giving my body time to heal, we began to try again thinking it wouldn’t take long to conceive a second time.

Meanwhile, my friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and every stranger I bumped into on the street was pregnant. After four years of trying to get pregnant, I began to hate these women. It got to the point where I couldn’t attend another baby shower or show one more sign of happiness for a woman who announced she was expecting. I began to run during this time in my life, and with each new period, I ran harder, punishing my body for not doing what every other woman’s body did with ease.

After a year of trying without medical help, we went through the gauntlet of tests at the gynecologist’s office before heading to a specialist. We spent another year with the specialist – got referred to a second specialist before heading back to the first – and finally, they suggested IVF, which I did not want to do because it went against Church teachings. At this time, we also began researching adoption, and we got as far as linking up with a woman who was giving birth to girl twins. The day before we were to travel to South Carolina to pick the twins up, the lawyer called and told us she’d decided to go with a couple who lived closer and who had agreed to an open adoption. This disappointment led to our recklessness.

A month after the door shut on the twins we’d expected to adopt, we signed papers with an international adoption agency and started the process of IVF. Both avenues produced children: we brought our Oldest Son home from Russia on September 4, 2004, when I was just finishing up my first trimester. When the doctor told us we were going to have twins in the spring of 2005, we didn’t think about how crazy it would be having three children in the space of nine months. We just collapsed into giggles that we were finally forming the family we’d dreamed of since 1999.

My first Mother’s Day, I smiled all day long even though I worked all day long too. Oldest Son was an active 3-year-old (he was 2 ½ when we adopted him), our boy/girl twins were two months old, and since there were two babies, both my husband and I were always on the go.

Since then, things have slowed down physically, but now the pace of life has picked up with what I’d call “real parenting.” The kids relied on us for staying alive back when they were toothless and defenseless, but now they rely on us for their development as human beings: easier on the body but harder on the spirit. And as most of you who read my column know, we added a fourth child to our family in the spring of 2008: Youngest Daughter came to us via a phone call from Social Services. My sister couldn’t take care of her baby, and she was in Foster Care. Oldest Son was in Kindergarten, and the twins were almost three years old. Sure, why not? When you have three young children, what’s one more?

So on this Mother’s Day, you can see what this day means to me. Yes, I sometimes miss the quiet of those early days my husband and I shared, and it does take me a lot longer to write this short column – being interrupted a dozen times while writing it. But Memory Lane provides me with the heartache of What Was – the expectation of children who never came to us – and the laughter of other people’s children when we had none … the lingering sadness that we’d never get to look into the eyes of a baby or a toddler or a school-age child who would look back at us with the unconditional love reserved for imperfect parents like myself.

Whenever things get too busy and too crazy in our house, which is most of the time, and I feel like I just can’t keep up, that no matter how hard I work, or try, it’s never quite enough, I remember how hard we tried to have a family and how it almost didn’t happen. I also realize – with one part nostalgia, one part panic, and one part astonishment – how quickly they are all growing up. Whatever else I’m doing – be it reading, writing, teaching, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring – I see that the only moment to live in is the one we’ve got right now, so this is my Mother’s Day wish to you … that you live each moment fully present with the children who bless you with their presence. What a gift that is.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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