Daughters and sons

According to Facebook, it was National Daughter’s Day. It was sweet; seeing all the pictures of other people’s daughters and the lovely sentiments people wrote put a smile on my face. I love seeing my Facebook friend’s kids’ triumphs and mini-milestones: first days of school, dance recitals, homecomings and proms. And I don’t even hate made up holidays like National Donut Day (because, donuts!) and National Cat Day (because, cats!) But National Daughter Day hit me in a weird place.

Because I will never have a daughter.

I have an incredibly smart, talented, and beautiful niece who is my Goddaughter. I have anot her funny, spirited, and gorgeous niece who lights up my life. I treasure my time with these two lovely ladies like nothing else.

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But I will never have a daughter.

There was a time in my life when the boys were small and I was in a loving relationship when I thought that another child was surely in my future. I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted another child, but in my heart I thought it was in the cards for me. It may not have been a daughter. But it could have been.

Now, I’m at the age where having a baby isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, but it is highly improbable. It is also improbable that were I to get pregnant that the pregnancy would be smooth and easy given my past history. This wasn’t something I thought much about or dwelled on until today. Until I saw what I wasn’t going to have.

Being the mom of sons is phenomenal. Nobody loves a mom like her son, right? Right. And wrong.

Daughters aren’t easy to raise. I should know, I was one of them. I even made it a point to thank my mom on my last birthday for not leaving me by the side of the road for the gypsies even though I am sure the thought crossed her mind once or a thousand times.

Girls have hormones and drama. Girls have attitudes and catfights. Girls spend a good part of their tweendom being ridiculously self-centered little creatures. When I found out I was having boys, I was relieved. Until I discovered that boys have all of the above too.

But I’ll never know what it’s like to help pick out that perfect outfit. I won’t get the joy and pride of seeing my baby girl do and be all of the things she will grow to do and be as she becomes a woman. There will be no mini-me. I won’t be able to sit and relate to that young woman as she slowly realizes what it has been like to be her mom, to be a woman, to do what we mothers do day in and day out. I won’t have late night confessions and conversations, I won’t cry on her wedding day. I won’t know the joy of watching my daughter grow into the woman I knew she’d be.

I have my nieces. And my cousins’ baby girls. I will watch them grow and love them fiercely. I will enjoy the quiet times of coloring and playing with dollies and learning about music and playing sports and listening about friends, and school, and makeup. I will take joy in their accomplishments. I will build them up and remind them that they come from a long line of super strong women in a family pretty much dominated by super strong women.

My role is to be the aunt and Godmother and cousin of girls, my surrogate “daughters”, but I am the mother of sons.

I know I am lucky to be a mother at all. I will not squander my blessings by wishing I also had a daughter to spoil and love. My two precious boys need to be raised to be strong, loving, creative, smart, funny, capable young men. They will learn this from me. It is hard though, sometimes, to admit that I long for the love of a daughter. That sometimes I feel ill-equipped to deal with the raising of sons that I so wantonly embraced. That maybe, just maybe, it would have been easier to have girl children. At least I would know a little more about what they were going through.

I’ve learned that being a tomboy as a child does not prepare one for the physical energy of boys. I’ve learned that as much as I love boys and love sports and the outdoors and Harry Potter and Star Wars, there are some things I just don’t understand about boys.

I cannot imagine my life without my sons. I would not trade them for daughters. I guess I always assumed my life would contain both. When I found out I was having twins, I kind of thought maybe there would be one of each and that would be that. I’m glad that God knows better than I do.

Apparently, I was not meant to be the mother of a daughter. I just need to work on being the best daughter I can be. And make sure I raise the best sons I can.

Perhaps, someday FAR in the future, I will be rewarded with a granddaughter. Until then, I will delight in the daughters of the world including my nieces–the sunshine of my days.

Happy National Daughter’s Day (because, daughters!)

One-Liner Wednesday– On raising capable children

If you would have your son to walk honorably through the world, you must not attempt to clear the stones from his path, but teach him to walk firmly over them – not insist upon leading him by the hand, but let him learn to go alone.

– Anne Bronte


Join Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday! Pithy wisdom and laughs every week.

An hour in the life

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What does a single mom do when she is presented with an hour in which both of her children are out of the house with Grandma? Well, if she is like me, she frantically puts the groceries away, mindful that precious minutes are slipping away. She bought herself a piece of crumb cake to eat, with some afternoon coffee before her cleansing diet begins tomorrow, and the idea of sitting down with cake and coffee on a Sunday afternoon is like pure heaven. Maybe she’ll even read one of the 12 magazines that has been piling up unread. Of course, putting food in the fridge means weeding out some of the unfortunate pieces of food that didn’t make it: that rock-hard piece of cheese and shriveled up piece of ham at the bottom of the cold cuts drawer and the very sad wilted spinach that never made it into the smoothies we planned to make, along with the kale that is turning yellow. There’s some old, almost-gone mayonnaise that needs to get tossed too, but now the garbage is overflowing. So, she’ll take out the garbage and replace the bag and grab the overflowing plastic bag that is hanging on the doorknob with recyclables and head out to take care of business. There is still plenty of time for that cake if she hurries. After coming back in from trash duty, she remembers the laundry. Luckily, there is a basket in which to empty the dry clothes so that the wet ones can go right in the dryer. She mentally gives herself extra bonus points for remembering to turn the dryer on and then wonders what the hell those bonus points will ever be good for. Points, points, points are all her children seem to respond to, but those chore charts are brutal. She never gets any rewards, just more work. She makes a mental note to try again, though, because it sure would be nice to have some cooperation around here. With the washing machine empty and begging for more clothes, she sprints up the stairs and into one of her sons’ room for his basket. It is super full and she feels her back protest as she lifts it up. Maybe she’ll eat cake with a heating pad on her back. She brings the basket downstairs and begins to load up the machine knowing that it isn’t all going to fit, but shoving it in anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? Oh Jesus, the last thing she needs is for that washing machine to break. Well, she figures, that is what the “super plus” setting is for, right? All the clothes basically fit and she turns it on. Runs up stairs with the full basket of clean clothes and puts it next to the other basket of clean clothes that needs folding. Glances at the pile of magazines that have been piling up for the last month and wonders why she ever thought that she would have time to read those. She feels the urge to pee and wonders if she can hold it because, you know, cake, and if the boys come home before she has had time to eat the cake, they will try to wheedle their way into having her share. But nature calls and when you have had twins, you don’t disregard the call of nature lest you wind up peeing your pants if you happen to sneeze. So, she takes the minute to use the bathroom which then leads to cleaning up the disarray from the morning’s rush out the door to church. And picking up the dirty clothes left from showers. Back into the laundry pile that seems suspiciously large since she literally JUST put the laundry into the washing machine. Are the dirty clothes breeding? A quick glance at the clock tells her that regardless of what the clothes are doing, she needs to sit down and eat that damn cake. So she pours a cup of coffee and says a prayer of gratitude for the person who invented Keurig. Sitting down at the table brings on some anxiety as there are bills and mail and leftover Halloween candy and the empty bags from the shopping trip and the computer; the computer that sits and looks at her and says, “you really should be writing your novel, you know”. She nods at it and takes a bite of the coffee cake. It IS heavenly. The coffee is hot. She is drinking hot coffee! This really doesn’t happen when you have kids. You may take a sip of hot coffee, or two, but the next time you remember your coffee it has gone cold. You’ll drink it anyway, of course, but hot coffee and cake, in relative silence save for the hard-working washing machine, is really where it is at. She sighs and gives in to the lure of the computer. She briefly wonders if she should take a few minutes to lay down and nap. She thinks about sweeping the floor. The cat meows. A car door slams. Time’s up.

Flashback

This time 9 years ago I was lying in a hospital bed crying. Everything was too much. I had spent 60 days lying around medicated to keep my preterm labor at bay and the doctors had agreed to take me off the medication at 35 weeks and let nature take its course. When nothing transpired after a few hours, the doctors joked that maybe the babies had gotten comfortable and would stay the 40 weeks after all. Hahahahahaha…no.

I was enormous and miserable. My back hurt, my legs and feet were swollen, and the thought of eating made me sick. I just wanted to give birth. But as with the 9 weeks before, I also didn’t want to give birth and have there be complications with the babies. I was between the proverbial rock and the hard place. I received an email from the boys’ father informing me that he wouldn’t be participating in our lives any longer. Not that he had been the doting father-to-be up until that moment, but there had been brief periods of hope on my part that it may all work out the way I thought I wanted it to: two happy, loving parents and two happy, healthy baby boys.

But that night my future was so uncertain, my emotions so erratic, that I couldn’t see how it would all be OK. My happily ever after seemed so very far away.

The prior few weeks my San Diego friends (read: ANGELS) had been working hard to assure a happily ever after scenario for the boys and me. They cleaned and organized my house. They set up the nursery. They fed my cats. They took care of my mail. They brought me meatballs (I was a vegetarian, but hey, the babies wanted what they wanted!) They brought me toothpaste, books, movies, funny stories, company, “happy hour”, music, and burritos. They did my laundry and my errands. They took care of my car; installed the baby seats, got an oil change, and a tune-up. My friends and family from further away kept me supplied with magazines and movies and emails and phone calls and prayers and well wishes.

Don’t cry, the one night nurse told me, then your babies will be sad and cry all the time too. Awesome. I was fucking up my kids while they were still in the womb. Great job, mommy. I couldn’t manage to keep them in my body properly. I couldn’t manage my roller coaster of emotions, from the moment I found out I was pregnant to all the ups and downs of my ridiculously unstable relationship. The doctors warned me constantly that I was at risk to give birth at any time and that the boys would likely have lifelong health problems if that happened. I needed to be grateful that they were still inside my body baking (and I was!) But I was also terrified. And miserable. And excited. And depressed. And oh-so-gigantic. I couldn’t really move without pain. But I was lucky. And I knew I was lucky. But sometimes, like this night 9 years ago, it was hard not to lose sight of all that grace and just feel the “whys”. Why can’t this be a little easier? Why did I bring this all on myself? Why does it have to suck so badly? Why can’t I just have it go my way?

I don’t remember if I cried myself to sleep. I do remember that I stayed up until my last monitoring which had to be just before midnight. Sometimes I would try to sleep before the nurse would come in and barely acknowledge the routine of trying to find the heartbeats and strapping the contraction monitor on me. I think I was hoping for some sign that the last 9 weeks of being in the hospital on medication had been necessary. That the boys would have come and it would have been disastrous. That now the medication was out of my system, my body was free to do what it had been trying to do all along…get those babies born.

But the night nurse cheerfully told me all was quiet. And repeated the doctor’s joke about them happily staying put for the next 5 weeks. Wasn’t I lucky? Yup. Super lucky. Miserable and fat and in pain, but very blessed thank you very much. Now get out.

Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning I had to get myself out of bed and waddle to the bathroom. This was no easy feat. I had to rock myself back and forth a little to get the leverage to sit up. Ridiculous. Anyway, I remember going to the bathroom thinking how lousy I felt. Wondering how I would make it through another day. Thinking now I had to deal with a stomachache and cramps on top of everything else. Terrific! I waddled my sick body back to bed and hoped that there was still an hour or more I could try to sleep before the morning nurse came in. I dozed, but didn’t sleep and I didn’t feel great. At no point did it occur to me I had started going into labor. After all that waiting and wishing, you’d think I would have clued in. But no. It was only when the morning nurse came in to monitor me that it became clear: the contractions had begun and the babies were coming.

I was thrilled and scared, but so very ready. I made sure they called my doctor right away. She had said she didn’t want me to labor too long because they had already determined I needed to have a C-section and they didn’t want to risk either of the babies getting into distress and causing an unnecessary emergency after all the caution we had exercised over the previous two months. I remember speaking to the doctor on the phone and hearing the most delightful words I had ever heard: “Today is a good day to be born”. And then the wait began.

After 9 weeks, you wouldn’t think 8 hours would seem so long. But it did. I called my mom and sister and dad. I talked to my local friends who were on standby. Two of my angels agreed to come and be in the delivery room with me. One of them called the father and let him know he was about to miss out on the most important day of his life. He agreed to come. He agreed to come and stay. To once again attempt to put it all behind us and really be a part of this. It was happening. One of my favorite nurses was on hand in the afternoon to help me get prepped for surgery. She was none too happy to hear that “papa” would be around, but told me to focus on nothing but the babies. I followed her advice. Nothing else mattered.

Once we were in the OR, I was happy I had asked a friend of mine to print out my Will. Suddenly, I had this horrible feeling like I had served my purpose. I had done a terrible job being pregnant, but now the babies were finally coming, and I might not make it through the ordeal. I had already had a horrible reaction to the medication they had first used to stop my preterm labor and in general, I do not do well with anesthesia and drugs. After they had given me the spinal, I had this pain in my neck and I was hot and cold and nauseous and could feel pretty much everything and was convinced something was about to go terribly wrong.

I tried not to panic. They gave me more drugs and I became completely numb. He who shall not be named was in the OR with me. He had shown up after all and I was grateful for a hand to clutch. The actual surgery was a little surreal. I could hear the doctors chatting. I could feel the pushing and pulling on my belly. I kept asking if they were coming and what could he see. Finally, I heard something: a faint cry and the doctor held G up for me to see and then whisked him away. And then seemingly an instant later, C was held up for me to look at and taken away just as quickly.

By that time, I was sobbing. With joy, relief, and a million other emotions I couldn’t name then or now. I kept asking, are they OK? Where are they? Can I see them? It seemed like an eternity before they brought them over to me, but I was so drugged up I couldn’t hold them. I had to wait. They eventually wheeled me into the recovery room where at least most of my upper body movement returned. And then the sweetest moment of my whole life.

holding my babies for the first time

holding my babies for the first time

This was just the beginning of our story. And every year from July 12 (the day I was hospitalized) through their birthday I start thinking about how differently our story could have ended. How there are so many people who made sure we survived. I wrote something on Facebook a few years ago which really sums it up and acknowledges those angels who made it happen. And since then, we have continued to attract amazing and wonderful friends into our lives. The boys are surrounded by good friends with good families who are always willing to help us out. Our family continues to be the rock to which we cling for safety and security, without whom, we could not be where we are today.

9 years ago tonight, I felt so desperate and sad and just wished I knew it would all turn out OK. I now wish that scared, lonely mama-to-be could have caught a glimpse of her amazing future.

Here’s an excerpt from the note in 2011:

But luckily, God had a plan. It was a very intricate plan and one I still don’t fully understand the meaning behind, but a few things I know. God gave me twin boys so that G and C would ALWAYS have each other no matter what. They would never have to be alone. And God made sure that I was surrounded by angels so that I would be able to get through those first few days, weeks, months and learn that I could do it on my own…with a little help from my friends (and family).

I try to thank these angels personally at least once a year to let them know I haven’t forgotten. It has been on my mind a lot lately. And for these and so many other things I want to thank:

Danielle Tannourji & Bo Diklich for taking me in and giving me a home until I had my babies, being there when they were born, and helping me out every chance you got after they arrived.

Gina Frazier, Laura Whelan, Kim Berry for keeping me company in the hospital, washing untold amounts of baby clothes, bringing me burritos and having game nights while the babies were sleeping and in general, relaxing the “no babies club” rules.

Dustin Schueneman for being the “fairy buddha father”, cooking us meals, and for showing up that very first night and bringing me pizza and watching the boys so i could take a shower, for sleeping over when they first got their shots and I was worried that they’d get sick.

Katie & Gary Grisko for helping to prepare my house and car so that I could bring my precious cargo home, for keeping my spirits up, for not thinking i was too crazy and printing out the will at the last minute and for the very important job of actually BRINGING US HOME!!!(along with Tami Reano who provided extra support)

Blair & Rob Mitchell who were also part of the “preparation” crew and Blair who literally swooped in and organized my life the next day when I thought I might drop from exhaustion, letting me sleep and waking up to a clean house, groceries ordered, happy babies and positive outlook.

Joel Williams for his help with the house and making sure I always had a smile on my face and making my return to work that much easier.

Joe Ueno for showing up that first day and getting me my medicine that I so desperately needed.

Jerry Garrett & Eric Zeiner for taking care of my OTHER babies while I was in the hospital.

Ace Pemble,Toutu & Ken Gold, Uschi & Jeremy Morris, Heather Domenico, Bonita Patterson, Vanessa & Michael Spencer, and Jenny & David Brumley for providing so much support both while I was in the hospital and in the months to follow, allowing me to get my strength back and to know that I had such amazing people on my side.

David Sarlo, my most loving cousin and amazing Uncle David to the boys, for too many moments to count.

Obviously, there are so many more people to thank in the roles that they’ve played in the boys’ lives and in mine. My family and friends who lived outside of San Diego have provided so much moral support and visits and advice and love. But the angels in San Diego that God sent to me deserve this special shout out tonight, six years later, because I truly couldn’t have done it without you. It really does take a village. And I am stronger for it and a better mom for it and I believe that as I’ve faced these years as a “single” parent one of the important things I’ve learned is that none of us is ever truly alone if you’ve got a friend and sometimes just knowing that is enough to get you through anything!

“Single Mom”: Dirty (and Inadequate) Words

Single mom. A phrase that carries with it so many stereotypes and mixed connotations. It is alternately used as praise and condemnation. If a child gets into trouble, the fact that he or she is raised by a single mom will surely be pointed out, and more than likely pointed to, as the reason for his or her behavior. And there is always an extra note of triumph in the success stories of adults who were raised by a single mom, as if their achievements are even more remarkable because of it. Admittedly, there is also often a sense of awe that being a single mom inspires. I sometimes feel this is unwarranted, after all, being a mom is awe-inspiring whether you are single or not. However, being praised and acknowledged is obviously better than being treated as a scourge on society, so I’ll accept the compliments uttered in wonder that I “do it all” on my own.

Either way, being a single mom is more than being a statistic, more than the left-handed (or right-handed) compliments, and more than media and political hype. It is more than the news stories and small-town gossip. It is more than the scarlet letter people tend to pin on us and more than what people assume about us. Being a single mom is more than the label itself.

Being a single mom is having double the love and half of the money.

Being a single mom means having to make all the hard decisions and living with doubt that you are making the right ones.

Being a single mom means saying “no” to things when you really wish you could say “yes”.

Being a single mom means saying “yes” when you shouldn’t because you are so tired of saying “no”.

Being a single mom is holding your child in the middle of the night when they are scared or sick and knowing that you wouldn’t trade places with another human for anything.

Being a single mom means feeling guilty for ordering pizza when you just can’t cook a meal after a long day of work or serving peanut butter and jelly because you can’t afford pizza.

Being a single mom means accepting money and hand-me-downs from people and letting gratitude and pride duke it out in your head. (Spoiler alert: gratitude wins)

Being a single mom is having a heart full to bursting as you watch your child grow and learn and succeed and you know that you are doing everything right.

Being a single mom is also having a heavy heart as you watch your child struggle and fail and you are sure you are doing everything wrong.

Being a single mom means Father’s Day could comfortably fall off the calendar.

Being a single mom means that every person you date will be seen through highly discriminating eyes.

Being a single mom means that those same eyes are going to be even more scrutinous toward the dates of your children.

Being a single mom is simultaneously feeling like you have something and nothing to prove to the world.

Being a single mom means that church can be painful.

Being a single mom is feeling like a failure and a rock star within the same day, sometimes within the same hour.

Being a single mom means cringing when someone mentions discussing a family decision over with “your husband”.

Being a single mom means double cringing when someone asks your children about their father.

Being a single mom means that there are going to be some very lonely, difficult, and dark nights of the soul.

Being a single mom also means you will experience fulfillment and satisfaction you didn’t know was possible.

Being a single mom means being resourceful, outspoken, independent, tired, upbeat, and hopeful.

Being a single mom means eating the food left over on your child’s plate and maybe nothing else.

Being a single mom is wearing the same shoes until they fall apart so that your kids can have new sneakers.

Being a single mom means sometimes a clean house is not a priority.

Being a single mom means haircuts, manicures, and new outfits for you are luxuries.

Being a single mom is sometimes breaking down and admitting how hard this life can be.

Being a single mom means thinking about your kids when you are at work and work when you are with your kids and feeling pulled in a million different directions.

Being a single mom is not the life you once envisioned.

Being a single mom is finding strength you didn’t know you had, humor in the chaos, and a fierce, protective love for the family you have devoted yourself to.

Being a single mom is being the MVP in your child’s life.

God bless all the single moms doing the best they can despite being bombarded by ignorant remarks and attitudes. Like the Peace Corps, this is the toughest job you’ll ever love. Too many women get stuck believing in the bullshit that we hear about single moms and their kids, as if our futures are practically a foregone conclusion. Do not believe it.

Single moms are strong and capable and our children have inherited these traits from us. They will live what they learn and when they learn that determination and hard work pay off because they watch as their parent tirelessly gives and does and advocates and provides for them, they will know that they too can take on the world. Someday, they will thank you. And maybe, just maybe, the world will stop blaming and shaming single moms for everything from gun violence to poverty and instead start encouraging and helping the women who show up every day to do the hard work of raising kids on their own.