Thursday, May 8, 2014

Welcome to WHAT?

Today the rain is drenching my garden, drawing the deepest, most vibrant colours to the surface of every leaf and petal even as the soft grey skies quiet and dull them to a wet May hush.  The baby sleeps and the biggest is off at school, living little details I will never know because "good" and "nice" and "so-so" is what she usually has to say about that.  

And in these little quiet spaces, it occurs to me - I hope I remember this.  Some weeks I work over 70 hours, patch-worked into odd schedules so that I can be home with m'ladies from Monday to Friday.  The days "off" sometimes feel like breaking the surface only to take a wild gulp of clean, sane, loving air before sinking again into the chaos.   

Every so often I feel a sense of alarm at how rapidly it all races by.  When did my sweet little girl turn into a long, lean-limbed school aged kid?  When did my baby start talking in sentences?  Everyone says it goes by so fast - but - it goes by so fast!

And so I hope I remember all the lovely little things.  This base-level happy, full-heartedness that exists in each day, because that is what they bring to it.  Even though that contented, deep-rooted lovey feeling of LOVE-on-bath-salts can splinter in a nanosecond into a thousand shards of irritated desperation by one little supposed-to-be-asleep voice, "Mamaaaaaaa?" But as soon as each miniature crisis is calmed and sanity is somehow restored, it is there again - the hum of happy love rushing through it all.  

I want to remember her at five.  How deep in the crook of her neck, if I sniff deeply I can still catch the faint smell of her babyhood.  How she adores me as much as she is indifferent to me as much as she is outraged by me handing her the milk for her cereal, "WHAT?!  Do you think I can't do ANYTHING?!  DO. YOU. THINK. I'M A BABY?!"  

"Watch, Mom.  Mom - LOOK!  Mom, did you see that?"  Mom - mom, mom, mom forever.  Some days I feel like I stand at the edge of a precipice and if she calls my name one more time I will disappear into the endless vortex of her need.  And other days, I can not get enough of her.  I can't stop noticing how beautiful she is, how sweetly her spirit shines through every articulation of her little body.    

Yesterday we visited her new school - where we will arrive in September and launch her off into her own private world.  No more drawn out mornings, wondering what we will do with ourselves today (not that they feel particularly leisurely, though I suppose they are).  We will be rushing somewhere, always.  No more together all day, save for the 9 whole hours per week she spends at preschool.  No more sisters together for all of the day.  No more "special Mommy time" while the littlest sleeps.  No more life as we have come to know it.

Standing here, in the kindergarten waiting room, knowing these months ahead are full of "lasts" I am full of gratitude.  For every nearly impossible pretzel shape I have twisted myself into to afford my priceless time with her.  Every odd-houred job I have accepted, every wonderful job I have turned down, every house we have chosen not to buy, every conversation that lead us back to the decision to just be with her, with both of them, as much as I possibly can.  I hope it has soaked into her being as much as it has mine, I hope that she is keeping it all, on some level, somewhere with her.  It is my daily practice to "tuck it away" - the hilarious thing she said, the rawness of her truth, the beauty of her in the moment.  

I will be busy, the baby on my hip, a steam scalded hand stirring at the stove, compiling lists in the back of my mind while she brushes up against me for a squeeze or says, "I just love you, Mom." Or, "Mom?  Everyone is different and that is OK with me, and I'm just wondering WHY, when people have an injured brain WHY do they forget to swallow their spit sometimes?  HOW?  Is it OK Mom that I'm asking you that?  I need to ask that."  And I can't put the baby down or let the meal burn, but I tuck it away and hope it survives, lasting inside of me, the purity of her, the enormity of my love, the simplicity of our relationship - because that will change.  I just stand there in the moment with her and try to be there, knowing it is vanishing as I breathe, knowing it was a gift and hoping I am able to properly accept it.      

While we sat in the gymnasium yesterday, listening to her future teachers talk about their intention to begin raising our daughter now, along with us, I felt the grief of letting her go.  My first.  My baby.  I felt very much like a first-time parent again, that unsettling realization of the enormity of the responsibility.  Wondering if we will all survive it.  I felt the same ache I felt as a raddled new mother with a my first tiny baby dependent on my breast, the reluctance to hand her over.  

And, I felt the quietly building excitement of her many firsts waiting for us, just around this corner.  Thank god, because holding in all that grief was beginning to make me gag.  My husband, sensing my many feelings, leaned over and begged me not to embarrass him.  And I really didn't want to be the only mother sobbing at Welcome to Kindergarten and create a reputation for our crew before the first day of school.  

I know she will be fine.  She will be more than fine, my wonderful, morbid, intense, creative, intelligent, talkative, imaginative, bizarre, noisy five year old love.  And I will be fine too.  

It is the endless push-pull negotiation of the heart that is motherhood.  She will always be the force drawing out my vibrant colours, even as the passage of time quiets me to a gentle hush.  And every moment between now and then I hope to be able to stand there, inside the moment with her, wherever she is, holding her close while letting her go.

But for now, we will live our spring and summer of lasts, before we launch into so many firsts.  And I will continue to tie myself in knots to be with her, because nothing is as happy as unwinding myself… in the backyard, laying in the grass, listening to the strange tune of my awesome yodelling child, while she still begins most sentences with the word, "Mom?"    

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Still my Favourite

He's so private, I never write about him.  But, maybe he'll let me this time.

Months ago it occurred to me - Oh!  Remember?  Reading in the bath!  Remember that?  Oh… so, so dreamy…

Motherhood launched me, hard, into a new reality.  One that created a thousand new favourite things, but also left out a few beloved favourites of my former life as well.  Like reading in the bath.

Motherhood of two just launched me harder, faster and farther.  Again, with even more heart-busting favourites created (the oldest singing to the littlest), while a few more favourites got slashed from the realm of possibility.  Like talking to my husband.  Oh, how I miss it.

Pre-children one of my regular lines whenever we were snuggled up cozily together was, "Oooooh!  Imagine if we were in a TENT RIGHT NOW?!"  Because that would be combining two of my favourite things and creating an Ultimate.  If we were snuggling away the "busy-ness" of our former lives (we didn't know yet that we didn't know what busy was), and just being… together, I was thrilled.  But if I could take that coziness and raise it a tent on a secluded beach?  I was blissed.

Now I settle happily (because I assume this is temporary?) for a high five at the end of the day.  If we have enough energy to raise our arms for that long after 7:00pm.

All of our babysitting time is used up on working or errands.  I took a job during his days off to maximize my time with the girls and minimize money spent on childcare.  We now solo-parent for much of the time and have precious little time without an offspring adorable child present.  We are two ships high-fiving in the night.  

And so, from so-close but so, so, so far, I find myself admiring him, vaguely wondering what it would be like to have the energy to have a complete conversation with him.  We sure used to like doing that.   (This is what I do when I'm not busy being annoyed at him, because lets face it, our current pace of life is fertile ground for seriously?).

And I feel compelled to create the bullet list.  And I don't even know yet what I'm going to type but I am certain that most of it is going to be dad-related.  Because that's where we are at right now.  And he is the best.  

Why He's Still my Favourite:

* By the time our first was 2 only he could wash her hair (according to her), because it was their thing (according to him).

* Soleil's first sentence at 16 months old was, "Coffee with Dad?" Because Saturday morning strolls to the coffee shop was their religion, because sleeping in was mine.  Bless them both.

* He makes me laugh.  So much.  And he always gets it.

* Because he has this really weirdly amazing herbaceous smell.  Like cilantro.  I love cilantro.

* We actually argue, and he puts up a good fight and I don't always win, about who gets to comfort the children when they have night terrors.

* Because he has a very special thing (that I'm very jealous of) with Lucy that lulls her into an agreeable state for bedtime.

* He and Soleil have their own little language they speak.

* Because he deals with all the vomit.  Always.

* Because he gets it done.  It never matters what it is.  It is not always done my way (almost never) but it is done and done well, whatever it is.  For him, for me, for the family.  He does it.

* Because he gives the greatest hugs.

* Because I'm fairly certain I could not have birthed either baby without him nuzzled into my neck telling me that he knew I could.

* Because I practice WWHS?  Whenever I get stressed and I can't actually speak to him I ask myself, What Would Hubs Say?  and our imagined conversations calm me down.

* In fact, if I can't come up with a good imagined response (a WWHS failure) I just picture his face and I calm down.  Just the image of his disembodied head floating in my mind's eye is calming.  That is a like a super power.  (His super power for being so calming that I don't even need to imagine the rest of his body or mine for having such potent visualization skills?  I can't decide).

* His obsessive nature.  When it isn't driving me NUTS it sure gets a lot of shit done around here.

* Because he kisses them as much as I do.

* Because I never had to ask him once to clean a single item of pumping equipment during the eternal year of pumping for Lucy.

* Because of everything to do with him and Lucy's eternal first year.

* Because he has a very specific strategy for covering Lucy with a blanket at night that he does not tolerate being violated, it is equal parts OCD neurosis and Dad Instinct combining to create some kind of Crazy Super Dad ritual.  I love it and spy on it regularly.

* Because I find myself constantly craving dates with him, even though that kind of thinking is wishful these days.

* Because he keeps trying.

* Because the girls adore him.

* Because he's there.  Always.  And I know he will be.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


When their blue gazes swim into my own, we begin reeling back in time, and forward, catapulting from forever to always before we blink.  I remember life without them, except, did it really exist?  Were they always there?  I think yes.

Not every dividing mass of cells finds a joyful place to explode into eventual personhood.  Each story filled with complexities as different and similar as the women who would tell them.  

Right now I think of the leagues of women who have been battered by the cruel hand that snatches back what they have so longed for, what they have never even held, what they have cradled and had to let go…  An unthinkable torment.

Rarely have I spoken about my own early losses.  Always needing to qualify: early.  Though sometimes blood is on the tip of my toungue, how I had to flush it all away.  Each time a hot rake across my heart, and how the anger swelled inside my brain, the pressure cutting off my breath, my words.  And finally, perspective would cool my bitter fever… and I would think about the women who lost so much more than blood.  Still I had no words, unsure of where to place my experience within the collective, commonplace tragedies that women have been bearing, like warriors, since forever.  Each one, with her own scars that only she knows.  My hope for each one of them is to find her solace wherever it might be hiding.  Be it in the showing and telling of her scars or her own private ceremonies of the heart… I wish her peace. 

For days all I can think of is a woman I know, not even well, who has carried and tragically lost her sweet babe. 

I think and think of her…  

When she was a young girl, so new to this place, with her hair whipping in the wind, racing down the beach, tossing her laughter up to the gulls ~ she could almost see them…

When she slipped her hand into larger, loving hands ~ she could almost feel them etching themselves into the fine lines of her small palm.

When she was alone, small in her quiet bed ~ she sang and sang to them.  Each day on this earth the songs more her own.  Only later, knowing finally, there is no distinction.

Her child-growth so mighty a job, the earthly moment became her gravitational pull, the force obscuring them from her view.  She straddled her first world and this one for only a breath in the span of a lifetime.  The reminder of origin stirred only by the blessed weight of the babes upon her breast.

There, in those precious few moments of new love collapsing in on itself does she remember and know again the love of an eternity.  Because our babies have raced on the beaches with us, hiding in the wings of gulls.  Our babies have nestled into the lines of our hands, burrowing paths to our hearts and far beyond.  As we rock the fragile bodies on our breasts, we hear the echo of every song we sang to them, to ourselves.  There is no distinction.  Because this love has lived since forever, we just meet it again.

And to be born with a mother’s heart is an unfair and sacred gift.  There is no mercy to the joy, nor the pain of being carved so violently by the relentless force of this absurd love.  Because not every baby stays with us, and some don’t even land.  Some fly far too soon, leaving in their wake the crushing memory of how we have loved them since forever.  Leaving us, again, listening for the echo to our songs… heads tilted upward, looking for them, always.  Until somewhere somewhere we arrive at the point where we meet them again, arriving newly into ancient love.  

…And I think of you, and you know who you are… and I am wishing with my full heart that you take your comfort wherever you may find it.  When I think of his fleeting time almost-here I can’t help but smile at his warm comfort.  The comfort you provided, all that he knew.

My love is travelling fast and hard. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Highlight Reel

Lucy.  More so every day you are a person.  A tiny ferociously ridiculous crazy person.  WHAT ARE YOU DOING BEING A PERSON?

On this day last year I was holding you in intensive care after your first surgery.  I didn't recognize you, sweet girl.  And you cried, and cried and cried.  I could not get you to stop crying.  And the more you cried the more blood would seep from under your freshly stitched lip and my heart would race with the fear of your sutures tearing apart.

You were so mad.  I felt so regretful like we had done something terrible to you, our perfect babe.  I will always remember being alone with you in that small room with the beeping and the constant shuffle, and your cry, cry, crying for all of time.  I bounced you on a semi-deflated exercise ball until my thighs burned and my back ached... and you cried.  And finally, I cried.  With a rubber soled quiet, a very kind nurse came and stood behind me and put her hand on my back and held it there.  "She will be OK." She said finally.  And I soaked up the comfort, but I wasn't sure if I should believe her.

Well.  It was an ugly few weeks, but turns out - she was more than right.

Welcome to personhood, crazy person.  You are 15 months old and, girlfriend, you have some sass!  And since I feel guilty about the detailed documentation in your sister's baby book,  and your total lack of baby book, I'm going to give you the 15 month highlight reel.      

Notable Accomplishments Thus Far:

** The "B" sound is BIG news round here!  We waited for it for a looong time.  You use it about 40% of the time now.  Sometimes it's "mye mye!" and SOMETIMES it's "bye bye!"

** "Dadda!"  You say Dadda!  Finally!  As of last week!  Better yet, you say, "Hi Dadda!"  Again with the "D" sound actually being featured only some of the time, but still!  And when you use your fallback "G" sound instead, we still pick up what you're puttin' down!

** Table climber.  You fool!  Climber in general.  This is something your big sis never did, so I'm a rookie with this business of toddley toddler in all the high-up GET DOWN BABY! places.  Stop it with that.

** Greatest giver of hugs.  You win.  (I love when you put your back into it and grunt "awww" while you squeeeeeeze my neck with your squishy arms).  

** Cheekiest smile.  You are trouble.  For real, I'm a bit worried.

** Biggest.  You are huge.  Awesomely so.  You are super tall, your belly is most impressive and combined with your big personality you are a giant ball of WOW.

** Fast.  You took your first wobbly steps at 10 months and you nip around like a professional escape artist now.  I actually can't catch you sometimes (only when I'm having an off day).


** Well.  If I do say so myself… ME!

** Crackers.  Whoa nelly I hate when I have to say no, because wowowowow you love them so much that it really fries your bacon when it's game over.

** Your sister.  And all of your other family members.  So much love you have.

** DOGS!  Your fave!  Just like your sister at your age.  Obsessed.

** Bathing.  It is not a calm affair.  Belly down, frantic kicking, face down and lots of panting.

** Standing on stuff.  If there is a thing, anywhere, that could potentially be stood on I will find you on it.  You have just launched in to full on climbing.  Again: stop it.

** "NO"  You love this word, oh you love it so much.  And so soon, why do you already love that word?

** "GOT YOU!" The game where I growl and chase you.  You ask for it by pausing dramatically in the hallway and sassing me with your cheeky over-the-shoulder-smile and saying "Got Gyoo!" before streaking away with a bunch of squealy arm flaps.

** Phones.  "Hello! Hello! Hello!" And even better, stealing them.  Again with the sass and the running away.

** Tickling your sister.  Except, you SUCK at it!  I'm sorry little friend, but you have not got this one yet.  You scratch us all up with your little crab claws and she panics when she sees you coming at her wielding the "tickle" claws.

Words!  You have Words!

You are at the stage where you try to repeat almost any word you find interesting.  It is a language full of Ms and Ns and soft G sounds because of the speech development delays, but you are nailing it with the intonation so we read your mail… we read your mail.

** "Hi Mama!  Hi Bebe!"  This you say to me whenever I come home, stealing my usual response and answering for me (whereupon I fall down dead on the floor because PLEASE!).  You also try this  manoeuvre whenever you think I'm mad at you (like after you experimentally touch the fireplace for example).

**   I always ask you - How big is Lucy? - so I can see your teeny arms stretch up beside your big toddler head.  I asked you this last week and you super casually looked at me and just said, "So big" except it sounded like "Nyo mig".  The sass in that casual delivery was out of this world.  You're too much.

** "Hi guys" you said to us the other night and your family fell over.

** "Ah bee bee!" (Apple sauce)

** "Nyuh-CAOW!" You say a bajillion times a day.  Translation: CRACKER!

** "Hi --- "  Forever with the greeting.  You are always greeting all things, "Hi bebe!" "Hi gah gah (doggy)!"  Hi fill in the blank.

** "Bye bye!" Forever with the farewells.  My favourite is when you say goodbye to the book that is still in our hands after we finish it.

** "Wow! Wooooow!" You're new here so we here this a lot.

** "Nyah-nyack!" Translation: Backpack - your confirmation that yes you would like to be strapped to my back whilst I get all selfishly preoccupied with loading and unloading the dishwasher and food prep.  I don't usually mind though, since you sing my name and rub my arm a lot while I do it.

** "MeeyUP! MeeyUP!" Your constant arms-out-stretched-insistence that I pick you up.  At all times.

** "Meeee?"  "Meeee?" Tranlsation: Pleeeeeease?  Usually while standing below the cracker cupboard and shortly before you skip the niceties and demand "Nyuh-COAW!"

… and so on… you repeat most things and I don't know which one of us finds it more exciting.


** Sharing.  You are so not into it.  Unless it's your idea.

** Loud trucks.  This is my favourite of your dislikes because you bury your head into my neck and whisper "Woah!" or "OOoooooooh!" and it is basically the sweetest.

** Foods that you liked 10 minutes ago and then want again tomorrow.  Why do you DO that?!

** Hard bonks.  Well who likes that?  But… if maybe you did a titch less climbing??  Think about it.

** When I put you down.  Or god forbid I leave.  Or if I arrive and we are not yet physically united.  Sorry about that, I will work on it.

** When it takes too long to get the food in your face.

** Having anyone brush your teeth other than you - HOLY DINA!

** Surgery.  I don't blame you.

Thats about it.  You like most things most of the time until ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU DON'T ANYMORE.  And then we usually try to make you go to sleep.

Monday, December 30, 2013

My Big First

I have been wanting to write to you, Soleil, for so long now… but I have hardly written here at all, because I am perpetually unsatisfied with all that I write, and I have been hoping that if I wait for a day when I am not as tired as I am today (that day never arrives), that I will do a better job for you.  So, instead of waiting for a day when I will do this any justice, I will tell you, today, some of the things I wish to tell you, however imperfectly, if only to ensure they don't go unsaid forever.

My big girl.  My first.  Oh, how I love, love, love you far beyond the stars.  Ever since my pregnancy with your wee sis, so many of the words - here in this space where I try to preserve you both - has been devoted to Lucy, or to my journey mothering a baby born with cleft lip and palate.  Meanwhile, I could have been writing reams and reams about the privilege of mothering your journey into sisterhood.

Right now, at 4 and 1/2 (4 and 3/4 you like to correct me) you are full of sweet innocence, endless questions and nonsensical jokes.  You are so funny.  I wish I could capture every nuance of this loveable four year old you.

Lucy has taken up so much of our energy and attention over the past year… some of those times have been stressful, and many of them have simply been enchanting.  All of us, watching every adorable move she makes throughout her day.  I listen to you coo unconsciously to her, to yourself, as you two play together, "Oh, my little cutie cute Lucy Lu!  You're so cutie!!  AWWWW, Mom!  Look what she just did!!"  I am shocked by how much you delight in her.  I didn't know what to expect before Lucy joined our sacred trio, but I don't think I even dared to hope for this.

You are almost past the stage of instinctively, obsessively grasping her earlobe every 2 seconds.  A left over habit from your nursing days when you would reach up and grab at some piece of me while you nursed and cling like a little sea creature securing your bond.  This is your unconscious, endearing and irritating signal of undying affection.  It was hard - slamming-my-heart-into-a-slab-of-granite-hard - to break you of this habit.  As Lucy became more and more mobile, your constant reaching, clingy earlobe tentacle was impeding her clumsy progress, unintentionally infuriating her every 3 seconds.  You would be drawn to her, always, always, always and forever with the your earlobe hand-missile.  Calmly, I would remind you - hands down, that bothers her, give her space.  And your body would actually vibrate with the effort not to do it BUT I LOVE HER SO MUCH I CAN'T STOP DOING IT!  It was like a tic.  And for real your big blue eyes would brim with tears several times a day when she would cry out so angrily and swat you away.  You would snatch your hand back and say, "SORRY SORRY SORRY Lucy!" But it was too late, you had tripped her by loving her too hard via ye olde earlobe grab.  I had to get more stern with you to help you override your bottomless desire to never let go of her earlobe.  Ouch my heart!  Ouch all of our hearts!!

You are so loving its insane. As insane as having an earlobe grabbing problem.

Every chance I get I scoop you into my lap and tell you how I love you.  How special it is that you are my first.  That you are my big girl.  That you are the very first baby I ever had.  How lucky I am that you are mine, that you landed right here, with us.  Because all day, it is more than obvious how enthralled we all are with the wee one as she learns an AMAZING new trick every day.  

Lucy is a little ball of fire.  She bulldozes her way through each day wreaking wonderful havoc wherever she goes.  She often leaves all of our ears ringing long after she has withdrawn her complaints.  She is only just entering the world of sharing and turn taking… for now she is mostly cave-baby - all pushy and grabby and Super Loud.  You give to her constantly.  You appease her almost always.  The other day I was mentioning, as per usual, what an amazing big sister you are.  I reminded you that we need to teach Lucy to also be a good sister.  Immediately you jumped to her defence,

"MOM!  She IS a good sister!!  She IS!  She even is starting to SHARE with me!!  She found baby kitty today and brought her to me and gave her to me all by herself!  Can you even believe that?   And she feeds me her crackers all the time!"

Earlier that day, in four year old fashion, you had asked me when I was going to die.  Well, that whole sister spiel almost killed me right there.  The mom pride could have propelled us to the space station within seconds.  How lucky am I??? How lucky is Lucy?  You.  Are.  Amazing.  Lucy is kind of a jerk to you sometimes and you don't even notice.  Which is endearing, but I hope to gently help balance that out over the next few years.

Lucy also loves you back super hard.  Your tiny, ferocious, near-ferel sister is ridiculously affectionate.  She clamours over to each of us countless times throughout the day for check-in hugs.  This is something you never did at her age, so it is new to all of us.  I hope you will be old enough to remember the ridiculous hug sessions you guys engage in these days.  As if Lucy with her oversized toddler head and t-rex arms clutching at you and humming happily into your chest isn't enough, you freeze like a statue and bliss out, afraid to make any motion that will break the spell.  You barely move your mouth as you dare to whisper, "Mom… look… what… she's… doing… she's…hugging… me… again…"  You guys are too much.  TOO MUCH.  And when she tries to tickle you with her useless one-year-old imitation of a tickle claw?  Just stop.

Everything sibling-wise is kind of idyllic right now… You  look at the world through your 4 and 3/4 maple syrup glasses and Lucy says things like, "Hi Mama!" and we all keel over and die for five minutes.  Especially YOU.  You are her biggest cheer leader, you always point out her new accomplishments and take pride in all she learns.  Everywhere we go when people stop to admire her you pipe up, "This is Lucy!  She's my baby sister!  We are sisters forever."


Sometimes I feel like I don't know who you are or where you came from, but I am just so astoundingly happy that you are here.  Today, you told me you had decided that you WOULD get married when you grew up, and that you would marry Lucy.

I know that things will change, and you two will grow so much further into the people that you are and that those paths will take unpredictable turns and who knows where they will take us all… but I hope the threads from today are woven into that journey.

I hope that the resounding theme of LOVE from these early days is locked permanently, way deep inside both of you, always.

You, my first, are the biggest thing I ever dared to do… and you brought so much love into this home that we dared to do it again.  Thank you and thank you, so far beyond the stars, thank you my girl.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Surprisingly Sad

We had pizza the night before.  A gluten and dairy filled comfort I hadn't eaten in ages.  My nerves crackling beneath my skin, I inhaled every salty bite.  We huddled on the couch and every time he would get up - to do normal puttering about the house things - I would try to stop myself from asking - where are you going?!  Don't go anywhere!  Don't go upstairs!  Don't let go of my hand.  Because we are handing her over tomorrow and I'm really scared.  Lets all hold our breath until she's back in our arms, OK?

He was nervous too.  And patient with me.

I can't remember exactly, but I think I cried as I gave her her bottle the night before surgery.  She gobbled it so hungrily, blissfully oblivious.

I am envious of the other cleft-affected mothers who take this all in stride.  Who are reassured by the routine nature of the procedures our children undergo.  I constantly wonder about them - are they even real or did I make them up?  I think, a lot, about the mothers whose children are sick and not getting better.  I think about the mothers whose children don't visit hospitals but live within them.  I try to imagine mothers forever wounded by unthinkable grief, who have lost their very hearts.  And then I wrestle with the complicated balance of gratitude, compassion and guilt.  My Catholic roots have a tenacious hold - always with the guilt.

The week before surgery I was consumed with fear that I would never see her again.  That I would hand her over and a somber face would tell me that something went wrong, that she would never wake up.  A ridiculous fear in the realm of true risk.  But, for a very, very few, it has happened.  I would be doing the dishes, playing with my girls, watching TV, reading a book, or some other mundane task and for a tiny moment my heart would stop and my hands would turn to ice and I would feel the imagined terror of losing her.  And then I would berate that horrible fear for snatching at my precious time.  Fuck you, Irrational Fear.

I woke reluctantly that morning - Lucy normally brays like a wild animal for her morning bottle and breakfast,  but was disoriented by our rush to the hospital.  She was easily distracted by novel items and rather subdued in her dehydrated state.  This was preferable to the imaginings I'd had of her angry, hungry pre-surgery cries.

As we drove to the hospital I forced myself to consider what an amazing day Today was.  Today someone would find out that after years of yearning, they were pregnant!  Someone, somewhere, would be told their cancer was in remission.  Somebody would finally hold, today, the baby they had dreamed and hoped they would be so blessed to adopt.  Today, a teacher was going to whisper the very words a child needed to hear to change the trajectory of their development.  Today, my baby girl, was going to have her palate closed, because that needs to happen, and we are so very lucky to live where that is safe, affordable and possible.  Today, was a very, very good day.  I hated today.  

My hands shook when I changed into my scrubs, knowing soon my arms would be empty.

I felt sick as they wheeled us down to the O.R., but happy to have her solid, quiet warmth in my lap.

They said things to us that I don't remember.  Soon, I was carrying her, wanting to stay wrapped around her, wishing to shield her and take her back home, dreading the sound of her pain when she next awoke… but my feet carried us forward. 

She complained as the gas mask was placed on her face and I kissed her sweet head as she became quiet and eerily still.  Her eyes didn't close.  The anesthetist's red painted fingers closed her blank stare while I kissed her once more.  I heard her call kindly after me as I was leaving, "Oh!  Please don't cry!" And that made it feel normal.  The energy in the operating room was calm, mildly upbeat and matter of fact.  The perfect contrast to my mounting distress, making my anxiety seem slightly ridiculous.  A welcome perspective.

He was waiting anxiously for me full of questions about how she did.  We had a long, long hug in the empty hallway before busying ourselves with distraction.

I tried to dive hard into the wait before us, determined to force it along faster.  My stomach knotted as each moment stubbornly stretched out longer than the last.  With my arms achingly empty, my mind noisily spinning, we read all of our emails.  And even found ourselves laughing out loud.  Thank you.

And then it was thirty minutes past our quoted wait time.  I tried to keep my body still though I wanted to sprint through the hallways and pull back all the curtains until I found her.  Where was she?  What had happened?  Were they trying to figure out how to tell me something had gone wrong?  Was she bleeding?  I tried not to think about blood.  It was her airway - she couldn't breathe.  They were taking her back to the O.R., weren't they? Was she having a bad reaction to the anesthetic?  Was she crying?  She was crying somewhere, I knew it, but I didn't know where.  She needed me and I couldn't hear her and I didn't know where in the building she was, and she was due back and she was late and WHERE WAS SHE?  

Once again, I heard her before I could see her.  That moment, a gut-wrenching peak of distress for me.  I could hear her trying to cry, through her dry, barking cough.  She sounded nothing like her, but I knew it was her.  That??  He asked me.  That isn't her, that is a sick baby, not our baby, he told me.  But I knew it was her.

After a few moments of listening to her bark and struggle and cry from the hallway, they told us we could go into the ICU and see her.  She came out of surgery with croup, a reaction to being intubated.  She was disoriented, uncomfortable and dazed.  I snatched her up and for a brief moment, before the intense effort of feeding and pain management took over, she was simply heaven in my arms.  My girl.  Safely delivered.

Lucy's surgery was uncomplicated.  The only hitch was that she was so dehydrated before surgery that it was delayed for 30 minutes while the anesthesiologist struggled to secure her IV, finally relying on an ultrasound to find a vein.  Though, I didn't know that until much later.

It was a typical recovery I suspect.  She cried at her bottle.  She cried at the cup.  She choked instead of swallowed - our anxiety intensified with the sound of her struggle, but we had little time to focus on that.

As in previous experiences with Lucy, her IVs caused the most trouble.  In the wee hours as that long, long day crept into the next, I was told to leave the room while the nurses attempted to replace the IV she had ripped out.  They promised me they would sedate her.  I listened from the hallway, while time crystallized, as she screamed frantically.  A lifetime passed and she became quiet.  When I finally returned, their attempt had failed.  She had had an allergic reaction to the sedation.  She whimpered softly, exhausted.  Hours later the intensivist was able to secure an IV.  Which she ripped out a short while later.

After one night in ICU we were moved to the regular paediatric ward.  I was sad to kiss him goodbye… though it made sense for one of us to sleep well at home as there was no room for him to stay overnight with us.

Two friends, who I will be forever grateful to came to "visit" us that night.  Despite the fact that I barely managed to make eye-contact with them.  Despite Lucy's intermittent wailing.  Despite their own children waiting for them at home.  They stayed, blessedly, much longer than I expected.  I tried not to panic when they left.  I also tried to put Lucy to sleep.  About 100 times.  It never worked.  Literally, it never worked.  She did not sleep.  Whether it was the anesthetic leaving her system, or the morphine flowing through it, she went bat shit crazy.

My sister came late that night for a couple of hours to relieve me from pushing her, endlessly in the stroller.  I laid down for 45 minutes, wanting to find death for two hours but barely able to close my eyes.  When my sister left, I continued to push her in the stroller, hoping to lull her to sleep.  But it didn't work.

Eventually, at 4:00am she found some rest, and I managed a single hour of broken sleep.

It was 48 hours before she would swallow.  From there the going was slow, but steady.  For the next 10 days she astounded us with her high spirits.  She fussed at her food.  We fussed over hydrating her, and hovered constantly to ensure she didn't fall awkwardly on her arm splints or ruin her sutures when her hands were free.  She could not sleep for longer than an hour at a time for days, infuriated by her arm restraints.  But we were happily shocked by her chipper nature during her waking hours.  Her many, many waking hours.

Within two and a half weeks she was recognizable as her sassy wee self.  

And once again, Lucy lit it up - all of it.  The very best of ourselves, her sweet sister, our beautiful friends, our family, shone all around us.  She arrived as my solar flare, and each day she burns ever brighter.  This was not the last surgery, or the last hurdle in this unexpected subplot to regular life.  But we are going to light it up every time, aren't we Lucy June?  

Yet, I am surprisingly sad.  Each day has been an active struggle or a quiet celebration since Lucy's arrival.  The Herculean efforts to initially feed and comfort her, struggling with hospitalization for RSV, celebrating our "just in time Christmas!", bracing for surgery, recovering from surgery, celebrating after surgery, joyously acclimatizing to "normal", struggling to continue to pump, finally - finally - quitting pumping, celebrating the accomplishment of a year's worth of milk, celebrating a year of her beautiful life, struggling to face another surgery, celebrating the recovery of another surgery… it has felt full-on.  There was no time to cry, there was little time to breathe…  

My heart is happy, but I am sad.  Surprisingly sad.  Actually and truly surprised by my sadness!  The driving quietly in the car burst into tears out of nowhere kind of sad, where it occurs to me - my girl!  Her mouth didn't form like it was supposed to!  Like I meant for it to… I'm sorry, sweet girl.  I will look at the leaves changing colour and remember this time last year.  My chest will burn remembering how much I wanted to keep her there, when instead she was in NICU those precious first days.  I will marvel at how fast she's grown and suddenly choke on the loss of being unable to breastfeed my little girl, my last baby.  Or I will be happily climbing into my bed, tired from the day and sudden tears will hit my pillow as I see her, her beautifully crooked nose at nine years old and she is sad because someone has made fun of her.  The gap in her gum line the source of pointed questions, my heart clenching with the uncertainty of how she will navigate those moments, how it will or will not (I desperately hope) saturate her sense of self.  My sweet, beautiful girl… 

It has been a relentless pace, rocketing from struggle to celebration since April 19, 2012.  As ever, on this path, I remain suspended between gratitude and grief.  I feel embarrassed by my deep fatigue, surely it wasn't as draining as my body insists it has been?  I feel ashamed of my sadness, surely I am dramatizing our story?  

I have decided to follow her, my little light, as I slowly regain my equilibrium.  I will allow the sadness, simply because it is there, but I will also allow her to brighten it and, as always, continue to broaden my perspective.  The echoes of her baby cries, those helpless hours of hunger when I couldn't comfort her still resound in my mind… but her happy chirping voice is the soundtrack of today.  

In between every blessed moment of our lucky life, your mama is a bit sad, Lucy June, that I couldn't have made it perfect for you.  Like I wanted to, so badly.  And in between our many cuddles and inane games, Ava Soleil, I am bone tired from trying to ensure you know that your light shines as brightly in my heart as it ever has, my special girl.  

Thank you, my girls, for making all of these tears I didn't know I had left to fall, feel OK, even if they catch me off guard.  Because of both of you, it really is OK.  I will let go of every one of them, knowing that as soon as it has been wiped dry, there are your smiling noisy faces saying ridiculous things, leading me with your questions and demands into the next moment that we are so mind-blowingly lucky to spend together.   

Always, always ~ thank you, you perfect, beautiful tiny humans, for being mine.