"i am your mother, the first mile of your road. me and all my obvious and hidden limitations. that means in addition to possibly wrecking you, i have the chance to give to you what was given to me: a decent childhood, more good memories than bad, some values, a sense of a tribe, a run at happiness. you can't imagine how seriously i take that - even as i fail you. mothering you is the first thing of consequence that i have ever done." (kelly corrigan, "lift")
my baby girl turns three today - at 1:52pm exactly. i do not know where the time has gone, but it has gone in the blink of an eye - and i have loved every single second of it. i remember people telling me when i was pregnant that life moves at lightning speed after you have children, they definitely knew what they were talking about.
i found the book "lift" when i wrote this blog in july. i had come across the video that i shared in that blog, and that led me to find kelly's books. the excerpts below are from the same book. i will forever hold on to my copy of this book. i will however be rotating it around because i think that every mom should read it (chris, you are the first on my list my dear, i will bring it on monday).
she is now officially a big girl. not my baby anymore, she would tell you that herself. i loved having her as my baby, but i love this stage - we can have conversations, we can do projects together, we can bake, we can really laugh together, she can give me great hugs and kisses, she can run to me when i pick her up at daycare (like she does every single day, and i know that someday she will no longer run towards me so i cherish it while it lasts), she can show her independence and her own personality, the list goes on and on.
"i think about your futures a lot. i often want to whisper to you, when we're tangled up together or i'm pinning your poetry to the bulletin board or repositioning the pillow under your head so you don't get a crick. remember this. this is what love feels like. don't take less. but what i end up saying is "this was my dream. you were my dream." i've said it too many times though; now when i look at you all soft and gushy and say "guess what?" you say "this was your dream. i was your dream."
malena's party last year was fun of course, but it was a hard day for me to get through without showing how i really felt. i was an emotional mess. her birthday snuck up quick last year after treatment started and i had a hard time not thinking about whether i would see more of her birthdays - would i be there for the sweet sixteen, the 21 run, etc. - not to mention all of other birthdays which are no less important.
in some ways, it has been tough over the last year with her being so young while i was going through treatment and dealing with the harsh realities that come along with the diagnosis. when those dark thoughts have crept in, i have thought about whether or not she would remember me if i wasn't around to see her grow up because she would be too young to remember me. i try to put those thoughts out of my mind quickly when they come, because nothing good comes from dwelling in that place for too long. but i would lying if i said that there haven't been times over the last year that i was at some of my lowest points wondering if she would just have pictures and stories told to her to know my part of her story.
"you'll remember middle school and high school, but you'll have changed by then. you changing will make me change. that means you won't ever know me as i am right now - the mother i am tonight and tomorrow, the mother i've been for the last eight years, every bath and book and birthday party, gone. it won't hit you that you're missing this chapter of our story until you see me push your child on a swing or untangle his jump rope or wave a bee away from his head and think, is this what she was like with me?"
i think that since malena was born, and even before that day, i have felt like being a mom was the most important thing i have ever done. i have always felt a very strong desire to chronicle her life, to take tons of pictures and to memorialize all of the good in her life. i have had a tough time in the last year with pictures, because i would often get upset thinking about not being around to be in pictures in the future. i am slowing moving past that hold that pictures had on me. on my current "to do" list is to get caught up with printing our pictures and to start to scrapbook pictures for malena to document her life.
when i think about getting back into documenting our lives through pictures, i think of this video that kelly did with paper coterie (love!).
"i don't know when you'll read this. maybe when you're a teenager? no, probably later, when you're on the verge of parenthood and it occurs to you for the first time that someone has been loving you for that long. maybe (let's hope not) you'll read it because something's happened to one of us - my cancer came back or dad was reading a text going across the bay bridge and cars collided - and you want to piece together what it was life before. no matter when and why this comes to your hands, i want to put down on paper how things started with us."
in "lift", kelly also talks about the being a parent when your child becomes unexpectedly seriously ill.
"it's one thing to know your child is in pain, it's another to attend it."
when malena was just over one year old, she had two surgeries at children's for what was thankfully a non-life threatening condition. that was brutal. you never think about having to take your child to children's. but, if you have to, you are so thankful you live close enough to get there quickly. i am forever thankful for children's. when we went through that time with malena, it was emotionally overwhelming. seeing her get poked and prodded (her screaming at the same time and looking at us with this sense of wonder as to why we were not coming to her rescue, i will never forget that look), holding her hand and looking at her as they put her under general anesthetia (no parent should have to see that, trust me), her screaming and reaching for us when the doctors took her from us to take her into the surgery room, etc. i remember the morning of her first surgery bawling to my mom because i was so scared, and then shutting that off so malena didn't see me scared because she needed to see me strong. i realized then it was natural instinct - that is just what parents do, without even thinking about it - you protect your kids from knowing how scared you are because you need to protect them from being scared as much as you can.
"she said no matter how stark the diagnosis, parents never fall over or scream like they do on tv. they keep breathing and listening and asking very good questions, and minute-by-minute they expand on the spot to take it in."
i have thought a lot over the last year about my parents as they watched over me. i know that they were (and probably still are) very scared. but they also let me know that they would be with me every single step of the way and that we would get through this together. they drove me, and were in the waiting room, on the day i had surgery. they stayed with us in the days that followed. my mom helped me to shower when i needed help cleaning around my stitches and i couldn't lift my arms to wash my own hair. they drove me to treatments. they sat with me in the room while the iv dripped into my arm. they watched as i winced when the nurses missed my veins, when they had to manipulate the iv in my arm. they saw me as i started to get sick on the drive home from treatments. they helped sneak me in the house so that malena didn't see me when i was too sick to see her. when i was crying because i was shaking uncontrollably from the chills. they fed me. they ran errands. they did laundry. they mowed the lawn. they listened. they cried. they listened as i cried. they waited on test results. they told me my new haircut looked good. they let me lay down and rest when i was too nauseas to move. they celebrated good news. they comforted when there was bad news. the list is endless, and luckily for me, i have a similar list for my other set of parents that i got the day i married barrett.
i remember the afternoon i came home from surgery. it was a beautiful july day and i was in bed upstairs and was in and out of it due all of the drugs. the windows were open and i could hear malena playing outside and laughing. i was so sad to not be out there with her, and to have had to hide upstairs because i knew that the blood and bandages would scare her. my mom came in to check on me. i can still remember clearly that she started to cry and told me that she so wished she could trade me places. i of course wouldn't trade her places even if i could, i wouldn't want anyone i loved going through what i was going through. but, i got it, i felt the exact same way when malena had her surgeries. you never want to see your kids in pain and would trade them places in a second if you could.
"but the smell of the hospital, the sting of those overhead lights in the night, the snippets of conversation i'd overheard stayed with me and marked the beginning of how i came to know what a bold and dangerous thing parenthood is. risk was not an event we'd survived but the place where we now lived."
"mothers go to the hospital with their children. we hold their hands and look at them with our most reassuring expressions and whisper encouraging things like the medicine will help you sleep. we slip into the hall for a minute to talk openly with doctors. we make decisions and sign forms and go back into the room wearing that same put-on look of composure. we check for signs of pain, we reposition pillows and lower the bed and curse the paper-thin shades as we darken the room the best we can. we sit, we stand, we stare and stretch, we shudder and sit back down and hold our heads and decide it's better standing. we lean over the bedside and run the backs of our fingers across our child's cheek and close our eyes in a moment of passion and physical memory of every other time we touched that cheek, that singular orchid of a face."
so with this miletone of 3 years, another fun years begins with malena. i can hardly wait to see what adventures this year brings us. i know that it will bring me another year of finding my way as a mom and that can only be good for both of us.
"my default answer to everything is no. as soon as i hear the inflection of inquiry in your voice, the word no forms in my mind, sometimes accompanied by a reason, often not. can i open the mail? no. can i wear your necklace? no. when is dinner? no. what you probably wouldn't believe is how much i want to say yes. yes, you can take two dozen books from the library. yes, you can eat the whole roll of sweetarts. yes, you can camp out on the deck. but the books will get lost, and sweetarts will eventually make your tongue bleed, and if you sleep on the deck, the neighborhood raccoons will nibble on you. i often wish that i could come back to life as your uncle, so i could give you more. but when you're the mom, your whole life is holding the rope against these whily secret agents who never, ever stop trying to get you to drop your end."
i know for sure there will be a ton of craft projects. that is a given. we share a craft room after all.
"you girls can pin your fixation with file folders, hole-punchers, and three-ring binders on me. watching you fashion a wallet out of index cards and double-sided tape, or embellish the edges of place cards with deckle-edge scissors, or swoon over a metallic, fine-tip paint pen? talk about genetic validation."
so bring on year three, i am ready to see all that it brings. the good and the bad. hopefully more of the former than the later.
"turbelence is the only way to get altitude, to get lift. without turbelence, the sky is just a big blue hole. without turbulence, you sink."