Sunday, June 29, 2014
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Maybe you're still here
I feel you all around me
Your memory, so clear
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile to know you're there
A breath away not far
To where you are
Here inside my dream
And isn't faith believing
All power can't be seen
As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me everyday
'Cause you are my
Watching me from up above
Friday, April 29, 2011
Yes, I’m going to blog about it.
Today was the big “Royal Wedding” between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Facebook has been jumping all morning long and there seem to be two extremes of people... those who got up early to watch the wedding and those who want everyone in the royal family to vanish from the face of the Earth.
Maybe not that extreme, but there seem to be very few people who truly feel ambivalent. Most either love or hate all the media attention and “hype” surrounding this historical event (and it IS history, regardless of your opinion of the attention paid to it.)
I’m not sure why, but I’ve felt a need to defend against the naysayers. I didn’t really “plan” to get up and watch the wedding when it began at 5am CST, but I woke up just as the big moment was starting and so I watched. (For the record, it’s beyond “extremely unusual” for me to wake up that early so I took it as a sign that deep down, I really wanted to watch. Sometimes watching things recorded isn’t enough, when I have a chance to watch history happen LIVE, I tend to gravitate toward it.) Even Edgar commented on how funny it was to see me awake when he got up for work, since I do tend to place a very high value on sleep.
Anyways, as I drove around this morning running errands, I kept thinking about all the negative comments people had thrown out there. My mind has been racing, so this is my attempt (as always) to quiet it down.
First off, when did we become so darned negative? A wedding is a CELEBRATION of LOVE and HAPPINESS. When two people love each other enough to stand before God and everyone they know (and maybe a couple billion they don’t) and profess their intention to love each other until death... why do we immediately turn to skepticism? Shouldn’t we be rejoicing? Shouldn’t we feel happy for them? Shouldn’t we take the opportunity to reflect on our own relationships and the milestones we have celebrated in our own lives?
Why instead do so many turn to negativity? Will these two stay married? Who knows? In reality, I figure every marriage has a 50/50 chance of lasting. Forget statistics, it’s simple math - either you stay together, or you don’t. Period. None of us starts out with better than 50/50 odds. But we all (or at least most of us) do start out with the intention to carry through with the promise we are making. Does that sometimes change? Sure. Does it mean the love wasn’t real at the time? I don’t think so. I have certainly loved more than one man in my lifetime (it’s ok, my husband knows this!) and I think I have even encountered more than one soulmate. It was not just love and connection that led me to marry the man I did, it was also about timing and circumstances. My parents loved each other, but they got divorced. My dad and stepmom loved each other, but they got divorced. It happens. And it doesn’t take away from what they felt on their wedding day. Rainbows don’t last either, but I believe they are real while we can see them.
Being a member of a “royal family” doesn’t ensure a “happily ever after.”
NONE of us are ever guaranteed that.
But I’ve found the subject of the royals also brings out other emotions in people. They are wealthy, and certainly have power most of us can’t begin to understand. What’s more is that they did nothing to earn either of those things other than happen to be born into the right family. It’s not “our” tradition, but the monarchy is a long-standing tradition in England and it seems to carry with it a number of old-fashioned values and belief systems. Members of the Royal family are still human, and of course they fall victim to the same sins any of us “mere mortals” do. (With the added disadvantage of it becoming world-wide news) So they’re not perfect of course, but they do seem to follow some basic etiquette and moral compass that a lot of us could probably learn from.
Discretion. Manners. Service. Charity.
So while on the one hand, we rebuke the “antiquated” system of a monarchy and the so-obvious-to-us unwarranted power and prestige it bestows upon unworthy subjects, on the other hand we talk about the need to return to more traditional, time-honored, old-fashioned values. We complain that kids don’t respect their elders or find self-motivation to help others. They’re rude and impertinent. They don’t know their “place.”
So which is it?
We complain about the amount of money spent on an extravaganza like today’s wedding and how that money could be put to better use helping the poor and underprivileged. When we don’t like how someone with more money than we have is spending their wealth, we are quick to criticize their actions.
But on the other hand, we all know that money doesn’t “buy happiness.” Money doesn’t make everything better.
So which is it?
We complain that the news is always doom and gloom and never has anything good or happy to report.
Then we complain that so much media attention is being focused on this wedding, when there is real suffering and pain and crises in our world.
So which is it?
Look, I’m not trying to defend the monarchy. I don’t even disagree with ANY of the above statements but I try hard to see things fairly without talking out of both sides of my mouth.
It’s their money, and I think they should spend it as they want to. Princess Diana was the same age I am now when she died, and yet she served on or chaired the boards of more than 100 different service organizations in her short life. Some may say I’m an “over-achiever” in the volunteering department, but even I can’t imagine matching that. Unless, maybe if I was a Princess who had access and resources available to me as a result of my status in life. Power CAN be used for good.
And I think that sometimes, a little old-fashioned etiquette and rules following is a good thing. Actually, I’m a BIG stickler for following “rules.” It’s probably a weakness, but I digress...
Sure, there are other more pressing "issues" happening in our world today. But depriving myself of enjoying this event isn't going to make them better. What WILL help is my attitude. I choose to be positive. Gas prices are crazy high. But it's just money. I still have my health and my family - and today's wedding reminds me of that. I hope and pray and pray and hope I will be around to see my own children's life milestones. I recognize there are no guarantees, no matter "who" you are.
But at the end of it all... here is what I saw today when I watched the wedding.
I saw a beautiful woman beaming with love and with incredible grace and poise - knowing the whole world was watching her but not showing the slightest sign of fear or trepidation.
I saw a man and his brother standing at the altar - and it literally took my breath away because we have watched this man grow up and it seems like he suddenly became an adult.
And, I saw a man who was getting married without his mother there to see it. I felt the absence of a mother who continues to miss milestones in her sons’ lives. My heart breaks for them all. I feel the pain.
My sister was 15 when my dad died, the same age William was when his mother died. Even at 36, I sometimes can’t believe how many things will happen in my lifetime that my dad will miss.
(Let me just say - as a spiritual person, I fully believe these people are still with us and watching over and enjoying these events. But please, let’s not pretend that it’s somehow the same as if they were actually here.)
My sister is graduating from high school in three weeks. High school. It’s her first major life milestone. Her FIRST. And he is gone. She isn’t alone of course, but we all know there will be far more students there with dads (and moms) in the stands than without.
I guess, at the crux of it all, is that I watched the wedding and I did not see a Prince and Princess. I saw a young man and woman who seem to be very much in love, taking a major step in their lives. The same step I took 12 years ago and have watched countless other couples take.
They may have money, but it comes with restrictions on freedom and certain expectations. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” no? They also still have loss and pain.
They really aren’t so unlike all of us, on the most basic, human level.
Today, they have love.
I think it’s worth celebrating.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
7:20am - Hey! What was that? Sounded like my big brother Aidan slamming the toilet lid! Thank goodness he did that or I might have slept in today and since everyone else is already up and leaving for wherever it is they go all day, I KNOW mommy wants me to get up too! Some days I don’t get up until after everyone else has already left and mommy always looks so lonely. I’d better start yelling so she knows to come and get me!
8:30am - Better start asking for some breakfast. Nursing was great but it’s time to sink my teeth into some toast too!
9:30am - Mommy is dozing on the couch. I don’t know why Sesame Street puts her to sleep, it’s one of the few shows I find really fascinating! Oh well, I will sit here in my little chair and watch... but just for a little bit.
10:00am - Got my exercise done for the day. I crawled all over mommy on the couch for about 20 minutes... phew, what a workout!
10:30am - I see mommy’s heading to the bathroom. I’d better go with her and be sure to shut the door behind us! I don’t want her to be lonely in there. But while I’m there, I’ll try reorganizing the garbage can to keep me busy.
11:00am - Mommy opened the refrigerator to make lunch. Oh boy the things I can get into in there! I found a bottle of strawberry syrup and drank some. Mommy just laughed and took my picture. Kind of feeling a little sugar rush now...
11:15am - Turns out, I like egg salad too! Who knew? I ate 2 little egg salad sandwiches... got to keep my energy up!
1:00pm - Mommy thought it was probably time for me to take a nap, and really I’m too tired to arrrggguuuee...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
3:45pm - I’m up! Looks like the “guys” are all back home from wherever it is they go every day too, and we’re off to Wal-Mart. Mommy says Elisabeth needs a birthday gift for a friend and we need a few things for dinner and some new socks for the boys. Boy, we sure spend a lot of time in this store! I’ve learned that mommy moves faster when I start standing up in my seat in the cart. And don’t think that strap thing is any use... I know just how to get out of it in no time flat! It makes the old ladies in the aisles nervous but I usually just smile and wave at them so they stop and talk to us anyway. Today we got all the way back out to the car with our stuff when mommy realized she hadn’t paid for something on the bottom of the cart. So, back in we went. Guess mommy got her exercise today too!
5:15pm - Time to drop Elisabeth off at soccer practice. Ethan is going to stay here too, but I’m going to stay with mommy. She said we have to go buy some stuff at Elisabeth’s dance studio, and then we are going home! I guess Elisabeth has a big dance event coming up... geez these brothers and sister of mine are busy! It’s a good thing my car seat is so comfortable because I spend a LOT of time in it! (Don't worry, this picture is a few weeks old and my mommy fixed that turned around strap protector thing!)
6:15pm - We’re home now and I’m trying really hard to help mommy. I noticed that earlier she messed up all the work I did decorating the family room and the kitchen with my toys, so I’m going to work on that. I think mommy is feeling a little lonely without me right by her too so I’m making sure to cry every time she walks out of my sight, even for just a minute. This girl who comes by a lot (I think her name is Jordan and mommy must be helping her get ready for some big competition or something?) came over for a few minutes tonight. She wasn’t here long, but I showed her how good I am at knocking things off of shelves while she was here. I also showed her how good I am at holding on to mommy’s legs and crying. Luckily, mommy took the cue pretty quickly and found something for me to play with right next to her. I guess she needed to get some paperwork done or something, so I finally let her do it.
7:00pm - Mommy gave me some green beans and cheese. Nobody else is eating yet but she must have realized I’m getting really hungry. I wonder how she knows? Eventually everybody got home and sat down to eat and she gave me some more beans and some fish. I ate all of that, plus a roll and some Pringles I sweet talked daddy into later.
8:00pm - These other kids sure are fun. They messed up my family room decorations too (mommy told them to) but they made up for it by playing hide ‘n seek with me. Daddy tickled me and made me laugh really loud - mommy said that was kind of a surprise because daddy is not usually a good tickler.
8:30pm - For some reason, everybody seems to laugh a lot when I make these faces. Ethan taught it to me. First, you tuck your chin way down in to your neck and then you look up at the person in front of you without smiling. Then you stick your chin and neck way out and make a “pa pa pa” sound with your lips, and then you start giggling. I don’t know why they like it so much but it sure is funny every time I do it! I also gave a bunch of kisses on the lips tonight, they love it when I do that too. I guess I’m pretty good entertainment sometimes.
9:00pm - Heading upstairs now. I sure love these warm, soft and fuzzy pink pajamas mommy put on me. I think she said Elisabeth used to wear them too? I don’t know, but they sure are comfy! Mommy and I sat in the recliner in her room and nursed for a few minutes. Now that I’m older, it’s harder and harder for me to sit still very long so I got a nice drink and then tried to get down and play. Mommy said it was time for bed though, so she laid me down with my blanket and my favorite toy “Violet” and turned out the lights. I guess I am pretty tired, because I didn’t even make a sound. Sometimes I fuss for a few minutes but never very long. I guess mommy doesn’t like that Ferber guy very much so she just waits until I’m good and tired and it usually works out ok. At least it’s fine when we’re at home but when we stay in a hotel I really try to switch things up on her.
You know, mommy seemed kind of tired today and I’m not sure why because I haven’t gotten her up at night for a couple of weeks now. Hmmm. I think that big wedding in England is happening tonight so maybe if I wake her up tonight she won’t even mind so much? Well, we’ll see what the night briiinngggsszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Thursday, March 31, 2011
I have wanted to record the story of your birth since the very moment you entered our world. I wanted so badly to record every single thought and memory I had and I knew if I didn’t do it soon afterwards, many of those memories could be lost. So I wanted to do it soon, but it just didn’t work out that way.
Instead, it is almost 12:30am on April 2 and in just 4 days, you will be three months old. You’re sleeping on the floor and the house is quiet, so I thought I should take advantage of this opportunity to put it into writing.
I suppose I should start at the beginning, back when we found out you would be joining our family. It had only been about 5 months since my dad died, and I was really struggling to find my way in a world where he no longer existed. As you grow, I will teach you everything I can about your “Papa T” and so I am confident you will have a full understanding of the impact his death had on me. It is a loss I know I will never heal from, and those first few months after he died were especially hard for me. I struggled to be the mother and wife I wanted to be, and the daughter and “successor trustee” I wanted to be. I began to learn all kinds of legal things and waded my way through logistics and paperwork I never wanted to deal with. I got my insurance licenses so I could carry on with my dad’s business, but I never felt as though I was finding the right path.
Then, the Saturday night before Mother’s Day of that year, I posted on an internet board about some strange symptoms I was having. I even joked that if I were reading about someone else, I might suspect they were pregnant. A woman on that board named Nicole has become pretty well-known in our internet community for being able to see into the future, so when she suggested I get a pregnancy test I took her at her word. I got one and took it that night, and couldn’t believe it when I saw the result.
Instantly, I believed with all my heart that you had been sent here by my dad, to help me heal my pain and to help me find my way once again. One day just a few weeks later I felt a calmness come over me and I just knew in that moment that this pregnancy would be ok, that you would be ok, and that your birth would serve a great purpose in my life. I made the decision to sell my dad’s insurance agency, knowing he was trying to help me get back to the life I had before he died. I also felt strongly that you would be a girl, because my dad loved his little girls and he would know how desperately I wanted a second daughter.
Spiritually, the pregnancy with you was a life-changing and transforming positive event. Physically, I struggled through those first few months just as I had in the past. Through days at the pool, a trip to the ADPi Grand Convention in Orlando, and a week at Walt Disney World on a family vacation, I dealt with morning sickness. I tried everything imaginable to cope including ginger, homeopathic remedies, acupuncture, and finally a prescription medication. In the end, what helped the most was time and eventually it passed and I worked hard to enjoy the pregnancy.
In many ways, I think I was more conscious of enjoying that special time with you than I had been before. I expected this to be my last pregnancy, and it was a bit of a bonus one at that (not unplanned or unexpected - there is a difference!) and so I cherished each moment. I spent the second half of the pregnancy working to finalize the sale of the agency and hoping it would be wrapped up before you arrived. We almost made it, but not quite!
Early in the morning of January 5, I noticed I was starting to have contractions about 10 minutes apart. They were mild and reminded me somewhat of the latent labor I had experienced when Aidan was born. I couldn’t sleep and so I paced around the house and then finally sent a text message to Tammy at about 3:30am that I thought I might be in early labor. Because she is a teacher, I knew she needed plenty of notice in order to call in to work and drive down here in time. (Tammy lives in Lake in the Hills.) When your dad woke in the morning I told him I thought things were happening and we made the decision to keep Ethan and Elisabeth home from school. They had only just returned the day before after the Christmas break, and they were very excited that you were finally coming!
However, the contractions seemed to slow down after the business of the morning waking hours and by the time Tammy arrived around 9:30am, I thought it might all have been a “false alarm.” She decided to stay and see what happened, and we spent the day laying around just talking and resting. By that evening I was feeling restless to get out of the house, so Tammy and I went to Starbucks and then out to my grandma and grandpa Shanklin’s house.
Grandpa Shanklin was dying at home, having just been diagnosed on Jan. 1 with late-stage liver cancer. It was another transformational time in our family, and very spiritual to be waiting for your life and his death at the same time. He was still awake and alert that night, and he joked with me again about having not had the baby yet. While we were there, I noticed my contractions seemed to pick up again, and soon they were coming with some regularity.
We drove home (I drove, even though Tammy offered, but they weren’t that intense!) and at 8:55pm I realized it had only been 10 minutes since the last one. I watched the clock and sure enough, they started coming regularly every 10 minutes again. I could feel my adrenaline picking up and at some point we called the midwife to let her know what was happening. I labored in the family room for a while, and a little before 11pm decided to head upstairs and get in the bathtub.
The bathtub offered a lot of pain relief and helped me to relax, and I could tell the labor was intensifying. We called Brande again and asked her to come - no hurry but I wanted her to start making her way to the house. After I talked to her and knew she was on her way, it was like the floodgates opened and my body just barreled into the labor. I got out of the bathtub for a few minutes to use the toilet and quickly realized I was much better off in the water, so I got back in as soon as I could.
That was probably the moment I decided to birth you in the water, although it wasn’t a conscious decision on my part.
(coming back to write the rest many months later, now January 2, and unfortunately I doubt my memory is so clear. :( )
I began to feel very out of control during the contractions, and I wasn’t getting much of a chance to recover between them. They were coming fast and furious and I felt myself struggling more and more to stay on top of them. My friend (part doula, part photographer) Beth arrived and was able to perch herself over the bathtub and do the hip squeeze on me. It gave me so much relief but it was tricky to get into the right position with me in the tub, and I seem to recall that after a few contractions that way I didn’t feel it was helping as much. Brande and her assistant Penny arrived and there was a lot of activity out in the bedroom.
They were setting out the supplies for the birth - both those we had collected (plastic shower curtains, a crock pot for warm water, clean towels) and those that Brande brought with her. I remember thinking to myself that they were doing a lot of unnecessary prep work because I knew by then you were going to be born in the water, but I never said it out loud to anyone else. When the contractions came now, I felt an urge to push through them and so I did. After a few of them that way I told Beth that I was pushing and asked her to relay that to Brande... who of course had already heard me and knew what was happening. She came into the bathroom with these long plastic gloves that went up to her elbows and I knew we were getting close.
By now, I felt a sense of urgency to have you born and remembering a visualization/vocalization I had read in “Birthing from Within,” I started to moan in a low, loud, almost guttural voice “ooooouuuutttttt” during the contractions. It felt natural at the time, but as I look back now at the video of this I often cringe as it seems like I was angry and yelling at you to get out of my body. The reality is that in that moment, every primal instinct in my body was saying it was time for you to come out and the low, deep sound of my voice was a coping mechanism for those last few contractions. Finally, I felt you moving down and I pushed with everything I had - much harder than I remembered pushing for any of my births and on some level I kept wondering if I was even doing it right - when suddenly Brande said, “the head is out.”
I didn’t wait before giving another long, hard push and I felt your shoulders, then your arms, then your belly, knees, and finally your feet come rushing out of my body. I was on my hands and knees and Brande handed you to me back through my legs. I sat back on my thighs and looked up with you held tightly to my chest, saying “Thank you... thank you.” It was a prayer of gratitude to God that the labor and birth were over and that you were in my arms after so many years of waiting.
You were born at 12:50am on Wednesday, January 6, 2010.
Daddy was calling for the big kids to “come see” and there was general surprise and exhiliration in the air as everyone came to the realization that you were here, the baby was out. There was no rush to see if you were a boy or a girl, and it felt like minutes passed as I held you and just enjoyed the moment in its purity. Although it felt like a long time, the video shows it was just a short bit before I leaned you out away from my body and looked down to see if you were a boy or a girl. The umbilical cord was right between your legs and that combined with my deep-rooted desire for a girl made me unsure at first that I was even seeing it right, so I very tentatively announced, “it’s a girl!” to everyone there. When Brande came back in I asked her for confirmation but of course I knew. I had known all along, deep down I just knew and now holding you I couldn’t imagine that you could have ever been anything but. In that moment, I knew I had my little Ainsley girl that I had waited so long for.
After a few more minutes, I turned around to sit down in the tub and with that, the water suddenly turned a dark crimson red. I held you in the water and we put a towel over you and remarked at how perfect you were. We told everyone that your name was Ainsley, but we were still undecided about your middle names. The truth was we knew what they would be, we just hadn’t decided what order to put them in. Ironically, before she left Beth mentioned to me that the last song she remembered hearing on my iPod before you were born was the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” That song had become such an anthem for our family and where we were in the grief process that I found myself smiling at the irony and at the same time, not at all surprised to hear it. Beth suggested we name you “Sol” or some other variation of “Sun or Sunshine” for a middle name, and I just smiled because I knew it was already decided.
I was nervous about delivering the placenta but about ten minutes later I stood up to get out of of the tub and before I could step out, gave a little push and out it came. Brande caught it and put it in an ice cream bucket we had lined with saran wrap and then she and Penny helped me walk to the bed. Once we were settled, Elisabeth cut your umbilical cord. I guess this means your birth was also a partial lotus birth... where the cord is not cut until the placenta is delivered. (To this day, your placenta is in our deep freezer and I smile every time I open the door and see it there.)
You were rooting around right from the start, and took to nursing like a true natural. I think you had nursed from one side to the next before we even got a chance to weigh you! One of my favorite parts of the home birth was getting to weigh you using the “fish scale” Brande had brought, although I was surprised when you came in at 6lb. 7oz... making you the second smallest baby when all through the pregnancy I had been so sure you would be the largest! We continued to take video and pictures and laugh and enjoy the moments. Brande and Penny did all the “usual” assessments on you and of course, everything looked great.
By 3am, everyone had gone home, our room and bathroom were cleaned up and back to normal, and the only sign of what had happened just two hours before was the beautiful baby girl cuddled in my arms.
In the days that followed, we had many interruptions to our “baby moon.” You had dangerously high bilirubin levels due to an ABO blood incompatibility and had to be admitted to the NICU in an emergency situation when you were just 48 hours old. Within hours, they were performing a complete exchange transfusion while your dad and I sat a few feet away, feeling helpless and scared and vulnerable. I lived with you in the hospital for 3 days and we were so grateful when you rebounded so quickly. At the time, it felt like one of my worst fears being realized to have to be there but in retrospect, of course it really wasn’t. It wasn’t the start I had hoped for and envisioned for your life, but it was just a bump and we got through it. You were admitted on Friday afternoon and you came home on Monday night. We were so lucky.
Two days later, just one hour short of you turning one week old, your great-grandpa Fred died in his sleep at home. Because you were born at home and the bilirubin issues didn’t manifest right away, we were able to take you to visit with him while he was still conscious and lucid and you were just 12 hours old. I took your picture with him, and I will treasure it always. By the time your hospital ordeal had ended and I could go visit him again, he was unconscious and slipping away from this world. The last time he and I talked together, it was so I could introduce you to him. Your connection runs so deep, I am sure of it. Born and died within a week of each other, both at home. His death and your birth both had so many lessons to teach us all about the circle of life and the importance of respecting and honoring those passages by allowing them to happen as our bodies and nature have both intended. When we made the decision to birth at home, I knew we had made a very spiritual choice but I couldn’t fully understand the impact of that until it all played out in our lives.
I learned so many lessons from your birth. I learned again that birth is a powerful force that cannot be summed up as one experience... it is the transformation of woman into mother, man into father, and bump into living, breathing being. I learned that I am even stronger than I thought I was, and that birth is even more beautiful when you leave it be and let it be. I learned there is a difference between a “natural” hospital birth and a home birth. I learned that we can feel very alone in this world, even when we are surrounded by people who love us... but that there is also great power in that loneliness and rather than fear it, we should embrace it and welcome it.
And I learned again that God does answer prayers. For years I had prayed to be blessed with another child if that was God’s plan for us. I didn’t pray for it, but deep in my soul I wished and longed for another daughter. And to this day, it absolutely takes my breath away that you are here. That I carried you, birthed you, and have the amazing honor of being your mother on this Earth. You have completed our family, and you are sent from heaven... sent by my dad, who won’t ever know you on Earth but does know and love you nevertheless, and sent by God who had planned it this way all along.
In just a few short days, you will turn one year old. The memories of your birth and the days that followed have already started to fade with time. But the intensity of your place in our family is secure and strong and our love for you continues to grow. We love you Ainsley Rose Sunshine!