House of Motherhood

I can’t really say all that’s in my heart to express this Mother’s Day. How I’ve been transformed by the love and magic I’ve known of these two precious hearts that are mine…forever. How much I’ve learned and stretched and grown in this role of life, and how it has gifted me joy like none other.

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I spoke today at a local event for parents of children with Down syndrome. And it was very, very difficult for me. It hurt to be there. And I’ve been thinking all day about it…why it hurt so bad. And, yes, there are a number of reasons, and this is still all very new. But I am slowly finding my footing and realizing what role I play in this new world and where I fit in all of it. And I am realizing the power of knowing that I am in control of everything…what I read, where we go, what we listen to, and how we will tread down this new and different path. And today, I learned a little more about myself. That support groups aren’t my thing. And that for right now, my role is to show the world that life is beautiful and that families can do this without being defined by their difference. But most of all? My role is to love these two beautiful creatures I’ve been blessed with.

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And Advocate means the same for both of them. I will rely not on books or experts or doctors to mother these girls but on the most trust-worthy thing I have–my instinct. And I know how to love. Oh, do I know how to love. And, while we deal with today’s hurdles–like therapy appointments for Nella or winding down the pacifier for Lainey–all I have to think about is today. And to know that I am confident that I am capable to raise two amazing women simply because I fiercely love them. And that’s it.

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I thought a lot last week about what I would share and how I would say it. And I kept coming back to the fact that we are women who love our children. All of us. And there are a million things that might make our kids different from each other or even us mamas different from each other…but there are a million more things that make us all the same, and the fact that we are all out there doing our very best to love these littles makes us so incredibly bonded. I wanted to celebrate motherhood. And that I did.

So this is what I shared…and it’s for any kind of mama.

House of Motherhood

About this time last year, I was given a key. It was a beautiful key–heavy and gold with intricate scrollwork and extravagant edges, a fine match for the collection of keys I had already acquired in my House of Motherhood. And for nine months I held that key, felt its weight in my palms, rubbed my fingers along the end that would open the door to a room in my heart whose glory I was about to discover. I dreamed of that room–how perfect it would look inside, how the light would filter through the windows, how each corner of its blessed walls would hold so much happiness someday. I imagined the things people would say when they walked into that room…things like, “Oh, what a beautiful room” and “How I wish I lived here.”

I waited patiently and passionately for the day I could use my key to unlock the door to the beauty which was to unfold in that room. And on January 22, I turned the heavy key into the lock of the door that separated me from that room and opened it to find something I didn’t think I wanted to find. But, what I didn’t know was that, although that room wasn’t what I expected–wasn’t like the model rooms I had seen in catalogues and magazines–it was so much more. For what it lacked in interior decor, it made up for in authenticity with its rich wood floors and strong supporting beams, and since we have added this room to our home, we have made it our own, sprawling inviting quilts across comfy chairs, hanging pictures on the wall. It is ours and it is beautiful, and all of those we’ve invited into its coziness have indeed proclaimed “Oh, what a beautiful room” and “How I wish I lived here.”

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So is the House of Motherhood. Full of a multitude of rooms, some open and inviting, some lived in and comfy, some locked behind doors we haven’t yet found the keys to. But we all share the fact that we are part of this House. Of the many differences of the billions of mammals here on this planet, there is one universal thing that binds us. Motherhood. Even if we aren’t mothers ourselves, we’ve, at one point in our lives, had a mother. We shared her breath as she sustained our life within her for nine months and were cradled in her arms, if but for a moment, when we entered this world and severed that physiological bond.

And, out of this universal truth, we’ve also shared experiences–some more than others. Over these past weeks, as I’ve had the beautiful opportunity to connect with readers across the world, I have realized how very ignorant I’ve been. How egocentric my thoughts have been. My eyes have been opened to the very fact that, in any culture, in any place, there are individuals who may have very different beliefs or ways of life than me, but they too have loved a mother or love being a mother. They too welcomed children who were different and loved them just like we did. They too write about everyday life with their babies and from thousands of miles and oceans away, they too tuck little hearts in bed at night and thank whatever higher power they believe in for the blessings of life, being loved, and loving another.

In each of our Houses, there are doors. Doors which, upon our entrance, transform us into better, more beautiful women. Doors to rooms which hold deep pains, pure joys, and truths which will root themselves deep into our souls and change us for good.

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Some of you have walked through doors which have had you at your own mother’s bedside, holding her hand and telling her what a mother she’s been to you as you counted her breaths and waited as the one you love said goodbye. Some of you have entered doors to send a baby off to war, waving as the plane took him off to learn courage and face fear. Some have turned keys to find cold rooms that house the tears of infertility, of miscarriage, of wanting and yearning for a room that didn’t exist. Some have waited in rooms as they prayed to one day meet their baby and finally did as he was carried across oceans, through the threshold of airplane terminals and into their arms to stay forever. Some have found joys in choosing not to be mamas but instead sharing rooms that belonged to others, holding their littles close to their hearts as if they were their own. And some, like me, have opened doors to find rooms that were different than expected…perhaps painful at first, but these rooms still held us while we cried, provided comfort while we found we our way.

There are rooms we share which we will never forget opening their doors. Meeting eyes in those first moments with the extension of our soul who has just entered the world and been handed to us, all fragile and flailing as the electric current of love begins with the closed circuit of that first touch. Holding outstretched arms as our little clumsily teeters her first steps with rewarding applause. The lurch of our hearts upon hearing their feverish cries and our wish to take the pain away as we hug their warm bodies and whisper it will be okay. Packing backpacks full of crayons and colored pencils and kissing cheeks before littles walk out the door to their first day of school.

We share these rooms, Friends. Regardless of where our Houses are or what they look like, we share the primal love that exists for our mothers and our children. We may not all get to open the same doors, but the scaffolding of our Houses still exists, and we bring our own style, our own flair, our own families to fill it–to wash pains and hurts away and replace them with fresh coats of laughter. To repair damaged pipes and leaking faucets with dreams and promises. To sit around tables in the dining rooms of our House, clink wine glasses and say, “To Life.” And, on this day, we celebrate that. We celebrate the House of Motherhood and all its keys to rooms which hold secrets–secrets to understanding life and bringing good to needy places.

We join in the common rooms and dream together of places we will go and things we will do. Of dancing, hand-in-hand, with our children, our mothers, our friends that share this gift and we move our bodies, joyfully, unabashedly to the rhythm of life…to the beat of the harmonies we create in our Houses. We travel and take pictures, read books and cook elaborate meals. We clean and complain about cleaning and plan parties and celebrations. We cry and we yell and we laugh. We say “I’m sorry” and “I’ll try harder” and “I love you” because these are all things you do in the House of Motherhood. But, most of all we love. We love our House and all its rooms, and we spend our lives opening doors and making the best of what’s behind them. We shake rugs and light candles and invite people in to our once-daunting rooms so they too shall see the beauty of what we know. We sip coffee and set our mugs down on worn furniture, resting our feet on soft cushions and before you know it, we realize that this is exactly the kind of room we dreamed of.

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I didn’t know that just a few short months ago. I didn’t know the room which startled me with its unfamiliar colors and design would soon be a place of comfort, of beauty, a place with secret passages that lead to other rooms in the House and connect us in ways we didn’t know existed. But, looking at my House now, with all its experiences, with its lived-in rooms, with each precious, cherished family member and the memories they will bring to these hallways, to these spaces, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And we can say it together today…Oh, what a beautiful House. How glad I am we live here.

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*Thank you Heidi for these pictures. You know what they mean to me…I love you.

To Lainey and Nella, Oh my Loves, my Souls, my Gifts, thank you for replacing my heart with a new one. A more beautiful one that sees more wonder in the world and learns more about true love every day. Thank you for keeping the child within me alive and well. Thank you for making me so very happy.

To my own mama–every speck of beautiful in my soul is half yours, you know. You sit quietly in the stands, but I know you are there. xoxo

To Mama Colleen and Donna Nana–to have inherited you both is all part of the amazing plan of Happiness in my life. Thank you for loving me…for loving him…for loving us.

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And a very Happy Mother’s Day to every beautiful soul who has ever loved a mama, held a child, had a dream, and hoped for happiness.

why hello there, chocolate fabulousness.

if necessity is the mother of ingenuity, then crap economy must certainly be the father of a little at-home-makeover-brilliance.

enter exhibit a:

if clairol had to creatively name the color, it would be something along the lines of burnt marshmallow. or maybe just fugly.

the great divide: where orange hair meets black roots.

and my wallet would like to keep the 120 dollars it would take to fix this mess, thank you.

but it ain’t over.
because i never turned away a little hair challenge. and about once a year, i feel this inner yearning to drastically change my poor little strands.

and today was just the day.

…all for $4.99, baby.

(look closely…color of the stars, it says. andie macdowell. you can’t go wrong with andie macdowell.)

gloved up…it’s official.

…set timer for 25 minutes allowing just enough time to do a quick mama/baby pedi…


…and then…

here it comes…

voila.
rich, chocolate i-so-love-it fabulousness.

bwah ha ha ha. not smiling for self portraitry is not easy. i would ruin fashion shows.

oh, if my hair was a beater, i would so lick it.

all for five dollars.

my head is happy.

…enjoying the transformations-are-so-much-fun things. ~k

f.y.i.: listening to this song while running = crazy endurance and speed. add it to your ipod.

twenty one months later: {a birth story}

i wrote my birth story last night. i have been meaning to attach words to the unearthly beautiful experience for quite some time now and, with a little prompting (thank you, nici), i finally sat down and did it. this is an account for a friend, so the second person narrative refers to sweet nici who happens to have stolen my heart with her own birth story.

it’s not her birthday nor any special occasion but, nevertheless…it needed to be done and last night seemed a proper night to do it.

this song played during her birth, and i never listen to it because it’s too special and i never want the crazy effect it has on my heart to wear off. so, i save it for her birthday…and when i really want to go back to that day. but, i’ll let it slip in just this once.

with no further ado…my response on the invitation to tell the story of one’s birth, 21 months later:

Whew.
Okay.
Lainey’s asleep, Brett’s watching a movie, and I am in my corner with the computer, a beer, and the looming greatness of putting something beautiful into words. I’ve put it into pictures…and pieced it together with music, but words? hard to do.

The day after my wedding, someone told me to go buy a journal and write everything I could possibly remember that day so that I didn’t forget…because she promised me, if I didn’t, that I would indeed forget. Best advice. Before we left for our honeymoon, I bought a red-velvet covered blank book and I did nothing else on our five-hour flight but scribble, scribble, scribble. Every thought. Every sound. Every sight. Every scent. Every emotion. And I’m so glad I did…because I never want to forget that beautiful day, and without my little written memories, so much of it would be lost.

I wish I would have done the same with Lainey’s birth. But we were just completely bombed with having to go back to the hospital so soon…and when we finally got home, I was so emotionally drained, I couldn’t do it. And I’ve told myself so many times since that I really needed to go and write while I could remember…

And it is until now…that you, my friend, have held me accountable.
And my account now, 21 months after, is probably a bit different than what it would have been if I would have set to the task sooner…but nevertheless…I will tell you what I will remember. And being asked to tell one’s birth story is, to me such a beautiful invitation. Nothing I’d rather talk about. …but words are hard to find.

may be the beer…may be Eva Cassidy in the background…may be the raw emotion of wanting to be pregnant again…or the sheer beauty in these memories, but regardless…tears are already spilling. and it feels good.

I loved being pregnant. Every single moment. Was sick as a dog for 20 weeks and lost seven pounds my first three months but would do it again a trillion times over. I loved knowing, no matter where I was…that I wasn’t alone…that it was me & someone else. I couldn’t wait until my tummy got huge and round and what I wouldn’t do….oh, for the love of all things holy, what i wouldn’t do to feel her kick again. i loved being pregnant. i loved it, loved it, loved it. and the night before i knew i was going to have her…i cried because, despite the fact i was just sick with excitement to meet her, hold her, love her…i knew she wouldn’t be a part of me physically anymore. that is the most beautiful thing that could ever happen to a human. ever. thank you, eve. i’m glad she ate that apple, you know? i’m so glad she ate it.

so…anyway. in the middle of all this pregnancy thing, i had the most wonderful, beautiful doctor ever. she’s just good and kind and i never had to see anyone else but her…and i never worried about anything because i had no reason to. funny…since i’ve had lainey, many of my friends have been pregnant and they’ll ask me, “did you have the triple marker test? were you nervous about the blood test at twenty weeks? did you…blah, blah, blah” and I seriously can’t remember ever ever being nervous or scared or anxious. i just knew she was fine…and my doctor was a huge part of that. which is why i was induced because, she was leaving on vacation on a saturday for two weeks and the monday before she left, my ultrasound showed me ready to go…and i couldn’t bear the fact of one of her colleagues–someone i had never met–being part of the most amazing event in my life. so, we decided together to choose my date.

i went in on a thursday night and when i close my eyes…i remember everything. i wore a dress and heels and the nurse who delivered lainey–who has become one of my closest friends since–still teases me about the way she went back to the nurses desk after she called my name and rolled her eyes and told them to check out the girl who wore a dress to deliver her baby.

i was assigned to room 10. and three months ago, i went up to the hospital again with my friend katie, who delivered lainey, to see everyone again…and they told me…room 10’s open…why don’t you go in there for old time’s sake. …and i did. and i stood in that dark room and shook. just cried and cried.

the story is long—beautiful, but long–and i will spare you every detail…in fact, the only way i can do this is gunna be stream-of-consciousness…so hang on, sistah….

i remember the look on brett’s face and my fear of him being less excited because it wasn’t his first baby being completely dissapated when i saw big, teary eyes and little-boy anticipation. this was, after all…his first girl.
i remember walking into the room and seeing the warming bed and being hit hard with the realization that this was the bed my baby–inside my body–would be lying in. and there was a folded receiving blanket and a little stretchy cotton hat lying there…and i remember saying out loud, “holy crap. that very hat is going to be on my baby’s head.” it was just so…real. and happening.

i remember, in the middle of a contraction, brett bringing me a little hospital bracelet he found that said, “Hampton, Baby” and crying when I saw it…and staring at the handwritten name–my baby’s name–while I writhed in pain.

i remember having my friends in the room and laughing and watching t.v. and thinking “this is so cool…like a party.” i remember getting stadol and saying, as katie pushed it into my i.v., “will i feel this right away” and her answering, “yes” and then i said, “but i don’t….” and then i smiled and melted.

i remember the stadol making me loopy and me telling everyone in the room that if they shaved off my eyebrows “make sure you save them for the kids to play with.” okay, i don’t remember saying that, but everyone else does, and they remind me weekly.

i remember feeling very, very in love with brett and feeling very blessed to have someone so loving. i remember loving the laid-back atmosphere and friends in the room and laughing and dozing while i listened to laughing and being surprised at how comfortable and normal this all was…and being very, very aware that through all of this laughter and talking and crying…there was this little background music of a little heartbeat.

i remember crying hard when they came in to check me…and pushing them away…and twisting in my bed, clawing the walls with them reaching up my throat. and one of the nurses saying something about my cervix being very “upturned” and that’s why it hurt so bad and wanting to say “whatever, bitch” back…but i didn’t.

i remember thinking i was dilated to ten when they told me i was one and a half. i remember getting the epidural and everyone laughing at me because they said i looked sultry and marilyn monroe-ish while i moaned through a contraction while they were shooting my back up with a needle.

i remember having to lie on my left side because “she doesn’t like when you lie on your right”…and smiling that they talked about her as if she was already here….and had a personality…with likes and dislikes. i loved that she didn’t like my right side.

i remember knowing it wouldn’t happen for awhile and kelly staying with me so brett could go home and get some sleep. …and sleeping in a dark room knowing i wasn’t alone.

i remember brett arriving back early in the morning while i was still sleeping.

i remember wanting to hold her so bad. just wanting to hold her. and crying with the disappointment that it was still a ways away.

i remember telling brett i wanted katie back after she had to leave because her shift ended.

i remember, eleven and a half hours later when i was eight centimeters, katie returning…and brett saying, “katie’s back…you’ll have her now.”

i remember katie telling me ten minutes later that i was a ten.

i remember crying hard. because this was really going to happen.

…oh, tears.

it was beautiful. perfect. kate bush’s “this woman’s work” played loud throughout the room. and i felt amazing. and i smiled and laughed and pushed. and right before she came out, my doctor looked at everyone and…i’ll never forget…said, “don’t take the baby…she wants to hold her” because i made it clear a couple days before i wanted her straight in my arms…as long as she was breathing…and i didn’t want anyone taking her away from me.

and i saw her come out of me. a little human body came out of me. and she was pink and perfect and crying, and dr. jody handed her right to me. 6 pounds, eight ounces of pure joy. heaven. placed in my arms…and her eyes were open and she was crying and i pulled her pink body to my face and kissed it over and over…let my tears wash her face.

i remember saying, “happy birthday, happy birthday, i love you” over and over. and sobbing. just sobbing with joy. and i remember brett’s face so close to mine i could feel the heat from it. and i forgot everyone else in the room existed…and it was the three of us. crying and smiling and laughing and kissing.

and, i swear, it seemed like it lasted an hour. she had big pink lips that pouted out like they were plumped with restylane. and they were friggin’ beautiful. i remember thinking i must be dreaming because certainly, the happiness i felt was not humanly possible.

they let me hold her for so long and katie later told me that never, ever happens.

we drank her in…what seemed like forever, but it wasn’t even an hour before all of our friends…seventeen to be exact, piled in the birthing room with us to welcome her. and i watched my friends hold her and just couldn’t believe this was my baby in their arms. everyone told me before that i wouldn’t want to give her up to anyone…but i was completely fine…overjoyed, in fact, watching these people i love hold her and love her too. someone snuck a bottle of champagne in and we poured it in dixie cups. and i remember, just an hour after she was born, my legs still numb, everyone holding their dixie cups up (oh…tears)…and hearing the chorus of voices say, “To Lainey Love”…as they tapped their little paper cups and i held this swaddling thing..our thing…in my arms.

it. was. beautiful.

i remember it was 11:45 at night when the last friends left and it was just me and brett and lainey. and being transferred to the wheelchair to be taken to a new, nicer room upstairs. and being handed my swaddling baby to hold in the chair while they wheeled me up. and just thinking that i had never, ever been more proud. i remember the quiet of the room with the three of us…and we whispered and snuggled in bed together. and about 1:00, i told brett to go home and get some sleep…because i knew he loves his bed and because i knew we would be fine, just us girls. and when he left, i remember thinking my heart would burst. just sitting there, holding her, looking at her knowing i got to be alone with her for the next several hours.

i don’t know what else to say. it’s just untouchable ground. pure, raw emotion.

…and it’s a choppy ending…but it hasn’t ended. it keeps going. for 21 months, i’ve felt that feeling. maybe not as new or raw, but there are days where it just hits me like…holy crap. she was in my body. squished up in my body swipin’ her knee across my stomach, and she’s out. she’s right there, and she’s mine. and i love her so very much.

…enjoying the it-was-time-to-get-it-out things. ~k