The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the tag “motherhood”

Mother’s Day Run

This is a race that I have been looking forward to for a couple of months. It is a big deal in Calgary, with over 25,000 people participating in either a 10k run, 5k run, or 5k walk. An added bonus is that, for the 3rd year in a row, Jaybird will join me at the start line. While this is her third 5k race, it is special. First, its Mother’s Day and I am enjoying something I love with my daughter. Second, this race benefits the Calgary Health Trust Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, (NICU). Jaybird called another NICU home for the first 9 weeks of her life, so this cause is near and dear to our hearts.

We arrived early to meet some folks from our team. You can read Cori’s race review here. I was hoping to meet up with another running friend, but missed her.. next time. In any case, you can read Michelle’s race review as well, (she did the 10k). Jaybird asked a few times why we had to be there so early. I just told her that its a big crowd and that we want to be sure that we are not rushed. I spared her stories of arriving at start lines about 4am to be sure that the day starts off as smoothly as possible.

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The start was a bit of a mosh pit, though we were front and center to see the wheelchair race start out. When we saw that we would not be able to get inside the starting corral until well after the starting gun, we jumped the fence to squeeze in. We talked a bit about pace and water and how to navigate the crowd. Just in case of something completely weird, we also set up a meeting place. The time arrived to start and we were off! We kept up with the crowd, headed out of the mall parking lot and into the residential area nearby. A huge sign stating “We Love Mom!” greeted everyone as we headed up the hill. The woman next to us called out to the 20-something man sitting on the deck, “I love your sign! Great job!” He nodded back and smiled.

As we approached a kilometer marker I gasped and teared up a little. As I noted above, this run benefits the NICU and there was a donation bucket along with pictures of fragile premature babies along the route. Once upon a time, that was the girl who was running along beside me. I looked at her, asked her how she was doing and requested we slow down. I meant our running pace was a little fast, but I think there may have been a subconscious voice in there begging her to slow down in every way possible.

We walked through the water station at the half way point. We took stock of our pace and decided that we may have started out a little fast. When we began running again it was at a more practical pace. The course was well-marked and festive. All races have a diverse crowd of participants but this one had a different feel. There were families walking and running together, sometimes up to 4 generations. Spectators lined the course; clapping volunteers were everywhere. When we approached the finish line I heard a man say to his kids, “Mom crosses the finish line first. This is her day.” My heart swelled.

DSC02134Jaybird asked if we could sprint the last 200 meters, (she always does that), but the crowd was too thick for us to race to the finish. We crossed the finish line hand in hand. She was a little bummed out that no medals were awarded, so I called upon a friend and fellow Mom, Brenda Ster, for help. Brenda created a locket for Jaybird appropriate for the occasion. I presented it to her as we munched on fruit, yogurt and chocolate milk provided at the finish line. She smiled and reached out for a hug, loving her new necklace. (If you would like see all the cool stuff Brenda can do, please see her website.) DSC02136

We arrived home to much fanfare with the boys and my husband working like crazy in a flowery kitchen. A Mother’s Day brunch befitting the Queen awaited me, wrapping up a terrific Mother’s Day morning.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those moms out there, (especially mine).

If you would like to support Jaybird and other premature babies like her, please see these links to the NICU in Alberta and the NICU in Milwaukee, WI, where she was cared for by some of the best physicians and nurses on the planet.

Monday Morning

Friday was a busy day.  I had been gone from home all day and had not listened to the news.  Upon returning home with the kids after school, I took a moment to check my email and news feeds.  The first Facebook post I saw was that of my friend Jim.

“Don’t read the headlines, don’t watch the news, just hug your kids extra tight tonight. THAT is my advice.”

And I thought, huh, wonder what is going on with them.  I made a mental note to check in with Jim and his family later that evening.  Then another post telling me to hug my children.  And another.  Then more informative posts.  I switched to Twitter.  There I found links to CNN and other news organizations.  I started to read the coverage.  As (I imagine) everyone else did, I started to cry.  Apprentice noticed and walked over.  “Are you OKay, Mom?” he asked.  “Did something bad happen?”  I replied that yes, something very bad had happened.  “Did someone die?”  I replied that yes, some people had died.  “Do we know them?”  No, we don’t know them, but I am still very sad.  He hugged me and walked away.

All weekend my husband and I struggled with how to talk about the horrific actions of one person.  We kept the news off of the television and did not discuss the school shooting in front of the kids.  Then came Monday morning.

I was having breakfast with the kids and it occurred to be that other kids may talk about the tragedy in Newtown, CT, at school.  Or, that a prayer may be said during school about it.  I wanted them to hear the news from me.  I did not want them to ask questions as school.  Not that the teachers, administrators and staff at our school can’t deal with it, they are all awesome, (full disclosure, I work there part time).  I just didn’t want them getting information from other kids.  I did not want them to be afraid at school.

“So, today at school you may here about a terrible thing that happened last Friday in the United States.”  They all looked up at me, puzzled.  Mid asked what had happened.  I froze.  All three of them were looking at me with questioning eyes and I choked.  My eyes filled with tears and I tried to get some meaningful words out.  It seemed as if an hour had passed.  “Someone broke into a school in Connecticut last Friday and had a gun.”  Jaws dropped.  Jaybird asked if the person was a kid or adult and if they had hurt anyone.  “It was an adult and yes, he hurt a lot of people.”  They stared at me.  Jaybird broke the silence by saying that she understood.  The boys nodded their heads in agreement and we went back to breakfast.  I started to cry.

I took them to school at the usual time.  When the got out of the car I told them the usual “buona giornata” (have a good day) and added “I love you” in pretty much any language I could think of.  (“Ti amo”, “Ich liebe dich”, “”Nakupenda”)  They got out of the car and walked into school.  I cried the whole way home, thinking of the mothers in Newtown.  Hopefully, when we discuss this tragedy later, I will be able to reassure them that they are safe and that God watches over them.  That their school is full of wonderful children and adults that will help them.  I hope I never have to reassure them of this because it should be a given.  Children should always feel that adults will act in their best interest.

Prayers to all those in Connecticut and all over the world.  Please follow Jim’s advice, today and every day.

 

If you would like to see Jim’s advice more often, please see his blog <HERE>.  It’s a good one.

Fire, Family and KP

Summer

We were having cocktails and conversation with some friends on a clear summer evening.  The fire pit was crackling and the kids were chasing unsuspecting fireflies throughout the yard.  KP’s and my conversation flipped from work to husbands to in-laws to children to schools to politics and back to work.  I love conversations with KP.  Its like having ten conversations at once about entirely unrelated things but ultimately it comes full circle to Skinny Girl Margaritas (why she likes them and I do not) and our families.  KP and her husband Tony are parents to one son.  They would love to have more children, but had some fertility challenges with the first one and those challenges were multiplying as they attempted to have another child.  KP was frustrated with unsuccessful IVF attempts.  She and her husband did not think that international adoption was for them.  But they had so much love to give and wanted another child to complete their family.

“You may think this sounds crazy, but I know my daughter is out there.  I could pick her out of a crowd.  She has ringlet curls and beautiful ebony skin.  She doesn’t look like me, and I may not have given birth to her but she is my daughter.  I am going to find her, I can feel it in my bones .”

Perhaps it was the margaritas, or the fire, or a full summer moon, but I did not think it sounded crazy.  I remember Rosie O’Donnell once explaining adoption.  She said it is when a child is born to someone and God says, “what the heck? that’s not right,” so God goes about the process of finding the forever family for that child.  And it is made right.  (OKay, I know, total pie in the sky and it is way more complicated but that is how Rosie explained it to a kid.)  I do believe that when you decide that your family should be more than you and your partner that things usually happen the way they should.  I did not think that I would ever be the mother of three.  Yet, here I am.  We decided that we wanted to have children and were lucky enough that they all came.  Although it was not always smooth sailing, (see Jaybird’s Birthday), I would not change a thing.  Our family is complete with the five of us.  KP, her husband and son were not a complete family.  Not yet.

Fall

All set to be foster parents, their house ready, KP and family are ready to take in a child or children that need a home.  Well, KP and her husband were ready.  Their son, then six years old, was with them in spirit, but had no clue as to what he had agreed to.  His world was about to change forever.  A call came that there was a little girl, about 15 months old, that needed a loving home.  KP and company jumped at the opportunity.  This beautiful, vivacious little girl showed up at the their door.  Within one day she was calling KP “Momma” and was a dream.  Again, the 6 YO boy was not so sure; eventually this little girl won his heart.  She was healthy, strong in spirit and good-natured.  Within three days her “foster-brother” was reading her bedtime stories and singing to her.  KP and family made their intentions known over the next few months.  They would like to adopt this little girl with the flawless ebony skin and ringlet curls. 

The Next Fall 

I saw the countdown on Facebook.  It is official.  KP is expecting! It is 10 days, then 9, and so on until the adoption is official.  KP and her family have welcomed a new girl into their home forever.  The pictures of the day exemplify love, family, commitment.  So many family and friends came to celebrate this family going from three to four (officially) that I felt love just oozing out of my screen.  KP’s family is living proof that when it comes to family, there is no black or white, just love, respect and kindness.  Their family is an inspiration.

When we choose to commit our lives to another person we start a spiral of decisions.  Sometimes we decide that we would like to welcome children into the mix.  Sometimes we give birth to those children and sometimes not.  It does not matter.  What matters is that we love each other, respect each other and pray for each other.  This is family.

Congratulations, KP and family on your new addition!

Jaybird’s Birthday

Jaybird today, directing traffic with the School Patrol.

“Am I officially twelve yet?  What time was I born?  What was that day like?”  So many questions from Jaybird this morning.  Its her birthday.  She has never asked these types of questions before today.  We talked in generalities about the day, how it was the election of 2000, the infamous Bush v. Gore, that I had been in the hospital on bedrest for three weeks prior to her birth and that I was able to vote absentee with the help of my friend Sandy and the NAACP.  And, of course, that she was born at 5:53pm.

Three weeks in a hospital bed while lying only on your left side affords you the luxury to reflect on some serious stuff.  It also allowed for me to read a few books, (not on pregnancy, though, I was too nervous).  I also had time to call every organization I could think of for assistance in getting an absentee ballot for the presidential election approaching.  When neither the republican or democratic campaign offices could help, saying a deadline had passed and I was SOL, I called the League of Women Voters.  Again, no luck.  I called local representatives’ offices with no luck.  Then I called the NAACP, (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).  That’s right.  This white girl from a small town in Wisconsin called the NAACP, explained my situation to a very patient person and got answers.  They told me how to get a ballot, how to get it to the correct place, everything.  I am thankful to the NAACP and to Sandy for their assistance in voting that year.

Three weeks and twelve years ago I was admitted into the hospital with severe preeclampsia, a condition that means my blood pressure was similar to that of a shaken soda can.  During those three weeks on bed rest in the hospital, I often asked myself, “why?  Why me”?  I had done everything in the “right order”, attended and graduated from college, fell in love, got married, and then we waited until we were financially stable to start a family.  Okay, “financially stable” may be a stretch, but you get my point.  So, why, then, was I lying here in this hospital bed?  I had many friends and family come to visit me while in the hospital, my brother and I would read the Wall Street Journal sometimes and solve the world’s problems.  My husband or my parents were a constant at my bedside.  As the days went on, though, Jaybird was becoming more stressed in utero.  I remember telling my OB/GYN on a Friday that I didn’t think I would make it much longer, that I had a feeling that I would need to deliver soon.  He was patient and kind, assuring me that I was in good hands and that everything would be fine.  I came to a realization while in the hospital.  If one in eight babies (from March of Dimes website) was to be born premature, perhaps the question is not “why me?” but “why NOT me?”  After all, I had good health insurance and a terrific support system of family and friends.  Just thinking of all those kids out there that have daily challenges of getting clean water or food or are orphaned or abused or whatever made me realize that if the act of being born was her greatest challenge, we were a lucky family indeed.

As the day of November 7 progressed, a few things happened. I was growing more confused as a result of the preeclampsia and my parents had come to my room for a visit.  Thank goodness they did.  My mom, a nurse, had instructed me upon being admitted to the hospital to write a list of everyone that I could think of that could get in touch with my husband if something unthinkable happened.  The afternoon of November 7 my physician had given the orders that I was no longer allowed television, as election coverage made my already-high blood pressure enter the stratosphere.  It was also the afternoon that during my daily ultrasound all pleasant small talk ceased.  A strange seriousness came over the resident doing the ultrasound and she told me that she would be right back.  The Chief Resident entered, who continued the ultrasound.  My mother left the room.  I looked at my dad.  He grabbed my hand, sensing that I was frightened.  The Chief Resident looked at me and asked, “Where is your husband?”

I replied, “I don’t know.”

“Is he here?”

“No.”

“Okay.  Get him here as soon as possible.  I am calling your OB and we need to deliver her today.”  The rest is a bit of a blur.  As stated above, my mother had instructed me to write a list of how to contact JB in the event of something unthinkable.  Something unthinkable had just happened.  I forgot where JB was and how to get in touch with him.

I was whisked away, prepped for surgery and told to relax.  Relax?  I was freaking out.  Only 29 weeks along (a pregnancy should go 40 weeks) and barely able to put a sentence together, I had no clue what was happening.  Listening to the OB/GYN and the Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist discuss the best way to deliver my baby was surreal.  I kept thinking of a news story that I had read a few weeks earlier about a woman who gave birth alone, on a treetop in Mozambique during a flood (http://babyworld.co.uk/2000/03/a-woman-gave-birth-in-a-treetop/).  If she could do that, what was my problem?

JB arrived at the hospital and was brought into the delivery operating room.  I asked him how his day was and what he had for lunch.  He stared at me incredulously.  I begged him to talk about something mundane and normal, as I was about to jump out of my skin in fear.  He had a sandwich, some fruit, water, you know, the usual.  The leaves were falling, Al Gore was predicted to win Florida’s electoral votes (this still makes me giggle a bit), and it was a nice day outside.

Then we heard her.  She was so very tiny and translucent, as many preemies are, yet screaming something fierce.  “Is that her?” I asked. Yes, it was her, and she was screaming.  She was small, 11 weeks premature and a bit translucent, but she was screaming and that was a very good sign.  There were so many people in the room at this point that I have no idea who was doing what.  I just know that they placed this small, crying baby on my chest and I have not been the same since.  She looked into my eyes and I instantly loved her.  Then, they took her away.   She weighed in at 1 pound 10 ounces, and was 13 inches long.  She fit in the palm of JB’s hand. She was very small, on a ventilator, but was otherwise healthy.  The vent lasted three days before it was no longer needed.  She graduated to the little prongs but eventually pulled those out on her own.  Her determination inspired me.  I had many more complications from giving birth so early but Jaybird continued to grow and develop.  The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) became home for a couple of months for us.  We were able to hold her, feed her, change her thumbelina diapers and love her.  JB will tell you that I cried quite a bit during this time.  It is a blur to me.  We brought her home two weeks before her due date, when she was able to hold her body temperature, could eat and breathe on her own.  She was four pounds.

Jaybird is about 3 lbs in this picture. The gold band around her arm is JB’s wedding band.

I am so thankful for the (very) little girl who was given to us on this day twelve years ago, and thankful for the person she is becoming.  Happy Birthday, Jaybird!

Reflections on Mother’s Day

Its Mother’s Day, so I feel compelled to write an obligatory toast talking about how great my mom is.  You know, how she always encouraged me to do big things, how she was on the sidelines at every tennis match, basketball and softball game and how selfless she is when it comes to my brother and I.  I could write a post about how terrific she is, but anyone that knows her already knows all that.

Instead I want to tell a story about what it means to be a mom.  It means watching your child struggle and allowing them to overcome it on their own, against all your longing to make things right.  It’s about being an advocate for your child no matter the circumstances to be sure they get a fair shot.  Its teaching your bratty-pain-in-the-ass-giving-you-gray-hair-teenager about keeping your word, no matter how it embarrasses her at the time, so she knows that you will not allow her to stray down a very dark path.

And even when we’re adults, we still need our moms.  My mom was at my bedside whenever possible while I was on bedrest in the hospital, pregnant with my first child.  I vaguely remember after my daughter was born, lying in a dark hospital room with drugs flowing into my system to prevent a stroke and for pain control.  People took turns coming to sit with me, although I wasn’t allowed conversation (too much stimulation).  A nurse brought in a Polaroid of my small, premature daughter, then one day old.  I asked how she was doing.  The nurse confirmed my Girl was doing well, was no longer completely dependent on the breathing tube and my husband was with her.  I dozed off after the nurse left the room.  Enter my mom.  When I awoke she was holding my hand.  Her hand was trembling and I could tell she was crying.  “Don’t cry, Mom,” I told her, “the nurses said my baby is doing well.”

“I know,” she responded, “but my baby is in pretty rough shape.”  So there you have it.  I had no idea of my own condition.  I just knew my baby girl was doing well, (or at least Okay), and it carried me.  My mom knew her granddaughter was OKay yet still wanted to absorb my hurt.  I was 29 years old, with a child of my own, yet still her baby girl.

Just last summer, my daughter and I ran a 5k race.  As we crossed the finish line, the image of her in the NICU came back.  But she’s not a baby anymore, right?  Don’t we all see our kids as babies, no matter their age?

Happy Mothers Day to all those with this life altering, joyous, frustrating, painful and always exhilarating gift of motherhood.

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