Connection

Connection1After Andie was born nearly four months early, I longed for a woman who had walked in my shoes.  I needed someone to hold my hand and nod her head in understanding as I voiced my fears and uncertainty.  But that woman never arrived, and my loneliness, grief and fear took up residence just below the surface of my skin.

As the years passed and our beautiful daughter grew and thrived, surpassing our wildest expectations, I poured all those suppressed emotions onto the pages of a memoir.  It took years to thoroughly excavate the buried memories and feelings, but once my book was complete, I believed I was healed.

And then I received an email from a preemie mom named Babs.  She worked for the organization Hand to Hold, whose mission is to provide support to parents of preemies, parents of babies born with special health care needs and parents who have experienced loss.  When she and Kelli, Hand to Hold’s founder and president, told me their premature birth stories, something deep inside me cracked open, and I thought my tears might never stop.  I realized my long ago need for connection had never really gone away.

Since that time, Babs and Kelli have become dear friends and asked me to write for Hand to Hold’s June newsletter!

The topic, Summer with your Preemie triggered memories from Andie’s third summer, when fear had become such a part of my daily life, I often found everyday events simply terrifying.

I hope you’ll visit their webpage and read the story in its entirety!

Rentry

The sun shone in through the kitchen window spreading across the breakfast table, bathing the kids in a warm glow.  I let out a long, slow breath.  Summer had finally arrived.

My husband walked into the kitchen.  “The pool’s open.  Let’s take the kids over today.”

I looked at the sweet little swimsuit I’d bought for Andie hanging on a hook by the back door.  Size 3 tags still dangled from one of the straps.  I marveled at the fact that she was three.  She’d come so far.  We’d all come so far.  I watched her take a piece of waffle off her big brother’s plate.  I sat back in my chair and smiled.  Another cold and flu season was behind us and with summer’s arrival we could finally let down our guards…

Read more…

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Summer Shift

SummerShift1I couldn’t wait for the kids to get out of school for summer. To sleep in late, eat leisurely breakfasts without making lunches at the same time and not have to race to school before the 7:55 bell ran.

After the end-of-year ceremony on Friday morning, we had a picnic back at our house for both Andie and Tucker’s classes. The party was scheduled to go until 1:00 pm, but the last family left just after 4:00 and a couple of kids stayed over for the night.

Saturday brought soccer games and more end-of-year parties, and Sunday brought even more of the same. The kids were tired, yet loved every minute of the constant entertainment.

Then Monday morning arrived with pouring rain, and not an activity in sight. I was thrilled.  I woke early and read in bed, imagining the glorious, unscheduled day that lay ahead.

But by 1:00 in the afternoon, after saying no to TV for the hundredth time, repeatedly congratulating the kids on the luxury of being bored, tolerating their fighting and running out of chores for them to complete, I started to panic.

I wondered if it was too late to get them into summer camps. I wrote out a grid of calendar squares and made lists of all the activities for which I could sign them up. I remembered the fliers I’d seen at the café and the personal ads in the school newsletter. My pencil scratched across the page listing tennis lessons, guitar and drum lessons, math tutoring, pottery and painting lessons, swimming lessons, archery, basketball, soccer and circus camps. These kids wouldn’t be bored by the time I was done with them.

Then a photo on my desk from last summer caught my eye. The kids were tanned, wearing over sized sweatshirts, sitting on beach chairs around a backyard campfire with s’more sticks balanced in their hands. I studied the picture and told myself to hang in there. Give the kids some time to make a shift and remember what it feels like to have unplanned, open-ended time. They will remember, I told myself.  Resist the urge to plan.

So I slid my lists off to the side of my desk and let out the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.

A little while later, the house had grown so quiet that I went in search of the kids. Soft talking and laughter was coming from Tucker’s room. When I peeked around his door, I saw the kids up on his bed with a card game spread out between them.

“Oh, hi Mom,” Tuck said, when he saw me looking in. “Andie’s teaching me to play Zeus on the Loose. You wanna play?”

The rain continued to splatter on the roof, and I felt our summer shift begin.

“There’s nothing I’d rather do,” I said, climbing up on the bed with the kids who would be all mine for the rest of the summer.

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We’re always on the look out for fun summer games and activities? Any you’d like to share?

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We’re always on the look out for fun summer games and activities? Any you’d like to share?

Moments

Moments1As a parent of a premature baby, or the parent of a child facing any sort of challenge, or the parent of, well, any child…there are those moments… those moments that stop you in your tracks, and simply take your breath away.

It might be a first…a child’s first word, or step, or lost tooth, or first ride on a bicycle without training wheels, or first day of Kindergarten.

It could also be a last…a child’s last bottle, or diaper, or last day of third grade, or ball game of the season.

It may be one of those ordinary, everyday moments…lying in bed sharing a favorite bedtime story, or a little hand coming down to rest on your shoulder, or watching your sleeping child’s breath gently rise and fall.

You can’t predict when they’re going to come, and it’s often when you least expect it.

I had a big one the other day.

The founder of NANT – The National Association of Neonatal Therapists  http://neonataltherapists.com/ Sue Ludwig has become a friend and asked me to speak at next year’s convention.  Before this year’s convention held in May, Sue asked me to send her some photos of Andie for a video she’d show during the convention.

I heard from Sue that the convention was a great success and the video was a hit, so I scrolled my mouse over to the highlighted blue link and pressed play when the video came up. Images of tiny babies flashed on the screen, and then, there was my girl, all grown up, sitting tall and proud on the back of a horse and in the middle of a field of blazing buttercups.

I’ve now watched the video many times, but each time it continues to be one of those moments all over again.

http://www.vimeo.com/23931639

What moments have stopped you in your tracks lately?

Rites of Passage

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When Tucker was a little guy, he’d fashion fishing poles out of sticks and string and hang his “rods” over the back of the kitchen sofa. A bite from a big one, would require great effort and lots of groaning until he successfully reeled in his imaginary catch.

His first “real” rod was red and all of three feet long, with Mickey Mouse on the reel and a little, yellow rubber fish attached to the line.

It wasn’t long until the reel without a hook was no longer satisfactory, and Tuck graduated to a new real rod, hook and all. He learned how to put on worms and release the fish he’d caught. Every vacation, he made sure his fishing pole was the first thing in the car.

But as he grew older, his interest in fishing waned, replaced by more active endeavors like skateboarding, biking and basketball.

Yet just this past Memorial Day, there he was casting a line way out into the water. “I haven’t seen him fish in ages,” I said to my husband who was sitting nearby, changing the lure on his rod.

“Look at the picture on the camera and you’ll know why,” he said.
Rites-of-Passage2I turned on the camera and saw the picture they’d taken just before releasing the large-mouth bass Lee had caught.

“No wonder he’s inspired,” I said.

By late afternoon, Tucker had caught five small perch.

“He won’t let these fish go,” Andie complained, staring into the bucket where the six-inch fish were swimming around.

“I want to cook them for dinner,” Tuck said, flipping his hair out of his eyes, which were big with excitement. I noticed the sun had lured a few new freckles out on his nose.

“Dinner?” I asked, thinking of the nearly packed car and the early bedtime I’d wanted for the kids.

“Yeah.  I’ve made dinner before, but that was food from the grocery store. This is dinner I caught for my family.”

Looking into the wide eyes of my soon to be thirteen year old son, I knew this was a significant event.

“OK,” I said. “Go ask Daddy if he knows how to clean a fish.”

Andie was distraught. “You can’t kill those fish,” she cried.  “I won’t eat them.”

“Andie you love fish,” Tucker reminded her.

“Those are fish from the store,” she said, prompting a discussion on food sources. Later she “accidently” let one go, but Lee helped her catch a replacement, which she reluctantly put in the bucket with the others.

As Lee and Tuck covered the picnic table with newspaper and sharp knives, Andie hovered nearby.  She squealed when Tucker cut the heads off the still wriggling fish, but his squared shoulders seemed to be say Look at me providing sustenance for my family.

Five little perch isn’t a lot of sustenance, but with baked beans and left over pasta, it amounted to quite a meal.

We each had a few 1×3 inch fillets that Tuck had dredged in milk and breadcrumbs and fried in butter.  Andie, who wasn’t going to eat her little friends, pleaded with everyone to share a little more off their plate with her.

The fish was truly delicious. But even more delicious was witnessing my boy take a step toward manhood, swelling with pride as he demonstrated his ability to care for those he loves.

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