Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Walking the walk

It's November, and you know what that means: lots of posts from lots of people sharing those things for which they feel grateful.  I like them.  They remind me how good I've got it.  How good most of us have got it.

I have spent this November not feeling grateful.  That's not to say I don't have gratitude on my mind, but it's just one thing in a long list of many and, sad to say, it's not a headliner.  The truth is, worry is on my mind.  On my mind, in my bones, nipping at my heels.  I'm a worrier from way back though so in many ways this is no big deal; par for the course, really.  The focus of my worries change, as you might expect.  No longer do I have grade school science fair deadlines or grad school final exams keeping me up at night; money is tight but I don't have to wonder where the funds for rent are going to come from.  Sadly, or maybe mercifully, I don't have to agonize about my parents and their health any more.  Nowadays I'm staring down the other end of that tunnel, fretting over my kids: are they eating right? sleeping enough? given enough attention? smothered too much? are they healthy? happy?

Are they going to be OK?

Except for the last couple of months, where our home has served as an incubator for every virus known to exist on the north side of Indianapolis, we have been blessed with very healthy kids.  Until just a couple of weeks ago I had never had a child with an ear infection.  Our pediatrician knew that if we were coming in, Sara was really very sick - otherwise she just never saw us. Knock on wood, we seem to have been spared from allergies of any sort (though it's too early to say for sure with Libby, so...  now watch, I've probably jinxed it).  We may have made more than a couple of visits to the ER but my kids have been spared the heavy-hitters, the diseases and disorders that we dare not utter lest we unwittingly invite them into our lives.  Thank you, Jesus, for sparing us these things and please, God, pour out your love on those who face them every day.

So, yes - I think they are healthy.  And by the sound of things around here we hit the happiness mark most days, too.  I do my best to provide a variety of nutritious foods and nap time comes, whether they like it or not, day after day after day.  From time to time I am guilty of Facebooking when I should probably be stacking blocks, but given the number of ridiculous songs I have made up about each of my children I think it's safe to say that they are not neglected.

All is well.  All is...  mostly well.  Three beautiful, healthy, loving girls.  Smiles all around.  In many ways they are thriving: Sara loves school and learning, has become a voracious reader, and has a wonderful circle of friends.  Becca is a love, a living, breathing snuggle, the sweetest child I have ever known.  And Libby reveals herself to us a little more each day - attentive, strong, happy, funny.  They bring so much joy to our home.  (And noise.  And messes.  You know, if I'm keeping it real.)

But things are just a little harder for one of them.  Poor Becca has to follow in the footsteps of her big sister Sara, who had to do everything in a hurry.  Walking, talking, you name it - Sara was on the fast track.  It was all so natural and easy for her.  I just thought this was how my kids would be.

But these things aren't natural or easy for Becca.  We are just weeks away from her second birthday and my sweet girl doesn't have very many words.  The braces she wears on her ankles help her feel more secure when she walks but she still toddles a lot, falls a lot, crawls a lot.  Her body is soft and a little limp, not like a rag doll but just a little more loose than you would expect; maybe how you'd hope to feel after the best massage, ever.  And she's small, hanging on to that growth chart but solidly holding up the bottom of it.

As you would expect I've worried about many of these things for a long time.  My benchmark was off though.  I was reminded by many that Sara wasn't "typical."  Bex was bringing up the rear but it was all still normal.  Until one day it wasn't.  And then we were making appointments for evaluations.  Weekly therapy.  Orthotics.  Developmental pediatricians.  Hearing tests.  Failed hearing tests.  Trying to get her healthy enough to repeat the hearing tests.  Do we do the MRI of her brain?  (No.) Is it time to bring in another specialist? (Probably yes.)  Is there more we can do? (Certainly yes.)  Do I know what those things are? (I hope to find out.)  Can we afford it?  (We will make a way.)

I work in an environment where "special needs" is the norm.  I don't think of those kids as less than, and I don't pity them. They are funny, unique, tough kids.  I admire them and the families that are their champions.

I just never expected to be one of them.

These days I spend my free time researching different therapies and questioning new diagnoses.  Picking the brains of my colleagues - so many of the most talented and smart pediatricians and speech pathologists I could have the privilege to know.  Wondering if I am worrying too much.  Worrying that I am not doing enough.  Hoping that, no matter how Becca's life unfolds, I can rest in the knowledge that Rob and I did everything we could to help her become the best Becca she could be.  Because at the end of the day that's all any parent wants, right?  For our children to be the best, happiest, healthiest version of themselves that they can be.

I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that this journey we are taking with Bex is changing me.  I am a more deliberate parent with her.  I am forced to be her voice when sometimes I am not comfortable being that voice.  I am walking the walk that I have only talked for all of these years.  I don't like it.  I'm not especially good at it.  But will I ever stop walking?  Of course not.

We're gathering quite a village around this little girl. Doctors, therapists, friends, family.  Even the dog seems to understand that Becca gets a little extra measure of patience.  Every one of them wants the same thing I want and they're each bringing their own gift to the party, whether it's a new therapy idea or a prayer or a listening ear. And so I guess, since it's November and Thanksgiving is just a few days away, I should remind myself that I am thankful - very, very thankful - for all of these people who are walking along with us.  They are the best.  You are the best.

And here's a world-famous Becca snuggle, just for you.  (Trust me, they are definitely something to be thankful for.)  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring Awakening

I’d like to say it all started with a pair of red pants.

I’d love to start the story there.  But the truth is it started a lot more timidly.  It took consultation and self-reflection.  It took a change in mindset and the benefit of the wisdom you acquire after 44 years of life on this Earth for me to get to the red pants.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to wade through 44 years of wisdom.

Today, for the first time in my adult life, I put on a pair of red pants.  I imagine this does’t mean much to you.  But to me it provides just enough shift in my day-to-day paradigm that I feel like I can do anything.  Proof of this?  I just vacuumed (most) of my house.

Bold trousers aren’t something I’ve ever put on a body like mine.  I’m not small.  I’m not even medium.  If this were McDonald’s it’s safe to say I would be the Biggie Fries. I don’t love this fact but it is what it is, for now, and I’ve decided that my body - much like the fries - has earned the right to wear red when it wants to.  It’s not like the black pants change anything, right?

Motherhood had a little something to do with this.  I am now Mama to three (THREE!) girls and so the realities of being a girl, and a woman, in the world today are taking on new urgency for me.  I don’t feel like I’ve been treated unfairly in the past, but I have come to realize I’ve been treated differently, in part because I’ve allowed it.  And I’ve allowed it because it never occurred to me that I shouldn’t.  This isn’t a behavior I want to teach my girls.  Neither is feeling shame about how you look or what you value.  Will I ever be model thin?  God no.  But I can care for, and be proud of, the body I have today.  It has, after all, grown and delivered three beautiful souls into the world.  The least I can do is be kind to it.

So my girls are one reason I pulled on these pants today.  

I also had the counsel of a small but mighty group of women to thank for today’s wardrobe upgrade.  Because much like middle school girls everywhere I continue to look to my peers for advice and reassurance on what is acceptable to wear in public without risking complete social rejection.  And when I said “I’m thinking about getting some red pants” they did not move to another lunch table but instead said “I’m so happy for you!” and “I LOVE the idea of red pants!!” (They also gave me the thumbs up on a kelly green sweater.  I’m going all out, people.)

But I think really, at the end of the day, I ventured out of my safe but boring box because I’m ready to move on.  Move forward - in my wardrobe and also in my life.  With 44 years of wisdom comes the realization that time is not on my side.  20 years ago, when I graduated with a degree I would never use, I had the luxury of knowing my whole life lay ahead of me to figure things out.  That luxury is, naturally, slipping away.  But it’s been replaced by something new, and maybe even better:  Knowing that it’s all going to be OK.  Not perfect, without heartbreak or loss, and certainly with my fair share of failures. But still, it will be OK.  I am still afraid to go out on a limb, put myself out there, risk rejection.  I will though, because I don’t have the time to not do those things.  It’s too important - life is too important - to be afraid to fail.

This morning I took a risk and dressed up my Biggie Fries in a pair of red capri pants and met with a trusted friend to talk about what could be.  There’s so much to be afraid of.

I haven’t felt this good in years.