"She will be the kind of mom who lets her kids finger paint....on the carpet.....twice. She'll make the finger paint herself, from Earth-friendly ingredients and natural dyes, and then sit back and watch while her kids paint everything in sight, smiling the whole time. And then, when they eat the paint (trust me- they ALWAYS eat the paint), Heather won't get mad or frustrated. She'll just say, "Well, what does yellow taste like?"
She was spot on. I'm that mom. I choose my battles - and much to my husband's chagrin - most of the ones I choose involve him, not the kids. I would prefer my house be neater, tidier, cleaner...but I'm ok with the temporary chaos in trade for giggles, grins, and mashed up messes of toddlers. Becoming ok with such has admittedly been a long road. But between sheer exhaustion, loving my babies as if they are some sort of wildly addictive narcotic and wanting to be near and focused on family always...the physical perfection of my surroundings will simply have to wait.
We moved to our house over a year ago. We still have boxes in various dark corners, I have not put pictures on the walls - BUT we have a functioning kitchen, and a beautiful patio garden lining a little play ground. Our hall upstairs is pretty much empty specifically to allow space for the kids to ride their toys fast and furious on a rainy day. We have rooms with nothing but toys in them - one upstairs and one downstairs. I keep anything I would mind getting broken packed and put away to be viewed and excitedly displayed at a later date. In short, our house is kid friendly - and that cuts down on the upsets, the fusses, and the stress around here.
I'm that mom: I was nervous about the kids sneaking a taste of the flowers while my back was turned...I solved that worry by planting only non-toxic edible plants around their area.
My kids are climbers: we have a "sleep room" for them that contains low sling book shelves and a mattress on the floor big enough for all of us to snuggle to sleep on...when Mary Louise and David actually sleep that is - in 2.5 years, they have slept "through the night" a grand total of 5 times. Yep - we're pretty tired over here. But when I do sleep, I rest peacefully knowing that everything in Mary Louise and David's room is under 3 feet preventing a mid-night fall.
I am spoiled. I stopped working as an adult health nurse to stay at home with our 2 babies and am lucky enough to be 2 months pregnant with number 4...yes, number 4...
When I was younger (I mean like 3...) I learned about pregnancy, I learned about breastfeeding, I learned about natural parenting and allowing time and space for personal expression. I learned to embrace difference, allow chaos, and generally appreciate the ebb and flow of life. My mother was pregnant with number 3, head of the local LLL chapter, and let me sift the pancake ingredients every morning then do art projects (like Batik and tie die) on the kitchen counters. We were allowed to bring "our exciting treasures" in the house to show her anytime. These included, but were not limited to: random leaves, chunks of dirt, rolly pollies galore, lizards, toads, our pet rabbits, stray kittens...seriously, nothing seemed to phase this woman. Though I am about 10 times as uptight and high strung as my dear mom, her zest and core zeal for life is what I have in my heart - no matter how I try to disguise it...
Bits of my childhood experience naturally became a huge part of my identity as a woman: specifically, the perfect pregnancy and natural delivery part...
I didn't just want this, I expected it. I knew I had this as an option just as I knew I had a nose on my face. It was that literal - I was going to one day be a mother and have a totally typical pregnancy and birth experience...and I would breastfeed - maybe not for as long as my mom, but about a year, I'd decided - because it is in undeniable fact the best thing for a baby. This would happen, it would be my choice, and nothing could stop it...
I'm that mom: I had triplets at 24 weeks and 5 days gestation.
On their birthday:
Before even trying to get pregnant, my husband and I had full physicals. I insisted on in depth blood work as my father - who was very fit and ran at least 5 miles daily - died of asymptomatic heart disease at age 57. I needed to know that my body was in the best shape ever so that I could support a baby, work, exercise like a fanatic, and and dote on my husband (ok - I don't dote - if he's reading this, you should hear very loud scoffing 'round the world right now). I spent over an hour in the gym 5 to 6 days per week. I did multiple yoga classes on my days off. I was in shape. I ate fish but otherwise followed a vegetarian diet. We were ready...it took over 2 years.
I spent a month in the hospital on bed rest diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia - yep, all that working out and getting in shape and I got what people naively assume only fat chicks get (no insensitivity implied). Lab work was done at least weekly: The results of which would determine whether or not I would be "allowed" to stay pregnant another second. I remember the day I turned 24 weeks gestation: the nurses all congratulated me. That day, the babies were considered "patients" too - before, I was apparently carrying fetuses and should I have been delivered, I would have been allowed to cradle them in my arms as their hearts stopped beating. My babies, my children, my family...
I actually loved bed rest. Seriously, if you've ever tried to grow 3 babies, it's exhausting and ordered sleep and laziness is very welcome. I spent so many hours just focused on the kicks and bumps - getting to know each of my babies so well. I wanted to memorize their rhythms. Regardless of the outcome, they were there, at that moment - we all were - and that moment was the only thing that mattered.
At 24 weeks and 3 days, we found our smallest had some major problems with the blood flow in his umbilical cord. He was not expected to survive, but for the sake of the other 2, the pregnancy was continued. Things went downhill very quickly after that...
I am so thankful for a number of things: I met my first born son. I spent 5 days watching him cling to life in an incubator and was able to touch his tiny hand, cradle him and tell him how proud we were to be his parents and how much we loved him as he died in my arms. I smiled - he did too - he looked so peaceful and I knew instantly that the decisions we were forced to make were not only right for him, but out of our hands anyhow - this was simply life at one of it's most poignant and beautiful moments. I can still trace his angelic face in my mind...
My daughter and son lived in the NICU for 92 and 99 days. I pumped furiously - it was my job. That 12 month goal? It was modified to include exclusive pumping. Neither ever became effective nursers. But, as I'm still pumping today, at 30 months, I feel my goal has been more than accomplished - and the benefits, more than realized.
It has taken many many MANY months for me to make peace with the guilt, the self-blame...for me to forgive my feeble body for betraying me in such a way. It has also taken a lifetime for me to even begin to understand that I have been given these gifts, these experiences and being angry about them is non-productive and futile. Enjoy the moment, each moment...and as trite and it sounds - absolutely nothing is guaranteed.
I wish I wasn't such a procrastinator, I wish I was more organized, I wish I had the energy to get my appearance together on a daily basis. I wish I didn't have frequent outbursts and upsets over things that really don't matter- as if a wet sponge left in the sink is the end of the world. I have my days - weeks - often - too often for my over all taste and pleasure...but we are all a work in progress aren't we? Awareness is the first step...and in my soul I know what matters.
I spend my time ensuring the health and happiness of my children and my family. We tell each other countless times per day we love each other. My house is a mess, but it's warm and inviting. I take the time to watch my babies learn and grow - they are my mustard seeds and as they blossom and flourish, I bask in their endless shade. This is right where I am supposed to be...
Seriously, that made me cry.
You can read more about Heather
and follow her along with pregnancy #4 at www.leblanctriplets.blogspot.com.
Tonight there will be spaghetti and football for our family and tomorrow visiting with good friends.
Here's hoping that whatever you do makes you laugh until your sides hurt.