I cannot imagine the amount of mammogram stories there are out in the big internet- world of ours; astonishing tales of devastating news, trials, pain, worry and exhilaration.
To be honest, mine does not have an ending just yet because this was an entirely different story…
I am a 43, (approaching 44,) mother of 3 very little boys. All under 6 to be exact. If we do the math, My youngest was born when I was 42 my oldest when i was 38 and my middle when I was 40. My middle munchkin was also born unknowingly with an adorable extra chromosome, or as you more commonly call it; Down syndrome . I am a full time kindergarten teacher and as you would imagine, a very busy woman.
So, I crammed and rushed to schedule my yearly breast exam appointment. I did it for those little boys . My God I want to see them as men. This, I am sure, is not an unusual anecdote. It is probably also not odd to hear how this mother of boys often longs for a pink beaming bow. I know I’m “geriatric” in the child bearing sense and that my plate is spilling on the floor it is so freaking full…but still my loins ache for pink. I am beginning to understand that a mother’s loins always ache for something.
So, on appointment day I was asked a barrage of questions, including, “is there a chance you are pregnant?” My immediate response “NO!!!” My calculated response: NO? I don’t think so? Probably not? To which the tech responded ” I do not feel comforatable with your exam unless you are sure. There is a ton of radiation back there.”
Well now I was freaked and they would not give me a pregnancy test on the spot . So off I went with no mammogram and a worried wonder settling deep in my belly.
All logic parts of my brain said “no way.” My husband and I ( both teachers, both hands on raising our babies, both extremely otherwise occupied) had only been intimate twice. Both times were safe and the vasectomy had been scheduled . It could not be. But my analytical mind went deep. I saw that rabbit hole and I dove in cerebellum first:
Would we have to move…AGAIN! What if I had another boy? What if I had to handle the news of another disability? What if it wasn’t Down syndrome? How would we find the money or time? What would happen to my body and my relationship? Who would ever agree to watch four kids so we could have a date? What about Car seats and Pack and plays?
My head swirled. My nerves buzzed on the surface.
I took to sharing. It’s how I deal. I told my husband and my friends. They laughed with me, worried for me, showed me incredulous faces and urged me to take a test. I prayed too. I prayed that there was not a baby inside my belly. I took back all the the loin longing for a girl.
I also convinced myself that I had every single early sign of pregnancy. Omg! Did my boobs hurt? Why was I tired? Why was I not wishing for a glass of wine? Why did chicken seem gross?
Above all, I was unusually happy with what I already had. I was satisfied. I begged for things not to change. I pleaded…”please do not let this be undone.”
I thought about taking a test before work. The suspense was twisting me… but the unsuspecting positive test with my third boy had me spooked. So all day I contemplated. I struggled and I realized how damn lucky I already was.
The test was negative.
And here I sit.
I am entirely gracious and full of divinity. I may have even galloped a bit on my walk today. So why am I writing this?
This is not a tale of tradgedy or even beauty in the unexpected. It is a story that has me doing what we all do. It is the story of “phew.” I wished and I prayed. I rallied the troops and my wish was granted.
But isn’t this a story we know all too well these days?
It is a story of “what if my story was different?” It is a story of “be thankful for what you have because it could all change in a fleeting second” it is a question of “how do I hold onto the enjoyment in this moment and don’t forget how good I have it?”
It is a feeling of “how do I keep the gratitude close and the complaining away…. without a concerning event to remind me?”
It is a question unanswered for now I am afraid. However, it is a note to hold on to happy with a tight grip and grateful heart. It is being thankful for the reminder… and a hope that no more are needed.
They swirl so fast, these holidays of ours; funny, endearing and frustrating. Each one building on the last, forcing us to wonder about which was our favorite and how we can ever recreate it? They all matter though, even the shitty ones. They are all there to bring something to that doily decorated table.
Like the ones I spent alone cursing the holiday as a ploy created by Hallmark.
Or the ones where I was allowed a boy/ girl party in our humbly finished basement as I carefully hung an obscene amount of paper hearts from the ceiling . I clearly remember curling my besties hair and the feeling of pre-teen anticipation.
There were the my first ones. The ones where I’d read my cards over and over for hours, treasuring how I was so lucky to be so loved…..Knowing little about the class requirements of inclusion.
There were the obligatory ones, where I mentally muttered “shit I’d better stop and get a card.”
There were friend ones celebrated at a bar.
And Dinner date ones.
There was the one I knew would be my dog’s last.
There was That one crazy Florida, hospital one when Judah’s festive pink eye resulted in a trip to the ER and script for antibiotics.
I’m sure there were boring ones I don’t remember.
There were the ones for the kids. The ones that didn’t include French kisses or lingerie but may have included heart shaped French toast?
The truth is, my favorite was probably the hospital one. Not because it was awesome. In fact, it was awful. 24 hours in a car with 2 small fries, one sick. … And just as we were to arrive at our palm tree destination, the palm trees waved bye bye . It was sucky. But it was memorable, it made me grateful and I was with the ones I loved.
But the other ones did something too…..
Like how the ones I spent alone taught me that I am able to survive being alone.
And my boy/girl soirée taught me how to be a proper host.
My love for those little cards taught me how important it is to give them.
The obligatory and forgotten ones taught me how I cannot always compete with everyone else’s highlight reel ….because sometimes my insides just don’t match others outsides ( thank you author Anne Lamott)
The friend ones taught me a lot about being there for each other and the dinner ones taught me the important simplicity of a meal shared.
The kid ones have taught me to re-see holidays through their eyes bringing me back to the days of my first ones. Coming full circle the way that life seems to do.
And maybe one day I’ll have a really rough Valentine’s or Christmas or Flag day. And maybe one will be one of the best days of my life. Maybe a handful will be just like any other day?
But what is key is to get lost in the beauty and the hard and mundane in all the funny days we are given. Because with them we become more us than we were the day before. With them we carve rings in our tree. With them we gain wisdom and clarity and humor and sadness. With them we gain character that lets us tell stories to who ever will listen about our funny Valentines’.
With them we live wholly…. and that, is cause for recognition. So, here’s to a significant Valentine’s, no matter what it looks like.
“There are several ways that animals respond to winter: they migrate, adapt or hibernate.”
Last year at this time I spoke of the way I was tangled up in all of the ways that Christmas had me high and low ( read that post Here) In summary, I reveled in the magic and suffered as I had to let it go. This year You may find me waving a middle finger bye bye to the season.
I’ve analyzed and reanalyzed my different point of view this year??? It’s what I do. I take my feelings like a sopping wet wash cloth and I wring it metaphorically dry. I’ve come up with a few possibilities. They range from having a new enchanting baby last year to the demands I have this year? It could be my job where the magic must also live as I mold minds of impressionable 5 year olds and therefore sap it from my life at home? It could be my two very own little time stealers who beg for every bit of my being? It could be rampant family sickness, or seasonal affective disorder? It could be that the trauma of Christmas past, where only health mattered, is fading and I’m back to taking for granted? Maybe I came in too hot with the all holiday music or it could be how I threw multiple grandiose soirées that took their pricey toll? Maybe I am unconsciously sad it’s over and am disappointed I didn’t make it more grand? Maybe I’m just fucking tired and I cannot care enough this year no matter how hard I try to will it so?
But all my analyzing and wringing and trying to fix and worrying that the spirit may evade me forever, doesn’t change the fact that I am sullen, I am over it and I am welcoming a form of hibernation.
I have always found it weird that we are the only species that does not alter its routine in response to the weather. We get the same sleep, do the same work and fulfill the same expectations. I cannot very well tell my boss, children or students “nope, sorry, this winter I am going to Florida, lessening my work load or taking a long ass nap.” Could you imagine though? Binging on all that Christmas decadence then sleeping for a good few months?
But we cannot. We must trek on. I don’t know about you , but I still need to replenish. It is time for me to take to all my unread pins about self care and gratitude and simplicity. The excess of society is a skin to be shed and I need to molt.
You will not find me with overlined lips and eyes. My weave will be unclipped and my trendy attire retired briefly to the back of my wardrobe.
If you need me, search for the clean faced girl, wrinkled and worn. Look for green tea and Tabata. You can find me under a cozy blanket, in yoga pants and hair in a pony. I will be centering. I will be searching for my gratitude that somehow has gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of a season that escaped me.
And let’s not get it twisted. This is not a shift I welcome, like a resolution. It is a necessity. My voice feels like a whisper, my prayers are weak and my gratitude shallow.
I want the love back. The deep kind. The kind that makes me ache with thankfulness and awareness of blessings. That takes work folks.
So like many fuzzy creatures I will rest and awake hungry in the spring. I hope to be hungry for celebration and stilettos. But for now, I “sleep” so, please, don’t poke the bear!
Hi it’s mommy, professing her unwavering love yet again. I wasn’t sure how to write this birthday post to you because, well, I wear you proudly on my sleeve daily. I think the whole world knows our love story and how it was born from pain. I’m pretty sure the universe is aware of how big our love is. That way my shame for being scared of you morphed into an incredible explosion of devotion and advocacy. You’ve been called “my favorite” by many and I’m sure even more think it. Although, I love all you babies the same, I do feel I owe you the most. Call it disgrace for my early feelings or my innate need to help the world… but, either way, I don’t think you need another post about how crazy I am for you. I think you are wildly aware of how much I value your life, and I am certain you can feel how your short 3 years have made me such a better version of myself.
I thought instead you may enjoy what others have said about your enchanting little soul over the years:
“Omg! He is so darn adorable!”
“Every time you post a picture or story about him, I find myself smiling. He’s absolutely beautiful and perfect.”
“Beth, I have to tell you that as an Uncle to a nephew with Down Syndrome who is 22 years old, I know that Judah is adorable!!! I love seeing your posts about him and his pics!He has the Greatest Smile and I know why you love him sooooo much!!”
“Every time I see him I just want to smother him in kisses and hugs.”
“A couple pieces of advice:
Keep dreaming big for Judah. Whatever it is you’ve imagined for him and his life, keep dreaming it. The possibilities for Judah are endless and I can absolutely guarantee he will amaze you, your husband and Calvin over and over again.
Judah is simply beautiful. And I’m thinking of you all. Two weeks in and you’re doing exactly the right things. And I’m certain this will continue. And when there are questions, there are so many great resources and people out there to help. Judah’s life will be amazing. Congratulations again to you and your family. ”
“Whether it was a doctor or a school CSE or a complete stranger just know that NO one can ever take away Judah’s worth or the unconditional and unsurmountable love that you will always have for him and that he will always have for himself and everyone he loves! That one rule of thumb has gotten me through a lot of scars and bends in the journey. He is who he is no matter what anyone or any diagnosis says he is, always has been and always will be, my boy. Judah is your Judah!”
“Love those smiley eyes!”
“The world is gonna love this kid…”
“He’s so carefree. It makes me want to be like that!”
“His happy makes me happy. I can feel it from here.”
“I believe in you!”
“All I can say is runny nose or not this soul has made my life a better. Following your family in this journey has be an amazing adventure. God put you all together for this reason , you make it all work out to his advantage . You are my hero and so is he.”
“Always love to see his constant excitement and happiness. ”
“He’s just adorable. I think there is a resemblance between all your boys”
“With all the love we give to this ” Wonder Kid” we still will never be able to give back to him what he gives to our family. Judah thank you for being such a very special part of it.”
“that smiles just makes all bad stuff melt away”
“Judah is 10000% the boss of me. That charm, those sloppy kisses, his fierce will and the strength he has, all make me want to be a better person! We all have those kids we just ‘click’ with and from the moment I held the soft little fluff nugget I knew….I would never stop being Judah’s cheerleader and advocate. ”
Bub, there a million more messages just like this. I have barely scraped the sentimental surface. Countless people have mentioned your ability to change their outlook and even more people have shared stories with me of their strife. They felt brave enough to tell it because of you. People approach me just to talk about you… and both friends and strangers swarm to see your little personality in action.
And Bub, there’s something else I need to tell you…. I don’t want to bear the bad news but I’d rather you hear it from me first. There are people out there (ones who don’t know any better) who think you are not worthy of life because of your teeny, tiny, extra chromosome. Well, sweetheart, if you are ever unlucky enough to find someone who lets a little chromosome outshine your big important life? ….Then I pray you find this post and recall all these incredible things people said about you before you were even on this planet three years!!!! It’s incredible you know? The work you’ve done to change things in your short little life? Don’t stop!!!! You are such a special person with a rare gift…… the gift to set the world on fire. Happy birthday Juju you are loved so fiercely.
Oh baby. This post makes me weepy… Where did our time go? It’s a question asked by most mamas I know….. but here’s my secret: I wanted you to grow bigger, I couldn’t wait until your baby neck became sturdy and I did not have to hold your head. I longed for the day solid foods would start so that feeding every three hours didn’t chain me to reluctant stillness…..and I formula fed. I wished you would be a little less needy, a little less whiny; a little less of a baby….And I know that I sound like a monster and I recognize what a shitty thing it is to say, but my darling Augie it is my truth. My goodness I pray that I don’t wreck you because of that.
Hopefully you will feel how I could look in those deep, baby blues forever if only I just had the time. And I wish I could be the one responsible for that heart stealing smile that smiles so big everyday. I wish I was always the one to bathe you and take in the delicious scent of your squish. I wish we could linger at bottle time and I could sit you on my lap for endless stories about animals and letters. But my darling I cannot. You’ve come at a precarious time, a time when I am incapable of taking your incredible love in solely and completely. I hope you get that I want to. I hope you know when I look at you , I can’t stare too long. The devotion I want to dote on you but can’t…fills me with guilt and takes my ever loving breath away.
I love you my son and I love that you’re here. I wish we had more time, or I was younger or had you later in life or a whole bunch of other things so I could take you in more wholely. But I cannot…
August James, instead, I can make you a deal. I can promise to stop wishing for more and start loving what time and nurturing we do have together. I vow to not give up because it’s not the perfect proportion of feeling to action or exactly what it should be. I will never stop kissing you, telling you I love you and soaking in the beauty of you. i will not look away in shame because I cannot give you all of me. Rather, I will give you the best of me. So…when you must be plopped or brushed aside or strapped in a seat, you will remember the endearments I showered upon you. Your hugs may be a little shorter but I will promise them to be a little sweeter.
Here’s the thing sweet baby. In the name of research for this post and because I’m neurotically trying to give you the best shot in this big bad world of ours, I googled “third child.” I read and I read and I read. The consensus is not detrimental. According to research you should be eagerly diplomatic, uncomplicated, willing to give (because you always have to) humorous, light hearted and you shall hate to be alone. You may surround yourself with friends to supplement for the family who can sometimes leave you feeling like an outsider or left behind. (ouch!!!!)
Well, this tells me two things: one, I’m not the only monster out there daring to bring a third child into her already chaotic world and, two, now I know. Knowing is half the battle my love. I know what the world has planned for you. Some because of your experiences in our family some because you just are who you are and came when you came. I also know Cravers and Shores were born to break molds. We’ll surprise you with what’s up our sleeves and we will pull a rabbit out of our metaphorical hat. Also, you are not so diplomatic. You are headstrong and you demand (sometimes in a shrieking tone) to not be ignored…like the way you demanded to be a part of this world.
And us, well, we aren’t complacent to let the cards fall the way research predicts either sweet frog. We will continue to make sure what has always been so, does not define us.. You can count on us baby Augie. I will not fail you my dear …because, you see, your daddy and I are first born, so we are perfectionists… we are innately driven to create only the kindest, well rounded humans with just the perfect amount of adoration. Who knows my love? Perhaps all this analyzing and overthinking will harm you in the end….but maybe, my baby, love will prevail. I believe it will. I will always pick love. You can’t go wrong with that.
And so I love you August James. I love you in the complicated ,wrinkled way a mommy must love her third born and I pray that is enough. Happy birthday sweet boy. You are such an incredible gift.
As the impending doom of my first baby’s bus ride inevitably nears, I ask myself when not if….I know I’m going to cry. Shoot, I’m crying right now through typing tears. I cry at inspirational speeches and pretty much any musical montage. I have surrendered myself to waterproof eye liner and the fact that it will just be so.
The question lies within the beautiful little kindergartener to be. His soul is old and delicate. He walks the world sensitive like his momma (well both of his parents actually) and I plainly see that bright big heart on his sleeve. When he turned 4 he came to lie in bed with us. I tortured myself by playing Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up” and nuzzled his neck through my sobs. I certainly wasn’t expecting him to match my tears and declare that he now didn’t want to grow up either. Oopsie, parent fail. I spent the next half hour repairing that damage and thankfully the crisis was diverted when he remembered PRESENTS.
Here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure I haven’t screwed him up too bad yet ; besides that minor fawpaw. I encourage creative play and try my best to ignore messes.( A real tough one for my type A-ness.) I give him freedom and space and snuggles. I say I’m sorry when I screw up and speak in plain language about things that are serious. I love him fiercely and I only cried on the inside when I dropped him off at his grandparents the other day as he proudly announced “don’t get unbuckled, I can go in by myself.”
So, to cry in front of his cherubic little face or to save the ugly sobs for when he’s safely in his seat?
One part of me says let my freak flag fly. Be me. Us sensitive souls must stand in solidarity. He should know that crying is allowed, not shameful and an expected response to such a momentous occasion. He should also know that the fierce love I feel for him won’t flee just because his little birdie wings are flying from the nest. He has spent a lot of times simmering on the back burner in this short little life of his. He should know that on this day, thoughts of him are swirling around all the lobes of my cerebellum and thoughts of his baby days swell deep within my soul…..
BUT, will my streams of sadness wreak havok on his tender psyche? One cannot know for sure? I am torn between “my mom was a tough old bird” or “all she ever did was cry.” I want me to be me because I want him to be him …but I don’t want him to associate school with devastation either. Being a mom is hard. Being a sappy one is harder. Watching them grow is the hardest. I am not sure how it wall all go down but I am sure of my dad’s advice on moderation.
So, I’m going to(most importantly) simply show up, and try for just a trickle.
Wish me luck.
I avoided writing about this topic because…I don’t know why? I’m too mad? I’m a hypocrite? I have nothing new to say? The community is flooded with responses to eliminating Down syndrome? The truth is. It’s all of these. But here I sit, ignoring the show I’m watching, wine on the floor rather than in my hand, because I just cannot let myself be so passive to such a crossroads. I cannot not keep my head down in this traffic. You will instead find me in hard hat, putting up stop signs.
I’m. Mad. I’m mad because eliminating Down syndrome in essence means doing away with my son. What if in an instance we could poof away all the people in this world with a disability? What if there was a vote? How many would agree to do it? You know what? I have no idea what that number would be, but I know it would be some. I know people would “poof” my son away the first chance they could. It’s a horrid feeling to know that. It baffles me and also, it really freaking pokes the mama bear inside of me.
I’m a hypocrite. I didn’t have the test. I do have an intuition of sorts. It’s eerie but I can’t deny it. I knew I was going to have a baby with Down syndrome day 1! I just had a feeling. I waivered when it came to test time because I knew….so, I procrastinated and asked countless people their opinions. I purposely surrounded myself with conviction that I was fine, Judah was fine, Down syndrome didn’t matter. All these things helped me evade making a decision so I would never actually see it on paper….I can’t be sure what would have happened ? Thankfully I’ll never know . All I know is there were options in my mind,so I get it . I am a bit leery about the fight…because if you don’t know what I now know, how can I make you know? How do you make someone feel something they don’t know yet?
I have flooded my social media feeds with the adorabalities of my dear Judah. I made up the word adorabality and he deserves it dedicated to him . He is something special all right…and he is work beyond all work; but it is glorious in all it’s returns. You know this . We don’t need some steeering articles spewing incredulous facts to tell us numbers because If you love me or if you love Judah….then you know what Down syndrome is all about . I can’t tell the world anything new. Down syndrome is not a burden. Down syndrome is the most incredible gift. It fixed me!!!! I say those phrases so often you may find them on my tombstone. They are the truest words I have ever spoken ; but that’s it. I cannot come at all these eliminating articles with anything new. There are no words that I can say to fix this travesty that I have not said before. I do wonder though? If so many people with Down syndrome are saying “Down syndrome is great!” And so many parents are declaring their love for this heart warming disability then why in God’s name is nobody listening? Are we viewed as liars? Sugar coaters? Does the world think we are trying to trick them into having a baby with Down syndrome? How is no one getting the awesomeness of these people with something extra? All you have to do is talk to a person with Down syndrome or someone who loves them and you’ll get it. I want to scream it from rooftops with a microphone, into a megaphone ” YOU ARE MISSING OUT… DON’T DO THIS TO YOURSELF” but by now if you know our family and are reading this then you already know.
And if you don’t? If you’re a worried momma or a politician trying to do away with all the “extra expenses Down syndrome puts on our economy” well then I’m sure you won’t find yourself reading about my firm planted stance. I’m sure you will scroll right by. Maybe because your frightened?
Quick side story here: when I had convinced myself I was having a baby with Down syndrome, I shared the news with a close friend. She urged me to read Kelle Hampton’s “Nella: A Birth Story” I wouldn’t do it. Even though my friend promised me it was beautiful (and it is) thought it might help (and it would have ) I just could not bring myself to do it. After, Judah was born with Trisomy 21, I took to google, of course. Her story was the first thing I read in my hospital bed. Then, I immediately repeated reading it with my husband. We sobbed the most reassuring sobs. I read it again. Then I read her book as soon as I was home. And I have and will continue to read that story on the eve of Judah’s birth from now on.
…..And I get it if you’re frightened, or you are afraid you might will it true by educating yourself. I know It sounds crazy… but I understand it because it was me.
I love Holland now. I love the pain I felt. I loved the extreme uncomfortable shift my life took. I love Down syndrome. I love all of this different and beautiful path. And so maybe we are frightened or uncomfortable or we just don’t know. And maybe I won’t change one person’s mind. But I have to write about it anyway. The pull is like a magnet’s North to a South. I owe a homage to the little boy who changed me. I owe it to the world to share my one-time skeptical, side of the story and I owe it to myself so that I can pick up my wine,watch a show, and know I’ve said my piece.