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Flora is the protector. To my knowledge, she has taken on three bullies (one of Kate’s, two of Michael’s). My children do not get bullied.

It’s not a physical thing; she doesn’t get in fights. She just lets the bully know: hey, if I hear about you bothering my siblings, I’m going to come after you.

I guess it’s a threat of violence. She’s never been tested.

And as always — always, always and forever, amen — I think “if you were here.”

If you were here, you would be the protector, the big brother that no one would mess with. If you would here, you’d go ahead of Flora, and take that burden, pave the way. Maybe she’d be different as a second child, rather than a rainbow baby.

We’ll never know. These are unhelpful rabbit holes, but we go down them nevertheless. We’ve been going down them for fifteen years.

We are, simultaneously, a whole family, and a family with a hole in it. This will never change. And, like Flora, we will protect ourselves, stand up, draw together.

I think you would like us. And I think you are protecting us, interceding for us. Our angel. 

Still missed, still loved. Thanks for looking over us. Maybe I’ll let flora know she can relax a little bit.

Random Thoughts: The Anywhere But Here Edition

https://twitter.com/redpenmamapgh/status/534395623458762753

More than half-way through the week, and here’s some stuff that is going on.

1. I had two posts published this week. Neither of them here. They are over at a site curated by my friend Emily Levenson. Birth Diverse is “a sacred space for mothers and fathers to share their stories of how their little ones entered the world.”

Gabriel’s post was published Monday; Flora’s post was put up today.

When Emily had first contacted me, I asked if she wanted to hear about all four labors. She was game. It’s true, I didn’t write much about Gabriel’s labor, per se, but I still wanted his story to be part of my story-telling. His story will always be part of mine.

1b. Dear lord, the photos I found! That’s what labor looks like people. No makeup, no grooming, swollen with IV fluids. I mean, in the image with Flora, at least I’m not in a hospital gown. Look at her little wee face! You can see that she was sunny-side up if you examine her eyes and forehead closely. She had a bruise for the first week of her life.

2. I am naming my left hip Gertrude because it is acting like it’s 75 years old. After a two-week hiatus from regular exercise under orders from my chiropractor, I am testing Gertrude again to find out what she is capable of. I have to modify everything I was doing. No impact, limited range of motion, lighter weights. BUT, it’s mostly working. I worked out last night and while I’m sore today, I am not in pain. And that’s an important distinction.

3. I volunteered to be on the school advisory board at my girls’ school, and I am on the STEM committee of the board as well. When I was explaining to my MIL that I had to run back up to the school one evening (and I took the children with me), she quipped, “Why don’t you get a dog, too?” I know, MIL, I know.

Anyhoo, I’ve been working on curriculum questions for teachers and students. I put out a call on my social media streams about having people in STEM careers come speak at the school. I got a fast and enthusiastic response from many people in diverse fields! I’m currently working with the school to schedule a day or week of talks. Which is exciting! And time consuming.

Children doing experiments

image source

4. Yeah, mom and dad. I’m on the STEM committee of my school’s advisory board. You read that correctly.

5. Last night, the children and I went up to Barnes and Noble for the school’s family night. It was, for me, a little too chaotic. I wanted to watch Flora perform on her violin and with the chorus, and that did not work out at all for me. Kate and M were too eager to shop and too hungry to deal. I caught some of her violin concert on video, but NONE of her chorus performance.

Sorry, babe.

6. This morning was a clusterfuck and I was sincerely wishing for the week to be over. BUT, we are descending Everest now. Starting tomorrow I get to have some fun with friends, children, and Dan — at different times and in different combinations. And then next week is a three-day week.

7. Which reminds me: I need to do my Thanksgiving shopping this weekend. Guess I better figure out what I’m bringing to dinner! Probably something involving squash as I have about six at home from my CSA.

What are you bringing to the Thanksgiving table?

Not Meaning to be Morbid

I woke up from a bad dream this morning that Monkey was lost.

As I was waking, I was already issuing the Amber Alert in my head, and the security at the ice skating rink was already in motion. Right after waking, I continued the dream to its happy ending: Monkey running toward me through the crowds at the rink, crying, saying, “Mommy, you were lost.”

This, as parents, as mothers, is one of our greatest fears, isn’t it?

I know that I live in heart-constricting, breath-stopping agony of losing another child. I don’t know that Gabriel’s death makes me more sensitive — I don’t think so. I think these little people we have in our lives carry our hearts with them. At the stage at which Monkey and Bun are, they carry them unknowingly, unwittingly. They haven’t learned (despite the hyperbole of her language — wonder where she gets that — Monkey, even, has not learned) how fragile a heart is, and how careful one needs to be with another’s heart.

Children don’t know about this given heart, until later in their lives. It’s not as if we parents, we moms, mean to give our hearts away. It’s just something that happens when you have a kid. Whether you lose your heart in your pregnancy, or at the moment your newborn comes into light, is placed in your arms, or if it happens later, months down the line, years even. Suddenly you realize your love in all its infinite wonder has been placed into these bodies, that part of your heart goes with them everywhere.

I was in love with Gabriel from the moment I knew I was pregnant. As with Monkey and Bun, part of my love for my babies was love for my husband, love for growing our love. Gabriel’s heart was my heart, and my husband’s heart.

I hope you can only imagine how it felt when his stops. (I don’t encourage such an exercise.)

Given my own tendency toward… um, let’s call it mental instability (I have been diagnosed more than once with Generalized Anxiety Disorder with a generous side helping of Catastrophic Thinking) I consider it a wonder that I leave the house, let alone with my children. I have been in imaginary car crashes; my children have disappeared in public; I have saved Bun from certain death by throwing myself in front of cars. (Bun’s a runner. I am thinking of changing her nickname to Wild Child, the way she is acting lately. I literally have nightmarish visions of her darting away from me in parking lots or into streets that freeze my blood with fear.)

While I think losing a child makes one uniquely sensitive to the experience of losing a child, I don’t think it makes one more (or less) fearful of losing a child. I hope that none of you dwell on this, but I wonder that it is not in the backs of your minds. Our love, our fear, our hope and dreaming, our nightmares — how would one go about separating all of this? It is all, in its way, all-encompassing, all-consuming.

As much as we want to protect our children, I think we want them to protect us, too. This I may feel more than other parents: I am dependent on my girls to never, ever let me feel the pain that I have already felt once. I need Bun to learn not to run away from Mommy in public or outside. I need Monkey to be careful of who she befriends in restaurants.

One of the best ways I ever heard this summed up was like this. A father I know (The Ex’s father, as a matter of fact) said to me, “I was never afraid of heights. Then I had children.”

Or maybe these are the intrusive thoughts that mothers of dead babies have. Along with questions like, do I love my dead baby less because of live babies? And, how could I ever forget?

Or maybe I am alone.

I know this: that it is vitally important to me my children bury me (not soon! like, how about in 40 years? That’s doable). That the natural order hold in that fashion. That they protect my heart until they don’t have to any longer.

In the meantime, I will protect theirs, protect them (as best I can — maybe by asking them not to jump without me). Because it protects that part of my heart that is most important.