Monday, December 31, 2007

2007/2008

Wow, another year already gone. I had not gotten used to writing '07 on everything, and here I have to learn to write '08 instead. Remember Y2K? Remember all that hype? All the fear of computer crashes and terrorist blasts and the second coming (remember the weirdos with their basement bunkers full of four years' supply of food?). It seems funny now.
Anyways, I just wanted to sit down and reflect on what a blessing this past year has been for me, and how overwhelmingly grateful I am that it is so.
This time last year I had two main thoughts:
#1, Dear God, Jesus, Blessed Mary, Joseph, and Holy Spirit, erase 2006 and send me back to the last half of 2005 when I was happy.
And
#2, Dear God, please let this next year be better than the last.

Well, as you have probably guessed, the holy family did NOT send me back to the latter half of 2005, but 2007 DID turn out to be a vast, gloriously vast, improvement on the year before. 2006 began with our adoption of Matthew (well, that happened shortly before Christmas, but in January we were getting over our jetlag and starting to survey our surroundings as a family of four). Adopting our second child was a dream filled with high hopes, unrealistic expectations, and deep emotion. We had high hopes of more joy added to the brimming pot of having children, and of creating a safe space for a child in need. We were unprepared for our ambiguous feelings and our difficult adjustment period, which baisically crushed my previously cherished belief in myself as a good mother (because it's really all about me, right?!).
I didn't handle the adjustment well. I deteriorated rapidly. I was tired all the time. I screamed. I smacked. I cried. I yelled. I was unpredictable, unavailable, and depressed. I was incapacitated by guilt over my shortcomings as a mother, which further incapacitated me. In very short order, what I knew and believed of myself was gone, and I really didn't like who I was left with.
Many, many times I believed my kids would be better off if I threw in the towel, packed my bags, and moved to Florida to be a beach bum who drinks Pina Colatas and sunbathes on the beach all day. Complete with sunglasses, flowered mumu, and straw hat.
One of the reasons why I have this quote on my sidebar:
'Courage is not defined by those who fought and did not fall, but by those who fought, fell, and rose again' is because it describes what I experienced in those moments when I just wanted to give up and pack my bags as a mother. It's tough being terrible at something so important, and so central to one's identity! But I didn't stay terrible. I got better, bit by bit, step by step, and the terrible weeks shrunk to terrible days, which shrunk to terrible minutes, which became terrible moments. Everyone has bad moments, so once I got down to 'moments' I felt okay again. I learned how to multi task; which doesn't do justice to how a mother shares her moments between two needy children, housework, a husband, and her (legitimate, not selfish) self, I went to a counsellor for 6 or 7 weeks to get a handle on my emotions, I prayed a lot, and I read some books. The situation improved as the year went on, but I still felt the weight of that aweful time when I reflected on 2006, heavily enough to have main thoughts #1 and #2.

2007 began. Every week I would think to myself, "This time last year I was ______________" and picture how I felt, what I was doing, how we were functioning a year previously. This helped me to process what I went through (or should I say what WE went through, since no mom gets depressed without slogging it onto her family), and also to measure how much better we were doing THIS year as a family of four. Late January 2007 I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia by my doctor, and suddenly some of my angry outbursts had a reason, and when one knows WHAT one is dealing with, one has a LOT more power over it! A tremendous amount of tension released out of me when I discovered this. Life makes more sense. I have low blood sugar and that's why I yell at them while I'm making them lunch....if I eat a snack midmorning, I don't get like this! You have no idea how much freedom this knowledge gave me! It was wonderful. We also were peaceful. Joyful. Laughing.
The highlights of 2007 include:
-swimming lessons for both Matthew and Ayden. Matthew in particular is a fish in the water. He was born to swim.
-Matthew learns how to toilet train in just a few days, with no fuss
-Matthew learns new words at a rapid rate, and moves from an unintelligible jargon only his immediate family understands, to full sentences, sweet Matthewisms, and an ability to communicate with just about anyone. Precocious, too.
-I graduated in May from paramedic school
-many spring, summer, and fall days at the park, water park, walking in the sunshine, or going for popsicles at the corner store
-welcoming Ella to the world in July
-Brent's venture to Regina and the beginning of my greatest test as a parent: can I survive alone?
-successfully surviving alone as a parent
-Ayden started preschool and joyfully settles in to the joy of learning
-Matthew and I strengthen our bond since daddy's not around to rescue either of us from each other
-I surprise myself by being calm, available, connected, understanding, loving, attentive, joyful, and gracious while working 40 to 70 hours a week, doing all the housework, all the cooking, all the bedtimes, all the organizing of who goes where when with whom and for how long, and keeping up to date on my blog to boot....where was this wonderwoman in January of 2006? Seriously? I'm not perfect, but I'm darn near good. I'm so happy with good because it's nowhere near terrible and I feared the terrible might return when Brent left
-Matthew grows more in 2007 than in the year previous (but he's still a lightweight; only 24 lbs at 3 years old)
-Matthew faints less and laughs more
-Brent excels at his many tasks in Regina, making me proud and so pleased he has found a vocation he loves and is good at
-We cuddle, we laugh, we make farting noises, we tell bum bum jokes, we go camping, we wrestle, we play tickle monster, we dress up as dracula and caterpillars and pumpkins, and since halloween, like spiderman. We pick pumpkins, we visit apple farms, we play trains, we play cars, we watch movies (family pizza and movie nights are very popular around here). We pray. I pray as I drive around, when the boys are sleeping, while they fight, when I'm exhausted, when I'm hungry, when we've not enough money to pay the bills. It centres me, and fills me with strength, to pray like that. We pray before supper, and at bedtime. Matthew's prayer list is invariably this:
"daddy, me, ayden, me, daddy, mommy, ayden, daddy, paige, flaffy (his fish), mommy, nana, gigi (great grandma), bum bum, and bodhi (friend)."
Ayden's is more like this:
"whatever you want to pray for, mommy."
-I get pregnant. This time, we resolve, we need more realistic expectations. It will be hard. Some days we won't like it. But it will be well worth it in the end.
-We swim, we build snowmen, and snow angels, and snow balls, we visit Go Bananas. We snuggle in bed at night. There are slimy kisses and bear hugs and earnest "Wuv. Too. Mommy" declarations.

Wuv. Too. Matthew. You are my most sought after, fought for, wept over, dreamed about, anguished over, cherished, fiercely loved child. You tore down my selfish, self serving, arrogant, overconfident constructs and led me to a deeper place, where I parent for YOUR sake, and your brother's sake, and not my own ego. A deeper place that relies on God for everything.

Ayden is my port in the storm. Sure, he rustles up the wind sometimes, but when I think of him, I feel peace. And joy. Ayden, you and your dark brown, wise looking eyes, you love me. All the time, in all ways, in all moods, on all days. I love you too, and am grateful.


It just occurred to me that perhaps the holy family answered my prayer after all: what I wanted was to go back to a time when I had been happy. While I was not transported back to 2005 and my blissful, naive, egocentric state, I was led to a place filled with joy, one energetic, bouncing preschool boy holding each hand, and myself, intact, still present. And joyful.
Thank you, Universe, for this blessed gift.

6 comments:

Roboseyo said...

I'm glad I know you, Mel.

happy new year!

love -
Roboseyo

AnneW said...

Hi Melissa!

I'm Kendell's wife and have decided to stop lurking. When we first brought Madeleine back from China, all I could think of was "I can understand why some stay-at-home mothers become alcoholics!" We were certainly knocked off our high horse and brought down to reality of what parenthood is really about. I admire you and how you have balanced everything and how you can admit you are human. We are doing better, but there are still days I think about alcohol!! Have a great 2008 and I hope to meet you and the boys. Oh yes and congratulations on #3.

Asheya said...

Thanks for sharing the realities of your life. We've considered adopting a child from another country, and I know I tend to be idealistic about what it will be like. My husband is a little more down to earth, which is why we're not doing anything about it right now...maybe never. It's a struggle, wanting to do good for someone else, yet knowing that you have to consider the impact on the child(ren) you already have as well as what you and your family unit are capable of dealing with. I appreciate your honesty about your struggle, and wow, it is so great that God can build character in the hard times. Too bad we have to go through them to get the character, though!

melissa said...

Hi Anne! I've been telling Kendall to tell you to stop lurkning for awhile now! :-p Welcome! Three cheers for honest accounts of parenthood, man. Funny how easy it is to think "How could one.....(be a mom who became an alcoholic/ shake a baby/ yell at a toddler/ leave her children/ etc)" before one actually has kids. Then it becomes more apparant 'how one could.'
Glad you stopped lurking! Glad you're doing better as a family since the first shock of parenthood! A pina colada every once in awhile really couldn't hurt!! Lol! :)
You should start your own blog--we could have a 'honest parents blog' group or something :)

melissa said...

Asheya; thanks for your comment! I sincerely hope my struggles don't discourage anyone from adopting themselves. I know you really do have to weigh what is best for your family and how adoption would impact the system you already have, for sure. But you have to do that when you have another biological child, too. One thought that has sustained me through the rough transition into a family of four is the fact that, for Matthew, an imperfect mom is far, far better than no mom at all, and that what I have to offer him is better than growing up in an orphanage with no family of his own (albiet a very good orphanage), or on the streets of Bangkok somewhere. I also think that character developing trials are not something to be shied away from, even with the children we already call our own. The transition was difficult for Ayden to go through, but I think it was also valuable for him to watch me get a handle on my emotions and claw my way OUT of the worst times and get better. I talk to him about how emotions are sometimes overhwhelming but that God can help us to get better, to control them better, and I think he stores that away for future reference. That is good for him to experience, don't you think?

If I could do it again, I wouldn't NOT adopt Matthew; I would simply do it differently. I would take on less guilt, lower my expectations of myself and of Matthew (I expected myself to make up for all his loss to the point where he would not grieve; so every time he grieved, I failed, which I couldn't cope with), and be calmer, less selfish, and less egotistical.
But I had to learn all those things somehow.
Sometimes the most difficult things in life are also the most valuable. I hope my honesty doesn't keep you from adopting, if that is the path God has for you.

Asheya said...

Thanks for the reply, Melissa. Don't worry, your honesty won't stop me from adopting! If honesty was going to stop me I wouldn't have any kids at all! My heart is toward adoption, someday, somehow. I think the process of being Elias' mom (who has been high needs from day one) has helped me to already get a better grip on the reality of parenthood (my own failures and recovery inclusive). I think my husband is still in process about the idea of adoption, which is why we are not pursuing it at this time. I just keep praying that if it is what God has for our family then God will work through Eric to make it happen. I keep mentioning it to him, and looking into it in different ways, but we both have to be totally on board for it happen. It's hard to be totally prepared for ANY child that ends up in your family, whether biologically or through adoption, but I think adoption does have special considerations (for instance preparing for the grieving you were talking about). I think in some ways this makes it more scary than having biological children (I know for myself it does, because there's already so much of the child's life that hasn't been shaped by you or connected to you). I really appreciate hearing about other people's adoption experiences, because it makes it all more real instead of just some idea out there. And makes it seem possible. As you say, it is better for a child to have a mom and a family (even a flawed one!) than to grow up in an orphanage. This is totally my perspective too. I'm hoping that as we have more biological children our expectations of family perfection will mellow, and we will learn to trust God even more with our family. Thanks for the conversation around this.