Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Nine Years of Sarah

 photo P2250032.jpgNine years? Nine years. It's been nine years since we delivered Sarah at 22 weeks and 3 days.

In less than two weeks we had gone from a stress inducing but otherwise fine pregnancy, to complete devastation.  On Bridget's first birthday, I had my 20 week ultrasound.  I thought of it as the gender scan at the time.  It didn't occur to me that the anatomy they looked at, could be anything but perfect.

My poor ultrasound tech.  She knew exactly what she was looking at, but couldn't let on.  Couldn't tell me at all.  She let me walk out of that office on cloud nine, with little black and white pictures of my little girl.  My girl.  I was going to have three little girls, all in a row.  How funny, since the pregnancy was completely unplanned, and I'd felt really done with three kids.  But I knew when I found out that I was pregnant, that my family wasn't complete without her.

A few days later I found myself in another office, hearing that my baby couldn't live.  Hearing that the pregnancy carried potential complications for me.  I can remember sitting in the waiting room afterward, waiting for someone who was supposed to give me information on my choices, and listening to a woman discuss her normal pregnancy.  I remember being so filled with grief, I couldn't stand it.  I kept wishing she would shut up.  Couldn't the whole world see that something had gone terribly wrong?  The appointment itself was so last minute, Dominic had stayed home with the kids.  I'd just found out that my baby would die and I had to drive myself home.  I'm not entirely sure how I did that, except that I had to, and it turns out we do what we have to do, sometimes.

Of course, being new to blogging, I came home and poured out my grief out on my blog.  I had no idea what I was doing.  My blog, then on blog-city, I think, received over 25,000 hits that month.  People love a trainwreck, and I'd suddenly become a face for the pro-choice/pro-life movement.  No one, when trying to make a decision for their health and for a baby they want and love, should be in that position.  It's too much pressure.  I couldn't make the right choice for everyone.  I could only do what I thought was best for myself and for my baby and family.  That was hard enough.  I still wonder what-if.  And of course the ideals didn't see me, they didn't see Sarah. They certainly didn't see my grief.  I could tell stories of what people told me, but if you click on the label for this blog post, you can go back and read for yourself.  It was a shitstorm.  And for a brief time, I was the center of it.

So much has happened in nine years.  Our family has welcomed Ciaran, Quinn, Brennan, and Liam.  Four little boys.  I wonder if any of them would have been here if Sarah hadn't come, or if she hadn't died. Selfishly, I'd like to have all of them with me.

Tonight, Dominic and I went through her box.  Even after nine years, for me, Sarah's short life is so big.  And yet everything we have, fits into a little amazon box.  In it is her bunny, her blanket, the hat she wore, books we were given, cards we were sent.  Anything that would be a memory for us, a memory of her big life, is in that tiny box.

I am grateful for every piece of it.  The hand and footprints, the washcloth they used to get the ink off of her.  Every little thing is what we could get to make a few hours together, last a lifetime.

Sarah taught me about grief.  She taught me about learning to live with part of your heart missing.  Most importantly, Sarah put me on a different path.  One that took many years.  I didn't even realize it at the time, really, but I'm most definitely not the Conservative Catholic Homeschooling Mom I was then.  I'm a better person for having been her mother.  I'm more open.  I understand more.  

I found a paper in her box.  It said "findings consistent with semi-lobar holoprosencephaly and encephalocele".  I can't understand why, now, but I focused so much on the first diagnosis, that I forgot the second one.  I never realized that there was an increased chance of neural tube defects after having a child with a neural tube defect.

When Liam was diagnosed, I was angry.  I couldn't go through all of that again.  But Liam is still here. Thursday he will have a CT to see how his shunt is functioning, and will see the neurosurgeon.  Still, he is here.  It makes no logical sense, but I feel like the Universe owed me a keeper.  And while no child can replace another, I feel like he's the gift that we were given, the one we got to keep.

Our family is as complete as it can be without Sarah.  Our Shooting Star. In my dreams she was always blonde, which I thought was weird.  I didn't have any blonde kids.  Then Liam came, and he is all blonde.  I'm sure that means something.  It feels like another connection between them.

After nine years I can say that I survived the worst.  But I can also say that grief leaves its mark on a person.  It changes, the way scars do, but it's always there, and it's always tender.  My little girl is gone, but she is remembered.  She is loved.  And we have been too.

Thank you to everyone who has carried the spark of her memory in their hearts.  She lives on through you.  And thank you to everyone over the last nine years who has shown us kindness and support.  It means so much to us that we have been loved.

Happy Birthday, Sarah.  Your tiny life was grand, and I'm grateful for every moment that I had with you.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

There's No Guarantee....

I'm just going to say it: There's no guarantees with kids.

That's not an earth shattering idea, really, but it's amazing how we parents fall into the trap of thinking that there is.  What we imagine that guarantee will be, differs from parent to parent, but a lot of us really think there is one.  That's why books like To Train Up A Child has sold hundreds of thousands of copies.  Or Letter To Teenage Girl's, go viral. A lot of us still think, on some level, that there's a set of rules that will ensure great kids who won't mess up.

Let me just disabuse you of that notion right now.  You could do everything right (but you won't) and still have your kid make a mistake.  Your kids futures are a mystery.  Not only do you not really know what you're getting before they're born, but even after, you just don't know who they will become.  Every kid will make mistakes.  Some big, some small.

The worst part is, if you're doing it all wrong, you don't really know until they're old enough that it's pretty hard to reverse course.  If you haven't been doing your job as a parent, no sixteen year old is going to want you to start now.

So, if there's no guarantee, what do we do?  My answer is pretty simple: the best you can. Learn.  Not just from the "experts", but from your kids.  Find out who they are and what they need, and give it to them.  And give them room, too.  When they're small, their mistakes will be small.  And they will either learn that they can trust you, not just to warn them, but to help them fix it; or they will learn that they can't.

I was telling someone today about Reagan bringing home nunchucks recently.  He thought they were cool, and his friend didn't want them anymore, so Reagan brought them home.  His dad and I discussed it and pretty quickly came to the conclusion that no way in hell were those things going to stay in our house with six younger siblings, four of him are little boys and at times unintentionally destructive.  Crazy, right?  We told him that he had to give them back.

Reagan was, let's say, less than pleased with our decision.  So I asked him, do I usually say no to things?  Am I usually unreasonable or unwilling to discuss things?  Do I often put my foot down?  The answer was no.  I told him that maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe they'd be fine.  Maybe no one would be hurt.  But this was worth being wrong over for me.  And I thought I'd earned an occasional gimme.

When Reagan thought about it, which really didn't take him long, he agreed with me.  I had built up enough Parenting Capital, that even though he didn't like my decision, he'd trust me with it, and not fight me on it or be mad about it.

What I've learned in sixteen years, was that thing I knew before he was even born.  He is his own unique human being.  By treating him with love, respect, and dignity, I have earned that in return.  And while I haven't done everything right, he can see that I've always tried to be the best mom possible, which goes a really long way.

So, there are no guarantees, and don't give anyone your money who tells you otherwise.  But that doesn't mean raising good kids can't be done.  It's just that it can't be done by you.  Not really.  It has to be done together.  Because they raise us as much as we raise them.  And there is no one-size-fits-all.  Kids are unique, and the approach to each one has to be based on who they are as much as who we are.  This whole getting-through-life thing?  It's a team effort.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Training Children, Kills: The Pearl's To Train Up A Child, Revisited

Sean Paddock, Lydia Schatz, Hana Williams. These beautiful children who had long lives ahead of them, are all three gone now.  What they had in common was that their parents all read To Train Up A Child, and followed it's methods.

The Pearl's books appeal to parents who need a system for discipline.  Parents who feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of raising children.  Parents who want to follow God and raise their kids the best way possible.  They appeal to parents who are slightly desperate, and who want nothing more in the world, than to do their job right.  And the Pearl's speak with such authority, they seem like they must know what they're talking about.

The Pearl's say that it isn't their methods and books that have lead to the deaths of these children, but I can tell you that it is.  That when they say to spank a child until he is broken to a parents will and "without breath to complain", when they say that if you are not getting 100% obedience, it is because you as the parents aren't doing enough, and when they recommend switching with plumbing supply line that can break down the tissues in the body until the toxins overload a child's system, then yes.  It is absolutely their methods that are leading to the utter destruction of these families, and the loss forever, of these children.

If you have found my blog from The Examiner article, thank you for checking me out.  I hope you'll stick around and read some more.  If you're interested in more of what's wrong with To Train Up A Child and the No Greater Joy "Ministry", please see my labels in the side bar, they're listed under NGJ.  Or click here.

And please, sign the petition.  Amazon still sells these books.  It's where I bought them when I read them.  They're going into the hands of parents who need answers, not the child abuse manual the Pearl's have written.

Thank you!