A Dozen Roses

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3293365635_689005da3f_oShe brought me roses again.

It was my Mother-in-law’s tradition. Every Mother’s Day weekend I would always find a white box tucked in our front door delivered by the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa.

I loved those roses. They were a thank you, a connection of love from one mother to another, a reminder I was good enough. Good enough as the wife of her oldest son, as the mother of her grandchildren and as the daughter she never had the opportunity to birth herself.

My Mother-in-law left us nearly ten years ago after a six-year victory run with end stage breast cancer. She lived with grace in pain and with love in life. Her strength of spirit was immense and it infected every part of her life and it conquered her cancer.  It wasn’t her cancer that killed her, at least not directly. After six years she was getting tired and it was time to move on. The Good Lord came for her and even to her last she didn’t go without a fight.

She fell trying to get out of bed. She got caught in the blankets and fell to the floor, the phone tumbling out of her reach, preventing her from calling for help. She lay there for a while until her husband came home from work and she was rushed to hospital where she went in for emergency surgery to repair her broken leg. Unfortunately a couple of days later she developed a blood clot in her lungs.

We stood around her bed, holding her, loving her and, albeit reluctantly, making space to let her go, making it okay for her to move on to her next phase. The emotions in the room were thick, pain, love, grief, loss, colliding in a kaleidoscope of intentions, each of us needing to be held in our own way. That is a moment etched in my heart and sealed with burning tears. I remember the closeness of the room, the people pressed in close, the desire to run away from the pain but not being able to let go. Our lives would never be the same again…

She passed just before Mother’s Day 2005. The first time the roses were not in the door was a shock to my system, it was the cosmos reminding me she was gone and I would never receive my roses again. Each year on Mother’s Day I think of my roses and there is an empty vase that will not get brought out to be filled with them.

Friday she brought me my roses again and she filled my vase with love and hope and affirmation.

I lay on the Reiki table, my friend passing her hands over me and she saw the image, it came to her as she was close to my heart and passing on my right side. A pious woman with a veil holding a bouquet of roses.

It was my Mother-in-law and it was her way of saying she is still with me, still loving me, and is still looking out for me and my family. She brought me the roses to remind me I am more than enough for all I need to be and do in this world, I just have to remember and own my inner strength and beauty.

I’m trying to. Every day I’m working on remembering the love she carried for us and still does. She is everywhere around us. My youngest has never known her alive and yet when he sees her picture he has told us he knows her, he’s seen her, at her house. I believe she has visited him during one of our visits to see Grandpa.

I’m opening myself up to the comfort of her embrace and accepting the gift of her roses into my life and sharing the gift with my family so that we all might heal from our grief. Next spring it will be ten years since she left us in body but her spirit has never left us. We must all open ourselves up to the gifts she continues to bring us whenever we need them most.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Love is Not a Mistake

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wpid-wp-1413783567264.jpegI have made many mistakes. Many of those mistakes have in return fundamentally changed who I am.

Motherhood started out as a mistake, a responsibility thrust into my young arms that felt too weak to bear the weight. I made so many mistakes but my son was not one of them. He was a gift. A gift I just wasn’t quite ready to receive or fully appreciate. As a result I fumbled around the world of motherhood very lost and distrustful of my instincts. How could I know anything? How could I possibly get anything right?

But I did get one thing right.

Love.

I just forgot sometimes….

Even early on in my pregnancy when my son’s biological father was encouraging me to “get an abortion”, I chose life for my unborn child. I walked out into the world and looked into the eyes of the people around me and wondered why they had any more right to life than my child did?

In that moment I chose love.

I didn’t even recognize it as love until I looked into my son’s eyes and finally met him in the quiet of the hospital room after everyone had gone home. When the nurse came to get him after his feed and I asked her to leave him with me for a while so I could really meet him, fall in love with him, just hold him and smell his beautiful smell. I didn’t want to send him back to the nursery. He was mine and I loved him.

Love didn’t pave our path with bricks of gold or lay pillows on the ground to cushion us when we stumbled and many times we lost the path completely. Loving someone is hard and it is work and it is staying when you want to run and learning from and apologizing for mistakes and most of all its forgiveness when forgiveness seems impossible.

I wear layers upon layers of bruises from all the mistakes I’ve made in the last eighteen years of motherhood. I don’t doubt my son has his own layers of bruising. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that my introduction to motherhood and his introduction to the world had to come with such painful lessons. The effects of those lessons still ripple through our lives and we’re trying to find forgiveness in a chaos that seems unyielding to any efforts at finding peace. Even in the good moments anger breaks through and smashes the fragility of the bubble that is encapsulating the laughter and connecting fibers being forged by our moment of happiness. As the bubble disperses it is like our world is exploding and though I try to keep it together as with the thin film of a bubble when it pops, it disappears like it was never there and we find ourselves yet again staring across a painful abyss filled with blame, repercussions, anger and resentments.

Many tell me they would have given up on my son by now, that it’s time for some tough love, “let him learn his lessons the hard way” they say. It feels like he’s learned too many lessons the hard way. Moments where I ignored my instincts, made uneducated choices, gave into pressure to follow society’s ideas and notions, or failed to ask for or find help or apologize when I should have or hold my temper when my depression was raging out of control and the pressures of meeting the outside world’s demands trumped meeting my son’s need for love, like the day I lost my cool because he was struggling to practice French dictation words and I screamed out in frustration and smashed my head into the wall leaving a hole in the drywall. Then there were tears and broken spirits and emotional bruises as we tried to pick up the pieces.

I had no idea what I was doing. What I should have done was let the dictation go and pull him into my arms and hold him and tell him it was okay, the dictation didn’t matter, I loved him and would help him. The pressures of meeting the demands of the teacher, the school system, the expectations of society in general that were labeling him a problem child overwhelmed me. I just wanted to prove them all wrong.

They were wrong. They are wrong. I never had to prove them wrong because there was nothing to prove. Love was more important than all that, but I didn’t understand that then.

I do now.

And I’m sorry.

Sorry doesn’t fix the broken walls or broken spirits. That takes work, a lot of painful, slogging through mud and emotional trenches work, not to mention the willingness to dive head first into the trenches and face the demons of the past, the demons of our emotions and behaviours that created the abyss I find myself staring across into the blue eyes of a soul so broken he hides from me in his video games where he finds an outlet for his pain and anger by blowing things and other characters/people up. His video game world is safer than the real world and it was my mistakes that drove him into that world because I forgot that love is more important than anything, than video games, or toys, or money, or meeting society’s expectations, or getting our way and insisting on showing him who’s in charge and that we can make him do what we want him to do regardless of his own will and desires – an illusion of power at best.

After eighteen years I’m trying to hold the memory of looking into the trusting eyes of the seven and a half pound child laid in my arms by a twist of fate he had no control over, and remember the overwhelming waves of love I felt and my need to hold him close and protect him. If only I had spent more time listening to that instinct like when he had night terrors and I sat next to him singing “Jesus Loves You” over and over, drawing him out of the terror with my soothing voice that had rocked him to sleep so many times.

Now my soul is doing the singing, calling to my son to remember the moments in the chaos where love conquered the fear and anger, to remember the love that holds him and surrounds him no matter what because society is wrong and I was wrong. He is amazing and wonderful and talented. He may not fit into the mold society wants him to but it just means he thinks different, he sees the world around him in a different light and somehow he will make it work for him, despite society trying very hard to stuff him in a box and get him to “get in line”.

It will take time, patience, healing and most of all it will take love. That’s my commitment going forward, I will radiate, enclose him and even smother him in love, until the raw wounds become aching scabs, then itchy scars and with some luck at some point even the scars will fade to a barely visible lightness, and we will find our peace, rebuilt upon a solid foundation of love. The scars may never disappear but some day I want the memories to be faint whispers of by-gone stories instead of festering wounds filling an abyss that separates us.

I’m ready  to let love build us a bridge over the abyss. I am ready to heal. I’m ready to do the hard work. I’m ready to forgive myself and let my mistakes go and I am hoping that my son can eventually forgive me too, and help me build that bridge. Surrender the future to love and we will find our way, the path will meet us where we are and if we stay true to love, it’ll show us the way forward.

To my son: you are the child that made me a mother and I will always love you and that isn’t and never was a mistake.

 

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The Story-Teller

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe’s three years old, dark-haired with deep brown eyes framed by long eyelashes, talkative, loving and with an imagination so big that it engulfs our entire world.

He is my third child, probably my last. I’m drinking up every moment of him, trying to slow down time so he doesn’t grow so fast but he just amazes me with his ideas, his ability to articulate complex ideas and his physical abilities to master tasks, especially sports. He loves hockey and is an avid Ottawa Senators fan. One of his favourite toys is his hockey set with sticks and nets just his size to play with.

He’s intense. He uses his hands to pull your face to look at him, to make sure you’re paying attention to what he wants to show you or tell you. And it must always be NOW. Patience is not easy for him…

For him the world holds untold possibilities, where cucumbers make good light sabers, and Britax car-seat boxes make good garbage trucks and his bed can take him anywhere because some nights it’s Santa’s sleigh and other nights it’s a rocket ship or even the TARDIS from Dr. Who. We go on such adventures!

His first words were a simple sentence, “What’s this?” He was asking questions before he could walk. Now at three “Why?” is one of his favourite words, sometimes to our frustration, but it’s hard to discourage his enthusiasm for knowledge. Hopefully it’s a trait that will fuel a lifetime of learning.

We have a Museum membership that gives us access to three local museums and he loves exploring, playing, touching everything and weaving stories of adventures as he goes. Most visits it’s all I can do to keep up with him as he moves from one area to another, at times settling on one place for a little while before moving on. Usually just enough time for me to catch my breath!

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We also have a membership to Little Ray’s Reptiles and we love going to hang out with the animals and playing in the gift shop like the time he picked up a whole handful of bouncy balls and dropped them all at once sending them flying every which way and then he laughed as I tried to catch them all. Or the time he fed a whole bunch of tiny rubber frogs to one of the toy dinosaur heads that you use a lever to open and close their mouths. Sometimes he just goes into the empty presentation area and pretends to bring out the animals, imitating the presentations he has watched so many times. We love Ray’s and the last time we visited he insisted on taking some of the cookies we were baking to Ray. Ray loved them!

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I love that I am home with him and I can experience his love, his intensity, his questioning, his imagination full on. It’s exhausting but never dull.

This past Friday we spent an hour or more painting our tub walls with water-paints. He started out in the tub by himself but before long I was in the tub with him and we were painting each other, our nails and drawing tractors on the tub wall. We made nose prints and he drew a smile on my face because my smile was missing some lines apparently. I drew him a small John Deere tractor but he wanted one of the big blue ones we’d climbed on at the Farm Show the week before so I drew him a big New Holland blue tractor and he was happy.

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When it came time to scrub the walls clean he just as enthusiastically crawled back in the tub and helped me scrub the walls with baking soda. Most of it came off! The little faded spots of blue will be a reminder of an afternoon spent indulging his big spirit.

He is my wonder, my spirit, my story-teller, my reminder that there is so much in this world that is amazing from the sticks and rocks he collects to the whimsical stories he weaves to the fountains of knowledge he seeks but I cannot always answer. He’s also my quiet, my love over-flowing when I rest my head next to him at night and sing him “Winken Blinken and Nod” until he falls asleep because I know tomorrow he will be bigger and time cannot be stopped so enjoying him now, as he is, is the greatest gift I can give myself and him.

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My daughter is beautiful!

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10002989_10152284089025505_1001480336_nA moment caught in time. I wish I could have frozen the moment forever.

I sat in the hair dresser’s chair, the woman clicking away with her scissors and asking me to tilt my head down but I kept lifting my eyes to watch my daughter through the mirror.

What I saw was inspirational…

She was breathtaking. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I had no way to take a picture of her, but a photograph would not have fully captured what I was seeing in that moment as she waited her turn.

I saw the child she used to be, the pre-teen she is becoming and the woman she will become, all radiating from her in a single instance.

It was more than beauty. It was a sense of blossoming energy, of dreams and her potential occupying an indefinite space of possibilities.

It took slowing life down enough to create the opportunity to see it. At home there is so much craziness and different energies vying for my attention that it is hard to catch these fleeting moments. Moments where I am reminded of how very awesome and beautiful my daughter is, and not because of anything she has achieved or is capable of but simply because she is, no qualifiers necessary.

I am glad I was able to take her out and away from the distractions of everyday life and be reminded of her awesomeness. Her joy for life, her excitement at spending one on one time with her mom – getting her nails done, her hair cut and doing some shopping, and talking, talking, talking. Talking about how she loved her nails and about her trip to Nova Scotia for March Break, and her running commentary on how she sees the world around her.

Yesterday was a visible reminder that I need to slow down and take more time to watch my kids, to catch them glowing with their unique awesomeness, and love them passionately and without reservation for everything that they were, are and are becoming.

The moments may be fleeting but they are always there if I take the time to look for them.

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February 27, 2004

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Minutes old - my baby girl!

Minutes old – my baby girl!

I awoke at around 6:30 am, my lower back was aching. I knew it was time.

I nudged my husband awake and told him I was going to try to take a shower before we headed to the hospital and that he should start getting our son up and ready for school, just in case we had to leave before the van arrived to take him to school.

I stood in the shower letting the warm water run over me. The pain began to steadily intensify. I leaned against the shower wall as a contraction rippled through me. I breathed through it then called to my husband. It was time to go. He called my mom to tell her we were on our way over to drop off our son so she could take him to school.

A few minutes later we were getting in the car. I waddled slowly, breathing through the rhythm of the clenching and relaxing muscles, my body instinctively doing what it was built to do.

At my mom’s, she came out to see me, advised me “I didn’t look so good!” with a smile of excitement! I nodded as I was slowly moving into another place mentally, focused on the signals, the changes, the increasing intensity inside of me.

We drove to the hospital. I don’t really remember much of the drive or if anything much was said between my husband and I as he navigated early morning rush hour traffic.

We arrived at the hospital about 7:30 am, maybe a little after, time at that point seemed irrelevant. We parked and walked up to admission on the eighth floor. They did their usual paperwork and assessments. The nurse left for a minute and I stood as another contraction worked through my lower back, the intensity building, stronger than any I’d had up to that point.

I sent my husband to get the nurse.

When she returned she had me lie down so she could measure my cervix – 7 cm. It would be soon.

We were taken to a birthing room shortly after and I met my nurse. She was wonderful. She rubbed my back as I rocked through wave after wave of intensifying contractions, reminding me to breathe through the contractions and encouraging me with each contraction that I could and I was doing what I needed to do.

No drugs. After my first delivery with my son, I was mentally prepared for this delivery to be another natural birth. I was prepared for the pain. And most importantly, I was ready to meet my baby.

But as I worked through the last bit of transition, I did request some nitrous oxide gas.

I breathed the gas in, the world and the pain a little fuzzier, set a part, like my brain and my body were disconnected.

My doctor arrived. He broke my water.

With a magnificent gush of water, soaking everything, it was the start of the final moments. Time was taken to remove my wet clothes and sheets. I remember a moment of feeling very naked, but then just not caring, as the final contractions moved through my abdomen, and I naturally started bearing down, gently pushing, following the instincts of my body.

I was ready to push.

No more gas. With my husband on one side and my nurse on the other, holding my legs up to help me push, I began to focus all my energy into my bottom. With each subsequent contraction I pushed into the searing pain as my body opened to give my child a passage into the world.

I was not quiet, the pain was intense. I cried out several times as the pain overwhelmed me. I pulled a muscle in my right hip at one point that would take months to heal.

Then I heard my doctor say that the baby would be coming out on the next push. The heart beat was dropping badly. He was going to use the vacuum to help me. And so with one final intense push and a little help, I delivered my second child.

With a whoosh and an instant sense of relief, the baby was laid on my stomach. Gasping  I received the child with a hug and I heard someone, I believe it was my husband say “It’s a girl!”

As I lay there panting, my arms wrapped around her, I exclaimed with total joy and instant love “I got my girl!”

She was the best birthday present I have ever or will ever receive, all 8 lbs 13.5 oz of her, laid squirming and healthy on my stomach at 8:36 am on February 27, 2004, my 27th birthday.

Happy 10th Birthday Baby Girl!

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