Friday, November 15, 2013

Identity Crisis

She's a cute little girl. Probably about 4 or 5 years of age, brown hair pulled up into pigtails with pretty pink, sparkly ribbons. Her smile is a winning one, if not a little devious. She sits next to her mother in the restaurant booth, furiously scribbling away on her child's menu and happily chattering about whether she will get grilled cheese or chicken nuggets, which is apparently one of the hardest decisions she has made in her short little life. She's the picture of vibrant, energetic youth.

Her mother, on the other hand, is not. Her brown hair (doubtlessly in need of a good wash), is pulled messily back from her young-ish, world-weary face. The dark circles under her eyes are apparent, even from this far away. The corners of her mouth are tight, perhaps with preoccupation or frustration. She nods as she listens to her daughter attempt to make the most difficult decision of her childhood, mumbling sympathetic "Yes, dear"s and "Mhmm. Oh, of course"s as she worries the inside of her lip with her teeth.

The little girl, all too aware that her mother isn't really listening, has had enough. She pushes the menu away from herself, slides over in the booth, and climbs up into her mom's lap. From this vantage point, she should be able to capture all of her mother's attention. But, as she clumsily (in the way that children sometimes are) mounts her maternal perch, she accidentally yanks her mother's hair.

And that's when it happens.

Several emotions pass over the mother's face in quick succession, and then the tears start flowing. It probably didn't even hurt, but it was the breaking point. The little girl is obviously confused by her mother's tearful outburst, apologizing over and over to her now blubbering mother. As she attempts to quell her sobs, the mother scoops the remorseful child up into her arms and holds her close, no words passing between them as they share a moment of stillness. Maybe the first of the day.

This was the scene I witnessed in a restaurant this afternoon. I sat quite far away from this pair, observing them from my own little pocket of chaos as I shared lunch with a friend and Sydney and Spencer talked, fussed, and wiggled all around me.

I don't know what sparked this incident or what the underlying catalyst was, but I'm all too familiar with it. As are most mothers. So many of us have so many things on our plate besides just motherhood. And sometimes, for multiple reasons or no reason at all, being a parent is just more than we can take at any given time.

I know there are mothers out there who will cringe at my honest assessment of myself and my ability (or inability, depending on the day) to be a mother 24/7. But, I have to say, that doesn't really matter to me. Because the truth is, each of us is so much more than just "Mom". Yes, motherhood shouldn't be taken lightly. Yes, motherhood is an incredible responsibility. Yes, motherhood is a privilege that should be cherished. Yes. motherhood takes up the majority of my life. But, motherhood is not life itself.

Some days are easier than others. Some days I take the fighting and screaming and poop and messes and runny noses in stride. And some days, after the 15th glass of juice has been spilled on my floor, it's about all that I can take. And it is in those moments that I have to step back, take a deep breath, and remind myself of who and what else I am.

I do have an identity. We all do. And, yes, a large part of my identity might be Mom. But, if I don't maintain some parts of my life just for me... If I don't set aside time in my day to be someone besides Mom... Well, I'm bound to be that mom openly weeping in public over an accidental hair tug that, in the grand scheme of things, wasn't that big of a deal. And, believe me. Nobody wants that. I am a HIDEOUS crier.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Mother Bear's Take on Hypocrisy

I was sitting at a light on my way home from the grocery store yesterday, not really paying attention to what I was doing, flipping through the radio stations preset in my car. The car next to me started to roll forward, so I looked up to see the color of the light. The image that met me was unspeakable.

What I saw was difficult for me to comprehend as the violent image smashed into my brain. It was an enormous picture splashed across the back of a truck. It was the image of two little bloody and dismembered legs laying on a quarter.

I passed the truck, partly because it was moving slowly and partly because I didn't want to stare at that picture for three blocks until I got to my street. Painted on the side of the trailer were even more graphic and horrific images of more broken and dismembered little bodies accompanied by the words  "This is the choice you make."

If you know me at all, it is not a secret that I am vehemently pro-life, pro-adoption, etc. But that isn't what this post is really about.

Several things struck me about that trailer that some well-meaning but extremely misguided group paid to have hauled through town. The first was that I really didn't need to see those images to know that how I feel about abortion was the right choice for me. The second thing is that if I had had my almost-three-year-old in the car, I would have been pissed.

How dare anyone put those images out there for innocent children to see? How could anyone that supports the idea that all life is precious and begins at conception take actions to corrupt children, possibly scarring them for life?

What does a mother say to a young child who looks up from his car seat at those bloody pictures and says "Mommy? What's that?"

If you want to protect children, you should want to do it across the board. I have NEVER been more offended.

Such blatant hypocrisy turns my stomach. I just thank God that my son was not in the car, or I may have been performing a post-birth abortion on the person responsible for that truck.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Supposed to be Fine

As I am driving home, my mind starts to go to all those dark places. Because of what I have seen. Because of what I have learned.

I can feel my anxiety level rising. The baby coos in the back seat, unaware that her future might have just changed forever.

"Her head size is concerning," he says in his warm, thick accent. "But, let's first discuss her bleed. I want to do a repeat head ultrasound to make sure it is in fact resolving, as the last test indicated. In a few months, I want to do an MRI to look for scarring."

"And scarring would mean?" I can hear myself ask. This isn't going how I had expected. I had expected to be released from neurology consultation. Perhaps schedule a final ultrasound to confirm what I, as her mother, already know. Everything is fine. Everything is supposed to be fine.

"Scarring on her brain could mean that she will have limited mobility. Spasticity, similar to someone who has cerebral palsy. It is impossible to tell at this time if it will be unilateral or bilateral. It could have an impact on her ability to walk. We just don't know at this time. We probably won't know the full effects until she is at least one year of age."

I feel my mind come to a screeching halt. Inside, I am rebelling against what is being presented to me. I can't quite make my mouth form a coherent sentence, so I remain quiet.

He looks to me for a response. When I say nothing, he continues.

"What is concerning me most at this time is her head size. She is in the 95th percentile. We really can't know until we do the ultrasound, but it's possible that she has extra fluid on her brain as a result of the bleed. Her fontanelle is generous, so we should be able to see everything easily. If the results come back inconclusive or the view is somehow occluded, we know we need to be concerned." His hand is resting on my shoulder now. His hand is cold, but I somehow can barely feel the pressure of it. Probably because the weight in my chest is enough to cancel out any other sensory input.

"Do you have any other questions?" he asks.

Yes, actually. Why me? Why my kid? What did we do to deserve this?

"Not at this time, thanks."

Follow-up appointments and diagnostic tests are scheduled in a haze. They want us back just before Christmas. What a horrible time for bad news, if there is any.

I get home and hold my sweet girl for a long time, looking into her face. I let my tears flow freely as I take in her innocence. Her cheeks are chubby and cherub-like. Her blue eyes are clear, intelligent, curious. She is perfect and beautiful. And I am terrified.

I feel guilty because I know so many wonderful people with disabilities. They are people I have worked with, people I am friends with, people I love. But, as a parent, I think all of us have that little voice inside that says "not my kid".

I think the hardest part is the waiting. Because, for a while, we just won't know.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Being betrayed by your body is earth-shattering. 

I have heard this sentiment echoed over and over by a multitude of women both in my life and online. We each have expectations for our bodies and, when our bodies don't live up, we are crushed. Be it an inability to breastfeed or an inability to bear life at all, the disappointment can be life-altering.

I write this with a newborn baby seeking sleep on my chest. My second child. She is beautiful. And she is tiny. She is tiny because she was born into this world 7 weeks too early, just like my wonderful 2-year-old son. I am fortunate in that they are both healthy and, thus far, perfect.

My body grew these babies. I nourished them and protected them and prayed over them as they grew, swelling my belly with their life. But, it wasn't enough. They each came into this world too soon because my body would carry them no longer. And, no matter what I willed, the body does what it does.

With my newest gift from God, I had a c-section. As they were stitching me up, my OB asked casually, not really seeking an answer, if I planned to have more children. My response to him was that I was unsure, as I feel that two healthy preemies is more than anyone might hope for. His response? "You may as well be done. You can't carry them to term anyway." As if it was as simple as that. That, at 22, I should just be resigned to the idea that I will never have anymore children.

I have tried not to be consumed by the seeming inevitability of me not carrying anymore of my own children. I have two wonderful, stunning children as it is. How selfish is it of me to want more?

But I cannot help feeling betrayed. I cannot help but have feelings of disappointment in my own body for being unable to deliver the family I had dreamed about.

I fear that my preoccupation with these thoughts and feelings are taking away from the precious 10-week-old I cuddle at this moment. I am afraid that I will spend her entire infancy preoccupied on the infants I may never create.

The best I can do is pray that I may find peace in the perfect family I have now, that my heart will not want for babies that may never be. I must focus on the children I do have and give them all of the love that they deserve.

When I was younger, I always talked about wanted to adopt children. Maybe this has been put in my path for that reason. Like so much in my life, I can only assume that the only one who knows is God. And also like so much in my life, I have to leave it in His hands.

Monday, September 10, 2012

I Need Elves

I am not really sure what to do with myself these days. I graduated nursing school and I am in that gray area between having a bachelor's in nursing and having my license and a job.

Technically, I still work at the family care home where I worked throughout nursing school, but for the first time in the history of the place they are fully staffed. Which means there is no room for me, as a resource staff, to pick up hours. I never thought I would miss that place, but I totally do.

All of these things combined, I have been spending a lot of time at home with my children. Mark and I are also down a car, so not only am I with the children all day, but we are stuck at home with frequency.

I can tell you with absolute certainty that I am NOT stay-at-home-mom material. Do I love my children? Without a doubt. But I have also discovered that I need things like adult conversation, time to use the toilet BY MYSELF, and at least 30 minutes a day without a child climbing on me, crying, or talking at me. Lately, it is like Bug is literally trying to crawl back inside of me. Insanity-inducing.

Every day is like Groundhog Day. I do the same things over and over and somehow, by tomorrow, they all need to be done again. Toys appear out of the toy area and onto my living room floor. Dishes and laundry breed exponentially. Diapers, bottles, repeat. It's like there is a magic mess-making fairy that lives here. It's too bad it isn't the other way. Like, some magic cleaning elves that come and visit in the night or something. That would be much better.

In the meantime, I am certain I have something to clean...

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Being busy is good.

When I am busy, I don't have to think. I can just flip on autopilot and get through my day.

I get up. I go to class. I do homework. I study. I parent my two-year-old. I run errands. I visit my newborn in the NICU. I go to clinical. I come home, eat dinner, go to bed. And then tomorrow I do it again.

But sometimes, idleness sneaks up on me. And usually I am not even idle, I am just doing something that doesn't require me to use my brain much (like driving or taking a shower), and my thoughts catch up to me all at once.

It's in those moments that I realize I am scared.

I think that a lot of people expect this to be easy for us. If I am honest, we have had considerably less support this time around. Yeah, we have done this already. Yeah, we know roughly what to expect. But, damn if it isn't hard anyway.

If you asked me if I was overwhelmed, I don't know that I would say yes. But if I really think about it, I would say that the reason I am not overwhelmed is because I simply don't have time to be. Good or bad, that is what it is.

Still, I am losing a lot of sleep these days. Not bringing your SECOND baby home with you is just as hard as the first time. Maybe harder even, because you prayed every night and you wished on everything anyone ever considered lucky to wish on that your other babies wouldn't have to go through all the tough things your first baby did. When you realize that it isn't going to work out how you wanted it to, your heart breaks all over again in all the familiar places it broke before. And my heart is breaking in new places to think there may not be babies after this to pray for.

Let me tell you... my heart really, really hurts.

Thank God I am busy.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Round Two

Here we are. Again. And I cannot begin to tell you how much it sucks.

I was at the hospital for my Pediatric Nursing clinical when I got the call.

"Mrs. Hileman, this is Jennifer from your OB's office. Your test results came back. Your liver enzymes are extremely elevated. We need you to go to labor and delivery. Now."

I was only 32 weeks pregnant.

This is not a new phone call for me. In fact, it was nearly identical to the one I received a little over two years ago. Something about that just isn't fair.

After a few days of back and forth and doctors trying decide the best course of action for us, it was determined that our baby would need to be delivered. I was hoping to have a similar experience to the labor and delivery I had with Spencer, but the cards were just not in our favor. After my little bean flipped from head-down to breech (not once, but twice) in a matter of 24 hours, my OB told me I would need to have a c-section because she just wasn't a "stable lie". Sunday July 1st at 10:30 am Sydney Leigh was born. 3 lbs 14 oz, 16 inches long, and every bit as beautiful as we thought she would be.

I have to tell you that this experience really made me feel out of control. I wasn't ready yet. I really believed that I was going to carry this little bean to term with no problems, and then that dream was ripped away from me with virtually no warning. The itching started and three days later I had a baby. Via c-section. I almost felt like I was completely disconnected from the whole experience.

 After having delivered a baby vaginally in the past with fairly few complications, having a c-section is almost... unsatisfying. I don't know if I can really explain it. I don't feel like I did the appropriate amount of work to have birthed a baby. Though, I can assure you that the amount of work that is in my future will make up for it.

Now, I am being hounded by relentless inquisition about my future baby plans. Everyone wants to know if we plan to have more. Some people just assume that we will be done now. "A boy and a girl! How perfect, since you are done!," they say. And yeah, part of me wants to agree. I have two healthy babies that are perfect. Sydney is obviously in the NICU, but she is healthy and strong. And Spencer is this amazing two-year-old who is more than anyone could ever ask for in a kid. But, a part of me isn't ready to face the prospect of being done having children at 22. Part of me thinks that more babies might be exactly what I want. Every where I have looked this past week, families surround me and they all have more than two kids. And, to be honest, it hurts my heart a little bit.

I had a truck full of boys this afternoon. Spencer and Mark's three youngest brothers. They were laughing and playing while I drove and I couldn't help but imagine what my life could be like with a few more kids in it. Something in me aches a little bit to have that big family. And at the same time, I know that I can't be that selfish. I can't put another baby through this. I honestly don't know if my body can go through this again. I don't know if you all know this, but you kind of need a liver to live.

I think my plan for now is to give it to God the best that I can. To love Spencer and Sydney as well as I can. I graduate in 5 weeks. Sydney will be home by then and then our family can begin to really be a family. And if it is only us for the long haul, so be it. I just have to remember that nothing is too big for my God. And that what I have is beautiful, just the way it is.