Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Adoption and Loss

Today I read a couple of posts about adoption from the perspective of the other sides of the triad. I first read a post written by Third Mom in response to a recent study that suggested that more care should be taken with parents (mainly mothers) who place a child for adoption both before and after the adoption takes place. Third Mom is an adoptive mother with a heart for first mothers. They have no better advocate than her. Her blog lead me to an enlightening post written by Joy regarding her grief as an adoptee. It’s amazing how easily people negate the grief that an adopted child feels. It’s all very human. We want to say something to help another person feel better and we have a tendency to bury what is uncomfortable to us ~ even when it has nothing to do with us.

Both posts dealt with the common theme of loss and grief as part of the adoption experience. When one thinks about grief in terms of adoption, I’m sure that first mothers and adoptees come to mind quickly. The truth is that the whole adoption triad is rooted in loss. To the outside world, adoptive parents are seen as having gained the world. Adoption for them is the end of the grieving experienced before adoption, when they were unable to conceive or to carry a child to term. They’ve got a baby now, right? What’s there to grieve? There is an element of truth to this. I’ve never been as happy as I was during the first two years of Emma’s life. To me, that was an idyllic time. Still, I never forgot the grief that E and her family were in and continue to experience. A lot of the happiness I experience is in knowing that Danny and I made the right decision. E and her family will always in our lives – and most importantly in Emma’s. As much as it was tempting at first to pretend or imagine what it would have been like if Emma were my child by birth, E has never been far from my mind. I love her a great deal. I grieve along with her. My great love for Emma doesn’t stop me from wishing that E had been pregnant with her at a better time in E’s life. A time where she would have been able to make the decision to parent. Better yet, a time when a decision wasn’t needed at all.

What I read today ties in with something that is weighing a little heavily on my heart right now. I am just starting to recognize a sense of loss in my own heart now that my mental skies are so much clearer. As an adoptive mother, I am mourning the loss of an innate physical connection with Emma. Had I not had the opportunity to experience biological parenthood, I may have been inclined to blown this off as insignificant in the grand scheme of things. So what if I didn’t experience pregnancy and feel her kick and roll inside of me? So what if I never nursed her? The days contained within those regrets are so very few in comparison to the lifetime I have to be her mother. Trista touched upon this regret in August. I was too cynical about life to relate to her at the time. Little did I know that we shared the same ache.

With Allison, I have what feels like a primal connection. There is an intimacy that only the two of us share that is hard for me to put into words for fear of it sounding sick and twisted. It is a joy to cradle her in my arms as I once cradled her in my womb. When I’m cuddling with her, I feel like we are communicating without speaking. She is a complete mystery to me, yet there is a sense of knowing her from before time began. The depression and anxiety I experienced stole that from me and wouldn’t let go of it for a long time. Had I been able to feel that intensity during those early months, Allison’s colic might have been much more bearable. Maybe then I could have held her during those hours and days and somehow made sense out of what is beyond understanding. I might have felt as if we were riding that storm together instead of daydreaming of escaping to a world in which she didn’t exist.

I have always treasured the time I get to cuddle with Emma. Even though I jump at every chance I get to be physically close to her, it’s not the same. I have cared for her in every way any mother would from the evening of her second full day of life, but it’s not the same. As wonderful as my life became when my world began rotating around her, I can’t have that missing piece. I can’t force or morph our relationship into something it can never be. I grieve the loss of what E has with Emma just as E grieves the loss of what I have. Because of our Destiny, we are permanently connected in a most meaningful way.

I could choose to allow myself to believe that my heart is playing favorites. I could stew in never-ending guilt about it. I won’t. I won’t, because it is simply not true. I wouldn’t long for that intrinsic connection with Emma if that weren’t true. I wouldn’t have hugged her tight to me at four o’clock this morning willing myself to feel that same sense of timeless knowing. What is there, however, is just as significant and unique to the two of us. There are four years of memories, the beauty of the relationship we’ve built together, and the choice that I made freely with my husband on Friday, October 25, 2002 to love her unconditionally for all of eternity.

The sorrow over what never can be only intensifies the joy that already is. Loving Emma feels damn good.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mom2Mom Advice Needed (Dads Allowed, too)


Emma loves bugs. She loves to look at them. She loves to hunt them with her Daddy. She loves to kill them herself when they are in the house.

Allison is also interested in bugs - from a distance. Actual bugs don't seem to bother her much, but imagined ones are quite frightening to her.

A couple of Saturdays ago, Danny was giving the girls a bath. Allison saw a piece of lint in the bath water, pointed to it, and started saying, "Bug! Bug!" Emma picked the lint up in her hand, agreed that it was a bug and put it back in the water. That was the last time since that incident that Allison sat in bath water voluntarily. She now believes that there are always bugs in the bath water.

Giving Allison a bath at this point is a short, but gruesome experience. You have to close the door to the bathroom to keep her in (did I forget to mention the struggle to get her in the bathroom in the first place?). You have to force her undressed. In order to avoid figuring out that her toes and feet are almost as strong as you are, you have to lift her high enough over the tub so that not even a toe nail can catch the edge. Her immediate response is to throw her right leg back over the tub. It doesn't matter how much you try to soothe her, reason with her, or tell her that it's almost over. She screams. She screams bloody murder. She could vomit when you sit her down to rinse off her private areas. Then, until the child is fast asleep, much of the discussion in the house revolves around how there are or are not bugs in the bath tub.

The hope is that she will eventually forget about the bugs or get over her fear. Last night, Ally went into the bathroom while Emma was in the tub. We've separated the two for now. After she walked in, Emma, who is now grounded from candy for a week, told her that there was bugs in the water. I'm not sure if I dare to hope for a carefree bath experience again for a long time.

Have you ever had to deal with a child's fear ~ especially when an older sibling continuously adds fuel to the fire? Even if you haven't, do you have any advice? I'll try anything.


I tried Trista's suggestion and had some success. We had some Tylex (sp?) and Danny and I figured that we'd kill two birds with one stone ~ clean tub, happy toddler. Allison enjoyed spraying the tub with me. She didn't try to stop me from putting her in the tub. She stood the entire time holding the Tylex. When I asked her to put it down so I could wash her arms and hands, there were no complaints. She even let me sit her down for a minute to rinse her private area. I am happy, but not lucky. After she was dried off and dressed, she headed straight for the bathroom. The tantrum hit after I wouldn't let her have the Tylex outside of bath time. Ah well... At least we've made a little progress. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions!

Monday, November 20, 2006

In Search of Community

Our family was invited to a bonfire at the church attended by one of the girls’ daycare teachers as well as someone I know from my 9 to 5. We all ate well and had a great time. While we were there, I kept thinking about how nice their community was. Oh, I’m sure that there are squabbles and disagreements just like there are at any congregation. That night, there was really a sense of togetherness. I really miss that.

Before I moved to Virginia, I belonged to a Catholic parish in an adjoining suburb of Grand Rapids. It was my home parish since I was five years old. I can’t say that I always felt that I belonged there. During my school years, I felt out of the loop because I didn’t attend the same school system as a majority of the kids my age. In high school it really didn’t matter because I attended my religion classes at my Catholic school. This parish became my community when I made the decision to go into teaching. I chose working with the youth group to get the required volunteer hours that I needed. It was through retreats and other get-togethers that Trista and then Mark became my best friends. During that time I felt closer to God than ever before or ever since.

Moving to Virginia was such a shock to me. There are very few Catholics here in comparison to Grand Rapids. Any of the churches in this area are a good 30 minutes from our home. I’ve been registered at just about all of those parishes at one time or another. Before Emma arrived, I did get pretty involved at a parish in Fincastle. It was nice, but the others were a good 25 years older than I was. It wasn’t the same.

Being a member of a community takes time. Volunteering in some form of ministry can put you on the fast track. Just attending Mass is not enough ~ especially when those Masses are few and far between. The priest suggested that I join the Mother’s group. I got excited to get involved. The only problem is that the Mother’s group is made up of stay-at-home moms. On their calendar of events, there wasn’t a single meeting that wouldn’t interfere with my work schedule. I don’t have the time or energy to form another group for working mothers. Right now I feel the need to be ministered to, not the other way around.

During the summer I experimented with attending a United Methodist church that was close to home. While the traditional service reminded me somewhat of a Catholic Mass (watered down, anyway – please don’t be offended if you are Methodist), I found the modern service to be engaging. They played praise and worship songs as well as what I gather are traditional Protestant hymns. Once a month they hold a communion service. The prayers leading up to communion are quite familiar. There was more reverence than I expected; but again, it felt watered down to me. That being said, it was treated as such a special experience that is often lacking in the Catholic church because you take for granted the “ordinary.” All in attendance were welcome to participate. I questioned what I should do over and over and ended up joining them. After I received communion, the pastor asked if Emma could, too. I agreed. I don’t know if that was a mistake or not. Emma felt that it was special and wanted to do it again.

This church has Sunday school for all ages. It would have been nicer if I knew the people better. Still, I felt comfortable enough to participate. It was nice to have an opportunity to continue to grow in my spirituality (recently it wouldn’t take much). I felt like I could be ministered to in that group. As a Catholic I feel sometimes that you’re on your own after Confirmation, unless you join the religious life. Being on your own isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of resources easily within reach. In fact, it’s gotten easier and easier in the Internet age. I’m just not comfortable alone. Prayer in a group can make me feel on fire. Alone, not so much. That’s interesting because I normally have very little difficulty starting a conversation. I can even be the entire conversation if I have to be. In God’s presence, chirp, chirp, chirp.

My experiment with the United Methodist church lasted exactly four weeks. After the communion service, we went on vacation. I got out of the habit and haven’t gone back. I guess the

The bonfire really started me thinking about finding a community to join and within which to actively participate. The people at that church were very inviting and I quickly felt at home. The kids loved the family center and Charity, the cat that has been adopted by the church. I’ve never been to a Baptist service before, but I can’t say that I’m comfortable with the idea of attending a Baptist church, let alone being a Baptist. Mark wrote a post that sums up why being a Baptist would be “too” Protestant for me.

I think that a reason why I don’t feel at home in a Catholic Church right now is due to the fact that I am unable to follow the its teachings on artificial birth control. On the grand scale, I understand why the teaching is. Still, my experience with Allison has frightened me away from my fertility. I’m a little less freaked out at the thought of another pregnancy, but I’m very, very far from being open to new life. I’m sure that I am wrong, but if God wanted me to have a third child, my second newborn would not have been Allison. Can I belong to a church when I knowingly go against such a mandate? I know that there are millions of Catholics who don’t give it another thought. I feel guilty – but not repentant – about it anytime I walk into church. It’s what I think about when I am walking to receive Communion. I believe in the Apostle’s Creed – every word of it. That is the bottom line of what you have to believe. Still, the Church’s stance on birth control is every where. You can’t subscriber to a Catholic magazine without it being mentioned in every third issue. For me it’s kind of the same thing I’m struggling against with my weight loss ~ If I’m not 100% perfect, there’s no need to continue.

So where do I go from here? I’m not sure. I can’t believe that these experiences outside of Catholicism are for naught. I’m sure that I’m being led somewhere. I just don’t know where yet. Someday I hope to find that community I’m looking for. Maybe it will find me.

Friday, November 17, 2006

There Comes A Time...

Update at the End

... in every young child’s life when are caught breaking the 8th commandment. For one young four-year-old I know, that time is today.

Friday is my standing lunch date with Emma. I picked her up to take her to JC Penneys to get some knit pants. She fights having to wear anything else most of the time and I’m tired of fighting that battle. On the drive to the mall, Emma announced: "I got a bear in my pocket from the Treasure Box." [the incentive program for good behavior in Emma’s classroom]

"What did you do to get that?" I didn’t realize that the kids got to pick a prize so early in the day. I thought it was an end of the day type of thing. I was curious.

"Because I have been so good." Had that conversation stopped here, I wouldn’t have thought anything else of it. The conversation didn’t end there. "But don’t tell Miss E. or Miss M."

That got my attention. If anyone was going to reward her from the Treasure Box, it would be either E or M. "Emma, did a grown up tell you that you could pick a prize?"

Looking in the rearview mirror, I could tell that what was to come would be a complete fabrication. "Yes."

"Did you ask for the bear?"


"Taking something without asking is stealing. That is a very unkind thing to do. Are you sure you didn’t take the bear without asking?"

"Uh... huh."

The funny thing about this is that I could also tell by her expressions and body language that she thought she was getting away with it. She was completely at ease. "Who did you ask for the bear?"

"Miss K."

I dropped the subject as we pulled into the mall and I found a parking spot. After I got her out of the van I asked, "Emma, who did you ask about the bear again?"

"Miss C."

"Emma, don’t tell me things that aren’t true. The first time you told me that Miss K gave you permission. Why did you take the bear without asking?"

Emma never really admitted that she did steal the bear. She kept looking down at the ground and got into her whining, grumpy mode.

"When we get back to school, you are going to give that bear back to Miss E and you are going to tell her what you did and say that you are sorry. How would you feel if she came into your room and took something of yours without asking?"

She made her typical "leave me alone" grunt noise as we started walking to the store. "I don’t want to give the bear back. L has one and she’s not going to give it back. She’s going to take hers home."

I was not at all shocked to hear that L was involved in this little scheme. "I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to give the bear back and tell Miss E that you are sorry and will never steal from the Treasure Box again."

"When I say sorry, I’m going to say it really quiet."

"You’ll either have to whisper it into Miss E’s ear or say it loud enough for her to hear. It hurts people’s feelings when you take things from them. You need to apologize using your manners."

She didn’t say anything else about it the entire time we were out. We went through the drive-thru for lunch on the way back because time was running short. I wanted to ensure that I had enough time to address the issue appropriately.

As we drove into the parking lot of her daycare, Emma said, "Mommy, do you want to know how I’m going to apologize to Miss E?"

A feeling of pride washed over me. She must have been thinking about what she did while we were shopping. "Yes, how are you going to apologize?"

"Like this." She then mouthed the word sorry.

Pride evaporated. "Emma, you are going to say that you’re sorry loud enough for Miss E to hear you."

"But Mommy, it’s nap time. I don’t want to make the class wake up."

"We can go somewhere with Miss E so that you can use your normal voice."

As I was punching my access code to get into the building Emma said, "I’m not going to apologize." She didn’t say it defiantly. It was her last ditch effort to get out of it.

"I’m sorry, but you are."

Unfortunately, Miss E was on her lunch break when we got back. Miss M was subbing in the room today because Mr. D had the day off. We’re close to Miss M. She’s even babysat the girls on a couple of occassions. I told Miss M what happened and made Emma give her the bear. When I saw the bear, this entire incident became even more funny to me. I wanted to say to her: "If you’re going to steal something, steal something worth the trouble!" Why would you steal a green, hard plastic bear that wasn’t even an inch tall? Anyway, Miss M ensured me that she would make sure that Emma apologized to Miss E.

I then got on my knees so that I was at Emma’s eye level. I wanted her to know that she was still a good girl but that she had made a bad decision. She wouldn’t look me in the eye no matter how hard I tried to get her to do it. I told her that everyone steals something when they are little. It’s one of those lessons you have to learn the hard way. I don’t know if she was listening to what I was saying or not. I hope that she at least heard me tell her that I loved her. It’s important to know that your parents love you even when you messed up. Miss M had Emma lay down for her nap by her chair and she set the bear on a shelf right in Emma’s line of view. She started to ask Emma questions about our lunch, but I could tell that Emma was sad as I walked away.

It’s good that you live as a child before you become a parent. How can you not empathize because you have been there before? Although I didn’t get caught, I remember very distinctly my dabble into stealing. Coincidently, it occurred during my preparation for making my first Reconciation. We were at a local grocery store and I asked my dad if I could have a Marathon bar. He said no. So, I picked one up, sneaked down a few aisles from him, opened and ate it. I have no idea why someone didn’t see what I was doing. How do you conceal eating a braid shaped candy bar filled with caramel and covered in chocolate? Had I been discovered, I would have been mortified. Still, I didn’t get off scott free. As it turns out, my parents had invited Deacon Chuck over for dinner that night. I spent the whole dinner wondering if I should tell him even though I wasn’t technically cleared to make a confession. It was an evening full of anxiety. I never worked up the courage to talk to him. It didn’t end there, either. I felt the guilt every time I saw or went into that store. The only thing I could think of when I saw Deacon Chuck was that candy bar. I think that the initial mortification would be better. I can’t remember if I ever did confess about that...


Emma lied about getting the bear out of the Treasure Box. It was one of the "counting bears" that are out in the play area. Boy, she came up with a whopper the first time out of the box.

When I picked her up, I looked in her pocket. There was 6 cents in it. She said that Miss E. gave it to her at first. When I kept looking her in the eye she said, "I'll give it back, but I won't apologize." I made her do both. Apparently she found it in a cubby or something. Ahh... Just when I thought that parenting was complicated enough...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Costume Party

I am finally posting about the girls' birthday party. We had a great time. Emma was very excited about her costume. Allison's didn't last long. As for the hostess, I wouldn't wear another Halloween wig for two hours again to save my life. Ahh... the sacrifices we moms make...
We couldn't have asked for better weather at the end of October. The sun was out and it was nice enough not to wear jackets. God was surely smiling down on us this year.

Meridith came down for the party with Mallory and Trent. Mallory was an adorable fairy and Trent was the cuddliest lion ever. This picture also has proof that Allison's costume didn't last even until the party started.

One of the activities I planned was to give each of the kids a tattoo. I bought the boys and girls tattoo kits from Stampin' Up. It was a big hit. Cherries, butterflies, and princess crowns were universally requested. These kits will pay for themselves when I figure out a way to use them as rewards at home. They are in hiding at this point because I would never hear the end of "Can I have a tattoo, pulease???" if they saw them.

The game the older kids played required them to carry a marshmellow on a tongue depressor (courtesy of my doctor's office - thank goodness I got strep earlier in the week). In theory, the child who carried his/her marshmellow the farthest would win. I discovered that this game was a bit advanced for four year olds, but that ended up being the fun, anyway. Every time we counted to three for the kids to begin, someone's marshmellow would drop off before we got to three. The kids ended up giggling too much to care who won. I think Pocahontas won. That's the person who took home the prize. The most wonderful costume at the party belonged to Dorothy. Her mother not only French braided Katie's hair (which impresses me in and of itself), but she sewed the dress as well.

This was the first year that Emma blew out her candles without help from Mom or Dad. Go Emma!

Allison still needed a little help. When she would blow, she curled her bottom lip up so that the air tossled her bang (can't quite call them bangs yet). Mommy helped out. Luckily for me, the pink hair didn't go up in a blaze of glory while I was at it.

Present time really belonged to Emma. Once Allison opened the Dora backpack from Grandma and Grandpa, she had no interest in anything else. Lexie (Emma's red-headed best friend) and Gracie (more anxious to see what was inside then Emma) were right by her side the entire time.

The party was a great success. The food was delicious and I've met some new moms that I would love to get to know better. It was a great day!
After the excitement, we opened Emma's new Raffi DVD (an instant classic in our house) and watched that while Emma went over and over her gifts. If you've never seen a queen, you need to see Emma at a time like that. Emma, you were such a delight to behold. Happy fourth birthday, my beautiful Em&Em.
It wasn't long after we put on the DVD that Allison laid down on her Dora (siamese twin) backpack like it was a pillow. The next thing we knew, she was down for the count. Allison is not one to fall asleep randomly like that, but being the birthday girl sure tuckered her out. Happy second birthday, my sweet Baby Doll!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's Good When Men Don't Notice Your New Doo

We had a cross departmental meeting this evening to go over a project that was just released into production. Our VP led the meeting. While waiting for the last person to arrive, he welcomed back one of my co-workers from her maternity leave and asked about her baby. I happened to be sitting next to this co-worker. After he finished talking with her, he looked at me kind of funny. Then he said, “Is this residual Halloween or a new look?” [I got my hair done yesterday and I got some ginger highlights added to the blond] Luckily I thought quickly on my feet and replied, “It is a new look, but I sure appreciate the Halloween reference.” He went on to make some kind of joke about him just giving me a real reason to stab him (picture him making a Norman Bates type of stabbing motion).

My first reaction was pretty much to be thankful that he recognized that I was even in the room. Frequently, he’ll say we need a team and will say that every sub-department in our area needs to be involved by name - with the exception of mine. Other times, he’ll say we need a team and will say that every sub-department in our area needs to be involved by name - with the exception of mine – and finish the statement with “and everyone else.” Currently, that every one else are the two people in my department. I’m not sure which of those types of statements angers me the most. Not being mentioned at all or being grouped in a general category all by myself.

The “at least he noticed I exist” reaction dampened down the first time he talked about teams in this meeting (that time my area was completely off the radar). It died the second time (when I was grouped in that wonderful generic category all by myself). Then the paranoia about my hair set in. Others, who I trust not to lie to me, have been very positive about the new look. Danny doesn’t think it’s even that much of a departure from what I’ve done in the past. So why do I dwell on one tactless remark and let that deflate me? I mean other than that he made that statement in front of a vast majority of my colleagues. If I like it, shouldn’t that be enough to me? I should be able to ignore it and move on. So why can’t I? Am I lacking confidence? Am I too vain or self-conscious? A combination of both?

Either way, writing about it is a step in the right direction. Instead of just eating these feelings, I’m expressing them. I swear that I am going to be kind to myself even if the VP couldn’t. I’m not going to take these feelings out on myself by binging or eating only junk food. As God as my witness, I’m also not going to let this make me ornery or impatient with my family tonight. If a volcano has to erupt from all the pressure at the end of the night, I can beat up a pillow or go outside and let out a primal scream. No matter what, these feelings are going to be pointed in his direction, not mine, not my husband’s and not my children’s. It’s a good opportunity for me to experiment with turning this embarrassing situation into a personal grace. I’ll get there, and with red highlights to boot!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quick and Dirty

I haven’t had much of a chance to write since my last post. I just wanted to thank every single person who has supported me over the past two years. I couldn’t have made it through without you. I appreciate all of you and pray for you every day.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


After Danny and I found out that I was pregnant, we agreed that if we had another girl, Grace would be part of her name. We were first struck by that name before the pregnancy while watching an Adoption Story. If I remember correctly, a subtitle after a commercial break contained that word in a beautiful statement. Once I became pregnant, that name fit even better for me because I felt that this baby came to be by the grace of God. That is where the Grace in Allison Marie Grace came from.

As I mentioned briefly in an earlier post, October has been one of the best months of my life. This month of October was an epiphany for me. When you spend so much time focusing on the existing, assumed, imagined, anticipated negatives in your life due to depression and anxiety (or just because you’re plain pessimistic), you lose sight of all the good and all the joy that you have in your life.

My awakening began the moment a gorgeous birthday bouquet of lilies arrived at work from Trista. The tangible beauty those flowers brought into my work space reminded me of the indescribable and encircling beauty her friendship has added to my life. It’s not that I forgot that she was my best friend. It’s not even that I took that friendship for granted. It’s that I forgot to be thankful for that gift which flowed first from God to Trista and then through Trista to me from her own free will. Friendship is a powerful thing.

For the first time since Emma’s first birthday, I was excited about celebrating my children’s birthdays. I loved designing their invitations myself. The creativity invigorated and excited me. Before they were sent out, I spent some time with my friend, Becci (Charlie’s mom). I mentioned the spider theme of the party to her and she hit the ground running. It was as if I was doing her a favor to allow her to make – actually create – the snacks and food for the party. She didn’t ever fully understand that this gift she thought she was giving to Emma and Allison was really a gift to me. Of all the parts of throwing a party, food prep is the only thing I dread. After she received the actual invitation, she gifted me in another, more significant way. She loved the invitations so much that she wants to start a party planning business with me. Not only did making those invitations fulfill a need to show love for my children through creativity, through Becci I learned that what I view as simply a hobby is actually a valuable talent I can provide to others. Nowhere in our area is there a business that offers customized party themes. Assuming that there are people out there who would love to throw a party in their own home but don’t have the time, energy, or creativity to come up with a theme and put it all together, we have a real shot at success. This just might be the way I am able to be at home for the girls after school and I had it in me this entire time. Talk about receiving a shot in the arm of self-worth!

Meridith drove down with her children and my parents to be here for Emma and Allison’s birthday. Just her even thinking about doing that made me so happy. Trent turned three months old the day they arrived at our house. She didn’t let the fact that traveling with such young children could be a complete nightmare dampen her enthusiasm or stop her. I was so thrilled to be able to meet Trent for the first time while he was still a baby. As it turns out, the reason why it was so important to her to come to Virginia was not just to celebrate the girls’ birthdays. She wanted to ask me in person to be Trent’s godmother. There is no greater honor than that.

I learned that someone I love dearly is experiencing some of the same depression and anxiety that I did. It breaks my heart that anyone has to go through that. This person trusted me enough to talk with me. I shared my experience and offered some advice. Hopefully, having someone to talk to will help her see that what she’s feeling isn’t real. It’s a result of her depression and anxiety, not a sign that she’s a horrible mother. As I was talking with her on the phone, I was thankful that I could – at the very least – listen to her with the ears of experience. I was thankful that she doesn’t have to go through this alone. Isn’t that being thankful for the most painful experience in my life?

Danny and I celebrated our 9th anniversary on the 25th. I have to admit that this day was not the foremost in my mind. The girls were having their 2 and 4 year checkups that day and I was concerned with making sure that I ask all of the right questions. It was foremost in his mind. On the afternoon of the 25th, a dozen Sterling roses arrived for me at work. Imagine – flowers twice in one month! They were pale lavender and I have never seen such beautiful roses in my life. Once I got over my shock and awe, I sent him an email thanking him. His reply: “There’s more, give me a call.” That email took my breath away. Wow! What more could there be? Danny researched the traditional flower for a 9th anniversary. Since no one on this continent had poppies, he chose those uncommonly beautiful roses. Because the traditional gift for a 9th anniversary was boring to him (pottery), he went with the modern gift – leather! Danny told me to pick out the leather coat of my dreams. I could have died from delight (and I just might when I pick my coat Saturday). I’ve always wanted a leather coat. Was it the gifts that made me feel like a queen? No. What made me feel like a queen that day and what continues to make me feel like a queen today is the knowledge of just how much Danny loves me. The past two years of our marriage have not been storybook to say the least. Through it all, he still loves me and wants me to be happy. He wants to build on our relationship. Having children can change a couple’s focus from each other to their children very easily. As much as children need their parents, both parents and children blossom within a healthy marriage. Deciding to make our marriage a priority again is going to be a great adventure in the years to come. His love and companionship are the most valuable gifts in the whole world.

I met with my therapist today and related to her all of the wonderful things (and only a few are mentioned here) that had happened to me in October. As exciting as it all had been, that much happiness makes me uncomfortable. It’s not like I’m waiting for the hammer to drop. I just wonder if I really deserve it. Susan asked me what I thought about grace. I responded that I’m far too clumsy to have very much of it, but I knew what she meant. To be honest, although I memorized its definition in catechism and have attributed many things to the “grace of God,” I don’t really have much of a feel for it. My focus is on the wretch I am, not the grace that’s so amazing. From that point of view, grace is harsh, scary and foreign. Susan led me with questions until I understood for myself for the first time that grace is a gift without condition. Grace is a friend treating you to time away from the world. Grace is a sister traveling 12 hours in a car with her two children under the age of 15 months just to see you. Grace is being asked to be a godparent. Grace is the opportunity to watch your favorite baseball team win its only game in the World Series with your father. Grace is the top of a jean quilt made by your grandmother. Grace is watching your parents play with and love your children. Grace is a sister telling you how she has seen God working in her life during the worst of times. Grace is a husband standing behind an unstable wife and taking care of the kids when he’d rather just be alone in peace and quiet.

As we continued to talk about grace, I started to get tears in my eyes. In a flash, I thought about Allison’s name. I remembered how I first learned to appreciate destiny through Emma. Whether you know it or not, names are very powerful. At the time, I simply believed that my pregnancy was a gift, or a grace from God. Only now do I understand that Allison was brought into my life through grace to teach me about its very nature. How can I not cry? What felt like complete abandonment into the 8th circle of Hell was actually God carrying me to the place I needed to be. I never would have made that journey on my own.

I can also see how I have been a source of grace for others. After all, when you get right down to it, grace is a mother loving and caring for her inconsolable baby day after day when she’d rather just run away. Grace is a circle, expanding without end.