Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Heartbreaking

It's 10:39 am and I'm sitting on the couch watching the Care Bears Nutcracker, which we finally bought for a few dollars on Amazon because Madelyn wants to watch it every day. I always feel a little guilty putting on a movie for Madelyn (because again, it's a daily occurrence), but today I needed the chance to shower after Anna threw up on me for the second time.

We've all been a little sick around here - just some stuffy noses and lower energy levels than normal. Anna has been settling into a pretty regular nighttime routine: to bed between 9:30 and 10:30, awake at 2:00 am to eat, awake again at 6:00 to eat, sleep until 9:00.  I wish she wasn't still waking up twice at nights, but she eats quickly and sleeps through her feedings, so it's manageable for me. This morning, though, she woke up again at 7:00 because she was too stuffed up to breathe on her back. I lay down with her in the recliner in her room and we both went back to sleep (after she cleared her lungs a bit by throwing up on me for the first time).

I woke up a bit later because Madelyn had gotten out of bed and was walking through the house yelling, "Daddy? Daddy?" David had a physical therapy appointment this morning because of a shoulder injury, so no one was answering Madelyn's calls. I didn't want to yell down to her and wake up Anna, but I also didn't want to risk putting Anna back in her crib (she's a light sleeper). I assumed Madelyn would come back upstairs and find me, but I started worrying when I couldn't hear her calling anymore and didn't hear movement. Finally I put Anna down (she did stay asleep) and went to find Madelyn. I combed the whole house, searched every room, called her name, and found no sign of her. No answering reply, no one hiding behind Daddy's shirts in the closet, no Madelyn anywhere. I wake up pretty slowly most mornings, but I found out that losing my precious little girl is a good way to get my heart thumping!

The only thing I could think was that if she had been looking for Daddy, maybe she had gone into the garage. I started wondering if she'd been able to get the garage door open (it's happened before) and wandered outside - scary thought! I rushed to the door to the garage, but as I started to open it, I heard a little noise behind me. There was Madelyn, hiding behind our couch with my makeup bag in her lap. One eye was colored pink from my lip stain, the other eye was black from my mascara. My eye shadow container was open on her lap and the colors were crushed and spilling into each other and onto the carpet. Ahhh, that explained why she hadn't answered my calls - she knows she's not supposed to get into my makeup.



But I was relieved she was safe and sound (and still in the house!). I knelt down next to her and asked, "Madelyn, you know you're not supposed to get into my makeup. What are you doing?"

"Go church mommy," she told me. Clever girl already knows mommy tries to look extra nice when going to church. I told her how scared I had been and reminded her that she needs to answer me when I call. I think my fear scared her more than any scolding would have; she climbed into my lap and wanted me just to hold her. I wrapped my arms around her and held her tight for a while. I know toddler snuggles won't be available forever.

Anna woke up around then. So while Madelyn curled up under the covers in my bed, I held a screaming Anna and used a 1/4 cup measuring cup to add 3 cups of oatmeal to a pot of boiling water...Madelyn has been playing with the measuring cups lately and I couldn't find anything bigger. My bare feet were crunching graham crackers while I stood at the stove, making new mounds of crumbs from the remains of yesterday's discarded snack. A few minutes later the oatmeal pot was happily boiling over (and over) while I sat in our front room holding - and not wanting to disturb - a re-sleeping Anna.

Thankfully Dave came home a few minutes later and dished out the oatmeal for us. I did get to eat my breakfast before Anna threw up on me the second time.

Last night we hosted dinner for a relative and his colleague who had just flown in for the National Choral Director's Convention occurring in Salt Lake. The relative had last seen me when I was 7 months pregnant and as we talked about some of the discomforts I was experiencing then, he good-naturedly joked that he had decided not to ever become pregnant. I laughed appreciatively, but then I couldn't help adding (as the only woman around the table), that pregnancy is a wonderful thing - trying, but wonderful.

And I felt sorry for our two guests, neither of whom had children. I don't know their opinions of parenthood or children, but I've seen opinions online before from people who don't like children, or don't have time or the inclination for children. It makes me a little sad, because they can't understand the consequences of their own choice (and yes, I am only referring to people who choose the childless fate). They think they don't want kids for all the things represented in this post: the crying, the throwing up, the hiding at inconvenient times, the kids movies, the expensive makeup all over the carpet, the graham cracker crumbs underfoot. It doesn't sound fun, I get it. And when it's other people's kids it's not fun. But you don't understand until you have your own kids how much capacity your heart has to love something outside yourself. You don't understand how your sense of humor grows, how you learn not to take yourself so seriously and to laugh at the missteps (because let's be honest, my morning was funny, in a tragic comedy sort of way). You don't understand how healing it is to snuggle with a little person who trusts you completely and loves you intensely.

In fact, ridiculous as this morning was, I am writing it down now because I know that I want to remember it. Trying as it sometimes is to be a toddler's mother, I know I will miss this when it's over. I want to cling to every single moment.

Some day, I will walk in the door and a piece of my heart will break because there is no little girl running to me with her face upturned and arms outstretched yelling "miss you mommy miss you mommy!"

I'll miss those moments when she stretches her face towards me, eyes wide and intent (and still covered in lip stain and mascara because mommy doesn't have makeup remover), shaking her head and saying, "nose, nose," then grinning with pleasure when you lean forward and rub your nose against hers. And when she pulls back her head, giggling the word "daddy" because it was her daddy who taught her how to eskimo kiss and she loves him for it.

I will miss her lustily drinking out of a sippy cup full of apple juice before putting it down on the table and grabbing the sippy cup right next to it, full of apple juice from last night's dinner, and drinking from it just as lustily.

My patience might have been stretched thin while we were walking back from visiting another mom in the neighborhood. Madelyn wanted to go the long way home, but before long her legs were tired and she was cold and she held my hand, walking and crying, "home, home." I might have been completely exasperated when she finally sat down on the sidewalk sobbing, refusing to go any farther. "You chose this!" I wanted to yell, but instead, I picked her up and sat her down on the stroller, right on top of Anna's legs because there was no other place for her. And Madelyn looked around in surprise, then in delight as I wheeled both girls down the sidewalk hoping Anna's legs weren't breaking underneath her big sister. But guess what, I honestly think I'm going to miss that moment too. I'm writing it down here because I want to remember. I want to look back and smile about it, because despite the difficulty, moments like this - with the little girl who wanted to put on makeup "before church" to be just like mommy - are almost heart-breakingly meaningful.



Closing now with a heart-breakingly beautiful picture of my Madelyn. My sister-in-law Sarah captured Madelyn's serious moments so well. Please go to her blog to see more: http://www.sarahlynnhill.com/2015/02/16/miss-madelyn-family-photographer/ 

And for those of you in Boston or surrounding areas, Sarah has a photography degree and all of her work is beautiful. I would highly recommend you contact her for any professional photography you want done :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Name and a Blessing

A Name

Names were things that resonated with me from the time I was a little girl. I loved "Amanda" and "Katie" (my imaginary friends were always Amandas or Katies). Once there was a dark-haired Fallon who moved into my congregation and I was fascinated by her exotic and beautiful name.

I don't know what deep-seeded gene makes little girls come up with their own baby names list when they are 8, but something about names seems inherently important, and beautiful names stick with you. 

During my time in Cambridge, I started to think that it might be worthwhile to choose meaningful names for children - not merely beautiful names. I was reading Helaman 5:6-7 in which Helaman tells his children Nephi and Lehi that they were named after their forbears. He says:
"This I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how it is said [...] that they were good. Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you [...] even as it has been said [...] of them." 
Naming a child after someone she could emulate was a new and powerful idea for me. For the first time, I wanted to give my own children names with meaning. 

For safety reasons I don't want to publish my daughters' middle names on this blog, which is too bad for this post because I love my girls' middle names and Madelyn's especially is particularly meaningful. It was stressful for me to choose Madelyn's name; I realized that this name would, in some ways, define her her entire life. I spent a lot of time thinking about the little person inside of me and wondering who she was and who she would become. I felt like the decision was important enough to pray over. The name "Madelyn" had never been on any of my names lists, but when we started discussing it, it felt right. I guess you could say that I gained a testimony of letting the Spirit guide the naming process.

That experience prepared me for the naming of new little Anna. Again, "Anna" was never on any names list; I don't think I'd ever thought of it much. But when I heard I would be having a Christmas baby, I started thinking about the men and women of the Christmas story. My mind came to Anna the Prophetess in the temple, and I couldn't get her out of my mind. I was touched that she immediately recognized the baby in the temple as the Savior of the world, and that she witnessed of His identity to everyone she saw. How powerful it would be to be named after someone like that! What example of faith to guide your life!

Initially, I worried over it. This name was stuck so firmly in my mind, but we didn't even know yet if we were having a girl. For some reason, I felt strongly that this would be my only chance to have an Anna - even if I had another girl, she wouldn't be born at Christmas, and the timing seemed important.

When we found out our Christmas baby would in fact be a little girl, I understood why I had felt so strongly about her name. Anna she would be.

A Blessing

The first (though non-salvific) ordinance for a baby born to LDS parents takes place when she receives a name and a blessing, usually in front of the congregation during Sunday worship services. I think this is such a beautiful tradition - priesthood-holder loved ones gather around the baby in a circle while the father (or other priesthood holder if the father is not) holds the baby and pronounces her full name, and then gives a blessing as inspired by the Spirit. It is a sacred thing as all priesthood blessings are, but perhaps because it involves someone so small and precious - a beautiful little spirit who has come to this big, wide world for the first time - I find the baby blessing particularly touching.

David blessed Anna on Sunday. Anna was wearing the dress my great-great grandmother made for my great-grandfather's blessing (you know, back in the 1800s when little boys wore dresses). We spent last week looking for the dress because sometime between Anna's blessing and the blessing of her sister, two years earlier, the dress had been put away in a keepsake box and its location forgotten. Ultimately, the dress is the least important thing about a baby blessing, but I was so hoping that Anna could be blessed in the same dress I was blessed in, the same dress Madelyn was blessed in. It is a gorgeous dress, but more than that, it is a symbol of the heritage of faith that Anna has been born into. I think it is so meaningful that generations ago, Anna's grandfathers were bringing their children before the Lord to be blessed. Just as I want her to remember the Prophetess Anna's legacy, I want Anna to remember the legacy of her own grandmothers and grandfathers and to look to their examples. For me, the dress represents that legacy.


Madelyn

Anna

I loved watching my husband take his baby girl in his arms and open his heart to hear the words the Lord would speak to her. I am grateful for his opportunity to have that intimate moment with his daughter. So often those intimate moments are mine alone, moments he can't share in the same way.

I can't number the moments throughout my pregnancy when I would feel Anna's flutters inside of me and I would pause and turn my thoughts towards the little person who would shortly join our family. Now those moments happen not when she kicks, but when she nurses, snuggled up next to me, so trusting, confident that I will be there to provide her needs. I admit that sometimes (many times!) I sit in an exhausted stupor during nighttime feedings, but sometimes I am awake enough to appreciate how tender those moments are: just me and my sweet daughter in a warm, quietly lit room while the world sleeps. In such tender moments both before and after birth, my mind projects forward, wondering about who this little person is and who she will become, feeling keenly my hopes for her future. These are moments David can never have in the same way. He can feel kicks with his hand and he can rock Anna late at night, but there is a oneness that comes only through the physical intimacy of bearing and nursing a baby that he will never experience. I feel a sense of loss for him because those things are so profound for me.

I am grateful, therefore, that Dave can hold her close and bless her. As her father, his is the unique opportunity of opening his mind and expanding his vision, to see and feel who Anna is and who she will become in his own profound, intimate way. It is a beautiful thing to be able to witness as her mother.