Dear Tessa: Birthday Shenanigans

Dear Tessa,

A week ago today, you turned five!  I am not even close to sure how that is possible, but it is.  When parents have told me in the past, that it feels like yesterday when their babies were born–you’re getting to that age where I understand that so much more.  It literally really feels like I held you for the first time yesterday. No tears, though.  I did not go there this time.  You will be happy to know that I only shed maybe two tiny tears the night before your birthday this year. That’s right…no prolonged sobbing this year. I know you are proud.

This year’s birthday was under-celebrated…I won’t lie.  Your dad and I closed on our new house Monday morning and you spent most of the day at daycare with your friends.  Some friends stopped by to check out the new place, and we didn’t end up lighting your candle and singing Happy Birthday until 9 p.m. Whew.  Now that’s not to say your special day went by uneventfully.  No, you provided us with light entertainment that afternoon…

wp-1471885377581.jpg

I will set the scene:  chickens, you, your sister, your brother, me and a hose all hanging out in the yard.  Interesting combination.

Your big brother and I let the chickens out to roam the yard and snack on some veggies.  You read that right.  We have chickens; five of them.  I have no idea what we are doing or how long this phase will last, but for now this is real life.  While “the girls” (what we call the chickens) were out, you and your sister tossed them tomatoes and cucumbers while your brother sprayed the poo out of their pen and refilled their water.  I was busy making sure they did not try to venture off over the hillside again.  It started out innocently enough and the whole picture was quite adorable, really. Everyone was helping out, giggling and enjoying the nice night.  It was time for the girls to return to their pen, and we had them all grouped together to shuffle them back inside.

Unbeknownst to me, the pump that runs the hose water was still opened up. That is when you quietly grabbed the hose and sprayed the girls…all of them. It was madness.  You sprayed the rest of us too.  As the chickens were losing their minds over the unexpected hose-down, the rest of us were hollering at you to drop the hose.  Kendal was crying.  The chickens were scattered.  But you were extremely delighted in the hysteria you created.  Your diabolical laughter was proof of that.

Mischievous. You have definitely discovered that side of yourself this summer. I will be sure to wish your new teachers good luck next week.

We completed your birthday week with a party at our new place with our family and close friends.  Even though it was extremely humid, it was still a lot of fun.  At one point, while you were opening your gifts, you turned to me and said, “…best birthday party ever.”  You express a lot of things that bring you joy as “the best ever,” and I adore it because I can tell that you really mean it.

wp-1471885370201.jpg

_________________________________________________________________

Health wise, here is a quick recap of where you are currently.  Your echocardiogram came back great.  No cleft mitral valve as previously suspected.  No current damage to the heart muscles from chemo. One slight eccentric aortic valve; but not of any concern at this time.  Your follow-up ENT visit went great.  You recovered perfectly from surgery in May just as we thought you did.  You passed your first hearing test ever with flying colors!

We visited your oncologist last week and while we were unable to get blood work that day, everything else looked as it should. Your oncologist also told me that you are also being moved to the Caring For Life clinic from now on. The Caring For Life clinic is a childhood cancer survivor clinic.  The program is designed to help the survivors of childhood cancer as well as their care providers by detecting health-related problems associated with chemotherapy, providing health maintenance education about potential risks, providing emotional support for survivors and family members, and empowering survivors to advocate for themselves.  This is something we thought would happen in a few years; therefore I was pleased to hear that we will starting this in six months. This is a big step in the right direction in life after cancer.

_________________________________________________________________

Each of your birthdays feels better than one before.  Another great year has gone by.  All that you have seen, done and overcome in five short years in remarkable.  I always look forward to the year ahead and seeing what you will do next.  Happy five years to you, little darling.  And cheers to many, many more.

wp-1471885361952.jpg

Love always, Mom.

 

Advertisements

Blank Spaces and Birth Stories

Baby books.  I stink at them.  Some people love them and some people even don’t have them.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I love the nostalgia of them and I do have them; but I have failed to document each tooth that came in and on what date, and I did not always write down milestones as they happened.  I have the family information wrote down, the first pictures (most just loosely placed inside), footprints (at least one of the girl’s), what a package of diapers currently cost, and what they came home from the hospital in and first haircut locks that may or may not be in the incorrect child’s book. I went to work on the girls’ baby books the other day, and realized that I have recorded most of the girls’ milestones on this blog because it is the only place I can keep things organized without little hands scrambling it all up.

I think baby books are important for our kids too–a piece of their own history they can look back on and an awesome way to know themselves better.  But there is one space at the beginning of Tessa’s baby book that remains blank, and every time I open her book I see it. There are three lines given for me to share her birth story. Three whole lines.  Ever since I started filling in her baby book, I have intentionally left that spot wordless to avoid feeling a bit of pain; always telling myself that some day I would fill it in–just not that day.

To be honest, I am not entirely sure how to write it for her.  And sometimes when I see it sit empty, I have to catch my breath because I so badly want to fill the space. Tessa’s birth was a mix of typical and non-typical experiences, but I can’t possibly sum it all up in three little lines.  I know because I tried.  Maybe that is all most people need–just a few short lines to describe the splendor of welcoming a child into the world.  But what about those of us who need more space.  What about the births that did not go as planned?  The surprises, the heartaches, the fears and the unexpected; where love and loss simmer silently together in the melting pot of birth stories. Because there are many of us out there who need a whole page, not just a few lines so that we can share with our children how they entered this world.  Or remind ourselves of the time when we became parents.

Tessa’s birth was the most defining moment in my life.  I went to the hospital in the middle of the night to deliver my first child.  My daughter was on her way, and I was blissfully unprepared for traumatic delivery and the diagnosis that would all happen within that twelve hours; forever changing me from that point forward.  And looking back, I prefer it that way.  I would not change a thing.

I know there are more of me out there; who had a birth that did not go quite as we planned.  Those who struggle to write out their stories when they can’t rewrite history; to relive those moments and to feel it all over again.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel fair and that is because sometimes it just isn’t.  It stays with you forever.  You will encounter people who will not fully understand how you choose to get through it, and that is okay.  It is your experience and it deserves to explanation to anyone.  We grow from our own experiences and navigate multiple levels of joy and grief in many different ways.  But as for me, I am one of the lucky ones.  After two non-typical birth experiences–one quite serious–I brought both of my girls home.

Now please understand that I am not on some quest, shaking my fists and calling out baby book printers across the globe to increase the lines given for birth stories.  Seriously.  I just want other parents to know that each birth story is beautiful and meaningful; and reliving each of mine is an awesome trip down memory lane.  So I relive them by writing them out and reading them; remembering the moments in my life where time literally stood still.

If you want to write out your story but you were only allowed a few lines in that baby book, then I have two words you can start with:   See attached.  

That is how I am starting Tessa’s.

meeting