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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Love always, Mom.

 

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How Will I Know?

This is a tough one for me–an honest and true sentiment about the choices in life that have to be made and how those choices will affect tomorrow and all the days after.   How do we adapt with the change of each new season?  How do I know that the choices that I make are what is best for my family, my life and really, for me? 

When I became pregnant for the first time at the age of 23, I was the first of my close-knit group of friends.  Dan and I were married just three months.  My little family tree sprouted a little earlier than those around me.  At the time I was not sure how many children I would want to fulfill our family.  Already having a stepson, I didn’t know if I wanted one or two or three more.  In that moment I was content to just be carrying my first, doting over my growing belly and dreaming of her arrival.  I became pregnant again not long after having Tessa and the feeling was just the same.

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30 weeks! #gobabygo

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I loved pregnancy…every nauseous, sleepy, puffy and swollen minute of it.  Not just the first time, but the second time as well.  I also will not be the only person to tell you that I was really, ridiculously good at being pregnant.  Pardon my brag moment, but pregnancy was a good look for me and it treated my body so well for reasons I can’t begin to explain.  Now I know that not everyone shares the same experiences; and that’s probably why I feel so proud and fortunate to have had the chance to go through it, the way I did, twice.

After those little babies arrived, life happened–the unthinkable, the unexplainable, the beautiful, chaotic, hilarious, confusing and the frustrating.  All of it.  Sometimes all at once. What transpired in those times changed the path of what I thought I wanted in my life. Of course things are not exactly how I imagined they would be.  And you know what?  That is totally fine. I needed those reality checks, and I have gained so much from the things that separate my family and my experiences from other’s.

Yet I find myself lost in the present on some sort of invisible timeline, wondering about the future.  Do I want another baby?  

The topic is relatively distressing at my house.  I know that it is really no one else’s business, but I can’t help but feel that there are others out there struggling and torn within the same conversation.  Do we or don’t we? My husband and I are on different pages…in different books, in separate libraries across town.  He is positive that he does not want anymore children. Then there’s me…unsure and not ready to hang up my baby years just yet.  Because I do not feel done for a number of reasons, really.  While my pregnancies were phenomenal, my birth experiences were–in all honesty–not.  In sorting through my big emotional basket of motherhood, I have to try to determine if I am trying to recreate sought after birth experiences and other missed moments or if I truly want another baby.  That process includes confronting myself and being honest about the reasons I may be yearning for another and if those reasons are sufficient enough to expand our family.  Perhaps it is how quickly my babies have grown and changed in such a short time that keeps me reaching back for more of the fragile newborn and infant stages that I was so delightfully attached to.

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Little alien toes #babytoes #kendal #darling

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But if I had just one more, would I still want another? When does it end, and how will I know?  I have heard so many people say that when they were done, they just knew.  It (whatever “it” was) felt right for them; that the feeling of completion had graced them.  Not to say without heartache or frustration; but that feeling came and passed through their lives at some point, allowing them to transition to the next beautiful phase of life.

The spare bedroom in the back corner of my basement is like a baby Graceland; an unorganized shrine of boxes including baby toys, clothes of several seasons and sizes, two bouncy seats, a jumperoo with drool spots splattered on the plastic, a swing that logged countless hours of baby soothing, a crib, bassinet and memories piled high from when my life as a mother began.  “I’ll organize this all for a garage sale next year.”  At least that is what I tell myself, but I’ll keep it around for now.  You know, just in case.

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Beachin it…

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How will I know that I am ready to say goodbye to midnight baby snuggles and afternoon naps or the smell of Baby Magic lotion on newborn skin?  How will I know that I am ready to pack away those tiny baby clothes forever?  How will I know that my heart will be content never laying another child of mine into our crib or cheer over wobbly first steps?  How will I know when it is okay for me to say no more babies?  How will I know when I feel it?

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World's best baby #kendal

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Ice cream watering hole

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When I think about it, I mean really think hard about it, I realize how blessed I am to be in a position where I even have a decision like this to make.  I brought two daughters into this world.  Even though I would have elected less dramatic entrances for them both, they are both here now.  They are healthy and growing.  They have a big brother who I am lucky enough to be a stepmom to, and all three of them are deeply vested in my heart.  For that and so much more, I am so thankful.

Whenever I come to terms with my choice–baby or not, I pray it finds me gracefully.  I hope to embrace the next phase in life with open arms, ready to celebrate milestones of a new kind.  I hope I look back at those times with great memories, free of bitterness or regret; and only reserving obvious sadness for just how fast these littles grow. For anyone else out there having a hard time letting go, I wish for you the exact same.