Thursday, May 31, 2012

When Illness Hits the Home

 We have always been a relatively healthy family. By that I mean we occassionaly get the common cold but seldom get the flu or any other kind of illness....until this year. It started with Alan. He had the whole deal, then Jeremie came down with an abnormally high fever and body aches which only lasted 24 hours, then Kaylynn got the high fever and body aches and intense belly pain which lasted less than 24 hours, then Kalli got it, and this is where it gets yucky so if you prefer not to read about puke, fevers, children, and hospitals then you should stop now. This is all part of me sharing my story through motherhood, and this was one of those moments that made time stand still, and an experience I will never forget.

Kalli (who is 4) started throwing up Thursday morning. She threw up nearly every 5 minutes until about 6:00pm. Her fever stayed steady at 103.7 (which was frightening to me because I have never had a child spike a fever that high). She was diligent with sipping water, broth, and even some pedialyte (which I don't typically use) all during this spell. She stopped throwing up at about 6:00 and went to bed. She slept all the way through the night, woke up the next morning without a fever and feeling much better. She wanted to eat. I gave her a little bit of toast and a bit of banana. An hour later, her fever spiked high again, and she started throwing up. I need to insert some history here....we have never had an illness in our house last over 24 hours so even though I am a mama of 4, (and she is my third) I didn't know what to do. So I called the doctor. The response I got was as long as she is still drinking (and peeing occassionaly) in between vomiting spells then she is still hydrated and should be fine. Okay, I can handle that. So, we kept pushing the sips of liquid, and she kept throwing up. Her fever stayed consistently high all day long, and she started to pass from sleep to awake to sleep more often. Her lips were cracking and bleeding. So I called the doctor again. This time, she asked me if Kalli's mouth was still moist. Yes, her mouth was still moist. Okay, she is still hydrated and doing just fine. How about this, if she throws up again, bring her in. By this time, all that was coming out of Kalli was green stomach bile.  She didn't throw up again. She went to bed, slept all the way through the night. When she woke up, she was feeling better (this was Saturday morning). She wanted to eat. I gave her one cracker and a little chicken broth. She sipped and nibbled (and did not finish either one).

An hour later, she started screaming in agony and was doubled over in pain, clutching her stomach. I responded as any mother would respond and just held her while she screamed. Then she instantly stopped screaming, looked at me and smiled, then closed her eyes and was fast asleep. So I rocked and she slept. Then she woke, looked up, tried to grab at something that was not in the air, then looked at me and started screaming again, "It hurts, take the pain away!" Then with HUGE eyes of fear, she screams, "MOMMY, where are you? MOMMY why did you leave? I NEED you!" Imagine my heart being ripped right out of my chest as I am holding my darling 4 year old, and she has no idea that I am cradling her. Alan comes rushing in from the other room, I start to cry. He takes her, calms her. She hears his voice, and I go upstairs and cry. Everything inside of me says, "take her to the emergency room." I get ready while Alan tries to get her to sip a little more. She screams in pain again, clutching her stomach, and then it happens again. Only this time, it is daddy holding her. She doesn't know he is there, she screams for him. He holds her, and I look in his eyes and see the same fear that I feel. I get my shoes on; she is still in pajamas and has no shoes. I buckle her into her booster seat, and we drive the 5 minutes to the hospital. The emergency room doc confirms that she needs fluids, but they also need to take labs. They bring in fluid, they bring in an IV. She gets hysterical again and starts screaming right in my face. "Where is my mommy?! Why did you take my mommy away from me?!" I cry, hold her tight, and say, "Mommy is here, mommy is here." She closes her eyes and says, "Jesus make me feel better." Then she goes to sleep. When she wakes up, she knows me, she has questions. "Will that be in my arm forever mommy?" "Can I go home now?" The pediatric doctor comes in with her labs results. She is severely dehydrated, sugar is low, potassium is low, calcium is low, and she needs to stay overnight. The transfer us from the ER room to a standard hospital room where she gets to control the bed and the TV. We watch a Disney movie while we wait for daddy and the other kids to come visit. They bring us our tooth brushes, jammies, changes of clothes, books, coloring books, and crayons. When they leave, we go to sleep. She says, "Mommy stay right next to me please." So I lay next to her in the tiny hospital bed and try to sleep but simply cannot. The nurses come in a check on her throughout the night. They check vitals and change her IV bag. In the morning, she is not better. She cannot walk; she cannot eat. The doctor says we will have to stay another day. Grandma comes to visit with books, movies, and games. The doctor returns in the afternoon, and says Kalli is better. But she still won't eat. Grandma brings yogurt from home, and Kalli eats it which gives us the go ahead to go home. After 9 bags of fluid, and a little food that stayed in her belly, they let us go home. She was on the mend.

Now, over a month later, no one would even guess that she was so sick. Children recover so well, but I have to say that I have not. I can still hear her screams; I can still see her pale, frail body lying next to me. I can still remember what it felt like to carry her to the bathroom because she could not walk.  These are the times when my mothering is stretched, and I wonder where the strength is going to come from. Then it's just there, and I do what is natural, and we get through it. But now it is only a memory, and I hold her a little closer and give thanks for good health.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I'm not Super Mom

I took a walk with the kids today, and while embracing all the colors of spring, I got to thinking about who I have come to be. Recently, I wrote my first article for an a minimalist footwear website,  Toe Salad, and I was asked to also submit an "about the author." This was one of the most difficult things I have done, and all of my insecurities rose to the surface. After hours of laboring over who I am and trying to figure out what to write about myself, I submitted what I thought was a ridiculous short bio, but a bio none the less. This was the catalyst for some self reflection.

 Two years ago, I wanted everyone to view me as a Super Mom! You know, the perfect mom, perfect wife, perfect homemaker, perfect kids with perfectly matched clothes with perfect manners. (Lets insert some sort of Leave it to Beaver music here). I had a very cooperative first child who did everything she was told all the time which gave me my perfect mom halo (not to mention, I have never wanted to let people see my weaknesses). I preached consistency and gentleness. 

Then my second was born and my halo burst. He was the opposite. Instead of getting praise when I went out, I got the LOOKS (some of you know those looks)...the kind that make you want to crawl into a hole and never come out. I never let on, though, because to admit imperfection was worse. I struggled with his will, then number three came along, and she is just as strong willed if not more so. In public, I was able to hold it together because she was (and still is) so shy. So I still had my perfect mom aura. Moms would say to me, "Charity you always seem to have it all together!" "Charity you are so patient!" I was always thinking, "yeah right." But of course to admit, out loud, that I really don't have it all under control was simply not an option. Then number four came along, and with number four came the freedom to admit that I am NOT a Super Mom!

This did not happen overnight but over the course of a few months after one mom asked me for advice. Then another new mom asked for advice then another. Before I knew it, I was an "older" mom (by children's ages), and I had no advice to offer. Two years prior I would have been able to give every bit of advice in the book. No you shouldn't or yes you should. Now, I find myself saying, "I cannot offer you any advice because all children are different!" What I did with my first did not work with my second or my third or my fourth. I can tell you my story, but otherwise I cannot say.

Woah! Hold on! A mother who does NOT have all the answers, this was cause for serious reflection on my part. Was I failing as a mom because I could not give answers to these new moms? No! I was finally realizing what it means to be a mom (I  know 9 years; sometimes I am a little slow).

Being a mom means I am free to raise my children according to our family passions, desires, convictions, and priorities. I am no longer bound to compare myself to the other mommy blogger who has six children, a farm, sews, home schools, writes books, takes her kids to all their activities, and still manages to blog nearly every day. I do not have to compare myself to that working mom, or that public school mom, or that mom who always has her hair done. I do not have to stress over the fact that my children do a presentation in jeans with holes in the knees or the fact that I like to wear high top minimalist footwear. I do not have to abandon my dreams because another mom isn't a big dreamer. I do not have to know the right answer for every new mom that comes to me asking for advice.

 In our Facebook, blogging, better yourself world, it becomes very easy for us to read and stuff our minds full of information that may or may not be helpful. There are so many "experts" telling us how to raise our children and condemning us if we don't follow their advice perfectly.  We are not all meant to be the same. So from my "non-Super Mom" perspective. From my "I mess up all the time with my kids" perspective, from my "I love my children and their uniqueness" perspective from my "sometimes I want to quit this job as a mom" is my advice: Embrace yourself and embrace your children, listen to yourself and listen to your children. Being Super Mom isn't the end all. Remember that there is beauty and greatness in the very ordinary and simple. 

Raising children is very ordinary but is intensely beautiful and great. So moms -  learn, grow, become not just a better mom but a better person, but please do not allow the "experts," other parents, or comments make you insecure. Insecurity is a trap and will strip you from the energy you need to love, nurture, teach, dream with, and enjoy your children. Encourage one another whenever you can (even if you do things differently), and be willing to say, "I am NOT a Super  Mom!"

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

No More Babies

I did not know what it would feel like when I hit this point in life. The point when diapers are fading, when sippy cups and small spoons are no longer needed, when the "baby" phase is gone. But we have arrived at yet another crossroad....the one from infant to toddler, and I have no more infants on the way. I have spent the last few months truly grieving the growing up of my youngest.

And her 2nd birthday, though a time of rejoicing in who she is, became a very nostalgic time for me. She is no longer a baby, and I no longer have any babies. Everyone always told me, "you will know when you are done having children." No one ever told me, "you will grieve, cry, throw fits, and even wish for just one more." Just one more moment of baby smell, one more night to nurse, one more infant grunt, one more first smile, just one more..." At first I resisted and did my best to talk myself out of the grieving, but after two months of failing miserably, I allowed myself the freedom to embrace this phase of life while also grieving what I felt I needed to.

The dynamics of each family and each mom are so different so I cannot say to you that you will know when you are done having children or that the transition will be easy for you. I can say that if you are anything like me that the sadness will come, but that it's okay. Don't feel like you have to be like all the other moms who seem to hold it together, are so contented, and seem to have really know when their families were complete. Embrace this time and allow yourself the freedom (if you need to) to feel sad. I know that my family is complete (currently), and believe me I never want to be pregnant again, but there is still a part of me that longs to have baby after baby after baby. But there is cause for celebration in this post because Cami did turn 2, and we have an entire new year of different types of firsts with her to look forward to. And her little personality is forming so beautifully. She is the entertainment of the home with her crazy antics, songs, and amazing dance moves. She has the most incredible facial expressions and melts my heart with her smile. She is definitely has the strongest will out of all my children and expresses it daily. Oh the challenges, but I look forward to seeing that strong will manifest in her later in life (I was also a strong willed child). I am thankful for her cuddles, snuggles, and some afternoons she still falls asleep on my lap, and we snuggle, and she breaths heavily, and I thank God for my darling 2 year old.