Monday, March 23, 2009

Do you forgive me? Yes.

***Click this video and listen to it in the background while you are reading. I was listening to this song while I wrote this.***

I've been liking Sunday mornings a lot lately. The scene plays with Nick waking up with the kids, making coffee, cleaning kitchen and living room and I roll out of bed when when I'm awake enough to be bored. It's a nice break for me on his only day to sleep in. What a guy.

I'm feeling sentimental this morning. Nothing particular has set if off, but it may be the combination with warm coffee, new pajamas and the kids are in the bath. If it wasn't for the dishwasher and Pandora, it would almost be quiet. I'd probably be freaked out if it was quiet in here. Unless your kids are sleeping, you know that silence = coloring on the walls or washing the bathroom mirror with hand soap.

Raising kids is probably the craziest thing I've ever done. When we were dreaming of having babies and thinking of names, I didn't know that I'd have a little guy who would wake up every night and sleep with me at 3 yrs old. I didn't know that on the lowest of days, I'd be wearing vomit more than once. I must have skipped the chapter on feeding tubes and therapy sessions until I can't see straight. It's been quite the journey.

Mom's are so hard on each other and on ourselves.

With Owen, I didn't produce breast milk. Now, hear me out before you think anything. I tried everything and had a lactation consultant coming to my house to help me and no matter what I took or did, I still couldn't get more than an ounce out on a good day. We stuck it out for 3 months, but eventually the well ran dry. And so on top of being a new Mom, I had failed at breast feeding.

Of course, after the initial grief, there were some perks. Like going out sans baby once in a while and letting other people carry the burden of feeding an always hungry baby. I loved making a bottle and letting my Dad help. It helped him bond with Owen and it helped Owen trust him. They are still buddies today.

Over time and many tests and doctors later, we found that it was my stupid little thyroid that messed with my hormones that messed with my milk. My body thought I was still pregnant hormone wise, so why produce any milk?

And then Ella came. I had talked to every breastfeeding resource I could and no one saw any reason why this baby wouldn't have milk. But, I had skipped over the chapter on cleft palates and breastfeeding a "special" baby. There was milk this time, but a baby who had no ability to suck. We tried it all, again. I appreciated all the nurses in the NICU who never said that it was impossible and let me try. After 2 weeks of trying and 3 "blue spells" later, I confidently retired as a breastfeeding mother.

Thanks to a persistent Lactation Consultant and the "coincidence" of a famous breastfeeding advocate as the on-call pediatrician, we made a case for breast milk and won.

I wish I could hug her and thank her with gifts and take her to dinner and tell her she can order whatever she wants. But unfortunately, I never got her name, just her donor number. She is a mother to someone else, but for 2 weeks she helped mother my sick baby with breast milk that was donated in little clear bottles. For a sick baby, that is a gift that is invaluable.

And I wonder if you ever feel guilty parenting your children, too. Like there was too much PBS today or not enough green things on their plates. Or you didn't use cloth diapers and think you should have, or forgot to take your prenatal vitamins for what seems like most of the time. I don't know if you're like me, but doesn't it sometimes seem hard to get this thing right? I mean, these are little people we are talking about here and I know that none of us want to be the cause of lots of therapy later on, right?

I was thinking that I needed to forgive myself for being a basket case of a parent. Spring is here and it's all about new life and starting over and I thought, "What the hell, why not try for round #246 and see how it goes?"

Ella and I haven't gotten along for some time. I know what you are thinking: she is 2. She may be 2 and small, but she is a force to be reckoned with! We fight about eating and drinking all day long. I cry daily as she throws partially chewed food on the floor and I yell, "That was 7 calories!" Ella cries daily as I put her in time out. She is a toddler in every sense of the word and we are both strong-willed to the core. I was seeing no end in sight.

But, yesterday something amazing happened: she snuggled up next to me on the couch. I thought it was sweet and a fluke, but later she did it again. And throughout the day, I found us laughing on the couch-together- with no tears. Today it happened again. Instead of watching Sesame Street from her Dora chair, she crawled on the couch and snuggled with me. She points at herself and says "Ella," and then points at me and says "Mama." Such a simple communication, but it warmed my heart. It was as if she had decided to forgive me too. And for a moment, I didn't feel that it was my fault for her small size and her still needing a feeding tube to live. It was just a few seconds, but it was one of those moments where you connect with another human being in a way that is beautiful and uncomfortable and her delayed speech and purple glasses and crooked teeth and high shoulder blades were all gone. It was just a mama and a baby: the way it was always supposed to be.

I got excited tonight because I imagined Ella becoming my permanent sidekick. My shopping buddy. My paint-our-toenails-blue-together buddy. I liked the idea and I think it's worth working towards. I think there is still time for us to make up for the bonding that we missed so painfully and needed so desperately.

So, tonight as I wipe away healing tears from my eyes and listen to Jon Foreman, I hope you give yourself a break from all that you think you've done wrong and let the 63 degree weather tomorrow warm your soul. Run crazily with your children outside and get dirt under your fingernails and let your hair frizz out. Screw up and ask them to forgive you- they will. Be brave and wear shorts (!!!!) and let the March sun burn your face (it's easier to hide the tears!!!).

Monday, March 2, 2009

How can I keep from sneezing?

Ella just got time-out for biting Owen's arm. Instead of setting the timer for 2 minutes (her age appropriate time), I set it for 4. I felt a little guilty, but no, not really. I'm sure there was a pretty good bite in there I missed, so it was accumulating anyway.

I've been sick for 10 days now. I usually get sick once a year and it's a few days of inconvenience, but nothing more. This time, I can't shake it. Neither can my kids. So, the three shorter Liskey's have been stuck in the house for a week. We've got rolls of toilet paper at every turn and an entire trash can filled with "snot rags." So you see, I needed that extra 2 minutes.

Being held hostage by germs is an obnoxious and humbling experience. Obnoxious in that I haven't tasted or smelled in 6 days. Obnoxious in that I couldn't leave if I wanted to because walking to the car makes me need a nap. Humbling in that I have to ask for help. Humbling in that I'm not able to get anything at all done. Probably the most humbling thing is that while I was laying on the couch, shaking, with a fever, my dear friend, Sam, was having emergency surgery on an appendix that had already served it's purpose. I'm sick and miserable, but thank God I'm not losing organs (even if they are completely useless).

And then I think of my sweet Grandma, who moaned in pain as the cancer took over every cell in her body. She downplayed the pain every time I saw her. I would watch her sometimes and when she thought all eyes were off of her, she would wince and sometimes cry. She was always thinking of everyone else, even down to her last days.

I talked to my Mom a couple weeks ago about what had happened at that last doctors appointment when they knew there was nothing they could do. The PET Scan revealed that the cancer was in her neck and lungs and to the nerves in her shoulder. The cancer that was discovered in her pancreas over 2 years ago, took it's time, but eventually made its way to her liver. It seems that everyone knows what that means, when it finally makes home in this vital organ. People would say "it's not in her liver yet, is it?" And so the day she found out it was, she came home and took a five hour nap, while my Mom and aunt frantically tried to arrange for Hospice, Med-Alert bracelets and dinner that evening. We were asked to come to dinner to help cheer her up. No one said what was going through their mind, but we all knew.

Grandma was in the the best mood she was in for months. She walked around and smiled and laughed. She ate at the table and wanted to watch a movie. Of course, I was on the verge of tears all night and watcher her in awe. I wanted so bad to know why she was happy and peaceful and how I could have that too. I never asked her.

And so as I sat with my mom in the Chocolate Cafe, we talked about Grandma and her life and that entire strange day. Maybe Grandma felt peace that day because she knew that she didn't have to fight anymore. That it was time to rest- with a five hour nap to start, but forever, to rest. Or maybe it's my other theory-the theory that would be just the kind of thing that she would do. Maybe this is what she already knew, that it was nearing the end and she had to just be strong for us to help us get through. And after Dr. Jin told her that they'd done everything under the sun, she thanked him and hugged him and walked away. The nurses who have taken care of her all this time were sobbing and hugging her. She was strong for them, like a Grandma always is, and left in good spirits. It was like she already knew and she was just waiting for everyone else to know, too.

Her sleep that afternoon was sound. And when she awoke, she didn't have to be scared anymore. She still had actual death to face, but the part of the journey she had just endured, that was the hard part. So, that night, she didn't pretend that she didn't know the cancer had spread to all those aching body parts. How freeing it felt, as we saw in her that night.

Five days later she started her first radiation treatment and never had another. Seven days later she died. It still pains me how fast this all happened. I needed more time. It's been a month that's felt like a year and it could have all been a dream. On the other hand, would more time have been better? Would months of suffering broken us all beyond immediate repair? Probably.

And life goes on, kind of, in this new altered weird state. We still have to sleep and work and buy groceries and call friends. But there is this piece missing from my day, and my Papa's day, I'm sure. A month has gone by, but I feel like everyone needs me to be past it. And so I don't cry until I write or Owen says "Did Grandma die?" like he did about 10 minutes ago. "Is she in Heaven with Grandma Betty's cat?" Yes Owen, I think she is. "Are they friends?" Yes, of course they are friends. (I don't have the heart to tell him that my Grandma HATED cats. If cats go to Heaven, you can be sure that Grandma's got rules about cats their, too!)

No doubt, germs are too blame for this mess of sickness we find ourselves in. But, I wouldn't doubt a connection between my weakened immune system and a broken heart. Just seems like the germs knew the right time to strike. And I'm sure that as the sun comes out for good and the snow stays away, our bodies will start to recover slowly, along with our hearts. And as the grass grows and flowers start to escape from their bulbs, we will too see new life spring up in our lives. If you didn't already know, my brother and Elisa will become parents in July as a beautiful little boy will come in to our lives. They think they are just having a baby, but I know what babies do: they help us heal in all our broken places.

There is so much joy in my life and so many miracles that we have seen, how can I keep from singing? But until then, I'll leave the toilet paper within reach.