All posts by angelccg@aol.com

Seven Things That Drove Anxiety Mom Completely Apeshit This Summer

Ah, summer. It really is such a glorious time for the human race. School is out and there is so much fun to be had. We all cherish these two months. Except for anxiety mom, that is. She hates the summer and cannot wait until the kids go back to school. Summer sucks.
I will not tell a lie. I have been accused of being somewhat of a ‘’Nervous Nelly” once or twice in my parenting life. I also have had my share of stressful days this summer as well. However, the good news is that we all made it!

 
Well, barely.

 
Without further adieu, I present my list of seven things that drove anxiety mom completely apeshit this summer:

 
1. Shark sightings
Ok, it is one thing if the BFF calls and casually mentions a shark sighting in Australia. However, the news takes on a whole new dimension when it happens in your own backyard. This summer, anxiety mom woke up to various Facebook statuses about there being two shark sightings a few towns over. It was at a beach she recently fell in love with, and she mistakenly thought it was completely safe. Oh well, the beach is overrated anyway, says anxiety mom. There is just too much sand there. Don’t get anxiety mom started on sand. The very thought of it is enough to put her into a full fledged panic attack.

 

2. Pool Parties
There was actually a time when anxiety mom used to think pools were pretty awesome. There is no sand there. It is a small confined space for swimming. That being said, pools are great for a few kids, not a hundred at a time. After seeing the party invite, anxiety mom wonders if it would be out of line to call and ask the hostess to provide a few lifeguards. She is not looking for anything crazy; just a sizable crew that resembles the cast of Baywatch. Where is the Hoff when you need him? And what is the deal with these cannonballs the kids are doing these days? Anxiety mom knows that she read an article about the danger of cannonballs somewhere. Anxiety mom eventually declined, realizing that the whole thing may be more trouble than it is worth. Besides, she already lost a few friends last year when she demanded that the kids refrain from the pool for at least two hours after eating ice cream. They can get cramps and sink, she warned a crowd of parents already annoyed by her overbearing presence. It is a wonder that the woman gets invited anywhere.

 

3. Air Quality Reports
Anxiety mom is not completely sure what it means when the quality of the air is so poor, but it doesn’t sound good. Both Al Roker and Sam Champion always make a pretty big deal out of it, and they know their shit. Anxiety mom dreads the hot and humid days. She also knows to watch out for the signs of weather related illnesses which include: dizziness, racing heart and general confusion. The problem is, since anxiety mom is such a nervous wreck on any given day, it is hard for her to decipher whether it is the air quality or she is just being her old crazy self. I place my money on the latter.
4. Sunscreen
As if anxiety mom doesn’t have enough problems already, she was quite shaken up by the recent report circulating throughout social media. Apparently, certain ones are completely unsafe. Evidently, the one that she has been using forever is made of poison. Being that she is so allergic to the sun anyway, she never plans on leaving the house again.

 

5. Sunburns
Well, anxiety mom finally got up the courage to leave her home in broad daylight to buy a new and improved sunscreen. She was very proud of herself and decided to gift her children with a trip to the beach just before sundown. The next morning she was greeted by her daughter’s horrible sunburn on the left arm. She wonders if her little girl will ever forgive her for forgetting that one body part. Although, her child assures her it is fine, she is wracked with guilt. Anxiety mom remembers the bad sunburn that she had as a child. It was on her leg and blistered. To protect it, the doctor made her wear a sock on her leg at the beach for the rest of the summer. Will her daughter face the same fate? Will she have to wear a sock on her arm? People will stare. And her little girl will get self conscious. And probably blame her forever. And then end up not inviting her own mom to the wedding. Anxiety mom cannot live with that scenario. Is summer over yet?

 

6. Back to School Sales
You would think the commercials, which typically start in June, would make anxiety mom happy. After all, it is a sign that this miserable season is coming to an end. Interestingly enough, they don’t. Anxiety mom is worried about where to get the best deals for magic markers and loose-leaf. What if she overspends by 50 cents? And why do her kids need 40 glue sticks? Where is she even going to find 40 glue sticks? Not to mention the three hundred other items on the list. Don’t even get her started on the back to school clothes shopping. Shopping malls make her dizzy.

 

7. Mosquito Bites
Anxiety mom doesn’t look at the typical bug bite and shrug, as our own moms did in the eighties. These bug bites are to be taken seriously. After spending eight hours on Google comparing her son’s bug bite to about 700 pictures, she realizes serious action needs to be taken. West Nile is no joke and she is almost 100% sure that her son has it. He has been a bit quiet today and his nap was longer than usual. After approximately ten calls to her pediatrician, she strangely never gets a response.

 

The good news is that as the season of summer comes to a close, anxiety mom gets to relish in the calm season of fall. She will feel great relief when she does not have to worry about these things anymore. Well, except for apple picking. It is unsafe to eat those apples; as you never know what they have been sprayed with. Or those hayrides, they go way too fast. And what of those Halloween costumes? Can we just ban the really scary ones?  Her kid is way too sensitive. Oh yes, anxiety mom, we know you, we love you, and you will be back to stress out very soon. Whatever the season may be.

After Loss, Realizing That It is Okay To Love Again

“One last push.” the doctor said.

 
I was grateful. Although it was an intensely painful labor, it was also a quick one. Three pushes and she was out.

 
They placed this gooey baby girl on my chest. I didn’t know what to think. I handed her over to my husband Brian. He was smitten.

 
Within the next couple of days, family and friends would come pouring in to visit. They instantly fell in love with Julia. I, on the other hand, was numb.

 
There is a lot to think about when having a little one. When the doctor came in and asked if I was going to breastfeed, I told her no. It was more important for me to start taking medication to deal with the depression and anxiety. She wasn’t happy about it. I never told her my reason.

 
As soon as we got home,  Brian left Julia and me to get some things from the store. She was sleeping peacefully in her car seat on our bed. I was a nervous wreck. What if she wakes up? What do I do? What if I need Brian’s help?

 
I started crying. I eventually became hysterical and out of control. The root of my sadness ran deeper than being afraid of dropping her. The pain was very real. My heart was breaking. I wanted to know if it was okay to love her. I wanted to know if it was okay to be happy again. I was not only asking myself, but I was also asking Liam. I missed him more than words could possibly convey.

 
Liam was our firstborn son. He was born only thirteen months before Julia. He died at nine days old due to a congenital heart defect.

 
After Brian came home, I quickly dried my tears. I didn’t want him to see me this way. I wanted him to believe I was strong and capable mother.

 
The very next day, we took Julia for her very first trip to the pediatrician. The doctor started his exam and then flipped her over. He couldn’t stop looking at her backside. I immediately knew something was wrong.

 
“The baby has a little mole. It could be a sign of an anomaly; perhaps Spina bifida. You need to get her checked out at the hospital immediately.” he said.

 
With that, the doctor walked out of the room to get us the information. I started crying.  I couldn’t believe what was happening. I couldn’t go through this again. I just couldn’t. She had to be okay.  Brian tried to comfort me but it didn’t work. I just went on crying.

 

 

En route to the hospital, the tears didn’t stop. I looked out the window and saw the pouring rain. I then looked at my beautiful baby girl. I stared at her little face the whole ride.

 

 

At the hospital, the technician began the sonogram. He reassured us that it was just a precautionary measure and that she would be just fine. As she laid there, I couldn’t stop thinking about what a precious little being she was. She was perfection.

 

 

She was also perfectly okay. The sonogram revealed it was nothing more than a mole. We were cleared to go home as a family. I cried again.  This time they were happy tears.

 

 

For the next few weeks, Julia and I kept the same ritual. She would wake at around around 6 a.m. for a feeding. Then she would fall asleep on my chest. It was our special time together. I would cuddle her for as long as I could. I loved this kid, I thought. I loved her with all my heart.

From Cookies to Watermelon: How My Kids Are Helping Me Eat Healthier

It all started with watermelon. Yes, watermelon. It was still relatively early in the morning, and my daughter Julia was already on her third bowl. After her forth request, I told her that she had enough. Within seconds, I realized the absurdity of my statement. Could she really ever have enough watermelon? A wonderful, healthy fruit loaded with vitamins? While I couldn’t take back what I had just said, I did hand over an additional bowl. I then proceeded to go back to eyeing that box of cookies in my cabinet. It was only nine o’clock in the morning but I wanted them. Needed them. I am not just talking about one or two either; I was ready to devour half the box. That was the moment when I realized the cold, hard truth: my five year old daughter was officially a healthier eater than me. I was sad and very ashamed. But, I still ate the cookies.

 

My parents were over-protective in many ways, but they really weren’t on us to eat healthy. This could have been due to the fact that they weren’t the greatest eaters themselves. My dad has had a lifelong penchant for jelly donuts and lemon meringue pie. My mom loved her chocolate. As their daughter, I guess it is safe to assume I inherited their sweet tooth. One of my mother’s fondest memories of me was the uttering of my very first word. While most babies were saying “mama” and “dada”, my word of choice was “cookie.” Growing up, soft drinks were a staple in my home. Soda was actually my version of water, and it was pretty much all that I drank. The only time I would drink water was on the rare occasion I found myself parched at school and paid a visit to the nearest water fountain. “Too boring” was how I described the taste of water. Chips, cookies and ice-cream were always in abundance as well, and if by chance we happened to be running low, there undoubtedly would be a grocery store trip in the offing.

 

I can’t completely blame my parents, however. The time period had a lot to do with it as well. While growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, our generation saw an introduction to mass marketed junk foods. Most of my ideas for snacks came from television commercials. It also wasn’t uncommon for any school party to feature a wide array of fattening snacks. Potato chips in the morning? Sure! Soda to wash it down? Of course! There definitely wasn’t the same emphasis on healthy eating as there is today.

 

Over the years, I have made a conscious effort to eat better. I really have. There are some fruits and vegetables that I really do like. I just simply prefer my cookies and brownies over them. In the past, when I have had issues with my weight, I did whatever fad diet I could get my hands on. Any “quick fix” to get me skinny fast. I also had the benefit of a much faster metabolism back then. When entering my 30’s, I started eating more due to impending stress. I have been an emotional eater since then. In fact, I am noticing that most of my binge snacking occurs during particularly stressful days. I have gotten to know my triggers.

 

As a mom, I do worry about my children’s diets. My son Owen, at almost three, is just learning to enjoy his food. My daughter, at five, has enjoyed her food for awhile now. I do love how Julia favors fruit over ice-cream on a hot summer’s day. I smirk when she wants to pair her chicken nuggets with apples (Hello? What about French fries?). My husband and I have made a good effort to buy them healthy snacks; not that they don’t enjoy a good treat every once in a while. I would never deny them completely.

 

My own turning point was when I did my usual sneaking of the cookies from my kitchen cabinet. Julia spotted me and wanted one too. With a pit in my stomach, I obliged. I will also admit that this has happened more than once: daughter watching mommy eat a treat and wanting one as well. Hiding my cookies had become very frequent in my house. I became very calculated in when I would sneak a treat, usually doing so when my daughter was enamored with a t.v. show or coloring in her coloring book. I feel guilty admitting that it wasn’t just that I didn’t want her to develop poor eating habits- I also didn’t want to share.

 

One of my best memories last summer was my kids and I feasting on fruit salad in the park. It was a perfect summer’s day and we sat together all messy, sticky, and quite content. It was at that point that I decided we would at least “try” to eat healthier as a family.  I giggle to myself when I sneak an apple piece over my son’s plate and wonder just who I have turned into. Just recently, Julia requested a plate of blueberries with a side of tomatoes. Without hesitation or questioning, lunch was served. As I looked at the plate, I couldn’t help but be amazed by just how colorful and pretty that it looked. Fascinated with the creation, I made a plate of my own. Yes, I thought to myself, this is what healthy eaters do: make better choices. The new bag of cookies I had bought would remain unopened for today. And that is fine with me.

 

 

A Tale of Two Redheads: Remembering Our Son On St. Patrick’s Day

“You have a redhead!” the doctor said.

 
My mother wasn’t expecting to give birth to a “ginger”. Neither of my parents were redheads, although there were a few on my father’s side of the family. It was a pleasant surprise. Mom was delighted. She named me Kathleen, after my paternal grandmother, who also just happened to have red hair.

 
My mom reveled in all the attention. There were always compliments. Early on, everyone marveled at the infant with the pretty red locks sleeping in the pram. Even the late actor Henry Fonda took notice one day as my mother exited a hardware store in Manhattan. “Cute baby,” he said as he held the door for us.

 
My earliest memory of the St. Patrick’s Day parade was as a spectator. My dad took me. I was about three years old and dressed in an Irish sweater, green jacket and green ribbons on my pigtails. I looked like I belonged on a poster promoting Irish tourism. Everyone thought I looked adorable. Everyone except for me.

 
I hated my red hair from day one. As a child, I didn’t like how it made me different. All of the other kids had either dark or light hair. I also didn’t like all the freckles that I gained with each passing summer. All of my friends came back to school each year with a glow. Instead, I had a bunch of freckles merging together. It was almost as if they were holding hands.

 
“You will love your red hair when you get older,” my mother always told me.

 
She would go on to say how unique my hair color was. I didn’t care to hear it then. She wanted me to vow to never change it. She said that if I did, I would lose the natural color that I was born with. Even as I grew into an adult, I kept my promise. My hair would stay the same until the day my mother died. I was just twenty- five years old at the time.

 
On January 1, 2008, my husband Brian and I found out we were expecting our first child. We were ecstatic. My pregnancy had been going very well so far. I had a strong feeling I was having a boy. We would name him Liam. Liam meant “strong- willed warrior.”

 
That April, we had our Anatomy Scan. My husband wore his special green tie with shamrocks. It was a corny little tie, but looking at it made me giddy. I knew it was his special little way of bringing along his own “luck of the Irish.” I flashed back to my first St. Patrick’s Day. Years later, it was now a sweet memory. Next year, I would be spending that holiday with my new little family. The sonogram technician did her thing. As I predicted, we would be having a boy. As she continued to move the wand around my abdomen, her perplexed look would lead to news that I wasn’t prepared for: little Liam had a serious congenital heart defect. It was called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Our own hearts were broken.

 
After a stressful few months, our lives would brighten by the arrival of this amazing little miracle. I remember the doctor telling me that I needed to push one more time. As I did, Liam officially entered the world. They put him right on my chest. I cried. I was so in love with this little person and he was so sick. The wave of emotions was both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I will never forget that moment. I will never forget experiencing that indescribable love.

 
They whisked our little man off to the NICU immediately. I wouldn’t get to see him for a couple of hours. Knowing this, one of our nurses was nice enough to get some pictures of Liam as they were cleaning him off in the other room. It was a kind gesture. As she came back with the camera she exclaimed, “He’s a redhead!”

 
We had nine days with our beautiful little boy before he passed away. Liam was the boy who finally showed me what my smart mother had been telling me all along. Red hair was indeed beautiful. I was so very proud of him, just as my mom was of me.

 
Eighteen months after our tragic loss, we would finally attend the St. Patrick’s Day parade as a family. There were three of us. That past October, Liam’s little sister Julia joined our family. There is no doubt that Liam guided Julia into our arms. Although our family would always be incomplete; we certainly had reason to celebrate that year.
Every year, on St. Patrick’s Day, I do a tribute to Liam on Facebook. I call him my little Irish prince. I share our favorite photograph. It is the same picture that the nurse took that very first day of his life. In it, you see his beautiful red hair. I still miss him and think about him every day. Mostly, I am so thankful that he chose me to be his mother. For Liam, I couldn’t be more thankful.

 

 

No, She’s Not “Over It”: The Truth About Child Loss

It was a beautiful day for a birthday party. Your new neighbor Mary arrives with her son Dylan in tow. You have become quite fond of Dylan, who always plays so nicely with your own son. Mary is as sweet as can be, and you are happy to have made a new friend. Life is good. Suddenly, you notice Mary’s eyes go directly to your niece Sophia. Sophia is very striking; with beautiful brown hair and big brown eyes. Mary cannot stop staring at her. You notice that she has tears in her eyes. You have no idea what happened, but I am here to tell you: Mary’s first baby died at birth. Her own baby girl also had brown hair and eyes and would have been four yesterday. Sophia turned four last week. Yes, it has been a few years now. And, no, Mary isn’t “over it.’’ Not even close.

 
I can emphasize with Mary. I, too, lost my firstborn child in September of 2008. His name was Liam and he passed away at nine days old due to a congenital heart defect. It will be seven years this September. I still speak about him to my family and friends. I still commemorate his birthday every year on Facebook. I still tear up at the sight of another boy with red hair, and I still feel a lump in my throat every time I hear another mom call her own son Liam. I guess I am not “over it” either.
We bereaved parents live a difficult life. Not only are we left with pieces of our hearts missing, we are expected to eventually resume to “normal.” We are frequently given an unspoken allotted “grieving time.” It seems to vary from person to person. In our case, since Liam died in mid-September, our family and friends gave us until the end of the year. It was only fair, with the holiday season and all. When January arrived, baby making was on everyone’s minds. When my husband and I continued to grieve, there was much confusion. It was okay to always be sad, they said, but we had to move on too. We needed to stop going to the cemetery every day. We also needed to stop isolating ourselves. Another baby would make everything better. Or so they thought.

 
I was fortunate to get pregnant that second month into the new year. I was happy, but sad at the same time. In fact, I had just hit a serious rock bottom. The shock was gone, but the pain was intense. It hit me hard: We were parents but our son was not with us physically. We never had a chance to bring him home from the hospital. It was unfair and cruel. I was angry and very bitter. I wondered how I would be able to take care of a new child in this condition. I was seeing a therapist and was diagnosed with Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had left my job and barely left the house. I questioned my own sanity.

 
After Liam’s passing, I made a promise to speak out about neonatal loss in his memory. I wrote a lot. I also changed significantly. While the grief is still there, and always will be, it has taken on a new form. I have since had a girl and another boy. While my two year old son is too young to understand, my daughter talks about Liam frequently. Since day one, we were open about the fact that they had a big brother and that he passed away because his heart didn’t work well. Julia speaks about how much she wishes that she had met him. She wants to know how this could have happened. I wish I had better answers for her. We also have no idea why he was taken from us. We miss him every single day.

 
Inevitably, our personal relationships have changed drastically. Many have become strained. It does happen. As I am now almost seven years into the process, I can see both sides. Our loved ones were devastated as well. They were devastated both for Liam and for us. It is hard to watch people you love go through such a devastating loss. At first, I felt as if everyone was rushing us through it but now I know better. It is a lot on everybody. They just wanted us to be happy again.

 

 

For grieving parents, there is no greater gift than to remember our child. Say his name once in awhile. When we post a tribute on social media, instead of just scrolling by, give an acknowledgement. Contrary to popular belief, speaking publicly about our children on an anniversary or birthday is not for attention purposes. It is all we have. Whether you think it is strange or not, this is our reality. When others remember too, it brings us a sense of comfort.

 
Although painful, I am thankful for the sadness. With each passing day, week, and year, I know I am losing some of the memories that were so vivid in the beginning. Since we had only nine days with Liam, we don’t have a lot. We do have pictures and video, for which I am grateful for. Liam’s life may have been brief, but he was my first. He has given me the strength to be a better mother. I one day yearn to be the special person that he was. I couldn’t be more thankful for the gift of being his mom. Liam will continue to be a part of our family. Always.

Hearts That Will Never Heal: My Children on Remembering The Brother That They Lost

Children are curious by nature; especially mine. My 5- year- old daughter Julia is constantly full of questions. Some are easy to answer, others are more complex. Regardless, my husband Brian and I have always tried to be as honest as possible. I am very thankful  that she is so inquisitive.

 
I must admit I didn’t have any answers for her latest query. The other night, Julia came to me and wanted to know why Liam’s heart stopped working. She also expressed the sadness in never having the chance to talk to him. I was speechless. Both Brian and I have had similar questions. Most of all, we  wondered why Liam was born with such a sick heart in the first place. In a perfect world, I would love to give Julia an answer that makes sense, but there isn’t one. There never will be.

 
In case you haven’t already figured, Liam was Julia’s big brother. He was born thirteen months before Julia and died at nine days old. Almost immediately after Liam’s death, my husband and I agreed that he would always be remembered and remain a part of our family. That included speaking about him with any subsequent children.
My sadness, which lingers every day, has taken another form. I am now also heartbroken for my other children, who will never get the chance to meet him. As they age, they will begin to ask more and more questions. I already see sadness evident in Julia Our younger son Owen is two years old. I know he will soon experience the same.

 
As a family, remembering Liam is very bittersweet. As much as it touches my heart to hear Julia say that she misses her big brother, it is immensely sad as well. Both my children will grow up without  him. They have been robbed. There are also additional complications that arise in such a painful reality. In the last year, Julia has brought up her own heart. She wanted to know if it worked properly. We have done our best to reassure her and let her know that her heart is perfect. In Liam’s case, the left side of his heart never grew in properly. Julia’s heart was intact from day one. She understands as best as she can. Although prepared for that question, it was a tough one. I am fully aware on how a serious illness can affect the mental state of anyone, let alone a young child. It is tricky. I do not want either of my children to grow up with painful emotional wounds. I do not want them to constantly worry about their own health.

 
This September, it will mark seven years since we lost Liam. Physically, he was the one born with a piece of his heart missing. Figuratively, he has left a family behind that is brokenhearted. We will go on and continue to honor him in the best way that we possibly can.

 

It Can Be Done: Reinventing Oneself As a Writer at the Ripe Old Age of 40……..

Sometimes it takes a life- changing experience to  put things into perspective.  It was 2008 and I was thirty- five years old. I was still relatively young in most respects, and yet I felt as if my life was over.  Just months earlier, I had left my job. I was doing well, and in the middle of receiving my masters degree. I was working with special needs children. I was also pregnant with my first child. Life was good, until that day in April of 2008. At the Anatomy scan, my husband and I found out that our baby had a very serious heart defect.  The shocking news left me barely able to function. I left my job, and devoted the rest of my pregnancy to taking care of my little one and myself.

We had nine brief days with our Liam Jude until he passed away in September of 2008. I felt as if my life was over in every way.  I was unable to return to my job due to my fragile mental state. I really didn’t even know how I would go on. If I was one day able to move forward, one thing was for sure: I would devote the rest of my life to the memory of my son.

My life has always been a series of uncertainties. Upon graduating college, I received a B.A. in English. I figured I would wind up in the field of publishing. I was willing to start from the bottom. I envisioned myself writing for a magazine. I also had a dream of writing a novel one day. When I didn’t hear back from these companies right away, I grew frustrated. Family and friends urged me to teach. They said I would be good at it. It was in my blood as well. My mother had been a teacher, and an outstanding one at that. There were also perks involved in a career in education, most notably, a ten month work year.

I guess you can say I fell into it. I was offered a job thanks to a friend, whose current school needed to fill an open position. I would be teaching science. I wasn’t a scientific type person, but I was willing to give it a try. It was a disaster. As much as I loved teaching kids, I didn’t have the greatest control over the class. They walked all over me. Being a fish out of water in a public school, I figured I just didn’t have the experience yet. That said, I just didn’t enjoy it in the way that I thought I would.

A couple of friends suggested that I would be better suited for parochial school. The setting was usually smaller and the administration meant business, they told me. Regardless, kids are kids and I figured I would have similar struggles.  I knew I needed time to learn. I was a rookie of sorts. When Catholic school didn’t work out either, I decided an office job was more for me. I would up in real estate property management. It was never where I expected to be but somehow, there I was.

I still had an itch to do something more fulfilling. The one aspect that I loved about teaching was working with them on a one- to- one basis. I was thrilled to learn about a type of educator called a Special Education Itinerant Teacher (S.E.I.T for short). This was my calling, I thought and something that I needed to pursue. I would be working with special needs children one to one in either a school or home setting. Yes, where I wanted to be. A few months after landing my first S.E.I.T job, I found out I was pregnant. I was nervous; especially with all the constant traveling, but all would be okay. I was having a great pregnancy so far, I couldn’t have asked for more. Until that day in April.

It was a day I had been looking forward to for months. Given the blessing of a great pregnancy there was absolutely no reason that I should have thought something wrong. I was there to verify the suspicion that I was having all along: that I was carrying a baby boy. Sure enough, he was a baby boy. He also had a very serious congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. I was shattered, and unable to continue with my job. He died, very unexpectedly, at nine days old.

There was no doubt that losing Liam was the hardest part of the journey. Two beautiful subsequent children later, I still have not fully recovered. While fortunate to get pregnant a few months after my loss, my professional life remained at a standstill. I would be a stay at home mom for awhile. It was something that I knew I had wanted regardless of any situation. But, then what? Where would life lead me? Again, friends and family pushed me to go back to Education. However, I wasn’t ready for that, at least not now. At the age of 36, I had finally made up my mind. I slowly found the courage to go after the dream that I had wanted all along. I wanted to write and do so with a purpose. I wanted to share my story. I needed to. I wanted to be a voice; a voice for other bereaved parents.

The loss of a child is, no doubt, perhaps the most painful experience one could ever endure. I knew I had to be honest in order to help people. It was scary at first. Once again, I was a fish out of water, one who was soon to be forty years old. At this point, age meant nothing to me. It was just a number; and a magical number at that. I was going to do this.

I began to query various editors. It was a job in itself. Some editors got back to me. Others did not. When pitching a story, I learned to realize it was not a personal thing when it wasn’t accepted. Sometimes, it was as simple as a timing issue. Other times, the story was not appropriate for the publication. All I knew was that I would keep trying. I was not giving up without a fight.

Finally, in December of 2013, I got my break. I pitched my essay to a mom blog. It was about loss during the holidays and how my family chooses to remember our son every single year in our holiday photo. It was called “Pictures of Liam: Remembering Our Son During the Holidays.” The fantastic editor loved it. I would be published. I was ecstatic.

Now, two years later, I am still doing my thing. I have learned a lot about myself in the process. The feeling I get when another bereaved mom messages me to say thanks is immeasurable. This is what it is all about. One of the best lessons I have learned is that is never to late to go after what you love. It is not particularly easy. You will make sacrifices, you will struggle, but you will keep on. Money may not come in right away, but you persevere anyway. All that is needed is the love and devotion that you have for your craft. It is the gift that will keep you going.

In my life, I have definitely been a “late bloomer” of sorts. I have always taken my own sweet time. I am very thankful to have gained much strength through the years, and I owe it largely to all my children. I have been blessed. I look forward to the future and the next forty years. I am here and nothing is going to stop me.

 

Next Time, I am Sleeping In: One Mom’s Struggle for Control

It was a cold Thursday evening in December. In exactly one week, we would be celebrating Christmas. I still had tons to do. As I sat playing with my kids in their room, my mind was racing. There were gifts to be bought. Holiday cards needed to be stamped and mailed. And, I was exhausted. In addition, I was experiencing chills, muscle pain and a terrible headache. Yes, I was sick. My best guess was with the flu. But, there really was no time for that. I am a mom. We aren’t allowed to get sick. It is just the way it is.
While I was curled up in my rocking chair, I had an idea that could only be described as genius. My husband Brian would be returning home from work soon. He would be my savior. We are a team. Why couldn’t he take over for his sickly wife?
When Brian came home, I asked for his help. He obliged. Initially, it was magical. I went straight to my bedroom. For a few moments, I was able to close my eyes and rest. I flashed back to our “before kids” days. The days when we would wander around our cute little hipster neighborhood and do happy hour until 3 AM. I longed for the times when I was able to lie in bed with a hangover and watch an all day marathon of “Housewives of New York”. I missed those days, but they were long gone. Or were they? They didn’t have to be, I thought. I have my spouse. He is the parent too. He can help. With that, I cheered up once again. My life wasn’t over just yet. There was still freedom to be had. It was just a little different now.
In the midst of all my promising thoughts, I heard yelling. Most of the noise came from the kids. My husband’s voice reeked of frustration. The kids were screaming and taking great joy in hitting each other. Does daddy know that his daughter didn’t finish her Science homework? What is he going to feed them? Does he know about the goldfish crackers that are on the floor? They also both need baths. How is he going to be able to handle the two of them tonight? This is the absolute worst time of the day. And will these kids ever stop beating the crap out of each other? With these thoughts, I rose from the coziness of my warm bed. I had to get out there. There was no rest for the weary. They needed me. Sick as dog, it was time for me to return to the war zone.
This wasn’t the first time that it “hit me.” I have been a mother for seven years now. My first experience with motherhood was very traumatic. My firstborn son Liam had a severe congenital heart defect and my first days with him were spent in the NICU. That was my introduction to being a mommy. I remember sitting there, looking at his precious little face, and wondering how I was going to do it all. I was a nervous mom to begin with, but the addition of a sick child made it even more terrifying. I envisioned very little sleep, if any. I pictured a scared mommy at the edge of his crib, relieved with the sound of every breath. It was going to be hard, but I could do it. Mainly because they told me so. “They” were all the other moms. If they could do it, so could I. As a mom, you have no alternative.
Tragically, my baby boy passed away at only nine days. I was left heartbroken and wondering if I had failed. I was very hard on myself. Finally, I realized I did the absolute best that I could under the circumstances. I had no other choice. I was a mom now.
Fortunately, I have since had two additional children whom I adore. Although they don’t replace Liam, they have helped me heal a bit. They are my world. They are also a lot of work. My first days home with them were filled with many tears. Again, my head filled with worry. Worries about how I was going to be able to care for them. Worries about their health and their well being. Worries about these precious beings living in a world I was not able to control. And how about sleep? Would I ever rest again?
The control issue is big for us moms; and it is not always possible to have it at all times. I realized this once again with our daughter. When Julia was only two months old, my husband and I went to an adult fundraising event. We needed to leave her for the first time. We chose to leave her with my in-laws. They have children of their own. She was in good hands. Yet, I still worried instead of savoring the alone time with my husband. When my husband called to check in, we found out Julia had a “spitting up incident.” She threw up her whole lunch. I wondered how that could possibly happen. Were they feeding her too fast or too slow? I needed to know. It was either my husband or myself that fed Julia. We knew the right way to do it. We rushed back to see her.  Julia was fine. She had spit up, and that is what babies do. Worrying is what mommies do. Every day, I choose to let go a bit. It is not an easy process and takes a lot of time. I am taking it day by day.
Looking back, I didn’t have to get out of bed that night when I was sick. My husband is a big boy and could have taken care of it. He is their father. Whether I was there or not, the kids would have still fought. They would have made a huge mess at dinner. Their toys would have still been all over the place. And, bedtime would have been a nightmare. On the flip side, regardless of whether I was there or not, Julia would finish her homework. They would get their baths. They would get into bed safe and content. Most importantly, they would be loved. In the end, that is what matters the most. Next time, I am sleeping in.

 

 

 

Santa is real……….

“Santa Claus was here, that son of a bitch,” my dad said with just the right combination of frustration and sarcasm. The year was 1985. It was quite the scene: I had just returned home after spending Christmas Eve with my best friend and her family. It was the wee hours of the morning, and my dad was frantically putting together a Rainbow Brite kitchen for my little sister. I couldn’t stop laughing. I was 12, and no longer a believer, so I could appreciate the humor. It was a true race against the clock, as my younger siblings would be waking in a couple of hours. Dad, I mean, “Santa”, had better get this done. Santa never left a job unfinished. He was always there for us. Now, along with my parents, I would continue the tradition. I had to keep the magic alive.
Santa was serious business in my household. As a child, Christmas Eve was my absolute favorite day of the year. The excitement and anticipation; there really were no other words to describe what a special day it was. Every year, my two younger siblings and I left out milk and cookies for the jolly one. Occasionally, we would remember Rudolf and leave him some carrots. Then, at nightfall, the fun would really begin. In order for Santa to visit our home, we had to be in bed and asleep. Those were the rules. We often worried about our dad, as he always stayed up late to watch television. How would Santa leave us presents? All would be okay, my dad said. The same thing happened every year. Dad would get a very quick glimpse of Santa. Santa, adhering to the rules, would go ahead and sprinkle the magic dust. My dad would soon fall asleep. Santa took it from there and went about his work.
At around 5 AM, we would wake to a living room full of presents. Not all of the gifts were from Santa. Often, we would get surprises from Mrs. Claus, Rudolf and one of the elves. In a matter of minutes, toys would be unwrapped and children left both exhausted and delighted. We always bombarded my dad with questions, as he was continually in the middle of all the magic. When did Santa come? What did he say? Did he have all his reindeer? My dad would always try and give us a brief synopsis, but unfortunately missed a lot of the action due to the “magic dust.” One year, Santa brought in Rudolf, which didn’t make dad too happy. Another year, Santa scowled at him for still being awake so late. We were always left with cookie crumbs and a half glass of milk that was usually spilled all over the table. Santa was messy, but that was okay. He was always in a rush, with all the homes he had to go to in one night.
It was around third grade or so when I first started hearing the rumors; kids saying that Santa was fake. Many of my classmates believed Santa was really our parents. At first, I refused to believe it. He had to be real! I heard him! Who else would be making such a ruckus so late at night? What about the milk and cookies? There was no way my parents would leave such a mess. But, as my brain kept growing, I knew the possibility of certain actions was unlikely. All those houses in one night, all around the world? It was impossible. In fifth grade, one of the cool kids asked me what I thought. With a lump in my throat, I said he wasn’t real. She agreed.
It did sting for a bit, but there was no time to wallow in self pity. It didn’t take me long to realize that there were many other children who still believed. I couldn’t ruin it for them; in particular my brother and sister. My mother, an inner city elementary school teacher, noticed the way the kids would light up when they talked about Santa. Many of them were in foster homes. Others would receive little or nothing, but still believed. My mother’s heart broke a little bit more every time there was that one child that ruined it for the rest of them.
It was probably not until the mid to late 90’s when I heard the news that would make me the most furious. My mother and I were watching a talk show about parenting styles when Christmas came up. One of the guests mentioned that it was “lying” to the kids and that she chose not participate in the huge hoax. Both of our mouths dropped, as we looked around to make sure my sister was not in the room. I really couldn’t believe it. There were parents out there telling their kids Santa was fake? We stared at the television in disbelief. Was this really going on? In my day, it was the other kids that ruined it for you, not the parents themselves. The parents were the ones frantically trying to get their kids to hold on to the magic for as long as possible.
Now, as a mom, I can see both sides. You want to teach your kids to be honest. You want to be as honest as possible with them. We are not perfect all the time. Are we misleading them? Are we lying? The answer is yes. In fact, that is what is so wonderful about it.
I have had a series of tragedies in my own life: the loss of both my mother and my baby boy being the most significant. Honestly, learning that Santa was fake didn’t even make the top ten. As a child, you are full of innocence and see the world with rose colored glasses. As you get older, you realize that life wasn’t as kind as first thought. At 41 years old, I am now in my parent’s shoes; watching our world unravel. Four decades is a long time, and I sometimes feel as if there has been little progress. We are surrounded by hate, illness, death and prejudice. The last time that I checked, Santa is none of those. Santa is love and beauty; but mostly magic.
This precious time will pass. I know that there will be a moment when my two children will find out the truth. Hopefully, they won’t get too mad. Most of all, my hope is that they continue this wonderful tradition with their own family. I may or may not live to meet grandchildren, but I would like to think Santa will be a huge part of their lives either way. Right now, focusing on my own children is more than enough. But, first, we must call grandpa. Santa called him yesterday and the kids can’t wait to hear all the stories.

For all the moms: Looking Forward to what’s ahead while living in the now…..

It really hit me today. What was I doing? To be honest, I felt pretty awful. It was a miserable, dreary, Monday and I was busy catching up on chores. It never seemed like anything was ever getting done around here. It was morning and there were tons to do .I was in my son’s room, watching him play. To cheer myself up, I checked weather.com for an update. I was really only concerned about one particular day: this Saturday. That was the day my five year old daughter and I would be going to Radio City to see the Christmas Show. I couldn’t be more excited.  A mommy/Julia day. A fun day, quite different than this current one. I rarely get one on one time with my daughter anymore. And this day kind of sucks altogether. As I looked up, I saw my beautiful son. He was the doctor and busy giving one of his stuffed animals a shot. His patients were all waiting to see him.  “It won’t hurt,” he said.  I looked up with tears in my eyes. My baby boy was sure a handful at times, but he was beautiful just the same. And I was missing this moment. The moment that I will never experience again. All because I was busy checking the weather.  I quickly dropped my phone and put it far away.

Us moms. All of us moms. Whether, we stay at home, work full time or work from home, it is the hardest job out there. And, on really sucky days such as this one, we find ourselves looking forward to what is ahead. Because the days ahead are going to be much more fun than the current miserable ones. November has arrived, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we have visions of our children in their perfect little outfits. We will spending the cozy day with family. December is the biggest month!  We decorate the tree, visit Santa and wait for him to arrive on Christmas day with a ton of presents. There is nothing more magical than that. With lots of lot of pics to share. Because we all have to show our friends on Facebook all the fun that we are having. Coming back to reality, I turned back to my precious boy Owen. The little boy who likes to give his stuffed animals shots as he looks into their ears and checks their hearts. He always promises his little patients that it won’t hurt.  My own heart was officially broken.

I think all of us make promises to live more” in the moment.”The same promises that we made to ourselves before we even had kids.  Our “future kids” would be beautiful, impeccably dressed, well behaved and our homes would always be spotless. We can do it! Because we are supermoms! Ironically enough, I quickly realized that I had my standards way too high. Instead of my fantasy grown up life, my reality is dealing with Cherrios on the carpet, a sticky kitchen floor (something spilled, not sure what yet), bickering children, and at least one child climbing up a cabinet and trying to snatch cookies. Oh and that is on a good day. At only seven-thirty in the morning. By the time the day ends, I just want to get into bed, stay under the covers, sleep and hide from the world. Because tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow, I will somehow find the energy I have been missing for the past seven years. And do it all. And all would be perfect. Like it should be.

I love to blame the 70’s and 80’s sitcom moms for all the unrealistic expectations that were set. As a t.v. kid, I looked up to all these women. Whether they worked or not, their home was always spotless. And they looked perfect. And any disagreement ended in a half hour. Usually with a hug. I figured that would be me when I grew up.

Growing up, we loved the holidays, but we also appreciated the normal. Like that one Saturday that we spent the day in pajamas watching Family Feud. When it ended, we all got up, cheered, screamed and hugged in a circle. Just like they did on the show. Yup, none of us were dressed yet. The house was undoubtedly in shambles, but it still remains a wonderful memory.

I figured that one day I would be that “perfect mom.” But, I am far from it.  I wanted to be the one that had the perfect home, put dinner on the table every night and went frolicking with my kids all day at the park or doing any other special activities. You know, kind of like Mary Poppins. It didn’t matter that we lived in the city. That was actually the good part. We would be hitting museums, parks and various landmarks on a daily basis. All the while handling tantrums and lugging strollers up and down the subway steps. It would be a piece of cake!

I used to get mad at myself for not achieving this perfect standard but I have learned to let it go. My kids are out and about very often. We do plenty of activities. They  get tons of love.  They are happy. Yes, it is fun (and exhausting!) to spend the day playing in Central Park, but it is also fun to have a “lazy” day once in awhile. I laugh as I think of those two words “lazy” and “mom” together, but you get the point. For today, I am quite content reading my son some of his favorite books, playing with his cars and coloring together. Oh, and trying to write an article or something like that. Maybe possibly trying to do something for myself as well. Some of these activities may get a little messy, but I am going to let it go. Owen doesn’t mind. He is loved. And pretty soon we will be picking up his big sister from school. I will see the joy in his face as he spots his sister in the schoolyard and screams, “Julia!” And then the fun really begins. We will walk home and talk about the day and the afternoon treat we will have. Exchanging funny jokes and stories all the while. Then the chaos begins as we get home and I start to help Julia with her homework. Owen, not happy about suddenly not getting all my attention, will act out. But, that’s okay, because today I have print outs for him to color. So he could do homework just like his sister. Maybe I will make a quick pasta dish. Maybe I can get my husband to cook tonight. Maybe we can order out. I can consider cleaning up once again, but I may not have time for that either. Because today will be a special day. Even with the sucky weather and it being Monday and all. We will be too busy making memories to notice the negative.  Memories in this messy home, where dishes need to be done, and dinner to be made. We are all together and deserve to be happy. I hope my children remember this day as well. Who knows, they may end up remembering it as one of their best days ever. And if they do, I know I will be doing my job right. Not as a superwoman, but as a mom. A title I couldn’t be more proud of.