Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I have a friend whose infant daughter just got a DOC band. Until I had a niece who also required one two years ago, I thought those were "helmets" for babies who had flat spots on their heads.  Having now known a few mothers whose children required them, I flinch at my own ingnorance.

In any event though, now being four weeks and one day on the other side of Sadie's surgery (not that I am counting or anything), as I hear my friend go through the worry and grieving process knowing that her daughter will be wearing the band for months and months, full time, I have had lots of memories of when Sadie and her birthmark were very new... and overwhelming. Sadie's mark was much smaller than the DOC band, but she too was going to be wearing it "all the time" and it garnered lots of comments by observers. And we didn't know if it would last a year, less, or more, or what we would do to remove it. I certainly don't feel like we spent five long years worrying about it, but it was an underlying concern, to state it mildly.

I told my friend to make sure that she takes pictures of her daughter, for her benefit and for the benefit of her five year old daughter who needed her parents to model that this was not a tragedy.  I remembered that there were a few weeks when Sadie was a newborn when I didn't take any pictures, when the birthmark was growing every single day and I was terrified. My parents visited one time in that period and my mother took my father's digital camera and insisted that he take several pictures of Sadie. She had funny faces in each of them -- and just looking at them now makes me recall that she always had so much personality.  She then printed them out and gave them to me in a small photo brag book album.  "Take pictures of your beautiful daughter!" she admonished me. I did again, and again, and again!  In the very room where I am typing this, we have 27 80-page albums for Sadie's five year life. I am definitely not short on pictures of her life.

It is a different kind of challenge that I have faced this week, since Sadie's derma bond (layer of superglue that was applied on top of her suture in lieu of stitches) peeled off last Friday. Along with the derma bond, off came the thin red line of dried blood from the incision as well as the purple-ish hue that used to be her  surface birthmark. Kind of like when you first take a cast off your arm or leg and the underlying skin is pale and almost new looking? We were stunned, Sadie's birthmark is all but gone. And there is no "angry red incision" that we had been expecting to be dealing with for months or even a year.

And my, has the camera been snapping. I can't get enough pictures of it, to be candid. I can't stop looking at the pictures. I can't stop looking at both cheeks and seeing how similar they are now. It is stunning to see her face without that birthmark. Sure, from day to day you can see more or less of the scar or the surface birthmark. But most of the time, in natural sunlight, there is nothing there. For the first time in five years, one cheek looks like the other.

This makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time!  How silly am I?  I mean, I am completely neurotic here. But it is so weird to feel this way. And Mark and I take great lengths to try not to express this in front of Sadie... but she will catch us looking at her, eyes kind of squinty in deep concentration, wholly focused on her cheek. "Stop looking at my cheek" she will say.  She never said that, ever, in the five years that she had the birthmark... when every child and adult was looking at her cheek!  She never ever uttered stop, then.  Now she is older. And it is gone.

I am not sure what to make of all of this.

So I am thankful that the days pass, and with each new day we see so many changes happening right outside our doors. Every morning and every night after dinner we check the progress of the red bud tree we have in our backyard. The purple flowers on each branch were quick to pop out and had the most lovely hue, but now the little tiny heart shaped leaves are replacing the flowers. It is still stunning to watch, with our bright sunshine and recent rain, the tree changes before our very eyes. It has been a great study for all of us. We look forward to the next change, but are also taking the time to talk about the beauty in what is there right then. Living in the now.

Leave it to a five year old to teach a nearly 43 year old some important lessons.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Turning Five

Every birthday is a milestone... both for the child who was birthed, and the parents who did the birthing, so to speak (let's be honest... Mark didn't do much birthing himself, but I am not sure that things were actually easier from his viewing point than from mine).

I remember when I realized that we had made it through the first week of Sadie's life. Mark and I were both exhausted, and Lily and Daisy both looked shell-shocked as well.  Sadie was not a bad baby, she was not a crier, and everyone marveled at how much she slept and how easily she went down (at that time, awake). But still, it was SO MUCH WORK. All the laundry, all the schedules, eating and diaper changing. All the bottles to wash, hands to wash, things to wipe down and sterilize. We were exhausted. Then Mark traveled to Houston for work a few times, for 10 days at a stretch, and we got a family of baby birds stuck in the chimney in our kitchen. And I really did wonder if we were going to survive ourselves (let alone the fate of birds). I remember when Sadie turned a month, and I was getting more used to it all. I wouldn't say I was enjoying the experience then. I remember asking one of my best friends "Why didn't you tell me how hard this was?" and she said "No one warns other people... if they did, then no one would ever have a first child."

But one week and one month... turned into one year. And then two, three, four, and now five. The first night home with Sadie lasted an eternity (she did not sleep for but an hour that night). And the last two years of her life have flown by in what seems like an hour.

Physical exhaustion is replaced by mental worrying about this, that or the other thing. No more or less than any of you worry about your children, your aging parents, your wayward friends.

As taxing as parenting is as a job, it produces reward in tenfold. As much as I fret about some things, I couldn't be more confident in so many others. My daughter is full of spirit and sass and drama, and I couldn't be prouder. She has character and determination and one day she will get in loads of trouble, just like I did.  My greatest wish is that she have at least one daughter so she can experience, first hand, the gift that her being gave to me.  To know that no matter how difficult I probably was as a teenager myself, and how many times I made the wrong choices as a young adult, that I still got the chance to walk this life with her.

And until she has that daughter one day, I will keep on enjoying these days. The sense of both things changing and staying the same. The knowledge that there is a greater Being in charge of our lives and He is putting me in this role as Mother-Wife-Worker-Attorney-Forty-two-Year-Old-Athlete-Lover-of-Fun-But-Not-of-Housework so I will learn something and along the way, teach something to someone else. I love learning from Sadie and watching her grow and change. And I love the kiss that I get from the very lips that were connected to that face that I saw and kissed for the first time five years ago today.

We have quite a journey left together my child. May you always know how much fun it is to go on it with you

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reflections on... reflections

I paused this morning when I realized that we were actually one week following Sadie's surgery. Several times over the last week, I have thought "I should really blog about it all."  I mean, so many of you rode the waves with us as we were wondering whether or not to operate, and so many of you prayed during the surgery. Surely you deserve a hindsight report, right?

I was going to blog about how it felt to watch Sadie come out of anesthesia (simply put, scary and awful). I was going to write about how grateful we were to have her home with us that afternoon. But truthfully, we are always grateful for her. And honestly, she had some rotten moments in the afternoon, barking commands from her position on the couch after six hours of television. I was grateful, but I was also really tired at the end of the day.

So all week, as we watched the bruising turn different colors (pretty yellow most recently), and we watched the swelling come down, I thought I would get on here and write about the emotions that we were all going through.

But I kept realizing... the emotions were not really about the surgery.  It was just living again. Winter to spring. Four years old to five years old. Ready for kindergarten, forms to fill out, taxes to do.

Thursday, Sadie was still swollen but determined to spend the whole day in the 80 degree sunshine and was loving life. On Friday, she went back to school with no issues at all. Saturday, we went to Urbanna for the day and she ran down the street to the playground without any hesitation. Sunday was similarly normal.

Now we prepare for her fifth birthday this week. And while it snowed yesterday and is chilly today, we are ready to be in the 70s later this week. Both of us have taken to wearing short sleeves around the house, no matter what the temperature is outside. We have shunned our winter clothes!  We are ready for summertime, baby!

I need more ... hindsight ... to give the surgery report in hindsight.  It is a liberating feeling not to be focusing on the birthmark in so many ways. Sure she is swollen, and sure there is still a bump, maybe there always will be? Certainly a scar, as well. But some chapter closed for us, sometime in the last week, and another one began. Not to mean that I am not looking back at all... but just to mean that I am not right now. Someone asked "did they get it all?" the other day, and my honest answer is "we don't know."  It wasn't as easy as taking out a tumor that had clearly identifiable edges. But it wasn't as hard as, let's say, fighting cancer in a child.  Surgery took a lot longer than we had expected. And recovery took a lot shorter. Kids are amazing. Parents lag behind, tear up a lot, struggle and cry and ask for security and guidance and certainty.  I have decided to try to take a lesson from my kid, and not from my own inclinations.

We are grateful of where we are. And we are moving forward. Make sense?