Tag: Pregnancy

24Apr

Motherhood, Incidentally

(Photo by our sweet friend Emily)

As of last month, I’ve been a mother for a decade.

I can’t tell you how foreign that sentence feels to my fingers, as nubbly and impenetrable as Braille. “You must have been a young mother!” friends and neighbors say, and the fact is that I still am. This is especially true by Italian standards, where most women don’t start thinking of babies until they’re comfortably settled into their 30s. I feel young in terms beyond age though. Even here in my own comfortable 30s, I’m taken aback by my lack of expertise at each new parenting stage. It’s like being handed a pop quiz called “Congratulations! Despite the fact that you did not expressly condone the passage of time, nor have you had longer than twenty seconds to get used to the idea, your child is now a tween. How are you going to parent her?” and being told that your GPA for life depends on your answer.

(Apparently test anxiety is my go-to analogy for parenthood.)

You may either relate or conclude that I need Xanax when I tell you that my heart clenches up on itself every night when we tiptoe in to check on the girls. One is always nested down inside her covers while the other is sprawled in a modern dance pose on top of hers, and I start to ache immediately. It’s not just because great swaths of time are slipping by disguised as ordinary days, though there’s certainly an element of “Sunrise, Sunset” to it all. It’s more that—to me—love has always been closely linked to fear of failure.

It shares a spot in my top five fears alongside clowns, spiders, dementia, and Jack Nicholson’s grin. The more I love someone, the more terrified I become that association with me will be his or her great undoing. This isn’t based on any kind of logic; it’s more a knee-jerk reaction of the soul, a seesaw ride with perfectionism and the gospel of low self-esteem. Never is it stronger than when I look down at my sleeping girls and see the trust pooled just where their eyelashes brush their cheeks. I’d thought I would be more inured to this after a decade.

Fortunately, one bit of parenting wisdom that I came across when Natalie was a newborn still holds true at ten years in: Keep her clean, fed, safe, and loved; the rest is incidental. That line of thought put a merciful end to my angst when we lived in a one-bedroom apartment and our baby didn’t even have her own diaper pail much less her own princess-themed nursery. These days, it’s soothing my angst over how much screen time to allow* and what extracurricular activities to pursue and which tweenage fads might be gateways to meth. (Rainbow Loom, I’m looking at you.)

*As I understand it, the formula for insuring your child remains technologically on par with her peers while retaining her imagination and the majority of her brain cells is Pn=∆x [f(x0)+4f(xn-1)+f(xn)]/3-∫abf(x) where x is the number of minutes that your child would willingly play Minecraft each day, f is the force vector of whining to sanity on a mortal human parent, and n is the current price per barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon. You’re welcome.

When I was pregnant with Natalie, I showed up at my second prenatal appointment armed with a typed, MLA-formatted list of questions for my ob-gyn. It was full of gems like, I know you said X brand of antihistamine was safe to take, but we’re staying with friends who own cats, and I’m worried that prolonged antihistamine use will hurt the baby, but I’m also worried that I’ll accidentally sneeze her out or something, and also I might be extra-killing her when I put lunch meat on my sandwich? I still remember the doctor’s laugh, kind but genuinely amused.

“I have patients who smoke crack every day of their pregnancies,” he said. “And nine times out of ten, their babies turn out just fine.”

It was nearly the opposite sentiment of the book I’d been reading (What Kinds of Harm to Expect From Totally Normal Foods, Activities, and Social Interactions When You’re Expecting, 2002 edition), and it took some time to acclimate to the idea that my child wasn’t so fragile after all, that my love for her and my good intentions really did carry weight. I’m still trying to get my head all the way around it. The good news is that kids are excellent teachers. The best, really. They’re repetitive and patient, and if you don’t feel like a proper grownup yet after a decade of parenting… well, what of it?

You’ve kept them clean, fed, safe, and loved silly. The rest is incidental.

Bassett girls 2

11Feb

Miracle on Via Luigi Rizzo

Last week, I told Part 1 of our move to Italy—specifically, the part where I concluded that the whole thing had been a horrible cosmic prank designed to undo me. Part 2 has a decidedly different ending though, and I can’t think of a story I’d rather be sharing for my final post at A Deeper Story. 

Here be miracles, folks:

[Ed: Now that Deeper Story has closed its doors, the post is here in its entirety:] 

~~~

After a summer clinging to the kind of faith that leaps oceans, I had entered autumn and found that my grip was spent. I couldn’t buoy up my own trust anymore. I was weary and anxious and displaced, and I needed God to be the miracle-worker I saw on the pages of children’s Bibles, cloning loaves and fish for hungry crowds, calming the turbulent sea. I needed God to be Emmanuel in a very real way.

Instead, I found myself profoundly, terrifyingly alone.

The third morning after Dan flew back to the States to wrangle with bureaucracy, I woke up feeling like a puddle of my former self. Insomnia had done a number on me the night before, and two-year-old Natalie’s requests for me to get up! and make breakfast! and plaaaayyyy! ricocheted wildly against my veneer of sanity. I thought about our empty refrigerator, the dishes crusted into Seussical stacks around the sink, my husband’s absence, and the contractions squeezing into me and concluded that if I got out of bed that day, I would surely die. It was all too much.

I can’t do it, I told God, burying my face under the covers. I can’t go to the grocery store or take Natalie to the park or ANY of it. I just can’t. I don’t know wh—

The phone rang.

It was so unexpected, such a perfectly cued interruption to my woe, that curiosity pulled me out of bed. I choked back the panic I experienced every time I had to communicate in Italian and answered the phone. An acquaintance from our new church replied, speaking slowly enough that I could follow: “I was just calling to see if I could take Natalie out to the park this morning! Oh, and while I’m thinking of it, could you use any groceries?”

Now, by nature, I’m the kind of girl who’d turn down offers of help while lying semiconscious in the path of an oncoming bullet train because she doesn’t want to inconvenience anyone. Something switched in me that morning though. Desperation had dissolved my pride in self-reliance enough that I could see God’s choreography in the moment, and I wasn’t about to turn my back on it.

“Grazie,” I told the caller. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

When serendipity alights on your shoulder like that, you don’t expect it to stay. You marvel at its plume and the bright tilt of its head, knowing its attention is a rare and unforceable gift, and then you watch it leave with as much good grace as you can muster. I was amazed by the temporary relief I’d been given from my isolation and more grateful than I knew how to say in any language. However, exhaustion was pulling me under the surface of panic again by the next evening.

I don’t know how I’m going to cook dinner tonight. It feels like I just finished cleaning up from lunch, and I’m so weary, so utterly weary, and Natalie needs so much, and everything’s depending on me, and I just wish we had a pizz

The phone rang again. This time, it was a girl I’d met a few weeks earlier offering to bring over a hot pepperoni with olives.

The same thing happened every remaining day until Dan got home. I would start to crumble with fatigue and overwhelm at the sticky mess left on the floor after breakfast, and the phone would ring with someone asking to come mop for me. Someone else came to vacuum. Others washed dishes, cooked lunch, scrubbed the bathroom, played with Natalie, sent over care packages, and ran errands for me so I could rest, and each offer arrived at the precipice of my need. Serendipity was quickly becoming a regular at our house.

I’ve never made it all the way through The Brothers Karamazov (with due apologies to my World Lit. professor), but this quote from it still captures me:

“Miracles are never a stumbling-block to the realist… The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Even if he admits it, he admits it as a fact of nature till then unrecognized by him. Faith does not, in the realist, spring from the miracle but the miracle from faith.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I realize that miracles are several centuries out of vogue, and I’m as predisposed to skepticism as a housecat. I have twitched while hearing about how God gave someone a front-row parking spot or made two hours of sleep as restful as eight or prevented some likely allergic reaction. I’ve imagined God shaking his head in amusement that his followers would see divine intervention where there was only coincidence.

I began to get a different picture of God during my week of small rescues though. I could have viewed those phone calls as “an act of nature,” I suppose, or explained them away as human kindness and nothing more. Maybe if I hadn’t felt so powerless against my circumstances, the realist in me would still be stepping over miracles as if they were part of the original landscape. As it was, however, I couldn’t help seeing the reflection of God’s smile in the steam coming off my pizza or in the just-scrubbed floor tiles. His presence filled that lonely little apartment every time someone stopped by to help, and the faith that had gotten me through the summer was still just sufficient enough for me to recognize myself in the presence of miracles.

I know that the mention of divine intervention opens up a can full of worms and questions and broken bits of people’s hearts. I don’t pretend to understand why God seems to alter some situations and leave others to run their courses. What I have learned, at least within the small scope of my experience, is that the existence of miracles in our day-to-day, twenty-first-century world has a lot to do with our ability to recognize them as such.

How we hear the ring of the phone when we’re drowning in loneliness… How we view the blooming of moonlight in the dark… How we interpret a front-row parking spot when our schedule’s turned urgent… How we mark the flutter of wings against our shoulders, serendipity alighting one too many times for us to keep mistaking it as chance. “Every good and perfect gift is from above,” writes James, and sometimes faith simply means letting our exhausted, lonely hearts believe it’s true.

image source

30Jan

When God Brought Me to Italy to Perish

You may have seen the recent announcement that Deeper Story is closing its doors. It’s hard for me to imagine the upcoming year without it, both from a reader’s perspective and as one of its writers. That site has consistently swept my generalizations and misconceptions of Christianity off their feet. It’s answered the question of why we believe what we believe through the medium of story, and I’m going to miss it like I miss Blue Bell ice cream.

Before it closes though, I’m getting to share one last story. I wrote about it here on my blog back when the events were unfolding, but they’ve grown in significance and clarity since then, picking up new dimensions in their expanding context. This is the more complete story of our move to Italy. It’s also a study in modern-day miracles.

Part 1 of 2 is up today (Part 2 will go up in a few weeks before Deeper Story closes):

[Ed: Now that Deeper Story has closed its doors, the post is here in its entirety:] 

~~~

It’s not easy for me to think about the fall of 2007.

Actually, “not easy” is a wild understatement in this case. Opening pickle jars is “not easy.” Putting snow boots on a toddler is “not easy.” Willing my mind to revisit some of the most emotionally intense terrain of my life, on the other hand, is about two degrees this side of impossible. The anxiety is still there. So are the first discordant notes of depression. Upheaval, insecurity, a sense of displacement so strong I could drown in it—they’re all there, preserved museum-quality in the halls of my memory.

But then again, so are the miracles. And that’s why I’m here again, two degrees this side of impossible, willing myself never to forget.

/ / /

My husband Dan, our two-year-old daughter Natalie, and I spent the summer of 2007 in total life limbo. We’d moved out of our home in Delaware at the end of May, fully expecting to ship ourselves and all our possessions out on the next flight to Italy. It was all set. Dan had been offered his dream job in the country we had long hoped to adopt as our own, and our bags were packed. Every step of the process so far had been ridged with God’s fingerprints. But then the paperwork we needed the Italian government to send us for our move was “delayed.” (This, as we later learned, is bureaucracy speak for “never gonna happen.”)

The documents didn’t arrive by our move-out date, and they continued not arriving over the next two months as we camped out in friends’ guest rooms and stretched every dollar left in our checking account as far as it would go. We were surrounded by grace in those two months; our friends’ generosity kept us afloat, and we were led again and again to trust that God had our backs despite the maddening bureaucratic roadblock. My pregnant belly was stretching along with our disposable income though, and we had to make a decision: We could either scrap this new direction for our life, or we could book a flight to Italy without the right paperwork or any guarantees and try to work out the details once we got there.

We chose Option #2.

Looking back, I turn green around the gills thinking about all the risks we took with that decision. So much could have gone wrong, and the fact that we arrived without incident on the doorstep of our very own Italian apartment that August is its own category of grace.

This isn’t to say though that the worry and upheaval through which my mind had waded all summer evaporated. If anything, my anxiety grew thicker, muddled by the confusion of a new language and new cultural customs and new everything down to the way we told time. (Dinner at “twenty-one minus a quarter,” anyone?) This newness was a mental barrier as real and high to me as the historic walls of our adopted city. I was petrified by the enormity of what I didn’t know.

Also, I was now squarely (roundly!) in my third trimester of pregnancy. Any mama who has cared for a two-year-old while massively pregnant can tell you that staving off exhaustion in itself can be a full-time job. My body was as weary as my brain, and I felt like I was always skirting the edges of the preterm labor that had complicated my pregnancy with Natalie. I lay trapped awake by worry every night. If I’d had any illusions about being in control of my life before that autumn, they’d certainly hoofed it back to the land of make-believe by now.

Then two things happened simultaneously to kick the intensity notch of my world up to Level Orange. The first was that Dan left on an eight-day trip back to the States to take care of the paperwork we had been unable to file all summer. The second was a familiar tightening across my lower belly that started one evening while I was eating dinner. I was thirty-three weeks along, the exact point I’d been in my first pregnancy when I’d gone into preterm labor. I began to have contractions that were sporadic and harmless, but the timing was enough to send me spiraling imagination-first into worst case scenarios.

I couldn’t shake my fear that our baby was going to be born prematurely while Dan was out of the country. And what if things went horribly wrong for him and he was denied reentry? My terror was so acute that it spliced itself onto my sense of reality. I felt stranded in this place, so far from friends and family, unable to communicate in my own language, responsible for a two-year-old who needed more energy from me than I was able to give. I sympathized with the Israelites in Exodus who wailed that God had brought them into the wilderness to perish.

Hadn’t he just done the same to me?

Abandoned, abandoned, abandoned. The refrain began at the epicenter of my fear and was soon taken up by every cell in my body. I knew I was being dramatic. I knew that basing my understanding of God on my current circumstances was not only poor theology but straight-up idiotic. I had been so uprooted by the past few months though that my better judgment couldn’t find solid footing. As I saw it in those panic-stricken moments, God had lifted us over the stacked odds and deposited us safely in Italy only to pull that sense of safety right back out from under me. This was it then, the punch line of whatever cruel joke he was playing on our dreams.

I felt more alone than I had ever been in my life—relationally, culturally, and spiritually desolate—and I didn’t have the courage for whatever was coming next.

Only, what came next turned out to be as far from what I’d predicted as abandonment was from the truth.

/ / /

[Continue to Part 2.]

image source

 

10Aug

Despair and Contrast

I’ve been doing a bit of blog spring summer cleaning over the last few days—super-gluing links, spit-shining categories, that sort of thing—and I found myself reading back over the first two years’ worth of entries while gravity slowly condensed in the room. My God.

The summer we packed up our lives to move to Italy, my head was unstable territory. I had been juggling four part-time jobs which suited me not at all, my plans for graduate school had been shot down for the second time, and I had stopped writing… which meant I was no longer checked in to my own life. On top of this was the vast unknown of our future. I was in my second trimester of pregnancy with Sophie, and the delay in getting our Italian paperwork had left us literally homeless and living off the generosity of friends.

It was during one unsteady weekend curled up in the guest room of our friend’s house that I started this blog. I was desperate for the outlet, the perspective, the satisfaction, and the community, though I couldn’t have articulated those reasons at the time. Blogging still only registered as a hobby (I had no idea how much the blogosphere had changed since our first fling; Dooce was now a verb?!), but it got me writing and connecting with kindred spirits again, just in time for the greatest upheaval of my life.

We moved. I adjusted piecemeal to the new culture.  I pined for friends and set up house and gave birth, and somewhere in the rock ‘n’ reel of it all, depression yawned up underneath like a sudden sinkhole. I’ve had melancholic tendencies my whole life, but nothing could have prepared me for the following year and a half. I never admitted here on my blog just how bad my depression was, but the utter hopelessness in mind still left its imprint on posts about frustration, insufficiency, and unrelenting exhaustion. My personal journal entries delved into far darker territory, and reading over them now recalls the pain so intensely that my lungs flail against its memory.

Have you seen those “depression hurts” commercials with the sad-faced people blankly going about their daily routines? I only wish my experience had been so serene. For an eternal year and a half, my mind was trapped inside a darkness that I couldn’t measure, couldn’t make sense of, couldn’t get enough of a grasp on to fight. I couldn’t describe it without sounding crazy, so I tried to pass it off as allergies, nutritional deficiencies, standard new mom tiredness, even weather-related gloom. (In retrospect, maybe my doctor would have helped me more if I hadn’t done such a good job playing down the crazy.) I didn’t know how to ask for help because I didn’t know what I needed except OUT, and I didn’t have the courage anyway to admit my problems to our new Italian friend-quaintances.

I knew the stigma of mental disorders as faux illnesses, socially unacceptable displays of weakness. I had judged people before for not being able to “get a grip” and even for seeking counseling. So I kept the darkness within the walls of our apartment and only wrote about it on the good days… days in which I could handle getting out of bed and putting on some makeup, maybe even taking the girls to the park for ten minutes. On the other days, the not so good ones, life pressed in from all sides with an impossible weight, and continuing to breathe was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I didn’t want to survive.

Yet I did. No matter how unbearable the panic of being, I couldn’t leave my daughters or husband bereft, and flickers of hope from here in the blogging community helped me keep that resolve on days when darkness started to win. Encouraging comments from kindred souls. Liz’s virtual hugs. Nino’s information on long-time postpartum depression (up until then, I had never heard of it lasting beyond six months). Jennifer’s honesty about her own time in the valley. Prayers from people who read between the lines and got what was going on. Together, they lit the way to my freedom.

And now, more than two years on the other side of endless night, I’d like to follow Jennifer’s lead and show you a photograph from the very worst stretch:

Tackling sick Mommy

It was taken mere days before I started to get better, and it kills me knowing that the me in the photograph had no idea. I wish I could slip back through a shortcut in time and promise her that spring is already there, even if she can’t feel it yet. I want to tell her that in a few short weeks, she’ll be tossing sun-drenched hair out of her eyes and chasing those sweet little girls through streets full of stories. I want to assure her that she’ll laugh again and that her daughters will forget the tears. I want to show her the beauty masquerading as a demolition project, the grace dissolving her terror of motherhood, and the art whispering promises, and I want her to see this next photograph of an August afternoon two years later on that same red sofa:

We like each other

There is hope.

27Sep

Non-Event

My husband and I come from very different backgrounds, so it has always amazed me how perfectly most of our opinions align. Early on, we discovered our matching views on money, church,  life purpose, Star Wars, education, making out, and how many children we wanted to have. We knew a lot of couples who disagreed or vacillated on family size, but we were united in our hope for two. Two children with whom to travel the world, play board games, and scream ourselves silly on rollercoasters (okay, that one might be just me), two children to be automatic friends to each other while providing space for other relationships, two children into whom we could invest time, attention, and personalized love while still pursuing our own careers and social lives. We both adored kids, but the prospect of a large family didn’t resonate with either of us. We had our magic number.

That’s why I was so surprised to find myself, shortly after Sophie’s birth, flushed with baby fever. Not just surprised, but alarmed. I was deep in the clutches of postpartum depression, and the demands of my two sweet girls were often more than my filigreed emotions could handle. Another pregnancy would literally have endangered our lives. Yet every time one of the girls snuggled up against me or I peeked in on a sisterly giggling fit, I was overwhelmed with the wish for more.

Sweet sisters 2
(Just look what I was up against!)

Eventually, the craze subsided. My mind climbed back into the light, I began to enjoy parenting again, and I was able to recognize that my motherly instinct—that mysterious part of some women’s brains that makes us sniff newborns’ heads and coo over diaper commercials—did not need to override my logic. I loved my Natalie and my Sophie, and I knew that in order to keep loving them well, I couldn’t lose myself to another baby. It wouldn’t be fair to them or to Dan, who was just starting to get his wife back. Our magic number hadn’t changed; we gave away the baby clothes and began living out the future we had hoped for…

…Which brings us to this year, behind a locked door where I clutched a pregnancy test wondering how in the world I was going to explain things to my husband. I didn’t even know how I felt, or rather, I couldn’t narrow down which of my conflicting emotions was predominant. One part of me was already picking out names and anticipating the exquisite joy of welcoming a new little one into the family. The other part of me was dreading the exhaustion, the C-section recovery, the financial strain, the enormous time taken away from the girls, and the million necessary adjustments to our life. I felt selfish for both my reluctance and my excitement, and confusion swirled my insides until I thought I might puke. Of course, I would be doing plenty of puking in the weeks to come; might as well get used to it.

Except that I wasn’t pregnant. Against all expectations, the test turned out negative. A test the next week was negative too, and at last, my body finally confirmed what they were saying. There would not be any morning sickness, hospital stays, baby blues, pumping paraphernalia, or minivan shopping. I would not have to explain to a single concerned Italian grandma that yes, I know how this happens. I would not risk hurting my friends whose hearts are being dragged through the devastating cycle of infertility. Our family would remain just as we’d hoped it would be. Yet a peculiar ache settled in the empty space between my arms like a phantom limb. I was relieved not to be pregnant, incredibly so, but was also caught off balance by how strongly I could miss someone who never existed.

I don’t know how to uncomplicated a non-event any more than this:

For three weeks, I was mama to a baby-who-wasn’t.

Today was our due date.

 

17Feb

Sugar and Spice

When I was growing up, I wanted a sister more than I wanted sugar.

Let that sink in a moment. Dessert in our house was all-natural peanut butter mixed with carob—a substance which may actually be dirt—and such was my longing for sugar that I would eat friends’ bubblegum toothpaste. A grandfatherly type at church would occasionally pass out those cinnamon hard candies blistering in red cellophane wrappers, and I would choke every one down despite the open flames in my mouth. I spent 95% of my babysitting money on contraband Girl Scout Cookies and swiped sweetener packets from restaurants when no one was looking. I dreamed about sugar.

But I wanted a sister even more. An older sister would have been ideal, but even in preschool I grasped the chronological difficulties that presented. A younger sister would do as long as she was close enough in age to share clothes and secrets and hobbies with me. I had it all planned—we would whisper under covers late at night, play pranks on our brothers, swap Lip Smackers, and grow up best friends for life. She would understand me as only a sister could. And eventually, we would marry two brothers and live happily ever after on adjacent horse ranches in the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

However, the sister position stayed vacant until I was old enough to babysit her. While she and I have always had a good relationship, my sisterhood fantasies never had a chance to materialize before I left home… and the more people I met, the less faith I had that close, secret-sharing family ties existed. By the time Natalie was born, I had all but forgotten the allure of sisterhood.

Until our next baby’s 20-week ultrasound during which we learned she was a Sophie and not an Ebeneezer*. Dan and I had both suspected a baby boy was brewing, so the news rocked my perspective into fairy tale territory. Sisters. Shoe swappers, secret whisperers, dance partners, goodnight huggers, lifelong friendship givers.

My daughters may still be young, and they may fight multiple times a day over who’s the princess and who’s the ballerina, and I doubt brother-husbands with horse ranches are in their future**, but at least one of my childhood theories has landed on proof: Sisters are better than sugar.

*Note to Social Services: We never actually picked out a boy’s name. You can put down your pitchforks now.

**Though I haven’t lost faith in the Big Rock Candy Mountains just yet.

8Feb

Heart Extension

Dear girls of mine,

I saw today that the younger sister of one of my high school friends just had a baby. She’s in her early twenties now—no longer the bubbly little girl I remember—and is unmarried. The father scuttled away upon hearing she was pregnant, and she’s now raising her darling little daughter on her own with more intention and joy than I see in most parents. She’s also terrified… but fiercely in love with her baby and determined to view the situation as a the most beautiful kind of gift. Life. Dimpled wrists. An extension of her heart to cherish.

What broke my heart is the way others have responded to her, particularly her own family and their Christian compadres. They have told her she has no right to celebrate this new life, that she had no right to take gorgeous maternity pictures or keep the baby or think that God loves her in spite of a surprise pregnancy. They followed standard etiquette for conservative types and abandoned her to the “consequences of her actions.” (Such a stone-hearted phrase, that; it practically comes with its own gavel and Arctic wind.) Instead of congratulations or compassion or newborn diapers or listening ears, they offered scorn. And this in the name of a Jesus who told a woman caught in adultery, “Does no one condemn you?… Neither do I.”

Thinking about their reaction makes me furious until I consider how marginalized and unloved someone would have to feel to treat others with such supercilious contempt. Graceless actions come from graceless hearts, and I suppose this girl’s family deserves pity more than hate mail. All the same, I hope they one day realize what they missed out on.

(Like this


Precious toes

and this

Happy girl 2

and nibbling soft cheeks and snuggling a tiny, trusting person to sleep and receiving slobber-kisses and celebrating milestones and building a relationship and getting to watch a precious new story unfold.)

However, the words weighing on my heart right now are for you. I want you to know that your dad and I love you. Unconditionally. This means our love stays even if you reject us, commit a crime, join a cult, scribble with bright green marker all over the newly painted walls (to use a hypothetical example), or come home from high school one day with a positive pregnancy test. And while we hope your eventual families grow out of the same deep commitment that started our own, new life will always be welcome here. You will always be welcome here. No matter what mistakes you make or what curveballs the future throws, you will have two sets of arms ready to hug you… and any little ones you bring into the world. (No matter the circumstances. Really.)

My friend’s little sister is right; children are the very most beautiful kind of gift.

Two Cyd Charisse understudies

I love you to the moon, to the sun, to the farthest reaches of uncharted future and back,
Mom

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