Friday, August 4, 2017

Twelve weeks

Admittedly it took longer than expected but back in June we found out we are expecting our third baby! It was a long road filled with appointments and ultrasounds and bloodwork but it all paid off. Now today I reached the milestone I have been waiting for...twelve weeks.

Now I am unsure why that twelve week mark feels like the magic number for so many. After fertility treatments I am much less prepared to shout out anything of certainty. We have always wanted three children and some days this just feels like it is too good to be true. How could we ever be this lucky?

With Brenton we told our close friends and family right away and then waited for the magic twelve to make it Facebook official. With Emerson we told most people right away but still waited until twelve to shout it out. This time today is the day and I am not quite ready.

I am filled with joy and gratitude and relishing every moment. The nausea and the exhaustion all familiar and wonderful in their purpose and meaning. The aversion to seafood and the need for meat have all come back again just like the last two times.

I adore being pregnant this time. I did before but this is special. It is blissful and fills me with purpose not because I am a woman or because being a mother is so magical and agonizing and everything in between but because this baby is my last baby. This baby will complete our family of five.

Feeling the butterfly like kisses and flutters already is reassuring and familiar. I am also coming out of the nausea and exhaustion into the light again. Although now I am plagued by constant hunger as the baby starts to grow and develop exponentially over the coming weeks.

I have been working out like I did with Brenton. I took the week off this past week. Mostly it has been a source of comfort when I have been anxious and helped me feel like myself when I was having a rough time with symptoms. I just needed a bit of a break to enjoy the sun and the pool.

Now I am 12 weeks and on Monday I have my NT scan and the NIPT bloodwork. I am looking forward to it. After so many early ultrasounds it was nice to have a break from the poking and prodding.

Being almost 40 they want to keep a closer eye on me. Geriatric pregnancy now, not just advanced maternal age. What lovely terms they have. And maybe that is some of my hesitation to shout out my pregnancy even though I know so many women who have had children later in life.

Pregnancy is anxiety producing and in the world of infertility and treatments it is even more so. I see the comments of the women who have been through the ringer of several rounds of IVF and all the stress that comes with the process to hope and pray for a take home baby. Maybe there is a small part of me that feels selfish to have my third on the way when some struggle so much for one.

As I watched people in my life get pregnant and have their babies I struggled with jealousy. I was happy for them but sad for me. They had so easily what was taking a while for us and what seemed so far away. Then just when we were discussing taking the IVF step we found success.

I credit the wonderful support of the women in my online support group and one friend going through this for keeping me sane and grounded. The journey is so emotional. It is a rollercoaster. The hope the hope the hope and then the disappointment and despair and then the hope returns. That space where a line should be is the blankest white space in the world and for those who know that pain of months and months and years and years of the blank white space to see it finally turn beautifully brightly pink is a joy I now know.

Brenton was a surprise. Emerson was planned. And this baby was not only planned but it was a long hard fight and it took two years for that pink line. 

Just like like I did when I found out that Brenton and Emerson were on the way, I woke Rolston from sleep to share the news. This time I simply greeted him with a large smile and a gentle kiss and a jersey girl fist pump and high five. He was sleeping in Brenton's bed because the boys had commandeered his spot in our bed.  There ensconced in Star Wars sheets we shared the moment of knowing we were going to have our third.

So maybe keeping the news close to my heart has allowed me to really enjoy this last pregnancy in a different more personal way. Regardless I feel so lucky to be experiencing this life growing with mine. Sharing the deep connection of two hearts beating.

When the time feels right, we have our announcement ready to go. The boys are excited and take turns hoping for a brother or sister. I am convinced it is another boy and Rolston is not so sure. Either way I will be happy and we will know in about 2 weeks. Maybe then we will share the fantastic news with the world.

As I tell more and more people I am so filled with gratitude that this is my life. A smile always comes to my face and a wave washes over me that this is really happening. We have had some hard times and this baby does feel like hope and renewal. This baby feels like resistance against those hard times.

So in this moment I am happy and fulfilled and complete. It may be a milestone. It does feel significant enough to capture these thoughts on the evening of the day that marks twelve weeks.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Every Now and Again

When I share things about my life occasionally I am struck by the reactions of others. Sometimes I find that people are surprised or maybe even a bit unsettled because there is very little about me or my life that fits into a neat package tied with a societally approved bow. Usually this has served me well but sometimes I wonder where I do fit or who would really be there for me and my family every now and again.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to my youth where my racial awareness grew naturally through life experiences. At some point after having children I realized my responsibility to my children and that the world was not like me. Most people did not see the world like I did because they hadn't experienced the world as I had.

Racism is ever present and that cold truth is lonely for white people who love black people. See black people know racism but white people have to wake up to it because of our inherent privilege. The world we have created of white supremacy makes the unlayering complicated for some. To even admit it brings great doubt about how they are potentially complicit.

But the white people who love black people know it too well and it is so hard to have white people we know actually ignore our callouts of racism in our society. It is a deafening silence that splinters my soul. The likes my facebook photos receive while my pleas for their lives to matter as black boys are ignored. I am labeled as difficult or angry or over the top even by family. But how can I not mention these incidents?

My heightened awareness about a particular dilemma has been recently troubling me. It started with a post about how black people are more likely to have police called by their white neighbors. I shared the article with a personal story about how our neighbors never really welcomed us to the neighborhood and that our back neighbors had been overtly hostile after we asked them to stop shooting their illegal foreworks into our yard while our children were playing. I realized people wanted to cry for us. My point was just that this happens not that we needed to be rescued or that we needed sympathy. It also shed light that this experience is unusual for most white people.

I inadvertently started to think about all the life experiences that I have had that most white people haven't. Starting with being the only white person in a room except for the help. At one of the first family gatherings I attended it was me and the home health aide for one of Rolston's elderly aunts. I remember feeling out of place in a way that felt different than coming into a new environment usually did. As that experience began to become the norm for me that fell away but in those early days I did feel different.

Because Rolston and I were allowed to see each other at church we always went to church and so I sang songs in church youth choir like "Young, Gifted and Black" and I still know all the words to "Lift Every Voice and Sing". I listened to sermons centered on the black experience. History was focused on black history in that church and not just in February.

I also learned how to braid Rolston's hair. And not just braid but how to care for his hair. I remember braiding his hair and never once did I wonder if that was unusual until a black woman heard me tell a story about me braiding it before a concert and she said to Rolston, I can't believe you let her touch your hair. This was part of my education as well. I would not automatically be accepted by black people either.

This brings me to where I am now. I have a few good friends who I can talk to about being white and sometimes feeling like I don't know where I fit. But they are black and have their own burdens to have to reassure me seems ridiculous but they bring me deep comfort when I truly need them.

White people always give me the I am so sorry these things happen to you. But honestly I don't want them to be sorry. I want them to do something because they can and because they are part of the power structure that created the poverty stricken areas where they are afraid to go or locking their doors as they drive through, not realizing most people in those places that the power structure abandoned with white flight, are just poor and living their lives like we do but with so much less.

Rolston did not come from one of those neighborhoods either. His family was upper middle class just like mine but they had to work twenty times harder to get there. He was raised to know he had to be better to get half as far. We will raise our boys this way. I am often greeted with, you should just raise them so they know right from wrong and that is enough. They won't get into trouble. But it isn't enough.

The deck is stacked. To be clear, I don't want your pity. I will never be sorry for the love I have in my life so you shouldn't be either. It is big all encompassing love that makes me want to fight for a better world but until that world is now I will continue to talk about my life and ask for more from white people.

So I may wonder where I fit as a white mother of black children and the white wife of a black man. I may never know who really truly supports me and my family. I do know that I will keep bringing up racism until it really wakes up white people and I will probably bring it up a bit more than every now and again.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How Is This Possible?

My boys are 3 and 5 and in the fall both of them will be in school. They are getting so big and self sufficient. How is this possible?

They started life inside my body and came out squishy babies who could not even hold their heads up on their own. They needed me for everything. And now they don't.

Brenton is still my social butterfly. He wants to have everyone come over and play. He is sweet, kind and empathetic. He is truly concerned about others. He wants to help. He likes approval. Its good because everyone loves him.

Emerson is in a rough phase right now. He is really testing limits. He is strong willed. He is really brave and physically strong. He seems to live life on the edge right now just like how he stands on top of the play kitchen and looks like he might actually try to fly.

Brenton is into watching Power Rangers. He makes potions in the sink and gotten Emerson in on it too. He made the connection that when people die they go to a different dimension. I really like that notion and I am glad it brings him solace about Nanny. His complex thoughts astonish me.

Emerson can really count. I swear he can do basic math. Sometimes I think he might be an engineer or something. Both of them share a love of building. Legos bring hours of fun for them.

They play independently so beautifully. They also cooperate with one another. At times they go to war with each other and wrestle until there is a victor or someone yells for help or wails that they have been hit even if they may have actually been the one who started it. We try to be hands off with them and let them work it out independently together.

In spite of all the newly claimed independence they are both still reliant on me in some truly fundamental ways. Brenton needs a lot of guidance right now on right and wrong. He craves support. Occasionally he also needs a reminder to put his shoes on the proper feet and make sure his underwear is not on backward.

Emerson is still in pull ups and has a paci. He can't quite figure out he needs to take his shoes off before his pants and often ends up stuck and wailing about the stuckness.

Brenton ate spinach yesterday and broccoli today without whining. Emerson did not eat anything. We opted to allow applesauce and he mostly spilled that on the table for finger painting. He used to eat avocado and asparagus but now its really only fruit. How the roles change and reverse and change again.

Tomorrow we are getting a big wooden playset. I can't wait to see them playing. Climbing and sliding and swinging. Maybe they will let me help them up the rock wall. I can already hear them yelling "watch me".

All these things they do amaze me. Sometimes they frustrate me in the moment and occasionally I yell and don't understand their needs in the moment. But when I take a step back and look at our journey together as mother and sons, I am so lucky at how much they taught me in such a short time. I just ask myself how I ended up here. I am so grateful for them and I just cannot fathom how is this possible. I am the luckiest girl in the world.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Self Care

For the past months I have been in full avoidance mode. Focusing only on myself, my family and important friendships to drown out the anxiety. There was a time I could participate in so many things and not feel the need to recoil back into myself to recharge. Those days are gone and now I habe found the importance of self care.

Having experienced a bit of a rollercoaster over the past few years or so I just let the ups and downs determine my mood. Sometimes I was happy and other times I was in a deep spiral of pure unadulterated misery. There was space in between as well but never constant. I never thought I needed to care for myself. In fact mostly I put myself last.

The changes to the world that made me comfortable with that cycle caused me to fully realize that everyone deserves better. I deserve better. That doesn't always mean the obvious is the best way to get better. Joy I once found in things shifted dramatically and I needed to shift as well.

Stress and anxiety had become the new normal even prior to the catalyst that caused me to turn more inward. So many people around me were also struggling and I did not know how to help them when I couldn't even help myself. My fake it until you make it strategy was failing me.

In the harsh reality that me and my well adjusted mostly happy self needed to do something differently was a bit of a shock. But the bottom line is I don't want to take out my struggles on those around me. I wanted to do something productive.

Here is a list of the things I have done differently in an attempt at self care.

1. The gym or the ultimate mood enhancer. But I quit cardio mostly because I never really liked it. Instead I do weights, yoga and old lady water aerobics. I am finding out how powerful I can feel trying something new and in public.

2. Enjoying my work travel and making it about me being out of my usual routine. In the past I let guilt about travel taking me away from the boys not allow me to fully enjoy it. This last trip I went to the gym and the pool and got a big burger and fries. I watched TV I wanted to watch and got a good nights sleep. It felt indulgent.

3. Taking charge of my desire for another baby. We have everything ready to take that to the next level. Admitting to myself how much I want this is painful at times but much needed so I can fight for it. If I don't do everything I can, I know it will fill me with regret.

4. Buying myself and others just a few fun things and really creating an experience in some cases. Retail therapy can be really soothing. In the beginning I focused on active wear for my gym obsession. I have splurged on the kids and Rolston and even my friends at times. For our 10th anniversary we are going to NYC and seeing Hamilton and making a full weekend out of it. In October I am taking the bestie to see Bette Midler who she adores in Hello Dolly. It has brought me great joy to make people including myself truly happy about something we will share.

5. Giving new things a shot. I am not a reader. My ADD has always made it harder for me to keep focus. I am easily distracted by shiny things and interesting people. So I tried audio books. I have gotten some really useful parenting strategies and learned new things in general. I also got into a design app that I love, a few new Netflix shows and embracing meal delivery services. The last one was a flop but I tried. I felt good about trying. We are going on our first real family vacation next week. We usually just go to my parents or they tag along on a work trip but this is 4 days at the beach for spring break.

None of these things have taken me away from my true self but rather enhanced it. The new approach allowed me to experience old things in a new way and new things from a place of comfort. I desperately needed a fresh perspective. And the truth is sometimes I find myself overscheduled and underappreciated and feeling spent and anxious. That is the time I try to find something that allows me to take just a small moment for a little self care.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Tough times

It has been a difficult few months since the world has turned upside down. We have been through so much personally and yet I was wildly unprepared for what came to pass on November 8, 2016 for me, for my family not to mention the country and the world. All I can say is it has been tough times.

I cried. I sobbed. I still cry frequently because I do have a deep fear. It rests in the pit of my stomach. It rests in my heart and in my mind. It unsettles me daily at different times. Daily I feel my blood run cold or my stomach turn when the president speaks. To say it is unchartered territory is an understatement.

To be very honest I have been in avoidance and self preservation mode because feeling fundamentally unsafe is not familiar. My husband is so much better at all of this. He is black. He has felt this his whole life. He is direct tweeting. Part of me envies him and another part feels a great sadness at the depth of what he has had to endure to be so comfortable.

For me it is fundamentally different. I knew this feeling only by association from those I love...until now. Now I do not feel safe either. I want to run. Planning my escape is also part of my privilege. I know this and for those who choose to not acknowledge this privilege...well its still there regardless.

There is a constant borage of unfettered craziness from the highest office in the land. Words like facism, alt right and white supremacy are rolling of the tongues of the mainstream media more often than I care to acknowledge. As a person who likes to face things head on, I am more than deeply troubled by the state of the nation, I am terrified. Trying to avoid it is impossible. Trying to accept it is impossible. Trying to live with it is impossible.

I call my representatives. My mother is marching. My friends are too. My church is also. And we have doubled down on our social and racial justice work. We are reaching out to our friends who are like us...different but strong in our activism.

You see we are liberal elitists. I am not ashamed of this because it means we want better for all. We do not condemn those who cannot pull themselves up we instead want to help lift them up. We do not want people to needlessly suffer. I am proud of my stance and my belief that the collective is what is important over the individual.

I will never know what it is to walk in someone else's shoes. Trying to understand the "other side" is difficult to say the least. Empathy has always driven me and helped me choose the path less traveled but most valuable. I would not trade it just like I would not have traded a second Obama term for Romney just to avoid this here and now.

I hope the intellectuals are correct and that this is the last gasp of the fearful traditionalists who wish to preserve something that never truly existed. Hoping they are correct is also bolstered by the knowledge that my sons are not the only tomorrow people. Mixed race children are on the rise more and more and more. They are the future. They do not it have to dream it because they are here.

But the truth is as I watch white women march in safety wearing pink hats carrying signs that proclaim pussy grabs back, I am skeptical. I am wary. White people are not to be trusted and especially white women who unabashedly supported their own oppressors in the voting booth.

Fear has enveloped me because I no longer believe in the decency of others. My inability to believe that people are inherently good is holding me back. My primal scream is stifled in the face of uncertainty.

The only questions that remain is can I rise above this? Will I find my footing in the midst of it? Can I find the good again and trust in the basic human decency that has sustained me my first 39 years? Will I come out better? How can I get people to join me in the fight? And finally, will we all come out changed in a positive way if we all can do more than just make it through these tough times?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Things I Want To Say

On any given day there are probably thousands of things that cross my mind. Some I keep to myself with purpose. Others I say out loud. I write down a few, but every now and again I am struck by the things I want to say, but don't.

There are so many things I want to say lately. More like so many things I want to shout. And I dont. Frequently I am called loud. I am even referred to as confrontational or even a bitch. I embrace this and yet still there are so many things I don't say.

I lean in. I also listen deeply. I am strategic, forthright and bold. I am loyal. I am thoughtful, spiritual and caring. I am funny. I am an intellectual and a member of the liberal elite.

But for all the things I am, I still do not say certain things that may make me seem unkind or bigoted. You see I fight for social justice. I fight because it's personal to me. Equality, equity, truth and a world without prejudice are vital and at times I feel might just be unacheivable.

The unachievable piece is because people do not understand their own interests. They seek things that do not exist. I do not call them stupid, but I certainly use the term misguided and uniformed.

Change is incremental. It does not happen overnight. It never has. Take a look at racial justice. Civil rights for all is still illusive. Women still make less than men for the same jobs and black women far less. There is a clear discrepancy. Progress is slow.

We live in a world of instant gratification. Technology makes this phenomenon even more potent. Want a pizza, order online and it comes to your door in minutes. Want a date, create an alluring profile and the suitors flock to you. Want to play a video game, go Pokémon go. Want a 60 inch TV, line up at Wal-Mart on black Friday and trample others for your piece of the pie. The list is endless.

For those of us with time and money we have a luxury and privilidge to be critical. We can think this all through. Not working long hours for little pay and trying to keep your family fed gives you the ability to be critical of more than what you see right in front of you. The immediacy of need is less immediate.

I will argue that the liberal elite who have been made the villian as of late are the very people who are sitting back and trying to figure out ways to help people. The policies they support that advocate for higher minimum wage or universal health care are for the inherent common good.

We want nothing more than for the coal miner to be cared for or retrained for jobs that support our changing needs as a global economy. But certain things are no longer a viable option and rather than empty promises of reverting to a bygone era we want to move forward but not just for the sake of change itself, but again for the common good.

There is a deep want for people to feel needed and appreciated and for those who want jobs to have them and make a living wage, but the dirty secret is that the richest of the rich may not want that for others because having an underclass keeps them richer. Since the existence of humanity, rich people have sought to keep poor people poor and make them feel like it is their own fault for being poor. At each turn the super rich hold back opportunity and at the same time extend a portrait of an unachievable dream. It's older than the tale of time itself.

And so I will say it. I am angry with the people who can only see what is only right in front of them and what matter only to them. I am angry with the evangelicals who have allowed the moral code to be hijacked by a political party. I am angry with all those who did not think about the long view for our country and our world. What scares me is that they did think about it all and just didn't really care. They just want what they want despite the broader impact. That is what truly frightens me. Selfishness.

So there, I said it before the year came to an end. I got it out of me. I realized no good can come from me staying in my own bubble on this one. I said the things I want to say.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Goodbye 2016

This year. An emotional year. Some awesomely amazing, some good, some not so good, some bad and some downright awful. So you will see I am not sorry to see it go, but I am also sorry to see it go. Tomorrow we say goodbye 2016!

The year began as it has for so many years with us at the beach. We spent the holiday in NC with my parents. Rolston was mending from his shoulder surgery after his second seizure. Still we all managed to have a good time and it was unseasonably warm and lovely.

In January, we asked for help. Rolston was still not driving thanks to the second seizure that happened only 8 short days away from being cleared and so our dear friend Stephanie came into our lives. An angel sent our way to bring balance, levity and delicious nutritious food. And thus began our year of developing deep and meaningful friendships.

By February we had a routine established and we embraced our new normal. My boss was extremely supportive and so many good friends to help us all when we needed it. We also had my parents to help. We are grateful for all we have and for the people who uplift us when we are feeling low.

It was hard. Really hard, but not too bad and definitely not as awful as some of the places we have been. And as winter began to thaw in March we glimpsed spring. Spring brings hope. Spring brings warmth.

It was April and I was away for work. My parents came to make sure all was well. It was Emerson's 2nd birthday when I was away. It was difficult. I felt guilt but when I returned we celebrated him!

In May, it happened. Good! Rolston got his license restored. A whole year after the first seizure. It was a breath of life. It was pure joy. He was back baby!

June brought the return of the pool. The pool means BBQs, friends and fun. We were really trying for a third child.  Everything felt refreshed.

We made a snap decision to host a French exchange student in July. Best decision ever. Paul was amazing! We got so lucky.

In August, Brenton took off his floaties and swam. He jumped off the diving board. He was so free. Emerson was trying to keep up, but was not there yet. It was still good. It was still summer our favorite time of year.

September arrived and we held on to the dream of summer for a long time. Our final pool party was the second Saturday and was wonderful weather. I could not let go and when the cover went on the pool the shift began.

In mid September things got more serious. School had started and routines restablished. Then Nanny died at the end of the month. She was our matriarch and although it was time it was so very sad.

In October, weeks began to feel like months. The election was looming with debates and town halls and so much media coverage. The mood was ominous and I responded. My monthly girls night officially began with appetizers, desserts, signature drinks, tarot card readings and pictures by the Halloween tree with our Halloween headbands.

I needed a way to be in touch. I wanted to feel connected as the light faded and the days got shorter. I had no idea how dark it would get, but my girls, my strong and empowered, smart, beautiful, amazing women, and although I did not know it quite yet, would keet me going.

In November it all came crashing down. It sounds dramatic because it was. Hot tears stinging my eyes watching all hope slip away, I watched it happen on November 8, 2016. As blue turned to a sea of red, at 11pm I went to sleep and woke up with a start just in time for it to be official. A Trump presidency was reality.

I sat in Brenton's room because he was already in our bed. As I watched the speech, I was stunned and not stunned. I was sick to my stomach. I was utterly and deeply afraid.

There was nothing about what was happening that felt real except the fear. I had to pinch myself. In all honesty it felt like the aftermath of a panic attack in its surrealism.

Facing both my liberal elitism and my anger at a nation that felt like it was rejecting me and my family on a fundamental level, left me feeling empty. We contemplated leaving. We considered where we should go. We made real plans.

Instead of packing bags, we leaned on our friends. We relied on the relationships we built with other blended families, gay friends and families and other people who felt at risk to hold ourselves together. Also our church vowed to stand up for us if it came to it. We were supported.

I deflected my deepest fears in order to work. Self preservation kicked in at the end of November. I had things to do. Life happens.

We had Friendsgiving at Stephanie's. Our first and it was a true blessing. It was food and framily. And we also celebrated Brentons 5th birthday.

That same week we celebrated his birthday as a family and had a lonely Thanksgiving, but on that day we decorated for the holidays. Decorating made it better. The lights and the beauty gave me hope again in the darkness.

So I did what I do and I moved ahead. I doubled down and kept it positive. I traveled for work even though I had a cold. I delivered training and felt good about myself for making it happen.

When I came home on December 1st, the prep began and I shopped and shopped and kept the Yule in Christmas as best I knew how. Then the following Friday, it was time for the monthly girls night holiday party. What a party it was. I relished in the smiles and happiness. It felt good to be so happy even if it proved fleeting, but thankfully it wasnt. It was the start of the beginning of the end of the end of a tough year.

Before I knew it was off to NYC for a final work trip before the official holiday vacation. During that mid December trip, my dear friend who I normally get together with was supposed to be away and instead his flight was delayed. We had drinks that turned to dinner and left me feeling not just physically but emotionally sated. He is a true gem and a kindred spirit.

As I left the city bound for home I was stuck in traffic and saw snowflakes fall. They reminded me that no matter how much I want to be in control, I am not. Life goes on. The world turns whether I grant it permission or not.

We left for the holidays at my parents later that week. We had a great Christmas. The boys were so happy. We all were and now we are at the beach again.

We have run and played and built castles in the sand. Rolsron and I have had time alone together. Tonight we sang happy birthday to Poppie as we do every year. It marks the end of our time together and the coming of the new year.

Tomorrow as the waves roll into the shore we will say hello to 2017. The new year I feel dread for as we watch our beloved black president leave office and be replaced by a deplorable excuse for a human. In 2017 I will go to Dallas, NY, Charltotte and London for work. We will watch our oldest start kindergarten and our youngest start preschool. We cross our fingers that we might get lucky and welcome a new baby. We hope to continue to strengthen the bonds of friendship. And most of all that it will not be as bad as we fear it could be. So it is with a hopeful yet somewhat heavy heart and bittersweet relief and cautious optimism that I look forward and also back and say goodbye to 2016.