(Butterfly Sand Drawings by my amazing and inspirational friend, Carly Dudley. She is an angel on Earth. No, really. Find her work here.)
I must admit, I have been in a pre-Mother's Day funk the past few days. You would think, since my life revolves around raising small children, that Mother's Day is MY holiday and one that I look forward to all year long.
Well, not really. Mother's Day is complicated. I think anyone who has lost a child will tell you the same. I think Mother's Day is hard for a lot of people - somehow it's been built up as the holiday for perfect moms and perfect children...and well, many (most?) of us just don't have a life that looks like that. ;-)
In 2008, I was pregnant with Vivian and Annemarie. I was a mom of three! Now here I am, four years later, and by the looks of things, I am still a mom of three. But, of course, I am not. I have three babies in Heaven who I think about daily, and whose presence (or is it absence) is felt in all that I do.
I love all my children so deeply. The ones I get to raise, and the ones waiting for me in Heaven.
Earlier this week, I was thinking about Paprika and how she almost didn't get to grow up. My amazing, quirky, smart, laugh-riot of a girl. My Paprika.
You see, I have a lot of pregnancy difficulties, and one of them is progesterone deficiency. Without supplemental progesterone, my body can't keep a pregnancy.
It's the reason I miscarried the baby after Paprika. My other babies (Vivian, Annemarie, Ginger, and Violet) were able to grow and thrive because I took progesterone medication while I was pregnant with them.
But with Paprika, I didn't know about that. I was on my honeymoon (three years late!) in Paris, and I wasn't worried. We had been trying for a baby for almost a year, and nothing seemed to be happening. Well, it turns out that our trip to Paris did the trick. Except I came home and then I got my period. And bled and bled. If this is TMI, stop reading. ;-)
It turns out, my body didn't have enough progesterone to sustain the pregnancy. I almost miscarried her. Can you imagine? Just like that - blip - my beautiful Paprika would not have been born. It is a miracle that she is here today.
Whenever I think of babies that are miscarried, I think about how easily it would have been for Paprika to not be here. Whenever I think of Vivian and Annemarie, I look at my other children and know that had it not been for ONE little glitch in their pregnancy (a placental issue called TTTS), they would be living, growing, thriving little girls. It is such a hard thing to swallow. Sometimes when I start to think about it, my brain gets overloaded and starts to fry a bit.
I cannot imagine my life without Paprika. Just like I can't imagine my life without any of my kids. Except because of one small glitch, I do have to live my life without three of my babies (Vivian, Annemarie, and the miscarried baby).
It is often said that the children we raise teach us more than we teach them. I know this is true. My kids here on Earth have taught me patience, humility, forgiveness, and how to see the world as a place of true wonder and light.
But, my kids in Heaven have taught me more than most would imagine. I have learned patience. Is there any greater patience than waiting to die to see your child again?
I have learned the value of one day and that for some, one day can be a lifetime.
I have learned to live in the present and be grateful for every imperfect second of life. I have learned that money and success are nothing without family. I have learned that there is nothing more amazing than a newborn's first breath.
I have learned to not worry about what others think, and to forgive those who don't understand this kind of loss. I have learned to be brave in sharing my story, and to seek out others who share this path of motherhood.
I have learned that life is not defined by years or hours, but by the moments of connection we share. And that even after someone has passed, their life can have a tremendous impact on others.
My children in Heaven teach me new lessons more than you would expect. They have taught me to be extra gentle with their sisters on Earth. They have taught me that there is no need to rush, and that sometmies the simplest moments we can share with our kids will mean the most.
I have learned perspective, and how unimportant the little dramas of everyday life are. Truly.
I am grateful for the chance to love so deeply, which in large part I owe to my girls in Heaven.
So, after all my angst this past week about upcoming Mother's Day, it's turned out to be a pretty great day, afterall. Mr. M is working on DWTS, so I am home with all the girls by myself just like most other days.
Mr. M left me flowers and a card this morning before he left for work, and I was so surprised and touched (I told him I didn't want anything). Paprika hopped in bed with me this morning and read me a few books, including: Are You My Mother?
She gave me the sweetest Mother's Day present and card that she'd made at school. It made me cry big tears and she looked confused at that. I told her how deeply I love her, and how it was the most beautiful present I could have ever received. She said she wished she could have given me more. Bawl!
The littlest two don't know that it's Mother's Day and that's okay by me. I look at them and I have all the gratitude I need. Being a mother is a beautiful thing, even if it's not quite how I expected things would turn out.
Being a mother is without a doubt the most challenging undertaking of my life, but it has also been the best in countless breathtaking and unexpected ways.