Thursday, May 5, 2011

Treasuring everyday joy as a mother

In honor of Johnson’s “Treasuring Everyday Joy,” I am writing about what motherhood means to me.* As you know, we are big supporters of the March of Dimes, so I'm excited to let you know that with every "like" of Johnson's Facebook page, Johnson's will donate $1 to the March of Dimes. Johnson's plans to host a series of photo contests on its Facebook page beginning in May. Selected winners will receive a variety of prizes and be eligible for the $25,000 grand prize, to be announced in January 2012.

And here is what motherhood means to me:

As a young adolescent, I found myself drawn to children. As an avid babysitter and Sunday School teacher, I could see that the best source of unbridled, selfless positive energy and love was from young admirers. Two children I babysat loved it when I sang to them as they fell asleep. My sister and I watched the girls across the street overnight so that their parents could go away for the weekend. (Those girls are now mothers and my Facebook friends.) I wanted to be a teacher of emotionally disturbed children when I grew up (and now I work with engineers…hmm…).

I always planned to be a mom. If need be, I would find a sperm donor to help me reach my aim if no dream husband appeared. Fortunately, I did not have to resort to that.

What I did have to resort to was gentle encouragement of my dream husband. After marrying at 25, by the time 30 loomed I knew we should start trying to have a baby. My writer husband, however, wanted to wait until he reached literary success before starting a family. (I can understand why he felt that way, given the fact that he is the stay-at-home dad and fatherhood has cramped his writing style. On the other hand, on his schedule we might have waited too long.) My tactic is to plant the seed and be patient, waiting for it to grow. His first reaction was anxiety. It took only a few weeks until he came around.

Trying becomes less fun and much more stressful when it takes a year and a half to get pregnant. When Christopher was born at just 24 weeks gestation (weighing 1 lb, 9 oz. and measuring 11 inches), he was given a 50 percent chance of dying…and if he survived, a 50 percent chance of major disabilities. He survived 117 long, agonizing days in the NICU, including three surgeries, several life-threatening crises, and daily struggles to live. Worst of all, we could not hold him for six weeks. Just before Christmas, he came home on oxygen and multiple medications. I remember the day when he finally came off oxygen and we could move around the house freely, holding our beloved miracle baby in our arms—wire free!

Our finally wire-free, first miracle baby (at 9 months, or 5 months adjusted)
When we mustered the courage to try for another child, I suffered four miscarriages. Mike asked me to reconsider whether we should have another child. Finally, I got pregnant again and was able to carry Kieran to term. I wouldn't exactly call the pregnancy and birth "normal," but it was vastly more routine than the first one! (I had to have three c-sections because the first one was a radical c-section.) Kieran came out opinionated, fun, and spirited!

New addition to the family
First day home
Then after our family was complete, we received another shock: a surprise pregnancy at age 41. After the NICU experience, infertility, and miscarriages, we couldn’t take this news in any other way but accept it with grace and gratitude. Clearly, Nicholas was meant to be.

With my sister before birth
Our third little boy
The whole crew
I always thought I’d have at least one daughter instead of three sons, but now I cannot imagine it any other way. I love being a mom and gazing at my boys in amazement that Mike and I created them. I love walking in the front door at the end of the work day and being jumped on by the boys, who are gleeful that I’m home. I love seeing them laugh together or hug each other. I love the way they are learning that men and boys can be sensitive, vulnerable, sweet, and respectful as well as energetic, strong, bright, and funny (I owe a great deal of gratitude to Mike for this!). I love the fact that each spring when Chris appears in a middle school musical (opening night is tomorrow), the younger boys know all of Chris’ lines and can sing all the songs. I love the way they cuddle up to me or throw their arms around me. It’s the best ego trip in the world.

I view each one of my sons as miracles: Chris, for obvious reasons; Kieran, who finally appeared after four miscarriages and several years; and Nicholas, conceived when I was 41, still nursing Kieran, and so clearly NOT TRYING.

Surrounded by testosterone
Beyond the difficulties of getting and staying pregnant, surviving first-time motherhood in the NICU transformed me into a more relaxed, laid-back mom. So my kid was not potty trained by the time he was 2? Who cares? So my house will never make it into House Beautiful, we drive old cars, and I’m sure none of them will make it to the ivy leagues? No biggie. Our house is full of love, music, and laughter. That’s what they will remember…and that’s what motherhood means to me.

March for Babies, last weekend
*I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Johnson’s and received Johnson’s Baby products and a promotional item and to facilitate my review.

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