Tuesday, May 29, 2012

To procreate or not to procreate?

So, the big day has passed, and with the passing of the wedding comes the big question. Some people are brave enough to ask it to our face while most others just talk amongst themselves—when are we going to have a baby together?

So, it is time to address two topics that I have never written about. One is the reason I’m not having children. And two is the reason that Robby is not having children.

I had my tubes tied almost a year after Jude was born, so I cannot have any more children. I don’t want another baby. But yet, I didn’t want another baby after I had Veronica. I’m grateful for Jude. If it wasn’t for him, I would think I was the worst Mom ever. Veronica has never been satisfied and I would have spent my life trying to make the little princess happy. She’s a sweet girl and amazing girl, but she always wants more and sometimes I have nothing left to give.

Jude, on the other hand, is always happy. I used to feel like the most useless mom ever when he was a toddler because he would just play with his toys and smile and I would just sit and watch him and feel like I should be doing something to entertain him. He never cried. I wanted him to need me like Veronica did, but he didn’t. He was just happy to be in the same room as me. He is the dream child every mom hopes for—I hope it lasts forever.

But my body was not made for making babies. When I was about 6 months pregnant with Veronica, I found out I had a septate uterus. So she only had half of a womb to grow in. She got squished and it deformed her little limbs and gave her Arthrogryposis. I felt guilty for years. I am the reason she is disabled--that’s a heavy cross to carry.

Veronica kissing baby Jude
That guilt made me not want to have any more children. But my ex-husband wanted “loads” of children, so I backed down and told him I would think about having more.

I had surgery to repair my uterus and make it whole. I got pregnant soon after and 8 and half months later Jude was born. It was the delivery from hell and he almost died. The reason he almost died?—my uterus was deformed and it almost killed him.

I asked my ex-husband to let me have my tubes tied while I was having my C-section with Jude. But he said I was just hormonal from the pregnancy and he denied the surgery. For those of you who don’t know, a doctor in Georgia will not perform a tubal ligation without the consent of the husband.

I tried to make the case that the next baby could die or be deformed and that my body couldn’t take another pregnancy. But no one listens to a hormonal woman.

After I had Jude, I never felt well. I got sick with a lot with infections and weird female stuff. After several years of suffering, my doctor told me I needed to have surgery to repair my uterus for reasons I won’t burden you with, and that I needed to be smart and not risk another pregnancy.

My ex-husband was in Iraq at the time and I had to talk to him about it over the phone. He relented and granted the doctor permission to perform the surgery. I have never felt better and he never forgave me.

Ugh...pregnant in the Georgia heat is not something anyone should repeat
But Robby’s reasons for not wanting a baby are different. Some of you do not know that Robby has end stage kidney failure and he is on dialysis. It’s not a big secret, but it’s hard to know how to work that bit of information into a conversation or a blog.

We joke about how you tell people you have kidney failure. They say, “Hey, those tomatoes are ripe.” And you say, “Yes, they are. My kidneys don’t work anymore.” And we laugh, but it’s not a heartfelt laugh.

Robby has always said that he never wants to pass his congenital kidney problems onto a child. He made the resolution to never have children years before he met me.

I think that is one of the reasons we were brought together. He was meant to be a father and it would be a damn shame for him to not raise children. I bring children to the table and they need a present father. Poof!—instant family.

So, that means “no” we are not having a baby together. It is a shame to not mix our DNA, but that is the way it is. Sure, I would love to have a baby with Robby and he would love it, too. But let’s be honest. We both have too many problems that could endanger our child’s DNA or growth in the womb. Plus, we are too old! We love getting a good night’s sleep. I still thank God every morning when I get a full night’s sleep. It’s not a topic we worry about. We are happy with the way things are now.

And plus we already have two amazing children. We get to raise a daughter and we get to raise a son. They are healthy and super smart. Why would we ever risk fate and ask for more?

Monday, May 21, 2012

I need to open my mind

I did something yesterday that I never thought I would be able to do—I sent Veronica on a trip and I didn’t volunteer to tag along. If you have a disabled child, then you understand what an incredible milestone this is in my life as a mother.

Before Veronica was born, I was told that she wouldn’t live. After she was born, I was told she would never walk. After she walked, I quit thinking that doctors knew everything.

Back in January, Veronica’s Girl Scout leaders talked about taking the girls on a trip for two nights. I was hesitant. I didn’t want other people dressing my child—I didn’t want her to be a burden on someone else.

I told Veronica that she couldn’t go out of town with her troop unless she learned to dress herself and put on her leg braces and shoes on her own. At the time, it seemed almost impossible. But I had seen children who were a lot more disabled than Veronica who could dress themselves so I knew there had to be a way that she could figure it out.

After months of screaming and crying (from both of us) and trying different dressing tools, Veronica finally figured out how to dress herself completely. For those of you with “normal” children you will never fully understand this. For the first time in 11 years, I am not responsible for putting on Veronica’s shoes. This frees up about 10 minutes per day for me…that’s over an hour per week—or about 60 hours per year.

I used to have to put on her socks and then spend several minutes adjusting them so that they felt “right.” Then I had to put on her braces and adjust the straps until they felt “comfortable.” Then I had to squeeze her tennis shoes over the leg braces and tie them. Sometime the tennis shoes would trigger a pain in her toes and I would be forced to pull everything off and start over again until she felt "okay."

There were times when she would get so frustrated with her feet hurting that she would kick her legs in anger—those feet would hit me. Sometimes I got kicked in the face. Other times I would dodge the kicks and grab her legs and tell her to calm down. It was always a fight. It was never a sweet mother/daughter experience. It set the tone for our morning and I couldn't wait for the bus to pull up outside and take her to school. 

For those of you who don’t have a disabled child, this sounds like madness. It sounds like I am raising a pampered princess. It sounds like she demanded that I do what she told me to do.

Well, you’re right. As a parent of a disabled child, I do the typical thing and make excuses for my child. The excuses are true, but they don’t warrant being kicked in the face on a daily basis. It’s hard to stand your ground and force your disabled child to endure pain in order to become a more self-sufficient young adult. It seems logical, but the steps to get there are not.

It was so easy when Veronica was a baby and I could just stay at home with her all day and give her all of my attention. She was happy being a baby that just needed to eat, sleep, and play.

But now she’s a young lady who’s blossoming into a pre-teen. She’s worried about someone seeing the patch of hair she missed shaving on her legs so it should be obvious that she doesn’t want anyone to see her leg braces.

When we picked out her dress for the wedding she said, “Can you get me a long dress? I don’t want anyone to see my legs.” It broke my heart, but I knew this day would come. And I can’t blame her for the way she feels. I used to want to skip school to hide a zit. I can’t even imagine dealing with leg braces.

Veronica is such a beautiful young lady. I realized this past week that boys her age look past her disability and see her beauty. She has a crush on a boy in her class—he’s one of the popular boys of course. My first thought was, “he’s not gonna want anyone to know he likes her because she is disabled.”

I was wrong. I went to a party for her class and I saw this boy. I saw the way he looked at her. I knew he was smitten. He went out of his way to make Veronica laugh and notice him. I realized that I was the one with the problem.

Maybe things have changed since I was a kid.  Maybe people are more accepting? I hope so.

I guess I have spent the past few years bracing myself for the let downs. I kept waiting for people to treat Veronica badly. I kept waiting for her to come home crying because someone made fun of her at school. None of those things have happened. I don’t know why.

All I know is that is that I seem to be the only person who is bothered by Veronica’s disability. I keep thinking that I am just being realistic, but now I am beginning to wonder. Perhaps I’m the one holding her back. Perhaps I’m the one who needs to just accept it and move on.

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's good to finally be me

Robby and I decided to write our own vows for the wedding—which is quickly approaching. I finally sat down and wrote mine today.

I started writing the vows a few weeks ago, and I was surprised that I had such a hard time writing them. I mean, I’m a writer. I thought I would just sit down and the words would just pour out of me. But everything I wrote sounded forced or cliché. I felt like I was writing a greeting card, not my vows. I have to make a confession--I Googled "wedding vow samples" for inspiration one night, but I was too ashamed to read the results.

But today the words just seemed to slide right off of my pen and onto the paper. I didn’t need to re-write or scratch out words—everything that I wanted to say just came out.

One of the best things about being in a healthy relationship is the fact that you get to be yourself. I have found that the more I act like myself, then the more Robby seems to love me. Perhaps it is because the more I act like myself, the more I seem to love myself.

I always thought that loving someone else and sharing my life with him would be the hard part. But I’ve realized that loving myself is the hard part. I don’t want to change Robby—I love him just the way he is. But I find myself trying to change little parts of me in an effort to make me seem more lovable. You know, like trying to pretend I’m always happy or that I don’t make mistakes or that my house is always clean.

I also used to think that the secret to a good marriage was changing myself in order to get along with my spouse better—you know that old saying, “you have to give a little to get a little.”  Well, that’s a bunch of crap, because I gave a lot and I got very little in return.

It’s not about compromise—it’s about love. And if you don’t love yourself and accept yourself for you who are, then you have nothing left of value to compromise because you have already compromised on everything that should be important to you—you have compromised your happiness and your personality.  You bring nothing to the table.

Well, this time around, I realize I bring a lot to the table. I am happy with myself. I love myself for who I am. I don’t need to worry about how I phrase my marriage vows—I just need to be true to myself, because Robby is in love with me—the real me. Not the fake me that used to pretend to be happy and pretend to be this perfect wife who kept a perfect home and had perfect children. He’s in love with the person who says what she believes and who loves him just as much as he loves her. He’s in love with the real me and he’s okay with that. He loves me despite my many flaws, and I am more than okay with that.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It's about time Mr. President

Something really extraordinary happened today. PresidentObama announced his support for gay marriage in our country. I knew he would eventually do this, but I just figured he would play it safe and wait until he was re-elected.

I’ve written about my politics before, but I will restate it again. I am registered Independent and I have registered as Independent since I first registered to vote. I despise the bi-partisan system we have set up in this country and I really thought we would have a strong 3rd party system by now. I thought people would get fed up with Democrats and Republicans fighting instead of fixing. But I was wrong.

I thought McCain would form a strong Independent party capable of raising large sums of money after he lost to Bush, but I was wrong. He stayed Republican and he lost.

I thought this whole Tea Party thing would shake things up. But they just got off track and supported the wrong people.

Then there was this whole Occupy Wall Street movement…no offense but it kind of petered out and lost steam. I thought we were angry about this economy? I guess we’re not that angry after all.

So, when I began looking at the 2012 election, I decided to set my sights on the one thing that I wanted to see accomplished in the next 4 years. That one thing has been to see gay marriage legalized. Since Republicans will never go for it, then I had to turn my attention to Obama.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t vote for him last time. I wasn’t sure I trusted him. I was worried about the economy and I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to do enough to keep us from crumbling.

I really hadn’t made up my mind until I went into the voting booth. I had like McCain ever since I read a book in college written by a man who was a POW in Vietnam for 7 years. His story was incredible. He wrote about McCain and what he did for the men in the camp.

McCain was the son of a high-ranking admiral. The Viet Cong wanted to trade McCain for some of their guys, but McCain refused the trade. He went out of his way to make the Viet Cong torture him because he knew they couldn’t kill him—he was too important. I was stunned by that story.

Unfortunately he later came home and left his wife who had stayed behind and supported him and his children. She was disfigured from an auto accident she suffered while he was imprisoned. He left her for a much younger woman and never really paid much attention to his children.

This dichotomy of personalities really bothered me when I thought about voting for him. He was a hero who turned out to do one of the worst things a man can do—leave his wife and children. But ultimately, I felt that the economy would be in better hands with him, so he got my vote. But in the end, I was very okay with Obama winning. I got chills on election night when he walked on stage and gave his speech—I was glad my children were able to remember the election of the first black president. It was an exciting time to be an American.

For the past 4 years, I’ve just been sitting back watching Obama. I don’t feel like he’s done anything amazing but I know he hasn’t done anything disastrous. Our country has evolved pretty much the way I thought it would.

But I decided about a year ago, that I would definitely vote for Obama this time around. I feel like these next 4 years are going to be game changers for this country. I know he is the only person who will help this country move toward legal gay marriage and I also think he was some big plans in his back pocket that he has been holding onto since he got elected. I’m excited to see what he does for this country.

I have raised my children to be open-minded and not judgmental.  They know several gay couples and they love them dearly. They don’t think that there is something wrong with these people—they see them for who they are. They are people in love just like everyone else. They are no less than anyone else and they should have the same rights.
Veronica came home from school several months ago and told me about a lesson they had at school during black history month where they learned about how it used to be illegal for blacks to marry whites. She couldn’t believe that was true. “Why did that happen, Mommy?” she asked. “Sophia’s mom is white and her dad is black and they love each other. How is that wrong?”

I told her that it wasn’t wrong—it was just people who didn’t know any better.”

She said, “Kind of like how some people say it’s wrong to be gay and it’s not legal to get married if you’re gay?”

“Yep,” I said. “It’s exactly like that. Hopefully one day someone will change that.”

She looked at me and said, “I think Barack Obama will change that. He should know what it feels like to be discriminated against. And did you know that his mom was white and his dad was black?”

I just smiled and say, “Yes, I did know that.”

“I wish they would change the laws so that Aunt Mary could move to Georgia and be closer to us, but she can’t after she gets married,” she said. “I just don’t understand why people have to hate. What if they said that people who wear leg braces couldn’t’ get married then I would never get to marry someone and have children.”

And I thought to myself, “There probably are people who feel like you shouldn’t get married and have kids because you are disabled.”

But I told her, “Veronica, all we can do is wait for people to come around and change their minds. I think it will happen one day. I hope it happens soon. We are too smart to not realize how much this division hurts our country.”

You don’t have to agree with me. I understand. Beliefs and faith are hard to change. You can’t just believe that being gay is sinful your whole life and turn it off like a switch—I get that. I used to believe a lot of stuff about life until I hit rock bottom and realized that I was a judgmental fool who was no better than anybody else.

So, for those of you who are against our president right now for what he said today, I have a prayer for you. I pray that something happens to you to make you change your mind about gay marriage. I hope you see a marriage like my last one and realize that heterosexuals are already doing a great job at giving marriage a bad name. I hope you meet a child somewhere that you are awed by and find out he was raised by gay parents. I hope your child has the most amazing year at school and you find out her teacher is gay and you feel bad knowing he can never adopt children because your state won’t allow it.  I pray you quit being so judgmental and take time to answer the question, “what is it about gay marriage that really bothers you?” And if you claim your religion, then I pray for you to find a different one.