Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mrs. Spit interviews Moi!

Interview questions courtesy of Mrs. Spit. Answers courtesy of myself (well, what did you expect? It is my blog after all!)

1. What would be your perfect day.

Any day where I feel well rested and have full mental acuity! Seriously though - it is hard to say which would be "more" perfect for me - being at home, and by that I mean home where I grew up with family; or a day spent at the beach in Maine with family, which is where many of my happiest childhood memories center around.

2. You are the mother of children in heaven and children on earth. What, if anything, do you tell your children on earth about the ones in heaven? Are they part of not just your memory, but your family's memory as well.

Initially it was pretty basic, we told our oldest nothing. I figured he was too little to really understand what was going on, and since I hadn't even told him I had been pregnant, how or why would I tell him I was now un-pregnant? While I was correct in assuming it wouldn't be something he would understand to grieve at the time - he was grieving in his own way - grieving a loss of his own, albeit a different one from that of mine. He noticed his parents grieving and this became quite unsettling to him. My son was just a year old when I had my first miscarriage and still not quite 2 by the time I had the third. He is a very sensitive soul though and my grief, tears, anger, frustration were not unnoticed by him. This led us to realize that we needed to address the losses in some way for him/any future living children. My son and daughter were going on 4 and 2 respectively when I had my next set of miscarriages. This is when we opened that dialog. Mostly we kept it simple. From our experience before, we knew they would notice our grief and wanted to make sure they understood that our grief had nothing to do with them, they didn't make us sad and that they were safe and loved and still wanted by us. We told them that I had a baby that had started growing in my tummy, just like they had: but unlike them, that baby couldn't grow big enough to live outside my body and the baby died. We have always been very careful of the words we chose , because we didn't want to say the baby was sleeping or lost, as kids tend to think rather literally. We also had to tell them that I had to go to the doctor (for my d&c's) and that I would be sore afterward and we would need to be gentle while I healed physically.

About this time I put together a charm necklace with charms for each of my babies - born and lost and they have always known which charms were theirs and that the other charms belonged to the babies I had lost. Beyond that, specifics were pretty sparse. I also hadn't named any of those babies yet. Things changed after the 5th loss however, when the children were 5 and 3. I had lost my 5th baby the summer before and had just been referred to a specialist in St. Louis. In preparation for that appointment, I had my medical records which I was going to hand deliver. I was going through them and came across the pathology report for the 5th baby and discovered the baby had been a girl. This was not information our doctor at the time had shared with us. Following this revelation, I felt my grief returning anew. Now I wasn't just mourning a lost baby, I was mourning a girl, my daughter. My oldest son came across me a few days later fingering my charm necklace, and without knowing what I knew or even knowing which one of the 5 lost baby charms belonged to which lost baby, pointed to the specific charm for my last little one and said, "I know that baby, she's a girl - her name is Carena. I played with her before I was born." Then he turned and left, leaving me completely dumbfounded. We knew no one with the name Carena. Not of his little friends at school or church, no relatives, no cartoon characters - no one - with that name. This wasn't even a name we had ever entertained as a potential moniker for any of our children. Where he came up with this name, I could never figure out in any easily explainable manner - nor could I explain how out of the 5, he knew exactly which one was hers. This moment though, became the catalyst for a different level of mourning and healing. The kids - at least the older two do, know that the babies I lost have names now - but we talk about them infrequently . For awhile, my oldest daughter use to tell everyone she saw that she was "the 5th child and we had a bunch of babies that didn't grow and got dieded(sic)" These experiences showed us that they not only remembered, but also thought about them. I didn't realize how much until I became pregnant after the 5th miscarriage. I was horribly sick and ended up being hospitalized at one point. We told the kids that I was pregnant and that was why I was so sick and also why I needed to rest a great deal because things were pretty rocky. After finding out that I was pregnant, our son who was almost 6, started asking me every morning if the baby had grown during the night. He kept bringing me food all the time too - even though I never asked him to or expressed any hunger. I soon realized it was because he was concerned for the welfare of the baby and had remembered what we had told him about the babies we lost not being able to grow big enough to live outside my body. He was going to feed that baby as best as he could figure how to make sure it grew.

The younger children really don't know much about my miscarriages. My last one was the year before our youngest daughter was born. The two pregnancies following her birth resulted in live births - so the topic didn't come up. They are also still fairly young. They all do know however, that I have special Christmas ornaments that I hang on the tree every year and that those ornaments are for our babies who are not here with us. I really haven't worn my charm necklace in years. With all the charms on it, the thing was getting really heavy to wear. For a Show and Tell a while back, I showed the mother's bracelet I made as a replacement, and those little babies are a part of that as are my living children.

So, a long way of saying that our living children do know they were not my only babies - but also that the information that we did give was fairly simplistic and pertinent. We never made a big dramatic ordeal of the losses for them, but didn't keep them a secret either. We just made sure they knew enough not to be afraid when they saw our tears, that it was okay to be sad, or angry and to ask questions. With my losses all being so early, this just seemed the best way to handle something that would be rather oblique for them.

3. Tell us about the craziest thing you've ever done.

Well, I told you last week I flashed the high school varsity football team! Though, that really wasn't intentional. An intentionally crazy thing then? This may fall more under the heading of "dumb stuff I did because of a guy". I saved all my waitress tip money the summer after I graduated so I could take a trip to Utah to see the guy I took to my senior prom. He was a senior Air Force Academy cadet and I fancied myself madly in love with him. My big beastie of a car was not working and so I talked a friend of mine into letting me drive his car to Utah. All so I could go see this guy. By the end of the trip I had been through two cars (one broke down and the other I managed to wreck), my self-esteemed completely decimated when it became clear the object of my affection did not feel the same way and then had to find a way home back to Colorado - since I now had no vehicle and limited money. I wrote said former object of my affection a long-winded, rambly letter including lyrics to a show tune (something like 3 pages worth!) before I left and then found another potential boyfriend on the way home. Call it the Scarlett O'Hara effect - but I landed on my feet. Though I did spend 4 months writing weepy, depressing, overly dramatic entries into my journal. Maybe not so crazy - but I look back at that trip and can't believe I took on such an adventure at that age and didn't think it was totally nuts to do it. At the time - it really was the biggest thing I planned to undertake.

4. All members of religious groups get judged by the crazies (because we all *must* believe the same things as the crazies). The LDS are judged by the FLDS. How does that make you feel?

Oh it makes me absolutely crazy! I really don't understand people who are not LDS telling me - who is and have been all my life - what I believe. Does this make any sense? I know what I believe. I know what I practice. Do they think I am going to say "I didn't know that!"? I also think I would notice if we had any extra wives living around our house. They tell us we're not Christian - and this is despite the fact each one of our church buildings prominantly says "The Church of Jesus Christ". Absence of a cross does not mean absence of belief. There are the stereotypes - I have a large family because I am Mormon. Yet, I know more families - some I am related to, that have half and even a third of the children I do and they consider themselves contentedly "done". Family planning is a big deal in the church. Most of us follow the counsel given us by our leaders - have the children you can care for physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually. The amount that turns out to be varies from person to person. Truly aggravating is seeing these misperceptions and stereotypes in the media. The most hurtful is when people who know me beyond a first impression, find out my religion, and all those stereotypes and media errors instantly color their perception of me and who I am as a person. All of sudden I am a completely different person to them, and I haven't changed at all! Ask me, ask me! Ask me before you believe everything you see on tv or read in the paper or heard from a friend of a friend who was related to a guy who knew somebody who lived next to someone they thought was a Mormon in Utah! In Jr. High I lost a friend who decided she couldn't like me anymore when she found out I was LDS. That was her only reason why she couldn't like me.

5. What do you think a mother's most important job is?

I have actually been discussing this quite a bit the last couple weeks with people following the recent birth of the octuplets in California. The most important job is to love my children. Unconditionally love them. To truly love them means their needs are more important than mine. That this love is not just lip service. That I teach them the things they need to know - whether it be manners or how to care for themselves. To equip them with the knowledge they need in order to live independently in the world, be a good person, a likeable person and how to love others and love themselves. With loving them this way also comes making sure they also know and feel that love from me. An all encompassing love - that utilizes not only my heart, but my hands and my brain as well.


Kristin said...

Great interview Julia.

Can I ask a question about how you named your lost babies? Did you know the sex of all of them or did you just pick names you felt were appropriate? I was just wondering because I only know the sex of one of my lost babies and, as a result, she is the only one I named.

JamieD said...

Excellent questions and excellent answers!

Thanks for giving us all a little glimpse into your life.

Kelly said...

A wonderful interview. Young girls in love will do crazy things for sure. Glad you found your prince charming a little later than in HS.