The First Year Meant…


Learning to surrender your vulnerable first born to strangers when you couldn’t be at home with one and at the hospital with the other two at the same time.

Learning to feed 3 babies at once.

Following an ambulance back to the hospital and praying that the lights won’t go on.

Getting less sleep than a Navy Seal during Hell Week (granted, however, I didn’t have to carry “Ole Misery”).

Living with strangers.

Knowing how to do CPR on a baby for real.

Driving 45+ minutes each way back and forth to the hospital every day.

Living with the sounds of alarms meant to warn you that your child had stopped breathing randomly going off.

Measuring out and monitoring careful daily doses of medicine for 2 out of three children.

A complete and total loss of privacy because I kept the bassinets in my bedroom.

Living off of take out Chinese, Teddy Bear grahams and pink vanilla frosting.

Learning that Girlfriends are the best things God created.

Calling 911.  More than once.

Driving through a 5am downpour on the phone with the hospital desperately trying to locate them while the monitor on your child keeps going off to tell you her heart rate has plummeted again.

Totally hyperventilating the one time you go out to lunch with a friend and realize you’ve left your phone at home.

Loving firemen, nurses and EMT’s.

Learning the true meaning of desperation every weekend when you know you will be alone till Monday morning.

Saying hello to high blood pressure.

Learning the nightmare of 5pm colic.

Making midnight phone calls hoping to hear that they have gained grams rather than lost them.

Sometimes already feeding two babies and just having to listen to the one who just woke up cry until you are done.

Being mobbed at malls and answering questions about them, like “Are they natural?”

Never going anywhere without two fully loaded diaper bags and two strollers.

Memorizing medical records until Doctors ask if you’re one of them.

Never, ever really sleeping no matter who offers you time to rest because you’re a first time mother, and they don’t do that.

Becoming a better person the moment they were born.




Circumcision Decision…The Debate Lives On


I was reading Lisa Belkin’s NY Times blog, the Motherlode, which recently covered the ongoing circumcision debate in this country.   Not surprisingly, there are some strong feelings on this subject on both sides of the issue, and I guess I can understand, although I must admit, I draw the line in equating what we do in this country to newborn boys and what happens in other countries to young women and it’s reasons. They are not equivalent in anyway. But that is a different, and more horrifying post. I just had to say that, because certain groups have tried to group the two things together to lend weight to their argument against.

The circumcision decision came for me over 10 years ago. And it was influenced by everything but personal preference. In our household, we have 4 boys and, well, we swing both ways (couldn’t resist the pun. It won’t be the last either, so consider yourself warned). Like so many of our destinations, the journey we mapped was anything but straightforward.

Can I start by saying that I had always just assumed that, if I had boys, they would be cut.  That was the cultural norm to me. I remembered my brother was and I was of a generation where all my personal experience took place in a heavily circumcised society.  Well, I did indeed become a first-time mother to sons. They are sons who are, how to say it…Uncut. Intact. In their natural state. In their original packaging.

This is not due to any driving need to make a political statement. It was largely a matter of circumstance and until recently, still a bit foreign to me. It has certainly led to a couple of interesting moments for us as we’ve negotiated basic bodily care, and I fully expect that there will be one or two more delicate moments before the privacy door closes on me permanently, as I expect it to during their teenage years. Physically, being the mother of sons who seek an owner’s manual to their body has been a bit of a journey into uncharted territory for me. But I bravely shouldered my Mom backpack and walked into the land of male parts.

So if it wasn’t my intention, then just how did it happen, you ask?  Preemies, that’s how.  Triplets and a high-risk pregnancy that led to my boys and their sister being born at just after 29 weeks and less than 3 pounds each.  Due to their medical issues, the very first of them came home after 6 harrowing weeks in the NICU (my other son was not stable until several weeks after that). The choice to circumcise them was not even raised until then, and in the end, my answer was no.

The reasons for my refusal are visible ones. If you ever look closely at the arms and legs of my oldest children, they still bare the faint scars of countless I.V.’s , cut-downs and several other invasive procedures that were required at a time when their lives were on the line and their successes were measured in mere grams of weight gain. When the moment came that they were medically stable enough to be circumcised, I simply couldn’t bring myself to put them through one more single, unnecessary procedure. They had already struggled through so much discomfort and risk that I said no and took my intact little males home with me.  And I rested with the decision in an uncomfortable way; even knowing I wouldn’t have done it any differently for the next few years, until gradually it became normal to me. Meaning, I looked at my sons’ physical state long enough that my own cultural norm started to change.

And then, 3 years later, I had another son. Born to a different father. A father and a whole other family to whom circumcision was the cultural norm.  And when this son was born. I said no again, and I said no in the face of, dare I say, stiff opposition (you were warned). I said no against my own personal preference. I said no because of an already existing hypersensitivity to the fact that my sons would not completely share the same DNA and in the face of that, I wanted them to share as much as possible otherwise, most especially in this most personal of appearances. I said no.

As time has rolled on, there is no doubt that several family members would rather they looked different than they do, but I believe these concerns are likely more about the fear that they would stand out somehow, be too different than their peers in the locker room perhaps. I too have worried about the reception their respective male parts would receive from future peers and girlfriends. But I’m happy to note the statistics seem to indicate that they won’t be greeted into future beds and gyms like John Merrick or Quasimodo. According to sources quoted in Belkin’s article the procedure is “on the decline in the United States (down to 56 percent, from 80 percent in the 1960s), Jewish families excepted. And I pacify myself too with the knowledge that if any of them that are so traumatized by the state of their Johnson, they can sign up for plastic surgery of the Wang.

I suppose that is the source of this discomfort.  We really fear that one day, they will look down at this universal source of male pride and feel inadequate.  But I’ve been given reason to believe that they see something entirely natural when they look down there.  You see we had one more son after this. He, unlike his brothers, is cut. His birth mother made the circumcision decision soon after he was born decidedly in favor of.  I wondered, when he joined our family if this would mark him as too different. But by then I was piecing together a family from so many different sources that all pretense of sameness had to be abandoned.  That worry soon passed anyway when I saw how loved and accepted he was by his siblings. They would be brothers irrespective of physical differences.

An incident during a diaper change was what made me relax completely about it.  One of my older sons noticed finally that he was different. It took awhile, 9 year old boys not traditionally being interested in diaper changes, but when I say noticed, I mean he pointed at the baby’s little circumcised specialness and said with great giggles and hilarity, “He’s naked! There’s nothing on his. He has no foreskin” I smiled too, amazed at this inside view of the male mind, however young, and how he viewed the issue. “Is that how you think of yours,” I asked,  “as clothes for the penis. Like a little jacket?”  Giggling with boyish delight at getting any chance to hear the word “penis,” he said, “Well, yeah.”  So obvious I guess when that’s what you’ve always known. Boys live in a very different world. It’s been interesting to walk through some of it with them.



Accidental Family


What, I wonder, is this life like for people who set about to do this intentionally?  You know, the kind of people who have a couple of children and then another, and another, and maybe another. The kind of people who know what is causing the children to arrive and allow it to go on with a sort of measured consideration.  The kind who never spent any time wondering, in a kind of panic, “How did we end up with all these kids?!!”

There was a pretty big part of my life where I wanted nothing more than to have a large family.  That’s what happens when you combine infertility with latent Mormonism and having your own family destructively detonated out from under you over a prolonged period of time.

And then, well, it just didn’t happen and I moved on past it and tried to make my life about something else. And then, around the age of 33 or so I decided to play the odds, hoping against hope that I’d get at least one.

I got three…and then I had an even bigger family.  And I had it in a series of explosions that have left me gasping for breath and employing the kind of shallow breathing that only anxiety can bring.

But I wonder, what is this experience like for the people who intend all along to have large families? Are they more relaxed?  Do they live this experience with more intention and less playing frantic catch up every minute of the day?

Are they living the Martha Stewart moments where they create those really special and extraordinary memories, and have it all organized and documented and live with intention? I wonder. I really do. Because that’s how I imagine my cousins have done it.  I imagine them to be less harried. More in control. More on the ball.

I am still trying to make sense of it all, but I guess the fundamental question is this: Are they enjoying it more because they always planned on it and thus were taken less by surprise?  I want to enjoy this more. I love my kids but I am so busy managing our lives that I miss being present in our lives.  I want to live for the moments of our time together, not just facilitate them.

And I wonder if those families loose their shoes as often as we do.

I wonder…