Monday, December 7, 2009
I started many of the essays in this thesis before I became a mother, something so unexpected, so utterly catastrophic, that it made everything before seem so small, so insignificant, so self-centered. I suppose that’s what parenthood does to most people. The problem is that my concerns have changed, and as such, so has my writing.
I kept thinking that I could retrace my steps through my work in order to make it make sense in the light of my current life. In some cases I think I’ve done that. In others, I’m not sure.
Because my life is messy and because my conception of myself is also messy, it stands to reason that a memoir of my life is going to be messy. In this collection, I’m wrestling with who I am and how I got here. There are some answers, and there are new questions. In the end, I hope, it’s a good story.
***This has since been totally revised!
by Sharon Olds
Brushing out our daughter’s brown
silken hair before the mirror
I see the grey gleaming on my head,
the silver-haired servant behind her. Why is it
just as we begin to go
they begin to arrive, the fold in my neck
clarifying as the fine bones of her
hips sharpen? As my skin shows
its dry pitting, she opens like a moist
precise flower on the tip of a cactus;
as my last chances to bear a child
are falling through my body, the duds among them,
her full purse of eggs, round and
firm as hard-boiled yolks, is about
to snap its clasp. I brush her tangled
fragrant hair at bedtime. It’s an old
story—the oldest we have on our planet—
the story of replacement.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
"I was picking up leaves and messing around in the front yard and then, all of a sudden, I turn around, and she's climbed up in the tree! Here, look! Doesn't she look cute? See how proud she is?! She said, 'Hey, Daddy, look me!' and she was in the tree. I'm so proud; aren't you proud?"
Yeah. I'm proud.
See, I'm used to missing things these days. K and VeeGee play games and do art and inspect backflow prevention devices together two or three days a week. And VeeGee and Me? Well, sometimes she sits close to me while I work, with the background sounds of SpongeBob and Diego.
I'm almost finished with this danged thesis, and so, I tell myself, I'll soon have time to roll around on the floor with my little girl, to go to the park in the middle of the afternoon and learn how to hook rugs or something. But, I wonder, will I spend all this presumed "extra" time that way? I really don't know.
I watch K and VeeGee interact and I often wonder if he's got some kind of inside-track to/for her entertainment that I just don't have, or, maybe (and this is the kicker) want. I'm really good at making decisions about her medical care (and that's been a full-time job much of my mother-career), and I'm great at dressing her really cute on a very reasonable budget. I manage her poop cycle with relative success, and I make sure that her teacher never mentions anything that might suggest that VeeGee came "out of my tummy." I research every single hiccup and understand the rare permutations of every potential and real anomaly of her body.
I'm not whining. I'm just wondering. So many of my fellow mom-friends seem to be filled with such delight in their children. And, I do feel delight; I really do. It's just not what I thought it would be, I suppose.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Writers on the Road Series
Sponsored by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Graduate Writers
Forum and University of Memphis’ Creative Writing Club
Burke’s Bookstore, 936 S. Cooper St. (map)
Friday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m.
Mark Jay Brewin Jr. is a second year graduate candidate at the MFA
program of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. His poems
have been published in numerous journals including Corradi Summer
Journal and New Delta Review, and are forthcoming in Packingtown
Review, Iron Horse Literary Review and Southern Poetry Review.
They have also placed as finalist in the Guy Owen Poetry Prize and
the New Letters Literary Award Contest, as well as been featured on
Saxifrage Press’s website highlighting up and coming poets."
A.K. Thompson is a fiction writer who lives in a cabin on a pond in Makanda,
Illinois where vultures descend each fall. She holds a Master's Degree from the
now-defunct New College of California in San Francisco, where she nearly went
crazy, but arguably might have actually gone crazy, which may be why she is
now a writer. She has two smelly dogs, spends most of her time in the woods
stalking squirrels, sings hillbilly songs while picking her guitar and watches Hee-
James Scoles’ most recent story— The Electricity of Crime—is featured in
the current issue of Prairie Fire Magazine (Canada). He recently returned from a writing fellowship at the National University of Ireland-Galway, where he worked on a novel based on his family history and a game of cards. His fiction and non-fiction have been nominated for National and Western Magazine Awards, as well as The Journey Prize (Canada), and twice for the Pushcart Prize.
Katie Zapoluch was born and raised in Pinconning, Michigan--not far from Madonna's birthplace. Unlike Madonna, Katie is quite fond of her hometown, and hopes to move back to Michigan once she's out of school. Katie studied English, Classical Studies, and American Studies at Kalamazoo College, and earned an MA in English Language and Literature at Central Michigan University. Her work has appeared in Kalamazoo College's literary magazine, The Cauldron, for which she served as poetry editor, as well as Central Michigan University's graduate literary
magazine, Temenos. She also won a sestina contest in Trellis magazine.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Also, I'll be hosting him that afternoon at The University of Memphis for an interview and workshop as part of my Literary Heritage Class - Heroes and Monsters. C'mon out!
Monday, September 14, 2009
1. VeeGee started school in August. Her pre-k teacher is awesome (and strict!). I can't believe she's there every day. Crrrazy.
2. I've, as of today, lost 40 pounds (since April). And yet, I don't look very different when I look in the mirror.
3. I went to my second bachelorette party with the same group of girls at the first, about ten years ago. It was fun, but the strippers were icky. I heard tell they put on "crotch cologne."
4. VeeGee has spent the night out twice, once at the great grandparents, and once at the grandparents. She didn't miss us at all.
5. She is still not eating, but she's talking up a storm.
6. We're going through, perhaps, the very worst financial crisis of our marriage. And yet, we're relatively happy. I don't know whether it's denial or just a deep-seated reliance on each other. Probably both.
7. I am feeling really really sad and worried and afraid that I'll never land a job.
8. I'm afraid that our financial situation is going to force us to stay here when we should be moving on.
9. I am both sad and happy to hear that VeeGee is most likely not going to be allowed to stay in the special needs program.
and, 10. I've seen a hummingbird almost every day that I've sat at my desk writing. They're extraordinary. In the future, I will call this the Summer of Hummingbirds.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
It was AWKWARD. They had never called us at all to see if it would be a good time or anything. I just sent them an invite to the party and left it at that. I needed it to be MY initiation (insofar as I could in this situation). I received one e-mail since then from bmom asking what size VeeGee is now because she wanted to bring her a gift (she acknowledged that I had said "no gifts" but said her friends wanted to send something - they didn't). Other than that, nothing.
So at the party, which was uproarious!, bmom and grandaddy followed VeeGee around like a pair of shadows, for about three hours. And when they weren't following her, they were in her room touching and photographing every single inch of her things (ick!). VeeGee wouldn't speak to them, or really even acknowledge them. BUT that's not strange for her. She's just really not much on people trying to touch her (won't hug my mother, for instance, whom she sees on a very regular basis, I think because my mother wants so badly for her to hug, certainly not because she doesn't like her). They stayed until the bitter end of the party (well, as long as they could since they were riding with K's grandparents).
Sunday was VeeGee's actual birthday. K had told his grandparents (baby brokers that they are) that we were just going to spend the day the three of us, and that we wouldn't be doing any entertaining or visiting. Of course, before they left the party, they asked about what we were doing on Sunday - again. K told them the same thing. So they said, how about Monday. In fact, K's grandfather suggested that I just bring VeeGee out to their house (30 minutes away from our house) and drop her off for the day (something I do occasionally when I'm working on a deadline). Um. Hell. No. Not gonna happen - ever.
Okay, so fast forward to yesterday evening. I reminded K that we needed to call them all to let them sing to VeeGee and to firm up whatever plans there were going to be for today. Come to find out that a dinner party at their house had been planned for five o'clock this afternoon (with no consultation from us). Well, first off, K doesn't get home these days until, sometimes, seven or so. And, second, VeeGee goes to bed at around seven (or as soon as daddy gets a bit of visiting time). So, obviously we couldn't do that. Their idea was, then, for ME to come out with VeeGee by myself. Nope.
We told them (had decided beforehand, actually) that they could come for dinner this evening to visit for a little while. At this point K was pretty angry about the way they were all trying to manipulate us, and he said that they could come from six to seven. Period. After he got off of the phone I told him I thought that was a bit harsh, but he's adamant. So there ya go.
Today he called his uncle to make sure that they knew that they were invited as well and was told that everyone is talking about how little VeeGee seemed to be interested in bmom and grandaddy. As if that's our fault. As if we're doing that.
So they're coming to hulk over VeeGee this evening while she tries to evade them. I feel really bad for her, but I also don't want to say that they can't try to talk to her or whatever. With fewer people around it might be better.
I'm just feeling so out of control, so head-in-a-vice. I can't effing win. Once again it's made clear that these people believe that they should have unregulated access to VeeGee, to our family's time. It's also clear that they do not understand that bmom's position has shifted. She's not VeeGee's mommy. She does have an unseverable relationship - one that I won't deny either of them - but it's simply NOT whatever it is she (et al) seems to think it is.
I'm NOT the babysitter people, not the nanny, not the wetnurse, not the interloper here. I'M VEEGEE'S MOMMY.
I'm almost done (so sorry for the length here). I'm agonizing over whether or not I should invite bmom along to the park in the morning for about an hour before VeeGee's speech therapy session. Maybe that would be a good thing. Maybe I'll gouge my eyes out, though.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I understand that there is, definitely, and unseverable relationship between VeeGee and her bmom, one that did start on VeeGee's birthday. And I will do everything I can to make sure that VeeGee both understands and honors that relationship. At the same time, we are a new family, VeeGee, K and me. Just us. How we spend our time with each other and on our holidays shouldn't have to be frought with (suprise!) contingencies outside of our family life. It feels really unfair (to my basest self) and inconsiderate (less base) and unmanageable for bmom et al to assume a claim on VeeGee's (ergo my/K's) time.
I also understand that VeeGee and K's (and bmom's) blood family is the type that kind of flies by the seat of their pants in terms of making time commitments. For example, if I say, "We're planning a dinner party on August 8th, would you like to come?" The universal family response would be, "We'll see." They don't understand the need for pre-planning, for concrete obligations, none of that. It makes me utterly crazy. And the upshot is that we may, forever, be dealing with their whims about just showing up (or not). I truly believe that they don't get (or are dismissive of) my need to know what the heck's going on. I mean, I really do have concrete plans all the way through October. No joke (and I might not even be remembering them all). Now, that may make me kind of weird, but, guess what ?! - it's MY family and it's how WE operate. I've learned to leave some open space for K, because he does come from that place of no committments, but that open space is almost always reserved for just us.
So, anyway. After several days of agonizing over what we should do (and still not having heard from bmom!), we decided to throw a party. It'll be a stretch financially, but I decided that I needed as many people around me for that day as possible. People who know/understand/support my relationship with VeeGee. I know that may seem selfish, but, well, there ya go. I mean, these are people with children and VeeGee will be BESIDE HERSELF to get to be with all of her friends at the same time. I'm looking forward to seeing how she reacts to this plentitude of friends (whom she begs for every day!).
I've told many of the guests that bmom will be there, in part to explain in advance any strangeness in my behavior, and also so that they won't be shocked to see this person that many of them perceive as a villain. I know (or I guess) that it's my fault that she would be perceived as such, but it's really hard to give anyone the full picture of this person who neglected VeeGee to the point that the state had to step in, particularly when they're MY friends who've stood beside ME during this adventure. They don't know her full life story like I do - and even I (as you know, dear reader) have a hard time forgiving her.
I sent out invitations (over a month in advance) and sent bmom one as well for the party, which we decided to hold the day before her birthday. I needed it to be at my initiation - not hers. She's (!) coming. And I think her father (K's step-father) is as well.
And on the day of her birthday, we're going to just be the three of us, with, perhaps, the addition of my little brother (aka The King of Birthday Celebrations!). At any rate, whatever we do, it will be our idea.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I was recently asked if I finally felt complete since adopting VeeGee. I don't think that children can ever be the thing that makes one's life complete. They're wonderful, really wonderful, but to put that sort of expectation on a child is really unfair, in my opinion. I never planned to adopt - I couldn't have children, and that was that. I sort of moved on. And then. . . . VeeGee!
I don't really know how anyone can say that adoption not the same as giving birth because either they haven't adopted, and have no clue what it feels like to do that, or, they're not (in my humble opinion) very good parents of the child they've adopted.
I mean, clearly, it's NOT the same. But the end result is very much the same in terms of my relationship to VeeGee, I'm no less a mom because I didn't give birth to her and I don't feel any differently about her, I think, than, say, my sister feels about her children. And, oddly, there is an intense mommy-daughter connection that is present, and growing. People even tell me that she looks like me (hahahahahaha) - people that don't know she's adopted. And I, daily, hear my voice come out of her mouth, see my mannerisms played out on her body. It's pretty incredible.
But, adoption is NOT a cure for infertility. Those issues haven't gone away for me. I still feel sad about my inability to give birth (and for whatever reason, my big thing is the loss of the opportunity to breastfeed). It took me a long time before I realized how effing rude it is for people to continue to hound someone about becoming a parent. It's basically asking if you're having sex, if your body works right, if you're a selfish bitch, if you're "too ambitious," if you know that you're weird. Rude.
I don't know why people believe they're entitled to this type of information. People mostly mean well, but I really think that there's some sort of culturally expectation that women should be ready to discuss their biology with everyone. Further . . . I don't think that being a mom is what makes me a woman at all. I'm not NOT a woman because I cannot have a child biologically. And I wouldn't NOT be a woman if I chose to remain childless.
I'm still pissed about the unfairness of it all. AND I REALLY REALLY REALLY HATE IT when people talk to me about "God's Will" in this situation. I think it's very very smug. I finally started telling people that I loved NOT having kids. Sometimes I'd tell them that if I ever had a kid, they'd better start calling me Mary Mother of God. Usually shut them up.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I'll write more about the reunion once I've really processed it, and as to VeeGee's birthday plans, that's another reason I've been away from here. K and I have been working our booties off in our yard to get ready for A BIRTHDAY PARTY, to which we've invited as many of our friends as we can afford so that we'll be surrounded by people that love US, and value our parenthood of VeeGee. I hope everyone comes!
And in other news:
We had a fun day yesterday! I was driving on the interstate (70mph) and looked in the rearview mirror to see VeeGee turning blue/purple/red and coughing. I knew she'd been playing with a ring of mine, but I never worry about her putting anything, much less a ring, in her mouth, so I let her play. Anyway, I pulled over PRONTO (god help me!) and she started to calm down a bit. I asked her if she swallowed my ring and she said she had. Of course, with a typical kid, you just know you'll be digging through poop for the next few days. But not us, huh?!
I called her pediatrician and let them know that I was first and foremost concerned because of her nissen. Wouldn't want the ring stuck in her esophagus. And then, second, because she doesn't poop. I didn't know if I should give her an enema or what - if that would be bad if there was something "extra" in there. The, of course, said to get to the hospital (45 min. away from where I was).
At this point she seemed fine, so I knew it wasn't in her throat (her otolaryngologist/plastic surgeon would have had a COW if I'd messed up the most recent surgery!!!!!), but still concerned about the other two possibilities. We did the X-rays (lots of fun holding down a terrified kiddo) and, guess what, they found NO RING!!!! Yay.
Except, the doctor (not her regular ped) came in very very concerned and said, "Do you know she's constipated?" I laugh to keep from cryin' ya know? But, she'd actually had two smallish poops this week, so I had not intended to do an enema (she's always distended looking, so that's hard to go by). Long story short (ha!), she was FULL of poop - like up to her lungs it looked like. Crazy. And awful.
When I said the GI was looking at the possibility of Hirschprung's, he nodded, and said, "Yep, that's what I was thinking." Great.
So, we're bumping up the suction biopsy/sigmoidoscopy to July 7th.
I feel really sad that she's so full, but she doesn't seem to notice anything. Oh, and we came straight home and, of course, did an enema. Almost nothing came out.
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I don't know if the events of Mother's Day make me glad or not relative to that decision. The bad me is glad.
When the grandparents arrived an hour late for the Mothers' Day brunch I'd prepared in g-mother and my mother's honor, they announced to K (I was in the kitchen RE-heating brunch), that bmom had called to wish Happy Day, and to inform them that she plans to come to town for the weekend of VeeGee's birthday. News to us. In fact, we haven't heard from bmom (other than an Easter card for VeeGee) in quite some time (and only then an e-mail to me sending Easter pictures).
I'm having a really hard time with this. It feels like this is a forever situation, in that we will always be looking over our shoulder for bmom to -poof- appear at holiday time - as if we're just supposed to drop everything in order to include her. It's not that we want to prevent VeeGee from seeing and having a relationship with her bmom, it's just that we can't always be in this kind of limbo. Are we supposed to assume that she assumes that grandparents will give us the message and that that should be assumed to be enough "notice?" The other thing that bothers me about this is that, by letting (if we actually do allow it) her just show up on whim to see VeeGee, we're signalling that it's okay to behave this way not just to us, but, more importantly, to VeeGee.
We've thought of a number options. One is to have a big birthday party - so big that bmom's presence won't have to be THE focus of everything. It wouldn't be out of character to do this (there were, no exaggeration, 120 people at her party last year). But, finances being what they are, I don't know if that's the smartest option. Another thing we considered is going camping. But it may be too warm by that time (late June), and I don't like the idea of pinning all our hopes on a dry weekend. And then there's the option to just ignore this all. Go about the weekend as we normally would (whatever that might mean) and not count on her showing up (it's happened!). If she does pop into town, particularly if she still hasn't called us directly, we'll just do what we had to do at Christmas and be very narrow in our availability.
Now, if you haven't read here before and are thinking at this point that I'm a bitch, please read some old posts. This isn't a simple case of regular old adoption, not that it's ever simple, and we're kind of making this up as we go along. My hope always is to be a good, non-angry/resentful, mom to VeeGee. And part of that is being generous and kind to her birthmother. I don't forget that. But I'm also not willing to sacrifice our hard earned family to the whims of someone who ceded all of her rights through neglect and passivity.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
So, just when I thought we were not going to be putting VeeGee under general anesthesia for a while, her GI had decided that he really needs to do a suction biopsy to rule out Hirchsprung's disease. Of course I'm on it like a fly as soon as we get home and, of course it describes everything about VeeGee (chronic FTT, chronic constipation/diarrhea, weight loss . . . .). He also wants to do a scope of her esophagus to see what kind of damage is/has been done with the chronic vomiting (now just retching, of course, but she's getting more and more ick out as time passes).
I am not going to believe or really entertain this dx until/if it's made. I'm betting (hoping) that the issues are more related to the combination of her being the age she is with the temperament that she has plus low tone. But it's still just sobering to know that there are still these hurdles. It's never over. I so frequently think, "We're getting to the end of this. After this surgery, she'll just be a 'normal' kid." I've actually even felt guilty lately when I read about some of my friends who have kids with for real life threatening issues, like, it's not that bad. The tube's no big deal. She's breathing now. Not eating, but . . .
And then I'm reminded that her issues are systemic, permanent and that we may keep discovering facets of them into adulthood.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I was mortally disappointed when, in my senior year of high school, I was NOT voted "Funniest." Seriously. I didn't care about those other meaningless titles. I mean, what the hell did we know about "Industriousness" at the age of 18.? Well, I guess there were some members who did know a bit about industriousness, since it turns out there are a whole lot of doctors and lawyers and engineers and scientists that came out of that class. But, STILL. I'll never forgive that nice girl Lisa, for taking the title from me.
When I asked my husband - boyfriend at the time - why he loved me, I was disappointed that he left out my sparkling sense of humor. I just couldn't believe that that wasn't the first thing that he found attractive about me - until I noticed that he couldn't stop staring at my chest. Ah well, a girl's gotta take what she can get, I suppose. But I really wanted him to appreciate me for being funny.
To that end, for the last fifteen or so years I have insisted that he reminds me of how deliciously hilarious he finds me as frequently as possible. Daily is best. And he's a good sport about it. Nevermind it's the last thing he says, and it's with a bit of a hint of sarcasm. Again, I'll take what I can get.
I realized recently that it's my best friend's fault. She really does think I'm the funniest person in the world. I can make her laugh like nobody's business, and (here's a secret) sometimes I'm not even meaning to! I'll take what I can get.
Here's my problem. I can't write funny. Nope. Not even this post is funny. And what the hell kind of funnylady writer am I if I can't do the two things I do best (well, two of the things that I do best) at the same time? I don't need or want to be ironic or witty like Sedaris and Vowell. I actually get tired of the tongue firmly planted in the cheekiness of the Eggers crowd - I'm funny, but I didn't say I was cool.
So, I set out to write a short story about a cooky old woman in a waiting room - my version of O'Connor's Redemption, which I find pretty funny in its macabre way (like most of O'Connor). In studying and reflecting on that story I was led to remember another story, Porter's Jilting of Granny Weatherall.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
She ran a fever all night, but as of a minute ago it was down (higher than her normal temp, but still down). Whew! She also seems more alert.
I had the strangest thing happen to me in the middle of the night. I had gone to bed feeling kind of queasy, but I'd only eaten one meal yesterday and it was something fried, which I don't normally eat, so I wasn't too worried. I don't know if I've mentioned here on this board that I have Crohn's Disease, so nausea is pretty much modus operandi.
Well, I got up to get her some water (she's wanting a lot of water!!!!! ) at, I think, around 2 and felt really really dizzy and queasy, cold sweaty, the whole nine yards. I started toward the bathroom and woke up, god knows how much later, on the floor. I have fainted before, but usually during a tachycardia episode. I've never just fallen on the floor and not remembered getting there. I must not have even put my arms out to catch myself because I have a nice knot on my forehead, and my knee is pretty banged up. When I woke up VeeGee was calling for me "Mommy, wake up!!" and I had no idea where I was or what had happened and just had that impulse to keep laying there until I realized the floor was cold and that the nurses might come in and see me there. So, it was embarrassment, really, that actually got me up.
I had one more almost-episode like that at around four, but just sat down instead of trying to make it to the bathroom.
I'm feeling pretty out of sorts this morning. So, I'm calling uncle and have asked dh to come and help me out. I hate doing it because it's SO his busy season, but I'm not a lot of good to VeeGee if I'm laying on the floor, huh?
It was so freaky.
Monday, April 27, 2009
I've been reluctant to post since we got in here because it's been such a roller coaster and I kind of go from feeling whiny to giddy within hours. I really thought we were going home today, had my bags packed and everything. And then the doctor tells me it's going to be at the earliest Thursday before we'll go. I'm so sad, and at the same time kind of relieved. I had been worrying that she wasn't doing so great, but I am sometimes a glass half full kind of person (as much as I try not to be), and so I had pretty much decided that I was blowing things out of proportion.
As of tonight, I'm really glad we're here. She's developed a fever higher than she's ever run and she's been incredibly lethargic all day long. When she's been awake, she's mostly been laying down, and when she's sat up at all it's only been for a short time, like half an hour. I'm trying really hard not to start freaking out. I hear from so many moms whose kids have gone through these things. It's just part of the process. But it's really a challenge to balance my intellectual understanding of that process against the fever listlessness of my little girl. I hate seeing her this way. So cliche, I know.
In the midst of all this I have friends whose kids are going through things far more life threatening, or at least more definitely and imminently life threatening. And they're so generous with their support of VeeGee and me. Truly amazing.
Being in this room, which, fortunately is pretty opulent by hospital standards, is incredibly surreal. I mean, I've heard that it's hot outside, that rain is coming, and yet I haven't been out there. That's so very strange to me.
And these people, the nurses and other staff, come and go and have stuff going on outside of this place that's everything, my world, right now. I guess that seems rather trite to be thinking about, but all of these nurses, or most anyway, are these young cute vivacious girls, mostly, probably more than a decade younger than me. K and I were talking about how weird that is, that these girls are caring for our daughter are about the age we were when we first started dating. And god bless america, I wouldn't have trusted either one of us with a kid's life, like really her life!, for a million dollars. 'Course in our collective hubris (which was amusingly and embarrassingly HUGE) we probably would take umbrage at any suggestion that we were ill fitted to do anything.
And on that lovely reflective note . . . good night.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
We had a bit of a rough night. VeeGee's breathing is pretty labored, registering
I'm kind of concerned because the wonderful fight that we value so much is pretty much gone this morning. She's clearly feeling really really bad.
Her pain management seems to be pretty good. She's getting morphine every two hours and tylenol with codeine every six. Her blood pressure is running a little bit high, but I really think that's because having it taken pisses her off so much. And, of course!!!!
I'll update if anything happens, but probably we'll just be watching monitors for a while.
One bright spot, we brought our own coffeemaker
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
She's out of surgery and Dr. Kelly believes it was a great success. We had some concerns when his intern didn't know anything about the combo p-flap/sphincteroplasty, and didn't get to talk to Dr. Kelly until afterward. But he did do the combination. So, basically, they've made a purse string in her throat along with taking some tissue from the very back and making what's kind of like a curtain. These two things should help her regulate air and improve speech.
Right now, she's pretty doggone angry, and fighting the IV and pulse-ox tape pretty hard. Each arm has two no-nos (kind of like splints to make her unable to move her arms) with socks on top of those because she's such a Houdini. She's already wiggled her way out of all of that twice, so we're taking turns keeping our hands on her to prevent her trying again.
Her mouth is pretty bloody and swollen, and there's a little bit of bleeding coming from her nose, but those were both to be expected.
We're in PCCU right now and will be here until, at least, 9am. We hope that we'll be able to get one of the family sleeping rooms (with shower and private bath) that they give out on a first come first serve basis (based, in part, on how far away you're from - so we're pretty likely to get one). That way we can take turns resting throughout the night.
Thanks so much to everyone who's sent love and prayers and good wishes. We really appreciate it!!!
VeeGeesMommy, K, & VeeGee
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Y'all, this is a big deal. Actually it's a BIG FREAKIN' DEAL!!!!!!!!
VeeGee let me paint her toenails today.
VeeGee has sensory processing disorder which makes her unable to tolerate much in the way of texture, especially "wet" textures. But, for some unknown (who cares!) reason, she finally said yes when I asked if she wanted me to paint her toenails. First she wanted green, and, well, I'm kind of a nail polish collector, so I dug out my green polish. She thought that was quite fun and so she asked for red. I'm kind of not into red polish (especially on an itty bitty like VeeGee), so I offered blue. She said YES!!
I tried to get her to let me paint her fingernails, but that was just too much. I got one hand done, and it wasn't all that fun because she kind of freaked when I got a teency bit of polish on her skin. So we stopped there. It's pretty faint, so I'm thinking she's forgotten about it.
Now, the toes are a different story. When I took her shoes off for her nap, she wiggled her toes and said "Pretty!"
Monday, April 20, 2009
The surgery, which is going to be a combination of two different surgeries, a pharyngeal flap and a velopharyngeal sphincteroplasty, is supposed to help her be able to have more productive speech by regulating the flow of air. I've read many accounts of how wonderful this surgery is and what incredible gains children have made after having it. And then I've heard the opposite. It's really hard to know how to choose these things. I mean, darnit, I'm not a doctor, Captain, I'm a writer!
Basically, our approach has been to hit at the problem from every angle available to us: oral motor, regular speech, occupational (feeding) therapy (which we also think has helped her speech), nutritional therapy (fish oil!!!!!), and surgery. I'm sure that at some point we'll have to start picking and choosing, or that we could get to a point of diminishing returns. But we're not there yet, and she's really thriving and her speech improvements pretty much stun everyone every time they see her (not just therapists), even from week to week.
I think that we special needs moms, like other moms, but more so, are kind of like general contractors. We have to kind of know what's going on in a global sense and then find people to execute different parts of the "project" as appropriate to each one's particular expertise. That's one of the problems (and advantages) with medical specialization (which is relatively new). Each doctor has his/her own little special interest, their own little (frequently very narrow) territory, largely to the exclusion of other possibilities. This puts us in a position of having to make decisions that sometimes pit specialists against each other. I just have to hope that it becomes an iron sharpening iron situation and that the one who can make the best, most accessible argument, is the right one.
Who knows what our path would have looked like if VeeGee had been living with us since birth. It's so hard to know those things, and it's almost too painful to think about them. There's a big part of me that looks at other children with the same disability profiles and feels sad. Could I have helped VeeGee be able to breast feed? Did she HAVE to have the trach and feeding tube? I really don't know. My gut actually tells me that both the cleft and the severity of the retracted jaw did, in fact, make those things necessary (though I think I would have certainly worked harder than her birthmom did to facilitate bfing because of the oral motor benefits that I'm sure, at the minimum, it provides).
I guess I say that to say that there are SO MANY ways to go about a treatment plan. And that, even if we make "wrong" decisions, like the ones that we had to pick up after, a kid can still thrive in the end. In most ways, you'd never know that VeeGee was/is as far behind as she was/is (until you lift her shirt and see that danged button). I know it's easy, and hard not to, agonize over every single decision. But I'm having to kind of give myself a break and let instincts do some of the work. Do I trust her surgeon? Yes. I trust him mostly because he's willing to sit down with me and treat me like an intelligent person. I don't know. Is that a good enough reason to go forward with this surgery? I hope it is. I trust it is. That's the best I can do.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
I was rather disappointed, though, with the amount of support that the actual MFA program showed for us, who had driven several hundred miles (my trip was a "three hour tour" that turned into a five-hour odyssey, but that's another store altogether) to read on a Friday night - yeah it was Friday for us too! I mean, there were about five students from the program and, to my knowledge ZERO faculty or staff from the Crab Orchard Review (a great lit journal, with a really crappy web presence , if you can call that "a presence" at all).
We grouse a lot, in our program, about the lack of "school spirit" (for lack of a better term) that we can sometimes display. And I guess it's to be expected because, after all, it is graduate school, and we're, most or at least some of us, grown ups with lives outside of school. But, it seems to me that one of the things that one goes to school for, particularly graduate school, is to become a part of a culture, in my case, a literary culture. If we don't do that, then there is a bit of a short-change, it seems to me. I've learned more, truly, from being amongst writers, than I have from sitting in classes with them. We talk about writing, we talk about the books we're reading and why we're reading them, we encourage each other and hold each other accountable for production and excellence. So, all that said, I thought it was kind of sad that there weren't more people (especially that one faculty member who wasn't even aware that there was a reading going on at all!) that came out to support this shared endeavor.
Yada yada yada.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
But, I've been looking it over lately and thinking that there's some interesting backstory contained therein. So, if you, many dear readers, are of the mind, feel free to take a gander.
I'm not against Amazon, per se, and will continue to use them for their best technology, which is the "if you like this, you'll probably like this" and the aggregation of customer, critical and publisher reviews. They're a catalog, and I value that service, in fact, I'd probably be willing to pay for it in a subscription form. However, as best I can in my book-buying habits, I'm going independent. My Amazon account, in fact, was one of my last non-local vendors. Thanks, Amazon, for pushing me further toward my ideals!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Sunday, April 5, 2009
This is a strange time of year. March 29th is K's mother's birthday. I had been thinking about it all week, but was afraid to mention it. He mourns pretty quietly. And it's a complicated set of feelings. In so many ways we were very glad to see her go, to see her finally released from the body that had been a cage to her for so many years. And yet, no matter how much she suffered, she loved life, celebrated life, and so it is hard to imagine her not living. It's what she did.
I think that the thing that means the most to him, perhaps, of anything anyone has ever said to him was the last thing she said to him. As we were leaving the city where she lived, six hours away from our home, as we were taking her granddaughter from her and from her daughter, she took K's hand, pulled him in close and spoke. "You're a good boy." What an amazing last thing to have your mother say. We knew that it was probably the last time we'd ever see her, and, indeed, she was gone within a few months.
Looking back on the last two years I think it's so interesting that Easter-time is the anniversary of when we brought VeeGee home and the anniversary of our last time with K's mom. Truly a death and rebirth. I think she would be very happy to see how VeeGee thrives. How happy she is. I know that there was a great amount of sorrow around the situation and, of course she'd have wanted VeeGee to stay there with them instead of coming here. But I hope that somehow, in those last few months of her life, she knew that VeeGee would be okay. I think she did.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Problem is, I really need to wrap it up, and I'm almost there. But the ending is killing me. In so many ways I feel like I'm supposed to have SOME BIG MEANING at the end here. And I do, actually. But I'm concerned about making it too, well, "Meaningful."
So, I've been sitting on it for about a week. Contemplating. Worrying. Fretting.
I think I'll just do it. Let the cards fall where they may.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
So, I landed here using terms like "BM" and "my child" and so on. I hadn't done any research before this - literally hadn't had any time to buy a crib, much less research the language of it all - so I had NO IDEA about the ins-and-outs of appropriate language.
But, here's the deal. Language DOES matter. It has mattered to me because, in thinking about my motivations for using certain terms and phrases, I have had to come to terms with some of the less wonderful feelings that I've had about this whole process. I've had to really intensely examine how I feel about VeeGee's first mother, and about all the relationships that flow out of this situation. It's not just about PC-ness, though I do think there can be and is a very very helpful "fake it till you make it" component to disciplining yourself to use respectful language.
It's been a slow slow process for me. And I'm still learning. But now, as I'm trying to figure out how best to both instill a strong sense of self-confidence in my daughter, while telling her the truth about her birth and life before she came to us, I'm realizing even more how important language is. (And that's really funny coming from me, the English professor and writer )
I think the thing that makes it difficult is that we're not talking about how to change a tire here. We're truly talking about life and death issues (in the cases of those of us who have not been able to become bio parents ourselves as well as the biological mothers and adoptive children who have lost their first relationships). We bring all of our raw nerves, grief and heartbreak, disappointment and, yes, prejudices. There's no getting around that. Too, we are entering into a particular situation that isn't "the best" for everyone involved. There is always always loss, and that includes loss for adoptive parents, as well as the other members of the triad.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
I don't know, but it is relevant in a lot of the kinds of conversations that I have. Perhaps that's a geographical thing, but I think that even if I lived in an area that was not overtly or constantly affected by race relations and whatnot, I'd still consider it a relevant issue. I know that it's fashionable to say that it's a non-issue because that's supposed to signal that we aren't racist, that we do not exercise prejudice in regards to the color of people's skin. But the "we" here is generally comprised by those who are historically advantaged with the LACK of concern about how their race is going to be used against them economically, socially, etc. "We" can call it a non-issue because we aren't burdened by it personally. I think that, until there is real and consistent equality of opportunity (and by opportunity, I do not mean the mythical "idea" that we can all access the "American Dream" or the "Pull-Yourself-Up-By-Your-Bootstraps" myth) in our society, then conversations about race, down to the naming issue, ARE extremely relevant.
And I talk to my daughter about it, not because I want/need to point out difference for difference sake, but because I want her to be the type of person who is aware both of the privilege that society has historically bestowed on one race at the expense of others, and the fact that she has the power to move, not past, but fully into these issues. Hopefully, she will become a person who acknowledges the differences between people and does not easily dismiss other people's very real issues as "non-issues."
Talking About Race AND Racism
We talk about race (not just racism) as a positive, as an exploration of IDENTITY, of which race is a component. We talk about it as a teaching tool about history and culture, economics and politics. Women's rights and racism are not correlatives. Sexism and Racism, however, are. Can we agree that there is a difference between talking about an a set of ideas (like racism and sexism) and about the nature of things (race and gender)? I think these discussions are critical, and do not have to be negative, as it seems the "never comes up" idea would suggest.
To me, it's an emperor's new clothes kind of thing, a matter of truth telling. Pretending that there is no difference, that the emperor is clothed, simply causes problems to continue. If we can't/won't/don't talk about race, we don't have the right or wherewithal to talk about racism.
Perhaps putting it in a less socially charged example might help. If I see a child in a wheelchair at the playground, is it okay to ONLY tell my daughter not to make fun of that child? To IGNORE the fact that she has a disability? Nope, it's not. Because that does not respect the fullness of that child's identity, of which disability is a part. DD is much less likely to make fun of the child in the wheelchair when she understands why she's there. She knows that child has a disability, I'm the one who looks like an idiot if I pretend that's not the case. Just like the people watching the emperor's parade.
If talking about race, and not just racism, is taboo, then we've really gotten nowhere, no matter how progressive we like to think we are.
You Say African American, I Say Black
Where I live, a city that is, last time I heard, 60-70% Black, most people say "Black," unless it's in a very formal situation. My students definitely call themselves Black (and make fun of their "Crazy White Professor" ). And, btw, we talk about race A LOT (not just racism) in my classes, and would even if I never brought it up. I DO bring it up, though, and my students are generally very surprised and VERY relieved that I break the taboo. I know (from reading my evaluations) that this is something my students value about my classes. I talk about race because I find it to be one of the MOST productive teaching tools that I have.
I also LOVE LOVE LOVE to talk about stereotypes, too. I can tell you that my students REALLY sit up and take notice when I make a statement that calls them on the carpet about their stereotypes, about things that are wrong or misguided, but, because they're never talked about elsewhere, my students hold as truth. I also make lots of fun of the stereotypes, using them to teach how and what language does for/against us.
Further, I teach my students that who they are, what they think, and where they came from are really really important parts of their scholarly endeavors. To pretend otherwise, that there's some objective story about the world that everyone has access to and buys into, is just dumb. When a young Black man in my class is writing about literature, he is writing from his experience AS A YOUNG BLACK MAN. For me to say that that is an invalid thing (by saying that there's not some defining something about being Black that informs his reading of any particular text) is extremely disrespectful, in my opinion, dehumanizing even. Further, I'm really honest with my students (from the very first day of class) that I'm looking at things as a short, Southern, liberal, White woman, who was raised in a relatively wealthy family, who believes such and such about the world, etc. etc. It's the truth, and to pretend otherwise is also dumb. I can/will never know what it's like to have their experience. And I'm not into getting all "White Guilt" about it - it's just the facts, ma'am.
The upshot is, in the end, that, because I set an example for my students that it's okay for all of us to be exactly who we are and that who we are is deeply informed by things like race, gender, economics, though not the full story. of my students have told me that they've never had an educational experience like what I create in the classroom. I'm totally not trying to toot my own horn, and there are DEFINITELY students that can't stand me, I'm just saying that, in my experiences of dealing with lots and lots of the "next generation" of Blacks and Whites in my area, acknowledging race, racism and other things has made for a very fruitful environment from which, both I and my students, can learn.
"Race Is An Externally Imposed Idea, There is Nothing Essential About It"
I think that this is a benighted -and perhaps sinister- idea and, though I understand it is fashionable in some misguided academic circles, should be eradicated. Post haste. To dismiss the experience of "being Black" because it is a socially constructed abstraction is, IMO, academic mumbo jumbo . I seriously doubt that it FEELS like an abstraction to anyone whose experience it is. I will claim forever and ever that my body (it's color, shape, gender, age, disabilities, assets, etc.) is an INTEGRAL PART of how I interpret texts, relationships, politics, etc. etc. etc. I imagine that the underlying assumption that your statement is trying to address is that there is no value to be assessed because of someone's race, gender, etc. And we can hope that we eventually reach that place. But, we're not there yet.
Yeah, But What About The Irish?
I hear this stuff a lot. White people, whose family history is one of poverty and displacement and other such things that are terrible, chafing at any sort of philosophical/linguistic reparations toward Blacks on the "well what about us" premise. I think it's weak. Weak weak weak.
Let's take Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as examples. Now, NO ONE was going to NOT vote for Clinton because he was raised by a single mother of very humble means. There were plenty of reasons that people might not vote for him, but those were NOT two of them. As a matter of fact, MUCH was made of these "humble" beginnings. It's classic Americana, right?
But for Obama, there were PLENTY of people who would never vote for him because of his race (and he's not even descended from slaves!). And even though he won, he had to answer - over and over and over - questions about that identity. About what allegiances could/should be presumed because of his race. Was he Black enough? Was he White enough? Would he be assassinated because of his race? And we were CONSTANTLY aware that this was a BLACK man that we'd nominated. He worked really hard to downplay that in some ways, but I'm glad that he did not shoo it completely away from his rhetoric - BECAUSE IT'S IMPORTANT.
Now, we've had ten presidents who've been of Irish descent. TEN. The Irish-American population in America is estimated to be about 40,000,00 - pretty much the same number as Blacks. So, clearly, there is a disproportionate balance of power here. Equal numbers of people and a 10-1 ratio of representation in the highest office in America. Now, of course, not every Black person voted for Obama, and not every person of Irish descent voted for the ten presidents of Irish descent. But that actually furthers the point: people of Irish descent either are acceptable enough to the "general public" OR they've assimilated so much that they can "pass."
A Whole Month of Black History, and The Kids Don't Know Nuthin'
My theory about why their NOT retaining the information is that it's so "neatly" compartmentalized into one month. And the kids eyes start glazing over because they assume that they're going to be presented with redundant information. And I'm thinking they probably are. I'd really love to see our curriculum integrated so that the accomplishments of Americans are studied as a body of history. I'm not suggesting that we ignore, or stop noting, "firsts" from Blacks, women, etc., just that we do not treat it as if it were such a revolutionary idea that anything could be achieved by one of these groups.
I think we should quit marginalizing and compartmentalizing Black history as if it were something entirely separate from, and only the interest/province of Blacks. We have ALL benefited from George Washington Carver's inventions (but do you know who Lewis Latimer is?), we don't have to be Black to enjoy reading James Baldwin (at least I hope not, because he's one of my very favorite authors), we don't have to be Black to feel moved by Miles Davis's music (even though he didn't like White people so much). I am NOT saying that we forget that these people were Black, but that we are proud of them as an integrated part of American history - not just some "one month curriculum."
I guess my point, in the end, is that we do have to talk about race, not just racism. And the more we talk about it the more we are able to sweep away the fears and misunderstandings that the conversation initially brings to surface.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Anyway, I asked her ST about whether or not ASL would help VeeGee and she said that it wouldn't necessarily be the best use of time/resources for her because she would have such a learning curve to catch up with the words she's already "using" that it might actually slow her down. Also, she said that it's important for VeeGee to keep trying to verbally communicate, since not everyone is going to understand her with ASL anyway, and so her frustration at not being able to say/be understood wouldn't necessarily go away. Finally, she suggested (a while back, and we have ordered) a augmentative communication device which, she thinks, is going to do more to help her with the motor planning aspect of her apraxia (because of the time/planning it takes to find the correct button) PLUS it will give her a "voice," which she can then mimic.
Now, if VeeGee had had a better foundation pre-verbal with ASL the story may be different, but that's not the case. When she came to us she was using a very limited amount of sign but immediately abandoned it whenever a verbal approximation achieved the communication that she was attempting. I think it has to do with the impulse that children with apraxia have. It's my understanding that, generally, the desire is pretty high to be able to communicate verbally and the outlet that ASL provides is still just a band-aid - a good band-aid in many cases, yes, but not always, because it doesn't actually treat the problem but rather is simply a coping mechanism and/or stop-gap.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I'm not finding much info on it at all. We're supposed to be meeting with the plastic surgeon again on Monday (ANOTHER 3 hour drive to Nashville) and I'm wondering if that's really going to be necessary since he's the flap guy and our other ENT/Otolaryngologist is the sphincteroplasty guy.
I hate the idea of another surgery, but, at the same time I do want to keep pushing ahead with the things that are going to increase her speech abilities. Also, I'm uncertain about our future insofar as jobs/insurance/location go and I'd really like to take care of as many things as I can as soon as is feasible/desirable in case we don't have access to these doctors and this hospital that we love so much in the future.
Okay, that was a total ramble . .
Monday, January 26, 2009
I was very angry at first and unwilling to share any bit of mommyhood. I totally think that that is normal. But, as I've grown into the role of mommy, I've begun to understand that my feelings about her birthmother are kind of unimportant insofar as what she actually is to my daughter. She is my daughter's first mother. That's a love it or leave it kind of issue - can't change it. And it used to just feel beyond crappy to not have that place reserved for myself. But, I now have an understanding that this is just a part of adoption that exists, whether that adoption is closed or open, domestic or international. The adopted child will always carry a piece of his/her birthmother with him/her and vice versa.
Now, does that make it a bad thing? No. It is what it is. My reality is that I have a daughter who LOVES me, adores me and whom I adore. I am Mommy. A real mommy. All the other stuff really just has started to fade. There may (probably will) be times when it will surface painfully again, but I'm trying to lay a foundation for myself and for VeeGee, and even with her birthmom, where we are comfortable talking about it and dealing with it.
The heart is an amazing thing. I'm findin an ability to be accepting of more openness than I'd ever dreamed possible. For me, this has been nothing short of a miracle, and I'm truly in awe of how being a mother has changed the way I see things.
Monday, January 12, 2009
As time passes I find that I feel more and more confident in the permanence of my role as VeeGee's mother. And I find that I am more comfortable with her birthmother's permanent role, though that is an evolving relationships to be sure. But I can't tell you that it's easy looking into the future and believing that there will most likely be hurdles that just can't happen, for better or for worse, when the adoption is closed or international.
The thing is, I don't think that international, domestic, closed or open really changes the feelings that you as a mother are going to feel about your position in the "mother continuum" and the fragility of the bonds that hold you to your child. That is simply one of the aspects of adoption that makes me truly believe that counseling must be a component of the process. If you're worried about this as you're confronted with the possibility of an domestic-open adoption, I think that can be a good signal for you that you might have some of those sorts of feelings regardless of the nature of your adoption. And it's a good thing to be thinking about. Certainly, it's not a thing that would/should/could derail your plans, just another issue that you now have advance notice of.