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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Meaning of Love

I decided to enter the following essay into Real Simple's "When did you first understand the meaning of love?" contest. Read it to kids this morning and guess what? They both cried. :)

On June 6, 1997, I decided to live.

Before a helicopter whisked me away to an Intensive Care Unit in the city, I held my newborn girl for merely minutes. Oh, those cheeks. So kissable. And as I fell deeply, deeply in love with that little butterball of a soul, they took her from my arms and assured me she’d be well-cared for. To be separated from our firstborn child so quickly after her birth was not in our carefully-constructed plans.

I had just survived an amniotic embolism, which is a fairly precarious situation. During labor, I recalled one horrific contraction. Not that any are fun, as any mother who has gone through delivery knows. But there was this one particular shot of pain that took my breath away, literally. My doctor abruptly stopped the labor to perform an emergency C-section. The baby was born and all appeared to be well. But things were not well. The bleeding didn’t stop.  It was realized that the unforgivable contraction was the embolism. And when I didn’t stop bleeding, a condition called DIC, or disseminated intravascular coagulation, occurred. (While the technical term sounds intimidating enough, I found on the Internet that an alternate interpretation of the acronym is “Death is Coming.”) Anyway, I was in pretty bad shape. 

My doctor had the state troopers deliver blood which he siphoned by way into my jugular. Nurses were standing me on my head. My husband was told to call my parents in – not to share in the joy of the new grandbaby, but to, perhaps, say goodbye to their only daughter…just in case. Chaos prevailed in that recovery room, but my thoughts? I want to hold my baby. I want to hold my baby. When I overheard that I was soon to be life-flighted, my heart broke.

I know love. I grew up in an adoring household and was the center of my parent’s world as an only child. And I when I met my husband? It was all over. I fell head over heels in love as if I was the star in a Meg Ryan romantic comedy. But this love I felt for the stranger that had erupted from my womb was overwhelmingly different. For the first time, I didn’t think about what this person was going to do for me. It felt so, so...unselfish. But how could I love her, if I was going to be swept away to the city? The only thing I could do, for now, was not die.

As I lay in the ICU at Clarkson Hospital in Omaha, Nebraksa, my husband sweetly brought in a videotape. “I think you’ll like this.” Friends of ours had videotaped Alexandria Grace while she was rocked, fed and loved by others in the OB ward of our little town - all while I inched my way back to non-critical status. I watched that tape over and over again, with tears rolling down my face. “Will my baby know me when we finally meet?” I thought to myself. I had to get better. And fast. In three days, I was moved out of the ICU into the maternity ward, with a wonderful surprise in tow.

My doctor had arranged to have our daughter waiting for me in the room. And as long as my own mother would stay with me, Alex could stay as well. What a gift! My recovery accelerated at Mach speed as I held and stared at the precious bundle that I had already pledged to protect and love with all my might. One week later, my husband and I buckled our baby in the car seat and headed home.

When I became pregnant with my second child three years later, one thought consumed me. “How am I gonna love this child as much as my first?”  After the wonderful, uneventful birth of our son Cole Douglas, a moment of clarity hit. You can never give enough love. The more you love, the more you love. One kid. Two kids. Ten kids. Sure, like every other family, we have anxious moments, ego flare-ups and a few tantrums. But mostly, we see through those trivial things. Because at the end of the night and at the start of each day, we have lots and lots of love for each other.

While every birthday is special in our household, Alex’s resonates with me. On June 6, I made the decision to live. And thank goodness. I would have never learned how much one’s love can grow.

Alex, me and Cole - after a peaceful delivery 10 years ago.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Poor Cole

It's a rare occasion when our spirited Cole has a rough day. But when that nasty wind blows through town, what do you expect?

Tonight, Cole had an upchucking event at batting practice before his ball game. The poor kid, we think, was trying to tough it out since we found evidence of a similar occurrence in the bathroom sink. And now this weather thing with the wall clouds and the CWS fans running to the Qwest Center has him all upset. He'd prefer vomiting SIX times to letting the storm gods determine our fate. Way to take one for the team, Kid.
Cole- completely relaxed after dinner

Like every other un-sadistic Mom on the planet, I hate it when my children are sick - or worried. But at least I can be there to put the wash cloth on their forehead. I do serve a purpose beyond washing socks. Seriously though, they provide me much happiness...especially in the form of comic relief.  Today was not a particularly fun Monday. But one memory of the weekend kept me giggling to myself. After finishing a nice family dinner at the Victoria Station, we all resumed our positions in the vehicle for the way home when Cole astutely announced,

"I just had the best fart of my life!"

Alex added "I bet - it was at least ten seconds long."

If that doesn't make you happy, well, what do you laugh about?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Everyday Miracles

Have you heard of that book Heaven is for Real? About the little boy who makes amazing remarks about his visit to see Jesus while on the operating table? Or have you read Chicken Soup for the Soul's Book of Miracles? 101 spine-tingling stories about people in desperate situations, suddenly saved by a divine twist of fate? I read both of those books, back-to-back. It was sort of like drinking a Jamba Juice super-spiritual smoothie fortified with a faith booster. Hallelujah!

I was having a conversation with another full-time, working mother the other day about the challenge of living mindfully.  Being fully engaged can be more difficult than bribing your grubby 9-year boy to take a shower. Or convincing your teenage daughter that you really are the coolest mom ever. Have you ever driven all the way to work and not remember one one detail about the drive? You could've ran over seven squirrels and not noticed...But who could blame you? You're trying to remember if the baseball game starts at 5:30 or 6:00 tonight and would it be possible to get the kids in for a hair trim tomorrow. No, that won't work. Kids have piano lessons. And Father's Day is this weekend...and my Lord, have my roots really grown out that much already?

So, as I was thinking about those books I read, along with the bowl of cherries I've gotten to swim through my entire life while taking the less mindful path, something occurred to me. Maybe I have had near-death experiences! Maybe a truck has almost crushed me! Maybe a viper has nearly engorged its pointy fangs near my jugular before a white crystalline light swooped from heaven and threw the reptile across the woods before I could understand my dangerous predicament. I just happen to lack Jedi awareness, so I couldn't write about it and send my story to the Chicken Soup people.

Me and My Miracles
I think the moral of this tedious blog is that perhaps we all need to be aware of the everyday miracles that occur all the time.  Not the type you read about in books. Like the cardinal that perches on the tree. Or, the wildflowers that appear on your terrace every spring. Or, the hug from your son on a perfectly sour day. Or, your daughter's willingness to accompany you to a movie without her friends. Or,  your husband's compliment about your beauty right after you washed your makeup off. (Sure, maybe he needs his eyes checked, but don't let him do it.) Or, the dog's kiss to the cat who barely tolerates the canine.  Or, the lunch I get to have with my healthy parents almost every day...still at the age of 41.

Miracles are everywhere. How many do you see right now? I bet you can find some if you look around.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Girl

Fourteen years ago today I went into the hospital to have a baby girl. My doctor said that I almost didn't make it. No disrespect, Dr. Markham, but I know deep in my heart that I was nowhere near death. I had way too much to live for.

Alexandria Grace Kramer.

My brown-eyed Bam-Bam.

She could drag a coffee table across the living room by the time she was two.

Her credo to life came not merely from her parents, but from maxims memorized out of The Lion King. "Because being brave doesn't mean you go looking for trouble right, Mom?" "It doesn't matter! It's in the past!" They might have not flowed in the course of the conversation, but if the tone veered toward serious, Alex took it upon herself to insert sage advice using one these quotes. Of course, maybe I shouldn't have let her watch the movie five times in a row while trying to paint the cupboards one rainy afternoon.

My darling girl simply took on a style all her own by the tender age of three. Enough said. I won't get into the clothing wars because I want this to be a nice blog about my daughter. Let's just say I love her sense of style. Most of the time.

Alex came out of my womb talking like she owned the place. She still talks like she owns the place. Well, that's what you get when you have a smart girl. I like that a lot. Especially when she studies.

I love when she plays guitar. I love when she plays piano. I love when she writes a paper. I love when she tells me something poignant. But you know what I love the most about Alex?

She is kind. She is kind to the elderly. She is kind to poor people.  She is kind to pets.  She is kind to strangers. She is usually kind to her brother.

It is this kindness that makes her, with those deep brown eyes, the most beautiful girl in the world.
Alex at 1 year- when I could dress her.