Mother Still

(I should probably begin by saying that this blog is of a profoundly personal nature, but one I simply had to write)

Today is Mother’s Day. I anticipated the typical Mother’s Day schedule- spending the day with my own mother and my children whom I adore. As we drove to church this morning I had completely forgotten about the boxes lined up in the backseat which we had recently taken from our storage unit. My seven-year-old son took advantage of the time in the car by quietly exploring the contents of each box. He found a few yearbooks, some old pictures he and his sister had drawn, and a small notebook.

Eli quietly thumbed through the pages of the notebook and would ask me occasionally what a particular word was. He found old Christmas lists that his father had written and pages of random notes and doodles. It wasn’t until he came across a particular page that my Mother’s Day quickly became anything but “typical”.

He handed me the notebook turned to a small, white piece of paper that had been written on by my long-time friend Jennifer. It contained just one sentence, “I love you ACE and I can’t wait until the baby gets here. Love, Jennifer” The letter was written to me. I am ACE- Amanda Clair Elder. I’d always appreciated that my initials automatically gave me a relatively cool and acceptable nickname. It’s used only by my nearest and dearest. I had no recollection of ever seeing this message before. I thought how sweet it was of Jen that she would be commenting about Ava, my eight year old, or Elijah. What a nice little treasure to find. It put a smile on my face remembering them both as tiny newborns. Then it hits me… I see the date. It’s like the wind has been knocked out of me and I’m waking up from a long sleep and finding myself in an unhappy reality. The date is June 10, 2002. Ava wasn’t born until September of the following year. I don’t know of anyone with a 15-month gestational period so I know this letter has to have been written in reference to my first baby. The baby I never got to meet. The baby I never got to hold.  The irony of this paper being discovered on Mother’s Day is not lost on me.  I’m sitting in the car with my two children.  There is one more unspoken, secret life that hasn’t been mentioned in a very long time.

It’s interesting and unfortunate to me how many of my friends have also experienced miscarriage. Almost as interesting to me is the lack of discussion we all seem to have on the subject. Almost as if it’s a “taboo” or maybe people get nervous about it because they feel they simply don’t have the right words to say. Miscarriage is a loss, but I often think the world attempts to downplay its impact because they see it as the loss of someone we’ve not yet met. If I may be so bold, I would assert that this misconception must be generated by people who have never been parents because most of the women I know will tell you that the moment you have proof positive that there is a tiny life forming inside your body you instantly become “mother”.

I can’t speak for the rest of the female population, but once I realized in April of 2002 that I was expecting my life began to change. A flood of exuberance and fear and questions and planning immediately fills your mind. “Is it a boy or a girl?” “What will we name the baby?” “Will he/she be healthy?” Not to mention the female tends to go into overdrive planning nursery themes and color schemes. There’s the whole plan to work out of how to tell the family and when should it be done? So much to process and it quickly becomes all-consuming.

We do what we’re supposed to- we make our doctor’s appointments and take our prenatal vitamins. We watch every little bite we put into our mouthes knowing that everything our lips touch will have a direct effect on our baby. This little entity inside of us quickly becomes very real and very precious. Most of us have waited for this day throughout our lives. What an honor to be a mother. The honor has finally been passed on to us. Such thankfulness, such gratefulness.

Then, without warning even, in an instant everything can change. My change came during the morning of a regularly scheduled ultrasound. We were hoping to find out the sex of the baby. This day had been anticipated for weeks. As I laid on the table, belly covered in clear jelly, the ultrasound paddle was pressed over me, and over me, and over me. She would change the position and continue over, and over, and over. The lack of conversation from the technician immediately clued me in that something was not right. I couldn’t take the silence and with my mom standing by my side I quietly said, “What’s wrong?” “I can’t find a heartbeat but I’m gonna have the doctor come see.” Immediately I felt the warm tears spilling out the corners of my eyes and rolling down my cheeks as I laid on that table and waited to hear what I already feared was true. My baby was gone. Just like that. Twelve weeks.

The doctor spent the next few minutes talking. I’m sure it was something about “spontaneous miscarriage”, “very common”, and “blah, blah, blah”. Frankly I was just numb. My mind went somewhere far away and tried to absorb even just a fraction of what I’d just been told. How? WHY? I was left devastated and heartbroken. My mother and I both sobbed and then I wiped my stomach clean and wanted nothing more than to get out of that sterile room.  That was an unbelievably difficult day.  All of these dreams and all of these plans simply vanish like a puff of smoke.  Just gone.  It’s emotionally gruelling and even worse are the well-meaning people who upon hearing the news tell you “this was obviously God’s plan” and “oh, you’ll be able to have another baby”.  I felt as if people were just dismissing what had really just happened.  I don’t think it’s intentional, but unless you’ve personally experienced this quiet loss then one truly can’t relate.  I never doubted that I’d be able to have other children, but what about this one?  Doesn’t this baby deserve some form of acknowledgment?  I loved this little one regardless of how brief a period of time I’d gotten to know him or her.

Because of how early into my pregnancy my miscarriage happened I wasn’t required to deliver.  I had a D and C just two days after the news was delivered and that was it.  It was over.  When I arrived at the house I was renting I was moved to tears when I saw the sweet, delicate wreath that my parents had gotten for me in honor of this moment.  It was a simple gesture, but it meant the world to me.  It was so precious to me in the following year to be able to hang that same wreath above Ava’s crib when she was born.  A secret reminder to me each time I saw it of the brother or sister she would never meet.  It was a gentle acknowledgment, however, and exactly what I needed to help me on the road to closure.

The truth of the matter is that I’ve never forgotten about the first little miracle to occupy my womb, but it’s been easier to mentally pack it away in an imaginary box somewhere than to have to think about it too often.  The white notebook paper today brought it all whirling back.  I allowed myself to think for a bit about this baby.  How blessed I was and the joy it had brought us- even briefly.  It makes me smile to imagine that there will be a day I will get to meet this sweet baby I never got to hold.

For anyone who has experience this unfortunate moment in life, I am truly so sorry.  I pray that you have each found peace and are moving forward.  I want to encourage you to take the time to remember when you can, when you feel strong enough.  Regardless of the amount of time you carried that child you were indeed a mother- mother still.  We experienced a true loss.  Loss is painful.  It is not, however, a pain from which you can not recover.  Family and friends were such a great source of strength for me.  I hope you have found the same support.  You have my prayers.  In closing I’d like to offer hope.  This happened to me 10 years ago.  Today I have 2 healthy, happy, and loud children whom I simply worship.  The Lord hears the desires of our hearts.  I promise you this, my friends.

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This is my job

I’ve been a gainfully employed citizen of this country since I was in junior high.  My very first job was as a church camp counselor back in the mid-80’s when I was a member of First Baptist Church.  I helped that summer being a leader for a group of kids and patiently saved my paychecks to purchase the end-all, be-all of the very pinnacle of electronics at that time- a contraption which was combination tape player/radio/tv.  The television was black and white and the screen couldn’t have been anymore than 4″ X 4″.  I’m pretty sure I was never able to successfully view one television program on that miniscule screen, but the fact was I had bought it with my own money!  I was so proud.

I then had a job with a family friend at Eagle Fundraising helping to pack boxes for schools far and wide with merchandise for them to sell as fundraisers.  This was proceeded over the next few years by several jobs in retail.  I was in HEAVEN!  I got to work at the mall, see all my friends, and got wonderful discounts on the latest fashions.  A girl couldn’t ask for much for more.  I loved every minute of it.

When Jess and I went away to college my parents actually requested that we not work so we could focus on our classes and homework.  We obliged.  After school I went into my degree field with a job at a local psychiatric hospital (LOVED IT!) and eventually moved back to Rogersville when I was offered a position as the director of a newly-opened Family Resource Center.  That job was such a blessing.  I loved working with local families and getting to be involved in any situation in which you see a need and are then able to see it met has always been very fulfilling to me.  I think we are all here to serve one another in whatever capacity we can.  Each of us have different gifts.  I knew that helping people was a need of mine that I had always felt way down inside of me.  These types of jobs generally aren’t very high paying (teacher, social worker, etc.), but most of us don’t go into them for the pay anyway.  I was fortunate enough to stay in that job until I moved to Chattanooga in 2000.  I worked as a case manager for the Crisis Intervention Team through the State of TN helping children/families who were currently going through the court system.  It was challenging and emotional, but I found enjoyment in meeting those kids and getting to help steer them toward resources which could improve their quality of life.  I’ve always just wanted to make a difference.  It sounds corny, but it’s very simply true.

Fast forward to 2003.  I was blessed beyond blessing to give birth to Ava Clair Silvers.  It is worth mentioning that I am, indeed, one of those girls who has prayed for and hoped for and waited for my babies.  I’ve always known that I would be a mother.  I didn’t have little Miss Ava until I was 33 years old.  I’d waited to be a mom hoping that I would be mature enough and ready.  I’m not sure that I was ready even at 33, but she was coming and I was thrilled!  At the time of my pregnancy I was living back in Rogersville and had taken a position as branch manager of a local bank.  I loved that job and the people I worked with there.  Kevin (husband) and I had discussed that after having Ava I would take the customary 6 weeks of maternity leave and then return to First Community Bank.  I always liked being in the work force.  It’s nice to make money and it’s nice to feel that sense of purpose.  During my 6-week stay with Miss Ava, however, that sense of purpose quickly began to change.  When the realization began to set in that I would be going back to work I just crumbled inside.  I’d waited so long for this sweet, little one to come along and now am I seriously entertaining the idea of giving her over to another person for 40 hours a weeks so I can go back to the bank?  Kevin saw my distress and he listened as I cried about my need to be with her, and then he did something I’ll always be thankful to him for.  He came home one night and had printed off a spread sheet.  He explained to me that it wouldn’t be easy and we’d have to make some serious budget cuts, but he believed that we could survive on just one income.  I would be able to stay home and care for her.  I was elated!  Both Kevin and I had mothers who had stayed home with us when we were young and it was important to each of us that if our child could be given that same opportunity then she should have that same gift.

I will interject here that I know plenty of women who work.  I think this is a personal decision and I don’t stand in judgment of what you as a wife or husband or mother or father decide for your own children.  I think that’s your call.  What I will say is that having a baby is the greatest of responsibilities.  I don’t think one should take on this responsibility if one doesn’t feel they have the time or energy to invest in parenting.  The double-edged sword in this whole scenerio is that until you actually HAVE a child you truly have NO CLUE of the emotional, spiritual, financial, and mental toll/blessing this situation is going to have on you.  I’ve heard some women say, “I’m a better mom because I go to work.”  I’m not so sure I personally subscribe to that theory.  I think parenting is hands-on and involves a physical presence in your child’s life.  For me, seeing my child 2 hours per evening before bedtime wouldn’t be enough.  To me that’s like saying, “My husband and I have such a successful marriage because he’s a truck driver and he’s gone three weeks out of the month.”  I get the point and I almost giggle at the joke in that, but if distance is what is required to make something “successful” then how “successful” can it truly be?  Just my opinion… In what I’ve personally experienced in the last year I’ve gained a completely new respect for single mothers and fathers out there.  My hat is off to you.  It’s amazing to me that people have the energy to do this task alone.  How lucky we are that God gives us as much strength as we need.  He sustains us.  Fortunately.

It’s been interesting to me during my years as a work-from-home mom (8 years now) that I’ve taken some pretty low blows and have heard a few comments from people who don’t understand or see the point in moms who stay home.  I don’t have to write this blog, but after events of late I’ve felt compelled to.  I’ve explained the beginning of how my decision started, how our decision started.  Ava and Elijah and are my children.  They physically came out of my body.  I am the one who prayed for years for these babies before they were even conceived.  I think this makes me the authority when it comes to making decisions for their lives.  Just as any reader with children is the authority on making decisions for their own family.  As a parent my first and foremost desire is the success, happiness, health, and well-being of my children.  It is my job to make them feel safe and secure.  It is my job to provide for their spiritual and emotional needs.  I don’t take this task lightly.  Any of you who know me know that I’m an active parent.  I do things with my children.  I don’t “parent” from the couch.  I like to be in the floor and build Lego towers and Star Wars models with them.  I like to play American Girl dolls and dress up Barbies.  My children know I’m there for them.  I take my children to the park and on bike rides and swimming.  We canoe and fish and hike and go on nature walks.  I enjoy active parenting.  That’s what I do.

In recent event (process of divorce) several people have mentioned to me or my family on more than one occasion that “Amanda’s gonna have to get a real job”.  The very thought that someone would feel bold enough to utter these words is mind-boggling, but each time I hear it I want to go into a 4-hour spill about this subject.  Maybe I’ll just print off this blog and start handing it out when this happens.  I would like to state for the record that I have a “real” job.  My job at the moment is taking care of my children.  I defy anyone out there to even attempt to tell me that they could love my children more or do a better job than I am.  I’m the parent.  They are my children.  Our circumstances are in the process of changing drastically due to current events, but I feel strongly that as long as I am able to keep their little lives peaceful and normal and calm then that is what I will do- at any cost.  At ages 7 and 8 I can’t even imagine what goes on in those sweet, impressionable little minds of theirs.  I feel guilt on a daily basis because their father and I aren’t grown up enough to make a marriage work.  It breaks my heart.  My children are suffering because of adult stupidity and it’s gut wrenching for me.  My job now is reassuring them that I’ll always be here for them.  In their little worlds of so much upheaval I want to be able to provide some consistency.  Why would I- how could I- up and leave my children NOW to get some menial job so that certain people in my life (outskirts of my life) will feel better?  Ava and Elijah need me.

This past school year anytime one of my children has been sick I’ve been able to come and get them from school and keep them at home and be their nurse.  Anytime one of my children has had a field trip and they want me to attend I’ve been able to go.  Anytime one of my children’s teachers is having a class party and they need help I’ve been able to help out.  These are some of the added benefits of being available to your children.  I know some lucky women who have bosses who are flexible on such issues and give them time off for these types of events.  You are so blessed!  I’m proud of all the bosses out there who get it.  My average day at home generally begin with getting two sleepy children out of the bed and dressed for school.  We brush teeth and hair and have our breakfast.  I take them to school and then return home to work at the house or run errands.  Dishes are to be washed.  Yard is to be mowed.  Clothes are to be laundered.  Bathtubs need to be scrubbed.  Depending on the day and what’s going on I may be able to sneak in a lunch with a friend or a quick trip to my mom’s house, but before you know it it’s 3 p.m. and time to get kids from school.  I pick them up, we generally have a snack, and then we take about an hour of down time and do whatever they’d like.  We may watch a movie, ride a bike, play with the cats- whatever.  Then it’s homework time.  I put one child in the shower and the other sits with me and we complete the necessary assignments for that night.  Then I switch kids- next one goes in shower, next one starts on homework.  After showers it’s suppertime and we all sit and eat.  After dinner, if weather permits, we will sometimes ride bikes or just walk downtown.  My kids enjoy being outside.  When we return home we’ll have a little more downtime and then it’s time to brush teeth and get ready for bed.  We read stories before bed- actually now they read to me- then it’s time for prayers and everyone is tucked in.  I’m thankful for the routine of our days.  Sometimes it is the simplicity of that routine (and much prayer) which has kept my head above water.

Thankfully, I am not to the point yet where money has become a tremendous issue.  Is there some struggle?  Yes.  Is there much readjusting which has to be done?  Yes.  My new little family of three, however, always has everything we need.  We live (for now) in a lovely home and our utilities are paid.  We always have food and the necessities.  I’ve been blessed with family who will volunteer to meet needs of ours before I even speak a word.  God has blessed me greatly and I’ll never forget such generosity- my mother, my sister and brother-in-law, my grandmother, and even sweet friends.  The Lord has always provided for us and I have no doubt that He will continue.

What I’ve wanted to say to these busy bodies all along is this- When and if a day ever comes that I can’t meet the needs of my children financially I will do anything I have to do to fix that situation.  I’m not afraid to work “a real job”.  I’m simply not in that position at this time.  I’d like to also tell them that until the day comes I approach you directly and ask you personally for a hand out, my financial situation is none of your business.  I can assure you, I’ve approached none of them and I won’t ever.  Let me do what I know the Lord has called me to do.  I’m being a mother to Ava and Elijah Silvers.  This is my job.

Reblogging for Mother’s Day 2012

Manda's Wonderland

I had to begin with this story. This is without a doubt my all-time favorite “Carolynn” story. Classic Carolynn, if you will.

During the summer of 1988 my family decided to take a weekend trip to PettiJean State Park. PettiJean is a lovely part of NW Arkansas with breathtaking views. Mom and dad were going to take us there on a daytrip to enjoy a picnic and the scenery.

It is important to note that during the summer of 1988 I was 18 years old and Jessica was 16. If some of you will recall there is usually a phase during adolescence in which you wake up one day and think your parents are the most embarrassing and completely uncool people on the planet.

I remember being in high school with my friend Wendi when she hit her phase. Before either of us were old enough to drive, Wendi’s parents…

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Previous Post

In tribute to my wonderful mother, Carolynn, I’m going to repost the blogs I’ve written about her. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing. I love this woman. I’m eternally thankful God assigned me to her! Happy Mother’s Day!

Manda's Wonderland

I’m so excited to write this story! I have wanted for years to write about my mother. The task itself felt quite daunting and I’ve been hesitant to begin the process. My mother is a very special and complex woman. I must be sure that these little tidbits of my experience with her do the woman justice. For those of you who know my mother, you will hopefully laugh in recognition of the stories I will tell. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of meeting her, I hope you will feel as though you know her on a personal level by the time you’ve finished reading.

I don’t remember the exact point in time, but at some interval during my adulthood I began calling my mother by her first name. I have friends who are appalled by this, but I can assure you I have the…

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