Success, Mom Style

How do you measure success?

As a working woman, as a manager, it’s about time management; organization and multi-tasking; respect. It’s about balancing the importance of small triumphs and big rookie mistakes. It’s about leaving work in the parking lot as I drive away — to return just a few hours later sometimes.

As for the rest of my life, success is all at once harder and easier to measure.

It’s mostly about making the most out of every moment — standing by the screen door to feel the mist of a springtime thunderstorm breezing by our world and equally admiring the birds building a nest in our wisteria bush on a sunny afternoon. It’s about being present, and about being thankful.

Success is making it through my first year as a mom (almost!) relatively healed and a better person. It’s about being an advocate for moms like me, sons like Zack and diseases and diagnoses like Down Syndrome — without being overbearing, annoying or obsessed.

Success is waking up to a world where new friendships are born out of memories and different walks of life… paths that lead to playdates and teary-eyed stories and everything in between. The understanding of complex feelings on complicated days without saying a single word about it all.

Success is a day like today.

A day where understanding the significance of my son sitting up on his own is not lost on me but not the only thing that moves me, either. It’s a day where I can let him fall 10 times, one of those likely resulting in a good cry from the impact of the toy behind his head. I bite my lip, hold back my hand from caressing the sore spot and watch as the tears quickly dry up and life is good again.

Yes, life is good again. One point for Mommy.

A day like today brings me a boy whose mid-morning cat nap can only be found on Mommy’s chest today. And I won’t argue with that at all.

Success is catching up with my dad, my stepmother, my Godmother and a best friend, and reaching out to the voicemails of a handful more.

I am successful today because I hugged my husband a little more, told him “I love you” a few more times and meant it with all of my heart. Where the seriousness and beauty of the journey we’ve shared makes us stronger, not weaker. And a day where “forever” sounds like a piece of cake. We’ve made it to what has got to be Hell — and back — and then a few more times — and days like this, he holds me close, tells me he’s “having a moment” and just can’t let me go.

Yes, I must be doing something right.

Success is laughing with my nearly 10-month-old son over nothing at all; neither one of us is able to stop.

Success is feeling his heavy weight on my hip as I hold him in front of his crib, the curtains drawn, pajamas on, milk in belly. I tell myself it’s OK that it’s still so hard to let go. And that it’s even better that I’m able to do just that.

I didn’t finish the laundry I started.

I only read one magazine, not the other 10 in my must-read-soon pile. (Hey guess what — Osama’s been killed!)

I am only now sitting down to write a blog I’ve been thinking about for hours; the latest in a handful that need written and shared.

I didn’t buy any more work clothes. I definitely didn’t make it to the grocery store.

But I laughed, I smiled, I rested, I thought, I prayed, I hoped, I drank some wine, I laughed some more. I loved a lot. I was loved.

I lived a good day today.

And I think that makes me successful.

Sittin’ pretty, flyin’ high

I am flying high and my little guy is sittin’ like a big boy.

I don’t know that my life could be much better right now, but let’s go back a few days to the start of the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.

My long-haired, big-hearted Godfather and his beautiful bride (as he calls Aunt Dot) drove eight hours each way from their home in Massachusetts to get to know Zack better and to see a day or so in our lives.

There was a delicious dinner  last evening made by Uncle Joe. I can still smell the fresh garlic in our kitchen this morning. A long conversation over candlelight, with Frank Sinatra playing in the background touched on subjects that made us laugh and some that made us ponder and even prepare.

My aunt and uncle embrace Zack and his Down Syndrome diagnosis perhaps better than anyone we’ve talked to about it so far. There is a deep understanding and a reality-based yet positive outlook. They understand the trials that our family faces in the future and relish in the little victories we work so hard for — like

Zack’s ability to sit on his own, after months of exercises and practice!

If Zack is in the right mood, you can just plop him right in the middle of the floor or next to you on a couch cushion or chair and he will use those strong ab muscles to stay upright, sometimes putting his palms flat on the surface to steady himself in a shaky moment. It’s not just a split second — it’s 30 seconds, and then one minute, and then even two minutes.

Back to Uncle Joe and Aunt Dot.

They came to us with open hearts and open arms — and many gifts! We have fresh vegetables from Uncle Joe’s dinner shopping, bottles of wine and plenty of new toys for Z-Man to grab, throw, drop and chew on.

I loved every minute of their visit,but perhaps the best part for me was a long walk with Uncle Joe, both of us dodging raindrops (until the thunderstorm made an appearance at the end…) in our rain hats and raincoats, clutching our cameras and spending several minutes looking at the same image and talking about how we could compose a photo, how it should be lit, what the white balance should be and what depth of field was best. In between clicks of the camera came more great conversation.

And then, when that thunder started rolling in, we strode back toward home, arm in arm, one dinky small umbrella protecting our cameras but not our rain-soaked clothes, both of us smiling. We laughed when Scott came driving down the road to rescue us, we laughed and waved him off so we could continue our walk, stopping yet again to capture an image of the raindrops on the stream.

I am loved.

I am so very happy.

I am so truly lucky.

I’ve spent much of the day giggling with my little man, editing photos and remembering the warm happiness I swam in these past three days, all the while inhaling the fresh garlic in our kitchen.

Did I mention I am loved and happy?

Mom Stuff, 2011 Edition

Dear Mommy,

It is that day of the year. The day daughters and sons and husbands and loved ones celebrate the mothers in their lives. Each year, it is a painful reminder — more painful than your Leap Year birthday or the anniversary of your passing (coming up in just a couple of weeks) — a painful reminder that you are not here.

May 26 causes me to relive the day that made me an adult much too early; that shaped my every move and trait and flaw. Mother’s Day causes me to focus so specifically on all of the things you are missing, have missed and will miss. And this year, my first as a mother myself, that loss is magnified.

Your grandson is in his bassinet, lifting his head up with strength I feared he would never have. He flips over, grabs his feet, giggles and looks up at me — the first of many “Mom, did you see?!” moments I love. Did those moments with you fill your heart up with happiness and hope? Did you hold your breath when I fell or did you come running with a hug? I need to know, because some days, there is such intense pressure to not mess up any of these Mommy Moments.

“Mommy…” I call out in weakness. “Mommy, what should I do?” The day of Zachary’s diagnosis, I cried myself to sleep chanting “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy…” For you or for me?

Just as I briefly thought Down Syndrome would cause me to curl up and die, as if I let my son down, my family down, I once thought that there was a point in which the hurt of missing you would quietly fade into the back of my memories, collecting dust and fingerprints like a favorite photo. I was wrong on both ends.

I am stronger than ever, and so is the pain of life without you.

There are days that Down Syndrome could easily consume me, but I remind myself that I’ve been through much worse, much harder things than this. In fact, it was the first thing my dad told me when I told him of Zachary’s diagnosis — how strong I was and how I had survived worse tragedies before. He was talking about you, and your death 17 years ago.

I think I’m a good mother. I hope I am, at least. There are some days I’m pretty darned proud of myself and of how good it feels to hold my son so close and make him a better person, too.

But I’ve had to figure it out all on my own. I had no mother in my life to talk to me about how a baby would change my life; how pregnancy would feel; tell me stories about when she was pregnant with me. When Scott’s family came into the hospital room nine months ago, I daydreamed about the smile on your face and where you would be sitting and just how much I felt your absence. There are days still that I pick up the phone, wanting to call you and vent about my bad day or seek advice. And I realize I don’t have your phone number.

I get bitter sometimes and I do a lot of wondering why. Just like I hope and hope that my friends realize how special their “healthy” and “normal” babies are and how much they take for granted, I wonder if those I love who aren’t members of the Motherless Daughters Club can imagine a Mother’s Day without a mother. Or any day for that matter.

Let’s be honest, Mommy, you weren’t perfect. Not as a mother and not as a person. But I don’t know many people who are at either. I certainly am not. I certainly have my demons, too. But on this Mother’s Day, you are loved, appreciated, thought of and most sorely missed. By a couple of us this year. Because at least once every day, I take a moment to mention you, in a story or through a photo, to your grandson. And he always smiles.

¬†The chance that she never had is now the gift that is mine. And out here on this road I’m making up for lost time. Yeah, I am my mother’s child and tonight in this car, I got her words in my suitcase, her dreams in my heart.

For the first time in my life, this Mother’s Day is all my own.

But I might just share it with a little blond-haired boy with a drooly grin and big blue eyes. You see, I thought I was a good writer. I’m becoming confident in my new position and career, too. But there is absolutely no job that I feel like I was made for quite like my roles as Scott’s wife and Zack’s momma. It is in those moments with my two guys that I feel whole, complete, at peace and so unimaginably happy.

I was born to be a mother.

*** It was after I wrote this that I received my Mother’s Day gift(s) from Scott. The man is a sweetheart and a thinker and knows how to drive a point home. I received four charms from Brighton (my favoritest ever) — all birthstones — one heart-shaped one for Zack and then one each for the three “mothers” in my life — my Mom, my stepmother and Scott’s Mom. Pile of happy tears.

Mother’s Day, it seems, isn’t just about being a Mom; it’s about the Moms in your life. It’s about the mother figures, too, and there’s a lot of you out there. And I think it should be about the New Mom Friends who have helped me navigate this boat in rough seas and to all the friends and loved ones who aren’t Mommies, can’t be Mommies, are trying to be Mommies and will someday soon be Mommies. You’re all in my heart today.

Nine Months Old

***Due to technical difficulties and a lot of yawns, I must throw in the towel without posting any photos today… I’ll try again soon!***

When Zack turned one month old, I remember comparing it to being one month pregnant. Just finding out there was a little somebody inside of me — a little bit of Scott and a little of me.

I did the same thing numerous times this past year. Three months old? When I was three months pregnant, we finally came “out” about our pregancy and were happy to have made it past the first trimester. At six months old, I was getting big and vowing never to have a baby in the summer again. And now, nine months.

At nine months, I was ready to go, ready to start the life I thought I knew all about.

I had no clue, but I love every minute of this beautiful surprise.

Z-Man is nine months old, loving life and every bit of the world around him, blue eyes following every noise and motion with such intense curiousity and scrutiny that I almost feel ashamed for not seeing the world like that myself.

We visit the pediatrician for the first time in three months this week, so until then, we just take stabs at guesses at his weight and length — maybe 18 pounds or so?

He’s wearing Size Nine Months clothes pretty comfortably, although he can still squeeze into some Six Months and can fill up some of his 12 Months, too.

After his haircut this month, we can officially say that our little guy is a definite blondie, just like his Daddy was as a baby. His hair has gotten some of the mohawk back and it’s a soft, fine texture that’s perfect for burying your head in during the day.

We’ve had a couple of very awesome, worked-our-butt-off-for-them milestones in the last week or two — most notably sitting on his own and saying some very beautiful words.

Sitting just suddenly ‘clicked,’ just like we knew it would. Z-Man was in physical therapy the other day with Miss Kathleen when she moved her arms just slightly and there The Dude sat, on his own, for 32 seconds. I hope I never forget the magnitude of 32 seconds. He still can’t move himself into a sitting position or stay sitting for very long, but he is enjoying it — just having a better vantage point to watch the world around him is exciting enough. I am just so proud of him. And of his Daddy and everyone who puts in the hard work and time with therapy exercises and sitting Battles of the Mind.

And just when I had wrapped this month up to be a beautiful gift worthy of a big red bow, and just in time for Mother’s Day, The Dude said the most lovely sound I’ve ever heard.

Last week one night, I got home from work, scooped him up and had this exhausted lil baby “help” me as I changed into some comfy clothes. He was laying on the bed while I walked back and forth, talking to him, when suddenly, clear as a bell, I heard “Ma Ma” as his big blue eyes looked up at me. Happy Mother’s Day to me indeed. :-)

I’ve heard him say “Ma Ma” a few more times since then, including just now, as I type this and he sits looking at me from his chair. He might as well be saying “I love you, thanks for the hard nine months last year and for putting up with those 1 a.m. feedings last winter — you rock.”

The Spring weather that has finally arrived gives us plenty of opportunities for outside walks and fresh air memories and The Dude and I soak it all up on our days off. I love the sunshine that has brought us all out of this dark winter and I love being able to show my son the gorgeous scenery that surrounds us.

I’m looking forward to another month of sunshine-y days and blessed moments.

This is a happy Ma-Ma right here. :-)