Rabbit, rabbit

When I woke yesterday, the first day of an exciting month for our family, I felt myself recalling the many, many firsts of months when I was a little girl. I had read somewhere that it was good luck to have “Rabbit, Rabbit” be the first thing you say out loud on the first of the month. I would be devastated if I accidentally forgot and did something stupid like say, “Good morning, Dad” or “I’m late for school.” Heavens forbid!

I didn’t know what would happen in Aug. 2010, the last time we stood at the doorstep of a month that would make us parents. I know I didn’t say “Rabbit, rabbit.” I didn’t know our world would be lifted up and thrown about like a boomerang, this way and that way and that way again.

So, restless, nervous, tired from being restless and nervous, I rolled over yesterday morning, held Scott as tight as I could and whispered “Rabbit, rabbit.”
Just in case.

We had an ultrasound on Monday and Little Miss is looking very healthy. She was head-down (yay for learning the error of her naughty ways when she was breech the week before and Mommy threatened 18 years of grounding!) and is measuring larger and further along. This really could happen at any time. My aching body rejoices knowing that these last few tweaks and pains and sleepless nights won’t last for long and soon, very soon, I could be holding our baby girl.

I have just one more week of work before I become a full-time Momma for three months. I battled for a while as to how long I would work and how long I would take off to be with my two, count ’em TWO kiddos. I know I’ve done well and made it far and I’m proud of the way I’ve handled myself despite the four months’ of morning sickness, the two months’ of Mexican cravings and the nine months of hormones and emotions. I’ve had support and concern and great soothing wise voices and tips and laughter, and I guess that’s what they meant at my New Hire Orientation when they said our team was more of a family than anything else.

So aside from yet another load of baby laundry (we are loved, we are loved) we’re pretty much physically and mentally and emotionally as ready for her arrival as we’ll ever be.
I will pack my hospital bag differently this time.
I will not take solid foods for granted.
I will be prepared with five different phone numbers to text or call for the five different scenarios I will need to handle with screams or tears or happy blubbers when I’m all alone in a hospital room. (I’m hoping for happy blubbers)

I’ve always hated May. It’s a dreadful month for me.
There is the annual celebration of all things Mother. And then the day that I no longer had one.

My original due date was two days before the day my mom passed away and I spent two days crying alone at night, wondering what sort of cruel joke I’d be handed next. It doesn’t look like we’ll make it to that date and whether or not that’s for better or worse, I’ll let Little Miss come on the day she was meant to debut and we’ll figure the rest out later.

I don’t know how I’ll handle a mother-daughter relationship after so many years without one of my own.
I’ve had great maternal influences, don’t get me wrong — my Aunt Alice has turned into someone I know I can trust with any revelation big or small and after the past year, I know we’ve got each other each and every time the world brings us down; I had a very good relationship with my Mother-in-Law for quite some time and I’m grateful for those memories and bonding moments; and my stepmother, through her role as a Nana, has shown me maternal qualities I never realized existed in that woman I once couldn’t understand.
I’ve got lots of great ladies in my life, though. Some of them mothers and some of them not.

My sister Melinda was the first person I ever told about Down Syndrome. It took 20 minutes to type the words in my phone after Scott left to run some errands shortly after our pediatrician delivered the news. I just had to tell her. She’s been there ever since, even if she’s thousands of miles away.

And I’ve got cousins, like Becky, who make me want to be a better Mom, a better person; who make me want to make tough decisions with strength and faith and the knowledge that it will really all be OK.

And my friends. A girl can only say she’s lucky so many times before people start to roll their eyes, but really I am so blessed. Old friends (I love you Jeans and Kacey and Allison) and my newer, local friends who are literally just down the road when I need them (I’m starting to get too many to name… I love you, I love you, I love you.)

So, I pray that their influences on my life, all of them, big and small, will be enough to help me become the best mother I can be to the little girl I never knew if I could handle having. The little girl who has already tested me so much; who I’m positive will keep me on my toes and show me love I never knew I could experience.

So we’re a-marchin’. One day at a time, one smile-inducing moment with our son at a time. Zack is standing more and walking (with assistance) all around the house. He is climbing steps like a pro and using his signs often. He loves “reading” his many books and is still too rough when petting Rocky the Cat, who puts up with it anyway. If you ask Zack for a hug, he will throw his arms around your neck and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, sometimes adding in a pat on your back. He kisses his toys, he waves “hello” and “goodbye” and he eats more food than a toddler should ever fit in their stomach at one time. He’s good with strangers and yet has a special connection to certain loved ones in his life. He loves watching the world outside from our front door and even more so enjoys walks down the street, especially if the puppies join us.

There are so few moments left with the three of us as a family. I plan to enjoy them all to the fullest.

And though I’m the happiest I’ve been in quite some time, I still believe in silly phrases on the first of the month. But I believe more in creating happiness from sadness and learning lessons from the littlest bits of life.

I still believe that May could be a pretty amazing month.

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They say it’s my birthday…

28 years ago, there was a day of awesomeness. Because I was born, of course!

With the beautiful moments I’ve enjoyed of family and accomplishments these past few weeks, I can’t help but be particularly sentimental today.

I’ve been thinking, as I hold my growing belly, about my mother in those months and weeks and hours before she met me for the first time. And I can’t help but think about that mother-daughter bond I’ll soon experience myself.

I rocked a little boy back to sleep in the early hours of this morning and despite my exhaustion and his reluctance to fall back asleep, I loved it. It instantly became one of my favorite moments with the Little Man. Ever. There have been a lot of late-night/early-morning rockings in his baseball-and-puppy covered room. Some of them, in the very, very early days were filled with anger and tears — not toward my son, but toward the hand that had been dealt to him.

I remember staring at those sports scenes on his walls and feeling very, very bitter about the plans we had no business making for him and how we had just set ourselves up for disappointment.

18 months later, less than a month away from our second celebration of World Down Syndrome Day and our family’s attempt at bringing awareness to others, and Down Syndrome isn’t everything. It really isn’t anything. It’s brought us a greater awareness of the little things I think most parents take for granted; it’s brought us three Early Intervention therapists who have become family; it’s brought us an understanding, a peace, a love, that we are so blessed to experience.

18 months ago, my son’s slanted blue eyes brought me a level of sadness I thought was unconquerable. And here we are, just a mother and her son rocking side to side in the quiet darkness of his room. A little hand sliding up and down strands of my hair, a thumb-sucking noise on my shoulder. “Life is good, so beautifully good,” I thought over and over and over.

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This past weekend, we went to my Homeland of Jersey. No armpit jokes, no exit questions; this is my home. This is the land of memories and happy times and most importantly, family. We had a lot of that great family time this weekend. We celebrated another blossoming belly and growing family with a baby shower for my cousin, who is one of the most radiant, beautiful mothers-to-be I’ve ever seen.

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Zack tried to steal the show and I tried to capture all of these magical moments on camera — my aunt’s first entertainment stint since the passing of her husband last year, thinking about that absolutely insane circle of life and how it was never more evident than on a Saturday afternoon in Bayonne; the bonding between Zachary and his great aunt and great uncle, cousins and grandparents; the love that is found in precise decorating, uncontrollable laughter (and sometimes snorting) and the strength found in the loved ones in that room.

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There were a lot of people in that room who had at some point, some of them very recently, been through something they didn’t think they’d survive. And yet there we all were, getting each other through another day, another year. Sharing secrets and plans and dreams and fears. A lot of delicious bread and food, walks to the park, photos of the Bayonne Bridge. And enough love to fill a million party favors or birthday cards.

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There’s a sleeping boy upstairs, laundry whirring in the dryer and a cat purring next to me. It’s a simple life, but it’s one I wouldn’t exchange for anything. The weather is supposed to be mild and sunny today and that calls for some time outside with my guy to celebrate my day, but really to celebrate EVERY day.

My birthday wish is simple. I don’t want to forget this euphoria; this feeling of acknowledging that you have no control over life, but you have control over how you react to and how you handle what life offers you, good or bad, ugly or beautiful, expected or unexpected.

To forget that would be my ultimate failure. It would mean the hard lesson learned was for nothing. It would mean that I hadn’t learned to just accept life unconditionally, to live life unconditionally.

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