Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why Maddie Matters

Mommies need support, even those with healthy children. Parenting is hard (for either gender) and the classic 'it takes a village to raise a child' comment is true. Parents need people to turn to when their child is crying and they have no idea why, when they are tired (oh so very tired), when they are proud (first steps!), pretty much at any stage in the process. We live in such transient times that many of use don't even know our neighbors, much less would be comfortable leaving our children in their care while we ran out for milk. That tight network of help and support that our grandparents had has slowly disintegrated generation over generation. Those of us raising children hours from family, new to areas, far from friends, experience the natural isolation of the early months of infanthood to an excruciating degree. Where can you turn when there is no one near? While we often bemoan the over connectedness of our hyper-wired lives, this very connection can be a parent's salvation.
I have been honored to become a part of the Mommy blogging nation. I'm merely a bit player in a community populated with rock stars - women who share their soul in smart, moving, & interesting ways. Blogher is filled with these women, and men, sharing stories of parenthood and the challenges and rewards it can bring. This blogging community I joined then expanded into twitter giving me the chance to interact real time with other women and men, parents and not, sharing stories of their lives with and without children. Twitter became my virtual community center, only without the bingo, a place to get information, to offer and get support, laugh, learn, and just hang out with like minded, and differently inclined folk - all with something compelling to offer. Intuitively I sensed this was a community, but I didn't know until today what power there was in this connection.
Today has been an amazing day - heartrending and overwhelming, and it's because of a little girl named Maddie. I don't know her. I never had to honor to meet her, and now I never will. She passed away 4 days ago before even reaching the age of two. I can't do Maddie justice but her family can - read their blog: . It is full of pictures of a beautiful joyful child that reminds me of my own preemie baby enough to make my breath catch at the thought of how close we were to the same situation.
I can't comprehend what this loss is for Heather & Mike, literally, I can NOT comprehend it. But this family is right now deep in this tragic and painful place. Whenever I try to put myself in their shoes, my mind, my HEART, refuses to go there. I can't. I just can't imagine it. It too dark and horrid and terrifying. If ever a parent, a family has needed the support of a community, it is the Spohrs and it is now.
And they got it. This beautiful little girl has triggered an outpouring of love and passion and support from this virtual collective that has shown me what a 'community' really is. #maddie has become a top trend on Twitter, meaning that everyone is talking about this tragedy. Her story has flown from blog to blog, and people from all over the globe have used the internet to pour love and hope and support and even donations towards the Spohrs and Maddie's cause, the March of Dimes.
When people roll their eyes at Twitter or Facebook or blogging, I will point to this story, to this experience. These websites, these technologies aren't the point. They are only tools, and they can be used to superpoke people, or spam market with twitterbots, OR, as today, they can be used for overwhelming good. In spite of the devastating loss of a child far to young to go home, the response of this community makes me believe that meaning can be found even in the unthinkably wrong, and that evil doesn't triumph, not when we all band together to fight it, even if it is virtually.
Maddie, you have touched the world & spread love and joy even in your passing - your parents should be proud of their beautiful baby girl.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My that was SO refreshing!

I went away this weekend to visit my mom. Generally, 'taking the baby and going to mother's house' is viewed as a little girls getaway, and/or indication of serious marital trouble. In this case it was neither (although, upon arriving home from this somewhat 'challenging' trip and seeing the dishes STILL undone, there was a small bit of, et-hem, relational discord, shall we say - Love you baby! really ;-)).
This trip was not the relaxarama one would think for a few reasons - 1) mom lives 4 hours away. Driving alone for 4 hours with a one year old is not something that ever shows up on a list of relaxing spa services. Cause it's not relaxing. At all. Not even remotely. Even when the baby is quiet, you still can't relax cause it's not a baby - it's a ticking shrieking timebomb and it could GO OFF AT ANY TIME!
Reason number 2 this was not a chillathon - the baby is teething. Yes, a giant chunk of enamel is boring it's way through her gum. I can't blame her for being a crankhead, when you look at it that way, but it doesn't make her any more pleasant to be around. So of course that means she wants to be around you ALL THE TIME. Add that to her being at the clingy age in general and you get a small ill natured barnacle that freaks the everloving F OUT whenever it is pried from your hip and you move outside of the pre-approved one yard radius. Not out of eyesight mind you, just more that 3 feet away, and the infant alarm at 140 dbs starts wailing.
Number 3? Mom's house isn't baby proofed. There is a baby gate to keep her from plummeting down the stairs, but other then that, free for all. This means constant adult supervision is required. And there really aren't many baby restraining devices at my parents house that we can use anymore. The bouncy seat is nothing but chains and handcuffs to a mini Houdini and buys me nothing but a 30 second head start - ergo useless. Considering she wrapped herself around any limb she could get a-hold to, this did have the positive side effect of reducing the chance she'd grab the gallon of bleach and start licking it, or whatever. She was too busy adhering to me to bother... mostly. I won't go into the whole wine bottle battle of wills, but suffice it to say she can't reach the counter top, and I can, so nenner nenner.
And the last reason that it wasn't a cold chillin' weekend, is my mom has MS. Which is why I went down in the first place. My dad had an out of town trip planned, and it seemed like a long time for her to be alone. Mom's at the stage now where her strength is waning, so if she falls, it can be hours before she gets herself back up. Her neighbors who usually look in were busy with cancer surgery (for God sake) so they weren't available. My dad is on duty 24/7 though, and he NEEDED this trip, so enter us.
Mom can't move far or fast, so her vs. a motivated crawling baby is no match - I was on my own with the Critter. And Mom isn't really able to whip together dinner any more - she is on the pointy end of the 'cognitive effects' bell curve for MS, and has trouble staying on track. Things burn, ingredients get left out, and she gets exhausted 1/2 way through. So the weekend was filled with my week-a-day chores of baby care (with a +2 difficulty for teething and location) and cooking and cleaning, so mom could eat something that didn't come from take out or a microwave and so dad wouldn't come home to more work with a leftover mess. Sandwiched between 2 4-hour drives. Um, whee. This was, in fact, the definition of an anti-relaxation weekend on logistics alone, forget about the emotional component of having to parent your own parent while parenting your one child. No. I did not relax.
But for all the stress and baby shrieks and dishes, it was worth every second. Because it was also filled with the baby crawling over to cling to grandmas leg by day 3, and three generations of giggles when the little one decided that peek-a-boo behind a toy cow is THE BEST THING EVAR! This weekend, for all it's challenges, was a great gift for all of us, and I know it and am grateful for it.
That being said, I'd really rather a spa trip next time, so, you know, if you are making plans...