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All posts for the month March, 2013

When Scotch Tape Doesn’t Hold

Published March 26, 2013 by megchristo

I feel compelled to tell you about the days following Carsten’s birth.  These were the days that scotch tape truly didn’t hold me together.  I was literally falling apart at my seams.  I had tears, grief, sadness, and fear seeping out of me.  I was paralyzed.  I felt like I was living in a parallel universe.  One where my realities were vastly different than everyone else’s.  For months really, I lived in this space.  I didn’t feel like I belonged in our world anymore, so I learned how to breath in my new space.  Day by day I slowly started to reenter “reality”, but I could only survive in that space for short periods of time.  It was like trying to breath under water.  I couldn’t do it, so the most I could hope for was to hold my breath for as long as possible before I came back up to my world.  Eventually my world morphed into the real world, but I vowed that I never wanted another new mom to feel the way I felt.  I wanted to shine a light on my world to show everyone how beautiful it really was.  I remember thinking, “If people only knew how awesome Carsten is, there would be a waiting list to get a baby with Down syndrome!”  While society isn’t there yet, we are making progress.  If this reaches one new mom or dad, and starts to shine light into their new world, I will be happy…not satisfied, but happy.

I have said it before that the biggest difference when you have a baby with Down syndrome is that you see all of the hurdles and struggles your baby will face for the rest of his life.  I will give you that most of these hurdles never end up coming to life, but in the moment they are as real as you and I.  During a “typical” child birth, they put your baby in your arms, and you start dreaming big.  Your child will be the next president of the United States!  No on looks at their newborn baby, turns to their husband and says, “Oh goodness dear, we have a high school drop out on our hands.  He live with us until he is 32 years old.”  It doesn’t happen!!!  So when you are told your baby has Down syndrome, whether prenatally or after birth, all you see are dark looming shadows.  Almost instantaneously you see the faceless silhouettes of the bullies you are sure you will have to beat down for calling your son the “r” word.  You worry about his health.  Who will be his friends?  How will your other children handle “this”?  What kind of job will he have?  Will he graduate from high school?  Is college even a possibility?  Will I spend the rest of my life fighting people who have disrespected him?  Will he drive?  Will he ever know the love and pride of having his own family and wife?  Will we ever function like a normal family ever again? Will I ever have a true conversation with him?  How will I ever be able to financially support him?  Will I know the pain and despair that comes from having to bury one of your own children?

Now I will grant you that most of my fears or perceived hurdles came out of sheer ignorance.  Some of the questions above, I still don’t have the answers too.  I just now realize how beautiful the unknown is.  I appreciate living in the now.  These fears and dark shadows don’t wake me up in the middle of the night anymore.  Mostly I have Carsten himself to thank for that.  I know that Carsten is exactly who he is meant to be.  I know that whatever Carsten sets his mind to he will accomplish.  I know now that people are drawn to him.  He has an indescribable magnetism that draws good people in, and draws good things out of them.  For those that allow themselves to be taken in by Carsten’s charms, they will never be the same person for it.  

I also know that Carsten is a blessing to our family.  He has never been nor will he ever be a burden.  I am not sure what we did to deserve such a loving gift into our family, but I wouldn’t give Carsten’s extra chromosome back for a million dollars!  If they came out with a “miracle cure” for Down syndrome tomorrow, I would politely refuse.  I buried the Carsten I thought I was going to have long ago, and I never, never, never want to live my life without the Carsten that was given to me…..all 47 chromosomes of him!

I have often wondered if I could go back and change anything in my life, would I? No, I wouldn’t. I do wish that the me now could have followed those doctors into my hospital room on May 31, 2006. I would stand to the right of the 28 year old me clutching her new baby in her arms with fear spreading through her body. When the first doctor asked, “Has anyone expressed the concerns we have about your baby?” I would put my arm on my 28 year old self, smile at the doctor politely, and say,”Yes! Isn’t it wonderful?” After the next doctor rattled off the scary list of medical issues that may come, I would say, “Please leave. You are scaring this woman half to death. 90% of what you just said will never happen. This child is far more than what you can look up in you medical books. You are setting the bar for how this woman thinks everyone is going to treat her from here on out, and you are setting a bad example.” I would then follow that line of doctors right out of my hospital room. Before I left I would turn around and look at the scared, sobbing, sad 28 year old me. I would say with a reassuring smile, “You have a beautiful baby boy inside and out! Congratulations! Take him home, and love him. Girl, you got this! You so got this!” Maybe I would blow a kiss to MJ on the way out too.;)

The Day That Changed My Life

Published March 25, 2013 by megchristo

Today was my first day back to work.  The time to bond with the girls seemed to fly by!  Last night I could hardly sleep.  I was tossing and turning worried…panicked even on how the girls would do with me leaving for work everyday.  How would this effect them?  I was worried the most about Elle.  How would my work life interfere with the progress we have made on her abandonment fears?  Would we take 10 huge steps backwards the moment I walked out that door?  When I left the house, I pulled alongside the curb a few blocks down the street and balled.  I mean ugly cried.  I allowed myself to do that for about 5 minutes. I then fixed the makeup, and was off to the races.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I really like my job.  I love my customers, and I feel like a truly make a difference.  But have you ever had one of those scotch tape kind of days?  You are fairly put together on the outside, but if anyone looked close enough they would see you were being held together by scotch tape at the seams.  At any moment the scotch tape might give, and your heart may come popping out.  Today was one of those days for me.  Luckily I made it through with my heart still pumping in my chest!;)

On days like this I remember so clearly the day that changed my life and my perspective.

This happened to me on May 31st, 2006 at 10:30 am.  Matt was sitting on the left hand side of my hospital bed at the University of Missouri.  Carsten was just a little over 10 hours old, and we couldn’t stop staring at our perfect baby.  Then I heard a knock on my door, and 8 doctors that I had never seen before came filing in.  They lined up in an “L” shape around my room.  From my days as a hospital sales rep, I knew that 2 of them were attending physicians, 4 were residents, and 2 were med students by the length of their white coats or lack there of.  I also knew they weren’t there to say “Good morning.”  The first NICU attending physician opened by saying, “Has anyone expressed the concerns we have about your baby?”

I quickly answered, “No.” 

She followed by saying, “Your baby has several characteristics of Down syndrome.”  Her eyes then filled with tears.

Time stopped for a moment.  I then glanced down the line of doctors till I got to the next attending.  I asked her, “What does this mean?”

She said, “Well, if your baby does have Down syndrome he will have mental retardation.”  The rest of the scary medical things she rattled off I couldn’t even keep up with.

I remember saying with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, “Can we fix it?”

I don’t remember how they responded to this illogical question because I then looked down at Carsten curled up in my arms.  At that moment he looked up at me with those beautiful, almond shaped eyes, and for the first time I heard his “voice.”  His heart spoke to my heart and he said, “Mommy they aren’t here to fix me.  I am here to fix you.”

For six…almost seven years…Carsten has gone through the difficult job of fixing me.  He is my beacon of truth, honesty, love, and all things good in this world.  Everyday he shows me how much the human spirit can endure and triumph if one just puts their mind to it.  I am not sure of the person or mother I would be today if Carsten hadn’t been born with an extra chromosome.  I don’t think the person I am today would approve of her though.  I am so thankful to be exactly where I am today.  I am thankful for all of my children!  They all have helped shape the person I am, and only will help push to make me a better person tomorrow.  Their job will never be done!  So when I think that my scotch tape may blow, or that the girls will retreat into the depths of their despair while they were waiting for Matt and I to find them, I remember how silly I must be being.  

After all how could all of the love, security, and safety of our family be erased by a working day?  When I returned home and saw the pure joy of my return on Elle, Mae, Griffin, Carsten, and Gabe’s faces, I knew it couldn’t be erased.  Somehow my love surely lingers around them like protective cloaks even when I am not physically next to them.  Besides nothing beats all of the hugs, kisses, and exuberant “MOM!” screams I hear when I walk through the door.  

Hopefully tomorrow when I leave for work, I will feel like I am held together with a substance more sturdy than scotch tape….perhaps duct tape will do! 🙂

 

The Windy City

Published March 18, 2013 by megchristo

Well…we have tackled the Field Museum, Chinatown, Science and Industry Museum, shopping, deep dish pizza, dim sim, AND……American Girl store! Do you know how long I have waited to shop at the American Girl store with my daughter? I have longed to over pay for dolls for years! They have taunted me for nearly a decade by sending me their catalogs full of girly cuteness at premium prices. I tried to talk Gabe into a boy bitty baby twin, but he never wavered at his dislike of dolls. Now today I entered girlie heaven with my three oldest children, but most importantly my oldest daughter! We both had smiles on our faces! The anticipation was intense! Which doll would Elle choose? The possibilities were endless! Would she choose a historic doll, a just like me doll, or a Bitty Baby? Drum roll please…..she chose the Bitty Baby girl twins with dark hair and almond shaped eyes. One she will give to her baby sister, Mae Mae. She is such a sweet girl!

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The boys weren’t that excited about the experience. Carsten quickly found a comfy couch for him and Gabe to lounge on, and to wait for Elle’s big decision.

Life in the Deep End

Published March 15, 2013 by megchristo

Well….I am in the home stretch of my adoption leave.  I have next week home with the kids, and then it’s back to the real world.  I have loved my time off with the kids.  It has been an unbelievable gift to be with the Elle, Mae and the boys for the last 5 weeks.  It was been wonderful to see the family start to grow together.  When I think of how far we have come in the last 5 weeks, I just smile!  When I think of all the challenges we still need to overcome, I start to panic!  How will I be able to keep this family going down the right path, and work full time?  I certainly don’t have an answer to that yet, but am sure we will settle into a new groove….hopefully sooner rather than later.  I don’t know how long it will take, but will handle each set back and issue as it comes up.  

Nothing is as traumatic or serious as it first appears.  When I start to feel overwhelmed, I just remember how overwhelmed I was when Carsten was born.  I thought I would never work again.  I didn’t think we would be able to go on vacations ever again.  I wasn’t sure if we would ever truly be happy again.  I had no idea how to begin living life.  Slowly but surely I realized that life just had a new added depth to it.  A new depth that I desperately needed, and I had no clue how shallow of life I had been living.  My happiness only got happier….if that makes any sense.  I was right about one thing.  Life would never be the same again, but I was wrong on what end of the spectrum we would land on.  

I think this new challenge is the same.  I just need to get comfortable swimming in the deep end again.  I need to be comfortable in the unknown.  How boring would life be if we didn’t challenge ourselves to tackle new adventures?  I think that human potential is limitless, and everyday we constantly undersell ourselves on what we can truly do….on who we can become….the change that we can help create.  NOTHING is impossible.  We are limitless!  Yet every second we are constantly limiting ourselves with our own self-doubt.  No one else has the power to limit us, but we let their negative feelings and words affect us in such a profound way. Why?  One of my new goals is to take this power way from other people.  Trust me…I can be my own worst enemy…I don’t need anyone else in that role.  On the flip side of that, I will try not to inflict negativity and limits on other people.  Who wants to hang out with a Debbie Downer?

Am I swimming in the deep end with no sign of shore in sight?  Yes I am!  Are the sharks circling?  I don’t think so.  There isn’t any blood in the water yet!  There may be for awhile as I get use to being a working mom of 5, but that’s ok.  I think I read somewhere once that you just punch sharks in the nose, and I have a mean left hook! 😉  

The two phrases I say to myself a lot lately are:

“It’s no problem!’ and “This too shall pass, and then I will miss it!”  These seem to help me stay calm while I am in the middle of what seems like a major crisis.  So in the coming weeks, when I am freaking out, will someone please remind me of this?

 

Dare I Say?!?

Published March 5, 2013 by megchristo

Dare I say….I think I have found a groove?!?!  Maybe!  MJ left on Monday morning for Reno, and I am here alone feeling triumphant!  The laundry is caught up, homework done, house is cleaned, kids are cleaned, books read, and kids are in bed on time!  We have reached so many milestones in the last two weeks it is hard to know where to start.

Mae Mae now goes to bed without having to be put into her bed sound asleep.  I now rock her a little, and then we walk up stairs, and I put her in her crib.  SO EASY!!  For the first few weeks, we had to make sure she was really out before we put her down.  If we didn’t wait long enough, she would wake up screaming.  It was actually pretty cute because she would literally fall asleep with one eye open.  Making sure you were still there.  Making sure you weren’t planning on going anywhere.  Mae Mae continues to have a hearty appetite, and will try anything.  She loves playing with her brothers, and meeting new people.  She is a little sweetheart.

Elle is getting more confident everyday!  She is no longer terrified of Frodo, and will actually pet him on occasion.  She still doesn’t like me to leave her sights, but will occasionally go off to play with other kiddos if she feels comfortable.  She is slowly letting people other than me help take care of her needs, which is huge!

I have left the kids twice.  The first was to co-chair GiGi’s Playhouse “i have a voice” gala on February 23rd.  It was such a fun night!  MJ and I were surrounded by so many of our friends and family celebrating people with Down syndrome and our son Carsten.  What a fun night!!!  Gabe, Carsten, Griffin, and Mae were having so much fun with the sitters they didn’t even notice we were gone.  Elle handled it really well.  She did not have any major breakdowns, but did wake up at 3:00 am, turned on all the lights, and searched the house for me.  She never cried, but didn’t want to go back to sleep either.  I also was able to leave the house for two hours on Sunday  to hang with two of my best girl friends and paint.  That was a great creative break!  Once again, all the kids did well.  When I returned Elle did give me some cold shoulder for a little bit, but quickly warmed back up to me.

Every night Elle still wakes up to check and make sure I am still here.  She needs to make sure she hasn’t been dreaming, and her family is still surrounding her.  It is such a precious moment.  She always gives me a long hug, kiss, and holds me afterwards.  To see her so relieved and happy that she is my daughter, puts me over the moon.  Any other struggles seem minuet and petty in those moments.  I love when she wraps her arms around me, and gives me her smile that is full of pure joy and love.  I literally melt!

Now…is all peaches and cream?  No.  We still have melt downs on a daily basis as Elle tries to process all of the changes in her life, and works through her fears that this all may be temporary.  She still lives in a state of fear that this is a dream that she will wake up from, and be returned to the hell she knew all to well.  How do you explain to a child what forever is?  What unconditional love is?  How do I explain to her that I loved her with my whole heart from moment one?  I feel like Mae already gets it, but she hadn’t been through all the things Elle had.  Her emotional scars are not as deep as Elle’s.  We will get there.  One loving, patient glance, hug, kiss, meal, story time, bath, bedtime at a time.

Think of how far we have come in a month.  Elle wouldn’t let me change her clothes or shoes for days.  She slept in her orphanage clothes on top of the sheets.  Now she helps pick out her clothes, loves bath time, and can’t wait to snuggle before bed.  Mae wouldn’t let us put her down for three days.  We weren’t sure she could walk.  Now she runs a million miles an hour exploring every corner of this house.

Gabe and Carsten can’t wait to come home from school to play with their sisters and Griffin.  Griffin has settled into his role as well.  If Elle or Mae are crying, he is the first to express concern for his sisters.  Now if he would stop hugging them so much…:)

Adoption is beautiful!  My daughters are beautiful!  I am so glad we decided to adopt two!  We were all destined to be together!  I think I am the happiest person in the world right now!  I feel so lucky, so blessed, so full, so content!  I highly recommend opening your home and your heart to adoption.  Again, I will happily talk to anyone who is interested, and share MJ and my’s journey to our daughters!  Thank you all for your continued out pouring of love, support, and prayers!