Lessons by a Rose

The six weeks that I went by myself through Europe is when I transitioned into adulthood. Never before had I gone so long away from my family, and I realized the impact it had on my ability to see myself as a real person. No one else spoke on my behalf but me for once, and I was fascinated by myself for having adult conversations. I was impressed with myself for doing so in French no less, but just as much if not more so in Germany with P. She knew me when I was a child, so it was more empowering to me to speak without my mother present. I realize at this moment that what I was experiencing was a degree of inhibition for the first time.

One of our conversations turned to literature, stemming from a quote she made that went over my head. She was astonished the “The Little Prince” wasn’t a mandatory read in the states, it was such a classic! And she told me it was available in French, German, and English on Amazon and continued to speak highly of it.

Shortly after I returned home to the States, an unexpected package arrived for me. P had sent me a copy of “The Little Prince”, and I sat down that moment to read the slender book. It’s a sentimental story about the integrity of being a child, which made it ironic for me to fall in love with it at the turn of adulthood.

Now a mother myself, I look back on my childhood to see the ways it influences the way I raise my children. Oddly I don’t remember a lot of it anymore, as a result of trying to leave it behind me and build myself back up. I consider regretting it now that I’m a writer, since many argue that one of the intentions of writing pertains to emotion and experiences and I’ve deliberately buried mine deep. I wrestle with this when working on my novel I first conceived over a decade ago to relieve the stress from being abused. In my research I came to the conclusion that Anakin (my father) is a narcissist, so I’m something they call an Adult Child Of Narcissist(s). One of the most dangerous aspects of this kind of abuse is that it is interpreted as normal by the victim and the abuser, but is hidden from the outsider.

I intended to work on my story more before Alice asked me to look after the babies. I had Ginger, Gaston, and Guinevere gathered in the same room and wondered how to use my time besides getting things done. Guinevere pointed at my laptop and asked, “movie?” I figured it was adequate research to watch something from Netflix. Bailey informed me that “The Little Prince” is available, remembering that I had the book and tried reading it to her one time. I was eager to see what they did with this classic.

I used to not be sentimental. I don’t know if I was emotional from my research or if the sentiment of the story seized me, but I had tears in my eyes through the entire movie. I meditated on it each time we paused it (life happens when you have kids) and came to be more and more enlightened. For starters, the heroine’s mother shows narcissistic tendencies: lives vicariously through the child, controlling the child’s schedule, giving the child value based off of his/her accomplishments, isolating the child. Secondly, the comparison of children and adults is made often, and frequently in conjunction with the phrase, “growing up is not the problem. Forgetting is.” Initially it’s clear that they are referencing the innocence of childhood before the corruption of the world- don’t forget, stay true to the “inner child”. And then it clicked for me- forgetting in general can be a problem. After all, that was the obstacle in accomplishing my goal of writing this story with truth and purpose was to communicate the trauma of what I went through while still giving myself a happy ending I dreamt up in my youth.

My past includes my experiences, even the bad ones, and I think I have accepted that. In my present I can give my children the childhood they deserve, and I can protect the future by reaching those living my past now.

P is the one I came out to by email and said she would respond when she had more time, but I have yet to hear from her. As she hasn’t disrespected me, I feel no ill toward her, and am still eager to hear  back.

Guinevere Makes History

We considered today that Guinevere is indeed in a very special family. Bailey and I officially changed our last names at the SSA office yesterday and have considered what all that means. If I end up in the hospital and they say “family only,” then Bailey can see me. Bailey can also take Guinevere to doctors’ visits and speak for me, etc.

We decompressed, piled up on the king size bed, everyone exhausted from the day’s tasks. Guinevere yanked on the shirt sleeves she could reach, babbling away about how much fun she’d had today while we brainstormed about dinner. “Want a hug?” Edward reached out to her and I passed her along. She reached that age where she thinks Daddy is the cool one. Probably because of his beard, which she immediately yanked. Bailey started pinching at Guinevere’s cheeks. “Hey, she’s my baby,” Ed teased.

“Uh, legally, she’s my baby.”

Legally she’s MY baby.”

There was a shared excitement when we all realized the unique nature of our family. Of our ten born children, Guinevere is the only one that can legally have more than the typical set of parents. Yes, we signed papers saying that Edward is the father. Bailey and I also signed papers, which makes Bailey (as well as myself) her mother(s). And because Alice is married to Edward, she is a stepmother, right? Edward said that Bailey was a stepmother. I don’t think that’s right, because when a gay couple has a child, one of them is not considered a stepparent. I tried to Google the definition of a stepparent, and it doesn’t really correlate, because to count, the initial relationship needs to have ended, which is clearly not the case.

Our poly family may not be legally considered what we count it to be (I think we now look like swingers in the eyes of the law), but we have some sort of legal standing now.

I took pride initially in that my child would be the one to break the double digits of number of children we have, and later realized that I’m also the first ‘second wife’ (though not in paperwork) to have Edward’s child. I don’t ever want to be ‘that mother’ that lives vicariously through her daughter, forcing her to do things she wouldn’t want to do just because I want something to be proud of her for. I love her by virtue of her being her, and I will encourage her to be the best she can be (best at brain puzzles, best at jumping, kindest person in her class, whatever floats her boat, though she seems really driven to communicate). I will be proud to be the mother who supported her in her endeavor, even if no one knows who I am. In the book of Matthew, Jesus prays over some fish and bread and feeds however many hundred in two instances. Had no one packed their lunch that day, there would be no food to multiply, and that miracle wouldn’t happen. I don’t mind being the nobody that was an ingredient to a miracle, and with Guinevere, I think that’s who I am.

Happy Baby

Happy Flowers. Comment if you know what kind they are.

Edward bunched his socks like he usually does when he’s decided that his day is now complete. (I don’t know why he does this. They have to be unbundled before they’re thrown in the wash, but at least the exterior is clean.) Facing Guinevere in her toddler seat, he sat on the rug and called out, “here, Guinevere, catch!” He tossed them each gently to her. She was unfazed, observantly wide eyed.

“Edward, don’t be so mean,” Bailey chided. She rubbed her large belly, curled casually on the couch.

“I’m not, look. She’s picking it up.”

Guinevere extended her hand to the bundled cloth hesitantly, looked up and saw that we were watching her expectantly. Her expression clicked from naïve to mischievous, and she ‘chuckled’.

She wheezed and grunted like an old man, even poking out her chin, pulling the skin from her lower face and neck. Edward responded with a sort of Mikey Mouse chortle that sounded like the character running from a snapping dog. Somehow these things sounded similar. She got excited and chuckled more enthusiastically. They went back and forth this way until Guinevere was so passionately wheezing and whatever other noises she was making while simultaneously rolling her wrists and ankles the way she does when she knows she’s being watched,  and Bailey couldn’t breathe because she was laughing so hard.

On Teaching Babies (at Six AM)

The street lights illuminated her saucer-sized eyes, which drifted sleepily side to side in a daze at 5:45 in the morning. I recognized the voice on the radio. “It’s Eminem,” I informed her. Her eyes drifted to mine, oblivious, and then away again. I have and will continue to teach her things even if they go over her head, no matter that she’s seven and a half months old. I chuckled at the lyrics.

“I don’t like Eminem,” Bailey stated. She slouched at the other side of the car seat, hair lit orange at each passing streetlight. Guinevere turned to stare at her.

“I do. He’s really popular in Germany, too.” I couldn’t tell if Guinevere liked Eminem.

I imagined a voice criticizing my parenting. It’s easy to imagine when you’ve been in court over it for a year and a half. It’s also easy to imagine a lot of things at almost six am. You let your child listen to this music? they would say. (Now, I realize that people wouldn’t say something about exposing a baby to mature language [I don’t think] but I’ve been surprised by a lot of things lately). Yes, I would retort. I would not say that she’s just a baby and doesn’t know any better, though. I would say that Eminem makes good music, and his lyrics communicate many relevant statements. I don’t believe that I should shelter my baby from reality and cover her ears from ‘bad words’. She needs to know that words are just words, so that when she goes to school, instead of crying to me that some kid called her gay, she can make a witty retort to them about homophobia.

Equilibrium

The round world

Guinevere is a genius.

She is getting a head start on learning, and she is ahead of the world.

Guinevere is three months old.

She knows what equilibrium is, and that it keeps her upright.

The world does not know how to be upright.

The world does not understand what equilibrium is.

The world is round, and hot, and cold. It doesn’t know that it’s spinning

spinning

spinning

Out of control.

The world doesn’t know how to be upright.

But Guinevere does.

The Baby Whisperer

She cried. And cried. She’d been fed, burped, changed, and swaddled.

“What’s wrong with her, is that the ‘pick-me-up’ cry?” I asked the baby whisperer.

“Yup,” Edward answered. The four of us lay in the dark, silently pleading for sleep to come.

She cried.

“Check to see if she peed.” He must’ve heard a change in her inflections.

Her diaper was saturated (again), but the second I laid a hand on her she went silent. She’s crying for mommy to love on her. I changed her and lay back down.

“Who’s good,” Ed bragged. And then she cried. The Ladies giggled.

Still she cried.

I got up again, walked back to the basinet, and she stopped. I lay back down.

Silence.

“What did you do?” the baby whisperer puzzled.

“I gave her a pacifier.”

Growing Pains

It’s fun to be in uncharted territory, lost without a map. It allows for a lot of exploring, a lot of learning, and a lot of growing. In a family as large as our, it also causes growth pains. Today Guinevere turns 3 weeks old. She is my first daughter, but she has 9 brothers and sisters. All their names start with the same letter, like the dragons in the series “The Fire Within” by Chris D’Lacey. We were not trying to copy The Duggars, whose children’s names all start with J; we didn’t even know about them until a few months ago when we stumbled across their book in the library.

When I feel unwell I prefer to shut myself up away from people. The ladies pointed out that I was hogging the new baby and that her siblings were confused about why they saw so little of her. My hormones did not make this accusation easy on my ears, and I remained depressed and isolated, only now my self-esteem was hurting as well.

To be able to take care of the family while court fees drained our bank account, I needed to cut my maternity leave short. I had to go back to working full time and end my bonding time with my baby. Blame it on the hormones, but I felt like there was nothing to look forward to.

My husband could tell I was distressed. “What’s wrong?”

I’m feeling really insecure about the future. “Hormones.”

He frowned at me, not really buying it. He thanked me for my stability, which he finds comforting, and said that he needed me to be stable right now. And then he said, “Guinevere is not going to forget you’re her mom.” Tears swelled in my eyes.

“I needed to hear that.” Alice is the natural-born mother of us. Like me, there was a time she swore she wouldn’t have kids. Unlike me, she grew to absolutely adore children. (Not to say I don’t like kids- once I had Guinevere I wept 3 times over how much I was in love with her. I’m just not anywhere near as adoring as she is.) The Ladies all share responsibilities, but Alice specializes in looking after the kids and will be the one who sees Guinevere most while I’m working. As natural as she is at mothering, I had been afraid that Guinevere would grow closer to Alice than to me.

Edward frowned. “Look at Alice and the girls. Her parents are actively trying to make them forget that she’s their mother, and that hasn’t worked. Guinevere’s not going to forget you. She’s still going to be drinking your milk, and when you feed her after you get home, she’s going to get even more excited.” Having him paint a picture of my baby getting excited to be in mommy’s arms gave me comfort.

There’s no manual for life, and no one to ask advice from who can claim to fully understand our dynamic. All the same, our love for each other creates such a strong support network, so we have each other’s backs through thick and thin.