Friday, February 16, 2007

My daughters

Last updated April, 2009

I am an only child, and I was definitely what you would call a "loner" when I was growing up - perfectly content to play by myself. As a result, for a long time the term "children" could give me chills: children were completely alien and uninteresting to me. I like to joke that I didn't even like kids when I was a kid.

Therefore I find it ironic that I am now a mother to four girls, five counting my step-daughter. I certainly didn't plan for my life to turn out this way, but make no mistake, I love it. I may sometimes wish I had a little more time, a little more space, a little more quiet; but I wouldn't trade being a mother and stepmother for anything.

Usually when a young, single man shows up at a church, he is quite the topic among the single women at church. But when my future husband showed up, I hardly glanced at him: he was divorced and had a little girl. Even a year later when he asked me out, I had a lot of doubts. Several friends told me "he was worth getting to know better", but I figured I could never, ever, consider a man with a child. I had always assumed that I would, because of biological wiring, love my own kids - but loving someone else's kid - never!

But then I met my stepdaughter, Stars (my nickname for her, after one of the first conversations I had with her, about the stars, and heaven). I think I may have fallen in love with her first, before my husband. She had just turned 4 years at the time, and she bonded with me right away. B. brought her along on our second date, and she was sitting on my lap chatting with me like I was her best buddy before the dinner was served; and she fell asleep in my arms on the drive home that night.

I don't mean to say that being a stepmom is idyllic. It isn't. It was an extremely difficult adjustment for me, and it continues to require big adjustments as she gets older. But I never doubted that she (or her dad) was worth it. If I could share one piece of advice to other stepmoms it is this: have the attitude that she is important to you as your own daughter, but always remember that you are not her mother or any sort of replacement for her true mother. My stepdaughter is 14 years old now, and I love her more than ever. I really like the new stage we've reached - adult conversation. (For the most part).

My first daughter, Blaze (her nickname) was born August 5, 2001. I had experienced two early miscarriages before Blaze, so I struggled with a lot of worry during my pregnancy.

After Blaze was born I also struggled with a very unexpected bout of "baby blues" - not quite postpartum depression, but bizarre episodes of crying for no apparent reason, and wondering why I wasn't experiencing the idyllic joy of motherhood. Blaze was also very colicky and for the first four months she cried non-stop for hours at a time every evening (or so it seemed). But after that, it turned into bliss.

When Blaze turned 2 years old, I started missing the little-baby stage (not that the toddler years weren't adorable). This time I didn't have any problem getting pregnant or staying pregnant (though I admit to lingering in denial for months after the doctor said "I think it's a girl" at my ultrasound).

Dreamer (her nickname) was born May 17th, 2004, five weeks early. Other than being a very sleepy baby, and slow to nurse (because she was a little premature), she was blissfully easy, after all the crying that Blaze had put us through!

B. and I talked on and off about trying to have another child after Dreamer - we were really content with three kids, but we were still tempted to try for a boy. Either way, we weren't in any rush to get started, so it came as quite a shock when I discovered I was pregnant again right after Dreamer turned 2. Then it was another big shock when we discovered at the first ultrasound that we were having twins. A third big shock, at the second ultrasound, when we discovered we were having 2 more girls!

I did cry over the "injustice" of the odds of having 4 girls (and in B.'s case, 5 girls!), but honestly, the idea of having my own family of "little women" (like Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy from Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women"), was something of a comfort, and then an inspiration.

And if my little Serious and Starlet (nicknames for the twins) ever wonder if they aren't loved as much as the older girls, then let this put that doubt forever to rest: truly the very happiest moment of my life was when I got to hold both of them together, for the first time.

They were born December 3, 2006, almost 8 weeks early. They spent their first week in isolettes in a neonatal intensive care unit; I could only touch them through a barrier. So it was the most precious thing for me to finally be able to hold them in my arms. Here is a Christmas letter from 2007 that I posted to give some more details about the twin's early birth. And to be fair to my other girls, here are some Christmas letters from 2004 and 2005 for more pictures and funny stories about Blaze and Dreamer.

After each daughter was born, I had planned to quit my job and become a full-time mom, but each time – even before my maternity leave was up – I discovered I was eager to go back to work part-time. I could never work full-time - I don't know how other mothers manage it. Then again, I don't know how full-time stay-at-home moms do it, either. In my case I've found that I'm more patient and kind with my kids if I have a few hours a day to be away with them, and have my own space and time for my own thoughts. It would be different, too, if I didn't have a job that I truly loved, and was also conveniently flexible.

I truly believe that my little women are my greatest accomplishment in my life: and my greatest contribution to the world. I'm proud that I went to an Ivy League college, and graduated with honors, and have a master's degree, and I am proud of my accomplishments at work, and my writing (even though none of it is published yet). But my greatest source of pride and fulfillment, absolutely, is my family - my husband, stepdaughter, and my four little women.

January, 2009