Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tending the girl child

Things are heating up around here. One week from tomorrow I go in for pre-op, my sisters arrive and we start the countdown to surgery on Wednesday. Yesterday, I chopped off all of my hair in preparation for chemo that will come soon enough. Today, I walked the aisles of Costco buying enough food and supplies to last a year, while simultaneously emailing my boss (who is wonderful, btw) that I thought I'd be back and ready for action on Tuesday (he knows better). The truth is, I have no idea what is coming post-surgery, but the one thing I know is that we will not run out of bread.

Preparing for these changes has been most significant when it has been in relation to David and Ava. We talk a lot about "what is going on with mom" vis a vis health. They are ready for the surgery, but don't know what all it entails. About a week ago, we started the "you know, guys, it's probably time for mom and dad to have some privacy when we get dressed" talk, stressing that this is just something that happens when kids get older (and from a logical perspective...Dad doesn't watch Grandma Pat get undressed which was a concept that totally gave David the willies). But it's the fine balance of shielding the kids from knowing too much (the mastectomy and reconstruction), the post-operative scars and "difference", versus letting them in to work through this with us.

So yesterday I took Ava, my beautiful, sensitive girl child with me for the hair chop. When I told her that I was cutting off all of my hair, she was horrified. "WHY?" she said. "WHY?" (hair, and long hair, is particularly important to Ava). When I gently told her that I thought it was a good idea because I was would be taking medicine that would make my hair fall out, she was even more horrified. So we made a deal that she would come with me to get it done and was a trooper. She saw how sweet, kind and gentle my incredible hair stylist is (every woman on earth needs a Peter...he's an encyclopedia of women's issues, the hub of the network, a mensch and a wonderful friend) and decided that she really liked the look. It was a really cathartic moment. Note the new hair...photobomb courtesy of the girl.

I think I am so sensitive to the need to be sensitive to Ava in this space is because in the past six or so months, amazing things have been twisting and turning around in my relationship with this girl child. Things that are so beautiful but sometimes so heavy that I don't know how to handle them. She looks to me for everything, she notices so much of what I do, she thinks constantly about my actions. It's an unbelievable feeling to be loved so much and to realize that she is learning to be a girl/woman from her observations. How I treat myself, her father, she and her brother, people I don't even know are all cues for her development as the woman she will become. She notices a different shade of lipstick, will comment on a funny thing I said, engage me in the most lovely ways. It's beautiful because I don't know in my life if I have ever felt something quite this intense from another being and it's something to honor and to hold sacred. It's heavy because I sometimes feel that I am not going to measure up, that I will disappoint her, that I might not be all that she needs, and, honestly, that sometimes it's just hard to be the object of that kind of intensity.

Motherhood of a girl child is wicked that way.

I have to remember the promises that I made to her and to myself. I feel compelled to hold her strong and make it all seem normal, but not to normal so if she faces something like this of her own, or with a friend, she can not be shocked by what is real. She's four in her body but not in her mind. She can handle this. She will handle things in the future based on how she sees me handling things now.

I'm not sure why this is hitting me so much now, but it is. 

I dug out Ava's birth story just to remind myself that this feeling was borne at the moment she rested on my chest and became my girl. And, I hope, it will be always with us, come what may. 

Tending, tending love.

[...So babygirl, that's the story of how it happened, through my eyes, on a lovely Sunday in May. Every night as I am dropping off to sleep at night, I look over at you and wonder what you will be like, how you will walk in the world, what I can do to help you be the most you can be. I think of all of the challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead for a young woman and I think of all of the ways I wish I could shield you from the harshness of the world. This feeling of protectiveness overwhelms me for you because having been a girl and a woman myself, I feel both afraid and excited for you and the future that lies before you. It's my greatest wish that we will always be close and that you will always have confidence in my love for you. If there is ever a time a chasm widens between us, I hope that this story and my love for you will help build a bridge. You came from me, you are my girl, how could I not love you? And while I firmly believe that we *choose* to be in relationships, that simply sharing blood does not mean that we are required to be close, my love for you was seeded in the womb, in that moment that you came from my body, from holding you all warm and wet on my chest. Having you and reflecting on these things has started to heal some things within myself and my own relationships that I will share with you some day. I promise to work hard at being your mama, I promise to try to be the best woman you know, and I promise to love you and to give you the understanding and care we all deserve. My love to you, babygirl. The journey begins. Mama. Ava's Birth Story  May 7, 2006]


  1. Oh dear sister. Your writing is as beautiful as are you and your dear Ava. How lucky Ava is to have you for a mother, and what a wonderful girl she is. I love you both.

  2. you have me laughing and crying...and absolutely LOVING the haircut. You are one gorgeous lady, Mama!!