Posts filed under ‘Polly’
I think I’ll need to take a day on weekends as a little reprive from my long writing posts or else I’ll never get through the month of posting daily:).
And just so everyone knows. It isn’t painful for me to write about all of this. It’s been two and a half years and it’s actually been very interesting and fun to go back to the skeleton of the story I wrote then and give it some flesh. I am remembering things now that I forgot to write about then.
I waited until I was in a good place to share this story. I am not really sure if it will actually be encouraging to someone else but it’s the journey I took and it’s cathartic to be writing it now.
I thank God to be Polly’s mom. Truly.
Stay tuned for more story…
The decision to have a third child was made hastily. Somehow I felt ready. We were settling in to life in Ukraine. It had taken me two years of full-time language study to put myself out there and stumble around conversations with child-like Russian. Learning Russian was like looking at a really blurry photo, straining to see, finding all the colors and lines but still not being able to make out what I was looking at. And then one day the picture came into focus. I wasn’t just listening to a bunch of sounds that didn’t make sense. I was hearing words, then sentences, then full, albeit basic conversations that I understood. I became an avid eaves-dropper.
No longer did I crave obscene amounts of Coca-Cola because it reminded me of home or gulp down Tylenol every day because my head ached so badly from language classes. My girls were dressed in thick tights and turtlenecks any day that was under seventy-five degrees like all the other children playing outside our apartment on the chipped, old playground. They happily played at my feet in the evenings chirping away in Russian. Words in their father’s tongue came as easily to them as breathing. I was getting used to the idea that fish could be served at any meal; breakfast, lunch or dinner in one hundred and one different ways. I hardly ever made eye contact with people in public anymore.
The first year in Kiev was extremely lonely. I was a young mom stuck at home with little kids (Elaina was two-and-a-half and Zoya was nine months old). I couldn’t watch television or listen to the radio because I didn’t understand Russian. We did not have internet access. One cold winter night I remember sitting in our quiet apartment, kids tucked in and asleep, listening to the elevator go up and down or nine story apartment building. “Maybe next time it will be Sergei”, I said out loud to myself.
Finally, after two years, I had friends. Not acquaintances but friends who actually liked me in spite of really knowing me. Who knew it was possible to be friends with women on a deep level in a different language than my own? Even though it was exhausting, life in Kiev was starting to seem a little magical. Our family was settled. I was happy.
Looking back it feels like I mentioned the idea of another baby to Sergei and did a quick nod to God regarding the topic and the next day there was a little white stick sitting on the bathroom sink with two pink lines. I got pregnant the first month we tried for a baby.
Shortly after I took a pregnancy test, my husband brought home another stack of books for me to read. Once in a while he stumbled across a book vendor on the street that actually had books in English. Usually they could be found at the outdoor markets along with any type of vegetable you can imagine and others you’ve never heard of.
One book in the pile caught my eye. It was a book by Bret Lott called Jewel. Jewel’s story took place in the backwoods of Mississippi in the 1940s. Taken from true events, it is about a woman whose sixth child, Brenda Kay, was born with Down syndrome. I read the book in one sitting, completely ignoring my husband and kids, my usual practice when I actually had a new book to read in English.
While reading Jewel I thought about my baby, the size of a lima bean, growing inside me. The day I finished the book, I was sitting on the bed in our room. The sun setting, it was the kind of evening when life around you feels hazy. It was summer so the kids were already in bed even though it wasn’t dark yet. The air was tinted green. “I just couldn’t do it”, I told Sergei. “I could never be the mother of a child with special needs.” And instantly I wished I could take those words back. I felt threatened. There was a little life in me, paddling around, growing fingers and toes. God was knitting her together in my womb. All I could think of was “what if there is something wrong with this baby?”
My mother knits. I still can see her sitting in a chair in my childhood home. Already in pajamas, her hair wet from a bath although usually it was just after seven, a Coke sweating on the side table next to her on top of a napkin. I see her hands moving, click, click, click, click. Sometimes she’d unravel a sweater or a scarf that was nearly done. I didn’t see the point after coming so far to start over because of a few little mistakes. “Who wants to wear a sweater with mistakes?” she’d say. Later on in her life, she’d ignore them more often. I guess by then she wasn’t afraid of a couple mistakes.
A lot people think something that isn’t what they consider perfect is a mistake.
Yesterday was a crazy day.
From the time I woke up until my head hit the pillow I was running around; a meeting at my house in the morning, Polly met her new developmental therapist at Noon, kids and homework in the afternoon, a mad dash to three different stores in the evening and then back home to make party favors for a baby shower we are having at church Sunday.
Those who know me well understand that all this activity is so not me.
At some point in the afternoon I watched Polly and Elaina roll around on the floor. It hit me that Polly’s body, when stretched out, is long. She is longer than half of Elaina’s body, more like 3/4. For a second, both girls looked huge to me and I caught my breath. Where has the time gone? I looked behind me and in front of me but I just couldn’t find it.
Later I drove down Ashland at dusk and saw a group of six or seven-year-old boys kicking soccer balls around in a little green field. Two or three men, assumingly dads, stood around, hands in pockets, sunglasses on. Their voices rang out to the boys as cars and SUVs zoomed by. People driving, no doubt, to something incredibly important. Driving on in our busy, jam-packed days of life while boys in a soccer field learn how to kick a ball with the insides of their feet.
I could tell that my husband was very relaxed on our little get away. One night at dinner he ended his prayer for our meal with “Thank you, Bye bye.”
Lately I’ve been playing a game with Polly. I’ll ask her if she’s my baby and she will nod her head yes.
Today at lunch I sang out to her, “Polly, are you my baby?”
She shook her head no and signed “big.”
“Polly, are you my big girl?” I asked.
Her face broke into a smile and she nodded her head yes.
Today Lainie was cuddling with me and Zoya wanted a turn.
“No, Zoya, I’m older. I only have a couple more years and I’m out of here,” she said.
Apparently, Elaina is leaving home when she is ten.
Often I get caught up in the world of disability. Mounds of time is spent pondering what “could” happen to Polly. I day dream about her future. Will she be in a typical class room? Will kids make fun of her? Will her health continue to be good? Will people see her, really see her?
I get enthralled with Polly’s latest tricks. My brother-in-law suggested last week that we simply leave Polly alone. Because I find that I want her to perform for people. To show off what she knows, that she is able to learn, that she is more normal than people assume she is. I want to show the world that Polly uses sign language easily, that she loves to laugh, that she absolutely digs a chocolate ice cream cone. Just like the rest of us.
I want others to see that I am OK with Down syndrome…more importantly, that I love my daughter more than life.
And then I am reminded that I have three daughters. Somebody mentions Elaina or Zoya, I see an add with a child that looks like them… I take a moment and look one of them in the eye and see the spark that only they can give.
I have three children. And my struggle now is to balance their lives, give everyone attention, see each child for who she is and help to nourish what is going on in her.
My sea legs in the world of Down syndrome have gotten a bit sturdier. Now the challenge is balance.
For all of our sakes.
I was a tad emotional last week.
Lately Polly’s school and therapy times have gone, well, badly.
It is a lot. She is in preschool two mornings a week, for three hours. And a new class means new therapists and teachers, new activities, new socialization. After the first two weeks, the honeymoon is officially over. Polly’s having a hard time being the new kid in town around there. And so she cries, hard, for a long time. The last few times I’ve picked her up, the therapist gives me a tight smile and a grimace, “she had a rough day today” she says quietly.
Then when she gets home she has to eat and take a nap in order to be ready for her home therapy sessions later in the afternoon.
I’ve been close to losing it. I just don’t know what’s best for her, how to help her through this rough patch, how to discern if this new schedule is too much or something she simply needs to get used to.
And now I feel really bad for the customer service representative from a XYZ organization that caught my wrath the other day on the phone. He called just after I dropped Polly off at class as I was driving down the street.
“Hello. May I please speak with Gill-anne Elaine?”
“Yes. This is Gillian.”
“Joanne? Is Elaine there?”
“This is GILLIAN, the person you wish to speak with.”
“Oh, sorry, yes, Gillian, I am calling from XYZ…how are you today?”
And this is when it got ugly.
“I’m fine (said with emotion) but I am not going to blah blah blah blah and I would appreciate it if you people would stop calling me every couple of weeks.”
I have to say though, I felt better.
But now I feel bad for that poor guy who was just doing his job.
That day when I picked up Polly she had a sticker on her shirt for participating well in class and making good choices.
Maybe I should try yoga?
S took Polly to preschool this morning. They will not return until 12:30pm. There’s a dishwasher to unload, two loads of laundry to fold and put away, junk piled up on the dining room table and dust bunnies monsters roaming around our upstairs floor, scoffing at the notion of a dust pan and broom.
With three young children, these times are rare. In fact, I will not have this again for a while as tomorrow is Zoya’s last day of Kindergarten.
Here I sit with my coffee.
What would you do with three free hours?
If you are going to post that you would clean, I urge you to click away. I am just not interested in hearing that this morning.