So, a few things to set up this story. When I shop alone (which is not often) I wear my earbuds and listen either to music or sirius on my iPhone. Anti-social? Yes. A-hole-ish? I hope not. I enjoy it and I take them out whenever I encounter anyone, which also is not often. Usually only at the till - this is a big city. I set the earbuds up so that they go under my jacket and are not that noticeable. I leave them in while driving, but obviously don't listen to them while driving. I turn off whatever I am listening to. I'm not an idiot.
Another set up to the story... I find this time of the year incredibly sad. I didn't always. 4 years ago today, I was experiencing early labour, which I had off and on for months while pregnant with Kate. Who had a twin. Obviously, her twin didn't survive. That, while very sad for us, is not terribly uncommon. I was just hoping to make it to the morning when I had my first c-section scheduled at 37 weeks. My mother was storm stayed at the Halifax airport and we stayed up all night keeping our fingers crossed she'd get here before Kate did. She made it, with 3 hours to spare. She and Gary had zero sleep; I had about 2 hours. It was a nail-biting affair, as was the entire pregnancy.
But we were excited. I knew this was our last baby and I soaked everything in. We just needed to get this last precious baby out, safe and sound, and then life could go on.
She was born, healthy and incredibly beautiful, on January 3rd at 3pm. We both had some complications, and ended up in the hospital for 5 days. I missed Ellie and Bradley so badly I could taste their sweet smell.
Kate's birth was a thrilling time and she was so loved and wanted; for years before her arrival! Her birthday should be a happy time for me, but unfortunately it coincided with a gut-wrenching event: Ellie's diagnosis with Autoimmune Juvenile T1 Diabetes. I won't go on about it, but hands down it was the worst time of our lives. Bradley was diagnosed 6 months later. 2008 was not an easy year. No matter where I am or how great a mood I am in, I cannot talk about that period of time without crying. Ironically, I wasn't terribly weepy at the time; just overwhelmed. I had a lovely baby girl who I credit with keeping me sane during that year. Her and her rock star father and siblings, that is. The courage Ellie and Bradley had then, and continue to have now cannot be overstated.
So fast forward 4 years. We have great Christmases together, but somewhere between Boxing Day and NYE, I get the SADS. I think it's the feeling of how much hope we had about the future in the days leading up to Kate's birth, and the life changing difficulties that soon blindsided us, with the T1 diagnoses. We also feel socially isolated, which is normal for parents of special needs children. Feeling forgotten is worse than feeling disliked. I understand people not liking me, of course! But our kids...? They are sweet, kind and brave. And in no way am I biased. :-)
So, now every year despite my best efforts I drift back to those emotions of hope, worry, jubilation and then heartbreak that marked the first week of January, 2008.
But THIS year is exciting. Because Miss KateyPie is having her first BIG GIRL party with friends... a My Little Pony Princess Party. Fun...!
Today I went out to get the party supplies. I was wearing my ear buds. Listening to Lady Antebellum. I love them. Don't judge me. A few of their songs on their latest album are some of my lifetime favourites. They make me cry sometimes. Occasionally, when I am alone and want to get the SADS out, I listen, cry, purge, move on with it. That's what I was doing today while shopping. So, as I drove into Toys R Us, I had my ear buds in, but not on. Like I said - not an idiot. But as I got out of the van, an angry lady, about 60 years old came up to me and yelled, "HOW DARE YOU DRIVE WITH THOSE THINGS IN YOUR EAR... YOU'RE LUCKY YOU DIDN'T KILL SOMEBODY."
She didn't know that I was already well into crying. So, when she saw the tears coming from under my sunglasses, she scoffed, "WELL YOU DON'T HAVE TO CRY ABOUT IT. BUT PEOPLE LIKE YOU PISS ME OFF."
In a feistier mood, I might have explained to her that they are easier to leave in my ears and simply turn off the iPhone in my pocket, but I couldn't be bothered. I was deep in my own sadness and trying to get rid of it before heading home to prepare for Kate's party. I did find her a bit mean and presumptuous, but whatevs.
I went into Toys R Us (the Rapunzel dress I was seeking was, of course, sold out), so I left and went to the Superstore.
Walking into the grocery store, earbuds in and on, I got stuck in a bit of a crowd. They were moving incredibly slow. It annoyed me. Then I looked up and noticed who was ahead of me and likely the cause of this slow moving crowd? Nasty lady from the ToysRus parking lot! I said nothing, but sidestepped the crowd and passed them by. I did look back at her, only to see that holding onto her arm was a clearly disabled man, the same age as her, struggling to move. I am guessing that he was her husband and is crippled as a result of some disease. Maybe even an autoimmune disease.
It brought tears to my eyes. She was not nice to me, but I'm guessing she was taking out a frustration on me that had nothing to do with me. Everyone is fighting a battle; not all are equal; some are harder than others and everyone has their way of dealing with it. Most of the time I deal with our issues well, but not always. Let me be clear... most of the world has it harder than we have it day to day and I wake up grateful for my family and my life everyday. But in our small Calgary suburban world, not many people live with the daily fears and responsibilities that we do. Fear that their children might not wake up; thus you get up every 2 hours to check their blood to make sure they are okay. The exhaustion is relentless. The only relief you get comes at the expense of your spouse. People who know the exhaustion of a newborn think they know what it's like. But they don't. I know the exhaustion of a newborn, three times over, and it was a cakewalk by comparison.
So, Lady Antebellum played on in my ears, while I reflected on the challenges this lady must have, caring for the disabled soul she was with. Then I noticed a really beautiful pregnant lady, with a long, thick (enviable) ponytail. She was pushing an adorable little girl, about 2 years old, with glasses on. Her glasses were cute and made me smile. Her parents were very young and attractive and her Dad was nuzzling her and laughing with her. As I got closer, I noticed she had Down Syndrome. She was delightful. So loving; so happy and her parents clearly smitten with her. I thought again, you never know... you just never know by looking at one individual what their life is like; their joy, their sorrow, their worries, their hopes...
They ended up in the line beside me and I couldn't look away. I'm sure they have worries about the future, but in this normal-life snapshot in time, shopping in a ridiculously crowded store, they were happy and loving. The song, Love is the Heart of the World played on in my ears, I smiled, I cried and I decided to write about it. I felt like a character at the end of a film; coming to vast realizations too complicated for a novice like me to put to paper.
I made a few promises to myself. Chief among them to let go of some of the inconsequential things that I let bother me. You would think that after learning to live with very real, very grave day to day concerns, that I would no longer obsess over smaller things: slights real or imagined, my tight pants, the state of our home, what people think of me... it is all okay. I am married to my best friend. He always has my back and has suffered exhaustion lately to help me get out of the hole of longterm sleep deprivation and all that that entails. He is the best person I know - well, he, my Dad and my father-in-law are in a category all their own. Good men. I have loving parents and siblings who I know wish they could do more for us. We all wish we lived closer. I miss my hometown more with each month I age. I envy all my old friends who have moved back home and settled there. And we have freaking great kids. The word amazing is so overused these days, but that's what they are. They all really are. Amazing.
So, now that I've done a bit of an emotional purge, Katey and I are out to kick off her Birthday Eve by going to the nearby salon to get her hair washed. Yes, that is a thing we do, once/week. Don't judge me... you would do it too if you were in charge of washing her hair in the tub. :-)
Love your kids, thank your parents, hug your spouse and be kind to strangers. Because you just never know.