Saturday, August 2, 2014

I Miss You. I Don’t Miss Me.

I was watching home videos with Kiley last week.  She likes to watch the ones of her as a baby with “Dada Todd”, as she calls him.  As we went through a few we came across one that had me in it.  Or at least it looked like me.  But the person I was watching on the screen was a version of me that no longer exists.  Her voice was different.  Her demeanor was different.  She was just a memory now.

It made me wonder whether I had ever truly been real.  Have you ever wanted to impress somebody or want acceptance that you’ve been willing to tweak your personality, interests, values, hobbies, and etcetera?  I have.  I always have.  Name a boyfriend growing up and I could name something I pretended to be interested in so they’d like me.  I did it every time.  Or I’d ignore some monumental difference between myself and said boyfriend if I thought that acknowledging it would mean a break up.  That’s some low self-esteem right there.  Well when Todd came around I’d like to think I was growing up…. but I hadn’t grown out of some of those habits. 

 I was home for the summer from college.  Todd Weaver was deployed to Iraq with his National Guard unit and he was home on leave.  And he called me.  Me!  Todd was the classic all American star athlete with looks that could get any girl.  I couldn’t believe he was giving me the time of day.  I don’t want to give anybody the impression I was some desperately lonely girl who would do anything to date him.  But I did think he was pretty cute…. And I just wasn’t his type.

Football games don’t interest me.  There I said it.  Not even a little bit. Todd was a die- hard Cowboys fan…. and I remember a lot of overly dramatic yelling at the TV, throwing his arms up in disbelief at whatever had just happened on the field.  It was yet another bad year for the Cowboys.  Oh poor Todd.  I tried to be into it for him.  Todd loved skiing... I dreaded it.  I did it because I loved him.  I did a lot of things because I loved him that didn’t necessarily come naturally for me.  But Todd had an idea of what kind of a life he wanted to lead and what kind of a wife he wanted by his side.  I wanted to be that wife. 

I feel a lot of guilt.  He could have found the girl that loves football and traditional family values.  But instead he found me.  I used to say what I though he’d want to hear, stifled some of my obnoxious behaviors, and tried to be the wife he dreamed of.  I remember thinking to myself early on in the last deployment “Am I going to be able to make this work?  He isn’t going to love the real Emma”.  Before I ever had the chance to find out if our relationship could stand the test of time…. time stopped. 

On September 9th 2010 he was killed in action in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  The Emma Weaver that Todd knew was gone from that moment on.  Okay that’s not accurate.  I remember sitting in the living room with my Army wives after the notification officers had left.  I got up to get nail polish remover.  Todd wasn’t a fan of brightly colored nails so while he was deployed I took the opportunity to paint them blue.  I just couldn’t go to Dover with blue nails!

During the year after Todd’s death I spent a lot of time alone.  Learning how to be me again.  I learned how to handle motherhood alone.  I learned how to take care of myself and Kiley and our home.  Help was there when I needed it but for the most part I purposely challenged myself to be more independent. 

A friend had stopped by to visit with us one evening and in our conversations it turned to the topic of my future in love.  I wasn’t interested at the time of even considering dating.  But for information sake I talked about what I would need from a man to accept in able to be in our lives.  I could only see myself in a relationship with somebody that A) knew Todd or B) was in the military.  In my mind the kind of person that knew my late husband or understood his sacrifice would have a more understanding heart.  You throw the word “war widow” around and it’s easy to see why it’s hard to start dating.  Widows don’t forget.  They don’t ever stop thinking about their husbands.  That being said I wasn’t holding my breath!  But during that conversation that night I knew that in whatever relationship may come in the future that I would have to approach it in a very different way than the old Emma would have.

I promised myself that I would go forward in love with an open heart.  I wouldn’t wear a mask of any kind.  I would be honest.  I would be up front about how I plan to always remember Todd and how he will always be a part of my family.  It was only fair to lay it all out there so the poor guy could go running in the opposite direction should he feel so inclined.  Well when Alex came into the picture I don’t think either of us really knew how we felt about each other.  He was a good listener, made me laugh, and loved playing with Kiley.  I couldn’t tell how he felt about me…. but he sure did spend a lot of time with us.  So I took the opportunity to talk about some of the topics that I assumed would have him putting on his running shoes and heading out the door.  But he didn’t run. 

It didn’t take long for a very strong bond to form between us.  I kept my promises to myself, as we grew closer.  I let my weird sense of humor out without shame.  I don’t pretend to like terrible B movies of any kind.  I’m sorry Alex I just can’t watch them!  If I need to cry he holds my hand.  If there is an event for Gold Star families he will gladly go with me.  And as we approach the four-year anniversary of Todd’s death I know he will help me honor him.  He will be patient as I struggle through the hardest time of year for me. 

Sometimes I wonder where my old life would have taken me.  Would Todd have had any luck in his big parenting plans of using granola bars as a reward for Kiley?  I certainly didn’t.  When the paleo diet came into popularity I could see how that would have been something he would have been into.  Deeper than that I wonder whether I would have continued to be the old Emma or if I would have been strong enough to one day come clean about how much I had been editing myself.  Would he have accepted me with the same love he had for old Emma?  Would we have had another baby like we had talked about in our last emails?  There are so many questions…none of which I will ever have answers for.  It is with these questions that I have learned a hard lesson.  It took losing my husband, the father of our sweet daughter, and my world, as I knew it to make me see how important being “real” is.    

My life looks a lot different than where I was four years ago.  I think only my widow sisters will understand how much it hurts me to say I am happy again.  How could I not feel pain and guilt sometimes?  It’s a double-edged sword really.  Life:  it’s saddening because it’s not what I had planned for myself.  But it’s amazing at the same time.  I have an incredible family, on Earth and in Heaven!  Kiley will turn 5 years old this month and starts Kindergarten in the fall.  Shelton will be crawling any day now.  We’re happy and healthy and loving life.  I am truly sorry for not having been myself for so long.  It is a lesson that has not been lost on me.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Not This Time

I've been feeling king of "off" for the past few days and I couldn't quite verbalize what was wrong.  All I could figure was that Alex's upcoming trip back to the states was making me anxious.  I was going to miss him.  I was tackling taking care of both kids on my own.  And even though I just want to spend time with him before he goes I feel mildly stand-offish.  Couldn't really put my finger on why.  


Last night I was watching Alex play with Shelton.  He was raising Shelton up on his lap while sitting on the couch.  I was standing in such a way that all I could see was the back of his head against the couch and little Shelton's face staring at him.  And then I went back in time.  I've lived that moment once before.  Todd sat in that same place.  Kiley's little face beaming at him while he played with her.  Gently patting her on the back and resting her head on his shoulder.  I came back to the moment....waiting for Alex to rest the bay's head on his shoulder and pat him on the back.  He did.  I smiled.   

What I realized in that moment is my vulnerability.  When Todd deployed I had no fears that he wouldn't be coming back safe and sound.  All I had to do was wait.  I waited...but I was wrong.  In all that I have experienced and learned through loss I am still learning everyday.  In my logical mind I can convince myself that any fears I have can be put to rest.  Going back stateside for a few short weeks is very different than watching your soldier head to Afghanistan.  I know this!  My irrational mind sees notification officers at the door.  It sees black dresses, folded flags, and fatherless children  I'm usually a very confident woman who understands the ins and out of grief.  But today I've been challenged to again pull myself out of the CRAZY and remember that all I can do is live every moment for what it is.  A moment...and then it's gone.  Grab it.  Hold on tight.  Say goodbyes without fears :).


Friday, January 31, 2014

Shelton's Birth Story

I always heard that it is best to write down a birth story as soon as possible while the experience is fresh in your mind.  Well it's 6:00am and after a quick nursing session for the little one I can't quite fall asleep so now is as good a time as any.

This pregnancy was not unlike my last.  I dealt with the same back pain that can only be described as if somebody had a grip around around my spine.  This one had the added bonus of sciatica as well.  Baby never made me sick the whole time which I am very thankful for.  I hadn't thought much about the fact that he had been lying in a breech position since most babies flip themselves to the head down position later in the third trimester.  Well that time came and went and Baby was still snug as a bug with his head resting against my ribs when we started to worry.  Our Obstetrician, who had been an amazing doctor so far, suggested an external cephalic version to help coax him into the right position.  The experience wasn't very pleasant but it wasn't painful since I chose to have an epidural during the procedure.  Two doctors used their hands to manipulate the baby from the outside trying to turn my baby over.  I felt like a ball of pizza dough getting kneaded.  Unfortunately it was unsuccessful and we had to make the hard decision to schedule a cesarean section for the safety of the baby.  

Our c-section was scheduled for Wednesday January 22nd (GU time) and we started getting everything ready for our hospital stay.  CAUTION TMI AHEAD : Monday morning I noticed I couldn't control what I thought was pee and that continued all day.  I questioned whether my water had broken because I never experienced it with Kiley's birth.  I thought it was like in the movies where it would be obvious if it had happened.  I went about my day without saying much about it to Alex other than I wasn't sure what was going on.  We went for a two mile walk that I would have happily kept going on (if you know me I would have walked my usual 5 miles) but my body was telling me it was time to go home.  Alex, Kiley, and I went out to dinner around 7:00pm.  I started feeling a little crampy while we were waiting to order.  When it happened again I thought I had slyly looked at my watch to begin timing it.  Apparently not.  Alex was on alert from that moment and I kept trying to brush it off like it was probably just braxton hicks contractions.  Truth be told I was hungry and I wanted to eat!  While we ate Alex called the hospital.  They asked us to come in since we weren't sure whether my water had broken based on what I was describing to them and they wanted to check me out.  We let our friend Sarah know that she'd be getting a 4 year old visitor that night even though I was hopeful that we'd be coming back for her in a few hours.  I was wrong.

At the hospital Baby was still in the breech position of course.  Snug as a bug still.  Contractions were consistent and getting more painful.  When the nurse checked me she said my water had broken so I wasn't going home....Baby was on his way!  All the staff got called in around 9:30pm to start prepping for the c-section and Alex got changed into scrubs.  He made them look really good!  I declined to ride down to the operating room in the bed and walked instead.  I knew I'd be spending a lot of time in that bed after the procedure so I wasn't eager to give up my freedom of movement just yet.  

The c-section itself wasn't that bad.  All the people prepping in the OR with tubes, gases, needles, and masks made me more anxious than anything else.  There was one male nurse that tried to make me comfortable by joking a lot but I just thought he was annoying.  The only thing I would have wanted would to have been able to lean on Alex while I got the spinal instead of the nurse.  He's much more calming.  Around 11:00pm I was ready to go and Alex could come in.  He sat by my head and the anesthesiologist stood behind him.  They distracted me from the tugging sensations I was feeling behind the blue sheet draped in front of me.  At 11:20pm and weighing in at 6lbs 6oz and 19.3 inches long our son Shelton was born feet first but perfectly healthy!  Alex got to cut the cord...and I got to have him laid on my chest where he began nursing after just a minute.  Holding him, watching him root around and finally find his target and be satisfied was amazing.  It was the perfect distraction away from the sewing me back up that I knew was going on behind the blue sheet.  

Shelton makes being a parent to a newborn pretty easy.  He only fusses when he's flat on his back, possibly getting a new diaper, and ready to eat.  He's pretty easy to read so far.  We get lots of sleep already and he nurses like a pro.  The hardest part for me is obviously healing.  I'm so active that I have a hard time taking it easy, although I'm giving it all my effort right now.  Kiley has been helpful, handing us wipes and diapers when it's time to change him.  Shelton gets lots of hugs and tickles from his big sister.  Having Alex home to help me has been amazing, although I know he's exhausted.  I love watching him with his son.  He takes the role of new dad and fully embraces it.  


When I have lived through such a dark and devastating tragedy of losing my first husband I am eternally grateful for his sacrifice and for the divine intervention that brought Alex into our lives.  For without Alex, Kiley, and now baby Shelton I just do not know what kind of a person I would be right now.  I'm happy.  I'm excited for the future.  I'm going to go snuggle my baby now :).