Sunday, January 27, 2013

Don't be judgin' me

It's getting harder and harder to keep my mouth shut.  Not that I generally have a problem expressing my opinions but I suspect what I am about to say will cause some uproars with people.  It's cool.  I am ready for it.  At least I think I am.  So here goes:
I am pro-choice, and pro-birth control.  Yep.  True story.
However, I am NOT a "baby killer" or a "murderer", and I am rather tired of being labeled as such.
Now let me make this clear.  I do not think that abortions should be a form of birth control.  I do, however, believe that if a woman is raped and gets pregnant, she should have the option of an abortion.  That's my prerogative to believe it, and no amount of comments from others will change that.  Rape is a crime, and there's no reason that someone should be forced to carry a baby that is the result of that.
Birth control?  I take mine every day.  I am involved with a lot of support groups online that center around having special needs kids, kids with heart issues, and of course ones that are for transplant families.  I can't tell you how many times I have been asked "Are you having another child?"  I would have loved to have had another baby.  However, with my two children both needing heart transplants, there's obviously some pretty dominant nasty stuff in my husband's and my combined gene pool.  Time and time again, I hear "Well you shouldn't take birth control, you should let God decide.  Because God will take care of your children no matter what."  That statement makes me so mad I could scream.  I believe that having another child would be irresponsible.  I also believe that God is okay with birth control-why would He want anyone to purposefully bring a child into this world that could spend their life suffering?  And yes, God does provide.  He doesn't pay my bills though.  He doesn't make it so that my kids wouldn't have to go through what they did.  I learned many valuable lessons along the way, true.  I continue to learn due to what has happened.  That doesn't mean that it's easy.  It is not what anyone would want for their children, that's for sure.  And while we are on this topic, I may as well mention the phrase "God doesn't give you anything you can't handle."  AHHHHH!  I think this may be the saying that I hate above all else.  Really?  So my friend who lost her son.. she should "just handle" it, because God says so?  Nope, nope, nope.  PLEASE, people, think about what you are saying when this phrase comes to your mind.  It's so stupid, really.  If it were true, then some of the people in the world are "able" to "handle" loss, therefore they go through it?  No, I think the more appropriate expression may be "God helps us handle what we are given."
So back to the whole abortion/birth control topic: stop calling people baby killers.  It's disgusting.  I am not a baby killer, nor would I ever want to kill a baby.. or anyone.  I just believe that it's not the government's place to tell me what to do with my body.  That's a right I alone hold, and no one will be telling me any differently.
You're pro-life?  Cool.  I respect that completely. Don't believe in birth control?  Fine by me.  Not my body, not my business.  Just don't use your opinions as a platform to judge or belittle others.   Remember, there is only one judge.  And it's not you.  Or me.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Think before you post

Living in an internet-based society, we have the world at our fingertips.  We post every thought we have on our social media sites.  We take pictures of our dinners and put them up for people to see.  For the most part, it's all harmless.
Then, I run across something like this:

I LOVE someecards most of the time.  They are usually heavy on sarcasm, just like me.  This one, however, just made me mad.
You see, my children are on medical insurance provided by the state of Minnesota.  They also receive grant money from the county to help with expenses that typical families do not have.  Know where all the money comes from to fund these programs?  Yep, taxes.
Believe me, I would much rather be a working mom with two kids in school who have never been sick beyond your everyday run-of-the-mill childhood illnesses and injuries.  If you know me, you know that I have two daughters and both have had heart transplants.  I have spent countless weeks in hospital rooms with my children, basically living in various ICU rooms.  A situation not conducive to working a job out in the "real world."  It's not that I sit around and eat bon bons all day long.  Or collect state support and then go out and buy lobster tails and steak.  Yes, I have an iPhone.  It's one of the third generation ones (in case you weren't counting, Apple is now on their 5th generation.) and was given to me as an upgrade when my phone conked out.  Yes, my children have an iPad.  It was gifted to them to help with their special education needs.  And it has helped immensely.
My husband works.  As much as he can.  Going through two heart transplants in three years takes away more hours than you'd think, especially when you have another child at home that needs to get to school, be fed, etc.  The money that we make is of course much less than we'd like to, but we are thankful that our children are here and make whatever sacrifices are necessary to provide a great life for them.
I guess what I am trying to say here is this:  be careful what you share.  You could be hurting someone like my family, whose only choice was to put their children on state medical insurance.  Who have an income in their family and pay their fair share of taxes, but need an extra push.  Whose lives are nowhere near where they thought that they'd be.  Who'd rather that you didn't judge them based on their needs, but on what's in their heart.
I know that there are people out there that abuse the system.  I'm not naive.  But that doesn't mean that everyone who's getting a little help from the government in one way or another is scum.  Or ghetto.  It also doesn't mean that we aren't thankful for those taxes you pay to fund the programs that we need.  
Next time you see someone at the grocery store with a Coach purse and an iPhone whip out her WIC checks, don't judge.  You don't know if that purse is even real.  And if it is, if it's a gift.  You don't know who bought her that phone.  Or who pays for it.  You don't know where that woman has been, or where she is going.  
You also don't know when it might be you that needs a little help.
So before you push that "share" button, think about the people around you.  Do you know their full story?  I bet you don't.  I hope it leads you to be more thoughtful in regards to what you post.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

On transplant

Heart transplants are miraculous.
You know what else they are?  Suckfests. 
Yep, I said it.  Heart transplants suck.  Don't get me wrong, I am beyond grateful for the medical science that has kept my children alive, happy, and growing.  On days like today, though, I am just.. well.. kind of disgusted with the whole thing. 
There are so many people out there waiting on a heart.  But there just aren't enough to go around, and some will not make it to get that heart.  Some, like my kids, are exceedingly (you might even say miraculously) lucky to not have to wait months on end in a hospital bed for their new chance at life.  Far too many wait.  And wait.  And wait some more.  It's hard-emotionally, physically, financially.  As a parent you just want to fix whatever is wrong with your child.  You want to make everything better, and if you can't you want to take their place so that they don't have to deal with a single iota of pain or suffering.  In these instances, there's not much you can do but try your hardest to not go insane.  Perhaps that's the hardest part-the loss of control.  It's a helpless feeling to not have much say over your kid's day to day life.
And then, THE day comes.  You get the news that somewhere out there, a family is choosing to save your baby in the face of their own terrible grief.  And again, you give up control.  You kiss your child, and pray over them, and cry.  You watch them wheel their bed down the hall and onto the big elevator to the operating room.  You wonder if you will ever see your child again.  You pray that you will.  You cry some more. 
Then you wait.  You pace the waiting room, jumping up every time someone in blue scrubs comes your way, hoping that it's a surgical nurse with a great update.  You sit in the hard waiting room chairs, putting a couple together to lay down on, because they've told you that it's going to be awhile and that you should probably rest.  HA!  As if you could possibly shut your mind off while you know that a few floors below you, a team of brilliant minds is creating a new life for your child.
When it's over, you breathe a sigh of relief, but you know it's not the end.  It's a new beginning.  There will be heart monitors, blood draws, and much much more.  The therapies in and of themselves can be overwhelming. 
When life settles down a bit-maybe even after you've gotten out of the hospital-you realize just what a huge ordeal your child has gone through.  It's evident in the zipper scar running down their chest.  It stares you in the face as you lay out medication after medication.  Or while you take your child's blood pressure, diligently recording their daily vital signs and watching for any changes that could signal troubles.
My children run.  They play.  They laugh, sing, watch movies, beat up on each other, give kisses, and fill my life with light.  They are beautiful, wonderful miracles.  They are my life's greatest accomplishments, and I will never stop looking upon them with profound gratitude that God decided to make me their mommy.
But damnit, why can't it be easier!?  Why do I have to listen to my daughter scream her way through therapy because she is fearful?  Why do I have to watch my other daughter struggle to understand concepts that are so basic, she should've learned them two years ago?  When she collapses in tears because something is just too hard, my own heart breaks.  It sucks.
Before I became a mother, I dreamt of the life I thought I'd have with my children.  I was so far off the mark, it's not even worth mentioning.  Because of heart disease, my kids live a very very different life than the one I had hoped they'd have.  There are many more fears, anxieties, and frustrations.   And LOTS more tears than I would've liked.  Things that shouldn't be hard are so excruciatingly difficult for my kids that it makes me angry.  Why my kids?  Why?  It's enough to make me want to run to the nearest cliff and take a leap off the edge some days.
Then I have to pull myself back from the edge.  Put myself in check.  Even when we take three steps forward and two back, I need to remember to focus on that ONE step forward.  Tiny though it may be, it's progress.  Sometimes, the little things really are the big things.
They say that nothing that's good in life comes easily.  Judging by the hard work and struggle that both of my daughters have endured, I'd say that they are both made for greatness.
Maybe heart transplants aren't such giant suckfests after all.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Living in the bubble

I am pretty sure that the next time someone tells me to let my kids "live their life to the fullest" and "don't keep them in a bubble", I may just scream.
I don't understand why being cautious is now looked at as being over-paranoid.  It's not like my kids never see the light of day.  I don't swaddle them in bubble wrap before leaving the house, nor have I installed a Lysol decontamination room in my house.  Madi goes to school.  She plays outside at recess.  We go to movies.  We've gone to Sesame Street Live and Yo Gabba Gabba Live.  I know for a fact that when we're outside, much as I don't like it, Sydney sneaks tastes of dirt.  And we are fine, for the most part.
When it comes to flu season, of course, we are much more cautious.  We insist on flu shots, both for our family and for people visiting our house.  We are adamant that you take your shoes off when you come in the house.  That was always the rule, though, even before our kids were transplanted.  We require hand-washing when you come in the house, and when you've gone to the bathroom.  What's so weird about that?
It really offends me when people make comments that I didn't fight for my kids' lives and get them their transplants just so I could put them in a bubble and not let them live life.  It makes me very angry, in fact.  I know I shouldn't take it to heart, and I should just blow it off, but sometimes it's hard.  I don't think people realize when they make comments like that, they are basically saying "Hey, you suck as a mom."  It's totally true that we didn't go through what we did to live a life less than full.  The girls' limitations post-transplant are actually less than pre-transplant.  Before they had new hearts, the girls wouldn't have even been allowed to play sports or do gymnastics.  Now they can.  There are just different rules.  Most of them involving vaccination and food safety.  All of them involving common sense.
Let's be real, here: there are a lot of germs in the world.  I know that my kids are going to get sick.  It's inevitable, especially with Madi now in school.  I know that some exposure to dirt and germs is necessary to build a stronger immune system in anyone.
Contrary to popular belief, I don't sit in a corner, rocking and sucking my thumb, afraid of the world and all the stuff that's "out to get" my kids.  My kids probably get to do more things than I did as a kid.  Just because they aren't in weekly swimming, tennis, or needlepoint lessons doesn't mean that they are missing something in their lives.  Madi and Sydney are homebodies.  They'd prefer to be at home and watch movies, color pictures, or play with trucks than be out running around.  Maybe because they have both spent so much time cooped up in hospital rooms and doctor's offices, they simply enjoy the comforts of home.  That's totally fine by me.  I don't believe that the amount of places a child has been or the number of activities on their daily schedule determines whether they have a good childhood.  If any family knows how to live life to the fullest, it's ours.  We celebrate the mundane, everyday things that so many overlook without a second thought.  I got teary-eyed when Madi put her own pants on the other day, for cryin' out loud!!
So please, don't tell me that I don't ensure my kids live their lives to the fullest.  The docs at Mayo think we are doing a great job, and are very thankful (as am I) that the girls continue to grow, learn, and achieve all that their hearts desire.  And they manage to do it relatively healthily, at that.  So no, you probably won't run into my kids in the busy shopping mall in the middle of December.  Who likes shopping with their little ones anyway?!?  And chances are you won't see us at Chuck E Cheese anytime soon.  But don't tell me that my kids don't live their lives to the fullest.
Their every breath is evidence to the contrary.