Children of Military Divorce

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Categories Discipline, Divorce, Grief, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Parenting, Relationships, Single Parenting, Talking to KidsTags , , , 2 Comments
My ex-husband deployed to Iraq when our babies were 5 months old.
My ex-husband deployed to Iraq when our military babies were 5 months old.

Early in my pregnancy, I made the mistake of referring to our twins as “military brats.” Their dad told me that he would not accept that term. Our children, M and J, would never be allowed to use our family’s military connections as an excuse for brattiness or other poor behaviour. His point has stayed with me. It extends to our divorce too. Divorce has been hard on the children, but does not furnish them with a free pass to be badly behaved.

Military life is hard on kids. The moving, the extended absences of a parent and the fear associated with having a parent in combat are no small things. We’ve honestly had it pretty easy. Instead of having to move to a different part of the country or world every few years, we were able to stay in the Austin area for 8 of the 9 years that I was engaged or married. That gave us the time to build a solid steel support network. Although I got to stay put, during the time I was a military fiancée/wife, my husband went to Iraq twice, Afghanistan once, Korea once and was activated for hurricane relief. He missed every one of our daughters’ odd birthdays.

My ex is currently stationed in North Carolina. We live in Texas. This absence is much harder for my girls than the ones in the past have been. Perhaps it’s that now, at age 7, their memories are long enough to know what they’re missing. Perhaps this absence, where Daddy is stateside and in garrison, not overseas or in training, feels different to the girls.

My ex got to master the two baby hold before he was needed in Iraq.
My ex got to master the two baby hold before he was needed in Iraq. He was also a champion diaper changer and baby burper. He did not cut nails or breastfeed, but he was otherwise as present as I was to our babies.

I don’t have much patience for excuses. Instead, I believe in acknowledging our mistakes and identifying their sources to prevent similar mistakes in the future. When my daughters try to pull the army or divorce cards to explain away poor decisions, I acknowledge that it is difficult to be military children and have gone through our divorce. I then remind them that those things are no excuse for bad behaviour.

On Monday, my daughter M couldn’t find the shoes she wanted to wear to summer camp. I was less than sympathetic. I reminded her that she was responsible for her things. If she couldn’t be bothered to store her favourite shoes somewhere she could find them, that was too bad. She could wear another pair. I was not going to help her look for her shoes beyond double checking the shoe rack where they should have been.

There were a lot of tears, but when I ushered the children into the car, M was not barefoot. She had, however, left a pair of shoes in the middle of the hallways. These shoes were neither the pair she was wearing nor the pair she wanted to be wearing. I made her get out of the car and put them away.

She was not happy about that. She cried and cried and cried. Finally…

Dress greens with daughter http://hdydi.comM: It’s because you and Daddy got divorced!
Me: What is?
M: That’s my sadness. That’s why I have tears.
Me: Uh, no. Your sadness is that you’re dealing with the consequences of not putting your shoes away.
M: But I miss my Daddy.
Me: And so you should. Would you like to call him? You can talk to him. You cannot blame him or me for you not putting your shoes where they go.
J: There is a big hole in my heart. Around the center of my heart is a empty part. The center of my heart is M. The empty part is of missing Daddy.
Me: Sweetheart, I know. I think I understand. Remember, my parents are also divorced. I know that there’s a pain that feels like it would go away if Daddy and I hadn’t split up. But if we hadn’t gotten divorced, you wouldn’t have such a great step-mom and step-sisters. And this is one of those really really difficult things that is part of our lives that we accept.
M: My sadness is because I’m not used to Daddy being so far.
Me: I don’t understand that part. I totally understand that you miss him. What I don’t understand is why you think he’s away more now than he was before. He was gone a lot even when we were married.
J: It feels more away. Because he doesn’t get to visit so often.
Me: He didn’t get to visit much from Iraq or Korea or Afghanistan.
J: This is different.
Me: You’re right. It is different. And your feelings are normal. I wish you didn’t have this sadness. Do you want to call him on my phone?
J: No! I want to see him.
Me: Let’s figure out a way to see him, then! He’s going to pick you up for Christmas. Maybe we can find a way for you to fly to North Carolina for a few days.
M: So you’ll take us and fly home and come back to get us.
Me: No, you’d probably fly by yourselves. It’s called “unaccompanied minor”. You’d be with Sissy, of course, but the airplane people would be responsible for your safety until Daddy picked you up, or I picked you up.
M: That’s a good idea.
Me: He’s going to expect you to put your shoes away, you know.
M: Moooooooom!

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In the MOMs Club – Just Barely

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Categories LossTags , , , , , 8 Comments

In the MOMs Club - Just Barely

Not to bring anyone down, especially since this is my first post for HDYDI, but I’m barely part of this club. You know, the Moms of Multiples club.

You see, I have triplets. But I don’t. I have twins. But I don’t. I’m neither here nor there. And it’s hard.

Bickford Babies

I have what are called ‘surviving’ or ‘incomplete’ triplets. I carried three babies, and I birthed three babies, but only two of them survived. Today, Braden and Tenley are doing well at 19 months old (16 adjusted), even though they were born at only 27 1/2 weeks old.

You can read more about how we lost baby A, Carter, by going to his special website we created to help raise funds for organizations that work to help parents who have experienced the NICU or loss.

Celebrate Carter Logo

It’s a tough spot to be in. I’m now part of a new club – the club no one wants to be a part of – the loss mom club. But you know what? I’m okay with it. I’m okay with it because it means I get to write and share my story. I get to talk about Carter all the time. He gets to make a difference. I’m okay with it because I’m writing several books to help others relate to loss moms, deal with bed rest, or get through a tragedy like the loss of a child. I’m speaking at conferences. I’m raising funds through Carter’s fundraiser each year. I’m choosing to see the good in the midst of the bad.

So, when you read posts by me, know that there will be times when I’m a triplet mom, times when I’m a twin mom. And times when I don’t know what kind of mom I am.

Braden & Tenley

And that’s okay.

And it’s also okay for you to be uncomfortable. Or to relate. Or to empathize. It’s okay for you to ask questions. Or seek out support.

I look forward to representing the unique position that some moms of multiples find themselves in – celebrating and grieving at the same time.

When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you, and your story will heal someone else. ~Iyanla Vanzant

I hope you’ll join me as I share my take on things – and be sure to let me know in the comments below if there’s anything specific you’d like me to cover!

AngelaAngela is a stay-at-home mom raising surviving triplets. She lost her first-born triplet, Carter, after 49 days, and her survivors, B & T, keep her pretty busy with their ongoing needs as a result of their prematurity. She manages to find time for her business and personal blog. Her goal in blogging is to share with others that it’s possible to survive after loss. She and her husband live in the Houston, TX suburb of Cypress. She also blogs at Thirty-One:10.

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Saying Goodbye to the Breastpump

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Categories Breastfeeding, Emotion, Grief, Infants, Mommy Issues, SAHM, Working5 Comments

The time has come. School starts in about 5 weeks, and I go back to work in less than 4. I can’t believe it’s already upon me. I had thought back when the twins were 8 weeks old that I had quite a lot of time to decide how I would handle the breastfeeding thing. Making it to 8 months was always the ideal goal, the one that would happen in the best of possible worlds. More realistically I thought I’d stop when Husband went back to work, or at most 6 months perhaps. But somehow, I’ve been able to keep up with pumping every two hours while I’m awake for over 7 months now.

Of course at times this has been incredibly challenging, like taking the pump with me while on outings longer than 3 hours and pumping in the car/bathroom/other weird location, or pumping while one or two or all three kids need my attention. I’ve woken up in a pool of leaked milk, stayed up late to wash pump parts that I forgot about, and threatened to take a hammer to the darned contraption when I was done (might still do this).

But mostly, it’s just become a part of my life. I have learned to live it in 2-3 hour increments. After that amount of time, I get to take a “break” to go pump, and allow myself 10 minutes of me time. Sometimes Toddler comes along and plays on my bed next to me for a quiet chat– time to spend alone with her. It’s a chance for me to get caught up on the news, read some blogs, check in on Facebook– I’ve recently even started reading Game of Thrones.

Now that this routine is about to change, I feel a bit lost. I weaned the pump when Toddler was 8 months old. Working and pumping definitely took a much bigger toll, and I couldn’t wait to be done. But this time I feel different. I’m sort of mourning the loss of something that has become such a big part of my life. I read somewhere that the pump is like your third child, and in a way it is, and that child is kind of hard to let go. I know I should be excited that I will no longer need to wash all those pump parts, my family can get all that time back, and pumping will not be one of our schedule constraints any longer, but I’m actually more… sad.

Or maybe I’m projecting my emotions about returning to work onto pumping. I think I would happily trade continuing to pump if it meant I could continue to stay home.

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Maternal Instinct?

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Difference, Fear, Grief, Parenting, Relationships3 Comments

I think on some level, I’ve always wanted to have kids.   But, I wasn’t in a rush.  I’m the person who is a little unsure of how to hold my friends’ infants when I first meet them.  When we go over to friends’ houses who have kids, the kids often look at me and ask where my (fun-loving, young-at-heart, AKA-more-fun-to play-with) husband is.  While I can connect with older ones, I’ve always felt a little ill-equipped at dealing with kids before they can talk about their emotions, or at least tell me what they want or need.  Even a few weeks ago, my husband pointed out to me that I drooled over a woman’s super sweet pit bull, while she also pushed a stroller and I hardly even looked at her kid, all while sporting a big pregnant belly.  What the heck is wrong with me?!?  This has always been an anxiety of mine: should I still have kids, if this is the case?  When do those “maternal instincts” kick in? What do I do if I have kids and I feel like it doesn’t click?  What if I don’t like spending time with preverbal kids?  The anxiety has only heightened since getting pregnant, yet not feeling that instinct kick in yet.

I’ve explored this with other colleagues in the mental health field, and I find I’m not alone, particularly on the front of feeling more comfortable when kids can express themselves.  (Yes, my kids will probably have a feelings wheel in their bedroom before it’s entirely appropriate.)  A friend who is a mother of twins, and also a therapist, explained a similar feeling to me when her kids were about three.  She said she is “still waiting for her moment to shine” as a parent.  She told me her husband seems to have shone while the kids were young, and, given her background, she’s anticipating that her moment is when her kids are adolescents.  I related to this so strongly, and ever since have secretly hoped my husband can carry us through until our kids have an emotional vocabulary.

This week, I’ve seen a different side of myself come out.  We have had an 11 and a half-year old black lab that my husband had before we met, and I had a boxer-pit bull mix who is now 7 and a half-years old.  These two girls became fast and furious friends when we introduced them four years ago when my husband moved to the area and we ended our long-distance dating.  They never fought, my girl shared her space with the newcomer right off the bat, and our hearts were warmed daily by their instant connection.  On Monday, we had to make the decision to put down our older dog.  I could write an entire separate (and somewhat unrelated to MoMs issues) blog post about the pain of this decision and the heartache that goes with it.  But, I’ll spare you (and myself, the tears welling up again).

A few friends and family who have known my fears about being able to connect with kids when I have them have always said that they see a maternal gene in me when I’m with our dogs.  But, the skeptic in me thought that this was what people said when they don’t really see you as a “mom” type and just want to make you feel better.  However, this week, the momma bear, protective part of me has come out in so many different ways.  One part of me has been grieving the loss of our older, sweet girl, while the other part of me has kicked into caretaking mode of our younger girl, in full-force.  I haven’t wanted to leave her for a second, and have brought her to work with me, spoiling her, letting her nap on the couch in my office and giving her treats.  When I left her last night for the first time since her friend left us, I cried all the way back to work, texting my husband about the sad face she made, the refusal of the treat I gave her, and all the other signs I saw in her that she was not handling the loss well.  Sure, some of this could be the hormones of being 31 weeks pregnant with twins, or me projecting my feelings onto the dog.  But, she is definitely not herself, and knows that something is off.  I can’t shake the knowledge that she has spent more of her life with her old friend than without, that she has not lived in our current house without a canine friend, etc.  Today, having too full of a day to have a dog in my office, I’ve asked my mom to go check in on her, and I’m planning on bringing her back to work tomorrow.  Am I overreacting?  Maybe.  But, it hit me that there IS a maternal gene in there, wanting to protect the surviving “child,” ensuring that she’s still happy and that life can go on as normally as possible for her.  (Until, of course, in 6-7 weeks, we bring home two little bundles of joy that she’ll sniff until her heart’s content and she’ll likely be demoted on the priority totem pole.)  It just may surface differently than it does for others.

The other dynamic shift that has felt bittersweet, is the ability to take care of my husband again.  I haven’t loved the part of pregnancy that puts you in the spotlight, requires you to need help from others, and essentially be more vulnerable than other times in your life.  Since our elder dog spent 6 years with my husband before we met, he has countless memories with her that I’m not in, and got to see her in her youthful, bouncy days.  While we’ve both been grieving, it’s been so nice to step out of the “patient” role for a moment and be there to help him process this event and what it means for him.  This, too, gives me hope for my caretaking gene.

This whole event has made me realize that it’s not black and white: you don’t either have or not have a “mom” gene.  I like the way my friend looked at parenting, as all of us having moments when we may “shine” more than others, which often has to do with the skills we bring to the table, and those we develop along the way.  I’m so grateful to have a partner who can naturally run around the backyard with a couple three year olds or play hockey in the living room with a five-year-old.  But, I’m also grateful that I may have skills that might be helpful in times when others may lose patience.

How did others fare with new babies who may have once worried about their ability to connect with kids?

Katie lives in the Chicago area with her husband and surviving “child” dog.  She’s 31 weeks pregnant with twins and hopes she knows what to do with them once they’re here.  

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