Sunday, August 18, 2013

CH Ch Changes...

I remember when I was in my early 30s and Candace decided she was going to have a baby. We had always planned on doing that together. She and I would get pregnant and we'd share the ups and downs of bloating, craving, 'kicking' and birthing.

I remember not being able to get pregnant. I tried. Sort of. At the time I was in a long term relationship, but there was no talk of marriage on the horizon. I refused to get pregnant and not be married, or marry because I was pregnant, so it just never happened. I have no judgment about people who get married because a baby is on the way (hey, my parents did!) it just wasn't something for me. Plus, with PCOS, getting pregnant was going to clearly involve more than not using birth control and protection. In the end, that time of my life came and went and I didn't have many regrets. 

I remember watching Candace go through her pregnancies. She'd had scarlet fever when she was very little and one of her kidneys didn't function, plus she was overweight - both things contributed to making her pregnancies a bit difficult. One thing I remember though was that she absolutely glowed. Together, we celebrated the birth of her first baby. My partner and I, at the time, agreed to be godparents to her daughter. Then, several years later I got to be in the birthing room when her son was born. And while I haven't been a 'real' mom myself, I did get to feel like the 'cool' godmom on the west coast. I liked that role and have enjoyed my experience with it.

The easy going flow changed the day Candace called me to tell me her husband had cancer  - Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia. I was living in Seattle, working from home, traveling to schools around the country, and still in the long term relationship. I was on a conference call and not paying any attention to the call. She called me on my cell phone and I put my conference call on mute. She was crying. I was shocked, saddened and worried. She had a baby! Over time her husband went into remission and they had a second baby. Not long after her little boy came, her husband found himself fighting cancer again. For him, it has been an on and off battle for over ten years.

One day, when I was visiting with her in Ohio, Candace informed me that if anything happened to her and her husband she wanted me to have custody of her children. She was sitting on the couch in her living room, the sun shining through her long, curly hair. Her golden-hazel eyes shined. All matter of fact she said, "We've talked about it, and we can't imagine anyone more spiritually perfect or more loving than you. We also asked their uncle as well, but I know, MK, that if anything happened, you'd love my kids and take care of them." I told her nothing was going to happen, but of course I would do that. I had a remote idea it might happen one day but I wasn't worried. I loved her. I loved her kids. And Candace wasn't ever going anywhere. After all, we had plans. We had golf carts in our future

Everything changed the day Candace told me she had cancer. I was driving to work, I remember our school was having an inservice day. I listened as she sobbed on the phone. I could barely drive. I sobbed all the way to work, then the whole day. Then the next day. She fought against the cancer for five years. It was extremely aggressive. I remember one day we talked while she was having chemo pumped into the port in her neck. With quiet tears tracking down her face she told me how in the future I was going to have to be the mom, I was the one who was going to be there to watch her children graduate. I was going to be there to watch them get married. I was the one who would be their support and love them. I cried with her. I told her of course I would be there, but so would she. She was going to make it. She'd smile at me in her knowing way and we gently hugged each other through the tubes and wires.

When she passed away this December, I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Initially, her husband wanted to take care of the kids and try not to disrupt their lives too much. It made sense and life just moved along. I helped when I could and my goddaughter has come to visit me twice since December.

Four days ago, that all changed. For many reasons that aren't mine to share, my goddaughter's father and I decided that it would be a good idea for my goddaughter to come and live with me. It has all happened tremendously fast. In three days I have run around getting legal paperwork done, getting things notarized, trying to get her enrolled in school in Seattle and getting things organized. I am full of love and excitement!

I am also terrified. Perhaps every mother feels this way? I have had thirteen years watching my goddaughter grow up far away from me. I got to be the cool 'godmom' in Seattle. You know, like that kooky Aunt every kid is lucky to have - the one that wears long tyedye dresses, likes trees, traveling and the ocean. The one that has an awesome boyfriend with a cool house. But that role is changing now. Now, I become the 'mom' figure. I have to learn to navigate boundaries. I get to love and be loved - so I do get the good stuff, but I get the heartache and the struggle of watching a child I love make choices that make me hold my breath. Although this is tentatively only a 'year', in that year I get to help her learn to define who she is, and at the same time, I suspect I am going to redefine who I am.

I know I am supported and loved and that helps tremendously. But lately, I struggle sleeping because I have so much in my head. I sense all these implications and I'm trying so hard to plot and plan and prepare. I see how my life, my relationship with the man I love, and even my friendships are going to change. I see how I am going to change. 

I am taking a lot of deep breaths lately. I am remembering to take things one moment at a time. None of that is easy. I want to feel safe and I want to know I am going to be fine. But more than any of that, I want to know SHE is going to be fine. And I can't know that. Not really. I can only do what I can do and hope for the best. I just realize that the world that seemed so fine and relatively safe four days ago, doesn't feel that way so much now that I will have a 13 year old in my life. It feels so. much. bigger.

In other words, I am no different than any other parent who wants so much to control and protect, but realizes that really, I can only love. I can help her lay down a solid foundation knowing she is loved. I can give her boundaries and rules that in time she will rebel against. I can watch her soar and I can watch her stumble. And I can offer her a hand to help her up if she wants it. But I can't fix, or change, or soften any of her life. It is her life and she does not belong to anyone other than herself.

And while I am scared, I am also excited. And awed. And amazed that Candace and her husband trusted me with their child. And I can only do the best I know how. 

I am so grateful to have been loved and trusted so much, not just by them but by so many in my life that I now can love and trust so much. 

New road, new path, new adventure. Considering how my trips sometimes go? I expect this will be full of laughter, angst, joy and anxiety and thank god I have such wonderful people around me, well around 'us' now, that will hang out on the sidelines, cheer us on and love us.