Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day Is Almost Here

This is my mother playing the piano, not what she looks like                                 
                                         Note: I recorded her surreptitiously, and there are a few errors                                 wh       
         which that probably would not have been there if she'd known she 
                                                   was being recorded. She's a game player, not  a practice player:
                                                   Her performances are always better than her practices.

If I don't take the time now to say something nice about my mom, the holiday will pass and I'll move onto other pressing matters such as tattoos, Mormons, and missions, and I'll forget all about my mom. She deserves more than that.

As much as she wanted to be a mother and to have and raise children, I don't think my mom was meant to be a stay-at-home mother on a long-term basis.  I think even the few years she spent totally at home, while she enjoyed them, were difficult for her.  She was more inclined to argue in court on  behalf of a school district that a student with a barely detectable if even existent case of ADHD (he had to be taken to seven doctors before one could be found who would give the ADHD diagnosis)  whose parents were not willing even to to try one of the many medications on the market was not entitled to his own personal one-to-one paraprofessional assistant  than she was to mediate disputes about whether or not a Fisher Price Popper could be hammered until it broke to see if the colored balls on the inside were actually bubble gum. (They weren't.)

Still, my mother stayed at home with my twin brother and me full-time until we turned four.  She did the play group exchange, the mommy-and-me swimming and gymnastics lessons, and many things that might by some have been considered beneath her when considering that she could have paid someone else to do it for a fraction of the salary she would have earned  doing the work for which she was educated to do.  Her point of view is that if one wishes to have children and one expects them to grow into the type of adults one would choose for them to become, there's nothing quite like doing the job oneself.

When my brother and I  turned four in early December of the year before we started kindergarten, my mother sent us to preschool for to days a week, five hours each day so that we could become properly socialized and learn to take direction from adults other than herself and our father, and so that she could return to work on a slight basis as a consultant. Many mothers would have packed us off to daycare and take the money they would have earned long before that, but my mom felt that we needed the bare minimum of preschool, and that kindergarten was soon enough for us to go to school every day. Even then, she chose for us to attend half-day kindergarten and worked only half-time so that she could pick us up each day at the conclusion of kindergarten.   When we were first-graders, she added two additional hours to her work day early in the school year, but was still there to pick us up each day until she developed leukemia, and her life had to be devoted to fighting the dreaded illness while we were shuffled from one relative to another.

Educationally speaking, that was very much a wasted year in our lives, as we traveled from one state to another to be cared by relatives  after a live-in babysitter who was a relative of a relative stood by, paying no attention as I, at the age of five, nearly starved myself to death.  Fortunately school came easily both to Matthew and to me, and we withstood the interruption to our education. Fortunately also,  I was a perfect donor match for bone marrow for my mom. She didn't want to take bone marrow from me because I was tiny and had been ill, but my father lied to her and used my bone marrow anyway, telling her at the time that it was an adequate match from a random donor..  More tha   Twelve years later, we're both alive and well, so I'd have to say he made the right decision.

The decision to conceive my brother and me was a tough one for my mom to have made. less than two years earlier, because  of placenta abruptae, she gave birth to premature twins whose lungs were not sufficiently developed for them to survive beyond a few minutes in one case and a few days in the other case.  Eventually she decided she really wanted at least one child. She had seen the adoption process not work out well for a few close friends, and concluded that it was time to try conception and pregnancy all over again.

Four months into her second pregnancy, my mother learned that she was again carrying twins. The reason she learned relatively late that there were two of us was that I was conceived in a later cycle. my mother's HCG levels dropped low enough that she ovulated again roughly eight weeks after her original conception. The idea that she was again carrying twins did nothing give my mother peace of mind. At about  24 weeks gestation with Matthew  and approximately sixteen weeks gestation with me, she was put on bed rest. she read, did some work from bed (laptops weren't then what  they are now) and tried her best to occupy her thoughts with anything and everything except what was going on inside her uterus at the time. She told me not long ago that during that time, she became convinced that she would cone out of this pregnancy with one baby if she was lucky, and it wasn't going to be the baby she conceived second.  s/he didn't speak to anyone -- even my father -- of this,because she thought actually voicing it might jinx even the larger baby's chances.

the plan was to keep the pregnancy going as long as it could reasonably go, but hen the more  gestationally mature baby needed to come out, I would have to come out as well, ready  or not.  she was being examined weekly by ultrasound. When Matthew's weight according to the ultrasound estimation dropped by three ounces in one week and when the amount of amniotic fluid was shown to decrease, it was time for the babies to be born.

My father's best friend in Florida, whom I call my Uncle Jerry, is a highly respected obstetrician. He had been on call, preparing to fly to California to, if possible, deliver the babies.  Call it doctor's intuition, a hunch, or just dumb luck, but he'd somehow felt the day before that it was time and had hopped a plane to California. He was present for the final ultrasound, and took part in the decision to take the babies immediately.

The ultrasound had taken place in the hospital,  so all that was needed was to move my mom to the operating room and prep her for immediate surgery.  it wasn't an emergency C-section in the sense that  obvious distress was present for either fetus, but it was obvious that conditions inside our little makeshift hotel in out mother's womb were deteriorating by the minute.  We'd gone from  a Best Western or Holiday Inn to something worse than a Motel 6 in less than a week.  There was no reason for the surgeons and other personnel to act recklessly, by time was of the essence.

Within forty-five minutes of the conclusion of the ultrasound, my mother had been given a spinal anaesthetic, and the first incision was being made by my Uncle Jerry. He then incised the uterus.The decision had been, if feasible, to get the smaller baby out first, and I was the more accessible of the to of us. My uncle Jerry told my dad to grab me. my dad's not an OBGYN, but all doctors have received some training in delivering babies -- even surgical deliveries -- so my dad didn't hesitate as he reached in with his rubber-gloved hands to pull me out. With a minimal amount of suctioning, I was screaming away. "I think you have a singer " my Uncle Jerry said to my mom as he lifted my brother out of my mom's uterus.  There was less than a minute between the time my brother and I were removed, which has our birth certificates listing the identical time of 11:43, which, I've been told, is highly unusual.

Some drama occurred with my mom announcing a change to the name previously decided on for me that I won't go into at this time. I was small -- two pounds, two ounces, while my brother was a robust six pounds, nine ounces. My mom still wasn't convinced she was going to end up with tow babies out of this experience, but chances looked good for her getting at least one baby that survived. What she didn't know was that the neonatologist called in for the delivery ad few worries about me despite my size and early  birth. He saw premature births every day that he worked. nothing about my condition seemed overly alarming to him.  my mother was going to be raising twins whether or not she had yet accepted the idea.

It took loner for my mother and me to bond than it did for her and Matthew to do the same, as he accompanied her home from the hospital five days after we were born. I was there about five additional weeks. We eventually bonded, though I have been more difficult for her to manage, i part, according to my mother's siblings, because I am so much like her.  Her mother always told her,. "I hope someday you have a daughter just like you," and she didn't say it at peaceful times when things were going especially well. to a large degree it seems that my grandmother got her wish.

I look like my mother, although I don't think I'll ever be as pretty as she is. I wish I could share a picture of her that actually shows what she looks like, but she will not allow it. I have much of my mother's musical ability, although my dad, too, is a musician, so it's hard to say what came from where. I can sing a little, but not the way my mother can. She says she used to sound just like me, but I think that was when she was younger. I believe her full voice was beginning to come in before she reached my age. My mother's singing  voice  is indescribable, so I won't even try except to say that she can sing to the back row of an auditorium without a microphone  but also can lull the crankiest baby in the world (which was me in my day) to sleep with her voice. To this day, if I'm having difficulty sleeping, she can sing and I'll usually be unconscious before two minutes have passed.

She taught me to play the piano. Many pianists won't teach their own children, as they find it creates too much conflict. For some reason, even though we butted heads in other areas, we had no trouble in my learning piano from her. I studied with her until I was twelve. It wasn't like a once- or twice-a-week lesson. It was more like she would be cooking while I was playing, and she'd hear that a fingering was awkward, so she'd come in and fix it for me. Since I practiced daily with her listening and providing suggestions or corrections when necessary, it was actually far more productive than going for a lesson once or twice a week. Even after I began studying with a professor at the university in the town in which we lived, she continues to help me, and her help was probably more beneficial at the time than were the lessons.

Interestingly enough, she couldn't teach Matthew to play the piano. Playing the piano had come very easily to her, as it did to me.  For Matthew it was more of a struggle, nd she found herself growing impatient in trying to teach him. She rightly  felt that a mother-son relationship mattered more than having a son who could play the piano, so she left it alone, thinking that maybe in a year or two she would find a private piano teacher for him.  Strangely, what she was not able to accomplish, I was.  He would listen to me when I taught him something on the piano, and I was too young to know that he wasn't moving a long at a terribly rapid pace.  He eventually got it down.  her doesn't play as well as my mother or even as well as I, but he can play several works of the masters and can sightread modern sheet music. m/y mom said she wouldn't have believed it was possible for one sibling so young to teach another one, but it worked.

My mother is brilliant beyond what I can express. I'm not, despite what a commenter said recently in another post, "an idiot," but I have a little more than a shred of the intelligence my mother has. My father is a research physician, and he readily admits that my mother is more intelligent than he is. I'm not sure why she chose educational psychology, school administration, and music performance as fields of study when she could have done things so much more cerebral, but I suppose it was what made her happy. She retired briefly when we relocate from northern California to the central coast of california, but is now an adjunct professor in the music department of the university I attend, and is considering an offer to join the faculty on a full-time basis.  If she takes the offer, I hope it's because it's what she really wants to do and not because she thinks she should work and it's the most convenient offer.

Jacqueline Kennedy once made the comment, "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much."  My mother was a Kennedy aficionado as a child, so she's surely familiar with this quote. I suspect, though she's never spoken it within my hearing, it's been a  silent mantra to her and to how she's lived her life, not because it was Jacqueline Kennedy who said it but because it epitomizes how important she considered us, the seriousness she took in the job of  being our mother, and the precision with which she raised us.  I'm not claiming that either Matthew or I is perfect. I'm merely saying that if anything about us is bungled, we did it to ourselves. Our mother was and is  practically perfect.

1 comment:

  1. When people try to troll me I either delete the comment or change it to say how awesome I am. You are very pretty so now I am curious to see how beautiful your mom is. Also is she Mary Poppins? That was a lovely post about your mom.