I cradle him in my arms, my son Greyson now nine months old. We are getting the hang of this new world. My tears splash onto his face as I sit at my computer reading. The song, Face of a Faith plays in the background…
You are the light I follow
You are the face of a faith I love
Oh my darling believe in me
And my intense love for motherhood continued to create a trail of tears down my face. I was reading a birth story of a beautiful little girl unexpectedly born with Down syndrome written by her fiercely loving mother, Kelle Hampton. I almost envied the perspective Special Needs seemed to shine into Kelle’s world. I wrapped her words around both Greyson and me…
Life moves on. And there have been lots of tears since. There will be. But, there is us. Our Family. We will embrace this beauty and make something of it. We will hold our precious gift and know that we are lucky. I feel lucky. I feel privileged. I feel there is a story so beautiful in store...and we get to live it. Wow.
The story has begun...
I wondered if called to greatness, if I could love in this raw and beautiful capacity. Kelle’s words and her blog, Enjoying the Small Things became part of my parenting routine. She gave me permission to feel and give letters to all the feelings I could never find the words to describe. She was there, lifting me up and holding my hand along the way, helping me appreciate the simplest of moments. I had no idea at the time that her collection of words was also paving a road for future me.
When Greyson was 22 months old he received the gift of a brand new baby brother named Parker. And although each stage was still new, the role of Mother came much more naturally the second go round. Greyson didn’t seem to care for this new gift and would have preferred we sent it back to the store. Instantly, Grey turned away from me. Days went by and he didn’t want me to hold him. He wouldn’t even look at me. One night my husband Michael brought him to me for a goodnight kiss and I instead received a slap across the face. Sobbing and hormonal, I chalked it up to the abrupt change brought on by the arrival of a new sibling. The distance between us grew as the days went by. I would enter the room and no light turned on in Greyson’s eyes. There were times I called his name over and over again and he wouldn’t even look at me. I didn’t know it was possible to feel such huge rejection from someone so tiny. The pattern continued, something is terribly wrong screamed my gut. Many little differences noticed, collected and compiled in my mind. He barely spoke. He didn’t call me Mom. He didn’t seem to notice other people when they were around. He wouldn’t walk on grass barefoot. I had no idea that all these things placed together had a name and soon after, Greyson was diagnosed with autism. And so now our story had also begun. I too was a mother with a child of special needs.
Now Greyson is four years old and Parker is three. They are my wildest dream come true and fill my days with busy, purpose and content. Both boys have been diagnosed with autism. And I realized long ago that of course I love them fully in the raw capacity I envied in Kelle. We are Moms, that’s what we do.
In December of last year while scrolling down Instagram, I saw an announcement on Kelle Hampton’s feed. Write: Doe Bay, a writer's retreat on the Orcas Islands April 10-13 of 2014. My heart pounded in my chest as I tried to imagine myself as the type of girl who would go- because I wanted to be her. I haven’t left Grey overnight in four years and had never left Parker -even for one night. Put the oxygen mask on before assisting small children wasn’t meant for a Mother of two with autism, I told myself. My children would suffocate. Practical me and fun me got into a huge debate. I had just turned 40 and my bones ached for adventure. The trip was still four months away- What If you just signed up and cancelled if you change your mind? I negotiated with myself. I told husband Michael the news excitedly and his face went flat. That’s too long to be gone, he said, I have to work. Who will watch the boys?
I NEVER GET TO DO ANYTHING, I screamed intensely, pissed off tears flying hastily, years of sad bubbling over the top. I never go anywhere. I love to write. I need this with every part of my soul. I’m so scared of what will happen to me if I don’t go. I knew it would save me- from what I didn’t know. Michael was shocked at the intensity of my response. Then you have to go. We will sign you up. I was exhausted from the polar conflict in my mind. No, you’re right. It’s a terrible idea, I pleaded. He grabbed the computer, found the information and clicked to sign me up. Panic slapped me across the face. No- I don’t want to go. That’s weird anyway- I don’t know anyone going. I don't leave the boys. It was too late, he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
My suitcase lies still unpacked in front of me, memories spilling out onto the floor. Not quite ready to let go. I did it- I leaped into the ice-cold water of Write: Doe Bay and it was an excruciating new existence. The first night was unbearable, I hate it here, I want to come home, I whispered to Michael on the phone. There was barely cell service I had to stand still pressed up against a small spot in our cabin to get reception. I’m certain it was just the pain of being born. And slowly and completely I came unraveled and broken completely apart. I think I had to be shattered in order to be put back together again, newer and better.
And beautiful Kelle was everything I expected and then some. She's an amazing person and writer, but at the end of the day- she is also one of us. Just a girl and a Momma with a knack for true stories and perspective, a computer, and a heart that leaks constant love.
I laughed a thousand times, and cried almost as much. I needed both desperately. And this girl Annie, she has a permanant room in my heart.
(Photo credit Jesse Michener) I admired the amazing Nicci from Dig this Chick, A story weaver and lover of every day moments. My kind of girl. In my next life I hope to marry her.
And also the inspiring, fierce Claire Bidwell Smith. In my next life I hope to BE her. Her Memoir, The Rules of Inheritance is about grief but even more about grace and running directly into your fears. She's one of the bravest souls I've met.
And here are my lovely roomates, who already feel like family. Tammi, Elke, Angie, and Michelle, I can't wait until next time.
And now I sit, sort and gather my thoughts. I ache from lonely without the constant companionship of some of the most amazing and unique souls I’ve ever met.
Sometimes you have to travel far to find a lost you.
photo credit Jesse Michener
I fell in love a million times in a million ways over the weekend. All of our stories, and the beauty and pain born released within the sacred retreat walls are forever locked inside my heart.
The journey was intense, light and hilarious- it was a great many things. I miss every person there with a dull and unbearable exhaustion inside. But the beauty, kindness and love I found I will forever share going forward, especially with my boys. The time away makes for much better Moming. For the first time in so very long, I can finally breathe. I don't even need the oxygen mask.
Join me on Facebook and Instagram @lifewithgrey