Mother’s Day is an interesting holiday in my shoes. I have an excellent mom, a really amazing mother-in-law, a sister and sister-in-law that are mothers to 2 whole nieces and 2 more half-baked babes on the way, a kick ass grandma and another kick ass grandma-in-law. So, legitimately, I have a lot to celebrate.
But, what about me and motherhood? How do I think about that?
Am I a mom? Was I?
Lots of people in positions similar to the one I currently occupy — GXP0, in medical terms, where X can is any whole number greater than or equal to 1 — might say yes.
Personally, I am G1P0 — pregnant once with no pregnancies reaching viable gestational age. Because I miscarried. And I do not say yes, for me. I say no.
No judgment on anyone who believes otherwise. It’s necessarily personal.
I’m honestly not saying this out of a sense of self-deprecation or even self-pity. This is a legitimate no. I do not feel as though I have ever been a mother and truly do not want to be celebrated as such. In fact, to do so only makes me feel worse — simultaneously a fraud and a failure. I never really knew what it was like to be a mom and I did not succeed in bringing life, or even the possibility of life, into this world. Anyone can imagine motherhood, and that’s all that I ever did.
Yes, it’s true that I would love to be a mother. Very much. It’s also true that I think I could be a good one. In fact, in a lot of ways, I’m quite good at caring for and supporting others. I can clean up vomit without flinching and I’ve done so on a number of occasions. But that’s not the same as motherhood and Mother’s Day is not a day for me. I don’t expect you or anyone else to worry about me on this day either. I mean that.
Is it hard? Most definitely. But as with most things that are hard these days — bumps and announcements, ultrasounds and smash cakes — it is not about me. And it’s certainly not my job, nor my desire, to take the joy away from others on account of my own pain.
So this Mother’s Day, please do celebrate yourself and the mothers in your life. Grieve with the mamas you know who have lost little ones, help them know that they are loved and their sweet angels are remembered. But also know that not everyone considers themselves a mother or needs to be told that they are – we’ll have other days, this one isn’t ours.
I called myself fat yesterday and lots of people were super concerned. Self-deprecating, yes, kind of… but let me assure you, Fat Girl Walking was merely a genius play on Dead Man Walking and, finally, at 31 years old, I’m done being upset about the word fat. Done-zo.
It’s true. I’m bigger than your average bear. Now.
I wasn’t always. In fact, when I look back on photos from when I first started thinking I was fat, I can only groan/shake my head/be pissed off at all those stupid wasted years of fat-shaming, fat concern, fat obsession when I was not, in fact, fat at all.
Except what if I had been? What about the times when I was? Because, let’s be honest, my weight has gone up and down and up and down a lot of times over the course of my life. And I think that’s normal, isn’t it. Puberty’s not exactly fun for anyone and most of us get at least a bit chubby for a minute there.
Even if I had been fat then, and even now that I am, my body is still kind of rocking it. I can run for-evs (like I said yesterday) and mow my lawn and vacuum my floors and cook and bake and dance and relax and blog and read and write and talk and and and… my body does all those things. It provides my soul with pretty cush digs, to be honest, and right now, especially, it deserves my dang RESPECT.
Because dang, it’s holding up. IVF meds are no joke. NO JOKE. And my body is going through some stuff, but remarkably, my body is handling it like a champ and despite a level of discomfort the likes of which I have never experienced, exactly, I’m doing ok.
Fat or not, I can appreciate that, the champ-i-ness of my bod. So I have to be ok with the word fat — I have to turn it into just another characteristic. I’m blonde-haired and green eyed. I have size 11 feet and curly hair. And I’m fat. It’s just another thing — a size XL, 14/16, bigger than your average bear. It’s not a bad word unless I let it be a bad word. I choose not to let it. (Anymore.)
So, pretty please, don’t worry about the word fat. Also, don’t worry about me because my mommy came to Wisconsin today and she’s taking real good care of me. We’re taking a road trip to Madison at 4 am tomorrow — eggs, eggs, baby!!
And PS: If I was worried about being fat, now would be extra, extra rough because ah dang… my abdomen is getting blooooooated. There’s not sucking this beast in. It is what it is and the only level of comfort comes from just letting it be. Oh ovaries, you better be growing me lots and lots of eggs.
Because I can’t let my dear friend Dawn down, ever, let’s return to the letter E for just a quick moment.
Now on to the letter F!
April 9th, 1987 was the last “normal” day of my life. I was three and already an old lady in my mind.
The next day, I was sitting in the living room of a family I barely knew when a tall, glasses-wearing, balding man in work clothes came walking up to the door. I yelled out, “Daddy!” and was absolutely mortified when it wasn’t him. I was so embarrassed that the lady I was staying with thought it would be nice to give me some jello. Green jello.
Green?! Salt in the freaking wound! Of all the jello colors… green?! Ugh.
(Note: I have no opposition to the use of green jello as one of many layers in a delicious multi-layered jello salad, which incidentally counts as a side dish rather than as a dessert in the great state of Wisconsin. But green jello on its own? No thank you.)
Before that, I remember being in the hospital with my mom and dad and leaving without my mom. What the whaaaaaat?! As far as I was concerned, it was my mom’s job, passion, life to take care of me and now I was to be abandoned. Abandoned to the not-dad and lady with green jello.
On April 10th, 1987, Abby was born and I was no longer an only child. I had a sister.
I’m a jealous and self-centered person by nature. I realize that sounds super self-deprecating, but it’s the truth and certainly not unexpected of a three year old. (Not so hot at 30; I try to be better.) My sudden realization that I was no longer alone, no longer the sole focus of my parents’ combined adoring attention was basically devastating.
In the months that followed, I came down with a severe case of what the doctor called “Abby-itis”… constant nagging, yet invisible, ailments that required frequent trips to the doctor. Ahhh… attention. Very astute diagnosis, Dr. Stone.
Sometime around high school or so I stopped calling my sister Abalucus (and singing the accompanying song that ended with “Abalucas, you smell like rotten po-taaaa-to peels!!!”) and switched to calling her Shabsky. I don’t know why. It just came to me.
Then she got a middle name– I started calling her Shabsky Balu. Short for Shabsky Baluga. Last name? Fisk. Why? No idea.
(Imagine my shock when I went to google an image of a “baluga” whale only to find out that it’s actually spelled “beluga”… too late to change the nickname birth certificate now!)
Most of the time I call Abby Shabs, short for Shabsky. When I use it after “I love you,” it’s Shabsky Balu (on account of it rhymes and rhyming is awesome). When I’m feeling a little more formal, it’s Shabsky Baluga Fisk. When I talk about her as my sister, I call her my fisky sister. And now you know.
Turns out, Fisk isn’t a terribly uncommon word. Johnson and Johnson’s CEO’s first name is Fisk. Fisk Johnson. And there’s a historically black college called Fisk University in Nashville. I doubt very much that I had ever heard of either of those things back when I started calling my sister that, but it’s good to know that I may actually be able to purchase a Fisk sweatshirt someday when I finally make it to Nashville. (Shhh… don’t tell Shabs!)
My fisky little sister is freaking amazing.
You don’t even know.
(Unless you do know, and then I have no doubt you agree.)
She’s gorgeous, like so gorgeous you want to hate her, but then she opens her mouth and you think “oh, poor thing, such a ditz” and you love her… except then she suddenly puts on some steel-toed boots and a hard hat and tours you around her million story chemical plant, knowing all the ins and outs and pipes and valves (she’s a chemical engineer) and you realize that, actually, she’s freaking brilliant, and you want to hate her all over again. Except you can’t, because she’s ridiculously and crazy and genuinely nice. She’s just so… fisky! It’s the only way to explain it!
After I skipped third grade, Abby and I were far enough apart in school to guarantee that we were never in the same building. I never really knew how exceptionally sad that was going to be though until I went away to college and moving away from my sister was like leaving a little piece of my heart behind.
Imagine the surprise this warranted for the three-year-old self trapped in my 17-year-old body!
I’ve always loved her, but it took distance for me to really appreciate her. She told me when I moved away, “Don’t get drunk. Don’t get pregnant. I love you.” and then made me a bunch of killer soundtracks for life to take with me. I came home that year to watch her run in a cross country meet and to do her hair for her Homecoming dance (I colored the ends of her exceptionally bright blonde hair red with a washable marker– it was genius, she looked so great). We got closer that year, after I moved to the very opposite end of the state, than we had ever been before.
Since then, I’ve felt like my fisky little sister and I are basically intertwined. I love every single second of time I get to spend with her and I miss her always when I can’t. But, to be perfectly honest with you, I got really nervous about our relationship in December 2011 as her first due date rapidly approached.
I knew I already loved my niece more than anything, but I was jealous all over again. I like thinking of my Shabs as Rachel’s sister… I didn’t think I would like very much when Abby stopped being Rachel’s sister and started being Emma’s mom.
Good news, though! They’re one in the same! And as much as I think babies are cool and whatevs, no one is as cool as this crazy little Emma girl that my sister (and her husband, the illustrious Stu man) managed to produce– she’s amazing! A little mini-Abby! And I adore her!
Abby’s got another due date rapidly approaching at the end of June… she’s going to have another little girl, I’m going to have another niece, and Emma, that lucky ducky, is going to have a sister. I know how it’s going to feel for her at first; her world is going to be turned completely upside down. Little does she know, it’ll be the best thing that ever happens to her… because there is nothing better in this world than having a sister. Especially if she’s a real fisky one 🙂
Abby and I have always said that if we ever have a girl, we can’t stop having babies until we have another girl because every girl should have a sister. I know my mom and Aunt Susan would agree. So would my Grandma Rita and Great Aunt Judy. So far, my Shabsky Balu is batting a thousand– good work, Fisky!
What about you? Do you have a sister? Is she fisky? I hope so!
PS: My brother, aka my Stubby little Stubnitz, is pretty dang ah-ah-ah-mazing too. And he’s lucky enough to have TWO awesome sisters. If you ever wondered how wonderful life would be with a sister, he’d be the one to ask. Eh, Tombo?
Also, he’s going to write a book. He’s really good at writing dialogue. Like reeeeal good. Sometimes he sends me snippets of said book via text message in the middle of the night and I always, always, always want to read more. I’ve given him permission to use a couple of my more spectacular blog sentences (mostly because it flatters me when he says he likes them) and I fully plan to be acknowledged right at the beginning. Look for it someday!
Have you ever given blood? When I first started giving, back in 2001, the Red Cross always handed out a sticker after you’d given. They said something along the lines of, “Be nice to me, I gave blood today” and oh my goodness… did I ever wear that thing proudly.
(Second in the amount of proud-ness only to my “I voted” American flag oval sticker. You know what I’m talking about.)
In the 13 intervening years, I’ve given a couple (a few? several?) gallons combined to the Red Cross, the US Armed Services Blood Program, and now the Blood Center of Wisconsin (BCW). I give regularly knowing that I’m a healthy young adult with a large blood volume (consequent to large body size) who’s not scared of needles, not prone to passing out, has no religious or other objections to blood donation, and doesn’t even get so much as a headache from it. (Plus, I really like Fritos and they almost always have Fritos afterward.) But more importantly, I hope that if ever I or a loved one ever ends up needing a blood transfusion someone else will have given. So while I can, I do. Especially given that there are many people who, for whatever reason, cannot.
I really cannot say enough good about the staff of the Blood Center of Wisconsin. Admittedly, I was bummed when I moved to Wisconsin and had to lose my “status” at the Red Cross, but I got my gallon t-shirt at BCW a couple months ago and they’re always amazing. They call to remind me whenever I’m due to give, they come right to my work on a regular basis, it’s easy and quick, the staff are super friendly, they always congratulate me on my hemoglobin (thank you for recognizing that it’s not easy keeping it above 13!), and I’ve never, ever had a bad poke from a single BCW phlebotomist (knock on wood).
Today was no exception regarding the awesome BCW staff. I chatted with the phlebotomist today about her sweet puppies and mine and by the time I was done (remember how I don’t have a ton of platelets? I fill the bag real quick– it’s awesome) I was pretty much good friends with Kathy and wanted to meet her sweet Gracie and Ivy (tox foy terriers) desperately. Then, while I was having my snack, I met a young MA (seriously– 19 years old, so young!) from orthopedics and we chatted over Fritos (I was not kidding, I really love them), juice, and a BCW volunteer timing our 10 minute rest. She was so nice!
There were stickers afterward, of course, but they said something about being a hero and I couldn’t bring myself to take one. (Let alone wear it if I did.) I can donate, so I do. And while I hope that day never comes, if I ever need a transfusion, I hope very much that someone else would have donated for me. (Pure, unbridled selfishness.)
Had the stickers said, “Be nice to me, I gave blood today” things may have been different. Because I love that. Except I kind of feel like I had one on anyway. Because everyone was crazy nice to me today. And that’s when the sum total of many recent overly pleasant experiences struck me:
I have become my mother.
Random segue, right? But hear me out.
Kathy, the phlebotomist, and I, are basically tight now. I know about her two sweet pups and the story of her previous pup being put to sleep when she turned 18 and got sick. I know how upset her rough-and-tumble, 72-year-old, tough guy husband was when that happened. She knows that I desperately want another dog and that I plan to guilt trip Seth for one upon reaching 2 years of infertility (heads up, babe!). I met one of the newest Marshfield Clinic employees and know now that she’s 19 years old, from the small town of Unity nearby (like small, guys, even compared to Marshfield, but it’s cool, she really likes small town living), that she graduated from high school early at 17 (me too!), and that she and I are both fans of Dr. Pathak from endocrinology.
Last week, I chatted with the lady at the pharmacy about the hand cream I was using and we discovered that we both love CeraVe– it’s amazing stuff! She was glad to know how much I like Vaniply for my hands though. She’ll consider it next winter.
In Phoenix, I chatted with a conference organizer when I checked in at the registration desk and found out that her brother-in-law is the football coach at Michigan Tech and next in line to take over as Athletic Director and don’t you just love the UP?
And I could go on.
This is my mom’s thing, though. People talk to my mom. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to her, “How do you know that person?” and she responds, “I don’t.”
But, but, but… I’m an introvert. That’s not supposed to be something I do.
My mom truly has a gift for connecting with people and I’ve always (always as an adult, of course) been impressed by that. She can talk to anyone about anything and it’s not even weird. Yes, as a child, it was embarrassing and I constantly had to get my ma-ommm-mmuh on to warn her that she was being overly familiar (like she cared), but something about it seeped in through the cracks. She took the genetic milieu she passed on to me and spiced it up with some wicked nurturing just in time for adulthood. In-ter-es-ante.
For the vast majority of my conscious life, my mom has worked with people who struggled in school. When I was really little, she taught adult ed to people working toward their high school diploma or GED. She worked nights then, something like 5 – 10 PM, and she often let me come with her to do dissections or other awesome things. Her students would come to our house. They played Carmen Sandiego with me… they took me trick-or-treating… they taught me the law of supply and demand as they understood it. None of these people were “like” us, but I didn’t know that. My mom was nice to them all; she truly cared about them all.
As I got older, my mom moved into elementary education. She taught then, and still teaches, in Willow Run, a notoriously tough district in the area. She is truly an incredible and gifted teacher, and she consciously chooses to put her time, energy, and considerable expertise into an underprivileged school district… not because she couldn’t go somewhere else, make more money, have more prestige, but because she loves those kids. She loves that community. And again, even though so many of those she serves have so little, they live lives so different from those in which my parents raised my sister, brother, and I, my mom has never looked down or spoken ill of anyone* as a result of their circumstance, their intelligence, their socioeconomic status. I have for my entire life been welcome into my mom’s classroom and, as an adult, she has invited be back to sub in her district, to do science experiments with her kids, to be Facebook friends with her fellow educators.
I think my mom and I would both agree that I’ve always (always, like since I was disturbingly young) been the more manipulative of the two of us. But while I was working to get out of a lie at the age of 4 (I liked to dress up like an old lady and invite my mom to make me some tea– tended to do the trick quite nicely), she always knew what she was doing– working the long con. And she wins.
But really, so do I. Good parenting, and all that. I’m glad I got to hear about Kathy’s dogs and the young MA’s childhood in Unity. And I bet they enjoyed talking about it and hearing about my own sweet pup and my time spent living in Washington, DC. Sharing is caring, and such. Because people are people, no matter what job they do or where they come from or where they’re going. My mom taught me that and apparently, it stuck.
My mom has always known what’s up, that life is better when you walk around acting like everyone is wearing a “Be kind, I gave blood today” sticker… except I think it’s safe to assume that Be Kind is enough. No blood donation necessary.
*I’m not going to lie to you right now and I certainly don’t want you to get the impression that my mom’s a saint (because she sure-diddly-isn’t!), so I need you to know that this statement is true only because my mom’s a 100% equal opportunity complainer– rich kid, poor kid, he or she can be a “little s***” either way. (That’s my favorite one. Always made me laugh, especially considering that we’re not allowed, under any circumstance, to even say butt hole.)**
**My blog, I can say butt hole if I want.***
***Sorry, mumsy… won’t happen again. (Not even kidding, Seth, my 32-year-old husband, texts my mom to tattle should the banned phrase ever pass my lips.)
Aimee Rathbun is actually one of only FOUR really awesome (Aimee/Aimie/Amy)s that I know. (That, by the way, is the plural of the name A-ME in all its different spellings. You’re welcome.) And for my second profile in awesome, I’d like to tell you about my co-worker, my friend, and all around awesome.com person Aimie Eckelberg.
Aimie started working in the Office of Scientific Writing and Publication shortly after I did in 2011 and good grief am I glad she did. For two reasons: 1) I don’t think I could survive in my job without her, but more importantly, 2) SHE’S AWESOME! She has since moved on to greener pastures as part of the Clinical Medicine and Research staff, but (fortunately for me) her office didn’t move. YAY!
So I asked my friend Aimie Eckelberg to be my second profile in awesome. I was totally anticipating an uphill battle to convince her to participate, but was pleasantly surprised when she quickly said yes. (YES!) However, I perhaps was a bit too coercive and pressure-y (so sorry, Aimie, dear!) and she ended up asking not to write about herself. Although, it wasn’t so much her concern about writing about herself that did her in. Rather, it was her concern about writing about her family and not doing them justice that truly concerned her. Which of course, made my heart swell with pride for being able to call Aimie my friend and made me want to profile her all the more. Considering that this is only the second-ish installment in this series, I think you can probably forgive the departure from the norm.
There are so many things I adore about Aimie! She’s crazy nice, super cute, undeniably stylish, bright (like really bright), 100% mom-spirational, and the type of person who just knows who she is and what she’s doing and does all of it (and more!) in such an admirable way. It’s impossible not to just love her. (Or at least I assume it is, I’d like to see someone try!) To be honest, I loved Aimie from the moment she came in to interview. So much, that I creepily pointed out her perfect and flawless skin as a good reason to hire her. We did. But I’m pretty sure her skin was only part of the reason why.
Aimie grew up with her brother and parents in Spencer, Wisconsin… a town even smaller than Marshfield (believe it or not) just to the northwest of where we are now. Aimie truly embodies what it means (to me, anyway) to be from the Midwest. She is unassuming and hard working. Soft spoken, for the most part, but loyal to the core and unwilling to let something wrong go without taking action.
I absolutely love that Aimie is a local girl through and through. Every day, she demonstrates how much she believes in this community and truly makes me look forward to having lived here longer than not– to have roots in this town like she does. Last night, Aimie invited me to a campaign for Spread the Word to End the Word at her kiddos’ school and I went intending to take a couple pictures of Aimie doing her thang and to talk to Emma and Noah about what it is that, in their opinion, make their mom so dang awesome. I got way more than I bargained for. Of course. Because she’s Aimie. And I plan to tell you all about Spread the Word to End the Word and the awesome Harry and Company puppet show I saw later this week– it’s totally worthy of it’s own post and only goes to prove more and more why the things that Aimie are involved in are good things, for her family and for this community.
In fact, motherhood and kid stuff are the things that seem, at least in my opinion, to make Aimie tick and that’s what I really want to highlight about her. Aimie is, as I mentioned, 100% mom-spirational and her kids are 1) awesome (likely due to good parenting) and 2) special in a lot of ways. First off, Aimie’s two little bebes are quintessentially boy and girl and oh so different from each other. I’m so impressed with how Aimie and her husband parent two such incredibly unique children. Unique and adorable children.
One of the most amazing things I see about Aimie as a parent is her crazy perseverance. I’ve only known her for a little over two years, and even in that short time, I have seen her find herself constantly in the position to have to fight, fight, fight for what her children need. And she does. She never gives up.
I suppose a little back story is in order. Aimie’s oldest child, Noah, is 10 years old and was born with spina bifida, the most common permanently disabling congenital condition in the United States, which results from failure of the spinal column to close completely. I’d love to say that Noah is completely normal despite his condition, but that wouldn’t be true. Because honestly, nothing about Noah is normal. He is an unbelievably bright and articulate kid. He is fascinating to talk to. (He challenged me to a magical dual last night, by the way. He also schooled me in HP trivia. Awesome kid!)
Noah is hilarious and independent and thoughtful and kind and, not only all of that, but he’s crazy athletic too. Under the tutelage of paralympian Tony Iniguez (like real deal was in the olympics in Beijing, coached in London, for seriously), Noah recently took up wheelchair racing and plans to someday attend the University of Illinois to continue his racing career. And it’s not just racing either! Noah plays sled hockey and basketball and loves just about every active thing he can get himself into– which is legitimately pretty much everything.
And Emma is just as special! It’s incredible the way her shy smile can light up a room. She absolutely beams. Although, the sparkly letters on the back of her Universal Academy of Dance jacket certainly help the case in that respect. Emma is super into dance, and really, really good at it– ballet, jazz, tap, you name it. And she got so into cheerleading this fall that Aimie dusted off her pompoms and practiced her cheers until she ended up as the coach! So fun! Go Tigers! All the little girls adored Aimie (what’s not to adore, right?)… especially when she was “weird”– and that’s a direct quote from one of the girls 🙂
So because her kids are so amazing and because it hurt Aimie to see them struggle at certain things, Aimie opened her big old heart and wrote a book about it. A children’s book.
In 2010, Aimie Eckelberg added author to her resume when she wrote a children’s book called Walk the Walk.
Walk the Walk tells the story of Jon, a little boy with special needs who turns a bit of bullying at the start of a new school year into an opportunity to teach other kids about differences and understanding. And this book has done just that over and over and over again. Noah and Emma’s classes have read the book, Aimie has brought it in and discussed it, Noah has used it as an opportunity to show off his braces and talk about his differences and pretty much always, his peers are fascinated. Aimie has spoken about her book and been an activist for children with special needs through the Children’s Miracle Network and Spina Bifida Association. Her name is passed around by obstetricians here at Marshfield Clinic looking to help families facing new challenges find a mentor. She inspired me to adopt a family this Christmas through the Pediatric Angel Fund. And she is a well-respected and admired member of this community.
The only thing is, despite all of this awesome, Aimie has eaten a large slice of humble pie and any and all of this is dragged out of her or made public knowledge in some other way… otherwise, you’d truly never know. (For example, another coworker, Deb, said to a physician lamenting Aimie’s absence from work one day, “Aimie has a child with special needs AND wrote and published a book about it for other children!” He was floored… and impressed!) But I want you to know how awesome Aimie is and for Aimie to recognize all of the good that she’s done.
To round out this profile in awesome, I really wanted to know what Noah and Emma thought about their mom’s awesome qualities. I’ve got to tell you, though, to them– she’s just mom.
I asked Emma first. Her response: She gives us candy!
To which Noah immediately replied, “Emma! Are you kidding?! She drives you to dance! And pays for your dance!”
So I asked Noah. His response: She pretty much drives me everywhere.
Good point Noah, much better than Emma’s. (sarcasm)
Although, they thought about it on the way home and came up with a lot more reasons. So many reasons that they made me a list and had Aimie bring it to me this morning.
Love it! Love it so much! She is a mom through and through, and that’s what her kids see– she loves them and cares for them, she feeds them, clothes them, houses them, she is smart, funny, patient, and giving. Normal mom stuff. And what kind of a testament is that?
A huge one, if you know about the behind-the-scenes. About Aimie’s struggle to get her children the care and support they need in various local school systems. About Aimie’s necessity to fill in and coach cheerleading at the last minute because someone else was going to let the girls down. About Aimie’s ongoing fight to make sure Noah and Emma have every single opportunity they could possibly want– be it educational assistance or wheelchair sports. And the two of them will likely never be the wiser… at least not for a while. Until they are grown up and truly capable of appreciating all of the good and amazing things their mom does. She’s certainly appreciated for it all elsewhere! She is certainly awesome.
Like I said in the beginning, Aimie has introduced me to a lot… and she’s awesome. I can’t wait to tell you about the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign later this week, it’s too cool!