I know I’ve been rather silent the last few months about our journey. Things have been pretty good, and it just didn’t seem like I had a lot to say. Then Christmas hit, and I have to tell you all, it hit way harder than I ever expected. Some things were surprising, others not so much. Some things were really, really uplifting and made me cry happy tears. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of sad tears. I was really prepared for some things, and others not so much. I have had this post in the back of my mind for so long – let me see if I can unpack it all – mostly for me, but also for you.
I knew that decorating the tree was going to be a totally different experience this year. We have a lot of ornaments that have Madeline’s birth name on them, some that we could change and some that we can’t. Because we have a new tree that is smaller, and because always use name ornaments from Bronner’s to decorate our tree (my entire life my family has done this, I think it is because they did it on Days of Our Lives, but my mom won’t actually admit to that…), I ordered new, smaller name ornaments for the entire family. I also got out the nail polish remover and changed a couple of ornaments that we have had for years. We didn’t get rid of any ornaments this year, but I let Maddie choose what went on the tree and what didn’t. It was actually a really nice time and not at all sad. I was pleasantly surprised.
Another thing that was absolutely wonderful about the holidays were the family and friends that spent time with us. Last fall, Madeline had been sinking into a depression, and we finally increased her medicine the beginning of December. But, it meant that she didn’t have a Christmas list because she just didn’t care about anything. She wasn’t looking forward to anything. And, as much as her grandmothers were annoyed by it, we had to just accept that she might not enjoy or participate in Christmas much this year. Even with the depression still looming, Madeline had a Christmas party and had four amazing friends there to eat and play games. It makes my heart so happy that she has found such wonderful people to surround herself with. Definitely some happy tears that day. (Charlotte also had a Christmas party, and all of her friends are also 100% supportive and kind and amazing. I love the people that my kids are surrounding themselves with and growing into!!)
We managed to have some great times over the holidays with just our family of four. I had a choir concert which I had to arrive to early, so Keith was in charge of getting everyone else there. When I left, Maddie was in bed (I tried to wake her, but it is not a short job to convince her to get up), so I had myself fully prepared to see just Keith and Charlotte in the audience when we got in for our performance. I was so very surprised when I saw all three of my favorite people in attendance. I managed to hold it together, but my eyes *may* have leaked some happy tears. She isn’t fully back to us, but she came through a few times over the holidays. We managed to keep traditions like St. Nick’s Night, Christmas Eve pajamas, and our New Years Eve Family Game Night alive, and I saw some actual smiles from our girl.
I also have to say how thankful I am for our families! All but one person has been totally loving towards our Maddie. Even if they don’t fully understand what she is going through, they are supportive of her and of us, and that is all I could ever ask for. I think that getting to spend time with cousins was a highlight of the season for both of our girls. It definitely made my heart super happy.
Church during Advent hit my heart really hard. Micah is one of the minor prophets in the Bible, but he is quoted in Matthew as foretelling that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. The rest of the year, the church is pretty quiet about Micah, so it really snuck up on me. We spent so long choosing that name. We obviously continue to love our child without that name, but I really, really miss it. I am getting so much better at merging the memories of the two names into the one person that they represent, but I think I will always catch my breath when I see it written. And weep for what was and what I thought would be and what I didn’t know then.
The other thing that hit me so hard, and so unexpectedly, was talking about Mary’s baby boy. It shreds my heart that I no longer have a son. I LOVED being the mother of a boy and a girl. I am such a tom boy that I truly thought I might *only* have boys. Charlotte being a girl was a wonderful surprise, but Maddie has changed my entire identity. All the mother/son activities are over. Now I get to hang with my girls, which I treasure, but I would be lying if I said I don’t have tears right now, thinking about not having a son as part of my mom identity. The daughter of a friend sang a song from the point of view of Mary, all about her son and what his future would hold, and I was completely ugly crying. She sang beautifully, but my feelings couldn’t be contained. I almost had to leave. So, if I can stress anything through this writing, please know that although I walk around like everything is fine, and although I will aggressively fight for my child, I am not really as okay as I seem. I am still deeply grieving, but each day it is getting better and we are moving forward. I will always accept extra hugs as long as you understand that I really could dissolve in tears at any time.
Back in January, we got an email that said they were starting the process of printing diplomas for graduation in May. We have known that it will make things exponentially easier for Madeline if we get her name changed so that it can be on her diploma. So, this week, I filed the official Minor Name Change paperwork. Her official court date is April 30th, so she will also need to file Adult Name Change paperwork at that time since she will be turning 18 this month. It is both heart-wrenching and a relief to have this scheduled. It is the beginning of so much work to get things changed with the government, schools, insurance, doctors…. Everywhere that she has an account we will still use in the future will need to be notified. And I can tell you that my child still isn’t doing well with depression, so her motivation to help with the work is not great. She is working and getting better, but I am still having a hard time. We are still having a hard time. It is hard to advocate for something that is so against everything you thought would be happening at this stage in your child’s life. And yet, as parents, we have to do what is best for our child, so we push through and show up. And we do it with a smile, even if behind that smile is the knowledge that I had to cry for 10 minutes in the parking garage before I could leave the government complex yesterday. I think the biggest thing all of this is teaching me is that you never know what someone is going through, they may be barely holding it together, so it is always best to be kind and gentle with people. Always.