I went to bed at 6:00pm last night. Sick. Terribly sick.
The kids care when I’m sick. Just because they don’t respect my privacy and can’t leave me alone doesn’t mean they don’t care. I mean, they’re in my room every 5 minutes. Caring.
They’re right next to the bed, their hot breath in my face. “Are you OK, Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Are you OK?”
Meanwhile, I’m suffocating because I’m trying not to breathe my germy breath on them. I turn away and hoarsely mumble, “Ub fine.”
“What, Mom? What? What? What did you say, Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? What?”
“Uh sed ub fine.”
Cael, my helpful kid, brings me water in a cup filled to brim. Sloshing all the way and laying wide swaths of liquid throughout the hall, the 4-year-old inevitably waters my down comforter. Which means I get to sleep with damp, wet goose smell for the rest of the night. Serves me right for supporting the down industry.
There’s homework time in bed with my 9-year-old snuggly girl trying to hug and kiss me while we work on the difference between “heard” and “herd.” (“I love you, too, Aden. Get off of me.”) You can imagine the temptation I feel, given the fact that I mother a herd and rarely am heard, to drive home these particular definitions. I don’t give in, even in my weakened state. I want a gold star.
I’m burning up.
Cai, one of the four-year-olds, puts in an appearance just as I throw off the covers, rip the scorching socks from my feet, and hike up my shirt as far as it’ll modestly go.
Modesty has traditionally not been found in our house, but now that my son, Ian (11), is getting older, it had to happen. He Cares, too, and could show up at any moment by the bed with the same “Mom? Mom? Mom?” mantra as all the others.
The shirt hike leaves my midriff exposed. OK, fine. I wouldn’t pass middle school modesty standards, but I’m doing the best I can. Besides, I assure you that I’m not at risk of anyone thinking my midriff is at all appealing because
I am the Queen of Stretch Marks. I mean, my girlfriends have gasped.
The secret of my stretch mark success? Be overweight. Grow twins. It’s like Miracle-Gro for stretch marks.
(Aside: Men who read this blog, I apologize. I’ve been on quite a personal kick lately. Perhaps you should reconsider your reading material until I get it out of my system.)
Like I said, Cai puts in an appearance just in time for midriff exposure. Cai is terrified of germs to the point where we may have produced a kid with OCD. I’ve never seen a 4-year-old who washes his hands as often or as thoroughly as this child does.
He walks in to my room and over to my bed. He’s seen my belly before, but something about dim lighting makes my stretch marks stand out in stark relief against my palid skin.
He gasps. Not unlike the girlfriends’ gasp of horror.
His eyes get big, and he whispers, “Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Are those purple shiny things your germs? Are they? Mom? Mom?”
I have to interrupt the momming because he’s deteriorated into some kind of trauma-induced broken record.
“It’s OK, Cai Cai. They’re not my germs. They’re called stretch marks.”
A whole herd of children joins Cai in my room. They’d heard the fear in his voice, and, sweet things, come because they Care.
So they all listen to the Story of My Stretch Marks. We talk about the elasticity of skin and its capacity to stretch. We talk about what happened to make my belly grow so large. Greg throws in a comment about the stretch marks on his arms due to massive muscle growth from high school and college weight lifting… to the ooooooohs and aaaaaaaahs of the boys.
At the story’s conclusion, Cai Cai courageously caresses my fearsome lines and says, “I want stretch marks, Mommy. You are beautiful.”
Cael, who’s always thoughtful and logical, says, “I only want muscle stretch marks, Mommy. But I’ll give you a big hug and a kiss.”
And I start to feel better.
My kids and I talk a lot about adoption, forever families, birth parents, and love.
I think about birth moms and their stretch marks. Physical reminders of what they’ve often lovingly and selflessly released.
I think about adoptive moms and the stretch marks on their hearts.
I often wonder which things I say that the herd actually hears. But I conclude that’s not really up to me. I must leave that to God and to my children.
My real responsibility is to say the words and do the stretching. Because even (sometimes especially) women whose stretch marks aren’t present as daily physical reminders bear the scars of stretching beyond our known capacity to grow.
And, in the end, stretching is just another way of saying, “I love you.”