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The 4P Formula for Parenthood
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April 4, 2000
The “Four ‘P’ Formula for Planning\Parenthood
“Mom, can you sign my Friday folder?” asked my 14-year-old daughter, Adrian. “Oh, and I need two dollars for the dance—and a permission slip.”
“Bring me my purse and a pen—when’s the dance?” I asked mindlessly while simultaneously flipping French toast, packing lunches and obsessing on the recent unexplained weight loss of my nine-year-old son, Alex. I wondered if french toast would be high enough in calories as I made mental notes of the food Alex ate yesterday. “Maybe I could add butter and extra syrup,” I thought, realizing he was low on calories. “Or maybe I could get him to drink a nutrition drink---mmmm, 360 extra calories in eight ounces.
“Mom, here’s your purse,” said Adrian, shouting me back to the reality of my griddle.
“Is Ayla going, too?” I asked, referring to whether Adrian’s twin sister was going to the dance. They usually did things together these days. There were a few years of individuality, and heaven knows, we’ve tried to encourage different interests in our twins, but they were two peas in a pod.
“I think she’s going. Do you want me to ask her?”
“Please, and see if she’s almost ready for breakfast, too,” I said, reflecting on Ayla’s chronic lateness. Whatever amount of time she had, she needed ten minutes more—sometimes 15. Maybe I made her wait too long when she was a baby and she’s paying me back. After all, with twins, there were times when the girls had to accept alternating mouthfuls—one spoon, one bowl, two mouths.
“Girls.” I shouted in a tone that reminds my husband of a fog horn.
“Girls,” I heard a half-asleep Alex repeat from his bed, “mom’s calling—get going now!” Alex loved noticing and exaggerating anything the girls were reprimanded for. A typical younger brother, he could be doting, caring, obnoxious and utterly annoying to his sisters.
“Good morning, sweetie,” I said to Ayla as she entered the kitchen—finally. I noticed the eye make-up and curled hair, a sharp contrast to the torn (but stylish) jeans and designer T-shirt. “You look beautiful—about ten minutes too beautiful, ” I said.
“Hi, mom,” she giggled.
“Are you going to the dance, too?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she replied. “They’ll probably make us dance with the lights on again. The new principal thinks we’re better behaved with the lights on.”
“Good idea,” I said.
“Mommm,” she whined.
“Did you girls figure out your high school plans?” I asked, reminding them of the four-year written plans that we’d been working on. It seemed so early to state a career goal and determine what classes to take, but for these bright and diligent students, it was the next thing to do. Just as they had gone from preschool to Kindergarten to grade school to middle school, so would they go to high school, college, graduate school and medical school. Adrian planned to be a doctor specializing in international health issues, and Ayla thought maybe Psychology would be a good field, or perhaps Law. They both seemed to excel at everything. They were star soccer players on a “select” team, they were involved in other sports at school, both played musical instruments and sang in the school chorus. They dabbled in visual arts, participated in church youth group, and during all other waking hours, had the phone surgically attached to their ears. Their social lives exhausted me!
“Oh-oh ,Mom, there goes our bus,” said Ayla, as she heard the familiar sound outside of our window. “We’re late again.”
“That’s $3.00 each for this week,” I reminded them. We had a deal. If they missed their bus, they each had to pay me $1.00 for a ride to school. “I’ll be set to retire, soon,” I joked.
“Mom, did the girls miss their bus again?” came the sleepy sound of nine-year-old Alex waking up but still in bed.
“Yes, honey, I’ll take them quick. You just stay here and play with the lovebirds.”
“Dean,” I heard him call to our favorite bird. Hatched last summer, this baby bird has a crooked leg. Because of his disability, he likes to snuggle instead of fly, so we hold him a lot. He chews earrings and fingernails, and preens our hair. He’s the 25th bird hatched in our home. Two mating pairs kept the cages stocked—or overstocked sometimes. Our front hall aviary is a fertile breeding ground, I guess—for birds.
I dropped off the girls at school and tried to catch my breath on the five-minute drive home. Balancing three children, part-time work, a budding writing career and countless other demands reminded me of the great Wallendas at times. They tottered on the high wire while holding a pole piled high with people and objects. I totter on the high wire of life, balancing children, marriage, work and countless unexpected daily challenges.
Life could have been much different. I was starting my doctoral dissertation when the twins arrived. Four years later was prime time for a son. I wondered about how different life would be if I’d finished my final degree. My husband says I should have. Friends say it doesn’t matter, and that I’m a supermom. Overall, I’m satisfied with my earned credentials, B.S., M.S. and M.O.T.+1 (mother-of-twins and a singleton).
I always thought I’d be a mom; I mothered my dolls in preparation. Chatty Cathy still sits on my shelf, her blond hair neatly combed and her perfect dresses coordinating with the matching velvet shoes. I carefully stitched scraps of flannel for her nightie, and pulled only gently on her string to make her talk—eight phrases blasted from the sound box in her chest. Funny, not one of them said “I missed my bus, mom, late again.” The doll did say, however, “Hug me,” “I’m sleepy,” and “Play with me, ” and I did play and hug and put her to bed with motherly loving care. I was eight.
Chatty Cathy’s predecessor, Penny Playpal has not aged well—her head is on a basement shelf, a strange and eerie reminder of lost and broken dreams. She walked at my side when I held her hand. I was six. Before she came, I dried the eyes of Tiny Tears and cleaned the spit of Baby-go-Burp. I loved them all and hugged them often, but the snuggliest doll of all was Baby Cuddles. Her stuffed cloth body felt real, and as I held her close, I dreamed of the babies I’d hold one day. She first came into my arms on Christmas morning, 1963. I was nine. Her picture first caught my eye as I paged through the Christmas Wish Book catalog. A few weeks later, I heard my mom talking on the phone, and I could tell that mom was ordering Baby Cuddles. There seemed to be a problem, though…. A long waiting time….maybe not in time for Christmas….might not come on time….maybe they could send her by airplane.
I tried not to think about the worst. I prayed each night that Baby Cuddles would make it. I dreamed that two dolls came by mistake, and were my arms full!! Two of everything arrived in my dream; two pink snowsuits, two white chiffon Christening dresses, two bonnets, two bottles and two velour suits with pink bunnies on the front for my twin Baby Cuddles. When I awoke, I squeezed my eyes shut to try to sleep more. I wanted to return to the dream. I didn’t know then that if I really had twins, I’d have no trouble going back to sleep—twin motherhood is exhausting. I only knew that it was magically real. And there was more real magic in store for me. On Christmas morning, I tore off the wrapping and saw the air-mail package. My dad captured the special delivery and first hug on an 8mm movie camera.
By the time I was twelve and too old for dolls, my doll collection had grown to more than 40. I had a new version of pretend-mom play. I’d pore over the catalogs for hours. I listed the names, birth dates, ages and sizes of my children on paper, and selected clothing for them from the Sears Big book. Remaining within the limits of my budget, I’d shop for clothing of all sizes. I had a big family—on paper. Each boy and girl was outfitted for Easter, and all of the girls had bonnets, gloves and purses. I’d clip pictures from the expired catalogs, and compose family portraits. My children didn’t look like one another—or like me. Just as dreams come in all colors, my children came in all colors, too. I always had twins in my bunch of clipped-figure kids. I searched the catalog for two photos of the same child, cut them out and pasted them side-by-side on paper. They were never dressed alike, though, as the Big Book didn’t duplicate the photo montages. One year, I got grandma’s old catalog, too. Was I in heaven! My twins were two-of-a-kind child models, with identical outfits. They had lots of brothers and sisters. Sometimes, I invented a family of three or four sets of twins. I don’t know how I stayed in my budget with that bunch!
There were always children in my head and heart. As a Kindergarten teacher and, years later, as a day care worker and a Sunday school teacher, there were children in my life, too. I never expected that my first babies would end up in a laboratory test tube.
“An early miscarriage, “ said the doctor in 1983, two years after I was married. “There were two sacs—twins. I’m sorry. It happens a lot. Try again.” I was 29.
We didn’t get that far again. There were blood tests and temperature charts, hormone pills and periods—every month.
“Their best option would be adoption,” said the letter on official letterhead from the infertility clinic. We submitted the letter to the adoption agency. There were mountains of paperwork, large sums of cash, intrusive questions, background checks, fingerprints, immigration services, and waiting. And waiting. And waiting. I learned about the “Four P formula;” patience, paperwork, payments and prayers. And more prayers. And more prayers. The agency had warned us of the risks….long waiting time….maybe not in time for Christmas…. The baby would come by airplane to O’Hare. We tried not to think about the worst. I prayed each night that my baby would make it into my arms this time. Life went on.
On December 6, 1985, my husband opened his birthday gifts. With her new video camera, my sister captured the expression on his face as he opened the gift—rolls of film.
“To photograph the new baby when he comes,” said my sister. Aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas all waited too. We hoped to hear any day that a baby had been born for us in Korea.
“Baby or babies,” joked my husband. We had expressed interest in twins.
On December 25, I opened a gift from my sister- in-law, Colette. It was addressed, “To Baby Odya-Weis.” An ornament with two baby birds in a nest peered out at me.
“Twins,” I said laughing.
On January 21, 1986, I got a phone call that changed my life forever. I was at work at the UWM day care center. The phone rang. “Cyndie,” called a co-worker from the room across the hall. I answered.
“Hi, Cyndie,” said Donna, our social worker. “I have some good news.”
“Hi, Donna. It’s been on my mind a lot.”
“How would you like to be the mother of twin girls?” she asked.
“I’d love it, “ I said and I began to cry and scream. There were calls to make and papers to sign and whirlwinds of activity for the next few hours. We picked up pictures and medical reports from the agency, stopped for dinner, and then drove to our folks’ homes to show the grandparents-to-be. In the few short hours between our call and our visit, my mom had run out to buy two pink snowsuits, two chiffon Christening dresses with matching bonnets, and two velour suits with pink bunnies on the front for our twins’ first Easter.
I thought about my childhood twin-dream. I pondered on the two-bird Christmas ornament, and I remembered my husband’s birthday comment on the day of his party, December 6, 1985. Our baby girls had been born in Korea on December 4, 1985, and on December 6, the loving birthparents said good-bye to their baby girls. They dreamed of a better life for them.
We waited. And waited. And prayed—a lot. We got a call on Tuesday, March 11, that our babies were due to arrive on Saturday, March 15. I had heard of long labors, but five days seemed cause for an emergency C-section.
That Saturday, Northwest flight 76 pulled into the loading bay at O’Hare International. The first few passengers exited, among them, a young soldier in uniform. He asked, “Who’s getting the twins? I helped take care of them.”
“We are,” said my husband.
That moment felt like reality falling gently on my shoulders and wrapping me in a cloud—and holding me tightly in ecstasy. With the words of a young stranger and my husband’s response—“We are”—I knew that my babies were really on the plane, and that in a few minutes my waiting would be over.
Minutes later, I caught a glimpse of a woman and her adult son each carrying a bundle. One bundle was white, the other pink. The pink one was crying, and the woman handed her to me. My husband got the calm one from the man. Time froze for a moment, and I think I heard some hallelujah’s from heaven. I wanted to shout to the hundreds of people at the airport, “It worked! Dreams do come true!” But I didn’t. I had babies to feed, and diapers to change and cries to calm. And two sets of Asian eyes were looking up at me with trust and hope and love and —hunger.
After our miraculous delivery, we sat for a while at O’Hare International Airport and fed our babies. A friend videotaped us. The same video recorder that had captured my husband’s fateful birthday comment caught another glimpse of fate when my brother joked, “This is fun, let’s do it again.”
“Maybe in a few years,” said my husband.
“Yeah, when we get their brother,” I added.
We watched that video clip four years later as I held our newborn son in my arms. He didn’t come on an airplane, but rather, we found him through an ad in The Milwaukee Journal. “Christian Family with young Asian children hoping to adopt a baby of mixed racial-ethnic background,” read our ad printed in March, 1990. A young pregnant girl clipped the ad, and on the day after Mother’s Day, she called our agency. She delivered our son in late June, and he came home to us on August 28, 1990. With deep brown eyes, light brown hair, and skin just a shade lighter than his Korean sisters, our little boy is all sunshine.
In between our special deliveries, we lost more babies to miscarriage. And when our son was five and our daughters were eight, we knew our family was complete. With all three in school all day, I had started a high-pressure, long-hours job, when surprise, I found out I was pregnant again.
I suspected I was pregnant in June, 1995, and when the home-pregnancy test showed a blue x on the fourth of July, I bought four other brands of tests in utter disbelief. To my amazement, I found I was pregnant in every brand! A call to the doctor the next day began an intense regimen of medical care for this “high risk” pregnant woman who years ago had had three previous miscarriages, one time losing twins.
“Cautiously optimistic” was how I described my feelings, but inside, admitted only to myself, the feelings were more like ecstatic yet terrified. Trusting that all was in God’s hands, we planned for a family of six. Things went well for nearly three months, and I welcomed my morning sickness and exhaustion as positive signs of a growing baby. I could feel a small bulge in my abdomen and saw a beating heart on the first ultrasound in mid-July. About that time, it dawned on me that this baby would be Caucasian, and most likely would appear very white in comparison to our dark-haired family. That was OK. After all, my catalog families had white babies—a few. Imagining the videotape we’d view in a few years, I saw a pudgy, blue-eyed, blond, curly-haired toddler, resembling my husband’s sister and my brother. In my imagined snapshot, he was a perfect angel with his white skin reflecting the light in an aura-like glow.
My body did not sustain his young life, and on August 2nd, 1995, I held a lifeless perfect little baby in the palm of my hand. With tiny arms and legs, miniscule toes and fingers and blue eyes, this little one went straight from the warmth of my womb to the perfect love of his Father in heaven—no breath, no crying, no pain, no being held in longing arms, no celebrations, no congratulations, no hair to stroke, no cries to calm, just perfect love surrounding him. I was 41.
While I carried him in my womb, I dreamed of the birth announcement we’d send. Hundreds of people were awaiting our birth news, and considering the rocky road we’d traveled to parenthood, they were praying for us. We’d need to send 200 announcements or more, I was sure. On the front would be a picture of our multi-ethnic family. The caption would read, “Planned Parenthood.” On the inside would be a picture of our blond angel-baby. The caption would read, “God’s Plan.”
And now, as I peek into my sleeping children’s rooms, I see heads of shiny black hair on two pillows, and a halo of curls on another. It’s been a busy day, and I’m exhausted from the running and driving and cooking and encouraging. It’s been a busy 14 years full of tiny tears, real-life baby-go-burps, chatty toddlers, pretty play pals, double cuddling and catalog shopping. No matter how tired I am, I flash a prayer to God.
“Thank you, Lord, for my family and for my home and for my satisfying work. Thank you for using me to counsel infertile couples and lead them to adoption and to the babies you have planned for them. Thank you for using my children to open doors for hurting people to approach me and ask about adoption. You knew all along, Lord, what cuddly packages you’d send my way. And I just needed to sit back and open the presents. Thank you, Lord, for knowing better—best—always. And thank you for teaching me to wait.”
For I know now, that there’s planned parenthood and then there’s God’s ultimate plan—and that’s worth waiting for.
Themes I tried to bring in
Motherhood is busy, full of unrelated tasks, fraught with worry, emotional draining tasks, unexpected happenings, etc. It is physically, mentally and emotionally draining. It is also satisfying and enjoyable.
We mentally prepare for motherhood through our play as children. Girls play with dolls and imagine what mothering will be like. We imagine the wonder and magic, but not the work.
We give up a lot when we become parents. And some of us take a hefty emotional blow on the journey to parenthood, what with miscarriage and all.
Infertility leads us to adoption, sometimes.
Adoption is a special blessing. All children seem to come to us in magical and unusual ways, but really there’s an ultimate plan.
Infertility comes up again—even after adoption.
Symbols and Connections and “literary devices” I tried to bring in.
Baby Cuddles unusual arrival and my children’s arrival stories- using similar words and phrases.
The twin dream and the application to the dream of life.
The themes in my playtimes and the repetition in real life
The foreshadowing of my life in various videos.
My age in short sentences—tried to be child-like in the child parts, but continuing this technique into the other sad part represented how awry life’s events can seem.
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