SugarBear - my firstborn. The child I cut my parenting teeth on. The pregnancy for which everything was a first: the first ultrasound, the first 'butterfly' of movement in my womb, the first completely guilt-free lunch at Wendy's consisting of a double cheeseburger, large fry and root beer, followed by a medium Frosty. I have never been so sick. After that disastrous outing my diet consisted mostly of Mexican food, Chick-fil-A, ice cream, and TUMS. The first labor pains (after measuring a barely detectable contraction on the monitor, I asked the nurse how much worse they would get before I delivered; she didn't answer) and the first clumsy attempt at nursing. I gained only 18 pounds and wriggled back into my favorite cords in just two weeks. Alex was born with a smile on his face and I learned from him the truth of Erma Bombeck's words, "having children is to forever have your heart walking around outside your body."
PoohBear - my only daughter. An emotional pregnancy - I didn't eat as much but cried about everything. Alex was nine years old. When we told him I was pregnant he wrote my grandmother a note that said simply, "God answered one of my prayers. We're having a baby!" I gained more weight during this pregnancy (don't ask me how or how much) and we chose not to learn the sex prior to delivery. Our ultrasound technician wrote the results on a piece of paper and sealed it in an envelope. We poked a tiny hole in the corner, put a ribbon through the hole, and hung it on our Christmas tree. Delivery day began very early on a January morning and less than four hours later we held our little angel. She was long and lean with porcelain skin and every time we swaddled her she managed to work one foot loose from her blanket. Rachel is still our free spirit, best described by her Uncle Bo as a cartoon character come to life.
LittleBear - my personal proof that God is still in the business of miracles. Just three short weeks after 9/11 and my husband losing his job (along with a huge commission), we learned I was pregnant. Oops - not really planning for a third child. At our first baby checkup my midwife felt 'something' in my right breast. A core needle biopsy at the women's center of our hospital resulted in the phone call that changed our lives: "Mrs. Hood, all four tissue samples were malignant. You have breast cancer and should call your surgeon immediately. I'm so sorry." The moment I saw our baby's tiny frame on the ultrasound monitor I was head over heels in love - and fiercely determined to beat cancer for both of us. Three surgeries, a serious infection, and four rounds of chemotherapy later, I held our little miracle in my hands. Born three weeks early, he weighed a whopping five pounds, eleven ounces and was barely 18" long. Hard to hold and impossible to diaper, Stephen has grown to be my living, breathing, running, jumping, chocolate-soup-eyed boy.
Being a mom to my three bears has taught me many things. Here are just a few examples:
1/ There is nothing sweeter in the whole universe than sitting quietly in a rocker at 3a.m. snuggling your newborn with a full belly. Conversely, there is nothing more stick-a-fork-in-your-eye maddening than your baby screaming at full volume at 3a.m. for no apparent reason.
2/Boys like to be naked. Girls like to wear pretty dresses. Boys like to pee in the bushes. Girls will lie to your face and "pwomise" they did not pass gas.
3/My greatest accomplishment with my first child was teaching him to fix his own bowl of cereal and find the cartoons on Saturday morning until at least 9a.m. My greatest accomplishment with my second child was teaching her to wake her big brother on Saturday morning. With my third child, I was so happy we were both here - and healthy - that I got up and made waffles for everyone on Saturday morning.
4/Kids are incredibly resilient. With Alex I worried that every scratch, bump, and belly ache warranted a trip to the ER. After Rachel was born, the nurse-on-call and I were on a first name basis; she was always calm and reassuring. By the time Stephen arrived, if there wasn't a bone sticking out of place or enough blood to soak through a bath towel I patted him gently and said, "Cool - that will be a great scar!"
5/My kids notice when the house is clean but don't judge me when it's not. They like it when I make their favorite meals but don't complain when dinner is PB&Js. They know holidays are special to me and endure my long list of photo ops. They want me close by when they don't feel good, look to see if I'm on the sidelines at their sporting events, and still like for me to tuck them into bed at night. They have patiently endured my long recoveries from multiple surgeries and have cared for me far better than any private nurse ever could.
I'm crazy about my three bears. As Goldilocks discovered, they're just right.