Caitlin: So, to begin with, tell me about when you became a mother. How old were you, who are you mother to?
Molly: I was 22 when I had my 1st, fraternal twins, a girl and a boy, Gina and Ian. People often asked me what it was like, being a mom to twins, but I had nothing to compare it to, so it just seemed to be the way it was, so to speak.
Caitlin: Did you always want to be a mom? You were pretty young!
Molly: I did always hope to have kids, I even named Gina after all my dolls – I saved that name for 1/2 my life! I WAS a young mom, but in the early seventies, that was the norm.
Of course, the situation with my son was complicated, being born with so many different diagnosis’. THAT was what made it so very challenging, but, not knowing anything else, I just buckled up & jumped in. As they grew, and his needs were so all encompassing, I had to make sure Gina was equally busy, and had as much as much of my time as he did – certainly kept me crazy busy.
I had a planner, it went everywhere with me – we did scouts & swimming & softball and any activity for the both of them.
Funny story, at Thanksgiving a few years ago, I asked what they remembered about that most hectic time in our lives, and, imagine my surprise when they said “Every day at 5:30 you called time out to watch Barney Miller, and said we had better be blinded AND bleeding if we were going to interrupt me.”
Caitlin: It’s funny what we remember!
Molly: Ya, all that craziness, and they remember my selfish act, LOL
Caitlin: I don’t know, it sounds to me like keeping sanity! Tell me about your son Ian’s situation.
Molly: So, when they were born, Ian 1st, the doctors said nothing to me, except that the boy had a mark on his back. They would have the pediatrician check it out in the morning. I had 12 hours of bliss before they came in and shattered our lives.
We were told Ian had spina bifida.
So, because they were early, I had twins and came home empty handed…<sniff> Gina lost birth weight, and they were in 2 different hospitals. We’re talking 41 years ago, and his chances weren’t good..he developed hydrocephalus secondarily to closing his back.
During his childhood he had 6 shunt revisions, because, they ARE mechanical, and “will break down” as we were promised, but then, because of the paralysis caused by SB, he had kidney problems, SCORES of orthopedic problems, and then STOOPID incidentals like a hernia and allergies.
It was surgery after surgery, and he took it like a champ, UNTIL he mutinied.
In 7th grade, he had to have a surgery repeated, it was a bitch, but he had his right tibia broken, in order to realign it, and was casted (again, always in a cast, that one). One day I noticed that the cast was rotated 180 degrees. I KNEW he had re-broken it, pin and all, detached.
When he saw the x-ray he actually THREW his crutch at it and had, for the first time ever, a melt down. He was hysterical and had to be carried out kicking and screaming.
I got scared, a whole NEW kind of scared. He was ranting about suicide, he even tried to jump out of the car – SO I called his pediatrician, (my she-ro) and she visited with us and said it was time to make some decisions. As it turns out, there is a point, where continued surgeries can cause more damage to the id, than benefit to the body.
He had some spinal surgeries, and urological stuff lined up, it wasn’t going to be anything but medical maintenance and there was no end in sight. So, at 13 years old, (HE) we all decided to accept that he would grow to be a wheelchair user, and be the best there ever was at it.
I always tried to teach him that he had to live his life as though he were “affected by” and NOT “afflicted with” spina bifida.
Caitlin: I love that way of thinking of it.
Molly: Now, he’s got his degree, has become successful in his field AND has become an actor (you should rent Cedar Rapids, unbelievable).
Caitlin: How did you handle all that as a young mother?
Molly: I don’t know, Cait, I really don’t know. God gave me a gift, in the way I handle crisis’, I go into a fugue state, and it can last for years, but I “git ‘er done!” Ian taught me way more than I ever taught him.
So, now let me tell you what I’ve learned as a grandparent.
Everything, every cliche you’ve ever heard, is true. It’s much better the second time around.
Caitlin: In what way?
Molly: Priorities change. You learn that it doesn’t really matter if they don’t eat their peas.You pick your battles. You really SEE the beauty of their bodies, their synapses, their newness in discovery.
You have a more relaxed approach, a bigger appreciation, when you’re not worried about homework or schedules, I delight in observing Luca, the curve of his chin, the beauty of his shoulders.
His take on all things is new, and fresh, and not at all what we, as jaded adults, see or feel. He never stops talking (NO idea where he gets THAT) and is very affectionate and imaginative. We play all day long, pretending, then reading, or just conversing.
Of course, the other cliche is that I can send him HOME! (laughs) I’m with him, probably 4 out of 7 days, my house or his. He was born in France, and I didn’t get to meet him until he was 5 months old.
Caitlin:What was that like? Meeting your grandson at 5 months?
Molly: Meeting Luca, at 5 months, when they returned from Paris, was the most magical moment I’ve ever experienced. I remember I was very, very careful not to be too effusive, or loud, to just hold him, and whisper to him. I laid him down, and examined every little nuance of him. There’s truth to the Welsh proverb: “Perfect love sometimes does not come until grandchildren are born.”
Caitlin: Okay, SO, let’s go back a little bit. You were a new mom, to TWINS, with one affected by spina bifida. What do you think was your greatest success as a mom to young children?
Molly: I think, as far as Ian and his crisis’, I was given a drive, and even, an anger, and managed not to be intimidated by all had to learn. I ended up going back to nursing school and finishing as a surg tech, so I got to scrub in and assist in the same surgeries Ian had, with the same surgeons! So, that was very rewarding. It was like doing road work instead of book work if you get my drift.
I learned early about kids, being people, with curiosities and their own “special needs.” I drew strength in being able to enlighten others, and had such pride in Gina, who certainly did not enjoy a typical childhood, but enjoyed life, to be sure. She grew up learning patience and compassion.
I have wonderful memories of “downtime” with the two of them, rolling around on the floor, laughing, playing ,bonding. Make no mistake, there were times I thought they’d kill each other, and I let them!
Caitlin: Does Gina ever comment on the difference between Molly the mom and Molly the grandma?
Molly: Oh, yeah, I told her we’d be chatting, and asked her what her thoughts were, and she said I’m an entirely different person now. She loves that Luca and I have our own mutual admiration society, and razzes me about how lax I am now ( I MADE her eat her peas!)
Caitlin: It’s so interesting, because I see my mom with her grandchildren, and they adore her (as do her children). I try to remember what it was like for me as a kid, compared to how she is with them. It’s hard to remember, though.
What have you learned about yourself through your time with Luca? How has it changed your life?
Molly: I’ve learned (or am reminded) that what you say can affect someone permanently. The way you make someone feel is ingrained. I choose my words carefully, because I’m helping to mold a very special someone. I’m less hasty, much more cautious.
Caitlin: With the perspective of being a parent for 40 years and now a very involved grandparent, what advice would you give young parents who are in the thick of it?
Molly: Pay attention. Live in the moment. BREATHE! There’s a reason for cliches, they’re all true, It DOES go by in a blink, and if you’re hurried, you’ll miss it.
It’s the most magical time in my life, right now, and I am well aware. I treasure it, and am convinced it’s why I was born. I am just so overwhelmingly grateful.