Tuesday, October 29, 2013

An Aidan-Sized Hole

It has been almost 6 months since we lost our sweet angel boy.  God has been so good and faithful to heal and bring peace that surpasses understanding.  Today though, I mourn. 

It is likely that this would have been the week our boy would have been born.  All three of his sisters came 3-4 weeks early and I would have been almost 37 weeks today.  I remember thinking that we would most likely have our baby by Halloween, so as that approaches I can't help but feel like something, someone, is missing.

My sweet 3.5 yr old Sami came home from church last night and asked me if I could get her a baby brother soon.  Such a sweet, innocent question.  Her friend Molly is about to have a baby brother, in fact her mom and I were pregnant together, and excited to have babies around the same time.  I assume Molly must have excitedly been talking about getting to meet her little brother which made Sami want one.  Sami didn't understand why such a simple innocent question made mommy sad, she doesn't remember her angel brother it appears.  People have asked me if it is hard to see several of my friends bellies growing with their expected bundles of joy and I can honestly say no...most of the time.  Jealousy sneaks its way in every once in a while as their beautiful shape reminds me of how my now flat, empty belly should have felt at this point.  I can't help but shake my head at the irony that I worked my butt off (literally) and am now skinnier than I have been in a decade, when that is the last thing I expected at this point.  I find myself reaching for my stomach and finding nothing there.  I see the amazing blessing of beautiful boys being born from beautiful bellies and I wonder what our baby boy would have been like, but just for a moment.  You see, I know, deep inside that I won't have to wonder forever.  I just have to be extra patient.  Usually just the length of pregnancy seems like forever to get to meet our sweet babies, I am always eager at the end, just as every mom I have met is.  However, looking back, 8-9 months seems like nothing compared to the unknown length of time before I get to meet our angel.  One day I will.  One day I will see him face to face.  One day I will hold him, laugh with him and see his eyes sparkle with joy.  One day....

Until then I press on.  I live the life that I have been blessed with, beautiful messes and all.  I love my three beautiful daughters and treasure their laughs, energy and unique personalities.  I thank God for the blessings and ask God for strength to endure the rest.  I press on, persevere and most of the time live in peace.  But  once in a while I notice it...the Aidan-sized hole in my life, where my sweet angel was created and born into heaven.  And that's OK.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Moment My Heart Broke

*written Monday 5/6/13

I never knew it would hurt this much, physically or emotionally.  In fact, I hoped I would be one of the lucky ones who never experienced this kind of pain.  I had hoped that our fourth baby would come uneventfully into the world and laugh and grow just like the first three.  I was wrong.

I had been fearing that something was wrong for about a week.  When my morning sickness ended abruptly, I hoped it was because I was far enough along for it to do so, at over 10 weeks.  Then some spotting, but not more than I experienced with Ellie, and she turned out just fine- I kept reassuring myself. Wednesday night it got heavier so I called the midwives and was seen in their office the next day.  The wait felt like forever. But there on the ultrasound was our little baby, almost 11 weeks, heart beating strongly and dancing for us.  Peace.  Sweet, temporary peace.  I was told not to worry since baby looked ok and went on with my day, even went to work and saw a client that night.  Friday, I started cramping more and spent the day in bed, worrying and praying and praying not to worry.  I told my boss I would need the day off on Saturday and she was supportive, as always.  My mom had come to help with the Littles, as a mom on self-imposed bed rest is not very useful.  I used my home doppler that day three times, the last right before going to bed and heard the beautiful peaceful sound of my little one's heart racing.

I woke on Saturday with a slight headache and realized it was probably from needing to eat and drink some more and made my way upstairs.  I sat on the couch and talked with my mother, nursed my sweet Ellie and watched my little girls play.  Just as I was saying something about my baby, I felt a pop, two actually. I knew exactly what it was, it had happened with all three of my girls.  My water had broken.  I knew this was the beginning of the end.  I looked at my watch, 11:20am.  I know this time will be in my heart forever- it was the moment my heart broke. 

I will spare anyone reading this the most graphic details but I will only say that I never have seen in person the amount of blood I lost over the next several hours.  Mike raced me to the ER as I cried, bled and labored and they tried to push me aside into the waiting room until the nurse noticed the blood and suddenly I was actually getting emergency medical attention.  All I could think is that I wanted a miracle, but I believed the time was past for that.

Minutes after arriving I was holding my sweet tiny baby, already an angel in heaven.  I cried from the depth of my soul as I held this beautiful baby, perfect, just tiny.  I counted baby's 10 tiny fingers and 10 tiny toes on the long skinny limbs.  The baby had a tiny little baby butt and I peaked to see if I could tell girl or boy, and I think it may have actually been a boy.  I wondered at the tiniest ear and nose I have ever seen, and baby's mouth even appeared to be smiling, which actually brought me a glimmer a peace.  I thanked God that my sweet baby would never feel earthly pain, even while feeling intense grief.  I knew my baby was safe with Jesus, wrapped warmly in His love and I prayed for just a glimmer of that peace that my own sweet baby was feeling.

I couldn't let my baby go and my nurse was incredibly compassionate and encouraged me to take as long as I needed.  I couldn't imagine ever having enough time.  I was supposed to have a lifetime with this child, how could something easily measured in minutes, or even hours, ever be adequate?  I asked Mike to take some pictures.  I knew I had to be able to preserve my baby somehow.  They bring me peace, the same way knowing that I did get to hold my baby and say goodbye did.  I look at the palm of my hand and remember seeing my tiny baby resting there.  I will certainly carry those memories with me all the days of my life.

I finally passed the baby off to Mike to pass off to the nurse.  The baby was cold and that was hard to handle.  The baby remained in the room for hours while they tended to my medical needs.  The nurse apologized but I told her it didn't bother me, the baby was the only beautiful part about this.  Our dear friend Katie came and sat with me, held my hand and brought me comfort.  She told me of the many praying for us and that brought me peace, if only a glimmer.  I had to mourn, I had to grieve.  I knew the pain was important for the healing.

The hospital had us sign all sorts of papers, including one that is about what to do with our baby, we chose the option to give us time.  The things that made me angry were when the doctor coldly refered to my baby and the placenta as "pregnancy products" or "tissues".  I know that it must be easier for them if they don't think of them as babies, but what I held was most definitely a baby, just born way too early. Please don't dehumanize my sweet one, "he" was just as human as you, you are just older.  How anyone can try to pretend that it is just a lump of cells or tissues?  It is sickening that in all states it is legal to kill such perfect tiny babies as this.  It has always troubled my soul to know this, but now that I have seen my tiny baby with my own eyes, I just can't comprehend. 

It's been more than 48 hours since I last held our baby.  The depth of pain is more than I ever thought.  Every time I cry, my cramps get worse and my headache gets worse, but it doesn't compare to the ache of my broken heart.  The big things and the small things trigger tears.  I stood at my kitchen sink this morning and looked out at a sunny day and thought maybe it would help to get me some fresh air and sunshine.  This hopeful moment was shattered by the reality that my sweet baby will never feel the warmth of sun on his face and I burst into tears.  Almost immediately, God laid on my heart that the warmth that our sweet baby is feeling in the presence of the source of all light and love is more comforting than the sun would ever be.  In the deepest moments of pain, God is providing me with peace, through songs, scripture or just words to comfort my heart.  I know time will heal my heart, but this scar will always remain.  Some day I will see my sweet baby again in heaven and I pray he will know how much he is loved.

In some ways, I am extremely lucky.  I have 3 beautiful girls to love and hold tight.  I know many women who have lost babies and have not had the blessing of children, so I do not take that lightly.  But when my babies laugh and I think of my baby never laughing, or hug me and I can't hug my tiny one, it aches.  When something happens that is so contrary to what someone is created for the wound is deep and painful.  I have no doubt that I am created to be a mother, so losing one of my dear children will always hurt, though I long for the day when it is not as painful.  One of my most common prayers over the last few days has been "please Lord, don't let me outlive any more of my children."  However, that prayer is a little selfish so I added to it that I hope that is a LONG time from now, long after my children have grown.  For now, I heal.  Physically.  Emotionally.  Spiritually.  The wounds are raw and the healing is necessary.  But I know healing will come.  Even when it happens, I will always remember 11:20 am on May the 4th as the moment my heart broke.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ages and Stages of Children and Faith

Parenting to me has been one giant object lesson in faith after another.  This week, as I looked at the vastly different stages of my three kids, I couldn't help but reflect on how I remember different stages in my faith that were oh so similar to where they are at.

The new baby....love my sweet Ellie girl.  She is the easiest baby I have had, cute and cuddly, eager to learn new things and find new abilities.  Other than the world revolving around her, she hasn't fully embodied that sin nature yet.  There are times when I marvel at how much I love this little one, just want to love on her and have all the patience for when she just wants mama (who couldn't when they are just so crazy cute and sweet?)  She delights in the world around her with awe and giggles and is so very trusting.
I remember being a "baby" Christian- new to the world of faith and a relationship with Christ.  I often had the feeling my little one looks to be expressing above.  Mountain top experiences, filled with awe with God and my Savior, wanting to just curl up in His arms, joy bubbling over, and excited to learn everything I could.   In the same way I wish I could bottle my kids' energy, I wish I could bottle that feeling to refer to it on the harder days.  I still have glimpses of that, but it is missing the innocence of youth, I think.  I know the Love our Father has for us, because I know the love I have for my own children.  It is amazing to think that just as I adore my little ones, want to hold them, comfort them when they are upset, and delight as they do, so does our Father.

The Two Year Old-  Oh my crazy Sami...she is in the depths of toddlerhood.    All that is terrible about twos, she experiences daily.  I have said that I think two year olds help us to understand original sin.  God said don't do it, and we did.  This is our daily battle: don't do that, don't put that in your mouth, be gentle to your sister, dog etc, listen to Mommy, don't pee on your father, be my sweet girl...the list could go on and on.  Whatever I say, she does the opposite.  She loves learning but sometimes I think it is so she can continue to be smarter than us in her own mind.  Of course, she chose one of the hardest days I have had with her to sweetly tell me for the first time that she loves me, and my heart melted.

 Let's be honest, I have been there more recently than I care to admit.  Whether it was an issue of flagrantly going against what God wanted for me and sinning or sinning by omission, not doing the things God asks of me, I have gone through my own toddler stages of faith.  Thankfully God's patience far surpasses mine and he has been there for me through these stages.  There have been times when I feel I have had blessings removed due to my own choices.  Looking back, I can imagine God lovingly saying "That was a bad choice" while putting me in a spiritual time-out, while I worked toward an attitude of repentance and learning to listen to Him again.  Just as my toddler often makes me want to pull my hair out at times, I am sure God looks at me and thinks "Seriously??  You know better!"  Thankfully, just as I remind myself daily with my toddler, "This TWO shall pass."  God's patience wins out and I grow, change and learn by his grace.

The Teenager- Everyone keeps telling me to brace for the teen years, and they may get rougher but at 13, my oldest is an awesome person.  She isn't perfect, but she tries hard.  She loves to learn, grow and be challenged.  She is figuring out who she is and who she wants to be and I am so proud of who that is.  Sure, there are more eye-rolls these days, an increase in her embarassment by her parents, some moments of surprising attitude, but on the whole I am in awe of the young woman she is becoming.  Her beauty, grace and intelligence are inspiring.  We aren't necessarily in the clear for rebellion, but I refuse to believe it is inevitable.

I see my child growing into such an amazing person, and I hope that I sometimes cause my heavenly Father to feel the kind of pride I feel in her.  I know I still have moments of attitude with my Father, but I hope those are growing to be the exception.  I am sure someday I might progress past a teenager in my spiritual maturity, but I guess I have only been a Christ-follower for 15 years, so my teenaged behavior might make sense at times.  Just as we grow and change throughout our lives, so do I continue to see the growth in myself.  I hope I continue to grow, change and mature throughout all the days in my life, so that my heavenly Father will be as proud of me as I am of my own kiddos, saying "well done, good and faithful servant."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Potty Training Wins

Potty Training....those two simple words can bring up so many emotions: dread, fear, exhilaration, joy, and of course exhaustion!  My first daughter was crazy advanced in a lot of ways and at 18 months came home from day care, where she often saw older kids using the potty and asked for a potty.  We went out, bought one, and she used it from then forward- easiest potty training ever!  (Of course during the day, I had help due to the awesome day care she had!)

Fast forward to kid #2, almost 11 years later.  The first attempt was when she was around 22 months, before #3 came around.  We used the 3-day potty training method and she took to it great.  That is...until she got a stomach bug a month later and all progress was lost.  By the time she was ready to try again, I was about to have #3 and I decided to wait. And wait we did.  I finally had enough of buying two sets of diapers and decided to commit.  On Monday, Sami woke up and we immediately changed her into panties and made a big deal about being a big girl.  I showed her the potty chart and bribed her with chocolate.  She did so much better the second time around (of course she is 9 months older this time with significantly more verbal skills.)  We hung out at home for 3 days and now she goes potty whenever she needs to.  She has even stayed dry all night the last two nights, wearing her big girl panties to bed.  I have also noticed a marked improvement in her behavior and attitude overall.  I attribute this to the fact that she is getting extra attention and extra praise from everyone.  It has been a great reminder about how well kids respond to positive reinforcement.  I plan to find all sorts of ways to praise her for all sorts of things even once she is 100% trained.

Sami excited about her new book she got as a reward for staying dry for 2 nights in a row!

We left the house for the first time today and this meant time to protect the car seat.  I went to Babies R Us hoping to find something like this: Kiddopotamus Deluxe Piddle Pad.

Then I decided I would just make more, that were cheaper and bleach-able :) I bought these "lap pads" a pack of 6 for $9.99 from Babies R Us.  I am sure you can find similar from Walmart or Target or the like. 

 I then laid it in the toddlers seat.  (Yes we are still rear-facing, no it isn't as reclined as it looks in the picture).  I cut a slit for the latch between the legs and for each strap on the sides so that they aren't impeded in any way.  This is an important step for keeping kiddo safe.

close-ups of cutting around the straps.

 I then used the one I cut on the seat as a template and cut the rest of them to match. 

 Lastly, I put one back onto the seat for the next time we leave the house and put the rest in the plastic bag they came in with the handy hook and hooked it to the back of the seat on the headrest.  You could always do this to the front seat if you don't have a minivan :)  Now I have plenty for longer car rides, or if I am behind on my laundry (NEVER! )  Having an easy way to protect the car seat saves the headache of washing the seat cover, having the seat out of commission and keeps mommy positively praising Sami and not freaking out over accidents that are bound to happen.  Totally worth the $10 and effort!

I need to make a set for the baby's seat next, for those random diaper explosions that only seem to happen in the car seat.

I am so happy that we are on the road to having Sami trained!  Now I only have one set of diapers to change!!! WOOOHOOOO!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And this TWO shall pass

Everyday, all day long, I find myself taking a deep breathe and repeating the words, "and this TWO shall pass"  Yes, I know that most people think of it as "and this too shall pass."  However, in my stage of insanity of parenting a two year old, my version makes more sense. 

Sometimes I wonder where my sweet sweet Sami girl went.  It seems like just yesterday she would kiss me and love on me and want to snuggle and play....oh wait... it was!  That's the part that kills me some times, I never know what to expect from her anymore.  One second she is the picture of sweetness and people are commenting on how wonderful of a little girl she is....and the next, I have no problem understanding that original sin impacts people from birth.  Throwing things, kicking things and people, making huge messes, biting the dog, messing with her baby sister, getting into her big sister's things, screaming because she wants to paint on the same paper she already completely covered with paint two days ago...these are just some of the new adventures Sami has introduced us to while we have introduced her to the wonderful world of time outs and saying sorry.

The Sweet version posing with her sister

Left unattended with Pudding- She's crying because I said "no!"

A few weeks ago, I vowed to break our girl of her TV watching habit.  We spent 11 days without TV on in the house (at least while she was awake.)  She had gotten addicted and I did not like it one bit.  The time away from the tube worked and I am very glad for that.  However, there was a big, no HUGE, draw back- no more afternoon movie-naps.  Sami has always been a TERRIBLE napper.  She really only started this nap thing at 20 months and then quit them again at around 22 months when she had a stomach bug.  I finally got her to take a nap while watching a movie and the pattern continued.  I figured it wasn't too bad since she wasn't actually "watching" the movie, since she would usually fall asleep minutes into it.  So, when we decided to have a movie and television fast, she decided not to nap any more. 

So, usually starting around 4 pm I have, what I once affectionately called, "my little Chuckie."  Dinners are painful, bedtime routine sometimes torturous and everyone in the house is exhausted.  I know the obvious answer would be to get her to nap, but even since allowing TV again, the kid won't nap.   So today, I tried just getting her to be earlier. At 6:30pm she was out cold in her bed, the baby was asleep in the swing and the hubby was out running an errand.  It was eerily quiet for that time in the day.  I can't help but be skeptical that this will actually last all night.  Sometimes she tries to take a nap at this time of night, so I am just hoping that in the morning I will wake to my sweet sweet Sami, ready to face the day, after a nice looooong night sleep. 

Whenever a sweet old lady reminds me to hold on tight to these years and cherish them because "they grow up too fast",  all I can think is "Thank God!"  Those sweet ladies must have forgotten the absolute craziness of parenting a toddler.  I love that I can take pictures of the sweet moments and have sweet memories of the good times and I hold tight to the knowledge that someday, I will be the sweet old lady who has forgotten the craziness of these days :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Good Night Moon Sleep Theory

Samantha had been sleeping well through the night for over a year when she sleep regressed at 22 months.  Bed times were smooth and life was good.  Then at 22 months she got a nasty stomach bug that, in addition to ruining all attempts at potty training, completely ruined her sleep patterns.  She started completely freaking out at bed time.  I am not just talking about a toddler not wanting to go to bed at night, this was a complete hysterical fear.  I was really getting worried.

We tried all sorts of things:  longer bedtime routine, shorter bedtime routine, more light, less light, hotter, colder, etc.  We even tried letting her cry, but hours of anxiety-riddled cries were not acceptable to me.  Nothing we tried worked and inevitably she ended up crawling into bed with mom and dad.  My due date with our third child was fast approaching and the lack of sleep was killing me.  One night, completely fed up, I moved her crib mattress onto the floor in our room so at least this exhausted fully pregnant mom could get some sleep- at least that kept her out of our bed.  When that seemed to get her to sleep, I wondered if she was over her crib and that she felt too constrained in her barred up little bed.  So we took down the crib and put up the toddler bed.  She seemed to like that more than the crib and at least wasn't panicking when first put in it.  In fact, she started playing "night-nights" climbing into bed and pulling the covers over herself and fake snoring.  But at bedtime, when we left the room, she would often cry until falling asleep, often laying down behind the door on the floor.  I would feel so guilty when I would discover her there the next morning.  We eventually put a twin sized mattress on her floor so that one of us could have a comfortable place to sleep when she woke up freaking out. We hoped that it would make her more comfortable in her own room and not result in a toddler in our bed as the new baby arrived.

The sleep problems continued even after the new little one arrived.  Now I had two little ones waking me up.  I knew there must be a better way.  One night, while reading Good Night Moon to Sami, it hit me.  I needed to be like the "quiet old lady whispering hush."  The little bunny was not having to brave the big green room alone.  There, sitting in the rocking chair knitting, was the quiet old lady, dutifully sitting guard as the little bunny drifts off to dream land.  Sami was always calm as long as someone was in her room with her.  Maybe, like the bunny, all she needed was for someone to sit with her.  It was worth a try. 

I thought of a conversation I had recently had with one of my closest friends, Liz.  We talked about how often times our struggles with our kids have more to do with our own issues than our kids.  I thought about how this may have been impacting our biggest struggle- bedtime.  Bedtime seemed so difficult because I was always trying to rush it and get on to something else.  Whether it was cleaning, feeding the baby, or vegging out on the couch in front of the television, I felt I had to finish bedtime quickly and get on to the next thing.  I decided I needed to find a way for me to be patient and just enjoy the bedtime.  Truly, nothing in the evenings was more important than making my child feel loved, safe and secure.  (Certainly not television or cleaning)

The next night, we did our usual bedtime routine: books, Bible story, prayer and snuggle and rock.  I put her into bed, kissed her goodnight and as she began to panic, I sat in the rocking chair, whispered hush and reassured her I was staying. I don't knit like the "quiet old lady", so I opened a book of my own I had brought into her room with me and read quietly.  I had left the new baby in the capable hands of my husband and I knew I had no where else to be.  I read for 40 minutes as she drifted off to dreamland, peacefully and in her own bed.  It was the most peaceful night we had experienced in months!  I happily left the room, knowing that I had helped my 2 year old avoid the bedtime anxiety.  She slept through the night and I cheered for her in the morning when I found her in her bed.  YAY!!!  The next few nights, she drifted off in less and less time.  One night, I even stayed in her room longer than necessary because I was enjoying my time to myself so much.  We have now been practicing this for weeks.  We have taken turns with bedtimes but follow the same routine.  Sometimes it takes longer and sometimes it is really quick, but all the time it is better than it was, for all involved.

Today, as I was going to write this blog, I read the Wikipedia entry on Goodnight Moon.  It pointed out a fact that I had not yet noticed.  As the story progresses, you watch the bunny get into bed and say goodnight to everything.  One thinks this would be pretty quick.  After all, the book only takes a few minutes to read.  But if you look carefully, this book takes place over an hour and a half!  The quiet old lady sits with the little bunny from 7pm to 8:10 when he finally falls asleep.  In a world where there is always something else we feel we need to be doing, very few people sit with their children for such a long period of time.  I know I am guilty of wanting to wrap up bedtime to get on to something else.  These years are short though and the time will come when my teenagers want nothing of bedtime routines with mommy and daddy.  So for now, we will sit with Sami as she drifts off to sleep (and enjoy a little quiet time to ourselves as we do so.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Life From Suffering- A Good Friday Insight

It has been far too long since I last wrote a blog. Every once in a while something strikes me as important enough to put down in writing and send out into the world. Most of the time, I am distracted by children, life, etc. Sometimes it actually happens. Today will be one of those times.

It has been just over 5 weeks since our newest little one joined our family. Elliana was born on Leap Day after what felt like a long pregnancy filled with discomforts. On our first Sunday back to church, I stood worshiping, still sore from childbirth and had what was one of my deepest theological moments in a while.

Ellie was my second pain-med-free childbirth. With both Sami and Ellie, I had to have Pitocin to speed up labor with stronger more painful contractions but I was determined to endure it without the drugs for a long list of reasons, none necessary to list here. There is always a moment in labor I hit when drugs sound like a great idea- when my body screams at me "why have you forsaken me???" It doesn't happen until too late though. It isn't too long after that moment that my beautiful child is delivered into my arms and I am immediately filled with an intense love like no other. I lay exhausted, embracing my child, my newest love and it is all worth it.

As I stood worshiping, I thought how it made sense- life comes only after suffering. This is just the way it has to be. I only can have eternal life because of the One who suffered and died for me. I always take time to really ponder what it meant that Jesus suffered and died for me, for us all, on Good Friday. While natural childbirth certainly pales in comparison to crucifixion, it is some of the most intense pain I have experienced. Every woman who gives birth has to go through pain. Those who have c-sections have painful recoveries and even those who deliver vaginally with an epidural have pain to deal with afterward. However, only with natural childbirth do women really get the same intense level of pain throughout the process. It is hard to explain to those who have not experienced it, but it is an amazing process and totally worth it in the end. The life of your child, something so beautiful and amazing, comes from something so painful. I realized that the reason it feels so right, is because it is an image of something greater and more powerful- that our eternal life, our Re-birth was contingent upon our Savior's suffering.

I had always wondered, of all things, why childbirth had to become painful for women after the Fall and original sin. It just didn't seem fair. This Good Friday, I think of it differently. Before the Fall, birth didn't have to be painful and Christ's suffering wasn't required either. After the Fall, eternal life could not be attained without the suffering of another. From the moment sin entered into the world, God knew that ultimately a painful price would have to be paid for us to have eternal life with him. The consequence of painful childbirth for women was a foreshadow of this. From that moment on, life could only be received through suffering. We are born into this world through our mothers' suffering and we can only be re-born into eternity due to the suffering of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This Good Friday and Easter I am happy to have such a powerful and fresh reminder of what God did for us all. Just as every ounce of pain in pregnancy and birth is worth the life that came from it, I am honored to know that the unimaginable pain Christ endured on the cross for us all was all worth it to God, that we might have eternal life with Him. How Great is the Father's Love!!