Friday, September 28, 2018

Get Me To The Church On Time

Sunday mornings are for church.  But getting ready for church?  Always a total fiasco.  Between babies, breakfast, and lots of boys, getting our crew up and dressed in something other than stained t-shirts and shorts with 2 matching shoes is always a struggle.  For your reading pleasure, I've summarized our average Sunday morning, because I love to make other people feel better about themselves.  And while I've condensed events into one Sunday, know that all of these things have occurred at some point in time on a Sunday morning.   

Sunday morning begins with waking up late.  The baby was supposed to be my alarm clock, but this morning she decided to sleep in.  It's already 7:30 am.  I want to leave for church at 9 am.  In my mind, we are always going to leave at 9 am, but we all know at this point, no one is ever getting out of this house until 9:30 on a Sunday morning, so I should just stop pretending.  2 hours until departure.

I've fed the baby, and laid her back down.  She might go back to sleep, she might just lay in there and babble, but it doesn't matter because I've got to get to the barn.  Sometimes, I'll make the boys milk on Sunday mornings, but because I'm the fastest milker, I just go ahead and do it this morning.  Plus, we were busy last night and no one has had a bath.  I give two boys directions to the shower.  "Be done by the time I get back, OR ELSE!"  Greg is still sleeping. I decide to let him keep sleeping since he gets up way before me during the week. Now it's 8 am.  1 1/2 hours until departure.

It's Sunday morning, so something will go wrong.  When the boys do the milking, they dump milk into a 5-gallon bucket for the pigs, but they aren't strong enough to carry it down to their pen.  So after I milk 2 goats and fill my pail, I dump it into the bucket and head for the pig pen.  But, someone who is 6 and shall remain nameless, obviously forgot to feed them last night, because they are hollering to beat the band, which means they are starving.  I quickly scoop some feed into a bucket and throw it in.  However, they've seen my big bucket of milk.  This is a treat they will not be denied.  They stand hungrily at the gate awaiting the milk.  Before they first drop hits their feeder, they are fighting and screaming.  4 pig snouts cover the trough, leaving me no choice but to pour it over their heads.  They immediately shake themselves off, like a wet dog, leaving me covered in day old milk and hog manure.  I grab the hose and at least get my legs and feet washed off, because in my haste to get chores done, I threw on some flip-flops instead of trying to find clean socks to wear with my boots.  I give them the rest of their feed, and then check on our buck goat to make sure he got fed and watered last night.  He seems fine and content, so I head back up to the big barn to finish milking the other three goats.  Finally, it's time to head back to the house.  What should have taken 20 minutes, took 30 because of those annoying pigs.  It's now 8:30. 1 hour until departure. 

Upon arriving at the house, 1 boy is showered and fully dressed.  The other is still sitting in the bathtub, playing with toys, getting water all over the bathroom, and wasting all the hot water by constantly draining and re-filling the tub.  The other 2 boys are watching TV.  Boston has woken up, and one of the boys gave him a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of milk.  Thank goodness they put it in his sippy cup.  At least Haven went back to sleep, because there's no sound coming from her.  Or Greg either.  He's still asleep, so I wake him up.  He has a few last minute touches to his Sunday School lesson, so he begins work on that.  I change my milk and pig manure covered shirt, because I have to cook breakfast.  Boy #2 is finally out of the shower, but sitting naked in the living room, covered in a towel and shivering.  "Please go get dressed!"  I send boys 3 and 4 to the bathtub.  I put a skillet on the stove and start warming it up.  (In the name of full disclosure, I probably have to wash it first, because I cooked supper in it, and went to bed with a sink full of dirty dishes.  Why is the house always a disaster on Sunday?)  It's scrambled eggs and toast, because that's quick, easy, and filling.  Breakfast is finally ready, boys #3 and #4 are out of the shower and dressed.  
"Deacon, you cannot wear shorts and a tank top.  It's Sunday!  Go change your clothes!"  
"Boys it's breakfast time!" 
It's now 8:50 am.  40 minutes until departure. 

Since Boston already ate a peanut butter sandwich, I scoop him up to get him dressed.  First, I have to wash all the peanut butter off of him.  I debate whether he has time for a bath.  I decide he has time for a quick bath, so I get him in the tub, barely putting an inch of water in it before I start scrubbing him down, because hey, I've only got 2 minutes to get this done.  My shirt and pants are now completely covered in water, because of the huge puddle left by the other boys, and I'm fighting a slippery, wet 2 -year old who doesn't want to get out of the bath.  "Boys, did you brush your teeth?"  I get Boston into our bedroom and get him dressed, shoes and all.  He is ready to go.  I return to the kitchen to find only 2 boys have actually eaten breakfast.  "Deacon, Lincoln, get back in here and finish your food.  You have 5 minutes to eat!"  We all know we're going to be here much longer than 5 minutes, but a girl can dream, right?  "Boys, put on your shoes so you're ready to go.  Find your Bibles."  It is now 9:05 am.  Only 25 minutes until departure.

All dressed up for Haven's first Sunday at church

Now Haven is awake again.  I go in her room to get her.  Greg has now finished his Sunday School lesson and is taking a shower.  I hear him yell, "Where are the towels?"  The boys left all the wet towels upstairs after their baths.  So I ask Gideon to go get Dad one.  I take Haven into our bedroom to get her dressed.  She's completely soaked, because when she ate at 7:30, I forgot to change her diaper.  I wipe her down (because there's no time for her to get a bath today), and get her dressed, then buckle her in her car seat so she's ready to go.  Gideon brings me a soaking wet towel.  I crack open the bathroom door and hand it to Greg, apologizing for the fact he has to dry with a someone's soggy, second-hand towel.   "Boys, put on your shoes!"  I have no idea what time it is.  But I should probably take a shower.  

Greg is now ready and trying to hurry everyone along by reminding boys to put on their shoes and get their Bibles.  "Get in the van and buckle up.  Gideon, please buckle up Boston."  Greg starts to gather the diaper bag, the computer, his Bible and Sunday School materials and the little children.  I am taking the world's fastest shower, trying to remember if I washed my hair yesterday?  Or was it 2 days ago?  Anyway, it looks good enough to avoid washing it this morning.  I pick out my clothes, pausing for a moment to consider my outfit.  Did I wear this last week?  Can I nurse in this without having to lift my dress over my head?  Where is my other shoe?  Greg carries Haven out to get her in the car.   I'm dressed, everything's gathered, I grab my hair things so I can do my hair in the car, and get in the van.  "Mom, Deacon's not wearing shoes!"  "Deacon, why aren't you wearing shoes?"  "I couldn't find any"  So, I run (literally) to the side door where our laundry room is.  Of course, there are shoes everywhere, and trying to find two that match AND fit Deacon is like a Where's Waldo? book on speed.  I finally find two shoes and dash back to the van.  I chuck them at Deacon, shut all the doors, and hop in my seat.   It's 9:35 am.  Wasn't it just 9:05 a few seconds ago?  We're halfway down the lane.  "Is everyone here?"

I do my hair with one hair band and the only 2 bobby pins I could find in the house, all while using the 3x5 inch mirror in the visor.  It's like a MacGyver episode, but with hair. My goal isn't a professional hair-do here, it's just get it good enough to make it look like I haven't done my hair in the car every Sunday morning since Lincoln was born.  We slink into church at 9:50.  Sunday school is supposed to start at 9:45.  I see that Lincoln's pants are 3 inches too short for him and Canaan's collar is half up and half down.  Gideon didn't brush his hair, and despite me breaking into a sweat searching for Deacon's shoes, he's wearing his 2-sizes-too-small flip-flops that he found under his seat, and they're on the wrong feet.  Oh well.

We made it.  Almost on time.  Can I get an Amen?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Growing Up

We just came home from selling soap at our first show of the season at the Steam Engine Show in Rushville, Indiana.  It's always one of our favorite shows, and we enjoy seeing the same fellow vendors and visitors from year to year.  The kids always enjoy it because of the playground that is right outside the barn where we sell.  It gives them a break from the monotony of sitting in a 10x10 space for 8+ hours a day, four days in a row.

Gideon, age 3, at our very first soap show ever
Because Greg doesn't have enough vacation left for the year, he was unable to come with me on Thursday and Friday.  While my mom came with me, having a toddler and a baby in the booth doesn't leave a lot of extra hands to take care of customers, feed babies, and supervise my older children on the playground.  So, I let them go by themselves.  Now, I was able to see them from our booth through the barn window, they were only allowed to go as a group of 4, and they were only allowed to stay for about 30 minutes at a time before coming to check in with me, but for the first time they were allowed to play on the playground without me!  Then, on day 2, when I was completely alone with all the children, and they were going stir-crazy, I allowed the oldest four to walk to the ice cream stand and buy an ice cream all alone.  I almost completely panicked until they all returned in one piece, slurping down the ice cream as it melted as fast as they could eat it, before I realized how exciting it is that they're growing up.

Canaan, 8 days old, asleep under a table at a soap show 
When we first started selling soap, I was pregnant with our third, Canaan.  Gideon was 3 and Lincoln was 2.  Most of the time, when we went to a show, we left the boys somewhere else.  Canaan was 8 days old when I took him to his first show, where I laid him on a Rubbermaid tote to take a nap.  Those shows were exhausting.  It required both Greg and I to be there at all times.  There were constant requests to go to the bathroom, to look at stuff, to buy stuff, to get a snack.  We always won the dirtiest booth award, because they would spill drinks, spill snacks and then crunch them to bits with their little Velcro shoes, and throw their Legos, Hot Wheels cars, and 50 broken crayons all over for Mom and Dad to trip over while trying to bag soap for a customer.  We'd have tantrums, crying, screaming, fighting, bad attitudes, dirty diapers, and throw up all while allowing our kids to consume  more sugar in an hour than most kids eat in a week just to keep them happy for a few minutes.

Passing the time away at a show playing slapjack

But, now all that is starting to change.  Since we still have more babies, we still have crying, dirty diapers, and occasional screaming, and since there's 8 of us in a 20 square foot space, we still have some fighting, but for the most part, my kids do a remarkable job of staying entertained and quiet during our shows.  Now, they read, color, talk to customers, do little jobs, and (I'm not ashamed to admit it) play games on Mom and Dad's phone.  But they've never been allowed to go much farther than the nearest bathroom alone (as long as I can see it from the booth).  Gideon will be 10 next month, and we've begun to allow him just a little bit more freedom.  He's incredibly responsible and mature for his age and is a huge help for me around the house.  Therefore, I can now trust him to do things like walk to an ice cream stand, pay for it, and bring me back the change all alone.  On one hand, I have breathed a huge sigh of relief.  The fog of having 4 kids in 4 1/2 years, and having 3 toddlers/preschoolers in the house all at once is finally lifting.  I still have a baby and a toddler, but it seems so much manageable now that I have older boys to be extra eyes, ears and hands for me.  It's a joy to see them become more responsible, take care of tasks alone and complete them well, take over chores and jobs that leaves me freedom to accomplish other important things---all goals we have as their parents trying to raise them to become responsible adults.  But it is so difficult on the heart to watch them be so independent and grown up--to look at the pictures of my little boys sitting in our soap booth, knowing I'll never kiss those little cheeks again.

A big boy doing a big chore: feeding baby goats

I think still having babies in the house makes me forget how soon the older ones are hurtling toward adulthood.  But watching them all walk away from me, out of my sight, brought in to startling focus just how short of time we have left.  What a joy it is to see them growing and maturing.  It makes all those hard moments of child-raising worth it.  And as they continue to have more independence, and practice using those wings, we'll be right here with a safe place for them to return to, even it's just a 10x10 space filled with soap, babies, and chaos.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Summer Bucket List

I'm not normally one to make lists.  I either forget where I put the list, much less what was on it, or I get so frustrated that I'm not accomplishing anything on the list that I just throw it away.  But the other day, I read a Facebook article from a teacher about her suggestions for parents when they make their summer bucket lists, and it really got me thinking about the things I want to do with my kids this summer.

You see, her suggestions were things like “Make sure your child has good table manners, because so many of my students don’t,” and “Make sure your kids can tie their own shoes so others don’t have to help them,” and “Put your kids to bed at a normal time, so it’s easier for them when they start school again in the fall.”  While these are valuable ideas and skills that all children need, they all sound like horrible summer ideas to me!  Maybe it’s because we homeschool and our school year consists of studies and lessons and schedules, all that I’m responsible for, but I like our summer to be more relaxed, more free, and more fun.  So, here’s my summer bucket list:

-Play with my kids.  While normal barn and house chores must be done in the summer as well as extra summertime activities like gardening and canning, not having to get school work done allows us some extra free time.  This summer, I hope to spend some of those extra hours playing some games with my children that we often don’t have time for during the school year.  Whether it’s sitting down to build Legos, playing a board game, or getting out the deck of Uno cards, I want to spend some time doing something that they want to do, instead of something we have to do.

-Go outdoors.  Behind our house we have a little woods and a creek the kids love to play in.  I want to take the kids back there several times this summer to play in the water, to explore, to catch frogs and bugs and find shells and crawdads.  I want them to get dirty and discover things for themselves and enjoy being outside while it’s warm and sunny.  It’s also something the boys absolutely love to do, so it won’t be hard to get them out the door for this activity.

-Maintain a sense of normalcy.  It’s easy for me to let schedules and chore lists slip in the summer, mostly because I hate schedules and lists.  I have to constantly struggle against my nature during the school year to stay on a (very loose) schedule, so summer days usually devolve into messy, tv-watching, running around, accomplishing-nothing days.  I’ve let the kids take about a 2-week break from their normal routine, so it’s time to bring some of it back.  We’ll be trying to keep our chore, night-time reading, Bible memory work, and Bible reading times throughout the summer, even though everything in me wants to totally give in and give it up for the next two months.

-Enjoy them.   I want to look them in the eyes, snuggle them, laugh at their terrible knock-knock jokes, watch them play, and just enjoy being with them.   It seems they grow older every second, and I want to savor it all while they’re still little and still here.  It’s easy to get frustrated and just zone in on their messes, fights, and faults.  But, when I really observe them closely, I’m reminded that they are really good kids!  That they are pretty fun to have around!  That I really do like them!  I want to take the summer months to reconnect with each of them.

Our list may not involve anything terribly exciting, like trips to the zoo or ice cream every Friday, nor is it filled with extra homework or practicing important life skills so we can catch up before the next school year, but I hope that this summer we can make new memories, enjoy some down time, and relax from the school year grind.  And I hope you get to cross off many things from your summer bucket list too, whether they are exciting or not.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

April Showers Bring Blessings

I grew up in a small church that sang mostly hymns.  I loved them.  Today I've been remembering a specific hymn from my childhood.  Do you remember that old hymn Showers of Blessings?  It went like this:

Showers of blessings.  
Showers of blessings we need.
Mercy drops round us are falling.
But for the showers we plead.

I've never really thought about what showers of blessings really look like.  In my mind, I have this picture of a million dollars falling from the sky, but I really don't think that's what the songwriter had in mind.  It could just mean we want lots of blessings (who really only wants a couple?), but I think it also has to do with comparing the blessings of life to the refreshing rain.  When we count how many blessings we have, it refreshes our mind, body, and spirit.

I'll admit that lately, it's been difficult for me to see the blessings.  Life is busy for us.  We seemed to have three peaceful months after Haven was born, but once kidding season began it felt like we went from 0 to 100 mph in the blink of an eye.  There were goats to milk, baby goats to feed, milk to pasteurize, jars to wash, then there was soccer practice to drive to, and soccer games to watch, and homeschool co-ops and concerts.  Not to mention the everyday chores of dishes (do they ever end?), laundry, a baby to nurse every three hours, meals to cook for boys who like to eat (and eat and eat some more, which results in more dirty dishes), homeschool work to finish, while every night it seems Greg goes one way while I go another.  All this has left me feeling frazzled, tired, and more than a little bit sorry for myself.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.  I know we all go through seasons of life where things are hectic, and we feel like all we do is run from one activity to another leaving a trail of dirty laundry and sink full of dirty dishes in our wake.  It's too easy to go so fast that I fail to see the blessings in it all.  It's too easy to become bogged down by the messy, hectic, mundane chaos that I miss the best parts of this life God has given me.  When I'm drowning so far beneath the weight of all I haven't accomplished today, that life's little blessings seem to drift away.

There's another hymn we used to sing.  Its words have soothed my soul today.

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
Do not be discouraged thinking all is lost.
Count your many blessings; name them one by one.
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

So tonight I'm counting my blessings:

-The sun was shining, and I didn't have to turn my space heater on today.
-Boston sat on my lap this morning while I milked goats.  I so rarely have time to sit with him during the day, and it was so nice to spend time with just him, even while I was getting chores done.  He thought he was milking, I got some snuggles.  It was a win-win.
-The boys played in the mud today, and even though it made an extra load of laundry, they were having a blast instead of sitting inside watching TV.
-During Canaan and Deacon's soccer practice, I got to play one-on-one with Lincoln tonight.  I never get to play soccer with just Lincoln.  It was quite fun!
-Greg has been making a lot of extra soap lately to keep our stores stocked and prepare for upcoming shows.  He has been having our niece come to help him wash his soap molds and various other jobs.  She got done early tonight with his tasks, and so she washed my dishes without being asked!  (Thanks Lydia!  You are the best!)
-I went to the grocery tonight with all the kids. Usually, strangers look at me like I'm an alien from outer space when I go anywhere with all six kiddos alone.  But today, a lady told me I had my hands full.  But then she said, "Aren't they all such blessings?"  No one ever says that to me.  What a smile that brought to my face.
-Besides milking, the boys can now do all the other barn chores without me.  (This is probably the most exciting blessing of all!)
-We only have 2 weeks of school left, and then we will be done. until. September!! (Scratch that, this is the most exciting blessing of all!)

When life seems to be streaming by me in a blur of never-ending chores and tasks, the best way for me to find peace is to stop, breathe, and look around.  There are showers of blessings all around.  All I have to do is collect and count them.  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Oh Boy, We're Having a Girl!

If I hadn’t been laying down already, I probably would have fallen over.  “I think you’re finally going to get a little girl,” the ultrasound tech said.  I have to admit my heart dropped and even a few tears squeezed out.  I sat in the bathroom when the ultrasound was done, and prayed, “Are you sure, God?  Are you absolutely sure I can do this?  Because I’m not!”  In case you don’t know, we have a house full of boys.  Five of them.  They are my life, my heart, my everything.  They are a bundle of dirt, energy, gas, and a sloppy wet kiss all rolled into one.  We love having a house full of boys, as I've said before here.  We’ve never really wanted a girl.  When strangers would ask us if we were going to try for one, we’d laugh and say we’d probably have more, but they won’t be girls.  In fact, it was so far off my radar, I had not even thought about the fact that this baby I’m carrying might be anything else other than another boy. 

Growing up, I always felt easier around boys.  They are oftentimes easier to get along with, not having the pettiness or complicated emotions that go with girl relationships.  Boys typically cause less drama (though I have a couple that would give any girl a run for her money in this department).  I’m not very emotional, and I tend to not have a lot of patience for emotional outbursts, crying, or hurt feelings.   Boys seem to require less stuff, and we really don’t have room for a whole new set of clothing and toys that inevitably come with a girl.  I cringe at the potential “I’m in charge” and “I’m the princess” shirts she’ll receive.  Boys can be a handful, but girls have their own set of difficulties and pitfalls that come with raising them; I know because I was one.  I also don’t want to share my husband with anyone.  I seriously asked him if he would still love me as we drove home from the ultrasound.  I’m sad that Boston won’t have a brother super close to him in age like the other boys.  Then there are the little weird insecurities I have when I think about her: Will I screw her up?  Will it be weird nursing a daughter? What if she only loves Daddy?  Will I be able to love her the same as I love my boys?  Am I enough for her?  Will it be weird to no longer be the mom with all the boys, just the mom with all the kids?

You should hear some of the comments people say to us when they find out we have all boys.  “Oh, I feel so sorry for you!” “How do you do it?  I only have one boy, and he drives me crazy!” “Wait until they’re teenagers and you have to feed them!”  I try to smile and nod and be polite, but sometimes I want to scream.  We live in a society that seriously undervalues boys and men.  The innate desire to fight and defend, their lack of touchy-feely emotions, their energy and lack of stillness, their competitive spirit—these are not usually considered assets to our society.  But our boys are valuable because of their boyish characteristics.  They are valuable and precious and loved.  And this is the main reason I’ve never really wanted a girl: I never wanted my boys to feel less-than.  You should also hear the things people say to us when they find out we’re having a girl this time.  “Finally getting your girl!” (Assuming we’ve been waiting for 9 years for this moment) “Oh, now you won’t be alone anymore!” (Do these people realize I have 5 kids and am NEVER alone?) “Well, you can be done now!” (I’ll have five more if I want, but thanks anyway.)  And that’s the one that kills me.  Many people assume we’ve kept having children because we were trying to have a girl.  One lady actually said this to me when I told her we had five boys.  She rolled her eyes and said, “Oh, were you just really wanting a girl or what?”  I got a blank stare when I said that no, we just really like our kids.  Because no one in their right mind would keep having children just for the sake of having children, especially if they kept coming out male.  I never want my boys to feel like we kept having more children because we were trying to get it right—that they were the wrong ones we didn’t really want. I’ve dreaded them being ignored for her when we go places just because she’s the only girl.  I don't want them to feel like they are loved less and she’s loved more.  When we told the boys they were having a sister, I let them know that we would love them the same as we always have; that having a girl wouldn’t make us love them any differently.  They looked at me like the thought had never occurred to them.  Maybe I can let that one go, but I still worry.  I'm their mom, and it's my job.  

So you can laugh at my insecurities.  You can tell me it will be fine when she gets here.  And I know all this.  But it’s taken my heart a while to adjust.  Having a girl will change our life, but I’m gradually getting excited.  I smiled when I found myself in the little girls’ aisle for the first time at a store the other day.  Suddenly, despite her brothers' very loud protests, there will be some things that are pink, and possibly dolls and princess dresses and tea parties, though I’m sure with five older brothers she’ll be just as rough and tumble as I was a young girl.  Now when there’s a ladies’ event at church I won’t have to go alone.  I’ll be able to do her hair.  The boys will hopefully learn to be a little more gentle, a little more sweet, and they might start closing the door before the use the bathroom or strip naked.  One of the boys hopefully commented that now he has a sister, she can do all the work, and he won’t have to do any chores anymore.  (Nice try, kid.)  Our family isn’t incomplete without her, but it will be completed when she gets here.  That’s the dichotomy of having another child regardless of their gender—you don’t know they’re missing until they get here, and then you wonder what you did without them. 

I’ve always said that I never wanted a girl, but if God gave us one, it meant He knew something about me that I didn’t.  Now it’s my turn to actually believe my words, and trust Him.  He knows what He’s doing.  And when she comes, for a while, she’ll just be a baby in need of love, care, and a lot of snuggles.  That I know I can handle.  Her brothers have given me lots of practice.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Shouldn't Be Here

This week we celebrated Boston's first birthday!  (He loves cake, can you tell?)  So I've spent a lot of time thinking of his birth.  I’ve also spent a year mulling this post over.  But it seemed I just couldn’t ever get it written.  Words can never fully describe what we experienced at the moment of Boston’s birth and in the months after, but I figured in honor of Boston’s one-year birthday, I would try my best.

On July 29, 2016 at 4:22 pm our sweet Boston Carl was born peacefully and easily.  I cried tears of joy. Unfortunately, the hard part was just beginning.  Unknown to us, he had somehow lost (or possibly never had) over half his blood at birth, which prevented oxygen from circulating to his lungs and other organs.  After only 10-15 minutes, our midwife let us know that he needed to be transferred to a hospital.  Greg, the midwife, and Boston sped off toward the hospital while her assistant stayed with me.  I threw on some clothes, grabbed a drink, and jumped into the car.  All I remember thinking on the way to the hospital was what I should have been doing.  I should have been holding my sweet newborn, nursing him for the first time, talking and laughing with my husband and the midwife, seeing how much our new baby boy weighed.  My favorite thing about having our babies at home is those peaceful moments after birth, when the room is filled with light and love and precious, newborn snuggles.  I texted a few people, asking for prayers, but I couldn’t really process what was going on.  We had no idea how serious Boston’s condition was.  I assumed he just needed a little oxygen for a few hours, and then we’d come home.   I remember the same thought kept running in my head, over and over and over: I shouldn’t be here.

We arrived at the hospital and practically ran in.  Boston was in a room full of doctors and nurses running around and a red light flashing over the door.  As soon as I walked in, they told me they were sending him to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.  I was honestly shocked, and I realized things were probably worse than I had imagined.  About this time, I started to feel bad.  I don’t know if you realize this, but 20 minutes postpartum is not the time to run out the door frantic, and then sit in a waiting room after barely eating for over 24 hours and being in labor for almost 12 of them.  My arms were empty, my heart was aching, and the rest of me was woozy.  They brought me something to eat, but that didn’t help.  I kept feeling worse and worse until the next thing I knew I was being wheeled on a table into the next emergency room while someone cut off my shirt.  I remember thinking, “Wow, I passed out.  So this is what passing out feels like.  I’ve never done that before.  Don’t they know I’m fine?  Wait, that’s my nice nursing tank.  Why are they cutting it?  Where’s Greg?  My baby is really sick. I. shouldn’t. be. here.

The many machines that kept Boston alive 
When Lifeline arrived, the paramedic on board came in to give me some information about Boston’s condition.  I remember her saying, “We don’t know if he’s going to make it.  He’s a fighter, I think he will, but as a medical professional, I have to be honest.”  Boston left the local hospital in a helicopter close to 9 pm.  When Greg and I arrived at Riley, and we were finally able to go into our sweet baby’s room, it was surreal.  Seeing your baby kept alive by at least 10 different machines that breathed for him, pumped him full of medicine, helped him go to the bathroom, and a myriad of other things, it takes your breath away.  I could barely find a piece of his bare skin to touch. The amazing night nurse patiently explained what every tube, needle, cord, and beeping was for.  We decided since it was already very late that we would head home in order to see our other children and pack our stuff for what was probably going to be an extended stay.  Coming home to a house without your baby is heartbreaking.  His bassinet by our bed was empty, all the diapers and clothes and general birthing stuff were unopened and unused.  I tried not to think about it.  I got up in the middle of the night to pump, feeling the cold plastic against my skin instead of a warm baby.  I remember thinking as I slipped into bed that maybe I could finally sleep well for the first time in months, since I was no longer pregnant and uncomfortable, but without that baby beside me that thought brought me no comfort.  All I could think was: I shouldn’t be here.

Boston after coming off everything but oxygen
For the next 18 days we sat at the hospital.  There were agonizing moments when we wondered if we would ever bring him home and how we would tell our other children that they would never meet their long-awaited new brother, and then there were moments when we finally got to breathe, to enjoy him, but always wondering “What will tomorrow bring?”  His head was covered with monitors because of his increased risk for seizures, then they were removed, then they were put back on.  Every time I could hold him it was an acrobatic dance of pillows, and wires, and getting the intubation/oxygen tubes just right so he was still breathing.  We watched him struggle to breathe after they removed his ventilator and then be slowly weaned through every other form of oxygen machines available.  Minutes, hours, days of just watching monitors and your stomach lurching every time his heart rate or oxygen level or blood pressure was abnormal.  Times when I stood by his bed, holding him while he screamed as they drew his blood one more time, thinking I just couldn’t take it anymore.  After the first week, we finally were reassured that Boston would get better, it was just a matter of how long would it take for him to get well enough to go home.  We started to relax a bit, get to know our incredible nurses, respiratory therapists, and doctors, but life in the NICU isn’t easy, especially when you have other children at home.  We ran home for a visit to see the other boys one evening, and Lincoln gave me one of his blankets to keep with me at the hospital to keep me warm.  I remember curling up in the awful bed in Boston’s hospital room, snuggling that blanket and just wishing I could be home with all my kids in one place.  On a rare moment at home with the kids, we wanted to rush back to the hospital to be with Boston.  Sitting in the hospital doing absolutely nothing, we just wanted to be home with the other kids.  No matter where we were, the thought was always there: I shouldn’t be here.

Life in the NICU with a newborn gives you lots of time to think.  So I began to wonder about the company I was in.  The great heroes of the Bible who had to also think: I shouldn’t be here.  I’m sure that’s what Abraham thought as he walked Isaac up the hill with specific instructions to sacrifice his beloved son.  I’m sure Joseph thought that as he sat rotting in prison after being sold by his brothers into slavery and then falsely accused by his master’s wife.  I’m sure Moses had the same thought as he wandered around the desert of running from his life of luxury in an Egyptian palace.  I’m sure Daniel cried that out to God as he sat all night surrounded by hungry lions.  I’m sure that Jesus, the Creator of the Universe and all human life, had to know that as He suffered and died on the cross, of all places on heaven and earth, that He was in the one place He definitely should not have been.  So, if God had not spared some of the greatest men in the Bible, nor His own Son, from pain and suffering and hardship, why should I be any different?  Not only had He not spared these people from hard times, but He’d also had very specific plans and goals through all of it, and I knew that there was a plan and a goal for us as well. 

After Boston came home
I wish I could say now, a year later, that there was one specific, amazing, Spiritual principal that I learned from our experience with Boston, but I can’t say that.  I can say I learned several little things along the way.  God sees us and watches over us even when things do not happen the way we want.  He loves us so much, and we were continually loved by Him, especially through His people during our whole ordeal.  I’ve learned to trust and lean on Him more.  Our kids are never safe from this world.  Not after 1 year, or 10 years, or even after they’re adults and have left our care.  There is no guarantee that they’ll be safe and sound, but God is our Rock through it all, even when tragedy strikes, even in the little struggles of life, even in tiny moments that really aren’t life-changing but feel so very desperate in that instant.  I learned that the one place I didn’t really want to be is usually the place God uses to grow, stretch, and refine me—that usually the one place I don’t want to be is usually exactly where God wants me.

After 3 weeks in the NICU keeping Boston alive and well enough to bring home, we spent the next 9 months trying to get him to drink from a bottle and gain weight, and we feel we’ve finally gotten to spend the last 3 months actually enjoying him and being a family of 7.  He’s doing amazing, and aside from some small developmental delays, you’d never know he had such a rough start.  He’s the happiest baby we’ve ever had, bringing us so much laughter and joy.  Every morning when I get Boston out of bed and every night when I snuggle him one last time before laying him down, I thank God for letting us keep him and love him and raise him.  It makes me try harder to love all our children more, to be a better parent, to raise them to love and obey the Lord with all their heart. 

Boston on his birthday

The last few days, I can’t help but remember what we were doing at this exact moment a year ago.  I can remember the pain and worry, but also the joy that our fifth son brought us.  I hope that’s the worst thing we ever go through, but I know that there will be other hard times in the future.  I hope that I’ve learned enough from Boston’s birth that when I think, “I shouldn’t be here,”  I remember and take comfort in the fact that it’s probably exactly where God wants and needs me to be.  And thank you to everyone who prayed for us, brought us food, encouraged us, and loved us last year when Boston was sick.  It meant more to us than we can express.  So happy birthday Boston!  We love you and can't wait to see what special plans God has for you!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: The Year With No Baby

2014 was the first full year ever in our almost 8-year marriage that there has been no baby.  No new baby born, no growing infant to cuddle, not even a new baby on the way.  I won’t say that I now magically understand the pain of a couple who has struggled with infertility for a long time.  I do have four beautiful blessings who came easily and without much trying on our part—a fact I never cease to thank God for.  But I now can understand in a small way that ache that comes from the desire for a child that is never fulfilled.  We've wanted to have more children, but God in His infinite wisdom has decided that now is not yet the time.  It may not ever be the time.  I’m not saying there will absolutely be no more babies, but for so long we've lived with the mindset of “when the next one comes”, that it’s come as quite a shock to think what life will be like for us if there are no more babies.    

It’s also interesting to think of how different our home will be if there are no more babies.  It’s difficult to look around and see things in our home through new eyes.  The eyes of a mother without a baby.  I've never done that before.  It’s so new and different…and sometimes painful.  I've never even realized how many things in our home pertain only to babies—mainly because it seems they've always been a part of our life.      

Deacon is almost 20 months old.  My other boys all potty-trained before 2.  We are nearing that mark with him, but what will we do without a baby in diapers?  What will we do with the cloth diapers?  I was so proud and excited when I bought my first cloth diaper.  It’s still my favorite one.  But big boys don’t need diapers.  Diapers are only for babies.

There are boxes and boxes of clothes no one wears any longer.  They've always sat upstairs, waiting for “the next one”.  Now suddenly, I’m wondering why I’m letting them take up space.  The outfit Gideon wore home from the hospital; the first outfit all my other boys wore, when I would reluctantly dress them for the first time after the midwife had cleaned up and left; the tiny socks; the memories in a box.  But big boys don’t need tiny clothes.  Those are for babies.

I’m in the process of cleaning out my kitchen cabinets.  One shelf holds the baby bottles I used occasionally with my boys.  My boys who will no longer lay in my arms and neither nurse or drink from those bottles.  I left a space for them on the shelf, even though big boys don’t need bottles.  Those are only for babies.    

Deacon really could have moved out of the crib a couple of months ago, but I have waited.  If there is no new baby to fill it, I’ll have to take it down.  There’s something so final about taking that crib down, and I might have to really admit to myself that there are no more babies in the house.  Because big boys don’t sleep in cribs.  Cribs are only for babies.     

There are positives to the kids growing up.  Gideon and Lincoln dress themselves, fold and put their own laundry away.  They’re getting better at washing dishes and doing barn chores, and opening their own doors, and putting on their own coats.  It’s fun that they can all communicate and have a conversation with us and each other.  We get to learn new and exciting things in school, and join the local homeschool co-op.  There, Gideon, Lincoln, and Canaan were in their first “school” performance.  The kids are learning more and more about Jesus every day.  They are making connections between what the Bible says and how it affects their lives and their hearts.  All these things are terribly exciting and fun and sometimes scary.  Watching them grow is a blessing and a curse. 

But the fact remains.  They are no longer babies.
So what does a mom with no babies do, when all she ever wanted to do was have babies?   She quietly mourns, she moves on, she tries to live in the here and now.  She savors each stage, watches them grow, tries to live each day to the fullest. 

While I still can, I snuggle my babies close.  Because even though they aren't actually babies, as long as I’m their mom, they’ll always be my babies.

So we press on.  We leave the “Year With No Baby” behind, and take on another year full of new and exciting memories to make.  Maybe 2015 will include another baby, or maybe it will see this family growing in different ways than just its size. 

Bring it on, 2015.  Bring it on. 

And Happy New Year from the six of us at Lonely Windmill Farm.