Content Amidst the Chaos

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While I’ve got you captive… January 31, 2011

Filed under: babies — jps23 @ 10:05 pm

Being in the hospital with Coleman was a mixed blessing.  Of course, my heart desired that we not be there at all, but since he was sick, it was exactly where we needed to be, and if I could choose a place, this one would have been the one.  Those nurses were angels.  Even the cleaning staff was amazing!  But my other babies were at home, and since they were so young, they couldn’t visit us.  And one of them has autism, remember?  At this point in our autistic life, there weren’t many people I trusted to know what was best for Gillian.  There was only one, my mom, and even she wasn’t always sure of what to do, which Gillian could sense.  They were so anxious to have their non-pregnant mommy back that it tore me apart to be away from them.  The first day or two, I worried.  Adam was there with me most of the time, while my parents, Adam’s parents, and my sister-in-law took turns taking care of them, but as much as my family loved my girls, they weren’t their momma.  Those of you that know me know that I take my motherhood job very seriously.  I read books, I pray, and I seek advice from veteran moms.  I stay home, and I now homeschool them, and I grew up with a mom that didn’t allow anything to trump her role as our mom.  Of course, the only way I could be a good mom to them was the be the one there taking care of them.  Or so I thought…

It seems that while God had me there, having already read the three books I bought and pumping every few hours to try and keep up my milk supply while supplementing the formula feeding required to restore his weight, He had some things to share with me.  I felt much support while there, with daily visits from church members and staff and a pretty good rotation between both our sets of parents, but I felt helpless.  I couldn’t help my sick baby boy.  I couldn’t make sure Gillian was okay.  I couldn’t love on my youngest, who had now been made a middle kid of sorts, and make sure she still felt love.  I couldn’t assure my oldest that she was still just as special (though, she is the best at understand that of them all).  I couldn’t do it all.  Do you hear the commonality here?  I, I, I, I…  And do you remember what my friends told me just three years ago when I was pleasantly surprised by my sweet Gillian?  I wasn’t going to be able to do it all without relying on God to get me through.  I was not Superwoman.  Now, I knew my parents, Adam’s parents, and my sweet sister-in-law loved my kids, and I knew that they would do their best to get them through this tough time.  But I kept saying to myself, “It’s supposed to be me.  I’m supposed to be taking care of them.”

This is where the whole “God can use tough times, tragic events, difficult happenings for good” comes in.  I didn’t want my kid to be sick, and I don’t think God “wanted” that either, but while we were there, He wasn’t going to let it be in vain.  He showed me, reminded me, that I can’t do it all.  I can rely on other people to care for my kids and they can actually do a good job of it.  I learned that it isn’t all on me, and that truly, my kids are better off when I make room for that village.  We live in a world that is so self-centered.  Life is about what “I” want, what “I” am going to get out of something, and what’s in it for “me”.  Which can turn into, “I” am the only one who can do this job, “I” am the only one who knows what they need, and “I” must learn to survive this situation without asking anyone else for help.  That’s not the way God intended it to be.  He gave us community, family, friends to hold each other up.  How can we do that if we hide from each other or close ourselves off from one another?  We are so afraid of someone “finding out” about us that we don’t welcome those people that He has offered to us.  OR, we are so busy trying to do it ourselves that we don’t see the needs of those very people in a time where we might be of help to them.

It’s funny to look back at this, thinking I had truly learned my lesson because somewhere along the way, I forgot it.  I don’t like to ask for help.  I’m afraid of the rejection (isn’t everybody?) and the resentment.  Somewhere, I got it in my head that people think “You had all these kids, you figure out how to take care of them all.”  Maybe it’s because I’ve heard it said about others with much fewer kids than me.  Sure, some people may feel that way, but they may also love Jesus enough to let that feeling be trumped by His calling to be His hands and feet.  It took a surprise phone call the other day to remind me that He sometimes gives us other people to get us through.  You see, we are supposed to be His hands and feet.  What did He do with His hands and feet, and what does that mean for us?  He walked through towns full of people who ridiculed and persecuted Him just to heal someone.  He used His hands to wash the feet of His disciples.  He marched up the hill at Calvary, carrying His cross, His death sentence, on His shoulder with His hands.  He bore the nails in His hands and feet, so that we could one day realize that we don’t have to rely on our own hands and feet to get it all done, but also so that we may use our hands and feet to wash the feet of others, to blow their leaves out of their yard, to make a casserole, to wrap them around a child whose momma is in the hospital with their new baby brother who is sick.  I’m so thankful for those hands and feet during that time.  The ones that cared for my babies, the ones that walked to the elevator and down the hall to the room with the tiny baby across from the nurses’ station, the ones that cleaned my room, the ones that took care of my sweet little boy.  I saw Jesus in each and every one of them, even if they didn’t realize that it was what they were doing.  I knew He was there, and I knew that I couldn’t do it all, but He could.  And He did.

The girls seeing their brother for the first time in 8 days

Our family scrapbook page documenting the reunion

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Back to babies January 25, 2011

Filed under: babies — jps23 @ 1:34 pm

We found out the gender today.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say God was crazy.  I can’t believe He thinks I can handle another boy!  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I always joke that I thought I was a good mom, and then I had boys.  Don’t get me wrong, I loooooove my sweet baby boys, but they have been a greater challenge in the toddler and preschool years, and they have WORN ME OUT!  Then I realized after my initial thought that God just thinks I’m doing a good job (we can be so vain, can’t we?) that maybe He just thinks I need some more practice.  It’s probably the latter, but whatever the reason, I’ll take him.  I love him so much already, and knowing that it is a ‘him’, an Isaac, allows me to practice for the day I get to whisper that name to him for the first time (outside of my womb), accompanied by the words “I love you”.  I stood over the bathtub full of little boys this evening thinking about how sweet it will be to add another one to the tub next year.  Oh, how I love my boys.

Yep, an extra one of "those" in our bathtub

Speaking of boys, I left you with the story of our miscarriage, which thankfully for me was followed by the precious gift of our first boy, Harold Coleman.  I conceived him right away after the miscarriage.  I wasn’t trying, but I wasn’t preventing, either, even though “they” say you should wait a few months after a miscarriage before getting pregnant.  Again, I figured God knew better than me and “they”, so I’d let Him decide.  The pregnancy went well.  My sweet girlfriends at church, many of the ones that held my hand through my surprise pregnancy, threw me a blue shower, and I remember quite vividly having a hard time realizing that all the blue was for me!  I was so excited to meet this little man, but I was nervous about raising him.  I’m not a boy (if you hadn’t realized that yet), and I didn’t know anything about how to raise one.  My mom did a good job with my brother, but it’s not like I paid very close attention to what she actually did with him.  So I bought a few books (I think it was three).  I read them, and read over them again, determined to get it right with him.  And while I think those books have helped along the way, none of them prepared me for what was to happen just a week after he was born.

Already flexing his muscles

Again, I felt I had been blessed with an easy baby.  He slept ALL the time.  In fact, I had to wake him to nurse, and I couldn’t keep him awake to get a good feeding in.  He was a little jaundiced, but we’d been through that before, so I didn’t worry.  But he started to seem a little lethargic, and that had me concerned.  I decided to watch him more carefully, instead of welcoming the long sleeping spells as a chance to catch up on my own rest.  Remember, I had three little girls, one of whom was autistic and still making progress through therapy.  I had decided to take him to the doctor the following morning.  The day I made this decision, we had an evening appointment with a developmental pediatrician to review some testing done with Anna.

Let me back up a bit and say that I was a bad mom.  Now, I don’t really carry this anymore and curse myself or blame myself.  But I had been there, done that, worn the t-shirt three times before.  I was ready to be back to normal with family life for the girls, so we were out and about mere days after bringing him home from the hospital.  He also was born at 36 weeks and 1 day, which isn’t quite considered full term, but not quite premature, either.  Depends on who you are talking to.  Apparently, though, white boys have a harder time when they are born a little early, and they even have a name for it- “wimpy white boy syndrome.”  So as I tell you the rest of this story, know that I initially blamed myself for what happened.  I’m a mom.  That’s what we do.

So, we show up to the meeting with Coleman in tow, and the second the doctor sees Coleman, she seems concerned.  She asks if she can hold him, so I oblige (I’m not stingy with my babies, and I certainly trusted a dev. pediatrician to know what she is doing).  She looks at me and says, “I want to reschedule our meeting, and I want you to take him to the hospital.  Now.”  So we took him to Southern Regional, which was the closest hospital and the place I brought him home from just four days before (we stayed a little longer than usual because his circumcision resulted in excess bleeding that they wanted to watch before sending him home).  He was eight days old and already making his first trip to the ER.  I know boys are likely to wind up there much sooner in their lives than girls, but I was not counting on this.

They took us back immediately for vitals, and his oxygen level and heart rate were both terribly low.  They admitted us right away.  And let me just say, for all you Southern Regional haters/bashers, I’ve had all of my babies there and only had one cranky nurse I didn’t like.  One bad nurse out of seven deliveries, each delivery and recovery stay having a team of nurses caring for me.  Not bad at all.  AND, while our recent ER visit this year with Adam was a little disappointing, the way the team there that evening responded when I brought in my brand new baby boy was outstanding.  Two nurses in particular working with him after admittance would say over and over, “I know what the machines are saying, but he doesn’t look like what the machines are saying” and they gave him even more attention and care than the machines were saying he needed.  The doctor decided he needed a spinal tap and called for a bus for us to take us to Children’s Healthcare.  When I say bus, of course, I mean ambulance, and the one we got was state of the art!

Adam went home to get the kids straightened out in terms of someone taking care of them, and he packed a few things for us to have at the hospital.  He was going to meet us there.  As I walked out to the gigantic hospital on wheels, they stopped me and said, “We just want to warn you that we may have to intubate him on the way up.  We don’t want you to be startled to see him like that.”  And they loaded him in the back, in a little clear box that reminded me of the incubator that we watched eggs hatch in back in elementary school.  His temp was still low, so he had to constantly be warmed up.  And as the back doors closed and I climbed in the front of the hospital on wheels, it hit me.  I could lose my baby, my son.  I had experienced miscarriage, and that was hard enough, but this, oh no, I wasn’t prepared for this.  I just prayed to God to please not do this to me (selfish, I know).  I told Him that I knew Coleman was His anyway, but I wasn’t ready to give Him back after so short a glimpse of loving him.  And I cried, hard.  This felt like an eternity, but it was just long enough for the driver to walk around the bus and hop in the driver’s seat.  Once he did, he began talking to me about things that were random, very little of which I now remember, besides him talking about his wife and some friends and gathering that they didn’t yet have kids.  But I didn’t worry, and I didn’t cry, and for a minute, I didn’t think about letting go of my baby boy.  I think God gave me that man and his chatter to ease my mind.  I don’t know why it worked, but I’m glad it did.  That’s an awful feeling to have.

We were greeted at the ER doors of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite by an army of doctors and nurses.  For real.  An ARMY.  They rolled him in the exam room and got busy right away.  They talked me through every action they took, asked me questions, and kept a calm, focused concentration the whole time.  Adam still was not there yet, and I was there alone, taking it all in.  I can’t remember who was taking care of the girls at this time, but over the course of the eight days we would be in the hospital, my parents, Adam’s parents, and my sister-in-law took turns taking care of the kids.  They did a spinal tap and discovered that Coleman had meningitis.  The thing about meningitis is that it take a couple of days for cultures to come back showing it to be bacterial or viral.  So, they treat it as if it is bacterial, which is the truly deadly form, instead of viral, which can be deadly for a baby so young if it is not treated aggressively.   Basically, I had to wait and see.  Now, you know the end of the story, but the lessons learned for me over the course of the eight days were life changing.  I took them as God showing me that He had it.  He was there for me.  I could survive if I leaned on Him and those He provided along the way to get me through.

I couldn't even hold him the first few days we were there. This was the first time I held him since taking him to the ER.

Now some of you may be thinking, “Would you be saying that if you had lost him?”  I hope so.  It might have been harder to get to that place of healing because as much as I already loved that little baby growing inside me only seven weeks, I can’t explain the way that love changes as you carry that child, deliver him, and hold him.  I had learned too recently, though, that even though God may allow my desires to be taken away from me, He still loves me.  He is still there for me.  And even in this process, there was a lot of letting go, which I will share more of in my next post.  I can’t say for sure what my post would be like today without him in my life, though, because he did live, and I survived, as well.  I’m just grateful that God wants me to learn from what does happen and doesn’t care so much if I know what I would have done had it gone another way.

*originally posted last night, January 24th

 

Celebrating birth January 20, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — jps23 @ 3:26 pm

This doesn’t really fit in with my recent string of posts about our babies, except that it is a look at how a baby should be celebrated.  When I say that, I’m not soliciting any of you to show up at the hospital in four and a half months (oh my gosh, only four and half months left!) with bubbly in hand, but I just feel like this stuff needs to be said.

The prompt?  I got a phone call from a friend today that blew me away.  Now, when I say friend, I use that term with a Jesus context.  I have known her since we joined our church eight years ago.  I have taught her kids; she has clothed mine in some of the best-cared-for hand-me-downs I’ve ever seen.  We have birthdays just a day apart.  We attend the same Sunday School class.  However, we don’t hang out.  We’ve attended a Bible study or two together, but we aren’t really close.  She is more than an acquaintance to me, but she isn’t a bestie.  Which is why her call took me by surprise today.  She started by saying, “My husband and I have been trying to think of a baby gift to give you.”  Stop there.  This is baby #8.  There aren’t many people that give gifts when you’ve got this many.  Family, really close friends, and our beloved nursery workers, maybe, but even then, not ALL family members and friends.  The other thing that stopped me was her wording, “we were thinking of a baby gift to give you”.  A joint conversation between a woman and her HUSBAND about a baby gift, and one that involved thought, not just the “We’ll buy a box of diapers and do our part” kind of thing.  This was her offer, which I might add, she has already started planning.  She, her husband, and six other better-than-acquaintances-but-not-quite-besties, along with one of my very besties (though she did not originate the idea) have offered an afternoon playdate with our kids once a month for the remainder of my pregnancy to give Adam and me TIME.  In addition to childcare, they are offering any help in cleaning, building, or other home projects that we just haven’t been able to tackle.  Now, I realize that there isn’t a penny invested in this venture, but it is the MOST VALUABLE gift we could ever be given!  Time.  People loving and caring for our kids for a few hours without it costing us one of the kids’ savings.  Help, without anything expected in return.  For baby #8.  Did you hear that?  Baby number EIGHT.  Wow.  (Side note, amongst these friends, they have the same number of children that we will have when this baby is born.  These aren’t people in the trenches of large family living that get it and want to help.  They just get it and want to help.  They are willing to take on SEVEN more kids for an afternoon for US.)

Now, I digressed a bit, but to me, this offer was a bit of celebration over the life of our eighth baby.  You’ve all heard the murmurs and whispers about women receiving a second baby shower.  Ask Ms. Manners, and she’ll tell you how awful that is.  BUT, it’s not about the stuff.  It’s about celebrating that new life.  S/he will be our eighth child, but s/he will be our first Mary or Issac (should know next Monday which!).  I promise you, no two children of mine are alike!  I love that these friends (because acquaintances don’t do things like this) want to be Jesus by giving of themselves in celebration of my baby.  Wow.

It made me think of this blogger who I love to follow.  Her name is Kelle Hampton, and she has a blog called Enjoy the Small Things. This girl loves soaking up all the moments in life and celebrating them.  This link is to her second daughter’s birth story, which happened less than two years after her first daughter was born (I might add), which turned out to be a bigger story than she ever imagined when she realized  her second born would live her life differently because of Down’s Syndrome.  Beautiful story, but what caught me when I first read this was the people that visited.  You don’t have to read the story.  Just look at the pictures.  It was the champagne glasses with the baby’s name on them.  Later on her blog, she posted a dedication ceremony picture of her family SURROUNDED by friends and loved ones!  They are all thrilled about this precious girl, even before knowing Mom would need the extra support, and even after knowing it was going to be different.  They kept celebrating.  And for her daughter’s first birthday this month, this mom has committed to raising some big bucks for Down’s Syndrome research, and people are inspired to give in celebration of this beautiful child.

How do you think Jesus will react in the end of May when another Stovall baby joins our family?  Do you think He will say “What are they thinking?”, “When are they going to learn?”, or “Maybe they’ll be satisfied now and stop.”?  I don’t think so.  Man, what a party there will be in His heart when He watches me hold that eighth baby for the FIRST time!  He will cry tears of joy watching Adam smile at his eighth child for the FIRST time.  He will delight in the fact that there is another precious soul to walk and live for Him, so that others can know about Him and choose to walk and live for Him.  And He’s already letting us know how excited He is by sending these precious people, these friends, to serve in His name.  Some people call it “charity”, while others call it helping a family in need.  I think He just calls it being His hands and feet.  And suddenly, on a day I felt overwhelmed and my own hands and feet felt so very tired, I feel like my load has been lightened.  Thank you, friends, for being a glimpse of Jesus for me.

 

When His plan includes loss January 11, 2011

Filed under: babies,family size — jps23 @ 9:50 pm

This is a touchy subject, and as I write this, I want each of you reading to understand that my statements are simply reflections on my particular situation.  They are not a statement of how you should have felt, what you should have done, or any other suggestions about how you should have handled your loss.

Let me also say that I don’t believe in a God who zaps people with troubles.  I don’t know any other way to say it.  Yes, He is mighty and all powerful, but I think that there are things allowed in our lives that don’t always leave us feeling happy.  I don’t think he necessarily pulls the trigger and causes these events, but I do feel strongly that He can use our experiences for good.  Am I saying He does these things to us just so He can reach one other person?  No, I’m not actually.  But can he reach a person through suffering we’ve experienced in our own lives?  Yes, He can, and sometimes that person is us.

At this point, we had embraced the idea of letting God decide when we’d have kids and how many He wanted us to have.  I embraced the fact that since He made my body, formed me inside my mother’s womb, He knew what it could handle.  I love pregnancy.  I feel my best when I am pregnant.  However, I had “enjoyed” my break from being pregnant, and I added parentheses because in the time off, I was learning to embrace that one of my kids wasn’t the “as long as s/he is born with 10 fingers and 10 toes” kind of kid.  Yes, she had all her digits, but they worked differently because her brain worked differently.  And this made my world different, so I was adjusting.

Over the summer of 2005, I kind of had a feeling that I might be pregnant again, but I wasn’t certain, and I wasn’t in a hurry to buy the overpriced test to then discover my period the very next day.  So I waited to find out.  I was sharing a visit with one of my best girlfriends, who was pregnant again, and she totally called me on the pregnancy.  I wound up buying and taking a test, only to find out my suspicions were correct, yet again.  I have to be honest with you, though, there was some hesitation in my excitement.  It could have been the fact that I was overwhelmed with autism and its invasion of my sweet little girl, or it could have been that intuition they say you get when you become a mom.  I waited to tell others because if you’ll remember, the last pregnancy wasn’t so celebrated by folks, including some family.

Oddly enough, I would lose this pregnancy before anyone ever really knew about it.  I was seven weeks along when I miscarried.  There are no words for such an experience.  For me, there were only tears.  This friend that was pregnant with me also had shared my last pregnancy with me, so I knew it would be hard to witness hers when I had lost mine.  Plus, I had three kids already!  I don’t have miscarriages!  Where did this come from?  Why?  I believe that as soon as that baby is formed, it is my child, and I love it that way.  Oh my gosh, there are just no words.  So I cried a lot the day I found out, and I cried even more the next day.  Adam didn’t say much.  He cried a bit with me the first day, but he became strong for me since I was so weak.  I could not understand such a loss.  It didn’t seem fair.  Adam said something to me, though, that pulled me out from under my sorrow and allowed me to face it and deal with it.  I can’t tell you his exact words, but his sentiment was this, “Jamie, you and I have chosen to trust God with our family size and spacing.  It’s easy to trust Him in blessings, but we also have to trust Him in loss.”  Now, trusting God should be so easy, but it isn’t always.  However, trusting Adam was a no-brainer for me.  I loved that man like crazy, and time and time again, he had proven himself trustworthy to me.

So I took what he said to heart, and I decided to attend Bible study that night at a friend’s house.  Now, this isn’t a weekly gig that the church does.  It’s a group of women from our church who, from time to time, spend the evening in Bible study with a particular book or series as our guide, usually in someone’s home.  Let me just say, we love some Beth Moore!  This summer in particular we were doing her study called Believing God.  (I cannot recommend this Bible study enough to you!  It changed my life, beyond this particular night.  It’s available online through Lifeway.)  I had not done my nightly homework, and I was planning on not attending (even though doing the homework was NOT a prerequisite), but after talking with Adam I really felt like I needed to be there.

This night in particular was being led by one of my other besties, and it was called “Believing God to Get You to Your Gilgal”.  Now, I went through my notes from the study today, looking for what I may have written down so that I could share it with you.  However, it was the only listening guide from the 10-week study that I didn’t have filled out.  It totally makes sense, since I was probably doing my best just to be there.  So this morning I sat down and watched the session again (which gave me even more insights to some other stuff I’m dealing with now.  Love the way God works!).  I remember feeling that night like everything that came out of Beth’s mouth was for me in that moment.  What stood out to me that night, too, was that this was my Gilgal.  It was even bigger to me than dealing with autism, even though I still had so much to learn about autism.  I lost a child.  It may have been a peanut-sized child, but to me, it was my child.  I could let this situation spin me into unbelief, or I could choose to embrace that no matter how I felt, His Word is right!  So that is what I decided that night.  I was not going to let this loss spin me into unbelief, which would inevitably lead to disobedience.  I chose to obey Him anyway, embrace His promise that He would take care of me, and not believe the lies that the enemy was trying to feed me.

The word Gilgal means ‘circle’, and this was the place that God brought the Israelites full circle and broke the old cycle in the Old Testament book of Joshua.  Beth says, in this session of the Believing God study, “God is so intentional in His timing.  He has allowed some things in our lives that we may not understand ’til we get to glory!”  I decided to embrace that truth, and I would see at least one reason that I feel He allowed me to go through such a loss sooner than I expected.  Just a few weeks after I suffered my own loss, I got a phone call from a very dear friend who was going through the very same thing I had just experienced, only her pregnancy was farther along and a little more complicated.  I can’t share details of this here because it’s her story to share, but I knew in the moment that she called me that God was going to use my loss.  I didn’t stop her miscarriage or fix anything for her, but I could understand to some degree what she was dealing with.  I knew how to be there for her and not think that there were magic words to make her feel better.  I knew her pain, to some degree.  I knew what to pray for her in the days following her loss, all because I had suffered a similar loss.  And now, six years later, I can be of some comfort to friends who I have learned have suffered loss.  I’m not just that mom of seven kids who has no idea what it is like but has good intentions.  I’m the mom to seven kids, who “should” have eight, who has suffered such a loss so I can understand to some degree.  So my words of comfort aren’t just blown off.  I know what to pray for these dear friends.  They know my care goes beyond “good intentions”.  I also know that when a certain thought comes to mind, which may be very true, it might not be what their heart is ready to hear, so I can hold back and just pray for the right time to say it.  It gives me perspective, and I think it also allows me to appreciate each one of my blessings as the unique miracle that they are, even though the years following of parenting that tiny miracle may be tough sometimes!  What a blessing to be able to appreciate that life after knowing what it is like to lose one.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not calling my miscarriage a blessing.  I am acknowledging that the perspective He gave me through that loss is a blessing.

And for me, I was blessed again when I became pregnant with Coleman just weeks after my loss.  My fifth pregnancy, my fourth living child, my first son.

 

The good days January 4, 2011

Filed under: babies,family size — jps23 @ 6:10 pm

While we have tried to embrace a life leaving our womb open to God’s plan, no matter how many kids that may include, there are days that are tough.  Real tough.  But then there are the good days.  Perspective affects how you measure that day, and I could have very well found today to be a bad day if I judged by the looks of the mess my house is hanging onto.  However, I saw today as a good day, and these are a few reasons why…

  • I’m making major progress in our laundry area, which is piled high with out-of-season/outgrown clothes.
  • The kids played oh so nicely together today.
  • Anna and Addison prepared lunch together without quarrel, managing to cover all of the food groups!
  • I didn’t feel guilty about them taking on that responsibility while I was working in the laundry area.
  • I have more than enough clothes, so many that I can spare some for a family in need after suffering through a fire.  Yet, I only had to buy a tiny portion of those myself.  My laundry mess reminded me of the great provision God has offered us in this arena, especially through three families at our church who always think of us while cleaning out their children’s closets.
  • We haven’t started school back up yet, but I got to listen to my kids playing together, creating a garden with their costumes, which included a flower, a ladybug, a butterfly, and a caterpillar, all made complete by a blanket with clouds on it held up by Gillian as the backdrop.  Learning through play.  Such a forgotten art these days.
  • Adam sent me an email just to let me know he loves me and he’s thinking about me.  Now, before you go on and on about how amazing he is, this area has been a tough one for him.  He is an amazing father, but that often replaces his role as husband.  He is working to create a balance with those hats and the many other he wears, and I’m noticing and grateful.
  • Gillian allowed the little boys in her room without flipping out over them invading her “area” (the space under the girls’ loft beds is their special area, and she is very protective of hers).  No meltdowns today.  I think she is getting back to “normal” after the holidays.  We’ve been melting down on a daily basis around here, so this was a fantastic day for her.
  • Coleman has had two really great days.  He is very impulsive and has struggled with self-control a bit lately, but we have had two days without incident, which is big for him right now.

All around for me, it was a wonderful day.  Should I have doubted at all, based on the state of my house and its contents, then the two posts listed first in my Google reader would have redirected me, and the beauty of that is that they are by to girls I know in real life, so I know if they are real or fluff.  Two moms like me just living life.  One that seems odd and ridiculous to most, but for us is very real and our “normal”.  Check my girls out at Hello Out There and Audaciter Matris.  And then there’s this email I got from a mommy friend of mine today, saying that the last line made her think of us, when really, almost all of the lines are us!  Read below…

You know you’re a big family when…
…people count the number of your children out loud when you’re in public

…people ask, “Are they all yours?”

…you start counting your children when you’re out in public

…you have at least three bunk beds set up in your home

…almost everyone you know has less children than you do

…people say, “Wow! How do you manage?”

…people ask you, out of the blue, if you are Mormon or Catholic.

…you buy your pots and pans in the restaurant supply store

…supposed “family size” food portions seem awfully small

…you complain, “Doesn’t anyone make large dining tables anymore?”

…you outgrow your mini-van

…you’ve heard “Don’t you know what causes that?” more times than you’d care to remember

…you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be alone anywhere else but in the bathroom

…your children never run out of playmates among their siblings

…everything you buy is in bulk

…people ask, “Don’t you get overwhelmed?”

…you and your husband can no longer hold each child’s hand while crossing the street

…it takes a wonderfully long time to hug and kiss everybody

…one of your children looks wistfully at the newborn and asks you, “Can’t you have another baby really soon? I hardly get to hold this one because everybody else is taking turns.”

…you realize that few houses are designed with your family in mind

…people ask you if you’ve ever accidentally left any of your children behind

…life around your family never seems boring or dull

…your tent is the largest one in any campground

…you feel sorry for people with only two children

…you sometimes wonder what on earth mothers with only two children do with all their spare time

…whenever you set your dining table, it looks like it used to look when you were expecting lots of company

…you read a cookbook and joke, “They call these meals? Sounds like a little snack to me.”

…your gratitude at the abundance of God’s blessing moves you to tears unexpectedly

…you start thinking of yourself as “rich in children”

…you secretly think that life in your family might possibly be a much more joyous adventure than life in smaller families

…you are vastly amused at much modern parenting advice, realizing that it is unnecessary, impossible, impractical, or simply silly to try to apply it in a large family setting

…it seems as if you pack more stuff going on a short trip than some people pack when moving their entire household

…you and your husband laugh, “And to think that when we got married, we wanted only four children!”

…your husband sighs happily, “I’ve finally got my dream car”–and it’s a used 15- passenger van.

 

Once you have three, how hard can it be? January 3, 2011

Filed under: babies,family size — jps23 @ 8:18 pm

When you ask parents what the hardest transition was, in terms of number of children, you will get all kinds of answers.  None to one is a big one, of course, but for us, going from two to three was a big deal.  You are outnumbered then.  The ratio is no longer even.  And for us, we had this other thing going on with Gillian called autism (although, we didn’t know that’s what it was at the time), which tends to complicate things.  Gillian and Anna were 11 and 1\2 months apart, and when Gillian met her, she couldn’t even keep focused on her.  I don’t know that she was even aware of who or what she was, whereas Addison was almost anticipating Gillian when she was born.  And when Anna was born, well, Addison was a pro at the big sister thing.

Gillian is trying to crawl off the bed, while Addison is holding her and probably rattling off her stats.

Once we got home, Gillian acted as if Anna were just a baby doll.  It took her a few weeks to realize she was a living thing, and it wasn’t until about 6 weeks or more that Gillian started to pay her any real attention.  At this point in Gillian’s development, she was what we thought to be the perfect baby.  She was quiet and required little attention.  She loved the television, and she would get lost in a Blue’s Clues episode or watching any kind of cartoon.  She loved singing and finger plays and was quite fascinated with her hands.  The only thing that was difficult was that her language was delayed and she was also slow to walk.  And if she got upset, boy, she was upset.  I remember vividly grabbing the camcorder one day while she was having a fit in the doorway of the kitchen.  My parents referred to my own temper fits as a child as “Eli’s”, after a hot tempered cousin of my dad’s named Eli.  I was commenting on her having an Eli episode in the video, chuckling a bit.  This was one of the first moments I would look back on with much guilt after I knew what I did about her autism.  Gillian could not self-soothe.  Fits would go on for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, full fledged, without any way to comfort her.  She would arch her back and scream, and scream, and scream.  It was heartbreaking to watch as she got older and the fits seemed to escalate.  The other part of it was that it was very difficult to figure out what set her off.  We would learn later that her sensory sensitivities were usually to blame.  She had a great many issues with clothing and shoes.  She even walked down barefoot for her confession of faith last year in front of our church because her shoes were an issue.  It was gut wrenching to endure, and our first months of discovering what was going on would be some of the most difficult months of our lives.

Fortunately for us, Anna was an excellent baby.  She was very laid back and she LOVED her sisters.  She would watch them and giggle at them.  She was a great sleeper and nurser.  As a matter of fact, she nursed the longest of ALL of our children, thus far.  She was splendid.  A true delight.

Now, not to overlook Anna, but this period in our lives was very much consumed by and with Gillian.  At 16 months, she only had three words and did not use them with any purpose or consistency.  She avoided eye contact and being held.  She would only easily go to Adam, our parents, and me, and most of the time, she preferred Adam.  She slept very well.  Her naps would go on forever.  I would learn later that this was probably because her day was so exhausting for her since her body processed sensory input different from everyone else.  I could go on and on with the explanation for life with Gillian at that stage of the game, but I never once regretted her birth or the one that came immediately after it.  The reason why all this is important to this story is the space that we both feel that God carved into our lives during this difficult time.

We didn’t get pregnant, and as you can tell from our previous stories, that has never been hard for me.  In all honestly, but without trying to gross you out, our frequency did not change.  If anything, Adam and I felt comfort and solace in our “time” together.  It took us away from how overwhelming life with a special needs child had become.  Yet time after time, we produced no offspring.  It wouldn’t be until June 2005 that we would become pregnant.  I know what you are thinking, “That’s only a year later.  That’s not space!”  But the baby wasn’t due for another nine months, and for us, that was a huge space!  Unfortunately, this pregnancy would end in a miscarriage at 7 weeks gestation, and let me just say, miscarriage is NEVER easy.  I would have to learn that sometimes God’s plan allows heartache and disappointment.