Content Amidst the Chaos

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Trust Me Today February 11, 2011

Filed under: babies — jps23 @ 9:56 am

I have gained great encouragement from so many readers and friends this week.  All remarks have been encouraging and uplifting, none carrying judgment or condemnation.  What a gift.  However, I received this email from a friend last night that simply stopped me.  It was the comfort that I needed.  It was the truth that He wanted me to hear.  I am hoping she doesn’t mind me sharing it here with you.  I can’t imagine she would, especially if she knew these same words might do for you what they have done for me.

Hi Jamie!

I have been reading all about your week through facebook and your blog.  You have been on my heart a lot.  I know these days of caring another little one must be exhausting.  And having such big heart decisions laying in your lap on top of it all is just another weight.  So as I have read through your week, and prayed for you, the thing that keeps coming into my heart is just this:  the weight of this decision is not coming from Him.  He is the God of the I AM.  He is forever in the present tense.  He is not in all those thoughts of tomorrows and ‘yet to comes’.  He asks us to trust Him for today.   Because He is in our present tense with us.  He isn’t asking you to trust him for the yet to come, at least not yet.  He is saying “trust me today, and I will walk with you into tomorrow.”  All of these thoughts about what will happen down the road, that is Satan digging in and picking at you.   Jamie, you are an amazing mom, a wonderful wife, a committed friend and most importantly a loving, open daughter to your heavenly father.  He loves you beyond belief and is longing for you to pour out your desires to him.  If right now you want to shout “no more children, never, no way, that’s it.,”  then my goodness, shout it!!  And trust him to bear the weight of those emotions for today.  But don’t worry about making that decision right now.  He is your father and more than anything wants to hear your heart, and provide for your greatest heart’s desire!  And if He longs for you to have 9, 10 or 20 kids, then He will gently walk with you into that tomorrow.  But for today, He loves you, and cries with you through every joyful and aching moment.

I am praying for you and all those little Stovalls.

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But then… February 8, 2011

Filed under: babies — jps23 @ 8:25 pm

I was prepared to post tonight that I have come to a conclusion.  I can’t do this again, at least not for a while.  I’m very overwhelmed and feeling quite worthless these last two days, and I just don’t see how I can survive a pregnancy while parenting/raising/educating eight kids.  Once they are here, it is truly no big deal.  I had my brother’s three kids over yesterday for a visit, and it didn’t change a thing.  Well, there was a little more mess, but there were also more hands to help, like when my nephews pulled my trash cans up the driveway so Adam didn’t have to when he got home after 10:00 from teaching his class at the college down the street.  And, we will be having another c-section this time, which makes two in a row.  How does that work for multiple pregnancies?  Sometimes I wish I had Michelle Duggar’s phone number.  She’s not my God, but I think she has a pretty direct connection with Him.  She knows the Word, trusts it, and lives it so calmly and peacefully.  I wouldn’t mind being her when I grow up, minus the long hair and denim skirts.

Anyhow, I had decided to post this, waiting only for the kids to finish watching their Magic School Bus video on my computer (that was school today- it’s been a rough two days).  So I pull up my computer and open my Internet, where Facebook is my homepage.  I see the news of a friend celebrating her second pregnancy directly posted on my wall.  I shoot her a message through the inbox, offering her much congratulations and encouragement, and she writes back, with this line in her message…

“Actually being around your family put that desire of wanting a family!”

She grew up in a large family.  She knows what my life is like.  Yet it was spending time with my family that had a positive impact on her.  I would never have dreamed it.  Now, I know that doesn’t mean that I scratch the way I feel and ignore my hesitations, but this is where I feel torn.  I feel like that in the moments I don’t think I can go on any longer and it’s time to retire the uterus, God sends me little messages and assurances.  I don’t know if it is to convince me to continue to trust Him or just to remind me that He is there.  But it gives me pause.  I know that opening my womb to another child IS NOT a salvation issue.  I know I won’t be banned to hell because I didn’t have 13 children or more.  I just want to trust Him.  I wonder if my overwhelm is a sign or evidence of a need for us to change some things.  It’s just hard for me to believe that it is a sign that I’m supposed to interpret as Him saying “Don’t trust Me anymore.  You know better than I do whether you need another kid.”  I just told my brother last night that I haven’t ever heard a distinct voice of God.  These are the places where I feel like He speaks to me.  Moments, comments, and encouragement like this.

So, I had made up my mind.  No more, at least for a little while, but then my friend went and said that.  He’s at least got my attention.  I revoke my made-up mind and will place it back in the realm of uncertainty and unknown for now.  This is quite the journey.

 

The days I consider no more February 7, 2011

Filed under: babies — jps23 @ 8:40 pm

There are bad days in our household.  I know that’s hard to believe with all the adorable faces I get to look at every day and the amazing husband that I get to call mine, but they do happen.  I had one last Thursday, courtesy of the child that makes me think outside the box when it comes to discipline, and I had one today, courtesy of that amazing husband.  Don’t get me wrong.  I loooooooooove my husband and I am thankful that he is mine.  He is wonderfully amazing, but people, he’s not perfect, and neither am I, so some days don’t run so smoothly.

Now, I have admitted that life with two or three, or heck, even one, can be hard sometimes.  I do not think that moms of fewer coast through this job of being mommy.  However, the ER in harder comes in for me because it feels constant here.  As soon as one is satisfied, there’s an issue with another.  Even on good days, many things go undone and I can’t ever stay caught up on it all.  I’ve learned to let go of what people think about my house.  How undecorated it may be, how messy it always is, and how I’ve swapped out rooms, yet again.  That doesn’t mean those things don’t bother me.  It just means that I don’t beat myself up over it anymore.  It ain’t gonna help it get done!  But I digress…

Life in a large family has to be lived differently.  You HAVE TO have a schedule, or it all falls apart.  You have to plan and execute your grocery shopping, preparation, and delivery of your meals, and if you want to save money, you have to clip, sort, and stack coupons with the sales at each store, after poring over the sales papers or tipster websites.  It is work, people, and it’s something we aren’t very good at here at the Stovall household.  I’m working on that, and yesterday afternoon, I buddied up with our meal helpers (each girl helps with a mealtime, the boys don’t because they aren’t quite big enough yet, not because we’re sexist!) and made menus for the week.  If they help pick it, they’ll enjoy making it and eating it even more.  From that, we made a grocery list.  So, we needed to now go to the grocery store to get the groceries.

Now, if you’ll recall from a previous post, I was tired this weekend.  Very tired.  Tired enough to post about it.  So I didn’t feel like going to the store.  The catch for me goes like this- “Do I feel like getting out (showering, finding clothes that aren’t a 15 year old pair of sweats stained with bleach) or do I want to stay home and entertain the kids?”  When I’m not pregnant, the answer is easy.  I’ll get out, zip in and out of the store, and get home.  When I am pregnant, no thanks, but I don’t want to entertain the kids, either.  I do that all week long.  (Insert judgment here)  So, my amazing husband offers to go to the store for me and hit the bogo’s at Publix.  What a sweetie.  He gets home, offers to go to Kroger (which he doesn’t like for me to do late at night because he is constantly asked for money, and he just prefers I not be approached by strangers asking for money), and I tell him not to worry about it.  I’ll make do with what he got from Publix.  My mom was going to be bringing my two nephews and niece over today (my brother had to work late, and she was already going to be sitting for me like she usually does on Mondays so I can take the girls to their lessons), and I wanted to be able to offer to feed them to help make their night easier.  Instead of beef casserole, I decided on chili and hot dogs.

This morning, when Adam finally rolled out of bed at 8:30, I asked him if we could talk.  I was already overwhelmed at what didn’t get done on Sunday, which yes, should be a day of rest, but I don’t know if that means “let the whole house go”.  And having ten people living in this house (counting our college roommate) makes enough of a mess over a day’s time.  I have to constantly remind him that while he may not care if I don’t get things pristine, or clean even, it still has to be done.  He never comes home and fusses at me, y’all, no matter how bad it all looks, but it overwhelms me to live in it sometimes, and even though he doesn’t ride my case, I still feel bad that it doesn’t always get done.  I don’t have a house cleaner.  Our roommate doesn’t babysit or pick up extra chores.  Our moms don’t come over and clean for us.  It’s all on me.  When Mom does come to babysit, she’ll do anything I ask her to, but I don’t like to ask her to do things like that.  I did ask her to fold two loads of laundry last week, but I didn’t ask her to take it downstairs and put it away.  I am trying to train my kids to take care of their home and their stuff in a way that teaches them responsibility, but in teaching them, it doesn’t always get done the way that would look best.  And when one thing gets done, quite often, there are twelve things undone.  It’s just tricky.

Anyway, I just was talking to him about how overwhelmed I am feeling.  How the mess gets to me, since I don’t get to leave it for eight hours every day like he does.  I can’t keep up the laundry and the meal planning and preparation and the homeschooling and the character training and the organizing and the project planning (to save money by building things versus buying them at a 200%+ markup).  I just need some help somewhere.  He agreed and said we would try and figure out how we can make that happen.  Then he got showered, dressed, and went to work.

He didn’t do his small chores that he has offered to do to make the morning a little easier for me.  No biggie, I can deal with that, although I’d rather him just say, “No, I can’t help you ever” than me rely on his help and get it sporadically.  What’s the point?  He’s not intentionally neglectful, and believe me, I know, his plate is full.  I hear that one enough (never from him, mind you, but plenty others feel this way).  I didn’t notice any room on mine, either, but I guess that is beside the point.  And just so you know, THE EIGHT KIDS WEREN’T MY IDEA!  WHY DO PEOPLE THINK THE ONE THAT ACTUALLY BIRTHS THEM IS THE ONE THAT DEMANDS WE HAVE THEM???  In my times of doubt and concern about having another child, it has been Adam that has said that we need to trust God.  Do not mistake me for saying he tells me I have to have all of these babies.  I wish this were as black and white as some people would like it to be.  I’d like it to be more black and white.  But it isn’t.  This is a faith issue for us that we aren’t always sure how to handle.  That was the point in sharing this with you to begin with.  The point is, the one that actually physically endures the pregnancy, delivery, and the daily upbringing of these children did not strong arm the one with the easier role into doing this.  I just think that needs to be clarified sometimes.  Again, I digress (see why these posts are harder?)…

So, the little extra helpful chores of changing the diapered children (2) didn’t get done and Addison carried out the trash (on her own, without being asked, just ’cause she wanted to be helpful), which is the other thing I ask of him before he leaves.  But then my mom calls and tells me that Adam called her and said he went to work with the groceries in the back of the van.  The ones I was counting on to get me through the day.  And he wanted her to come by and pick them up for him before she came to my house.  However, she wasn’t coming over until 3:00, which meant I didn’t have anything to get through the first part of the day, AND this changed my dinner plans.  So these little oversights, these “no big deal” things to him were a huge deal to me.  And I let it ruin my day.  We fussed, I got depressed, and I said “I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!”  I tell him when we are considering opening our womb to the possibility of another baby that pregnancy exhausts a woman, and when she has seven other kids to take care of and educate during that pregnancy, it means he has to help.  He’s aware of this before the seed is planted, if you know what I mean.  There is open, honest communication going on in this house.  I don’t say, “Oh dear, you won’t have to worry about a thing” and then spring this on him.  He knows.  And guys, some days it is just. so. hard.

Now, I know he is a gem.  And I know he doesn’t intentionally do these things to hurt me or make my life harder.  But in the moment, in the chaos, it overwhelms me.  I have relied on an anti-depressant in past pregnancies to make the hard days easier, but this go ’round, like the last one, they make me sick.  So, I’m doing this on my own.  It’s hard.  And I know what some of you are thinking (because some of my own relatives have said it out loud), “Why do you do this?”  Again, we are just trying to trust God with what He wants for our life.  He doesn’t always promise easy, and quite honestly, when I struggle the most is usually when I am leaning on Him the least and trying to do it all on my own.  Or, as my dear friends haven’t been afraid to say to me in the past, I am leaning on ADAM to be my savior on these days.  Again, it’s not black and white.

So, I may have rambled a bit and it may not make sense.  I don’t feel like I make sense on these days.  But, out of fairness and a need to be honest, I thought I’d share.  Today was a day where I said, “I can’t be pregnant again.  I can’t have another baby.  I can’t add to the laundry or the groceries or to the schedule.  I can’t do this anymore.”  I’m sure He will put something on my heart about this all at some point, which is what usually happens, and it tends to make me forget the little details that made this post so long.  But I gave it to you, raw, before the kids were even in bed.  Yes, there are days I consider no more.

 

Tired… February 5, 2011

Filed under: babies — jps23 @ 8:42 pm

Still talking about the babies here.  I used to feel the need to shake things up so that other people didn’t think having kids meant that that’s all there is to you, but if I’m honest, it is a huge part of who I am, which I don’t really mind.  I believe in the idea that life is made up of seasons, and the one I am in now requires a lot of attention to my family and their needs.  They won’t always be this little and need me this much, and I’m sure I will miss the days that they did.  That doesn’t mean I want to endure the sleepless nights, endless diaper changes, and potty training circuses all over again, but I will yearn for the days they were little and would crawl up in my lap (or climb all over me) just to tell me “I love you”.

I said in the beginning of this journey that it would be a walk through our thoughts and concerns regarding what happens next, after this eighth baby, and fifth baby boy, is born into our lives.  Two c-sections in a row does raise an issue I never had to consider before.  Five boys in a row wears on me differently than my first three girls did.  I was younger and had fewer kids, but I think boys are just MORE when they are little.  I don’t love them any less and I don’t think of my job as a burden that I must endure and survive.  However, I am tired.  So, so tired.  I remember being pregnant with Addison like it was yesterday.  Adam worked for an accounting firm, commuting to banks all over the state for audits, usually not arriving home until about 8:00 at night.  I taught third grade, on the downstairs hall, and I was the teacher that the janitor had to kick out of the building each evening around 6:00.  I would come home and crash.  I’d take naps on the weekends.  I would sleep late on Saturday mornings.  If I was tired, I would plant it somewhere and enjoy the stillness.

Obviously, those days are LOOOONG gone!  However, while I am pregnant tired, I am also mommy to seven tired (and yes, while I am the first to say that mothering one, two, or more can be just as exhausting, it’s a little different when there are seven), I’m homeschooling mother tired, I’m loving and attentive wife tired, I’m church volunteer tired, and I’m housecleaning tired (which I say lastly because that’s where it falls on my priority list).  Today, I just wanted to crawl up in bed or in the recliner and doze throughout the day, but I had to take Addison to ballet (which we were late for and wound up missing), take the girls shopping for their special Daddy/Daughter date night outfit, run into JoAnn’s for some supplies for Adam’s Valentine’s Day gifts, and come home and keep the kids out from under Adam’s feet while he finished building our mega-cubby/locker unit for the back door and priming the room that will one day be MY craft room.  WHEW!  Typing that made me tired!  Now, some people would say (but surely not you) that we signed up for this.  If we didn’t want this much work, we shouldn’t have had this many kids.  Well, I can tell you what I’d like to say to that, and then I can tell you what Jesus would want me to say to that.  Or, scratch both and let me say this- all we signed up for was joyfully submitting to His will for our lives and for our family.  We didn’t know that would mean eight kids (or more), and while I love each child He gives us and I can’t imagine our life without them, I could do without all the stuff that comes with it!  I don’t love the diaper changes (and I greatly admire all you cloth diaper mommas), the running around to extra-curriculars (which we limit to one per child, only after they’ve turned five years old), and the loss of running errands child-free.

What I do love, though, is hearing the girls compliment one another in the dressing room today, even though their tastes are COMPLETELY different.  I love the way Joseph runs to get his “Woody Buzz” (Pull-ups have them on their product, so that’s what he calls them) when it is time to change him.  I love watching Gillian ride a horse taller than me, or Addison move as if she’s been dancing since before she was born, or Anna bouncing, cartwheeling, and balancing across a bar, just like the girls she saw during the last winter Olympics, when she said, “Mommy, THAT’S what I want to do!”  So I endure.  I persevere.  I enjoy.  I may be tired through it all, but I always say, “If I weren’t tired doing this for my kids, I’d be tired after staying in my classroom until 6:00 pm for someone else’s kids.”  And as rewarding as it is to teach a child and inspire them to believe they are capable of more than they ever imagined, it’s even more rewarding to me when those kids are your own.

So, while the thought of doing this again, being pregnant with FIVE little boys running around the house, one more extra-curricular to deliver someone to (and wait the hour for completion, as I don’t leave my kids anywhere without a designated adult to watch them), the moodiness of the pre-teen years, more homeschooling, more laundry, more…you get the idea, can simply overwhelm me some days, it also means more of the good stuff.  It just isn’t enough to make me think it wouldn’t be worth it.

Now, let me say this…I have days where I say, “I just can’t do this again!”  I will try to be more honest about those days.  They’ve been hidden in the days where I was telling the back story of it all, which I was grateful for in all honesty!  But those days aren’t nearly as frequent as the days like today.  And I guess knowing that, even on that bad day, keeps me optimistic.  But it isn’t fair to you for both sides to not be painted.  So, my next post will be a bad day post, just to assure you that you aren’t the only one that has them!  It might be about this past Thursday, which was a bad day for me, or it might be about the day that I am sure will happen somewhere in the next two weeks.  I want to be real, and while all that I have shared thus far has been real, there are days that I haven’t shared because they were hard to survive in the first place!  Rehashing them on here with you doesn’t always seem appealing!  For now, I will sit with my feet up, waiting for Adam and the girls to return from their date and tell me all about it, ’cause I’m tired.

 

100th post! February 2, 2011

Filed under: babies,family size,Our home — jps23 @ 12:25 am

It’s fitting that tonight I was going to blog about learning to become content.  It’s the name of the blog, and with this being the 100th post (according to my dashboard because otherwise, that’s just one more thing for me to keep up with!), it’s quite appropriate that it highlights when I arrived at that place of true contentment.

We are still on our baby journey in these posts.  There is so much back story that many of you don’t know, that if you did, I feel like you might understand why we keep having babies.  I know that ultimately it doesn’t matter if you understand that, but knowing God’s role in it all can be a benefit to all those reading this, even if you don’t decide to take this journey.  This is about trust and contentment, which I think can apply in anything you do.

So, after the miscarriage and Coleman’s illness, there weren’t any other major life catastrophe’s to speak of for some time.  However, as Andrew was added to the family (which was a horrific birth story, but I’ll save that for later), the 1,100 square foot house began feeling smaller and smaller.  I had a brilliant idea, though, an answer to our growing family’s need.  Let me explain a little to help you understand why we just didn’t run out and buy a bigger house.

We didn’t get a credit card until my senior year in college, which was also Adam’s year spent acquiring his Masters degree.  We did take out some student loans when we discovered the difficulty of juggling marriage, good grades, and jobs, but we were both attending on the HOPE grant, so we didn’t need that much.  We were a little foolish.  We went to out of town ball games and took a trip out of state here and there.  After all, Adam already had a commitment letter with a firm in Atlanta making A LOT of money.  We were going to be rich!  Add in a teacher’s salary, and we were going to be sitting pretty.  We also had to replace our car, and since I always wanted a truck, we went for it.  My parents cosigned, even though they advised us against buying new (What did they know? We had college degrees with sweet pay coming our way!)  Okay, maybe we were a lot foolish.  We did graduate into high paying jobs, and we somehow managed to spend, spend, spend.  We rented a house after a couple of months in an apartment that we eventually purchased.  It was a very modest brick ranch starter home in an established neighborhood.  But then we noticed that the credit card debt we had acquired wasn’t disappearing as quickly as we hoped (that’s hard to do when you are still spending and not focusing on paying it off- we had horrible financial habits early in our marriage).  So, we refinanced and paid off our credit cards with the equity, but we didn’t close the cards, and we continued to make stupid spending decisions.  Long story short, selling our house wasn’t an option.

So, I had another idea.  My grandmother’s house was double the size of ours, where she lived alone.  It made sense to me for her to allow us to move in the partially finished basement (the equivalent in sq footage to our house, almost) and let us fix up her house a little here and there as a form of payment.  Her health was deteriorating a little, so we would be there if anything should happen.  I wrote her a beautiful letter to give her time to consider my idea (she was the most beautiful letter-writer of them all), absolutely sure she would see the reason and logic in my proposal.  I had sketched floor plans with ideas for improving the house and making it work for our family for when she decided to move into something smaller.  I was so excited!  Then she called me one day and said, “Oh honey, you are so sweet to think of me, but I just plan on dying in this house, and I don’t want to live with anybody at this point in my life.  But you sure are sweet to think of me.”

I wasn’t content.  I was desperate!  I couldn’t understand how she couldn’t see the logic in my thinking!  I began living each day saying, “If only we had a bigger house…”  But we didn’t.  There we were, almost eight people in 1,100 sq feet.  You do that math on that one.  Never mind, I’ll do it for you.  That was approximately 150 sq feet for each body in our house (including the baby on the way) and all their stuff.  We were beginning to homeschool, and with me being the creative and crafty type, I had craft, scrapbooking, and school supplies everywhere!  It was insane.

So I had another brilliant idea.  We’ll just move to Mom and Dad’s lake house a little over an hour away and clear out our house, make repairs, and put it up for sale by owner, since we couldn’t part with any money in whatever deal we could come up with.  This idea was CRAZY.  There are no two ways about it, but it was all I had.  Remember?  I was desperate.  I was teaching preschool at our church and pregnant, and Adam was working, and driving both cars was just stupid, so we would get up at 4:30 so we could leave by 6:00 to sit in horrendous traffic to get to the southside of town on the days I had to work.  It was miserable!!!  And guess what?  Nothing got done to the house because I was so tired at the end of the day, entertaining five little people in even less space than we had before and too nauseated to fix dinner, that I would beg Adam to come home and bring dinner almost every day.  So we came back home just before Joseph was to be born, and we tried to live in our house again.  Joseph came, we made adjustments to accommodate him, and we just pushed through.

Then one day, I was cleaning the bookshelves and putting books away, and I found the sketches from my dream about living in Grandma’s house.  I looked at them, told myself it was never going to happen, prayed for contentment, a way to find joy in my current circumstance and learn to accept that God has a bigger plan, and I threw them away.  Then and there I decided to be content.

Now let me say this, if you haven’t already figured this out.  I am typing this post from my grandmother’s house, that I now live in and have lived in for about a year and a half.  The story of how it all happened requires a post of its own (and I think I’ve actually shared a little of the story already), but it is evidence that being content is worth it.  I don’t remember a lot from the last year we lived in our house.  I look back at pictures and videos and wonder how we did it, but I think that God also protected me from being overwhelmed by it all.  My pastor said something in his sermon the other day that struck me and kind of relates to this: “If you are in Christ, and Christ is in you, then you can be content in all circumstances.”  That is what had happened.

So, while messy floors bother me, I am content.  While laundry piled a mile high is aggravating, I am content.  While the kids clothes don’t always match and I can’t stand the hair-do on one of my girls, I am content.  And while I could have spit out a post every other day like all these other amazing bloggers that I follow, I haven’t, and I am content.  Happy 100th post to you.

 

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

 

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