I’m so pleased to introduce you to our second son, Redmond Samuel Wyse. He has had us on quite a roller coaster ride for these last 23 days, some of which you may already know from my public Facebook posts. He was born on Wednesday, March 1st, 2017, at 4:21 p.m. in our local hospital. He weighed 8 pounds, 12 ounces, and was 20 1/2″ long. He was born just before 38 weeks, via an unplanned c-section.
At around 37 weeks into my pregnancy, Redmond shifted from a very active baby to not moving much at all. The midwife and OB had been supervising my pregnancy closely because of gestational diabetes. We had some warnings that his heart might not be exactly as it should be, but repeated ultrasounds showed no reason for concern. Redmond moved less and less that week, which I attributed to his growing size and getting squished in there. But Wednesday morning he stopped moving all together. I tried everything to get him to move, then decided we needed to get to the hospital right away. I began to panic, afraid I had waited too long.
As soon as we arrived at the hospital, the nurse pulled out the doppler and we heard his heart beating. I was so relieved. Although his heart was beating, they soon realized he was in distress and a c-section needed to happen right away. I was able to remain calm until he was out, but then I knew something was very wrong. They didn’t let me see him and suddenly my world turned upside down. The very wise anesthesiologist gave me something for anxiety. I sent Rick to be with Redmond while they worked on him and I slept in the recovery room.
That night, Redmond was taken to a larger hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He’d been put on a ventilator and I was only able to see him inside of a closed travel crib for a few moments. Too medicated to fully grasp what was happening, I went back to sleep. I was aware that there was a problem, but felt completely numb. It’s strange to write those words, but I believe that was actually the very thing I needed at that time. How could I have handled the weight of what was happening to my son, totally unable to be with him or do anything to help?
The next day we were told that Redmond was the sickest baby in the NICU and they were not sure what to do with him. I was released from the hospital less than 24 hours after my c-section, driven home by a wonderful friend who is also a nurse at the hospital, and was soon on my way to see my baby about an hour away. My sister dropped everything that day, got on a plane from the Carolinas, and actually beat me to the NICU. I am so grateful for her and all she did over the next several days to keep me calm and focused, asking intelligent questions when I could think of nothing, and buying a large quantity of snacks (and supplies)!
A few days later, Redmond was transferred to a larger hospital about 80 miles from our home. The hospital he’d been in was excellent, but had done everything they could do for him. They felt like a treatment called ECMO (for more info, watch a video about it here: http://www.mottchildren.org/conditions-treatments/ecmo) was what he might need. Redmond had several heart issues and his lungs weren’t working like they were supposed to work. ECMO, a heart/lung bypass, would allow them to rest and have some time to start working. The photo below is what his room looked like with the ECMO machine, ventilator, and other equipment he needed.
When he was just 3 days old, he was put on ECMO. We had our older children, Eliana and Charlie, come up to the hospital with their grandparents to meet him. We weren’t sure if it was a good idea to let them see him with so many things attached to him, but decided they needed to see their brother alive. It was a terrible thing to have to decide, but they handled it very well. We allowed them to briefly see and touch him, then we took them into a play area in the hospital. While they ran and played, I sat in a wheelchair and cried. I cried because this short period of time was all I had with them and I couldn’t even play with them (c-section recovery). I cried because my baby was in another room fighting for his life. I cried because I was hormonal and exhausted.
Redmond was on ECMO for six days. They were terrible days, full of ups and downs, alarms going off constantly, no fewer than 2 people in his room watching him at all times. He had two large tubes in his neck and was medically paralyzed. His chest didn’t rise and fall, he was puffy and discolored, and he looked like a lifeless doll. Often there were 4 people watching him – 2 nurses and 2 ECMO specialists. There was barely space in his room for us. We often walked out of the room to sit on nearby chairs and get a break from the sound of the alarms.
On March 7, when he was just 6 days old, we were startled by an early morning phone call from the nurse practitioner. Overnight, Redmond had developed a tension pneumothorax, or an air pocket outside of his lung. It was causing his heart and other organs to be pushed off to the side, which interfered with ECMO. The standard treatment is a simple chest tube, but that was extremely risky for him because he was on blood thinners. A chest tube brought with it the risk of internal and external bleeding. Without the chest tube, ECMO couldn’t continue successfully. That kind of uncontrollable bleeding didn’t bode well for him either.
As the medical team discussed how to handle it, I prayed with all my might. “Please God, give them wisdom, creativity, and knowledge. Help them to find a way where there seems to be no way.” God chose to speak through a pediatric surgeon. He said, “When we don’t know what to do, sometimes it’s best just to wait.” They all agreed to give Redmond 6 hours, repeat the chest x-ray, then do the chest tube if necessary. They made a plan for the chest tube and continued on their way. I called on everyone I knew to pray for that 2:00 p.m. deadline. Please, God, give us a miracle.
At 2:00 p.m., the chest x-ray was repeated. Our pastors had come up to be with us while we waited for the news. As I sat on the edge of a bright orange chair outside his room, the nurse practitioner walked up and told me the news. “The pneumothorax is gone. His heart and everything else have lined back up correctly. No chest tube is needed.”
I almost fell off that chair with gratitude. Sobs of relief came rushing out of me. God had answered our prayers with a miracle. The nurse practitioner, who has never mentioned God to me, agreed that it was a miracle. She had never seen anything like it in 21 years of working in the NICU. That day Redmond turned a corner. Before that day, ECMO specialists, nurses, and doctors were constantly confounded about him. He was difficult and touchy. Anytime they needed to move him for any reason, alarms went off. After that day, the reports changed. He was improving. He was improving more. He was improving faster than they expected. Blood cultures, labs, and other tests looking for other problems were coming back negative.
When he was 9 days old, he was able to come off ECMO and tolerated it well. I held him for the first time when he was 10 days old. He had so many things attached to him that it took 2 nurses and a respiratory therapist to put him in my lap. When he was 15 days old, he was able to get the ventilator out. When he was 16 days old, I heard the amazing sound of his cry for the first time. When he was 22 days old, he was completely weaned off IV medicines and his PICC line came out, he got his Foley catheter out, and I was able to pick him up by myself to hold him. When he was 23 days old, he was switched from a c-pap breathing ram (forced air) to nasal cannulas (supplemental oxygen), which is one step away from breathing on his own.
We are looking forward to how he reaches the next milestones – coming completely off of oxygen and learning to drink from a bottle.
We have seen so many miracles along the way. I’ve made my Facebook posts about him all public, so I won’t rehash every one of them here. But we stand in awe of God and the way He has answered our prayers.
Rick and I have been mostly separated from Eliana and Charlie since the day Redmond was born. We’ve been home a few times, very briefly, and are extremely grateful for the ability we have to stay with our baby. Rick’s parents and our amazing babysitter have provided so much love, support, and care for them that sometimes we wonder if they even miss us. They’ve been able to keep to their regular schedule and come up to visit us several times. We hate to be away from them and miss them terribly, but are so thankful for the excellent support we have at home.
We’ve been staying at The Ronald McDonald House, which has been a tremendous blessing. We will be lifelong supporters of their charity because of way they’ve helped us. Not only do they provide housing for families whose children are in the hospital far from home, but there’s typically a meal provided every day, as well as countless other grace-filled gestures.
Redmond has some things that will continue to challenge us as he grows. We’ve been told he has a ventricular septal defect (VSD), or a hole between the lower chambers of his heart. It’s possible that it could close on it’s own, be something he’s able to live with, or need to be repaired surgically in the future. We are praying earnestly for God to close that hole without the need for surgery. The hole is a complication of Down Syndrome, or Trisomy 21. This diagnosis came as a surprise to us, as none of the tests we had done before he was born suggested it. It took a while for the chromosome test to be completed, but we were told it was a possibility within an hour of his birth.
Redmond (wise protector) Samuel (God has heard) Wyse will not be defined by this diagnosis. Named in honor of his paternal grandfather, Samuel Wenger, his name means “God has heard and blessed us with a wise protector.” We chose this name before we knew anything about him and believe God has a purpose and a mission for his life. He will be a mighty man of God, given every opportunity to succeed, and supported through every possible path he may take. We have prayed for him since before he was born, asking God to give us another child, and have believed that he would bring “life and health, joy and peace.” He is our great blessing and we praise God for answering our prayers. He has already exceeded the expectations of our doctors, and we look forward to seeing all the ways he exceeds the expectations of the rest of the world.
This month my tiny daughter started preschool. Two days a week, for three hours a day, she goes to preschool with twelve other four year olds. It’s an odd time of year to start, but this school doesn’t accept students until they have actually turned four. Since her birthday is in December, we waited until after the holidays to get her started.
We chose this particular school for several reasons:
1) We’ve heard amazing things about it from our friends. It’s located on a working farm, provides children with unique learning opportunities, and continues the Christian education we are giving our children at home.
2) The woman who runs it and is the teacher was good friends with my mother-in-law when they were in school. She was a kindergarten teacher for 30 years before “retiring” to help children prepare for kindergarten.
3) It’s five minutes from our home, which is pretty amazing considering that very little is actually close to our rural farm.
We feel really good about the decision to send her there, and she’s excited about going to school. I thought I might cry the entire time I sent her there for the first time, but the very smart teacher requires a parent to join the student for the first day of school. So I was with her the entire time. My eyes leaked a little off and on over the morning, as I saw her jumping right in with the other kids, trying to figure things out and get into the rhythm they’ve already established.
To see her unsure of herself, that always gets me. She’s such a confident child, but when I see her doubt herself, I get emotional. I know she has to figure it out, but I just hurt a little until she does. I’m not sure if other mothers feel that way or not, or why this particular thing gets me. But it sure does.
We’re told she’s tall for her age, but she was the youngest one there that day and just blended right in with the other kids. Since I was always an awkward head taller than the kids in my class, I felt such relief to see how normal she looked when in the group of kids.
My heart was touched when I saw her identify a new friend. The other little girl was kind and showed Eliana how to do a few things, so Eliana made up her mind to be friends. She saved her a seat at snack time and made a point to sit together whenever possible. There’s a little boy there who is a beast of a kid, one of those guys you know is going to be a linebacker some day. I watched as he displayed the most gentle of tendencies, including my daughter in his discoveries and treating her like she’s always been there.
She was on cloud nine as we drove away, chattering on and on about how things went and what she’s supposed to do for the next class. It was hard for her to understand that she would see the same kids at the same place in just a few days, and that her new friendships wouldn’t stop as quickly as they started.
Bad weather caused class to be cancelled the next time. We never thought a thing about it though, and bundled her up for school without checking cancellations. Rick drove her because we were concerned about the roads. She was a little concerned about going by herself that day, so I encouraged Rick to be flexible. If she seemed upset when he dropped her off, he could always go in for a few minutes to help her get comfortable. It was a little disappointing when they arrived to find no one but the teacher around!
The next day for school, the weather cooperated and I got her ready for the day. Right before we were about to leave, she looked at me with a little bit of uncertainty and asked if I was going to stay with her for a little while. I gave her a big smile and said something like, “Sweetheart, you are so smart; so fun; so brave. You aren’t going to have any problem jumping right in there this morning and doing a great job.”
I was rewarded with a huge, confident smile and a hug. Then together we walked out to the car and got her buckled in. As I was buckling her, she gave me the most adoring look and said, “Mommy, I’m so glad you’re here with me.”
My brave face melted. All I could think of was how happy I am that SHE is here with me. My daughter. My precious one. HERE. No longer a dream, a hope, a fear that I might somehow miss out on the gift of motherhood. She is a reality far better than I ever dreamed. Tears welled up and she looked at me with concern, “Are you sad, Mommy?”
“No, sweet girl. I’m not sad. I’m just so happy that I’m here with you too. You are my most precious treasure.”
On the way to school, I went over the school’s morning routine with her again. I reminded her that I’d be waiting when school was over. When she saw her teacher, she lit up like a Christmas tree and happily went inside without me.
I had a few tears as I drove away. My tiny one is growing up and learning to do things without me. She’s learning from other people who have had different experiences than me and can teach her things to help her become a well-rounded person. She’s learning about Jesus from someone other than me (and her Sunday school teachers). She’s making friends.
This year it’s two days a week. Next year, it will be three days a week. When kindergarten starts, it will be five days a week. It seems like a good progression to me. A gentle start to the letting go that parents have to do.
She’s still in Story Hour at the Library. She’s been moved up to a more advanced gymnastics class. Both of those adventures are an hour a week with a different teacher. Both of those teachers provide her with a different perspective and knowledge-base than mine.
I’ve thought about hugging her close, keeping her with me and our family only for as long as humanly possible. I’ve thought about the dangers of what those other teachers might try to imprint upon her young mind. It scares me a little to expose her to such a wide variety of other people (children and adults). I remember some of the crazy things I learned from kids I encountered in school. But I’ve decided that FEAR will not be the ruling factor in my parenting decisions.
To the best of our ability, Rick and I will pay attention to any place our children go. We’ll get to know teachers, babysitters, friends, and anyone else who might influence our children. We’ll hold our children up in prayer, constantly asking God to protect their hearts, minds, and bodies. We’ll do all we can as stewards of these precious lives to ensure their safety and innocence, and we’ll trust God’s protecting and guiding hand to reach where we cannot.
Trusting our most precious treasures to others is a huge leap of faith, but when we think of the ones we know who give their lives to educate and enhance the lives of children, we smile. There is so much potential out there. There are so many awesome people who can teach them things we will never be able to teach them ourselves. To us, this feels like a good thing.
Eliana came home from her second day of preschool with her eyes shining bright. She told me that the teachers are her newest best friends. She hugged her brother and excitedly told her Grandma about her day. I’m sure there will be days when she comes home with frustration or sadness, or a host of other emotions. We will tackle those times when they come. For now, I am so thankful she had a good day.
*Photo credit: Me. I totally coached her on this photo too. Point your feet this direction. Put your hand on your hip. Smile like this… Yup. I’m THAT mom.
Rick gets a little annoyed with me for all the professional (and candid) photos I have taken and take of our family. He’s not sure it’s really “necessary.” He and I definitely have different opinions about pictures. For many years, I felt the sting of loneliness as I saw all the beautiful photo cards of my friends and family with their families every Christmas. I cherished the cards, the sweet letters that updated me on the lives of ones I didn’t get to interact with regularly, and I looked forward to the day I would have my own to share. Rick looked at the photo cards, thought “cool”, and went on his merry way. Men!
When I look at this recent photo, I’m not sure I could be any more blessed. Less than five years ago, I was single. I had hope that life with Rick would lead to joy and arms that were full of love, but I also had a lot of fear. Had we waited too long to marry, to attempt to have a family? Would we have fertility problems? Could I be happy in a rural farming community? What would family life look like for me?
God had given me a few promises to cling to, though. I tried to pray for a job, for a ministry position that would allow me to use the degree I’d earned, but as I prayed only one prayer came to my lips. I earnestly sought God for a husband, children, and a home of my own. In those times of intense seeking, I believe He gave me specific promises from His word to hang onto. One was that I would no longer be barren, but fruitful (Isaiah 54). Another was that my latter years would be greater than the former years (Haggai 2:9). That one may sound kind of odd, but there were days when despair tried to overwhelm me and I wondered if life would ever be more than a series of disappointments, constantly overlapping one another.
As I look at this photo, some much comes into perspective. Rick is a godly, loving husband who pours out his life for me and our children. I wondered if it would be possible for us to have one child, and now we’re expecting a third healthy baby. We have a beautiful home. We are healthy. Our parents are healthy, supportive, still married to one another, and in love with our children. I’m able to stay at home with our children.
Nothing is ever perfect, so please don’t read this list and compare your struggles to my blessing list. There are things that I still wish for with all my heart, desires that may never come to be. There are disappointments to face as we work out our new normal and come to terms with the reality of raising children and living out our lives in a community. But if I’ve learned anything in my 41 years, it’s that no matter what blessings we receive, struggles come hand in hand with them. There are problems at every level of success. Some are much better problems to have, for sure! But problems, nonetheless.
In pictures, we are well-groomed, smiling, wearing outfits that took time to coordinate, and showing our best selves. I feel there is a place for that. We need to see how good it is, how good it was. We need to remember with sweetness the good times. Who takes pictures of the bad times? Who wants to remember the frustration and sadness?
While I was visiting my sister recently, we went shopping with our mom, who treated us to Starbucks. I was overjoyed. She mentioned getting us Starbucks inside Target, but I put a stop to that. Oh no. I wanted a real Starbucks. I wanted to sit in comfy chairs and drink my fancy coffee and talk to my mom and sister with no children running around our feet and demanding attention.
As we stood in line and I absorbed the delicious smells, the comforting feeling the place gives me, I had to laugh. The closest “real” Starbucks to me on the farm is about 40 minutes away, so it’s a special treat to go to one when I get the chance. But what wonderful memories does it bring back to me? Memories of sitting with dear friends, typically single, drinking delicious concoctions that didn’t involve alcohol, and dreaming aloud together about the day when we’d be married and have children. We’d try to solve the problem of the latest guy we were dating, or wanted to date, or wanted to leave us alone. We’d laugh at our own drama. We’d remember past relationships, or dream up new ones. And here I stood in line, tried to soak it all in, and realized that I had what I had so longed for in those days.
I can still spend hours in a coffee shop with a friend, discussing life’s current challenges, dreaming about the future, and making new memories – no problem at all! For me, there’s a comfort in a warm, homey space that welcomes you to sit and relax with no agenda other than connecting with others. But oh how the topic of conversation has changed…
I knew this was the life I wanted, and I was not wrong. I didn’t slap a promise from the Bible on my problems, demanding that God change my reality to better fit my plans. I earnestly sought God with my whole heart, responded to His invitation to have a relationship with Him, and allowed the Word to speak to my heart. My relationship with God is the best investment I’ve ever made. As a result of trusting that God knew what was best for me more than I ever could, I am blessed beyond measure. And I want pictures to commemorate this time in our lives! I don’t want to forget what this time was like, daughter roaring, son watching her to decide what he wants to do next, me watching it all in awe of my wonderful Savior. Thank You, Lord.
Photo Credit: ErikaMarie Photography
When I was a senior in high school, I got caught with beer in my car at after prom. Seriously. Me. Beer. Did I drink beer? Nope. I still don’t. Nasty stuff. How anyone can stand it, I don’t know. But nevertheless, it was my car, my friends, and beer. I knew about it, allowed it, and got caught. The principal had to call my parents in the middle of the night. I was pretty sure death would result from my sin. Either that or every single privilege I enjoyed, including the car and the beach trip I was planning with those friends after graduation, would be taken away from me.
Shaking in fear, I walked into my dark house that night, wondering what punishment was waiting for me. I expected all the lights to be on, my parents furiously pacing the floor.
Instead, they were quietly laying in bed, just like always. As I tiptoed in their room, wondering what type of new torture this was, I saw my dad’s arm go out and beckon me toward him. Slowly, I walked toward that arm. He pulled me in closer. Then he pulled me down onto the bed. Instead of yelling (or killing me), he just hugged me tight. As my fear melted away, I began to cry. Somehow I managed to blubbler out the story: I’d agreed to let my friends bring beer because I wanted them to have fun. They’d said they were unable to let loose, dance, and have fun without it. It had never occurred to me that I could get in trouble for it. I wasn’t drinking and driving. I wasn’t drinking at all.
My mind often goes back to that night. My parents taught me a valuable lesson in the middle of what must have been very frightening to them. They said that a person shouldn’t be dependent on alcohol to have fun. If a person can’t have fun without alcohol, they have a problem. I’ve always remembered that lesson. A nice glass of wine with a fine meal is a different thing than the inability to enjoy oneself without it.
Beyond the alcohol though, another issue strikes me. I learned a lot about a father’s love. He could have raged at me, punished me extensively, or demanded that I stop hanging out with those friends. He didn’t though. He trusted that I’d learned my lesson (I certainly had) and let it go. He treated me tenderly, and he treated my friends tenderly too.
There’s a worship song that’s very popular right now, “You’re a Good, Good Father.” The first verse says,
I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper of love
In the dead of night
And You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone.
You’re a good, good Father.
Like my dad, my husband is a good, good father. He is the one who scrambles out of bed in the middle of the night at the slightest cry of a child. He answers their cries tenderly, holding them, rocking them back to sleep, and sometimes really irritating me. Why does he have to be such a softy? Can’t he command them to go back to sleep? But he doesn’t.
Not everyone has such a good father. Many fathers are callous, hard, and ready to pounce on their children at the least provocation. They yell and issue commands, not taking the time to listen and understand. And some fathers simply abandon their children altogether, or are so evil that the child would be better off if they did. Into the mess of this world, we have this beautiful song about our Heavenly Father. HE is a good Father, no matter what our earthly fathers are like.
So why is it that so many of us, myself included, run from this good Father when we sin? Why is it that we avoid God when we are ashamed of ourselves? We have a good Father who loves us fully.
He beckons us with open arms, welcoming us into His embrace, even when we have sinned woefully. He wants to hug us, talk to us about what happened, and help us learn something from it. He wants to deepen our relationship, not push us away.
I see it at times in my own life. When I feel deeply disappointed by the way things have turned out, so different than what I thought God had in mind, I struggle to embrace Him. I feel a little like an angry teenager, arms crossed, back turned to God. I haven’t left Him by any means. I’m still leaning against His throne, and I don’t want to leave. But I am so hurt and disappointed, I don’t think I can crawl into His lap right now either. Constant questions plague my mind. Did I do the wrong thing? Is this somehow my sin? Am I missing something? And I’m facing outward, away from Him, because I’m watching so expectantly to see what He will do next.
I have a good, good Father. Surely He has sent an answer, an unforeseen blessing, and it’s making its way up the road to me now. But I’m very near-sighted, and I can’t make it out yet. But I’m watching.
How much better could I watch from the perch of His lap? If, like my tiny daughter does so freely with her daddy, I could crawl up there, grab hold of his shirt and snuggle down, knowing without question the comfort and security I would find there, wouldn’t life be so much better?
What if we started running toward God when we sin? What if we cry into His arms, pour out our sorrow, share our frustration and disappointment openly? Our good Father can handle our pain, and He knows exactly what to do with it.
A good, good Father is exactly who we have. No matter who our earthly fathers were, or are, we can rest in the embrace of God.
Rick and I are so happy to let you know that Baby Wyse #3 is on the way! The baby is due to be born on March 16, 2017. We are soon to be out-numbered!
After Charlie was born, I decided there would be no more pregnancies for me. Pregnancy and I didn’t get along very well, and I had my son and daughter. My hands were incredibly full with a 15-month old and a newborn, so the idea of another baby made me feel like suffocating.
But the kids are now 3 1/2 and 2, much more self-sufficient and getting along great. I considered returning to work, but the options in our rural area are limited. After exploring those options without success, Rick and I decided that another baby might be a good thing. I was still terrified of pregnancy from my two previous experiences, so I began exploring alternative health options to see if I could have a different experience in the future.
I found a wonderful chiropractor who helped with the energy deficiency I couldn’t seem to shake. She introduced me to a local naturopath who ran some tests and provided hope that I could get some deep-seated health issues resolved and have a better experience. I had excruciating pain in my knees, in spite of having lost 20 pounds and following a diabetic diet to keep my blood sugar healthy. My primary care physician, chiropractor, naturopath, and the massage therapist I’ve been working with for several years all told me the same things: 1) This is a reaction to stress. Go on vacation and get your mind off your recent disappointments. 2) You need an anti-inflammatory diet. Meat, vegetables, fruit. No more bread and sugar.
I heeded their advice. I began taking the remedy the naturopath gave me (one bottle, not hundreds of dollars in various supplements). Our family rented a beautiful cabin in the mountains of Gatlinburg, and we brought our babysitter along. For the first time in about four years, Rick and I slept through the night without interruption for 8 nights in a row. I cannot minimize how much that helped me. A lack of sleep for that many years had really affected me. During that vacation, I took a complete break from social media and things came back into perspective. I have been so blessed with a wonderful family, and I simply enjoyed them.
Following that vacation, I started The Whole30, which I’ve written about before. I used that eating plan to help find a good balance for my body, and while I’m not where I want to be yet, I am confident that I’m headed in the right direction. As my diet changed, anxiety fell off me. My knee pain all but disappeared. I lost more weight. I began exercising again, and as summer came around, I began enjoying gardening and the warm, fresh air.
Strange things began happening, like instead of falling asleep after over-eating, my body screamed at me to MOVE. I started jogging a little, doing jumping jacks, and even (shock…) craving vegetables! I began to have healthy, normal responses to hunger and satisfaction. My hormones balanced out and the naturopath could find NO vitamin/nutrient deficiencies when she tested me.
As I worked on my health, Rick and I decided to let nature take it’s course to see if we might conceive, but nothing happened. We thought it was possible that we had reached the end of our biological clocks and were okay with that. We are so content and blessed with our precious children. But I’m not very good at “going with the flow”, so after almost a year of seeing what might happen, I got serious. I began tracking and testing and was very pleasantly surprised to find that IT WORKED! The first month! Whoa.
Within an hour of getting that positive pregnancy test, I went to work. I made a list with the title, “Preparation for Armageddon”. I listed all the things I needed to do in the next one to two weeks to prepare for the sickness I’d had with the other two. I cooked up a storm and filled our freezer to the brim. I organized and planned and prepared. I had boundless energy and I used it!
When week five hit (the first time I threw up with Eliana), I still felt great. Relieved, I scurried around more, doing fun things with the kids while I could, making lists, and working in the yard and garden. I was intent on meeting my “step goals” on my fitness tracker and did so every single day that week.
When week six hit (when I really got sick with both kids), low-level nausea made it’s appearance. It was no big deal. I didn’t throw up, I wasn’t couch-bound, I even felt a little better if I went for a walk! So I walked and gardened and kept on cooking. One day we had a family fun event and I was pretty tired of feeling nauseated, so I took some anti-nausea medication. The rest of the day was great and I had no issues at all.
The days since then have been a combination of feeling pretty good (except for very, very tired) and feeling yucky/nauseated. I haven’t thrown up. On the days when I’m extra-tired, I take a nap with the kids. My energy comes back within a few days and I make up for the days before. I’ve been spending more time indoors and not getting many steps in, but I’m giving myself grace for that.
So far, this pregnancy is pretty normal. I remind myself that nausea isn’t that big of a deal and repeat out loud how grateful I am that I’m not throwing up. I can go for walks (with Eliana, extreme motion sickness made walking impossible), work in the garden, pick peaches with my husband, and cook meals. My meals aren’t spectacular right now, but they’re often hot and nutritious.
We’ve decided to wait until the baby is born to find out the gender. Once the baby gets here and is big enough to sleep in a crib in his or her own room, we’ll evaluate where the older two are with their maturity level and decide how to arrange the kids’ bedrooms. We have lots of ideas, but no solutions right now, and are hoping it becomes obvious to us when we need to decide.
I’d like to have a different birthing experience this time. The epidurals didn’t fully take either time before, and last time led to a horrific spinal headache that negatively impacted Charlie’s birth and my health for a while afterward. I’m planning to fully educate myself on non-epidural pain-relief methods, utilize a local midwife, and plan for a midwife-attended hospital birth. I take medicine for a headache, so I see no reason to go through labor and delivery completely un-medicated. However, the epidural is off the table. Thankfully, with the last two, the birthing process was actually the “easy” part. Not really, but so much easier than the pregnancies themselves.
We’ve told Eliana and Charlie and they’re thrilled. They have all kinds of fun and interesting questions. I have an app on my phone that shows an illustration of the size of the baby each week. Eliana LOVES to look at it and asks me almost every day to show her how big the baby is right now. Some questions I’ve had so far include:
“When the baby gets big enough to come out, will your belly just POP?” (A basic anatomy lesson followed that question and seemed to satisfy her concerns.)
“Do I have a baby in MY belly?”
“No, sweetheart. You’re too little to have a baby in your belly. That won’t happen until you’re more grown up.”
“Like Kristina?” (our 18-year old babysitter)
“Well, yes. You have to be at least as grown up as Kristina to have a baby in your belly.”
One day when I was particularly nauseated and tired and laid on the couch most of the day…
“Is the baby in your belly still sick?”
“No, Charlie, the baby isn’t sick. But because the baby is in Mommy’s belly, Mommy’s belly is a little upset today.”
“Oh, okay. Can you walk?” (Well, shoot. I guess I’ve been particularly lazy today. After that, I got up, took a Zofran, and got some things done.)
“If you throw up, Mommy, will you throw up the baby?”
I’ve always wanted a large family. Maybe we’ll stop after three and call that “large enough.” Maybe we’ll test nature a little more and see if four is possible. Rick looks at me like I’m crazy when I say that, but these kids will keep us young! 🙂 Our babysitter’s mom told me she had four more after she was my age, so it’s possible that if I keep myself healthy, I have plenty of time left…
Parenting. How in the world are we supposed to do it?
I don’t think our parents or grandparents wondered about this question. They knew how to be parents. They did what their parents did, with a few exceptions in abusive situations. Parents were the bosses. Kids were to listen and obey. If they didn’t, they were taken in hand immediately. If that meant they were spanked, so be it. If they were shamed, it was for their own good. Better for your parent to shame you than to be made ashamed in public because you didn’t know how to behave.
Into this culture, we have begun raising our children. As older parents with a fairly good age gap between us (11 years), we complicate things by adding the challenge of different generations. Grandparents, aunts/uncles, teachers, and friends add in their ideas.
Popular books and parenting theories call to us that we’re doing everything wrong, and their ideas oppose one another. Be gentle! Be firm! Let them cry! NEVER EVER EVER let them cry! Be fastidious about germs and cleanliness! Forget cleanliness and spend every waking minute interacting with your kids! Grow/raise all your own organic, non-GMO food! Give them lots of meat! Meat is terrible for you; give them brown rice and sunflower seeds! Brown rice is the devil and will cause cancer! They must learn to sleep in their own bed and fall asleep alone. You must never put them down. Strap your baby to your chest and sleep topless so the baby can nurse around the clock. Seriously. All these things are real advice I’ve been given.
It’s hard on me to know that someone doesn’t agree with my parenting decisions, even if I continue to do what I think is best. At the airport on a layover from our recent vacation, our 2 and 3 year olds were acting exactly like they should. They’d been awake since 4am, confined to car seats, plane seats, and the stroller. They had about 30 minutes before they’d be confined to more seats, so they were happily running and talking excitedly to one another. They weren’t being disobedient or disrespectful and I was enjoying their freedom.
Then I looked over and saw an elderly man looking at them in disgust. He was trying to read a book and was obviously very distracted and displeased by their behavior. Suddenly, I was on edge. While everyone else had smiles and seemed delighted by their harmless antics, this man grouched. The area was crowded and there was nowhere else for us to reasonably go, so we were stuck together. I decided that I wasn’t going to make them sit and be quiet, just to manage one person’s unrealistic expectations, but I did make sure they stayed away from him and kept their voices a little quieter. I thought of explaining to him that they really needed to get their energy out, but I decided to deal with my own discomfort and give them what they needed.
This type of situation plays out for me regularly. I’m sensitive to those around me, constantly weighing how my actions (or those of my children) affect others. I know it’s a fairly neurotic way of living and I fight it, but it’s still there.
My husband has no such neurosis. He is confident in his parenting decisions and doesn’t care what most people think about them. When I point out someone else’s discomfort to him, his response is to let them come talk to him about it. He’ll put them in their place. It’s a good balance for me.
My two-year old son has begun testing his limits. He wants to do everything himself. If we do something for him, he screams until he gets to do it himself. This morning I handed him a juice cup, which infuriated him. He put it back on the table, let it sit there for a moment, then picked it up himself. I mean, really? But oh yes… This child who has been so sweet and compliant for the last two years is suddenly defiant, cranky, dangerous, and oddly clingy. “Mommy, hold-y,” has become as regular as “Me do it!”
Into this situation, I bring all my confusion and frustration over the best way to parent. I try it all, praying the whole time. At first, I try gentle and loving. I try to redirect him. I use humor and show him all the fun, safe things he could do. He rages louder as the water he’s playing with gets dangerously hot. I get down on the floor and ask him why he’s so upset. (Answer: Because me do it myself!) I hold and hug him. I rub his back. He kicks me and knocks my glasses off. I put him in his bed until he can calm down. He bangs his head on the bed and gets his foot stuck between the slats. The look on his face is pure shock at my betrayal of his comfort.
I speak firmly, raising my voice a bit to let him know I’m serious. He soldiers on, determined to have his own way. I physically remove him from the situation. He responds by trying to bite me. Yesterday, I picked him up off his tricycle and carried both him and the bike away from the road as a semi-truck went barreling by. While I carried him away, he kicked and bucked so hard that I nearly dropped him on the gravel driveway.
I am literally fighting to keep him alive while he tries with all his might to kill or maim himself.
Finally, in total fear for his life and frustration with all the competing voices in my head that tell me to be soft and gentle and rational with this tiny dictator, I spank him. I warn him three times, then calmly pick him up and firmly swat his diapered butt twice. He crumbles into devastation that I would hurt him in that way, we hug it out while I tell him that I hate to spank him and never want to have to do it again, and then he toddles off to play nicely with his sister, no longer determined to die.
You can tell me that’s wrong if you want to. Tell me I should’ve taken him inside the house so he could find a new way to try to kill himself. Perilously steep basement steps, anyone? Tell me to wrap him in bubble wrap and pad my house from top to bottom, remove anything hot and take all the doors off their hinges. Seriously, there are death traps around every corner. Tell me that hitting him teaches him violence and that I’m abusive and unfit.
But keeping this beautiful boy alive is my job. And sometimes that means that I will scream at him (“Don’t touch the hot iron!”), ignore his cries while he sits in a chair alone for a few minutes, and even spank him.
Every day he is faced with things that his dad and I are allowed to do and he is not. He isn’t allowed to walk on the road alone, so should we stop so he doesn’t get confused? He isn’t allowed to use the stove, so should I stop cooking so he doesn’t think he’s allowed to use it? I feel like any kind of correction we give him is the same thing: parents correct, children receive. If he hits me back, he receives another corrective measure. Hitting is not spanking. They are very different. Even at two years old, he understands that concept.
But the truth is that I have no idea what I’m doing. As a nanny, I knew it all. If only parents could take care of their children like I did, the world would be a better place. As a parent, I am lost and afraid. I want to be consistent and strong, understanding and fun, scheduled and whimsical, with a clean house and yet free to play ball all day. I want to keep them away from sugar and super-normally stimulating foods that lead to overconsumption. I want them to enjoy their childhood without so much restriction they turn out weird. I’m flying by the seat of my pants, hoping these kids will turn out okay and know how much I adore their precious selves. Nothing will ever stop me from loving them with all my heart.
Last year I read a book that changed my perspective on parenting and gave me some grace for myself. It’s called “A Walk to Beautiful” by Jimmy Wayne. Jimmy, a successful country singer/songwriter, tells the story of his childhood. He was raised by a drug-addicted mother, carted off from place to place, often left alone, watching as his mom bought drugs with their food money and he starved, and then was finally abandoned as a teenager while his mom went off with a man. Because a few people were kind to him (not over-the-top rescuers, but reasonably kind people), he was able to make something of himself. (I think this is an important book for anyone who works with children to read, helping us to understand what might be going on in the homes of children we encounter.)
A close friend tells me about her childhood from time to time and I stare at her aghast. She seems so normal and healthy, yet her parents almost completely neglected her. There were no drugs or addictions to explain it away. They were just completely consumed with themselves and church. Yes, church. (Sinners are we, one and all.) She wasn’t protected from bullies, fed regular meals, put to bed, or helped with her homework.
As soon as she was old enough to provide for her own basic needs (I’m not sure what happened before that), she found whatever food was around and ate that. She fell asleep wherever she happened to be in the house and slept there all night. She was put in school, but no one ever checked to be sure she was okay there or learning. No one combed her hair or helped her put outfits together. While the most basic care was provided, anything close to nurture was withheld. She learned to nurture herself and to give others what she was never given.
Into the face of those parenting styles, I look and examine myself as a mother. Hmmm… I think I’m doing okay.
My children are well-fed, clothed, bathed, and nurtured. They are treasured and prized, not only by me but by their father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. They have structure and stability. They have a safe place to sleep and play. They have parents who are trying to teach them about God, grace and forgiveness, boundaries, and healthy relationships. We have fun together, we work together, and we occasionally try to sleep in the same bed together.
I’m coming to the conclusion that the rest of it is a lot less important than we think. We do our best, but the outcome isn’t up to us. We decide what works for our family and our own conscience. We deal with the circumstances we’ve been given in the best way possible.
For the time-being, I’ve put down the plethora of parenting books I’ve tried to study and decided to trust my instincts. It seems that God brings the right information to mind at the right time. At the time of this writing, my 2-year old has been making his way into our bed every night for about a month. It was sweet at first, a way to comfort him as he teethed. Now it’s gotten problematic and I’m ready to get him back into his own bed again. My 3-year old sleeps like a little champ, but getting her to sleep is a task… I’ve enjoyed rocking and singing her to sleep for the last 3 1/2 years, but I’m working on teaching her some new habits.
In the meantime, if you see a blank look on my face as my children act up, know that I’m not actually ignoring them. I’m simply scrolling through the massive amount of parenting information I’ve been exposed to and trying to figure out which way to handle the current situation. I’m gaining confidence a little each day. But I’m not the mama who unapologetically knows exactly what to do in each moment. I’m finding my way.