Monday, May 28, 2012

Battle wounds, freedom, gratitude

Since December 2005, I have had no breaks, between being pregnant and nursing. I have had three pregnancies and four babies: my first child was born in September of 2006, my second child was born in May of 2008, and my third and fourth children, twins, were born in October of 2011. In between and during parts of my pregnancies, I was nursing somebody or other.

Towards the end of my first pregnancy, at about 38 weeks, I got stretch marks. The first ever in my life. The stretch marks left a texture on my belly that was foreign to me and left marks I had never seen on myself before. At an age where women are expected to be toothpick thin and are accepted or rejected based on looks, this was unnerving.

That was just the beginning of battle scars I would endure and maintain from this (first) pregnancy. After being induced and in labor in the hospital for a full day and a half, I was delivered shocking news that I needed to have an emergency C-section. I was scared, ever so scared; this was my first surgery EVER, and only a thin hospital gown prevented me from seeing myself get cut wide open and my organs pulled out of my body for everyone to see. I was freaking out. But, there seemingly was no choice. My daughter needed to be rescued from imminent danger, and I wanted to help in whatever way possible.

To the Lord in Heaven above, I give thanks for that child that was born, battle scars and all. Though she spent nearly a week in the NICU, fighting for her life, she's a healthy, talkative, considerate daughter of mine. She is now five and a half years old.

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 When Isabella was 11 months old, my husband and I decided having two children close in age seemed like a good idea. So, we actively started trying for another child. I got pregnant on the first try. Again. I continued nursing my firstborn for nearly six full months, until my firstborn was 17 months old. I stopped in my second trimester, because I didn't want Isabella to associate weaning with the new baby and I neither wanted nor was prepared to tandem nurse.

My pregnant belly showed itself much sooner than the first pregnancy. A bit too soon for me. I was showing by seven or eight weeks. I also got larger than I did in the first pregnancy. Much of that pregnancy was a blur; it flew by all too quickly.

With a C-section and a very undesirable experience behind me, I was determined to attempt a healthy VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section). That chance nearly didn't happen. I went past my due date, and my obstetrician wasn't comfortable letting me attempt a VBAC after a week past my due date. On top of that, she was not on-call and she was not working the weekend past my due date. Not just any obstetrician would be willing to assist in delivering a VBAC. Victoria prepared to enter the world, without any medical intervention (like induction), on a Friday before the weekend. I am certain the Lord had a hand in granting my heart's desire for a healthy (healthy for the baby as well as me) VBAC, because too many details fell into place for mere coincidence or luck.

Through that second pregnancy, the two sides of my abdomen (the left side and the right side) have not come back together. There is an issue beyond aesthetic or visual displeasure in that. Part of my innards (my organs) protrude from that spot (where the two sides of the abdomen are separated), from time to time. When that happens, it is painful. Regular abdominal exercises, such as sit-ups, exacerbate the situation instead of helping. On top of that wonderful battle wound, my skin stretched even further than the first pregnancy, and I had a pooch that decided to make its home on my belly.

But, I got a beautiful, rambunctious, spirited daughter to keep. She was my bosom buddy and nursed for 33 months (2 3/4 yrs). I nursed her until the beginning of the second trimester of my third pregnancy. This child of mine just turned four years old.

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 My husband and I though two children were enough. These dear, sweet children kept our lives busy. I once wondered how I could possibly divide my love between two children. But, I had plenty of love to pour out to both of these children of mine.

***
There are plenty of discussions of how various birth control plans (whether birth control pills or other options) are close guarantees, but people have still conceived, even when going by the rules). The Lord had other plans for us, for me. I took my time nursing Victoria and didn't insist on weaning her, thinking she would be my last child. But a pregnancy, with TWINS, necessitated otherwise.

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 Even the midwives, who are much more relaxed with matters in general than obstetricians, heavily encouraged me to wean Victoria, for my sake as well as for the sake of the growing babies in my belly.

***

Wow, this third pregnancy threw me for a whirlwind. I was surprised to be pregnant. Imagine the utter SHOCK when I found out there were two yolk sacs, two babies, and two hearts beating inside my body. Well, including mine, technically, there were three hearts beating within me. It wasn't long before I got stares from people at my quickly swelling belly. Alright, alright, I know, I'm huge.

Shocking stares turned into stares of concern. When sitting behind the wheel of my minivan, my very pregnant belly was making contact with the steering wheel every time I turned my head to look at my blind spots. This was later in my third trimester. My dad was wondering how I was still standing. All joking aside, he was quite concerned. I carried the twins to almost 38 1/2 weeks. I definitely had stretch marks on different parts of my belly, but now I also had some stretch marks on my breasts. Great. Fantastic. Look at my growing excitement. ARGH!

I had planned on and hoped for a couple more VBACs with the twins, but I knew that could possibly face undesirable results, such as one VBAC followed by a C-section or a C-section for both babies. I carried the twins full term; they were each the weight of a singleton; I was able to have both babies naturally, vaginally, without complication; and, the total amount of time was less than two hours from the time my water broke to when both babies came into the world. I'm not bragging. I'm ever grateful for each of occurrences.

This is the way the babies entered the world. Christine, who emerged first, didn't cry as she exited the womb and didn't cry for the first hour of life in the world. Christian entered the world screaming. And here they are, 7 1/2 months later; nothing has changed.


7 1/2 months later, I am slowly succumbing to the fact that my belly likely will never recover from carrying four babies in the belly, two of whom simultaneously occupied my tummy at once. I have resigned to the reality that these are battle wounds and scars I will keep. Though my belly might slim down further, I doubt I will ever get back to a pre-pregnancy belly. Though my stretch marks will likely fade with time, I doubt they will entirely disappear. My surgery incision (from the birth of my first child) scar has faded with time, but the location of the incision is still present and scar tissue doesn't just disappear. But the gifts and wonders I got in exchange for the pregnancy and birth scars and wounds are blessings I would never take back.

***

There are men and women across our nation who have willingly and voluntarily placed themselves in harms way for random strangers like me. There is very little to nothing I wouldn't do for my brood, for my children. Strangers? Random people? Not sure I'd do what our soldiers have done. Our soldiers have distanced (geographically) themselves from loved ones and familiar surroundings; suffered unimaginable horrors and atrocities; carry battle scars, seen & unseen, psychological & physical - all for strangers like us, for our nation, for our freedom. This sort of sacrifice is difficult to imagine. Thank you so very much for what you (soldiers) have done for us.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Victoria's end of the year preschool performance

This past Monday, the 21st, was Victoria's last day of preschool, until the fall. Her preschool had performances by class. I was sitting close to the back. When it was her class's turn, I ran towards the front and kneeled on the floor. My daughter was looking for me. As soon as she spotted me, she went from being shy with her fingers in her mouth to smiling from ear to ear.

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They were singing about a spider than climbed all over the place.

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On the floor. High and low. On the head and below.

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On the neck and through.

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In the hair, too, the spider went.




Here, the preschoolers are singing about reading a book with glasses.

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This is about dinosaurs marching, marching. What do you think about that?!



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And they ROAAAAAAAR.

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Then when Victoria wasn't supposed to be on stage and we were watching preschoolers graduate, she was so good at sitting and looking at a wonderful binder full of stuff her teacher had put together, just for her. Ms. Sullivan tailor-made a binder for each student. Victoria definitely didn't have the ability to sit and be still last year. She wanted to be on stage with her sister.

 Victoria was very high energy and ecstatic.

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Couldn't get her to sit still long enough for even one photograph with her teacher. Her super fantastic, patient, loving, and talented teach.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Maybe she's in a really bad mood

Victoria, the twins, and I went Sunflower Farmer's Market after our coffee date this morning. I pulled into a parking space, next to a parked car. After I got out, I noticed the owner of the car next to me leaving the store with her groceries. I had just pulled the twin stroller frame out of the car and Victoria was getting ready to step out of the car, when the woman spat to me, "Can you move your car over a bit?"

I was speechless. What? I was not parked over the line or even on the line. I was at least half a foot inside the line. And she was yelling at me? Has she ever considered the fact that the parking spaces at this grocery store are small?

I was thinking, the audacity of this woman. I told her I was well inside the line and then said I would see about trying to move over a bit (I am a pleaser and a peace maker inside), but I had three children with me.

I was a tad shaken up that this woman was confrontational about parking "too close" to her, even though I was well inside my space. For the next few people who walked passed us, Victoria told each one of them that "a woman yelled at my mommy." One of the women listening to Victoria said something to the effect of "That's not nice at all. Maybe she's in a really bad mood."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

12 inches, gone

 A plan in the making for some time now. Donating my hair to Locks of Love. Have been explaining to my older two children what I was planning on doing. My older two children are five years old and four years old, so the explanations have to be age appropriate and not too long winded. I'm donating my hair so children who have certain illnesses and lose their hair as a result can have hair. Real hair.

Before my hair cut this morning.

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Here's my hair, after 12 inches got chopped off and some trim work got done.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Victoria's 4th birthday

Up until seven and a half months ago, she was the baby of the family. Now Victoria is the second oldest of the siblings in the family. She was breastfed until she was 2 3/4 years old. She calls my chest "breast milk." She still loves to cuddle with me.

We have been figuring out how to give her (as well as her siblings) the attention she needs and craves. And I think we're finding that stride. You can see hints of that joy in the photographs below.

I remember quite well the day you joined us in the world. The Lord granted me my heartfelt desire to be able to have an uncomplicated vaginal birth. So many pieces - that almost didn't happen and fall into place - had to occur for the VBAC to occur. And they did. Not just luck or happenstance.

Happy 4th birthday, my precious, my beloved daughter. She's quick on her feet and very high energy. I couldn't get her to stop moving for a few photographs. We had just arrived at her preschool.

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 Little (or not so little) bundle of energy ran around, squealing in high pitches and running wildly.


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So wildly, she ran into my camera lens. Ouch. Didn't stop her for long.


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 Happy, happy birthday, Victoria. Thank you for being my daughter. I am so joyful you are a part of my life and I am blessed to be your mommy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Mother's Day to Remember

 
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Life has had its various courses of turbulence. But, events and blessings surrounding Mother's Day have filled my heart with love and tenderness. I have the Lord and friends and family to thank for that.

Victoria came home the day before yesterday with a package for me, for Mother's Day. I chose not to open this package until today, Mother's Day.



What a glorious and colorful way to create a butterfly; a creative teacher Victoria has.


Thank you, dear Victoria for leaving your imprint with me. How lovely it is.


When I picked up Isabella from kindergarten, she had a flower in hand for me. How creative it is! And the attention to detail. I cannot imagine cutting those pedals for each student's mom. I guess Isabella could have cut those, but I'm sure each child needed help with assembly. How perfect and exquisite the flower looks!
 

Then, I went to church this morning, and a high school age gal gave me two peonies from her peony bush(es) at home. How sweet, thoughtful, and kind.
 And fragrant.


Thank you, Lord, for providing me with a mommy who loves me and has stood by my side through thick and thin. Even though I am grown and have my own children, I'm still my mom's precious daughter.

Thank you, Jesus, for bestowing four precious little ones upon me and entrusting me as their parent. I love you, my precious, beloved children; and I am honored to be your mommy.

 
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Monday, May 07, 2012

Sisters

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My sweet, sweet children. Victoria, who was the baby of the family for nearly three and a half years of her life, is now the second oldest amongst her siblings. Christine, 11 minutes older than her brother, is the youngest of the sisters but totally dominates her brother. Er, uh, sometimes in a bad way. Then, there's Isabella, who grows older, wiser, and more princess-y every day.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Precious artwork from my girls

A Mother's Day gift for me, from the girls. For those of you who are on a pretty strict budget (like me), these frames were at a sale price, and I had a 20% off coupon the store honored, even with the sale price. And I wanted colored mats to go with the drawing and painting. To get that at a discounted price, I purchased ready-cut mats. To have a mat cut would have cost 4x the cost of a ready-cut mat.

Anyways, the first one is my 5 yr old's drawing of the family. Both of the older girls are huge into princess stuff and beautiful gowns; somehow I think the exquisite attire made it into Isabella's drawing.


This second one was painted by my 3 yr old. Victoria, as well as Isabella, loves, loves, loves rainbows and anything that has rainbow colors or a variety of colors. I believe she, as well as the rest of us, will be taken aback by the colors heaven has to offer (which, from what I hear, offers so many more than what we experience here).


Both of these hang in my bedroom, where I can see them as soon as I wake and when I go to sleep at night. Thank you, precious, precious children.

***

I know Mother's Day is still a little over a week away, but it's never too early to express gratitude for  mothers or mother-figures in our lives.