yes siree, we make small babies!

It’s been interesting to be pregnant.  Although, when is it not?  And I, the Type A, competitive person that I am, have always mentally had a rank/seniority mentality on pregnancy.  If you see another pregnant lady and she is farther along than you, she gets the “win” of respect.  However, if she is less far along in her pregnancy, but onto a higher number of pregnancies than you (e.g. she is on her third and you are on your second), she pulls rank and thus gets props for being farther into parenting.  It is really dumb and, up until this post, never been revealed.  Needless to say, I am enjoying pulling rank lately.  Is this your first?  Nope, fourth.  Apparently, I am easily amused.  But after that part is over, I prefer to not get into more details than that.  Pregnancy is a public thing and I am at a loss for knowing where we fit in as parents.  Certainly, we are having our fourth child, but we never had much time with Reece, Britta, and Scarlett together.  We both agree that we manage three kids and that many days, Reece requires the most energy.  Still, we don’t know the management of three both physically and mentally.  It feels a little strange–we don’t fit in anywhere other than the chiseled out, unique place we have landed.

Moving right along, if you read along with Like Olive Shoots or you know our family, then you know that we have a history with IUGR (intrauterine growth restricted) babies.  We had our 19-week ultrasound a month ago and, while most measurements were spot on, the head-to-abdomen ratio was 1/100 of a point out of normal range.  The head is smaller proportionally to the abdomen.  It is the trademark of our babies!  (And wow, has it been helpful come labor and delivery time!)  However, it was enough to send us back in today to get a repeat measurement.  This being our fourth time around, we knew to expect this and assumed we would be heavily monitored throughout the pregnancy anyway.  I went in for the ultrasound today expecting things to be pretty normal.  I was hoping that, for once, things would be straightforward.  I guess they are normal for us, because in consistent fashion, the baby’s abdomen has now fallen to the <5%.  Again, we are not overly worried, nor is our doctor, but it means that higher monitoring will occur.  The good news is that the baby is proportional, meaning that the head, abdomen, and femur (leg) measurements are all consistent.  Baby was measuring spot on the due date last month.  Now, all three measurements are consistently nearly a week and a half behind.  I had to remind Terry that Scarlett was already two to three weeks behind at this point.  This is usually what happens.  The 20 week ultrasound goes normally and then we start falling behind.  Reece was the only one of our three to have real threats to his health with the many things that were happening.  All of his complications have been considered random and neither of our girls experienced those same anomalies, despite their small sizes.  Hence, most of the size issues have to do with genetics.  (Ahem–I’ll give that credit to Terry who was also a tiny baby; I can not claim the same for myself!)  Reece dropped way off the charts right before the last month of pregnancy (measuring five weeks behind!), weighing in at 4 lbs., 2 oz.  Britta was never technically IUGR and remains our family “bruiser” at 6 lbs., 7 oz., although she tracked two weeks behind during the pregnancy.  This is comical, because she is tiny now.  She is our smallest of three small children.  At over three years old, her 2T shorts fit her perfectly this summer! She weighs 26 lbs. with all her clothing on and if she hasn’t yet gone to the bathroom!   Scarlett was our most consistently growth-restricted throughout the pregnancy and was born at 5 lbs., 13 oz.  Post birth weight, she is our biggest baby, although still not even to the 50% on most measurements.  In retrospect, while I ate well and did everything in a textbook, healthy manner with her (including exercise restrictions my last 8 weeks), I know the stress of last year probably didn’t help anything with her growth.  In summary, we have small kids and this fourth baby is no exception.

We found out last month that we are having a boy!  It’s exciting and complicated, but we are thrilled to meet him!  As it was with both girls, I only know the children I have, so it is hard to imagine yet another version of Terry and me.  With Britta, I could only picture Reece and with Scarlett, I could only imagine Britta as our girl.  So now, it is hard to think of another boy being in our family and having it not be Reece.  But he has a whole lot of cool cars, trucks, and trains waiting for him to play with!  Actually, I spend very little time thinking of that.  It feels vulnerable to start imagining him being with us, so I try to focus one day at a time.  If something should happen, I don’t want to have to erase the things I have envisioned for him.  It’s hard to do, but I guess that’s the way I’m coping with it.  Regardless, we are excited to be having another baby and this, very likely, will be our last.  I’m trying to savor this last pregnancy, but I sure could use a glass of wine these days.

my year in genesis

We finished our year of BSF on Tuesday and we reflected on what we had learned through studying Genesis.  I will admit, I was a little hesitant about studying Genesis and it was mostly due to not really wanting to learn anything further this year.  I was “learned out” from a practical application standpoint, but decided that it would be good to be studying The Word with other women again and indeed it would be good for the girls to go to the children’s program.   When I left partway through Acts last year, most of my answers to the study questions were theoretical to me.  I had lived a pretty cushy life and while I had some challenging things happen, nothing had been so big that I couldn’t muscle my way through it.  Coming back to study, after living through the isolating, pain-filled, God-dependent ordeal we had lived through was entirely different.  I mean, where was I to start?  It seemed so many questions needed several pages to answer and depending on the day, I simply did not want to go there.  I’ll admit, about halfway through the year I thought about not continuing, but it really didn’t make sense to quit and I knew if I didn’t face some of these challenges now, I’d face them in the future and have to work through them all over again.  I reminded myself again that I could not deny the girls the opportunity to attend and learn from the loving, caring women who faithfully teach them the lessons every week.  And ultimately, I knew I had to do something “normal” in regard to social interactions.  I decided to stay.  So reflecting back over the year was an important exercise for me; to see where I came from and where I am now.  Here are my big takeaways from a year in the Book of Genesis:

God is purposeful and good. 

He made everything purposefully.  We are purposeful beings.  We have ups and downs and they mean something to Him.  Because they mean something to Him, it then changes the way that I view it.  I can rest when I know that He has purpose for what we endure and the hardships we face.  Nothing feels worse than to go through something difficult and feel like it happened for no reason.  This is NOT the case with God.  When things feel senseless and meaningless, I can rest in knowing that He will use it all and it will ultimately be good, because He is good.   According to Google, “good” means something that is morally right; righteous (noun) or to be desired or approved of (adjective). How many times have we prayed that meal blessing at our table, “God is great; God is good.  And we thank Him for our food,” and not really let the words sink in?  I realize that when watching the news it is hard to believe that things will be used for God’s purposes or that any good could come from them.  The world is full of things happening that seem senseless and terrible. I don’t desire the circumstances Reece lived through or that others endure, but I know in my soul that it will be well.  It’s a matter of trust in God that He is faithful to what He has promised.

As we studied the life of Joseph–who was sold (by his brothers, no less) into slavery, believed dead by his family, and thrown into prison for being (falsely) accused of attacking a woman, he ultimately became a powerful man in Egypt and he trusted in God and His plan.  Told near the end of Genesis, the story of his life is more than the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat–it is worth your time to read it.  But here’s my other deal with it.  I’m so thankful that Joseph had things happen later in his life where he could see some, I repeat some resolution here on Earth.  He could see how his turmoil resulted in something great.  However, there are many people who never see that resolution here.  It doesn’t mean that the same promise of God doesn’t hold true or that He is only good when He demonstrates the resolution here.  It just means it will be resolved and revealed in Heaven.  I don’t think of Reece as losing a battle or not being healed.  False.  He is perfectly healed.  Being delivered into Heaven isn’t a consolation prize for not receiving healing here.  Terry and I agreed even on the day he passed away that we would not ask for him to be back here, even in his healthiest, normal state.  If we truly embrace the promise that Heaven is our home, I can’t ask for him to come back here.  I remind myself often that Reece is doing something today that far exceeds what his day or any of our days would look like here.  It’s awesome to think about!  Nevertheless, I don’t get to understand how that all plays out for probably quite sometime.  I didn’t get the chance to see it resolved here, but resolution for him did happen and I will understand it all one day.  Likewise, God knew we would suffer the loss of Reece.  This will not be resolved for us here.  We expect that we will suffer this until our own bodies give way; we will endure lifelong suffering.  But my soul is at peace here when I know deeply that it has purpose and that God is good in it.  He made the earth and everything in it and declared it good.  He is good.  He is good even when it doesn’t turn out the way we want it to turn out.  This year, in particular, I needed to see that He is purposeful and good.

My walk with God won’t be easy. 

I knew this to be true already, but it was powerful to read about the lives of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) and Joseph and to see how while God chose these men to establish His people, they struggled in life.  They made poor decisions, they endured hardships, they wrestled with God (Jacob, literally), they struggled to trust God, yet God was faithful to them.  He showed his love for them through it all.  While I already knew life here would be tough, it was oddly reassuring to read through it this year and realize that these struggles have been going on since Creation and will always be while we are here.  It doesn’t mean that God is necessarily punishing us (although at times, it might).  It means I am guaranteed suffering here, but that shouldn’t be falsely interpreted as God not caring for me or loving me.  God’s love isn’t solely demonstrated by what He spares us from, but also includes what He helps us endure.  Since the beginning of time, God has persevered with people by His love and mercy–The Fall, The Flood, The Patriarchs, slavery, the death of Jesus, and so much more up to the present day.  It really gets back to my first takeaway.  Even when life feels raw, when we suffer, when we are hurt, when we make bad choices and suffer the consequences, God cares and He is faithful to us.  I needed to see that come through the lives of the men in Genesis.

I should preface this next part by saying it has been an ongoing process to discern what is laid on my soul by God/stirred through the Holy Spirit, what is produced in my mind as a fear or protective, innate response to something, and what is just my mind wandering.  It’s one thing to look backwards and sort through things to see God’s hand, but I have been paying attention to try to understand, at present, what the Lord is trying to communicate to me.  I will never know God’s plan for me or my family in full until I get to Heaven and God reveals as much as I need to know.

With this in mind, I had something laid on my heart a few weeks back that has been aided by my learning in Genesis and that I feel God specifically pointed out to me one day.  Scarlett, our third child, has always been a mystery to me.  She is the one child of our four that seemed to come out of nowhere.  I love her so much, so this does not reflect any sort of negativity towards her.  However, we were quite surprised to find out that we were pregnant with her about six weeks prior to Reece’s blood work.  As the pregnancy continued on, it limited my ability to help with Reece (picking him up, doing overnights at the hospital, etc.).  I felt frustrated with my lack of ability to do things with him and often had to tell him I couldn’t do what he wanted.  I felt torn between Reece’s many needs and Scarlett’s baby needs after she was born.  I felt somewhat resentful that pregnancy should be a happy time and instead my pregnancy with her was full of stress and tears.  I have felt anger over having to tell Reece “no” to anything at all in his last months with us.  There were many times I felt I had to choose between the two kids and it felt so wrong given the serious nature of the situation.  Also, I struggled with knowing that Scarlett’s birth and Reece’s passing were only 9 weeks apart…forever associating the two in that way.

In addition, while I don’t regularly struggle with this line of thinking, it is difficult to not feel at times like Reece suffered for something we did.  In my pursuit to try to make sense of Reece’s failing health, many things have run through my mind and certainly one of them is that we are somehow punished by this circumstance.  The Bible discusses punishments–even punishments for sins committed generations before.  I don’t get mentally stuck there, but it of course has come up in conversation.  However, as we continued to study Genesis, it highlighted how blessed people have been with children.  Certainly, we know we are blessed with all four of our children.  Children have been a source of blessing back to the Creation.

Keeping all of this in mind, I had this moment of peace and understanding one morning that touched me so deeply, I believe it is from the Lord.  It occurred to me that Scarlett was given purely as a gift of life at a time of earthly death.  This might seem obvious and when I read it, it seems obvious, too.  But on a deeper level, I thought about it in terms of such a contrast of blessing with both the beginning of life here for one child and life in Heaven for another.  I feel like Scarlett was, among many other things, a way for me to understand that God’s purpose for us is parenting.  He continued to show His love in such a powerful and joy-filled way through the obvious blessing of her.  The joy over (well, all three children at the time) Scarlett and Reece are so vastly different, but bringing life into this world at such a time is, to me, a sign of God’s faithfulness to us.  It really overwhelms me to think about it.  It doesn’t mean we will be spared from other suffering or loss, it just means to me that God is faithful to us.  He would be faithful without having given us Scarlett, but He chose that for us, just like He chose to take Reece away.  He didn’t have to give us a child to show His faithfulness, but He reassured me that He indeed has chosen a path of parenting for us and that we are blessed with this path.  I don’t believe He is punishing us for something we are doing or something we did.  It seems affirming in our decision to parent as though He is saying, “I’m going to take one child from you physically, but I am going to entrust you with another, so you understand that I trust you with these children and that I love you.  This is about my plan for Reece and your lives, but it isn’t about your punishment.  You need to trust Me.”  (He didn’t audibly say that, but that is what the message felt like to me.)  He blessed us in the middle of it all.  So many of the blessings felt like they had to be wrung out of that circumstance, but Scarlett was poured out over us.  He didn’t have to do that for us.  Now, what seemed so frustrating in the midst of it all has turned into a completely different realization. It doesn’t change our longing for Reece.  However, He knew our desires before we even knew them ourselves and worked it out for our good, so while in the midst of our suffering we can also literally see our blessings.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

a body never forgets

There hasn’t been a ton of time for blogging lately, mostly because I tend to blog on Thursdays when I am out of the house for a while sans children.  As time has passed this year, it seems my Thursdays fill up pretty quickly…it turns out that coffee with a friend is actually relaxing when you aren’t chasing little ones!  As of late, my Thursdays are booked with PT appointments to manage an old running injury from grad school.  This is only the third time in 11 years it has reared its ugly head, but–wow–is it painful!  It is actually an SI joint injury I managed to achieve during my ridiculously-obsessed-with-running years in the early 2000’s.  It isn’t related to pregnancy, but the last two times I have had to go to PT I have been pregnant…the pregnant part only makes it worse.  I’m hopeful that I’ll be back running and active in a couple of weeks, but it has made life interesting, considering I have a one-year-old that demands I carry her most places.

This injury is timely in light of one of our recent bible study questions, “How are you suffering the consequences of a former sin?”  When I got to this question, I immediately thought of my body–both physical and mental.  I could point out many things that I “carry” with me that have been a result of some form of sin–things that ail me either physically or in my own thinking and memories.  I really hadn’t considered this injury as a result of sin before this week, but the reality is, it likely is.  I got it at a time when I was glorifying myself and body over everything else.  I obsessed over my weight and I planned everything around when and how I would work out.  It is no wonder that an injury occurred.  Yes, I have been able to manage it so well that I am unaware of it for the most part.  I’ve reworked my running gait, changed my posture, changed my exercise habits, and have mostly been healed of the obsession–the root of the problem.  But every few years it manages to resurface and keep me humble.  I think without some of these ailments, I would forget how I have been dealt with mercifully–I would become self-reliant in an even bigger way.  I need to be reminded that sins have consequences.  Paul speaks of his own circumstance with a thorn in his flesh:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”                            2 Corinthians 12:7b-9

As I further thought about the question from BSF, I reflected on Reece.  I don’t believe our bodies ever truly heal here.  I think of Reece’s body and how the biggest concern going into transplant was not all the germs that could come into his body, but rather what already lived there.  All the Work-up Week testing that was done included a history of what he had already been exposed to, as it resided in his blood already.  Even those tests had limits as to what they could tell us in regard to exposures.  It demonstrates that not only do our bodies record our own sin (like my injury), but also they record the world’s sin (like the common viruses we acquire and build up immunities to).  It’s pretty humbling. I don’t for a second think of Reece’s diagnosis as a result of his own sin.  I think his MDS was a result of a fallen, imperfect world.  In a child, I view it as more of the weight of the world’s sin, versus the result of things he chose for himself.  But Reece’s life on earth became–as most of us will eventually become–a casualty of sin.  Sin outweighs us, outnumbers us, outsmarts us…here; on our own.  Some of us will have to deal with decades of it and others, like Reece, will endure a short, but powerful few years.  At some point, our healing will have to come from our Maker.  A sub-standard, human, bandaged effort–albeit sophisticated in many regards–will not be enough.  But the reality is, until we are healed into Heaven, our bodies and minds do not forget what they have endured.

Likewise, our minds are subjected to ailments, including damage from what we have lived through; they also keep a record of hardships.  We routinely refer to mental wounds as “baggage” or “issues”.  Speaking of which, I was feeling pretty mentally damaged myself a few weeks back.  I hit a low spot as I was overwhelmed with the pregnancy, our girls, and the reality of Reece.  Terry and I had gone out on a lovely date night, but as dinner wore on, we inevitably started discussing Reece.  At first, we talked about happy things.  But then it turned to some of the memories from about a year ago and it ended the night on a somber note.  I just kept thinking about our life and how we would manage it all.  Like I said–I felt like damaged goods–unrecoverable.  Thankfully, the sun rises and the sun sets and there is a new day on the horizon.  As I have gotten a little distance, I realize that every time I look at the obvious hardships of losing Reece, it becomes completely defeating.  Outside of God, the grave nature overwhelms me every single time.  It’s only in the context of Eternity that my mind is freed, that I can feel hope in the larger purpose and encouragement in the ultimate healing that comes from knowing Christ and being forgiven of the mess of sin that devours our lives here.  There is no remission in Heaven; it’s the only place we can truly declare ourselves cured.

In this context, I can understand why we don’t ever rid ourselves of our past while we are here.  I need some reminders that I have messed up, that I continue to mess up, and that I’ll be messing up for the rest of my days.  But instead of thinking about it in terms of “just bad luck” or “overuse” or “baggage”, I am reminded this week that my own ailments are part of a much larger picture for my life.  They serve as reminders to myself, as lessons for myself and those around me, and as opportunities to examine my own self and how I conduct myself while I’m here.  I can’t rely on myself to be perfect, because I’m a proven failure at it.  I’ve got the bumps and bruises to show for it.

“If I’m thinking of the person I’m going to marry, I won’t be an easy target for seduction. Likewise, when I’ve meditated on Heaven, sin becomes terribly unappealing. Our high tolerance for sin testifies to our failure to prepare for Heaven. ‘Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.’ (1 John 3:3, NASB).

~Randy Alcorn, “Heaven”