we had a baby

Yes, we had our baby boy. He’s pretty awesome in every sense of the word. Life has been crazy and sleep-deprived, hence the big, long sabbatical from blogging. Somehow, we managed to space our kids in ever-decreasing age increments (three years, two years, sixteen months). From my vantage point today I would not say the sixteen month spacing is my favorite. It’s two babies in the house. Blessings, yes they are, but it is challenging. Wow, challenging doesn’t even really accurately describe it. Still, this isn’t our first rodeo and we recognize that things will ease up as we work through different ages and stages with our kids. I keep saying, “I know this will get fun at some point.” Right now, all the kids are fun individually, but I know when things start to gel, they will be fun as a group as well. I hope that makes sense. I’m not Complaining; I’m just…complaining with a lower-cased “c”.

I’ll spare the details of the birth and say that I gave birth to a healthy baby boy in mid-September. We named him Jude. His birth was the only one where we did not spend the entire hospital stay debating the name. That is because we knew we were going to have a baby boy several years ago and, if our strong feelings about having him were true, we would name him Jude. When I look back now I have such a fascinating picture of how our family was formed and when and where God let us know how our family would be completed is no exception to it. It’s too long of a story for the amount of time I have to type it all out tonight (hitting the hay early these days!). Perhaps I’ll get into it another time. However, the name “Jude” means “praise or thanks”. It is indeed fitting. I have much gratitude for all of our children. This boy, being our last child, has a name that sums up my feelings towards our being gifted with him, as well as Reece, Britta, and Scarlett.

The girls are fascinated with him and very “hands on”–which makes me nervous at times. Still, I’m glad they are excited to be big sisters and I feel strongly that Reece is aware of his younger brother (and excited about him!) as well. I don’t know how to describe that other than ever since his passing there are things that I feel deep in my soul to be true…this is one of them.

I’ve written a million blog posts in my mind over the past couple of months. I certainly needed the break from blogging and have found, yet again, clarity about writing. The last few months of my pregnancy were quite challenging on multiple fronts and being able to just “be” and experience it all was important. As we get our feet back under us, I plan on continuing to write. I just needed to get this post out there that we did have our sweet little guy and that we are busy, but surviving. Our life continues to be a challenging and often foreign concept to us–at times it seems unrecognizable. Nevertheless, the undeniable, tangible blessing of a new baby in my arms is incredibly grounding and certainly affirms that we are held in the palm of God’s hand.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”
Isaiah 40:11

life with the littles

It’s been about a month since I last posted and I just can’t seem to get things on here more frequently.  I really enjoy writing and hope that I can figure out a way to make it a more regular event.  It is a true reflection of how busy things have been around here and how much time I have to myself these days. I’m not complaining–nope. It’s just a fact of life.

The summer has been flying by and I–unlike so many Midwesterners–am not at all sad that this is the case. I’ve never been a huge “summer person”–whatever that means. Mostly, I am antsy for this baby to get here and to be finished with the chapter of life entitled, “Pregnancy”. I’m trying my best to savor it, but it is getting harder and harder with each passing day. Pregnancy alone is fine, but combined with an active one-year-old who gets into just about everything, it is brutal. Pregnancy is one of those events in life, where you simply forget about all the ins and outs of it after you get through it.  I get to certain stages and have very little memory of what I experienced in previous pregnancies.  Additionally, I was so stressed out and distracted during my last pregnancy (plus, my parents and aunt were primarily chasing Britta), that I don’t recall many of the normal pregnancy-related happenings other than the crazy monitoring at the end.  I really can not remember back four years ago (or seven, in Reece’s case) to remember all the nitty-gritty details I experienced with Britta. Plus, I think I was spared (mercifully) from some of the aches and pains during the last pregnancy.  Even the fourth time around has its own set of surprises.  Still, one thing that I have experienced in all four pregnancies is this: I get tremendously excited when I see food expiration dates on packages that are either my due date or even beyond!  I’m not talking about cans of soup and boxes of Uncle Ben’s wild rice.  I’m talking about milk, cheese, and anything that, should you eat it past that date, it could really get your tummy turning.  That’s right–every time this gets me super excited.  You should have seen me buying milk at Target with the family the other day.  Terry just stared at me in bewilderment when I enthusiastically shouted out that the expiration date was only a day before our due date!

Since my last update regarding my pregnancy (found here), things have calmed down a bit as far as our doctors’ monitoring of the Little Dude (Britta affectionately calls him, “Pineapple”).  My follow-up ultrasound showed that he was measuring at the 40%–a bruiser in this household–and that they had originally had the wrong due date in radiology.  Basically, he was never as small as they originally thought and he made up for lost ground in the month between ultrasounds!  I go back in for what may be my last ultrasound prior to delivery (assuming all growth has held steady) in another week.  We’ll see what’s happening, but right now they are treating this as a, “boring, normal pregnancy.”  We’ll take boring and normal!  This baby is quite active and while Scarlett has no clue how her world is about to change, Britta loves feeling him kick around and is always proud to tell everyone that she is having a baby brother.

As one can imagine, these last few weeks are full of baby and house prep.  We have not become more efficient at front-loading our baby prep work with each successive pregnancy.  We must be clutch players or clutch parents or clutch whatever.  Actually, I am not a clutch kinda gal at all, so while I await the upcoming dates set aside to get this stuff done, I find myself nesting like crazy to try to control something…cooking, cleaning, and making lists of things for Terry to get done.  Which always goes over really well.

We haven’t been the epitome of health this last month either. Between colds, sinus infections, and reactions to medications, we are thankful to be a healthy foursome for the time being.  We spent one entire Saturday in the ER with Britta.  She had a fever the day before and woke up complaining of head pain.  We were advised to take her to the ER for fear of bacterial meningitis.  In the ER they initially suspected strep throat, but when the initial test results came back negative and her CBC revealed elevated bacteria levels, they felt there was enough ambiguity that they needed to do a spinal tap to rule out anything serious.  So, we immediately clicked into hospital mode and it fit like a glove.  We naturally began silencing beeps, finding supplies, understanding a disturbing amount of “hospital-speak”, and engaging in our regular, light-hearted, distracting hospital banter which is our joint way of coping with various amounts of stress, depending on the circumstance.  As the doctor was prepping us for the procedure she was apologetic and kept telling us she wouldn’t want her own child to have a spinal tap.  Confused as to what the procedure actually entailed and trying to gauge how worked up I “needed” to be in my own mind, I looked at her and said, “Is this as invasive as a bone marrow biopsy?”  She replied, “Oh goodness, no!!!”  Terry, as he always does, stayed in the room for the procedure (I rarely opt to do so).  Again, as the doctor was discussing the procedure Terry asked, “Do I need to gown up?”  She looked startled and said, “Oh no, it’s only me that needs to use a sterilized surface.  You guys really have seen a lot.”  The difficult part for us was the partial sedation she was placed on that lasted for hours afterwards where she was in an awake-but-somewhat-vegetative state.  We had never experienced this with any other child (full sedation is more like going to sleep and waking up normally).  Thankfully, the spinal tap results looked great and were negative for meningitis.  We were released in the evening and given a call the next morning saying that the overnight culture for strep came back positive!  We were humbled with the actual results and grateful it was nothing more.  The doctor was apologetic that we had to do the spinal tap and I was thankful we did it so we could be released of the worry.

One funny story came about from that night after we returned home.  As Britta came out of the sedation further, she acted almost drunk.  The doctor warned us about this as it is usually what happens.  (My gut reaction when the doctor mentioned this was to ask, “So you mean she’ll get slightly cocky and demand to sing karaoke?”  But I refrained.)  Sure enough, as she further awoke, she began to slur her speech when she started chatting with us and needed lots of help moving around.  It was a two person operation to take her to the bathroom.  So as Terry and I crouched down about eye-level with her sitting on the potty, she looked at me and said, “Mommy…Mommy is mean to me.”  (Again, sounding like a very drunk person and wobbling as she tried to maintain her balance.)  Terry, feeling badly that I was getting accused of being mean, chimes in and begins to say, “Britta, why would you say Mommy is mean?”  But she cut him off mid-sentence when she pointed to him and said, “And thaaaat guy!  He is mean to Scarlett!”  We couldn’t help but sit there and laugh.  She finally disclosed that we are mean for putting them in time-outs.  No, we do not put our one-year-old in official time-outs.  But Terry did use the verbiage with Scarlett recently after she maniacally crawled across the floor to bite Britta.  Just another day in the life with The Littles.

The week of July 4th (and 5th, of course) went really well.  We ended up spending those days at my parents’ home.  On July 5, we took the girls strawberry-picking.  It was fun and fitting as Reece absolutely loves strawberries!  They are one of the few things he ate on a regular basis–even in the hospital.  The girls enjoyed the time and we did as well.  As predicted, I did feel a sense of relief after that week passed and yet I found I was met with heavy, heavy feelings about a week later that continued throughout the month of July.  But I’m not going to blog about it today.

We are so thankful for the many people who reached out to us over the month of July and mentioned Reece to us.  People from many different facets of life reached out to either share a memory or let us know they were thinking of us and it means a great deal.  I continue to feel a sense of gratitude for what we are given and hopeful in the direction life is taking us.

“The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern.”

~Max Lucado

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.

this child is loved

The evening that Reece passed away I remember saying to Terry that someone could storm in, hold us at gunpoint, and I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash–I felt so numb to life.  That numbness has gradually lessened over time.  That intense period of being oblivious to sincere safety concerns was very short, thankfully.  I then went through several months of feeling a loss of interest to make decisions that would somehow re-engage us in life activity.  It has been a very slow process of taking on small things that start to integrate us back into normal circumstances and to begin trying to really “live” life.  We are still working on this on many fronts.  However, where I really struggled those first few months was in my willingness to take on anything further than that to which we had already committed.  We had our girls, our home, and our current life at the time.  I had no desire to even entertain the thought of doing more.  My thoughts were solely about caring for the girls, figuring out what God’s ultimate calling was for me (which I accept may solely be taking care of my kids and husband), and completing it.  I really spent most of the day with my head focused on Heaven and Reece and getting there in the minimum amount of time God would require.  I could not fathom making decisions that would tie us here any longer or doing things that would tie us to this life any further.  This may not make sense to you, but my thinking was to do the best I could with what we had chosen to take on and not entertain engaging in anything that might get us invested in life here any further.  It sounds strange, but to me, it makes perfect sense in the context of what we’ve lived through.  We’d witnessed so much–our innocence had been lost–and other than raising our girls, I wanted nothing further to keep me here.  In the back of my mind, I know that God doesn’t work like that, but that was where I was at and I know that He understood it, perfectly.

Then, late last Fall, I happened to watch an interview of Barbara Bush on the TODAY Show. (Click here to view this clip.)  Interviewed by her granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, the former First Lady discussed the passing of their second child–a daughter named Robin–from leukemia; she was three years old.  I had no idea that George H. W. and Barbara Bush had lost a child and as the interview continued, she discussed some intimate details regarding watching her daughter pass away.  What she described hit very close to home in our own experience of watching Reece pass away.  Most people, including myself, do not discuss such details publicly and it was helpful to hear her talk about it.  She spoke of how she and the former President still discuss their daughter and how they felt about losing her.  She mentioned that now, as they are approaching the end of their lives on earth, they discuss her even more and how excited they are to see her again.  As I listened, it occurred to me that they had several other children after Robin died.  George Bush went on to work in many high level positions, including being the President of the USA.  They raised five children (four having been born after Robin died), including one future US President.  They figured out a way to hold it together, to heal, and to be active again in life.  They took on new challenges.  They didn’t stop having children, they didn’t let it cripple their plans in his career, they didn’t crumble as a family.  Watching this interview helped me to realize that it would be okay, at some point, to take new things on in life.

A few months ago, I posted this picture on my Facebook profile page:


I stated that this is what my dream looks like–to hold Reece again.  I’ve actually already lived and felt my dream.  It has temporarily left me, but it will be realized again one day.  In reality, it will be different from this, as you will notice, not all of our kids are part of this picture.  My dream contains this scene, but it includes more people than what are pictured.  Reece is only part of it–the entire picture is having my family reunited.  In all likelihood, that could be close to 100 years from now, but I strongly believe it will happen.  I have come to accept that I will never have a family photo with all of us together on Earth.  We won’t ever feel “whole” here, as a family.  Once I accepted that reality, I was able to better understand that we still had a strong desire of the heart to raise three kids together.  We have wanted for quite some time to have the dynamic of three children in our home.  This desire did not go away with Reece’s passing.  Certainly, I thought we would raise Reece, Britta, and Scarlett together–I really wanted that.  That will never happen for us.  So, after careful consideration and definite prompting from the Lord, we opened our hearts to having another baby.  One month later, I was pregnant.

Here we are, beginning our second trimester, feeling blessed, overwhelmed, and slightly confused as to how we exactly got here.  We considered not sharing the news until later in the pregnancy, but this being my fourth baby, it is not as easy to hide my belly this time around!  In all seriousness, I want to share that this isn’t some attempt to replace Reece or distract us from the process we are going through.  This isn’t about trying to have another boy to somehow fill his absence.  He is “The Boy” in our family.  We are excited to have either gender and excited about the prospect of potentially having the family dynamic of three children in the house…even though we are having our fourth child.  We went into this pregnancy with our eyes wide open to the entire spectrum of parenting–the wonderful and obvious blessings, the heart-wrenching moments, and the gems that can only be uncovered through trials and tribulations.  In my opinion, it has been a much more difficult endeavor to entertain having another child–considering the understanding of what it is like to physically lose one–than it would have been to not have another baby at all.  Ultimately, the blessing of loving a child–no matter how short a period we were blessed to have him with us–far exceeds the emptiness that would have been felt by not having him in the first place.  This is true for all of our kids–born and unborn.  So, we went back to the desire and calling of the heart and it was, indeed, to try to have another baby.

We talked at length with Reece’s doctors, after he passed away, about whether or not having another baby would be a negligent decision.  They assured us it would not.  There are only a few cases of siblings having childhood MDS.  We know that anything can happen to any of our children, but we did not feel that Reece’s diagnosis should be a deterrent for having further children–at least from the perspective that we would be putting future children, knowingly, in harm’s way.

Here we are, pregnant again!  We are excited and cautious; overjoyed and still fresh in grief.  This is, indeed, a blessing.  We have no expectations for a boy or girl–no hopes one way or the other.  We hope for a healthy baby, but we know no matter what, this child is loved by us and three older siblings.