Throwback Thursday Reruns: The Grace of Midnight Cuddles

This morning I was thinking about how much I enjoy the fact that I get to sleep all night (almost) every night. The years of waking up to feed or change a baby, or soothe midnight cries of teething pain, were hard. But then I remembered that some parts of it were not as bad as I thought and I remembered this post from when Vincent was 7 months old and thought it would be a great rerun post.

I hope you enjoy it!

*****

I hear a baby grunt. Then a groan. Soon enough, the baby cries follow and I am made aware through my sleepiness that this is not the type of baby stirring that will go away on its own. I open my eyes and I see the clock. Sometimes it’s 2:30 a.m. Sometimes it’s 1:15. Some nights it is only 12:45 a.m. and I am horrified as I realize I have only gotten about 2 hours of sleep in before the call to get the baby.

Tonight it is 1:30 or so when I hear Vincent stirring.
I stumble over Dominic, who has made a little bed out of the floor on the side of my bed, and make my way down the stairs and into the baby’s room. I pick him up and put him on the changing table and he cries out…this is unusual, but I decide at the early hour, it is probably not critical to have a diaper change. I make my way to the kitchen, flip on the light and start the water flowing to warm up to make a bottle. As I do all of this, I steal little kisses on Vincent’s cheeks to which he smiles and giggles in return…and now I wonder if these middle-of-the-night visits are purposeful ways of getting one-on-one time with Mommy.
We sit down and in the 15 seconds it takes for me to get situated for a good hold and a view of my iPhone (to catch up on blogs or something while feeding) Vincent gets impatient and cries out and shakes his head as if to say, “I need that bottle NOW, Mommy!”
As he drinks his midnight cocktail (as I have called it before), I read some facebook but cannot determine the result of the basketball game I was watching as I fell asleep. Oh well, I make my plays on Hanging with Friends and Words with Friends. And soon enough, Vincent is finished.
I put the phone down, I put the empty bottle down and I work Vincent into his cuddle position and we sit in the dark. I feel him burp and then nestle into the crook of my neck and his hand finds its familiar place on the inside of my shirt just above my breast area. And I hear him breathe contentedly.
And now, I realize that I don’t really hate getting up in the middle of the night with my baby boy. It’s my chance to smell him and take in all his baby goodness. It is in these quiet moments that we are building our relationship — he is learning to trust that I will be there, even in the pit of darkness — to give him what he needs, whether it be nourishment or cuddles or safety.
It is at these times that I remember that this isn’t the first time I was required this much at night. Sarah was a baby that didn’t sleep through consistently for probably a good 18-20 months of her life. I had forgotten. Of course, that was 10 years ago, and I didn’t have the maturity to appreciate the quiet solitude the middle of the night brings then. I was too engrossed in my annoyance that I had to rise at that hour at all. It is at these times that I realize how spoiled I was with the next three babies who slept through consistently very early on and it was only one in maybe 20 nights that I was awakened from my slumber, if at all.
So tonight, I decide to close my eyes and just listen to Vincent breathing on me. Tonight, I think about the fact that this could be the last time I get this opportunity, so I will make the most of it. I think about earlier in the night when I made him giggle by playing peek-a-boo while he lay on his changing table. His laugh is like my own personal version of catnip. I would do anything to hear it for eternity. I think about his infectious grin. I think about the cups of saliva that spill out of his mouth all day. I think of his big brown eyes that give me looks like I am the only woman for him. I think about how he grabs my hair and continues to pull and play gently until it hurts me. I think about him bouncing with joy in his “exer-saucer” and how much he has learned in the last month.
The first year of a baby’s life flies so quickly. But what is so odd is how parts of it feel like they drag on forever. Vincent is now 7 months old. He is barreling down the road to his 1st birthday. Time is not my friend this time. My age and experience reminds me that this might be my last trip down this road. And because it is my 5th time, I know how quickly the trip can pass me by if I don’t pay attention.

After some time of just sitting there, being with Vincent, holding his 18 pounds, feeling his breath on my neck, kissing his soft head, I walk him back to his crib and place him softly for his remaining nightly slumber. I stumble back up the stairs. I step around Dominic, sleeping soundly in his makeshift bed (I suppose I should learn to find the grace in that situation, too) and I crawl back into bed.

As I drift back to sleep, I realize that I’m not all that annoyed that I spent the last 35-40 minutes taking care of Vincent.

As a matter of fact, I realize that I will actually miss these days at some point.

A throwback picture to Vincent at 6 months old

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Surprise?

So…is baby #6 a surprise?

Yes…and no.

If there is one thing Craig and I have understood since learning Natural Family Planning, especially if we weren’t 100% sure before — it is what causes pregnancy.  Truly understanding that to engage in intimacy during fertile days is to basically “ask” God for a baby is something we’ve been keenly aware of over the past 11 years.  Over the years, we have also learned that to simply “ask” God for a baby in this manner does not necessarily mean God will grant the request.

So, no…I’m not surprised in the “Oh. My. Goodness.  I can NOT believe I am pregnant!” way at all. 

We “asked.”  

This time, God granted.

Over the past 4-5 years, I can think of numerous times we “asked” and God did not grant the request.  It’s a fact that God doesn’t grant the request for a baby for everyone every time they “ask.”  As painful as it was at those times that God did not answer our request with a baby, I have often thought that it was a good thing that there were multiple months of openness before conceiving each of our sons — it provided a window into what it is like to wait.  A small window, I will grant, and no — I don’t equate our waiting period to anything like infertility — but it was a good lesson for me just the same.

I recognize a level of pride I held earlier in our childbearing years — that simply engaging intimately during fertile days guaranteed a baby; believing I was pregnant before even half of the two-week-wait was over.  This is not healthy.  I was humbled by months of waiting only to find out I was not pregnant as we waited for Vincent.  

Over the years, I’ve often heard people call a surprise baby an “oops” baby.  As if a human being coming into existence was a mistake.  As children, we got two different takes from our parents about the children who came along after me.  My mother would often say that she never planned to have #3, #4 or #5 but that she couldn’t imagine life without them.  My father simply stated to my sister when she asked him if she was planned that, “you kids were neither planned for or prevented.”  Over the years, I have found comfort in my father’s statement because it provides a level of honesty and responsibility without sounding like he wished he’d done something different.  At least the way it hits me it seems that way.  And as an adult, I come into contact with people who proclaim they knew they were not “planned” by their parents — it was a mistake, or an “oops”.  Maybe I take it too seriously or have just grown too sensitive to the matter, but it really breaks my heart to hear anyone refer to a person in this manner.  No matter what was planned by humans, each soul was planned by God — for that time and that place — with a purpose that only He can reveal.

I think I could safely say, though, that an element of awe, wonder and … yes, surprise seem to accompany the revelation of a positive pregnancy test.  It is more a testament to the miracle of life than anything else.  In the instant that I see a positive pregnancy test, a flood of varying emotions hit me — joy, excitement, trepidation, worry, disbelief, anxiety — I could go on. 

This miracle changes everything from the minute we know about it.  My family dynamic has completely changed; Craig and I are the parents of six children; Sarah as a preteen and Dani as a “tween” are big sisters to another little one; Helen is no longer THE middle child, simply one in the middle.  Dominic is a big brother to more than just Vincent.  Vincent is now a big brother.  It changes the way I see each member of my family… instantaneously.

I think most people we know are over the surprise that we’d be open to another baby.  I feel some sort of exasperation from certain people.  I feel the worry from others.  I worry how my children really feel.  (For the record, I asked Sarah recently, and she said – in typical preteen fashion – “Well, I kinda thought we had enough kids…”  I simply responded to her, “Yeah, me, too, Sarah.  But I guess God planned at least one more for our family.”)

I haven’t said anything at work yet.  I plan to next month as the first trimester comes to an end.  WE have another very stressful busy year planned in my department, but I am sure we’ll be able to get things in place so it will all run smoothly, even if it means I work from home during half of my maternity leave.  The best part is that I’m not really nervous about my boss (she’s one of six and she is a twin!  She seems to be really down to earth about this sort of thing) and I think my work group will be excited.  And as I type that I think, “Yeah, who ISN’T excited about babies???”  But, I’ve experienced that side of it, so I know those people who don’t really appreciate it are out there.

The questions will come.  People will ask if I “meant” to (get pregnant).  People will stare at me as I walk into the store with my five kids in tow and a bulging belly and make some mention that I must idolize the Duggars.  People will stick their nose where it doesn’t belong and make value statements they have no business making.  It’s part of the life I lead that I will be subject to that stuff.  Interestingly enough, I laugh it off so much better now than I did when I was newly pregnant with #4.  Back then it really got my back up to know people thought it was “too much” to have 4 children.  

No, I don’t have all the snappy comebacks.  Although, I do like it if we’re all out somewhere and someone asks me “Are they all yours?” and I am able to point to Craig and say, “Yup!  And all his, too!”

I guess I started rambling here…but in case you readers were wondering if baby #6 was a surprise — I just wanted to say…this baby is one glorious, loved and expected…surprise.

 

The Grace of Mid-Night Cuddles

I hear a baby grunt.  Then a groan.  Soon enough, the baby cries follow and I am made aware through my sleepiness that this is not the type of baby stirring that will go away on its own.  I open my eyes and I see the clock.  Sometimes it’s 2:30 a.m.  Sometimes it’s 1:15.  Some nights it is only 12:45 a.m. and I am horrified as I realize I have only gotten about 2 hours of sleep in before the call to get the baby.
Tonight it is 1:30 or so when I hear Vincent stirring.  
I stumble over Dominic, who has made a little bed out of the floor on the side of my bed, and make my way down the stairs and into the baby’s room.  I pick  him up and put him on the changing table and he cries out…this is unusual, but I decide at the early hour, it is probably not critical to have a diaper change.  I make my way to the kitchen, flip on the light and start the water flowing to warm up to make a bottle.  As I do all of this, I steal little kisses on Vincent’s cheeks to which he smiles and giggles in return…and now I wonder if these middle-of-the-night visits are purposeful ways of getting one-on-one time with Mommy.
We sit down and in the 15 seconds it takes for me to get situated for a good hold and a view of my iPhone (to catch up on blogs or something while feeding) Vincent gets impatient and cries out and shakes his head as if to say, “I need that bottle NOW, Mommy!”
As he drinks his midnight cocktail (as I have called it before), I read some facebook but cannot determine the result of the basketball game I was watching as I fell asleep.  Oh well, I make my plays on Hanging with Friends and Words with Friends.  And soon enough, Vincent is finished.
I put the phone down, I put the empty bottle down and I work Vincent into his cuddle position and we sit in the dark.  I feel him burp and then nestle into the crook of my neck and his hand finds its familiar place on the inside of my shirt just above my breast area.  And I hear him breathe contentedly.
And now, I realize that I don’t really hate getting up in the middle of the night with my baby boy.  It’s my chance to smell him and take in all his baby goodness.  It is in these quiet moments that we are building our relationship — he is learning to trust that I will be there, even in the pit of darkness — to give him what he needs, whether it be nourishment or cuddles or safety.  
It is at these times that I remember that this isn’t the first time I was required this much at night.  Sarah was a baby that didn’t sleep through consistently for probably a good 18-20 months of her life.  I had forgotten.  Of course, that was 10 years ago, and I didn’t have the maturity to appreciate the quiet solitude the middle of the night brings then.  I was too engrossed in my annoyance that I had to rise at that hour at all.  It is at these times that I realize how spoiled I was with the next three babies who slept through consistently very early on and it was only one in maybe 20 nights that I was awakened from my slumber, if at all.
So tonight, I decide to close my eyes and just listen to Vincent breathing on me.  Tonight, I think about the fact that this could be the last time I get this opportunity, so I will make the most of it.  I think about earlier in the night when I made him giggle by playing peek-a-boo while he lay on his changing table.  His laugh is like my own personal version of catnip.  I would do anything to hear it for eternity.  I think about his infectious grin.  I think about the cups of saliva that spill out of his mouth all day.  I think of his big brown eyes that give me looks like I am the only woman for him.  I think about how he grabs my hair and continues to pull and play gently until it hurts me.  I think about him bouncing with joy in his “exer-saucer” and how much he has learned in the last month.
The first year of a baby’s life flies so quickly.  But what is so odd is how parts of it feel like they drag on forever.  Vincent is now 7 months old.  He is barreling down the road to his 1st birthday.  Time is not my friend this time.  My age and experience reminds me that this might be my last trip down this road.  And because it is my 5th time, I know how quickly the trip can pass me by if I don’t pay attention.

After some time of just sitting there, being with Vincent, holding his 18 pounds, feeling his breath on my neck, kissing his soft head, I walk him back to his crib and place him softly for his remaining nightly slumber.  I stumble back up the stairs.  I step around Dominic, sleeping soundly in his makeshift bed (I suppose I should learn to find the grace in that situation, too) and I crawl back into bed.  

As I drift back to sleep, I realize that I’m not all that annoyed that I spent the last 35-40 minutes taking care of Vincent.  

As a matter of fact, I realize that I will actually miss these days at some point.

Open Letter to Baby #5 (again)

To my dear, sweet baby boy,
In just a matter of days, I will see your face and hear your voice for the first time.  The excitement builds with each passing moment.  For a three hour period yesterday, I thought perhaps it would be last night as I had some mild contractions every 15 minutes for about 3 hours.  But then things returned to their calm state.
It humbles me, this anticipation.  Even though you are my fifth child, this is the most relaxed I have faced an upcoming birth.  In the past, I’ve been worried and scared.  How much pain?  How long would I labor?  Would labor begin on its own, naturally?  Or would I have yet another induced labor?  Will we be able to adjust?  Will the kids adjust?  What if you’re sick?  What if I get sick?  So many questions that could never be answered and the worry is irrelevant anyway.
Today, I think of the contractions and the pushing and I know a certain peace.  My due date remains 2 weeks away and yet, I have a sense of calm understanding (as I feel my second cramp of the hour) that tonight may very well be the night.  I know how my body does this.  I know your dad will be there with me helping me through it all.  I trust the doctor completely to do his part in all of this (and because he’s so great a doc – he knows his part is fairly limited). 
Your siblings get more excited every day.  They continue to pray that you are healthy.  Helen asked me tonight if you could hear her voice.  Then she gave me that breath-taking smile and sighed in wonder and amazement as I informed her that, barring any hearing problems, yes, you would be able to identify her voice and you can hear her playing and singing and talking to you…even now. 
Daddy and I have decided on a name.  We’ve done this with each child.  We’ve known the name before we’ve seen the face of our precious baby.  And you know what?  The names have always been perfect.  I know your name is perfect, too.
Many ladies at church have approached me to tell me they are praying for us.  And they are praying that you decide to come early.  I simply smile.  I say, “that would be nice.”  And I know the likelihood of that (based on history) is small.  But I’m grateful for the prayers.
We went through boxes of baby clothes this past weekend and washed, dried, folded and put away your things.  I know you’re going to be a big boy, so we loaded up the outfits that said “NB (5-8 lbs) into  a box for another baby, perhaps your cousin who will be born in three months.  We set up your crib and hung curtains in the room you will share with your big brother.  I even bought a package of size 1 diapers.  And I packed my bag for the hospital.  I think we are ready, should you decide to be ready.
You are such a special boy.  Did you know that, like you, your daddy is the youngest of five children?  And his daddy was, too?  I think that gives you a special rank and privilege…somewhere.
When I think about the fact that God planned you from the beginning of time for this place, here in our family, my heart swells.  I almost feel like I’ve been waiting for you my whole life.  That sounds so silly, doesn’t it?  I mean, I have your older sisters and your older brother…but there’s just something different about the way I feel this time, the way I feel about you.  
And I can’t wait to meet you, to hold you, to kiss your soft head and see your beautiful eyes and know what color your hair is.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the supreme honor of being your mother.  
I am reminded of the song that Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer sing in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music that 
“…somewhere in my wicked, miserable past, there must have been a moment of truth” 
and 
“somewhere in my youth…or childhood, I must have done something good.”
So, little baby boy, maybe you’ll come tonight, maybe next week or maybe another week still.  

Either way, I peacefully await your arrival. 

Open Letter to Baby #5

Dear Baby,
I’m halfway through this pregnancy and I’m getting impatient to meet you.  In just a couple of weeks, I’ll find out whether you are a boy or a girl.  I have my instincts shouting at me your gender, but I’m reserved as I wait to find out “for sure.”
Even now, when you’ve been growing for 20 weeks and you have 20 weeks (at least) more to grow…I long to know you, yet I feel like I know you already.  You’re completely dependent on me right now but yet, I feel completely dependent upon knowing you’re safe and growing and healthy.  I’ve been so blessed to carry each of my pregnancies to term, but it horrifies me still, to imagine what could go wrong.  Pregnancy and childbirth often remind me of my complete and utter reliance on God for everything.
We have already survived a couple of scares in the short time we’ve known each other.  Your daddy was giving me shots in my bum twice a week for about 8 weeks because my body doesn’t make enough progesterone to keep things going in the first trimester.  But you sure came through in the 2nd trimester!  What an elation…a relief!…when I heard the nurse say the levels had jumped up to appropriate levels at my blood test at 15 weeks.  And you were hiding that day I went in to the doctor for some minor cramping at 12 weeks.  The doctor placed the doppler on my tummy and waited…and searched…and waited…I could tell that all we were hearing was my slow, adult heartbeat.  Finally, he removed the doppler and the tears started flowing.  Had the Lord taken you from me?  When the doctor asked if he could do a pelvic, I quickly agreed…and as he jostled the organs and had his observing physician in training place the doppler back on my tummy…SHEOU-SCHEOU-SCHEOU…my heart and my breath skipped!  We had found you!  And your heart was beating away.  And my tears still flowed, only they were now tears of joy!
You have such a great family waiting to meet you.  Your sisters already know what’s going to happen in a few months.  They get another sibling and they can’t wait!  They are in love with you already.  They pray for you every night in their nightly prayers.  They love you so much.  Even your big brother now comes and points at my belly and says, “Baby!”  Daddy hasn’t been able to feel you kick yet, but it’s only a matter of time.  I can feel you  getting bigger and stronger as I feel more kicks and jabs more frequently.
Even though you’re my fifth child, the awesome wonder is still there.  I remember how I stared and stared at the positive pregnancy test for so long just thinking “wow….wow…wow…WOW.”  I am amazed at the miracle that takes place.  The biological miracle that the timing was perfect and you were conceived.  But also the miracle that God CHOSE US again (!!) to receive this supreme gift. 
I look at your sisters and brother and I wonder what is in store for us with you?  All of you are so unique and lovely…brilliant creations for which I hardly feel worthy to accept.  Such responsibility for Daddy and me–responsibility to care for you and to love you…that is the easy part.  But the responsibility to raise you to know, love and serve Him who created you…that part is daunting.  I’m reminded every day that it rarely matters what I have said to you…in the end, you will watch what I do and you will learn to know, love and serve Christ only if you are able to see those qualities and actions from Daddy and me.  And even then…I must pray and trust in God…again.
We have 20 more weeks (at least) to get to know each other this way.  Soon, you’ll be big enough that I’ll be able to pick out a foot, or an elbow…I’ll be able to play with you by poking one side of my belly to get you to kick or poke me back.  I’ll be able to caress your head in my hand as I go to sleep with my hand on my belly.  
When you’re born and we get to meet face to face, I’ll finally see the cheeks that will most likely be there shouting to the world you are your father’s child.  I’ll see if your eyes are blue or if they begin already a deep brown like two of your siblings.  Will you cry as you come into this world from your snuggly cocoon (just like your big sisters Dani and Helen and big brother, Dominic)?  Or will you simply stare into my eyes quietly (like your oldest sister, Sarah).

Yes, I am anxious to see you face to face, but I’m happy to have you all to myself for another few months.  My sweet baby.  God has blessed me beyond measure.  Again.