Saturday, July 26, 2014

Can Hardly Believe It - Matthew Turns One!

Dear Matthew,
I feel like a single post could not contain all the joy I would like to express to you for being in our lives this past year. You are such a dear delight to us in so many ways. You have by far stolen the most sleep from me of the three of you, but somehow I've noticed the loss the least with you. I keep thinking that you're the fortunate one being born third. By this point in our parenting, we've messed up more than I ever imagined I would in my entire course as a parent, let alone in only the first three years, and now we're slowly starting to get our act together. You get to be witness to this parental sanctification and glean much of the fruit it produces. The same things the other two would get disciplined for, we look at you and say to one another, oh honey, look how cute he is. Then we smile and reflect on how great it is having a baby in this sweet, lovable, cuddly, adventurous stage. This is the time I pray wholeheartedly that your brother and sister are still young enough to not be scared for life and will also get to enjoy the benefits of the knowledge and wisdom we gained from our first two rounds in the ring. Or they'll just be so caught up in the games you like to play that they'll forget all about the challenging times.

I have to say, you surprised us at how early you initiated playing games. It was maybe at around nine months that you started pounding your high chair tray and laughing, then pulling your shirt up over your head repeatedly just to get a reaction from us.You also smiled very early on, and maybe not even two months old you started giggling. You've been very easy from the start and as soon as you could crawl, you'd make your way into the toy room and start playing with toys all on your own. You aren't one that needs constant entertainment, but you will take the cuddles whenever you can get them. Definitely the lover, you'll rest your head on our shoulders and snuggle in close. Whenever Daddy is around, you reach for him. If' he's lying down on the living room floor, you'll crawl to him as fast as your little body can take you, ready to initiate a game of wrestling or tickle fest. As soon as he comes home from work at the end of the day, you'll get a huge smile on your face. I'll tell you, go find Daddy, and you'll crawl down the hall into the bedroom, searching for him, or start knocking on the bathroom door, waiting for him to come out.

You're still waking up most nights to nurse. I thought I would go crazy when Cy didn't sleep through the night until eight months old, and now you're over one year and still waking. But, strangely, it doesn't bother me now like it did then. I think the Lord has worked on my heart over these past few years and shown me that sometimes being with your little one in their moment of need is worth a few hours of missed sleep. I still enjoy every opportunity I have to spend time alone with you, even if it's at two in the morning. Many nights, after feeding you, I'll then hold you on my shoulder, with your blanket around you and listen to your gentle "mmmmm....mmmmm............mmmmm" sounds before placing your gently into your bed. So so sweet. I don't mind one bit holding you those extra five or ten minutes. I do think part of your waking to eat has been that your ears have had fluid in them for a few months now. We went this week to get tubes in your ears and are hoping that it helps you sleep a bit better at night. Although, I do think as much as I will love the extra sleep, I will secretly miss our sweet moments together in the middle of the night.

Little by little you're starting to walk now. You took your first steps last week and now will take six to eight before falling down on your bottom. You're our only child to first learn to stand on your own before learning to walk. The others had to pull up on us or on furniture or the wall before they could walk, but you just stand up all on your own right in the middle of the floor. We'll clap for you and you'll start clapping along, not even completely realizing what you're doing. But when you do take those few steps, you get a big smile on your face and beam with pride.


I've noticed lately that you really do understand me too. A few things have happened lately that I really don't recall other one-year old's doing. A couple weeks ago you pulled a spatula of the dishwasher while I was loading it and I asked you to pick it up and bring it back to me. You had to work real hard to shimmy down under the dishwasher where you had dropped it, but you worked at it and managed to get it back, then placed it in my hand. I didn't expect you to do it, so was surprised when you gave it back to me without any fuss. Also, I've told Charlotte not to leave her hair clips around the house because you could put them in your mouth and choke on them. But, if she does forget, you'll go find them around the house and bring them to me. Then the sweetest thing happened today when Cy was brushing his teeth before his nap. I had told him to brush his teeth and then he'd take his nap. While I was brushing his teeth, you crawled in with his blanket, stood up by the sink and handed it to him, as if you knew he'd need it for his nap. Finally, you melted Daddy's heart when he was leaving for work yesterday after lunch. You crawled after him, waving to him when he looked back to say good bye. That was the first time you had done that, and totally unsolicited.

Matthew Leif means blessed gift from God and that's just what you are. You are like a soothing balm to us on some of our more challenging days. You really bring such laughter and sweetness to our lives. You were probably the most physically and spiritually challenging birth, but as soon as you came out I knew you were just what we needed. You make Charlotte and Cy laugh every day and give them such great chances to show love and kindness. I have a feeling you and Cy will be great truck buddies and I think Charlotte will always have a very sweet place in her heart for you. You go to her often for play and even for cuddles. Cy can't wait to see you in the morning and has been slathering you with kisses lately. Maybe realizing everyone can use an ally. I'm so excited to see all the Lord has in store for your future. I am convinced that he has made you the playful, lovable, easy going guy you are for some of his best and greatest purposes. I pray you will rise to the occasion and grow to serve him with your entire heart and soul. I also pray you and Charlotte and Cy will grow to be great friends and dear confidants in Christ; that your brotherhood and sisterhood would be bonded not just by family blood but more importantly, by the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this is the bond that nothing can break. I love you more than you could imagine. I pray one day you will have the blessing of children of your own and might get a chance to know and understand the depth and delight of a parent's love for their children. You have my heart, sweet one.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cy Turns Three: Happy Birthday Little Man!

Dear Cy,
You turned three years old this week. As you would say, "happy birthday to me!". I have to say, life with you rarely holds a dull moment. You are chock full of energy from sun up to sun down, minus a two hour nap you still day most days. You are growing so fast; earlier this week when we were at the doctor's office for Matthew, I measured you and Charlotte, only to find you both at the same 39" mark. I think you also have about five pounds on her, even being 18 months younger. People are constantly surprised how heavy you are when they go to pick you up. Often I have to remind myself when disciplining you two or in my expectations of your behavior, that you are indeed 18 months younger. Even though you may look the same age as Charlotte, you respond to life quite differently still.

It's great to see how creatively your mind works. Many days you come up with the most impressive lego creations. It makes me realize I better start saving now for a potential lego addiction in the years ahead. You love taking things apart to see how they work. This has caused me to be a bit better at my supervision of your independent play time. The other day, I was on the computer trying to write down some directions for a location we were to travel to out of town, and you kept asking me to use the squirt gun outside. I told you, no, no squirt gun, multiple times, then followed with a request for you to go find something to do. Well, it was quiet for a while, which makes me both equally grateful and nervous. Then I saw you playing with the lid of the salad spinner - the part that you push down to make the bowl spin. You've done this before with no problems, so I didn't worry. Then it was quiet for some time and a tickle of worry entered my mind. I went to find out what you were up to only to see you on the kitchen floor with the screwdriver and the salad spinner top in pieces in front of you. You were so proud of how well you took it apart that I found it rather difficult to discipline you for completely ruining my salad spinner. Needless to say, the new salad spinner is now on the very top shelf, hidden out of reach. But I've learned not to be so sure it won't be found one day.

You're slowly learning to get along better with your sister and most days you two spend many hours playing quite nicely together. Don't get me wrong, a day doesn't go by where sibling rivalry doesn't rear its ugly head, but I've noticed many times where, no matter how much she "bothers" you (Charwotte is bothering me!), you are the first to defend her when she's in need. Often times, when at the dinner table and we need to speak sternly to Charlotte, you will speak up and defend her rather strongly, telling us not to talk to her like that. If Daddy tries to sneak a bite of her desert when she's not looking, you'll practically jump over the table to keep his fork at bay. It's nice to know that no matter how much you two get at one another, I know deep down she is dear to your heart.

I've noticed lately that you're getting better at sharing and will more quickly change your heart when needing to share a toy or your food with someone else. You even get excited to share a bite of your favorite food or desert. When Matthew comes close to you to play with your toys, you've even started searching for one of your favorites to give to him, often without me having to ask you. He loves being close to you and if he's up from his nap before you are, he'll crawl down the hall to your bedroom door and wait by it, hitting the bottom of the door with his little hand. I have a feeling you two are going to grow to be great friends.

When you go to bed at night, I'll tuck you both in, pray with you and then sing a song. Now as often as Charlotte does, you too remind me to pray if ever I forget. You're also the first to call out prayer requests, whether it's that God will help you go poo poo and pee pee in the potty so you can get your truck (which you did - wooo hoooo!!), or for a friend of yours who was going to have eye surgery. It has been fun to talk with you about the things we've prayed for and how we've seen the Lord answer our prayers. "Sanctuary" is one of your favorite bedtime songs and many times you'll ask me to softly scratch your back while I sing it to you one last time. Those are some of the most exhausted moments of my day, but also by far the most enjoyable.

The Lord has definitely made you big and strong for your age, but he has also given you a sweet and loving heart. One of my favorite things you've started doing is telling me, "Mommy, I love you so very much.". It is usually followed by a big hug that just melts me from head to toe. Some days I feel like I could just hold you all day long if time and life would allow it. I pray every night that the Lord would take hold of your heart at an early age and never let you go. I pray that you would grow to be a godly boy, and in time, a godly man. I pray your heart would swell with a desire to seek and serve the Lord with your entire being and that you would find sheer joy and delight in being in His presence. I pray your faith would be so big, it would put all of ours to shame. I pray you would grow to know how deep and how wide and how high is the love of Christ. I pray that in all my failings as a parent, somehow, you would see through them my love for the Lord, and that alone would be the one thing you would hold on to. I pray you would always be able to come to your Daddy and me and we would always point you to the Lord and show you the safety you can find in His arms. I love you so much, my sweet boy. You are a joy and delight in our lives. You bring laughter, sweetness, and fun to our days in ways we've never known before.

Love you to pieces,

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nine Months Old - My Sweet Matthew

Dear Matthew,
You're nine months old this week and changing so much with every passing day. I can honestly say you make my heart melt every time I look at you. You were quite a challenge to bring into this world, but from the moment you arrived, you have been nothing but joy. I praised the Lord when I first saw you and have been praising him every day since. You are a beautiful blessing in our lives.

I am grateful you have been such a good eater from the start. I've always enjoyed nursing my babies, but somehow I feel you may be our last, so I'm really trying to just soak up every moment I have with you. Those moments aren't too frequent, as I'm usually pretty distracted with the needs of your brother and sister. But, every day I look forward to those few times a day when for ten or fifteen minutes I get to be alone with you. I've been teaching you a few signs, so lately when you're finished nursing, you'll give me your version of the "all done" sign, smile at me and say, "ah doh".

You are crawling on your belly everywhere, and you're FAST. I mean, seriously quick for pulling yourself around on your belly army style. You're trying to pull up, but usually only make it to your knees. Sitting isn't your preference, but you will sit unassisted for a short time if you place you on your bottom. You would rather be on the move and have figured out how to open cabinets, doors, and love taking canned goods out of the bottom shelf of the lazy susan in the kitchen.

You're definitely not a big fan of baths. For convenience sake, we started bathing you in the shower with us from early on, so that is definitely your preference. I think it's just because you get to be held the whole time, which is your preference in general. You are definitely a cuddle baby and at this point in your life prefer me to hold you over any others. Although, you have been reaching for Daddy more often lately and during dinner time, when sitting in your high chair next to him, you spend most of the time reaching over for his arm and holding it close.

  Charlotte and Cy have been your most cherished play things. Wherever they are, that's where you want to be. If you're awake after Cy has gone down for his nap, you'll make your way down the hall to his closed bedroom door and start knocking on it. Charlotte does a good job playing with you and watching out for you, as a big sister should. She'll make sure you don't put small things in your mouth and always give you your toys to play with when you might be getting fussy. Cy talks about wanting to play trucks with you when you get bigger, but is having a difficult time sharing his cars with you even now. I know in time though, the two of you will be great play mates.

Matthew, I hope you always know how very loved you are. Most of all, I pray in time you will know the love of Christ in your life. I pray you would grow to be a godly boy and in time, a godly man; that others might see Christ in you and long to know more about him because of how well you represent him in your life. I pray He would use me to teach you about his love for you and you would never question its power to do great things in and through your life. I love you, my sweet boy. I can't wait for each new day to come and show me more and more about who God created you to be.


Friday, January 10, 2014


I called Peter this morning at 6am. He has been out of town for the week, in Florida for a conference. It was 7am his time and he was on the bus heading to the airport to come back home. It has been a long week. Charlotte started preschool this week and I had to get her there at 8am Monday through Thursday. I was blessed to have many friends throughout the week come watch the boys while I dropped her off in the morning and picked her up before lunch. This was a lifesaver. The hardest part of this week has been that I haven't gotten more than 2-2 1/2 hours of sleep in a stretch on any given night. Between Matthew waking up two to three times a night and Cy also waking up in between the times Matthew wakes up to eat, I get maybe two hours at a time before I'm up again either feeding, changing, or putting a reluctant Cy back to bed. You may ask, is he waking up from night terrors, or scared or crying? Um, no. He wakes up, sits in the doorway with his blankie and stuffed animal and starts growling. Growling, you ask? Yes, "roarrrr". Growling. Fun times. I've gone back and forth between how or if I should punish him and how to handle this situation and I really have no answer. But, when it's the third time I've gotten up in one night and my nights are starting to look just like my days, I start to lose it. I've come to understand why sleep deprivation is a key tool in military interrogation. You get to the point where you would do literally anything to get some sleep. I go to sleep earlier, say 9pm, and lay down to the thought of how long will I get before Matthew wakes up. Maybe I'll get two hours, maybe three or four if I'm lucky. I fall into a deep sleep and wake to crying at 10:20am. Less than two hours. I stumble to his room, pick him up and hold him close, sit down, latch him on and in less than five minutes I'm dreaming. I'm sitting up, nursing my baby, and dreaming. He pulls off, I wake up and switch sides. He finishes, I burp him, lay him back down - praise the Lord! he goes right back to sleep after I nurse him - and stumble back to bed at 10:45pm. I lay my head down thinking, four hours, I should have four hours now. 12:30am (less than two hours later) I get startled awake by a sound in the hall...."roarrrrrr". Yes, Cy has emerged into the hallway. I climb out of bed, tell him to get back in bed, he hesitates, I tell him a "bit more firmly", warn him with a night in the pack n' play if he doesn't stay in bed, tuck him back in, tell him I love him, and kiss him goodnight, again. 12:45am I'm back in bed thinking, okay, it was four hours, now only two, maybe three if I'm lucky. I can do three. I can do tomorrow if I only get three more hours of sleep. 2am (a little over an hour later) Matthew wakes up again, wants to eat. Growth spurt? Teething? Who knows. All I know is I prayed all through this pregnancy, from the time I knew I was pregnant, for a baby that would sleep well, through the night, early on. The same thing I've prayed every night since. Who knows why God answers some prayers and not others, but this one hasn't been touched. At least not in the way of my interests. I go to his room again, same drill. I'm so tired now that my arms and legs are getting "antsy" and very restless. I can't seem to take sitting there too much longer. I feel like I'm going to crawl out of my skin, but Matthew isn't done yet and seems to be eating for much longer than I think I can handle. I love nursing him and don't even mind doing it now, but my body is about to jump out of itself. He's starting to slow down and I can barely sit there any longer from total exhaustion and my legs so incredibly restless, so I pull him off just a tad early and he is just fine, snuggling into my shoulder after I stand up and then I gently put him back into bed to sleep. I lay back down, melt into my pillow, and am rouse again around 2:45am by Matthew. I go in and can smell his dirty diaper. I get him changed, sing him back to sleep, and lay my head back down on my pillow by 3am. Two hours pass, which feel like two minutes and I hear roaring in the hallway again. 5am and Cy is back out of bed. I get out of bed, do the drill again, put him back in, and pray for just two more hours. Just two hours of sleep, please. 5:30am and I hear Matthew. He's screaming. I try to let him cry it out. I want him to make it to his 7am feeding because if not, the whole day's schedule is thrown off and things get even crazier. It's 5:45am and I give in after hearing him off and on for the past half hour. I go in and try to feed him. He's not hungry. He must be teething. I bring him to bed with me, hoping he might sleep on me for another hour. He's up and down, restless, snuggles for ten minutes, then pops his head up and squawks. At 6am I try to put him back in bed after rocking and a song. He goes back down, only to have both the kids up at 7am and popping in and out of their room. Shortly after I hear Matthew wake for his 7am feeding. We're up. We're all up. Sometimes I pray for daylight to come so I don't have to endure any more of the night. It's that bad. I called Peter this morning at  6am crying and asking him to pray for me. I told him I'm angry with God. I told him I've had enough of this sleep sanctification. I told him I'm going to be tempted to seriously injure the next person who tells me they hope I "sleep well". Just those words, "sleep well", make me tears well up in my eyes. Don't tell someone who hasn't slept in over five months, plus the nine prior when pregnant, to sleep well. They know you mean well, they really do. But, if you know what's good for yourself, tell them you love them. Tell them you're sorry it's been so hard. Tell them you'll be over at 2pm to watch the kids so she can nap. But, please don't tell them to sleep well or you hope they have a good night's sleep. It's good to hope, hope is a good thing, and keep hoping for them, but don't tell them about it, because all they can think about is all the sleep they have NOT gotten, and that for them, it feels like there is no hope in sight. That's all I really do want, is a little hope. I just need one night, one single night of maybe a five hour stretch of sleep, to give me something to hang onto. Something to keep me going and give me hope that this stage will indeed end. I keep looking forward to a few years down the road when hopefully Cy won't be twelve years old growling in the hallway at 12am or 2am or 5am. I know when I talk to parents of older kids that they say there's always something that keeps you up, either you're waiting for them to come home after a date or worried about their first sleepover away from home, etc. But, really? This kind of sleep deprivation? I don't believe it. Or at least I just can't. I can't believe this kind of insanity will continue on for the rest of my life, and still be able to make it through this current challenge. This is hard. This is really really hard. Peter told me he loves me and he's sorry its been so hard on me and that he's been praying for me night and day, and and that he'll be home soon. Those were the words I wanted to hear. I don't know how single moms do it. I'm so grateful for a husband who loves me, is here for me, and helps me through my day. It's amazing how much help it is just for someone to hold the baby at 5:30pm when I'm making dinner. Or another person to keep an eye on the kids when I'm making everyone breakfast. Or another disciplinarian to sort through the game plan with and to help be my tag team. I recently read a blog that brought tears to  my eyes because I could relate to it so well. It wasn't the exact situation I'm going through but it hit on so many of the same key aspects of it. It was on the lie that God won't give you more than you can handle ( She reminded me of God's encouragement in Scripture about how to handle life when you are indeed pulled under by so much more than you can handle. When you're gasping for air, struggling under so much pressure weighed down on top of you. What does our Lord say? He tells us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30. So, it appears I've gotten it all wrong. I'm seeking my bed for sleep. Seeking four or five or even three hours of sleep for my sanity. I am to seek HIM. HE will give me rest for my SOUL. Not my body, or my mind, but my soul. The very place where I need him most. Where I crave him to dwell. Where sanity of body, mind and spirit rests. So, I press on. I lean on him and his promises. I trust he will get me through. I am no longer mad at him for not answering my prayers. I seek his forgiveness for not trusting him. For not believing in his promises. The truth is he loves me more than I could ever imagine. The truth is that he knows my struggle and he feels my pain and he would end it in an instant if he knew it would help me become more sanctified and him to be glorified. The truth is that it is through my pain and struggle and sleeplessness that I need him most, see him best, and learn more about him. I NEED this struggle to have my best prayers answered. Prayers for humility and patience and sanctification. Our pastor (my husband) asked last week in church what we would say to answer His question, "What do you want me to do?" Mark 10:36 and 51. When I sat there in church, my first response was, "give me sleep", of course. But then I thought more. Sleep would be the answer if I were James or John. But what if I were Bartimaeus? I dug a bit deeper and changed my answer. What do you want me to do for you? My answer? Lord, draw me closer to you. Help me to know you better. So, why doesn't he answer my prayers for sleep? He longs to answer the deeper, more meaningful prayer of my heart. To draw nearer to him. To know him better. So, I don't believe I will pray for sleep any longer. The only prayer on my heart is to know him more, to be pulled closer to his side, to fall more deeply in love with our Savior. If sleep comes, I will praise him to be sure, but I believe my heart, my mind, my soul needs so much more than sleep. It needs my Savior.

Cy Turns Two

Dear Cy,               
(Disclaimer: This was written back in June 2013, a couple weeks after Cy's birthday on May 22. It's now 1/10/14. I was waiting to post pictures, but never got any up. I'm still having trouble with the pics, but I figured a post without pics is better than no post at all.)

It's amazing how much more difficult these updates are to keep up with as the time goes by and I'm doing my best just to keep up with you. You turned two last month and you have definitely been keeping me on my toes. You are all boy and I love every inch of it. You have a big strong voice and a sweet and gentle heart. The perfect combination to me. You have such a strong presence but you can also be so shy and tentative around places and people that aren't entirely familiar to you. It's at times like those that you gravitate toward me and often grab one of my legs with both arms wrapped around in a death-like grip. But, it only takes a few minutes of me sitting with you and helping you get used to your surroundings that you start to venture off and gain the confidence you need to play on your own. That and a big fire truck always helps.

You love trucks, especially garbage and fire trucks. You love saying, "GAR BAGE!" real loud and when I say it back to you it makes you laugh. You're starting to talk more and more and I can usually hear you sing along in the back seat to the nursery songs I play on the CD player in the car. You really enjoy music and we can usually catch you dancing to the rhythm. You have many more words than I could count right now and I've even heard you counting with Charlotte at times, as well as singing the ABC song along with her. You two have been playing together more and more and enjoying your play time together more as well, which warms my heart beyond belief. Charlotte loves all the same trucks and cars and trains as you do, so it can make for some opportunistic times for sharing lessons. But, I'll set the timer for five minutes, at which time you have to share, and more than half the time you don't even make it the full five minutes before you hand it over to her at will. If you play too rough, which happens quite often, you are very quick to tell her you're sorry and give her a big hug...which usually causes her to cry again because it's so big it knocks her over, but it's really the loving thought that counts.

You definitely have a stubborn streak though. Your Grandma Smith is convinced it's from your Daddy. (I am too.) You will fight and fight until you finally realize it's in your best interest to give in, or in your bottom's best interest, and you finally will relent. It's at that moment though that a switch is flipped and you stop fighting, want hugs, and keep saying "sorry, sorry, sorry". We tell you we forgive you and we love you, and give you more hugs, and then you're off again as if nothing happened.

You really are so much fun to be with. You LOVE rough housing with your Daddy and love being thrown around by him. He'll toss you in the air, almost to the top of the vaulted ceiling and you just cry for "more more more!" whenever it seems like he may be done. You love your bath time but are still pretty tentative about the pool. Last year you would sit in the floating starfish or let us carry you around in the water, but this year you stick pretty close to the side. You'll be completely content sitting on the steps splashing your hands in the water and watching me and Charlotte swim. Then, when it's time to go, you make it very known you're not happy with the decision by throwing a pretty healthy sized fit. That's one thing that is very challenging for you - leaving a place or situation that has been lots of fun. You're getting a bit better, but it's still pretty tough for you.

The other day I was watching you play with your cars. You were playing by yourself and were so intentional in all your movements and having a ball playing on your own. I told your Daddy how happy I was that God gave us a boy - that God gave us you. You are such a delight to watch grow and change and laugh and play. I go in every night after you're asleep and make sure you're covered up, and I just stare in awe at the wonderful gift before me. I thank the Lord every day for such a joy and delight in my life. I can't imagine us ever being without you. I love you Cy. You're my sweet boy.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Matthew's Birth Story

With each child it seems it takes a little longer to get the time to write out their birth story. Matthew was four months old yesterday and I'm finally getting to it. I realized that there won't be a day very soon when I feel refreshed or well rested, so I better just go with what I've got before I forget it entirely. Although I'm not sure that could ever happen.

This birth was the first one that I was honestly scared about. Terrified actually. I'm not sure why. It would make sense if it were the one after Charlotte's, since her labor was so, well, labor intensive. But, I wasn't scared a bit about Cy's birth, excited even. And you'd think after Cy's birth, since it was such a breeze (in the relative terms of a pain medication-free natural birth), I'd be excited for Matthew's birth, or at least not as fearful as I was. But from about thirty weeks, when I had my first contractions, I really started to get scared. What if? What if something bad happens? What if I labor in the middle of the night and can't make it through the rest of it in the morning. (I was blessed enough to have both Charlotte and Cy's labor and delivery during the daytime hours.) What if he/she is in a bad position or what if I can't go natural for some reason and have to get an epidural or have a c-section. I know it sounds crazy to the moms out there who are great fans of the epidural, to choose to have the pain of childbirth, but I'm actually more scared of being numb than the pain I'll experience when I can feel everything. At any rate, I was scared of this birth and also worried once again that I wouldn't bond with this child. Even though I had experienced these feeling twice already and knew full well that the moment this little blessing is placed in my arms, I'm completely in love, I still had that fear.

As for the contractions at 30 weeks, I was advised to take it easy and drink more water and they soon passed, not to return for another ten weeks, thank the Lord! I was also very prepared to have this baby come late, since Charlotte was eleven days late and Cy was seven. I was praying this wouldn't be the case this time because they diagnosed me with gestational diabetes (turned out to be a pretty bogus diagnosis) and I was told they would "highly advise" me not to go past term. Even though I was with a midwife, she was still under a doctor and pressured to follow his orders. I didn't want to have to fight them for that last week or two, so I was praying it wouldn't even be an issue. The week before the baby was due, it turned out I was measuring small and they were concerned the baby hadn't grown in the past two or three weeks. I had many tests done that week and soon discovered that everything was completely normal, and the baby was more than likely just in a position that hid his/her size. It was the Saturday after my final testing was done (two days before my due date) that I started to feel some contractions that afternoon. I wasn't expecting to go into labor yet since I was still convinced this one would be late. So, when I woke up at midnight to contractions coming about two to five minutes apart, I was thankful this could be the real thing, and we wouldn't have to worry about fighting the doctors about going past my due date.

I was a little nervous knowing one of my fears may be realized, going into labor in the middle of the night. But I also knew from past experience that the other two babies came within four to six hours, so it shouldn't be too long of a night. So, after I had steady contractions for an hour, I woke up Peter and we called our good friend, Serene, to come watch Charlotte and Cy. I was full well expecting to get to the hospital already dilated to a six or even further, since that was how my body works, right? The hospital was about forty minutes away, even in the middle of the night with no traffic, and my contractions stayed regular, 2-5 minutes apart, and moderate to strong the whole way. We arrived around 2:30am, got checked in and because nobody comes in to get induced at two in the morning, all eyes were on me. You would think I was there for an emergency c-section with all the nurses that came into my room to see the action. I was already feeling the pressure to preform, when the first nurse came over to check my progress. "Hmmmm.....barely a fingertip....,maybe a one". Excuse me?! A ONE? I don't do ones! I do sixes. I come to the hospital after moderate to strong regular contractions for an hour and am a SIX. Not a ONE! Check again. My midwife arrives shortly after and checks me again, while I'm contracting (oh yes, that's a fun time if you've ever had one - turns out it will be the course of events for the majority of my labor and even delivery). She says I'm a two to three...maybe. Better than a one, but definitely not a six. It turns out my cervix is in a posterior position. She could pull it forward while I was having a contraction and stretch it a bit further, but after she let go it slipped back again. I had the same situation with Charlotte and Cy when I was checked prior to going into labor, but as soon as I was in active labor and arrived at the hospital it turned anterior and all was well. Well, this baby was in such a position that it was keeping my cervix tilted back. His/her (didn't know the sex yet) head was still down but just pushing down in the wrong direction.

Well, needless to say, I shut down. My husband, Aliza my midwife, Michelle my doula, and more than the necessary number of nurses were all in my room waiting for me to perform, and I was failing. My contractions slowed down to 20-30 minutes apart with moderate to low pain, my blood pressure spiked and my anxiety was through the roof. We couldn't go home because it took forty minutes to get there and it was the middle of the night and Serene was at our house already. What if things picked up as soon as we got home and Serene was told she could go home?  But I didn't want to be there. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be with Charlotte and Cy. I missed them. I didn't want to have this baby. I didn't want to go through labor. I didn't want to push another one out. I just didn't want any part of it. I wanted it to all be over. Now. I was terrified of what might come next.

My midwife suggested they turn off all the machines and I could stay there and rest until morning. I agreed that was probably the best option and that as much as I didn't want this to happen, it was the inevitable and I had to get through it the best way possible. I joined Peter on the visitor couch and laid next to him for some time, crying most of the time. He encouraged me to talk through all the fears and just keep sharing what was on my mind. I did and it helped and I think somewhere in there I got an hour or so of sleep before the morning hours. At about 7am, Aliza came back, as did Michelle, and I was checked again. At this time the contractions were slowly picking back up and as a bigger one hit, she checked me again. Bad news, I was still posterior, good news, I was now about a five or a six. Okay, I can do five or six. Let's get this show on the road.

Peter and my doula, Michelle, took turns walking the halls with me, and more women were checked in for labor, so I was less of a spectacle to be watched, releasing much of the pressure for me to perform. (If you haven't caught on, I have major performance anxiety issues - not a good thing when it comes to childbirth, so I found out.) I relaxed and continued to progress. About 10am, I was at an eight, but still posterior, so she had to stretch my cervix to that point when she checked me during a contraction, only to have it slip back again after the check. But, the anxiety lessened and I felt God's peace over my heart, knowing there was hope and feeling the prayers of so many that morning who knew I was in labor.

My contractions continued to increase in intensity and kept coming closer. I labored for a time in the tub, which relieved some of the pressure and helped me to relax. It turned out that the baby was still positioned way over on one side, his/her back still not in front but rather on the side, keeping my cervix posterior and keeping me from fully progressing. They tried to use a sheet up under my belly while I was on all fours, rocking my belly back and forth to try to get the baby to change positions, but he/she didn't budge. My water still hadn't broken, so I wasn't yet experiencing the intensity of contractions that come once it's broken. Nor did I want to, as I was barely holding on at this point. During the break in between contractions, I would just completely zone out. I couldn't answer any questions or barely even hold myself up. I was spent. Completely.

At about noon, I knew I was still at an eight, could be stretched to a ten when contracting, but it wouldn't stay there. I knew I couldn't go on much longer. I also knew something had to be done and this baby had to be born soon, otherwise I would have no strength left to do it on my own. I asked my midwife what my options were. She told me we could do one of two things. One option was to break my water and hope things would progress faster and I would get fully dilated on my own. I wasn't too thrilled with this option because I knew from experience with Charlotte's birth that contractions get much worse once my water breaks and I could barely handle it now. I was also concerned that without the extra fluid, it would be even harder for the baby to turn into a better position. The second option was to lay flat on my back, hips tilted up, and when I had a contraction, my midwife could reach in, stretch my cervix and pull it forward, and I could try to push the baby out. I asked what the chances of success were for the second option. She said it would be pretty painful (major understatement), but if it worked, I could meet my baby in about twenty minutes. I took a minute, had another contraction, then decided, I will take my chances. I can do just about anything for twenty minuets. That was a couple minutes past noon.

 So, I got up on the table, on my back, and my first contraction hit. Aliza coached me on pushing while Peter and Michelle each held a leg. What came next, with the next three pushes, was the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. I say that after two natural childbirths with no pain medication. It was seriously mind numbing pain. There were a couple pushes that Aliza coached me not to push, but to just let the baby come through, as it was already crowning. She had me do the same thing with Cy's birth, and with him, this wasn't too challenging and even gave me a much needed break from pushing, since he was in just the right position. But, with this baby, there was nothing on this earth that could keep me from pushing. Ever fiber in my body wanted that baby out and there was no stopping the process. I knew when his head was coming through. They say ring of fire, I say wall of fire, and I'm not sure if his shoulders were much easier. Never in my life have I felt such pain. His shoulders came though and right after, Aliza asked me if I wanted to pull out my baby. I reached down and pulled him out and brought him up onto my chest. What I experienced at that moment was the most intense feeling of relief and elated joy I could have ever imagined. I kept calling out, "Praise God, Thank you Jesus, Praise God!", as I couldn't stop  myself from praising the Lord out lout. It just flowed out of me. Then I looked at my sweet baby, held him close to me, saying, "You're so wonderful. You're so wonderful!". And he was. Healthy, strong, baby boy. Matthew was born at 12:19pm that Sunday afternoon. It turns out it didn't even take twenty minutes. He actually didn't have a name until that following morning. We hadn't decided on one before he was born, and a couple hours late, Peter said, "How about Matthew Leif". I said it sounded nice and he said we should sleep on it. The next morning I still loved it. So, Matthew it was. Matthew means gift from God and Leif  means beloved. Pretty perfect to me.

 I still get tears in my eyes thinking of how wonderful he was. Knowing the whole anxious, exhausting, fearful process, and then settling my thoughts on the outcome. God is so good. What a beautiful little blessing. He is now four months old and cooing and laughing and wriggling all about. His brother and sister just adore him and as utterly exhausted as I've been from the multiple midnight plus feedings, I still go to him each night in my sleep deprived stupor, loving every ounce of him and the quiet moments I get to spend with him. With a four year old sister and two year old brother, those quiet moments can be very far and few between.

The process of his birth reminds me a lot of how God does life with us. It's always the times following the greatest hardship that we feel closest to him. If we hold on during those trials, trust him not to save us from it, but to give us strength to endure it, He is always there on the other side to bring us great joy and satisfaction in being nearer to Him. In seeing maybe just a glimpse of his glory. Like Moses, who had to be covered by a rock as the Lord passed by him, and couldn't see his full glory and live. We also couldn't possibly experience the full extent of His glory on this side of heaven. But I believe that Sunday afternoon, right around 12:19pm, I received a glimpse of it. Praise the Lord indeed!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Three Years Old!!

Dear Charlotte,
I know every parent at this stage says it too, but I can't believe you're already three. You are growing up into this beautiful little lady right before my eyes. Everything is growing on you - your legs are getting longer, your smile is getting bigger, and your vocabulary is expanding by the day. It is very rare these days that I have a difficult time trying to figure out what you're saying. You used to get frustrated with me when I'd repeatedly ask you, "what?", but I explained to you that I really want to know what you're saying and that it's important to me to understand you, so now you're much more patient with me and you'll repeat yourself to me more slowly and clearly. You've always been one to understand so much better with a little explanation.

Right now you're in your room "napping". I can hear you talking and singing to your "friends" - your Thomas the Train, Lightening McQueen, and Puppy soft toys in your bed with you. You're singing a song now that I'm guessing you're making up as you go along. You just came out of your room a few minutes ago to tell me you had to go potty and to tell me you love me. Some days, Charlotte, you just melt my heart into a puddle. I picked you up from your class at Bible study this morning, and usually when you see me at the door, you come running to me full speed with your arms open wide and a huge smile one your face, giving me a great big collision hug. Today though, Cy was the first one you saw, and you came running full speed to where he was sitting in the stroller and gave him such a big sweet hug. It warmed my heart so much!

You've been playing with Cy a lot more lately and enjoying his friendship more and more. You two will chase one another down the hallway and you're even starting to share your trains with him. A couple days ago when we were going to the dentist office, I told you that you'd need to share your truck with Cy when we got to the office. Before we even pulled into the parking lot, I looked back and saw you giving Cy the truck. The same truck you were playing with all morning and had become so attached.You did it without  me even reminding you. I told you how proud I was of you, and how big it makes the Lord smile when you share and act lovingly toward your brother.

It was late September when you told me you wanted Jesus to live in your heart forever. A couple days before, we had let you climb into bed with us in the morning after you had gone potty. You climbed in and started chatting with us, and all on your own accord, began to tell us about how much God loves us and that Jesus died for us so we could live. I was just in shock. We had shared these things with you many times, but you had never repeated it to us before. So, Daddy picked up and started sharing more of the Gospel with you and telling you more and more about His great love for you. The next afternoon, after Cy had gone down for his nap, you were sitting on my lap at the table, coloring your Thomas the Train coloring book. I was reading an excerpt from a marriage counseling book we were using to counsel a couple from our church and got to the part that talks about the importance of marrying someone with the same Christian beliefs. In this section it shared a man's testimony of how he trusted his life to Jesus. You stopped me toward the end and told me, "Mommy, I love God and I want him to forgive my sins. I want Jesus to live in my heart forever." I could barely believe what I heard, and tears just started streaming down my face. I  never thought my prayers would be answered so soon! I asked you if you wanted to pray for that to happen. You said yes and prayed a brief prayer with me, and then said, "Mommy, Thomas is blue." It was such a special moment and one I will treasure forever. Since that time I've seen the Lord working on your heart, as little as you are. I see you more sensitive about matters of the heart and more quickly willing to apologize and want to do the right thing. I've also seen how the enemy strives to take hold of that which is no longer his, as there were also a few weeks of pretty severe disobedience. But, lately you've really turned a corner and I see such a sweetness and sensitivity swelling in your heart, I just can't deny that the Lord has settled there.

You are a ball full of energy too and you LOVE to run. We walk to the store sometimes and there's long stretches of grass almost the whole way. You get out of the stroller and will run full speed the entire way, there and back. It's got to be about a mile and a half one way. You love it when I chase you and even enjoy being ticked now - something you really didn't like for some time. You can recognize almost all your letters and on a good day can count to 20 unassisted. You'll even tease sometimes and will quickly tell us, "I was only joking". You love meeting new friends at the park and will quickly and easily play with other kids of all ages. You tend to enjoy playing with those a bit older than you, but really just love any opportunity to be social. You LOVE your Lightening McQueen stories, cars, clothes, bike, and movies, and although you've always enjoyed Thomas, I believe he's now coming in as a close second to your favorite. Cy has picked up your love for both, so you're having to learn a bit faster the fine art of sharing all your favorites.

I have to say, you're my little tomboy. You'll pick a Thomas or Lightening shirt over anything pink, frilly, or girly, faster than Lightening could make it around the racetrack. I have you wear more girly clothes on Sunday for church, but we're not half way home before you ask me, "Mommy, can I put on my shorts and Thomas shirt when we get home?" You do let me put your hair in a pony tail when it's extra windy outside, but that's about your limit. I don't think a bow has come close to your hair since you were around 18-months old. I used to fight it but just recently I've begin to embrace it. You're so active and fun and sweet and it's just so entirely you. You don't have a care what anyone else thinks and you are very sure of the things you like. It's this part of your personality that I know will really strengthen your faith and your belief in the Lord as you grow and mature.

Just thinking about you makes me smile. You are such a joy and delight in our lives. You're funny and sweet and so thoughtful. Just the other day I was having a hard time and begun to cry. You climbed onto the couch in the other room grab a tissue and bring it to me. You're very sensitive to others feelings and I pray the Lord will use this quality in your life in ways that will bring many blessings to others. I love you so much, Charlotte. I pray as we both grow up together, that the Lord will continue to bring us closer to Him and to one another. I pray I will always be a shoulder you can cry on and always have an ear to listen. I pray I will never fail to point you to the One true solution in your life and that the way your Dad and I raise you will cause you to never question His love for you. I pray that your Dad and I will always be a safe place for you and even though I know we'll fail countless times, that through it all, Christ will shine bright enough through us that you'll see Him far brighter than any of our failures. I pray He will always be the most important part of your life.

I love you Sweetheart. My sweet girl. My little love.