I’ll Hold You In My Heart (’till I can hold you in my arms)

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Four Years ago (was it that long ago?) I started piecing a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. It’s all made of one shape–a hexagon.  I had never tried paper piecing before! I started out using all the odds and ends in my box of fabrics. Then my sister bought me some when I ran out and so did my mom. It seemed like it would take forever to finish!  I imagined working on it throughout my pregnancy and holding my little baby in it.

I was on bed-rest during my 5th pregnancy due to complications and needed something to do while lying on the sofa and this seemed like the perfect time to try. But baby Karin was born a week later…straight into heaven. She never got to be wrapped up in her quilt.  I’m still working on it, though it grew to be a twin sized blanket.  I have it pinned and I’ve started quilting the pieces together, sewing around each flower by hand. It’s become a therapy for me to hold it. I almost don’t want to finish it….maybe that’s why I’m taking so long. I think of her when I sew and how special this quilt is to me.

Someday when it’s done and I’ve placed that last stitch in it, I may enter it in our local fair for others to see and I would title it simply Karin’s Quilt. And maybe, someone would think of Karin and that she must have been a special person to have a quilt hand sewn for her.

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

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Well, summer is here and I’ve been keeping busy.

First of all, the wire fencing wasn’t keeping our girls in the fenced area and had to be redone with non-climbable boards. They figured out how to climb out when my sister was watching them last summer while I was in the hospital having our youngest.

Secondly, their alternate method of escape, pulling themselves up to unlatch the gate, has now been secured with carabiner clips. I got the scare of my life when the two year olds ran away and down the alley to a  neighbors swing set. My husband had been gone less than two hours on a weekend trip to visit his mother. (sigh) I didn’t want that to happen again!

Thirdly, someone (I’ll give you a hint, she’s 2 1/2 years old) decided that the 4 foot drop from the living room window wasn’t that bad and so she jumped…and landed unharmed and then picked a buttercup while her sister came and got me out of bed (I had forgotten to shut the window the night before while airing out our stuffy house).  We have to keep all un-screened or un-supervised windows closed with the summer heat. She’s been trying this for a year and it also started at the same time as the aforementioned fence climbing.

Fourthly, the garden is now fenced off from offending 3 year olds who have decided that green raspberries taste great and that the carrots are the perfect place to drive their Tonka trucks. I can’t wait till it’s time to harvest the carrots and potatoes and put them to work! And why do chives and parsley taste perfectly fine in the garden but not in any meal I serve?

But, now that these things are under control, we are enjoying our yard much more and with more freedom. What is it they say about boundaries providing security?  I agree, I certainly feel more secure with my kids playing outside now.

I’m in a hurry

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It was exactly what I had feared. It was 3:40 AM and I got up again to empty my bladder that was squished in my pregnant abdomen. I thought I didn’t make it to the bathroom in time! (blush) My 3 little girls were fast asleep in their beds and my husband was just starting work 25 minutes away….and my water had broke…. and  I was ALONE!

First, I called my sister…I felt slightly panicked and she was about 8 minutes away and could get here quick. Then I called my husband (I should have called him first! Oops!)  and no answer…call number two…still no answer…then my cell phone rang and I told him to come  home now. The contractions were starting! Ach! My sister arrived and loaded up her car with all my things and put the waterproof pad on the leather passenger seat, that way we could leave our car-seat laden mini-van for her. My husband got home and changed and off we went!  I called the hospital and told them we were on our way (the nurse later said I didn’t sound like I was that far into labor).

I couldn’t walk into the labor and delivery ward, so my husband wheeled me inside. The receptionist started asking me for all our information and never in my life did I feel like yelling at somebody ever! I still think I held my patience pretty good.  I was able to tell her that my contractions were less than a minute apart fairly nicely….

Well, half an hour later my little girl was born…I didn’t get the epidural, I didn’t get changed into a hospital gown, but the OB doctor did make it on time! Phew!

And that, folks, is my hour and forty minute labor story.

Together Forever

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When I’m out with our 2 year olds, the inevitable conversation is;

“Are they twins?”

“No” I say.

Then…”How old are they?”

“Two years old”

“Are they both yours?”

“Yes.”

“But they aren’t twins.”

“No, they are a week a part.”

“How does that work?”

“One is biological and one was adopted”.

“Oooohhhh…”

Now sometimes I get asked the first three questions and then I just keep walking… snickering to myself. The confused look on some peoples faces are priceless!

Other times when asked I just say “Almost!” and keep walking….

So far, only one person has caught on after I say that they aren’t twins both are both mine that one was adopted.  I was actually impressed. I guess it’s a hard thing to grasp.

It’s been a fun experience. Having almost twins has made us baby-proof our house to extreme measures, half our furniture and nick-knacks are now in the garage…half their toys too!  They teach each other things! Climbing out of the crib at 16 months made me almost cry since I was pregnant. I had planned for them to stay contained till they were 3 at least!

When I was in the hospital with our littlest one, my sister texted me that they figured out how to climb over the yard fence. They were 21 months old! Last week they just decided it was easier to just unlatch the fence and run across the street and down the ally to the house with the swing-set.  Carabiner  clips now lock the latches. Guess what my husband is doing now? Installing boards on the fence and taking out the wire fencing. Maybe at least that will slow them down!

If You Leave Me Now

 Peter Cetera and Me

Last light I was able to leave for the evening without any kids! I hadn’t left our 9 month old for more than a couple hours before,  so I was a little nervous. The baby did fine, but one of my 2 year olds was so upset that when I left that she cried so hard she threw up. I told my husband, “you should have called me and I could’ve have talked to her”. My husbands response? “She was fine”.  Good to know I can leave without traumatizing anyone!

A month ago I saw an ad in our local paper advertising a concert. My sister is friends with the guy who puts together these shows, and often she’ll get complimentary tickets. I’m normally not a concert person but thought that this one would be fun! I sent her this message; “I might just go to the Peter Cetera concert if you get tickets and ask me. I’m pretty sure I might do that…. you know if someone gives you tickets and you want company….”

Well, she said she wasn’t going to go.   Drat.

She ended up deciding to go and last night we got to see Peter Cetera sing!  We had VIP tickets and in the center second row. Aaannnnddd….we got to go backstage and meet him! I shook his hand and got a picture with him.  Now, you hope these things will happen, but I wasn’t going to count on it, just getting to go was great!

So many good songs were played. You could tell most of the audience was there to hear the Chicago era songs, though. They sure were excited! (Thank you  Mr. Loud Whistler Sitting Behind Me, I couldn’t tell which were your favorite songs.)  The audience was louder than the band! The back up singer did a fun version of Cher in After All.  And Next Time You Fall In Love, Glory Of Love (You know, from Karate Kid II) and You’re The Inspiration….the songs I remember listening to when I was a kid.

And I have a photo with him…did I mention that?

I should care

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Mother’s Day. *sigh*

I should love it. I should enjoy it. But I really don’t.

A few of my miscarriages we right around Mother’s Day…in fact my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage right before. I remember the time vividly. My family had sent me a floral arrangement expressing their sorrow and it was delivered to me while I was home alone. I was handed the flowers and the delivery boy had me sign the receipt  then said cheerfully “Happy Mother’s Day!” I shut the door and sobbed.

I spent my first few Mother’s Days with empty arms. Then we brought our foster daughter home and I was suddenly a mom…but it took 3.5 years for our adoption to be finalized, so I was her mom but still not legally for so long. We were never sure she would be with us permanently, there was always that fear of her being taken away. I always had to check that box on forms that said “other” or “guardian” not “mother”.

When we had our first biological baby, someone said to me “Happy first Mother’s Day!”  Ouch.  So adoption did not make me a mother in some eyes, I had to have a bio-baby to be a real mother.

I learned to just stay home those Sundays and now I volunteer to sit in the nursery in church. It just still feels so awkward. It reminds of the sorrow I had in those early years of infertility.  I know other women in our church who never had children and longed for them. I know single women who never married and had children they hoped for. Others have lost babies and children and are reminded of the void in their lives.  It’s like Valentines day when you are a widow or Father’s Day after loosing your dad.

I like to bring flower’s to my mom and mother in law. I appreciate the gifts my kids make for me. I may be the only mom on the verge of sobbing at the Mother’s Day Tea at school…  Yes, I am grateful I get to be a mom, but I don’t need a holiday to tell me that I am blessed in that way.

If you know someone who is struggling with this day, send them a note or card. Acknowledge that the day may be difficult for them and that you are thinking of them. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it.

Ring ring

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We chose to foster again after our first biological miracle came along. My husband and I thought  another girl whose age fell between our two girls ages of 6 and 1 would be perfect. We bought a loft bed and painted our older daughters room and also put up another crib (2 cribs in our house!) in our younger daughters room. We were set and ready!

Well, as any foster parent knows, you can ‘yes’ to many kids and it may never work out. Early on we decided to be open and God would bring the kids He meant for us to have. We’ve said ‘yes’ to dozens and yet only 3 ever moved in with us! We had received many calls (I would jump every time the phone rang!) and we were still waiting.

Late one Tuesday  afternoon, I got a call asking if we’d take a one year old girl in for a week. Now, generally we don’t do short term care because our interest is long term and hopefully adoption. We felt it would be too much for our daughters to have kids coming and going frequently. We were getting a bit impatient for a placement and so we said I’d come and pick her up, at least something was happening! It would be fun to have a little guest for a week!

She had nothing but the clothes on her back and one of the care packages that the DSHS offices had been given. I didn’t know her exact age when we got the call except that she was a year old (which could mean almost 1 or almost 2). It turned out she was a week younger than our youngest daughter (and that’s a whole other post!).

Well, fast forward…and she stayed longer than a week. She stayed months…and then a year. And we recently finalized her adoption! Sometimes it’s good to step outside your comfort zone and do something you normally wouldn’t.  We would have missed out.  She’s ours and adds a lot of spice to our life!

Take my hand

Since it is National Infertility Awareness Week, I thought I would share some thoughts on ministry and infertility;

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Ministering To Those Struggling With Infertility

As I write this, my four daughters lay sleeping in their beds. The quiet is a nice change from our rambunctious day! But this wasn’t always the case, a silent house used to cause sorrow.  Years ago, my husband served as children’s pastor at our church and I helped him while we struggled with infertility and loss. Ministering to other people’s children when you long for your own was very challenging.  Many of our friends from Bible College were already having babies while we waited, took costly fertility drugs and then miscarried our first five babies.

Many infertile couples don’t talk about the challenges they face. I found it hard to get support in the church. Eventually, I found support from an online forum called Hannah’s Prayer (http://www.hannah.org) to help me through the joy of positive pregnancy tests, numerous doctor visits and tears of losing babies. They celebrated the adoption and births of our daughters with me. They allowed me to ask questions that I could not ask anywhere else. They encouraged me when my faith was weak.

It’s estimated that one in six couples are dealing with infertility.  Infertility is described in Webster’s dictionary as: “not fertile; especially: incapable of or unsuccessful in achieving pregnancy over a considerable period of time (as a year) in spite of determined attempts by heterosexual intercourse without contraception”. So, whether you realize it or not, someone in your church may be dealing with infertility and/or loss.

Eventually we became foster parents and adopted a beautiful little girl.  Adoption opened my eyes to how God sees us as His adopted sons who have a full inheritance.  Our daughter filled a huge void in our hearts and arms.

Our sixth pregnancy was successful and brought us a live baby girl right before our tenth wedding anniversary. Eleven months after that we welcomed an eleven month old girl into our home through foster care. We recently adopted her. Our seventh pregnancy brought us another little girl last July.

Though the experience of infertility and miscarriages has made me stronger in my faith and helped me minister to others more compassionately, it is a journey that will never be far from my heart.

Here are ten ways you can minister to a couple struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss;

1. Don’t compare my barrenness or loss with anything. Having no money, being spiritually dry or losing a pet you loved does not compare to the desire for a child. All my future hopes and dreams of motherhood may never become a reality.

2. Being infertile or miscarrying my baby doesn’t mean I lack faith or I haven’t reached a certain level of maturity. Most likely, I am already having a crisis of faith and struggle with this area. Reassure me that God does love me.

3. Keep away from clichés like “its God’s will”, “it’s probably for the best” or that you know “God will answer your prayers”. You don’t know the answers or what God has planned for my family’s future.

4. If I lost my unborn baby at six weeks, six months or six days after birth, don’t compare the level of grief I may be suffering.  Saying things like “at least you weren’t far along” belittles my child’s value as well as my grief and pain.  A child is a child no matter how old he or she is.

5. Do pray for me, and tell me that you do. There may be days or seasons when I feel like I can’t talk to God because of my heartache and grief.  Knowing someone is lifting me up in prayer encourages me.

6. If I share my struggles with you keep it confidential. Please ask permission to share it with others or before putting it on the prayer chain. I may still be dealing with the situation and need time to process it before facing others comments and questions.

7. Please remember to be sensitive on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I may skip the day to avoid the topic in the sermon, being the only one sitting while all the parents stand up or hearing someone who doesn’t know what we are going through say “When are you going to have a baby?” If I do come, there may be tears as I see other’s whose dreams for children have come true, while I still wait. Baby dedications are also hard for us and even Christmas where the focus is all on a baby (even though we know it’s baby Jesus).

8. Fathers have a hard time too. They also long for a child and daily see their wives hurting and longing for a baby.

9. Let me say ‘no’ to situations I may not feel strong enough for. Working in the nursery or children’s ministries may not be the best place for me now. I may not feel able to face attending or helping to host a baby shower either.  Churches are very family orientated and just being there can be a challenge for me, I may struggle fitting into typical peer groups.

10. Acknowledge my baby if I miscarry. Let me talk about him or her. It’s okay to say something or send a card. Knowing that someone remembers that I carried a life and that this little life is gone helps me grieve.  I’ll probably keep the card and tuck it in a memory box.

I will carry you

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“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
― L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl

I have a box where I’ve tucked away precious mementos from a little girl I didn’t get to know as much as I wanted to. I carried her for 16 1/2  weeks and was just starting to feel her flutter in my belly when her heart stopped beating. Her name is Karin Lily. That she lived that long was a miracle in itself. I had lost four previous babies through early miscarriages and with Karin, I grew more and more hopeful that she would make it.  But Karin’s little body was not able to carry on and she died. I went through labor and delivery one Sunday morning in June and counted her toes and fingers. We could see that her footprints were already formed! Later we found out she had a rare chromosomal issue (69xxx)  that is fatal and she would never had lived after birth.

Every now and then I pull out the memory box and look at the sweater set and blanket she never used. Sometimes I add some little thing that reminds me of her.  I look at her ultrasound pictures of when she was alive and kicking and it’s bittersweet…I’m thankful for the time I had with her and yet I still miss her.