Friday, January 19, 2018

When You Realize Your Greatest Dream Has Already Come True

Several afternoons ago I sat the baby on the carpet and took my sweet husband by the hands. As the children played around us I looked into his eyes and said, "I need you to know that in this beautiful life of ours, everything good and hard that has happened....our children, our adventures, our life, YOU are my greatest dream come true. I don't know what is going to happen or where we will end up but it doesn't matter, because the deepest dream of my heart is already a reality."

He needed to hear it, I needed to say it....

He is my greatest dream come true.

The night he proposed to me, what joy!
It came to me in my early morning prayer time. I was reflecting on Hannah and her prayer of grief and torment as she begged to be blessed with a son. The writer of the reflection commented that hope transforms prayer from pleading to worship. It brought me back to my broken anxious prayers for someone who would see me, love me, and want me as I am with all my quirks. Broken and fragile from a previous relationship with a man who didn't care enough to be faithful, and who liked to use words like "pathetic" to describe me, I wondered if my heart's shape had become too disfigured to fit another's.

Then this boy came along, not really a man yet, and he wore his nobility of heart on his sleeve. He truly was so captivated by me, my mind, my face, my heart, my dreams that he sometimes was lost for words. I brought him to his knees, and he brought me to mine, and together we prayed a prayer of praise for this love that seemed like a fairy tale. I was so captivated by his eager search for truth and his determined virtue, and his big dreams! We were going to conquer the world together.

Fast forward all of these years in our love story and we are tired. We have three beautiful exhausting children, and to top it all of he has been without steady income for a half a year. Most days it feels like we are just keeping our heads above water, and we fall asleep holding pinkies or touching feet with a nursing baby hogging the space in between us.
Our little Ezekiel's baptism day
I became disillusioned because with his previous steady income came a flood of exciting possibilities. Perhaps we could buy a home, take a warm vacation, start putting some money away for retirement, renew our wedding vows in Italy, buy Joe the truck of his dreams, educate our children how and where we want, etc etc etc. It sort of went away overnight when the company he was working for had to be put on the shelf in the midst of our struggling economy.

And so it feels like we have been in the trenches, and as I am keeping the home and educating our children, he is doing battle to bring in enough to live off of. He feels like he is letting us down, and he feels responsible for any struggles we might have, even though he is not! And we both are tempted to feel like our dreams are becoming farther away. 

Until I realized my dream is standing right beside me each day, through thick and thin. Those other "dreams" would be nice, but they are fluff and he is the real deal. the midst of the grief, the cross, or the exhaustion, he is patient, devoted, determined, hard working, tender, and funny. He loves our children magnificently and witnesses to them what it looks like when a husband loves his wife with all his heart and will. Who knows if he will change the world as a career man, but he is absolutely changing the world through how he loves his family. 

All is grace. "When all is grace we can wait out our pain and longing in hope. When all is grace, we can give God back our answered prayers in faith. When all is grace, we can see salvation coming in glimpses and flashes, and take up our place in its story. When all is grace, we can be drunk with grief and bold with hope all at once. Because this is just what salvation is: the cradle and the cross, the grace and the stone rolled away, the dark days before a savior and the lit up skies of 'Hosanna in the highest.'"

All glory to God! How fortunate I am. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

In Which a Little Boy Becomes Big Brother

I wrote this over three months ago but after reading it through it is still something I want to post, so that I don't forget and so that the children always know my love for them.

I wanted to capture here the experience, as I've witnessed it, for our sweet lilttle Judah the Lion as he became big brother.

Early days postpartum, trying to make sure both boys got their snuggles

I can now say, after having experiencing it twice, the transition for the (former) baby when new baby comes is one of the most painful realities for me. It struck me to the heart when Judah was born, and struck me just as hard with Ezekiel's birth.

One random day after Ezekiel was born that Judah wanted to wear his suit, just because

This super sweet-natured little boy broke his arm in the early summer, he is just so darling!

I remember being 3 or 4 days postpartum and sitting on Judah's bed over his sleeping frame. He had been begging and crying for me to cuddle him to sleep, but I was nursing the baby. By the time I finally got there he was asleep. I could not stop it as the hot wet tears poured down my face and onto his pj clad little body. I wanted to lay there with him forever, holding him close, so that he would wake up with me there and know I had not replaced him. It was incredibly painful.

Yet as painful as he found the transition, and as many times as he looked at me with his big beautiful eyes and said "It's HARD being a big brother, I'm only 3 and a half," he so adores Ezekiel. The moment he met him he exclaimed with delight, "Oh Tiny, oh Tiny your so cute, Oh Tiny I love you!"

He has called him Tiny ever since.

He loves to just play around where I am as I nurse or snuggle Ezekiel, but he always makes a little pit stop for a kiss on the head or a head rub. Admittedly, he has said odd things like, "Oh Tiny I love you so much I could squish your head!" But I understand the sentiment of wanting to absolutely crush someone with the weight of my love. I can empathize.

Beautifully, Judah and Liliana have grown even closer in friendship! It makes my heart soar to hear them playing and laughing together. They are two goof-balls and can make me crazy with the immensity of their creative mess, but they so adore each other. 

Judah has also become a bit of a clown, he loves to make us laugh and has figured out funny moves and faces that always have us chuckling. He has grown in tenacity and independence, and very quickly adapted to getting himself dressed and cleaning up after himself.

Now, 10 weeks out I can very peacefully say that I was not wrong in my conviction that another baby would be a gift to our family. Admittedly, that night after I sat crying over sleeping Judah, I walked out to Joe and told him I wasn't sure I could do this again, it was too hard seeing the other children suffer as they adapted. However do know that it makes no sense, nor is it even fair, to try and protect a child from life's natural sufferings.....those sufferings in which they become more generous and less self centered. I suppose it is a good lesson to learn early that life is not always about feeling good and that sometimes love is a choice even when it doesn't feel good.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Ezekiel Joseph, a Love (Birth) Story

I consider all of my children's birth stories to be love stories, and I want to treasure them all forever, which is why I write them down. Birth is a love story between Mama, Baby, and Daddy, but especially Mama and Baby. There is a magical, time suspending reality in labour of unity between mom and baby where everything else disappears and nothing else matters. Just the two of us, working together so that we can hold onto each other for the first time.

Ezekiel's birth in particular is a love story because there was so much fear and sadness leading up to it. I didn't have the naive confidence of a first time mama, or the bold confidence of a second time mama, I just felt alot of fear. My pregnancy was full of emotional heaviness, between dying and death, funerals and weddings, growth fears for little babe, prodromal labour discomfort for me. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, fearful that he would not be OK or that somehow I had harmed him through all the stress. I made up my mind in a particular way to love him and birth him with as much serenity and joy as I could. His birth was so wonderful, surreal really. Here he is almost 6 weeks old and I still shake my head at the beauty of it all.

For the first time ever I went past my due date, and so for the first time ever I was checked by a midwife prior to being in labour. Imagine this after 5 weeks of false labour during the night and 5 weeks of wondering whether our baby was coming. I was exhausted from the constant state of "ready to go," pristine house,  and packed bags!  On Friday the 28th I was 2 cm dilated and was given a membrane sweep to possibly get things going. We had a truly happy day, I felt surrendered and ready (as opposed to the agitation I'd been feeling for so long), Joe and I watched a comedy that night and laughed so hard! I had half a glass of wine so as to try and sleep, I felt too tired to go into labour in the wee hours of the night!

I woke between 4 and 4:30 with contractions. I was conditioned to the false stuff so I nonchalantly tried to go back to sleep, but when it seemed there might be a pattern to these ones I started timing them. 7 minutes apart 45 seconds long. I lay there for about an hour and when it seemed they were getting stronger and closer together I got up. 5 minutes apart and 45 seconds long and what seemed like a possible amniotic fluid leak! My water has never broken prior to the pushing phase so I was not so sure. Still in denial that "this could be it!" I plodded into the kitchen, had a cup of coffee, and felt very content. At 6:00 Judah came out for a snuggle and I carried him into Joe. This was my first indication that it could be real, because I did not feel like I could hold Judah through the contractions.

At 6:30 they were more like 3 minutes apart and 1 minute long but still super manageable. However I decided I did not want an unassisted birth so I woke Joe. He sprung alive and into action, he is an absolute machine when it comes to our baby's birth days! He also commanded me to call my mom and the midwives right away. So I called our midwives and someone was coming over to check things out very soon. I cautioned them that I had no idea whether this was real. Regardless,  Joe knowing we run out of hot water very quickly brought up the birth pool and got all of the pots going on the stove. We felt excited and ready, the early morning sun was shining in through the open windows and Ezekiel's playlist was playing.

The first midwife showed up just as the children were waking, 7:15ish. Joe tended to them while she tended to me. It was determined that I was 5-6 cm dilated and my water had indeed broken! Shortly after my mom arrived, her presence during my births is always such a gift. For the next hour everything was so wonderful! I was labouring on the ball, and also getting children ready for soccer, helping them eat breakfast, etc and just dropping wherever a contraction hit me to breath through it. They would come to ask me a question and my eyes would be closed. Liliana would tell Judah that they just had to wait until Mommy's eyes opened. They were totally unconcerned. Judah was running around yelling that it was a HUGE day! The first day of soccer AND the baby was coming. It was so wonderful, so real, and how I imagine it may have been in the olden days when birth and death happened in the middle of the family home. 

My dad arrived around 8:30 with coffee for the midwives and to pick the children up for breakfast and soccer. He gave me a big kiss. Joe said he could tell things were getting real because I was starting to laugh (I laugh when in pain), no one else knew. The midwives were totally unaware of just how far along I was!

As soon as the children left I got in the water. It felt so so amazing! I asked if anyone thought we would have a baby by lunchtime! Because my water had broken I was not feeling the intense pressure Id felt in previous births, but the pain in my cervix was a bit more intense. Still, I laboured silently and no one knew that I was fully dilated. With each child I've had a special visualization, a place I take my mind so that my body can do it's work without my control freak brain getting in the way. With Ezekiel he and I were laying on a warm and beautiful beach in Maui Joe and I discovered one day. It was so private, with trees for shade and softly lapping waves. In my mind I lay there with my baby and it made the contractions so much more manageable. 

I had the now familiar pushing sensation and announced that I was feeling pushy. However, because I was not making any noise and was outwardly very calm everyone just continued with their business - paperwork, chatting, etc. I remember feeling slightly annoyed that people weren't realizing how serious this was but not having the emotional energy to voice it politely so I just stayed quiet :) I was pushing, though, and I put my hand down to see if I could feel baby's head. I felt his head as I was pushing and so I kept pushing and delivered his head into the water. One of the midwives asked if I had pushed through that contraction and I announced, " I think his heads out!"

"His heads out! OK! Let's have a baby!" one of the midwives announced. I felt way too uncomfortable to wait for the next contraction so I pushed his little body out and into the warm water. They passed  him up through my legs and into my arms! "Hi Baby! Hi Baby, I love you, oh you are so Tiny!" I exclaimed as I held him to my chest in relief and disbelief. It was my fastest labour by 5.5 hours, and happened so very much in the middle of life that it seemed unbelievable he could come so easily and so peacefully. It was 9:17 am. 

We sat there in no rush, waiting for his cord to turn white and stop pulsing. We just marvelled at his sweet face, his long toes, his tiny body with a good thick layer of vernix still on it. He was so perfect, he is so perfect, we are so tired and so grateful. His older siblings finished their soccer and came home mid-morning to Mama tucked into bed and a sweet tiny brother to love and hold. It could not have happened more ideally!



Ezekiel Joseph, my heart, my darling, your peaceful disposition, adoring smiles, sleepy, cuddly, patient ways have blessed our family more than you know. You were born quietly and you have blessed us with your serene presence, the gift we dreamt of but could not have imagined the immensity of. You are so treasured, so LOVED!

Ezekiel Joseph Packard
"God is my Strength"
7 lbs 6 ounces, 20 inches
9:17 AM April 29, 2017