Nora Laughs

IMG_3289Nora laughs out loud now.

Julia stretches out beside her on the rug in the book room.  She talks to her small sister, she takes one finger and taps gently on Nora’s collarbone and Nora just laughs.  I watch this moment, my first and my last, twenty years of mothering in one place and I watch this moment. Breathe it in.

I remember Julia’s first laughs.  I was getting ready for work and she was lying on my bed, smiling at me as I bustled around.  I had her socks in my hand.  I went over to her and talked to her for a second, reveling in those sweet smiles.  I took the sock and ran it across her nose, which always made her smile wider.  She laughed.  I melted.  I did it 100 times that morning, loving that sweet laughter.  I was late for work.  But even as a young mother, I knew that moment was one to memorize.

When Aubrey laughed, she was still a little butterball with tons of black hair.  Chase, a round faced ball of sheer joy- he laughed early and often.  Lila’s laugh was so infectious that the whole household stopped to revel in it.  Claire’s laugh came late after months of colicky fussing and when it did, our hearts just stopped.

Now Nora joins the ranks, adds another set of “firsts” to my career.  She is my last, the last of the firsts and my heart breaks a little bit over that but is mostly just filled with the joy that I am here to witness these firsts, to witness the miracles.

I am here to see her smile.  She is here to smile.  I am here to hear her giggles, she is here to giggle.  We are here.  We are here together.

So often my thoughts take me back to those moments, the moments when I went in for surgery, so afraid.  When I woke up, tubed and confused but somehow at peace.  When I held Nora the first time, when I had to go back to the hospital.  Night after night in various hospital rooms…the pain I’m still in…the exhaustion I can’t describe, this painful bone deep weariness.  Five months out and I struggle in mind, heart and body, struggle daily to take one step forward and two steps back.  (Sometimes even more when I overdo it.  Which I always do.)  Five months of pain and weariness, soul battle scarred and tired…

But these moments, these firsts, this baby’s smiles and laughter…it’s worth it.  I wouldn’t have missed Nora’s smile, Nora’s laughter for the world.

I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to.

That’s enough for today.

 

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Only One

Claire comes downstairs proud and pleased.

She has dressed herself in what she figures is her finest .  I smile at her accomplishment, tell her she’s done a great job.  She looks crazy but that’s part of what I love about this stage of development, the quirkiness that they don’t know yet to be self conscious about.

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She is all Claire, all personality and I love her for it, for every bit of it.

Lately I’m struggling to keep my head above water.  Physical recovery seems to drag on and drag out.  Hormones run wild, dropping and surging like the ocean’s tides.  I feel depleted in almost every way but one.

Love.

I am so loved.  A husband who is my champion, who believes in me and roots for me and helps me and supports me.  Two grown daughters who cry at their baby sister’s dedication, who laugh about the silliest things, who send me snapchats and tease me for having blood transfusion Alzheimer’s.  One tall teenaged son who turned sixteen last week, who remembered childhood with me, who sings Emery songs with me.  Two younger daughters who fill my days with wonder and frustration, two younger daughters whose love for each other literally makes my heart sing.  One sweet, peaceful, gorgeous little baby who is a constant blessing.  My sister who is my best friend and brother in law who is more like a brother, my nieces, my smiling nephew, my parents and in laws, my aunts and uncles and cousins, our Polly, all of my friends….I am so loved.

I have so much.

All of that love seeks to fill up my depleted heart and soul but only One can fully do that.

And as I smile at Claire’s fashion choices, I feel that One smiling over me.  Singing over me.  Saying that when I try to do my life myself, Claire’s outfit is kind of what my life looks like- backwards, mismatched, not quite right.  But He still revels in who I am.

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I feel like that’s a good place to start this morning.  Face turned up to the Son as He sings.

Love, Kindness, Generosity

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This morning I can’t help but think about the world and how there’s so much evil in it and so much sorrow.  Yesterday, the unthinkable happened and the lives of 26 families were changed forever.  Twenty precious little souls with eternal significance were robbed of their earthly life…six more adults were taken too and I just can’t fathom it.  Then, my oldest two daughters tell me that a classmate of theirs from Poquoson was killed in a car accident yesterday.  So much sorrow in this world.

And this is  a fallen world.  There is evil in it.  We saw that yesterday.   Every mother I know held her children a little closer and wept for their sisters, the mothers who won’t ever hold their children close again.

It broke my mother’s heart.  And I had to ask the question…why do I get to live but these little ones in Connecticut, Julia and Aubrey’s Poquoson classmate…they don’t?

Of course a question like that has no answer.  Certainly not an answer to assuage my sorrow and even my guilt.  I’ll never stop being grateful that my life was spared.  I’ll never stop being grateful that Nora will know me, that Claire will remember me, that my children will have their mother and John will have his wife and that all the people who love me still have a me to love.  I am so grateful and I don’t understand these mysteries…the question can not be answered.

So, I just prayed fervent prayers for the families of all of these ones, prayed that God would redeem it all and that He would bring comfort.  And I just thought…I’m really good at believing that God works all things together for good…but I can’t see any good in the deaths of children.  It’s a mystery I can’t unravel.  I know He is good.  I know He redeems.  But I know that children dying is just horrific and that those mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and friends will always feel that loss.  I prayed more and more for the peace of God that surpasses all understanding to fall on them…because His peace is steadfast and it doesn’t always make sense but He will give it.  Let your peace fall, God.  Let the Comforter come…nothing will make this okay, but God will stand with those who are hurting.

Is our world just so evil, God, that there is no hope?  Watch the news for five minutes…all you see is death, destruction, horror.  Human trafficking, slavery, murder, thievery, abuse of all kinds…It’s disheartening and discouraging and you wonder if there is any good left in the world at all.

But I know that there is.  This morning, my two little girls came downstairs to heaps of gifts under our two Christmas trees.  Lila said, “Where did all of this come from?”  and I told her that people had heard our story and they were sad that Mommy was in the hospital so long and that Nora is still in the hospital and that those people wanted to bless our family.  I reminded her of the fundraiser that’s happening this morning, where my loved ones and friends and people I don’t even know are gathering to raise money for our hospital bills.

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She went back to studying the presents but my mind went back to remembering all the kindnesses that have been shown to us not just since I went into the hospital but since the summer when I first went on bed rest.

  • Meal after meal that have been made with love and delivered to us from June until yesterday and more to come
  • Cards, notes, texts, facebook messages and emails offering love and prayers and encouragement
  • People have come and raked our leaves and cleaned up our yard
  • People have come and cleaned our house
  • People have come and cared for my little kids
  • Gifts sent over from generous hearts and hands
  • Gas cards and gift cards given from people we know and people we don’t
  • Tiny baby clothes purchased and given for sweet Nora
  • Prayer meetings held on our behalf
  • Money contributed for medical bills
  • Groceries bought and delivered
  • Prayers, prayers and more prayers

We’ve been amazed by the kindness not only of our friends and family, but also of those we don’t even know that have heard our story and reached out to us.

I am thinking too of the nurses at Norfolk Sentara who have consistently showed me so much love and kindness.  The ones who took care of me during my two long stays.  The ones who care for my Nora even now.  The ones who remember us from visit to visit, who are rooting for us, who are praying for us.  The nurse who put a bow in Nora’s hair just because I was coming to visit.  They are Good.  They are Loving.  They give with Generosity.

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And maybe our world does have more Evil in it than Good but, Beloved Ones, I think we can change that.  We can be the ones who show love and generosity and kindness.  We can share Jesus by being like Jesus.

It’s been so humbling to be at the center of his favor, to be experiencing such an outpouring of Love, Kindness and Generosity.  Our cups are so full they are overflowing and we are swimming in blessings and favor.  All of this outpouring has allowed us to be more generous to the orphanage, has freed us to be able to focus on my recovery and on Nora’s nicu stay and on the rest of our family.  We’ve been given such a gift- to see the body of Christ come together and to see the floodgates of heaven opened wide and poured out on us…I am awestruck.

The body of Christ is beautiful.  The church is beautiful.

Can we become a people who bring light into darkness?  Can we offer Love, Kindness and Generosity even when it’s hard?  Even when we don’t have much to give?  When we are so empty that the smallest kindness offered seems like an insurmountable effort?  We can.  We can because when we do, it multiplies.  When you share Love, your heart grows and is filled.  When you share Kindness, Kindness returns to you.  When you share Generously…the Lord returns and returns it more and more.  That’s the way God designed it.  When we live like Jesus, Love and Kindness and Generosity multiply.

And don’t you want to be part of that?  Don’t you want to bring His Light to this dark, dark world?  I do.  I want to be the sort of person who Loves Big and lives a life of kindness and generosity.  I want to bless.  I want to pay it forward, because how could  I not?  We’ve seen the Love of Christ in the community that has surrounded us.

This morning, I still mourn for those families who’ve lost loved ones.   This morning, I still pray fervently for God’s mercy and comfort and peace.  This morning, I know there is nothing to say or do to help ease that pain.  Nothing.  But there is plenty to do to bring Light and Love into this world and I promise God and everyone else that I will LOVE big, I will practice KINDNESS, I will give GENEROUSLY.

 

The Preemie Learning Curve

When Julia was born twenty years ago, she was placed in my arms and I held her and kissed her warm head and I knew her.  I had an instinct for her that I could trust.  And I seldom second guessed myself.  I don’t know if that was the cockiness of a nineteen year old or just me settling into a role God made me for or both…but I always trusted my gut instinct when it came to Julia.

Same with Aubrey and with Chase.  I was twenty one and twenty three when they were born, still a young mother but a mother filled with confidence.  I knew what they wanted and what they needed and I trusted myself with these precious little creatures.  I believed in my abilities as a mother.

Lila, then Claire…they were both so different from my laid back, easy going first three.  It was tougher.  I was older, I was more of an over-thinker but still…I knew them instantly and trusted my gut to know what was best for them.

Fast forward to baby #6 and she is the game changer.  I don’t have a gut instinct for her because preemies are so different!  I have to look to the strangers that take care of her every day for guidance.  (And her nurses are amazing!)

My baby philosophy is that you can’t really hold a baby too much…but it turns out, you can hold a preemie too much.  They have immature nervous systems and can get overstimulated.  My philosophy is to feed on demand when they are small but my baby can’t nurse or drink from a bottle yet.  She is fed through a tube, every three hours on the dot.  She’s going to have to learn to drink from a bottle.  And, you kind of get in the habit of changing your baby right after a feeding but a preemie baby needs to have time to be still and digest. These are things I didn’t automatically know.  I am in an odd position of not really knowing what’s best for my own baby.

There are so many things I’ve needed her wonderful nurses to tell me.  I feel like I learn something new every time I go in to the nicu.  The nurses are knowledgeable and kind and they encourage us to do what we can for Nora.  And I do, but truth be told, I’m kind of intimidated by my little 4lb. 2oz. baby.  I’m getting more comfortable with dressing her and changing her and taking her in and out of her isolette.  I’m okay with unhooking her feeding tube to get her shirt over her head.  I’m more than happy to kiss her face right off and pat her sweet little back.  But I don’t always know what’s best for her…because she’s different than all of her siblings.  I am full of questions when we’re in the nicu and I want to learn all I can.

She has to take caffeine in order to keep her breathing regular.  She has to have regular testing to make sure she’s progressing okay.  She is so small that it’s hard for her to keep herself warm.

She has alarms on her body to keep track of heart rate, breathing, blood pressure.  I asked the nurse last night, only half joking, if we could take the monitor and some nurses home with us when the time finally comes.  Because if I’m being honest?  I’m excited for that day and very, very nervous for that day too.

Even as much as Nora has grown, all of my other babies were at least twice her size, some more than that.  (Lila was 10lb. 4oz.)  Will I know what to do with her when I get her home?

And so I’m thinking about all of that this morning.  I’m drinking my coffee and thinking about Nora getting her dose of caffeine.  I’m looking at my Christmas tree and thinking about the lights from Nora’s monitor.  I’m snuggled in my comfy chair, thinking about Nora swaddled in her isolette.  Will I develop an instinct for her like that one that just came for my other five?  I love her so much, just like I loved them…will I know how best to take care of her?

And then I think about God and how He’s promised to give us new mercies every morning and grace for whatever we face.  I think back to all that has happened over the past month and I know that He has shown up.  He has given me grace to handle waters broken at 28 weeks.  He has given me grace to handle recovering from a traumatic surgery.  He has given me grace to endure 22 days in the hospital, countless uncomfortable pokes and procedures, antibiotics that have wrecked my stomach and a very slow recovery.  He has given me grace to accept where I’m at right now- a little broken still but on the mend.

He has given me grace and met me right where I am and ministered to my broken body as well as my humbled and broken spirit.

That’s what He does.  So I can stop looking ahead and worrying about what it’ll be like to bring my beautiful and terrifying tiny little baby home.  There will be new mercy for that day. There will be a grace and an equipping that will come.  He has been with Nora every step of the way, He has been with me every step of the way.

New things are scary.  Uncharted territory?  The unknown?  Scary and intimidating and I wonder to myself…do I have what it takes to do this well?  Can I really be trusted with this fragile and perfect little love?  And the answer is yes.  Because God is with me and with Nora and He is for me and for Nora and He will guide us and give me what I need to be her mommy.

She is a treasure, a blessing and I’m so honored to be her mommy.  I still cry a little bit every time I hold her because she and I have been on a journey together and I’m still awestruck that we’re both here.

Last night, I held her against my chest and sang to her…

“Nothing can separate/even if I ran away/your love never fails/I know I still make mistakes/you have new mercies for me everyday/your love never fails/and when the oceans rage/I don’t have to be afraid/because I know that You love me/Your love never fails.”

It’s our song- I’ve been singing it since the very first pregnancy complication. I trust the One we sing about to bring those new mercies, to make all things work together for our good.

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