Friday, July 31, 2009

Downhill Fast

Today's been a good day, pleasant in many ways. Of course, I did get to hear Tobin and Shav perfect the art of synchronized crying a time or two; but that's to be expected during this time of adjustment, I guess. Anyway, I was feeling pleased with life...until this afternoon when I started feeling an unusual amount of pain in my left breast. (Yes, I said "breast"...just keepin' it real here.) In an astonishingly short period of time, I seem to have developed a breast infection. I didn't expect this particular setback right now, especially because Shav nurses so often that I somehow thought he would keep the breast empty of milk and not susceptible to an infection. But wowsers, this hurts! Thankfully, my dad got me on an antibiotic already; and I'm planning on an early bedtime tonight. Hopefully, it won't take too long to lick this thing.

At least I've got a little sweetheart to think about and adore while I recuperate! :)
~ photo by Misty

Thursday, July 30, 2009

These Incredible Boys


I love these boys so much it hurts. And recently, even through the challenges of big adjustments, high hormones, and little sleep, I've been propelled along by the deep love I have for each one of them. When I'm walking in love, it's no trouble to change Tobin's diaper...or listen to Josiah's (sometimes long-winded) stories...or let David "help" me with the laundry...or feed Shav, knowing that it's going to feel like a vise grip has latched onto a sensitive part of my body! When I forget about love, all of that can seem like drudgery; but add love and, voila!, it's a pleasure to serve them.

For me, that love connection comes more readily when I take the time to watch my boys--really observe them and notice the things about them that make them each so special. Here are some of those things that I've seen recently and then thought, "Wow, how fantastic this son of mine is!"

During the past few days, Josiah has been avidly reading a Bible in cartoon form that we have. In four days, he read the entire Old Testament in this Bible--all 500+ pages of it. He astounds me with his love of reading and his ability to read and comprehend stuff that I would have guessed would be beyond his 7 year-old self! Besides simply reading the Old Testament, he also re-enacted some of the battles from it, running around our yard with his shield and a spear (just a big pointed stick), pretending to be one of the great warriors from thousands of years ago. If you happen to drive by and wonder what in the world he's doing as he tears around our yard, stopping and starting, jabbing the air with a stick, and dodging imaginary blows from the enemy, that's the explanation. :)

Another thing about Josiah is that a few days ago, he got to spend some time at my parents' house; and when he returned, he was absolutely bubbling over with enthusiasm over some TV shows he got to watch. The shows were on--are you ready for this?--the History Channel!! :) One was about the Great Lakes, and one was about tsunamis...but to Josiah, they were simply enthralling. I hadn't seen him quite so excited about something for a while, and it made me smile to see his joy.

With David, I have noticed recently how much music is a part of his life. It seems like during the past few days, I've often caught him singing or humming random melodies; and one which particularly amused me was when I heard him singing the theme from Peter and the Wolf! When I was his age, I don't think I had any idea what Peter and the Wolf was, much less the ability to sing the theme!

I'm sure I've written about this before, but I've been reminded of what a unique position David holds in our family as a sort of bridge between Josiah and the younger boys. David is so gifted at interacting with each of his brothers. He can join in with Josiah's imaginary play, watch Star Wars with Josiah, play baseball with Josiah...but also play in the playpen with Tobin, laugh and be silly with Tobin, play with a basket of toys with Tobin...but also hold Shav, talk to Shav, kiss Shav's little head, etc. He's great at getting on the level of each of the other boys, and I'm so impressed by that.

With Tobin, I've noticed recently that the boy seems to have no fear of animals! He continues to love the real animals we have here, as well as pictures of animals in books...and interestingly, most of his language development centers around animals. For example, he'll point to a cat in a book and say a word that sounds very similar to cat (and is indeed his word for cat). When I ask, "What does a sheep say?" he'll say "Baaa." He really is interested in animals and enjoys his interactions with them.

Another thing with Tobin is that, now that he's no longer the baby, he suddenly seems to have leaped upward in his ability to be a big boy and hang with Daddy. Now, when Daddy comes around, he much prefers to be with him, it seems. When Josiah and David start wrestling with Jeff, Tobin is right there in the thick of it, loving every minute of it (even though I'm convinced he's going to get really hurt one of these days!). When Jeff is "rough" with Tobin (in a gentle way, of course), Tobin eats it up and wants more. More tickles, more roughhousing, more silliness, more Daddy! :)

And then there's Shav, with his personality still a secret to us in many ways. I will say that so far, he's been easy-going with no specific fussy time of day yet; he might still develop one, as so many babies do. He likes to eat a lot--and often :)--but he is sleeping better at night, and I know that it's just a matter of time until he lengthens the amount of time between feedings. He is a sweetheart, truly a delight to have in our family. Sometimes I look into his deep blue eyes and think, "Who are you? What are you really like? What are you thinking? Who will you become as you get older and show us your inner self?" I can hardly wait to get to know more fully the unique creation that is Shav!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Name

I've already mentioned that my friend Misty came over last Saturday to do a photo shoot with Shav. Wanna see some of the pictures she took? ;)

I love this birth announcement that she designed!
I'm so impressed by the way Misty has developed her talent. She's the type who actually reads camera manuals and understands things like aperture. She's worked hard, practiced a lot, and it's really paying off. I'm so proud of her! :)
Of course, she did have an awfully cute model to work with, if I do say so myself! :)
This last picture has got to be one of my favorites. Of course, I look at all of them and think they're my favorite :), but really, this one draws me in a special way. His fingers, my arm supporting him, his pleasant mouth, his umbilical cord stump that proclaims his newness--but most of all, his eyes, so alert and gorgeous--all of these contribute to the beauty of this picture in my eyes. I just love it! I just love him. :)

I have a little time before Shav's next feeding so I want to spend some time writing about his name.

Way back on January 7, Jeff and I had a discussion in our living room about names; and we "decided" that if it was a boy, we would name him Shav. I noted that fact here in one of my weekly pregnancy updates, but I wasn't sure at the time if we would stick with it or not. Sure enough, in my 31 & 32 Weeks update, I wrote about the indecision we were feeling (mostly my fault) about whether to go with such an unusual name or settle for a more common one. I don't remember exactly when it was; but at some point fairly soon after that, Jeff and I independently came to the conclusion that we really preferred Shav; and when we told each other what we were thinking and discovered that we were unified, it was easy, at that point, to make the decision for sure. :)

But where did the name Shav come from? To answer that requires a trip back in time to January 1996 when I traveled to Israel to spend a semester abroad there as a student in Jerusalem. I took a teddy bear with me and named him Shav, thinking of the meaning "return" in the context of returning to my home and family and all that was known and dear to me at the end of the semester...but also the idea of someday returning again to the land of Israel. I didn't want my encounter there that semester to be the last time I ever experienced that mind-boggling, fascinating country. And so I had this teddy bear Shav, and I cuddled with him and whispered secrets to him that semester as I began to fall in love with Jeff. What a surprise that was! If someone had told me, at the beginning of that semester, that I would marry this long-beard-wearin', plaid-flannel-shirt-lovin', lumberjack-lookin' mountain man from California, I would never have believed it. And furthermore, if someone had informed me that someday I would give birth to our fourth son and name him Shav, my shock would have known no limits! Of course, to be fair, if someone had told Jeff that he would marry this country bumpkin and someday live in small town Virginia in the house behind her parents', he would have been quite incredulous, too. It's a good thing we don't know the future, but simply approach it one day at a time!!

Interestingly, Shav wasn't really a name we considered when I was pregnant with the other boys. Josiah and David were names we had chosen long, long ago; but even when we were deliberating for so very long before we decided on Tobin, we didn't talk about possibly using Shav. It was as if I had forgotten about it, tucked away somewhere in the back of my mind. Until this child... :)

I wrote here that Shav means "return, restore," and here are a few more verses that use a form of the Hebrew root for Shav in them...

Exodus 33:11 - The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. - I have been particularly fond of this verse for years because I find it inspiring to contemplate both the depth of relationship that God had with Moses and the devotion of Joshua who did not leave the tent but stayed before the Lord.

Leviticus 25:10 - in the instructions about observing the Year of Jubilee - Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.

Deuteronomy 30:2-3 - When you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. - These verses are special because they include both the concept of returning and restoring.

I'm sure that among our circle of acquaintances, no one has ever heard the name Shav before. However, Jeff did a search on whitepages.com and found 14 other Shavs in the U.S., ranging from California to New York, Alabama to Washington. He even found a mention of a Shav Fisher on some website of athletic scores! So our Shav is certainly not the only one in the world, but maybe the only one you'll ever meet. ;)

For the middle name, it didn't take us too long to decide on this. In Jeff's family, the tradition is for the first son to be given the father's first name as his middle name--hence, Josiah Jeffrey. The second son gets the paternal grandfather's first name for his middle name--David Wallace. The third son's middle name is the maternal grandfather's first name (although we changed it and used my dad's middle name instead)--therefore, Tobin Ezra. And the fourth son? Well, we couldn't find a record of anyone with four sons, so there was no pattern to follow! However, we chose Daniel for a few reasons: first, Daniel Fisher was the beginning of the Fisher line in America, way back in the 1700s (I think--Jeff knows the date for sure), so it's a family name on the Fisher side...second, I had a great uncle named Daniel and also have a cousin named Daniel; and if I had been a boy, that would have been my name: Daniel Austin (Austin was my great-grandfather's name)...third, we admire tremendously the man Daniel in the Bible: for his courage and boldness, for his depth of conviction and lack of ungodly compromise, and especially for his life-long faithfulness to God. It's hard to find examples of people who were continuously faithful...much easier to find examples of people who were faithful for a while and then blew it. Obviously, we don't believe Daniel was sinless; of course, he blew it, too. But his example of serving God and holding fast to his beliefs over years and years and through various kingdoms (Babylonian, Medo-Persian) is without equal in the Bible, in my opinion.

So, Shav Daniel was the name we had in mind, not knowing if we would get to use it or not. I remember thinking in the weeks before the birth, "Will I get to have a Shav? Will God give us a son for whom we can use that name?" How happy I am that the answer was YES! :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

That David!

When Jeff brought the boys to the hospital to visit me and meet Shav soon after the birth, one of David's questions for me was, "Is there ANOTHER baby in your tummy?" I can see why he would have thought that, since this ol' stretched-out uterus didn't bounce back to its original size in the 3 hours (more or less) between the birth and David's visit. :) It's true that I still looked pregnant; and being four years old, David could get away with asking that question without causing offense. I'd better warn him before he asks his future wife that, soon after their first child is born; she might not take it so well! :)

Yesterday, David's question to me was, "When is another baby going to grow in your tummy?" Jeff and I just looked at each other, shook our heads, and laughed. We're in no rush, David Dear; that's for sure! But apparently, David is...because he then announced, "I want it to be a boy, and I think it's a boy!" which is in contrast to the "I want it to be a boy, but I think it's a girl" line that he repeated throughout this pregnancy. Ah, charming David--so blissfully ignorant of the realities of life and reproduction! :)
~ David, devoted big brother, cuddling with Shav earlier today

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shav's Story, Part Three

One week already.

Somehow seven days have passed since that glorious Monday morning when Shav entered our world and we saw his sweet face. Already I can't imagine life without him. (For a precious picture of him, check out Misty's site.)

Maybe tonight I'll have time to finish his birth story, but first (and I realize I'm jumping ahead in the story) here are a few pictures from our arrival at home from the hospital just after noon last Tuesday. The Sacras had taken Josiah and David on a trip to a small zoo in a town not too far away; a group from our church was going, and I was so grateful that the big boys got to go along, too, and have that fun event to keep them occupied on that day. When we got home, Tobin was the only brother around to greet us...and greet us he did--with lots of excited curiosity and hands-on love for Shav! :) I'm so glad these boys get to grow up together; I can just imagine the crazy adventures they'll have with each other. Built-in best buddies. :)

Back to the story...

When the midwife Tammy came in to check my dilation, she announced that I was 6 centimeters dilated. That was good, I guess; but I was wishing that I was further along. The fact that I wasn't at, say, a 10, made me convinced that an epidural was the path for me! Before I could get it though, I had to get a certain amount of IV liquid in me...and before that could happen, someone had to stick my veins. Well, someone tried (I think it was Debbie, our very nice main nurse, who tried first), and that someone failed after rooting around with the needle in the back of my hand for what seemed like forever. I was in the bed at this time, trying to deal with contractions, and knowing that if I watched the goings-on in my hand, I'd feel even worse. So I very consciously didn't look at what the nurse was doing...but oh, I could feel it! Jeff finally told the poor nurse that I'm always a hard stick because my veins tend to roll, and that, with Tobin's birth, a few people had to try to stick me before one was successful. She seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and gave up trying, then went to fetch another nurse. I think the other nurse (I have no idea who she was because I was trying to block all of this out) tried in my opposite hand...and tried...and tried. No success. And in all of this, it wasn't as if they put the needle in, saw that they missed, then took it completely out before trying again. No, it was put the needle in, push on the vein, push on the needle, dig around some more, squeeze and tug, try valiantly to make some connection between needle and vein--all while the needle was in my arm! Part of the time, I couldn't figure out which hurt worse: the gouging I was getting with the needle or the contractions! I was praying like crazy that God would help somebody find a vein! Finally, Ann Swartz the Brave, Ann Swartz the Skillful, Ann Swartz the Wonderful, Ann Swartz with the Delightful English Accent, Ann Swartz the Commander of Veins and Other Things, swept into the room for her turn at my vein. We have known Ann for a long time; and when her children were young, my mother spent time in their home, helping Ann. It was GREAT to have Ann with us, and especially wonderful because--guess what?--she found a vein!!! She tried a vein in my right arm, rather than my hand; and somehow she was successful. So the IV got started, and the fluid required for an epidural started dripping into my veins, and the nurses put a blood pressure cuff around the IV bag to speed it up, and the anesthesiologist was right next door and soon would come to give me an epidural, right? RIGHT???

One more thing about Ann: she wasn't assigned to me, and I think (but I could be wrong) she even asked the head nurse if she could come in and help me but was told no. However, when she heard the noise coming from my room, apparently she just decided to come in anyway because she knew I needed help! I sure appreciated Ann's strong will. :)

During this whole process, I KNEW I was progressing in my dilation. What I was feeling did NOT feel like a 6, but I was bound and determined not to open my mouth and tell someone for fear that they would check me and find I was too far along for an epidural, and doggone it, I WANTED THAT EPIDURAL. I was so frustrated--not at any particular nurse--but just because I have these hard-to-stick veins, and I could just see, as the minutes ticked by, my dream of a happy, laughing, I-don't-feel-a-thing birth fading into dust.

Even though I didn't say a word, Tammy did indeed check me and, no big surprise, said I was "complete." I dilated to 10, went through transition and everything, flat on my back in the bed, being poked and prodded by needles. That was the WORST! I did get to try out a new breathing pattern though: the "Oh, Lord, oh, Lord, oh, Lord, oh, Lord" pattern. :) One time, Ann got in my face and helped me to focus as she suggested a certain other pattern of breathing. I actually appreciated her being so forceful and in-my-face, but I didn't really get the hang of what she was telling me. Jeff said I did it for a few seconds, and that was it! I do remember at one point, I was saying, "Ha...ha...ha...ha...ha..."--all these strong "ha's". Whatever works, right? :)

Well, after Tammy checked me, since I was ready to push, I got up out of bed because I didn't want to lie there a single minute longer. They had brought the birthing stool which I had found so beneficial when giving birth to Tobin, but I didn't want to sit on it this time. I only wanted to stand, so I did, holding onto Jeff in a slow-dance position (he even joked that he didn't realize he was going to get to dance with me!) and leaning my weight on him. I'm sure he got tired--he asked me several times if I wanted to sit down :)--but I just wanted to stand there with him. This was the amazing part. After all the commotion and angst of the previous who-knows-how-many-minutes, I felt much more calm and focused and centered inward and in control. I was COMPLETELY oblivious to what else was going on in the room. Jeff told me later that there were a bunch of people in the room, and he didn't know who they were. One of them, we found out later, was Dr. Cassidy who needed to be there to watch because Tammy was still finishing up her training or preliminary period of midwifery or something. But like they always say, once you hit that stage, a marching band could go through your room, and you wouldn't care. So true!

Besides feeling calmer, I was also quieter. I can't remember who, but someone else made a comment afterwards about being out in the hall and hearing the noise and knowing by it that I was going through transition or fully dilated or whatever. Maybe it was Tammy...I don't remember...but someone said that. I guess I was kind of noisy. :) But when it came time to get up and push, I wasn't so noisy. I held onto Jeff, clenching his shirt, clawing his back :), and drew a lot of strength from him.

One funny (not funny to me at the time, but later) thing that happened is that as Shav was crowning, I felt the burning stretch of that and was sure that the midwife had her hands on me, trying to stretch me. If you've given birth, you know that they do that sometimes: trying to stretch you as the baby makes its way out so that you don't tear. I did NOT like that feeling, and I made some comment about it, either asking her to take her hands off or telling her I didn't like it or something. She was actually sitting behind me on the bed (unusual for the midwife to be on the bed and the new mother to be standing up!), and she said something like, "I'm not touching you!" She wasn't either; it was just the baby's head...but I thought for sure it was her. :)

One of the specific prayers I had prayed leading up to the birth is that pushing would be less than 10 minutes. To me, that was almost preposterous to expect that, especially since pushing had been 2 and 1/2 hours with Josiah, 1 and 1/2 hours with David, and 30 minutes with Tobin. But I did pray that prayer and was eager to see how God would work. Once I got to the pushing stage, everything got really fuzzy for me: I knew it didn't take very long, but I had to ask Jeff later how long it really was because I just wasn't sure. He said it was definitely under 10 minutes and, in fact, was just 2 pushes. I think he's right--not just because he's my husband, and I believe him :)--but also because I remember pushing soon after I stood up, then taking a break and just standing fairly calmly waiting for the next urge to come, and then pushing again.

And then...glory of glories...the baby was born!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As I had tried to imagine the birth in the days preceding, I had anticipated focusing my thoughts during that stage on whether it was a boy or a girl. In reality, I wasn't thinking about that at all. I do remember that immediately after the birth, someone announced that it was a boy; but who that someone was, I have no idea--maybe Tammy? She caught the baby, then passed him to the front of me to the arms of a nurse (I think?) who then put him directly into my arms. I found myself chanting, "Thank You, God...thank You, God...thank You, God...thank You, God..." over and over and over; I couldn't stop saying that. Someone helped me lay back on the bed, and I was relieved to hold Shav on my chest in that position because I was afraid I might drop him when I was standing up. Oh, the silly thoughts we have in those times! :)

I felt such relief...such joy...such exultation...such love. How can I even put it into words? All I could do was repeat, "thank You, God," and cry as I received the indescribably precious gift of our little Shav from the Father's hands.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Simple Sunday - Dedication

~ thankful for the parent-child dedication we participated in this morning...when we planned it, we didn't realize Shav would only be 6 days old!...but no matter how young or how old our children are, it is a special thing to consciously dedicate them to God and feel the support of the community of faith as we raise our sons
~ Shav slept like a champ through the whole thing
~ my dad got the privilege of walking Shav around to show him to the congregation
~ many thanks to Julie for taking these pictures! :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pictures of Shav

Today the dam of self-control and reserve broke, and the river of tears flowed freely. From 5:00 AM this morning until not too long ago (actually, now), I have cried often and long--more tears in one day than I can remember shedding for a long, long time. I knew this would come. I remember how I am after giving birth, and always I reach a point of needing to release some hormones through my tear ducts. :) I'm actually a little surprised that I didn't reach this point earlier in the week, and I'm not overly alarmed by how I was feeling today. That's one of the glorious things of having given birth three times previously: I have a healthier perspective on the aftermath, and I realize that truly "this too shall pass." Still, it's no fun to cry all day long.

Everyone who spoke kindly to me today opened the faucet and made the tears flow again. If people had just ignored me or not been so nice, it would have been easier to keep my emotions in check! But no, they had to go and be sensitive to my feelings: all the way from Jeff rubbing my shoulder this morning as I cried in bed...to my mom showing up this morning to help with the boys while Jeff went to work for a few hours...to Jeff calling from work just to check on me and tell me he loved me...to Julie Sacra calling to ask about a camera battery charger, of all things; I thought I might get through that conversation matter-of-factly without giving in to tears, but when she asked me how Shav slept last night, I was doomed!...to Wilma dropping by this evening, asking me how I was, and not being content with the "fine" answer I threw out but knowing from her own recent birth experience that I needed to cry. All these people! They're just too kind. :)

Anyway, before I cry so much that the tears fall on my laptop and ruin it, let me simply skip to some pictures of our sweet little Shav. These were taken in the hospital, shortly before we left.

With Josiah, the river of tears began as I dressed him to take home from the hospital; but with Shav, I was all smiles as I got to do this dear ritual.Ready to go home...
Oh, what's this? What's coming? It's a...a...
...HUGE yawn (not the shriek it looks like might be coming from his mouth!). I think yawning babies are so cute. :)

Speaking of pictures of Shav, our friend Misty is building her portfolio in preparation for kicking off her photography business. She has learned so much, and it's been fun to see the recent pictures she's taken of her littlest one, born in June. When Misty asked if she could come and take pictures of Shav, I certainly didn't want to stand in her way. :) We were honored to have her come this afternoon and take tons of pictures, and I can hardly wait to see how they turned out! It's a good thing though that she was taking still pictures, not a movie, because with photographs you can't hear my tear-drenched voice in the background. :)
Not only did she do a photo shoot, she also brought us a yummy dinner! We've been blessed by the dear friends who have provided for us in that way. Already we've been treated to home-cooked meals by Janel E. and Donna B. as well as Misty tonight; and all the meals have been so delicious. We are well-supported as we walk this path of parenting four children; and if my friends have to occasionally deal with my tears, I guess they won't mind. :)

I'm really hoping, however, that the flow of tears was sufficient today so that tomorrow can be dry! :)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shav's Story, Part Two

This second installment of Shav's birth story is brought to you by...
...a wonderful little invention called a pacifier. Thanks to this modern marvel of plastic and rubber (or whatever they make pacifiers out of these days!), we have had a better day--and I'm hopeful that it will continue into the night. Hope is a good feeling; it energizes me and convinces me to spend some time writing. :) This picture is of Shav earlier today in the bouncy seat, his first time with a pacifier. He liked it. So did we. :)

For the first part of Shav's birth story, click here. The story continues...

We had a plan for childcare for our older boys, of course. We knew that when I went into labor, my dad was our first option, providing he wasn't working at the time. The second option was Julie Sacra, and the third one was our neighbor Wilma. When my water broke Monday morning, we knew my dad wouldn't be able to keep the boys because his office hours were starting soon; and out of the whole month of July, basically the only time that didn't suit Julie was that Monday morning because she was going to the airport to pick up her daughter Kate who was returning from Israel. Ironic that of all days, Shav would be born that day at that time! So when Jeff got home that morning, he turned to our third option, Wilma, and called over to their house. No answer. Hmmm...what to do now? He decided to call one of our friends from church; but when he dialed their number, there was no answer there either. It was still early in the morning after all, before most people would be calling--or answering their phones, I suppose. Fortunately, not too much later, Wilma called over here and asked, "Did you call?" When she heard what was going on, she said, "Give me 10 or 15 minutes, and I'll be right over!" She herself just gave birth last month, so we had not originally thought that she would be available to help with the boys this time; but she had urged us in the days before the birth to use her if needed. She arrived with coffee cup in hand, a smile on her face, and sympathy in her heart for me since she could relate all too well with what I was going through, having just done it herself! :)

I knew that Ann had been the midwife on call over the weekend, but I didn't know who was on call that day. When I called the hospital and had the midwife on duty paged, it was Ann that I talked to; but since she was going off duty at 8:00 AM, it was unlikely that she would be the one to deliver! She told me that Tammy would be on duty, assisted by Donna (since Tammy is in the last stages of her training); and I was so glad that I had just seen Tammy for my latest office visit since I had not connected with her for quite a while before that. Even though I had been looking forward to Ann delivering my baby (because surely I would give birth sometime that weekend, right?!) since I had heard from a friend that Ann was great during deliveries, I felt fine about having Tammy and Donna. At that point, I really didn't care who delivered the baby! :)

The boys were still asleep when we left, and we let them sleep (although I really wanted to give them all a big hug and kiss before we departed!). I heard later that when Josiah woke up, he came to the top of the stairs, looked down and saw Wilma's bonnet lying on the toy chest in the living room, and immediately knew what was going on--that Jeff and I were at the hospital and the baby would be born soon--even before he actually saw Wilma or talked with her. :) I also heard later that before he went to the office to start work, Dad walked up here to check on things; and while here, he and Josiah and David sat together on the bench in the kitchen and prayed for us. In that prayer, David apparently prayed specifically for his baby brother (although, of course, he didn't know at the time whether it was indeed a brother or perhaps a sister)! :)

Just like when Tobin was born, we rode to the hospital in Mom and Dad's car with a towel on the front passenger seat for me to catch any leaky amniotic fluid. I'm not sure if Jeff or Mom drove the car up to our house to load me, but it amused me that (like with Tobin's birth) he or she drove the car right up to our front door, rather than park on the driveway and let me walk down the steps to it. :) This is a picture my dad took from his back porch that morning, looking up towards our house shortly before we left...
...and this one, although blurry because we were moving, shows us ready to pull onto route 33 and head east to the hospital (this was about 7:00 AM, by the way). See the big smiles on our faces?! :)

One more thing I don't want to forget about that short amount of time at home: when Jeff got home, he gave me a hug and just held me for a minute. We were both excited and emotional, and seeing that in Jeff made me love and cherish him even more. He's always been that way with our births: always very involved, never acting like "gee, I wish this were over so I could go back to watching the game," always willing to let his emotions come forth. I can't imagine a better birth partner!

On the way to the hospital, I was having contractions and still trying to ignore them but also feeling pulled by pain and fear (although it was really a pleasant, happy ride overall). By the time we got there and were walking from the parking lot across the street to the emergency room entrance where we had been instructed to go, I was saying that unless I was at the end of labor and things happened really quickly, I wanted an epidural. After all, I've given birth naturally before...I didn't feel the need to prove myself...and for pete's sake, why couldn't I actually enjoy giving birth this time around like those other women I hear about who tell jokes during labor and laugh during transition, all thanks to a little thing called an epidural??? :) Somewhere along the way, Jeff mentioned that we hadn't really talked about whether I wanted him to encourage me to have a natural birth or not; but he was supportive of whatever I wanted and I didn't feel pressure from him to go one way or the other.

Anyway, we checked in, I got the lovely wheelchair ride up the elevator and into Family BirthPlace, we happened to see our friend Jewel Yoder (who is a labor and delivery nurse) just as she was finishing her shift and leaving. As nice as it was to see her, it would have been nice to have her during labor (or one of the other women we know who works in labor and delivery)...but oh well, that's not something you can plan! It still made me glad to see her. :)

We got to our room (322), and I got to do the lovely "leave a urine sample, put on this hospital gown" routine that's starting to feel familiar. One thing that made me sort of laugh during this time is that a nurse came in with some kind of test to do to see if it was really amniotic fluid that I had been leaking. As if anything else would have gushed out of me like that did! :) I understand that the medical personnel just have to follow standard procedures; but my goodness, did she think I was lying to her? :) The "stick" she was holding had to turn blue if it was amniotic fluid, and it did--quickly and definitely!

My memory of the chronology of events starts to get a little fuzzy at this point. Not too long after we got to the hospital, Starla called from the barbershop and wanted an update; that was long before there was anything to report, but she didn't want to miss anything! I sat in a rocking chair for a while, sucked on ice chips that Jeff spooned into my mouth, appreciated the cool breeze generated by my mother fanning me with my great-grandmother's woven fan (and worried that my mother's arms would get too tired from all the fanning!), listened to the reassuring sound of the baby's heartbeat, and dealt with contractions. I also remember telling Jeff at one point that I was feeling fearful. I knew that was making the pain more difficult, but it was hard to mentally get on top of that big ugly cloud of fear. When the nurse asked me for the first time what level pain I was having, I think I said either 3 or 4, which seemed to surprise Jeff (because he thought my pain looked more intense than that); but as I explained to him, you have to start low so you have somewhere to go on their 1-10 scale!

My "timer" is awake and needs to eat, so that's all for now. More later...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What He's Good At

Three days old, and already Shav is showing us that he's really good at quite a few things!

~ Eating: from the beginning, he had a strong suck (ouch!); and he latches on and chows down like a champ.

~ Pooping: what goes in must come out, and it does. Often. Especially when I'm changing his diaper. This frequent elimination is good though because it shows us that a) he's getting enough to eat, and b) his intestinal system works just fine. I was reading a bit about these first days; and the pamphlet mentioned that by day five, the stools should have transitioned to the yellow ones common to breastfed babies. He did that on day two.

~ Sleeping during the day: sometimes so much that he can't even bring himself to wake up enough to get a full feeding.

~ Sleeping on his daddy's chest: he got some practice with this one last night.

~ Crying non-stop at the doctor's office today: wouldn't you, if someone took all your clothes off, laid you on a table, and poked you?

~ Melting my heart: he's a pro at this one. It makes me cry, just thinking about how precious he is.

~ Delighting his proud grandparents: evidence below.


What he's not so good at: sleeping at night. Last night was filled with frequent wakings; he would go to sleep easily after a feeding, but after what seemed like a very short hour or so, wake again. The longer stretches of sleep that I thought must surely come soon never did--at least, not until daylight hours. I know it's common for babies to have their days and nights mixed up, but I can't remember how long it usually takes to get them switched around; and even one night feels like a lifetime when you're already sleep-deprived, hormonal, and awake!

As I approach another night of what will surely be little sleep, I'm encouraged by these words:
When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you.
When you're in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you're between a rock and a hard place,
It won't be a dead end--
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
~ Isaiah 43:2-3a

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And the Winner Is...

...the adorable Joelle Sacra, whose guess on when the baby would be born was off by a whopping 14 minutes!!! As her prize, she got to hold Baby Shav! :)
Well, not really. I mean, yes, she got to hold Shav (with a little help from her mom Julie)...but no, that wasn't the prize. Here's the real prize package (and I had no idea that a 4 year-old would win it, so some of the items are a little "mature" for Joelle...maybe the whole Sacra family can benefit from it)... :)
The contents of the prize package include some of my favorite cravings from this pregnancy: chocolate raisins, peanut M&Ms, hot buffalo wing pretzel pieces. But that's not all, folks! We also have a fabulous book, Beautiful Home on a Budget by Emilie Barnes and Yoli Brogger, and a very nice edition of my all-time favorite devotional, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers--such profound thoughts in this book! One of the things I really appreciate about this particular edition (which both Jeff and I have a copy of) is the space on each page for individual reflection and journaling. I've learned from Jeff to date each page with the year as I write on it; that eliminates the guilt if I don't stay consistent with the devotional all year long (which I never do) because if I do some of the pages in 2009 and then come back to it in 2010 and re-read the same pages or do some fresh ones, it will be just as meaningful, if not more so. And then when 2015 rolls around and I pick up the book again, I'll be able to remember where I was spiritually in the preceding years, as well as add notes from my journey in the pages that are still blank. But back to the prize package...the last item is a small mirror from the Middle East (gotta have something from our Israel roots!), perfect for carrying in a purse to use on the go. I know Chris Myers is especially bummed now that he didn't win the prize. :)

Thanks to all who played along and ventured a guess! It was fun...and showed how little we know about some things, like when exactly a baby is going to be born. ;)

Speaking of how little we know--or how little we remember--I'm not sure how I could have forgotten how much time it takes to nurse an infant, but apparently I did forget because I'm astonished by the huge percentage of time that I'm spending simply feeding Shav (and by feeding, I mean the whole feed on one side/try to burp/change diaper/change clothes if needed/feed on the other side/try to burp again routine we've got going). I know the time for all of that will lessen; but for this phase of his life, we can easily spend an hour doing that. When that's repeated 8 or 10 or 12 times a day, that's a significant chunk of the day! It's silly, but I have to remind myself, "What else would I rather be doing? What is more important than this?" And the obvious answer is, "Nothing."

Tonight as I walked to my dad's office to fix up a package to send in the mail tomorrow, I was thinking back to this night in December when I had some bleeding and thought I might lose the baby. The thought of not having Shav pierces my heart and makes me whisper again the mantra I chanted immediately after he was born, "Thank You, God...thank You, God...thank You, God...thank You, God..."

I know I'm slow with writing more of his birth story. I haven't forgotten at all, just didn't find the time today to devote to it. Maybe tomorrow??

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Band of Brothers

It wasn't so long ago that Josiah and David were sitting together in a hospital rocking chair, holding another little baby brother on their laps! Yesterday it was Shav's turn to be greeted and held and admired...
...and checked on and patted by Josiah when Shav was in the bassinet...
...and held again later by Josiah, all by himself this time...
...and by David who figured out that the best seat in the house was the hospital bed, especially with all the cool buttons that made stuff happen like the bed going up and going down and then going up again and going down again and...well, you get the picture.
But my favorite picture is this one: a band of brothers, blessed to have each other, and one very happy mother!!! :)

Shav's Story, Part One

I am eager to record and share the story of Shav's birth (although doubtful that I'll be able to finish the whole story in one sitting). Each birth story is so wonderfully unique, and I never get tired of hearing and reading about how each person comes into the world in such a personal manner. Isn't it great that babies aren't mass-produced in an assembly-line factory somewhere? :)

Before I get started with the birth story, let me answer one important question: what does "Shav" mean? "Shav" is a Hebrew word that means "return, restore"; and the Hebrew root is used many, many times in the Bible, sometimes for something as commonplace as a priest returning to look at a moldy wall or a woman returning to her father's household when her husband dies, but sometimes for themes which are much more profound than that. I hope to have more time to write about his name in the coming days; but for now, I'll say that the aspect of his name's meaning that speaks most powerfully to me is the idea of Shav being a gift from God, a son whom we will do our best to raise in the ways of the Lord until he returns to his true home in heaven with his Maker, until he's restored to his rightful place as a citizen of heaven and face-to-face friend of our great and glorious God!

Shav's birth story begins when my water broke... But before I get to that, I'll mention that on Sunday evening, as we drove home from the concert in the park, I casually remarked to Jeff, "I don't really know what to do tomorrow. I don't have any big plans." And it was true: I was actually reaching the point of being a little bored with life and the limbo stage in which I found myself...I didn't have any great ideas for fun diversions for the boys and I on Monday...didn't even have any idea what to cook for supper that evening! :) The Sunday concert was actually the last thing I had written on our July calendar as a maybe-we'll-get-to-do-this-if-the-baby-isn't-born-but-it-probably-won't-work-out kind of thing. After we made it through that, I didn't know what to do with myself next! :) God knew what to do with me!

On Monday morning, Jeff had gotten up early (even earlier than normal for him, which is always early) and had gone to the barbershop to meet David Sacra at 5:30 AM for their weekly Biblical Greek lesson. I had fallen back to sleep after Jeff left and was--as far as I can tell--quite sound asleep when suddenly I awakened because I felt (or heard or something) a pop inside me. I thought, "Either that was a mighty big kick, or my water just broke." I looked at the clock and made a mental note that it was 5:55 AM, then laid in bed for a few minutes before I decided to get up and see if indeed my water broke. Indeed, it had. I mentally calculated that with Tobin's birth, there were five hours from the time my water broke until he was born; and I grew hopeful that with this birth, I would be holding my new baby in my arms by lunchtime. I had no idea it would be even faster than that!

I called Jeff right away; and he answered the phone at the barbershop by asking, "Is it time?" "I think it is," I answered, and went on to tell him about my water breaking. He quickly ended the Greek lesson and called Starla, one of the other barbers, to come into the shop to cover for him, which she did even on her day off, for which we are very grateful! Jeff hurried home then, and I was glad to hear his old Jeep roaring up the driveway. :)

Meanwhile, I called my parents to let them know what was going on so my mother could be getting ready; and then in the early morning stillness before the boys awoke, I hurried around doing all the last-minute things I thought necessary before we left for the hospital. Unlike my previous birth experiences, I felt a greater urgency this time about getting to the hospital. Usually I like to stay at home, relaxing in the shower, waiting for contractions to pick up, making sure it's really time before I head to the hospital...but not this time. I knew that was where I needed to be. I was having some contractions at home but wasn't timing them or paying much attention to them, although occasionally I would announce to Jeff, "I'm having another one, if you care to take note!" I was much more eager to ignore them rather than time them however. :)

More later, as I have time...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Introducing Shav

Newly born...loved for a long time...
His fingers, gripping the nurse's...
His foot, still showing the residue of the ink used to make his footprints...
It's been a day of strong emotions...
We are so blessed...
We welcome you, Shav--to the world, to our family, to the special destiny that God has planned for you. We love you deeply already...

The Hidden Is Revealed!

Today, on this most glorious day, the child being woven in my womb was born; and we came face to face with a new manifestation of God’s glory.

We are nearly speechless with joy so, without further ado, we are delighted to announce that it’s a boy!!!!

Name: Shav Daniel Fisher (the "a" in Shav is pronounced as "ah," as in "Ah! Shav is the name!")

Date of birth: July 20th, 2009

Time of birth: 9:14am

Weight: 8lbs, 15oz

Length: 21.75 inches

Our hearts overflow with gratitude as we receive this long-anticipated blessing from the Lord!

Goin' to the Hospital, and We're...

...gonna have a baby!!!

Goin' to the hospital today!!!!!

Thanks to the Dixie Cups for the inspiration. :)

My water broke at 5:55 AM. I am beyond excited, a little nervous, and praying like crazy that all will go smoothly as we bring our precious child into this wonderful world.

We'll post as soon as we can. Fortunately, our hospital now has wireless internet access so we'll be able to make our big announcement from there! :)

The Two Hardest Things...

...about this 2-days-past-my-due-date predicament that I'm in are these:

Physically, the right side of my back begins to ache mightily in the night; and every time I have to get up to go to the bathroom or check on the boys, I'm almost afraid to take a step on my right foot because I feel like I might fall over from the pain when my weight is on that side. It eases itself out eventually; but when David is coughing continually and needs some medicine (like last night) or when Josiah has a bad dream and calls out for me (like the night before) or when my bladder is about to overflow, I don't have a few minutes to stand around and wait for the pain to lessen. I keep forgetting to ask Dad if I can borrow a cane; I really think that would help! :)

Mentally, my anxiety over the health of my baby has skyrocketed in the past few days. Something about being overdue makes me think of a deteriorating placenta, lack of sufficient amniotic fluid, troubles with the cord (now and particularly during delivery), etc...basically everything that could go wrong. The fact that Baby's cramped quarters are leading to less vigorous movements doesn't do anything to reassure me. When I lie in bed and the baby is quiet and still instead of doing the acrobatics to which I've grown accustomed, my mind begins to travel the evil path of worry. Recently, after I had told Jeff about this, he got out the old-fashioned fetal stethoscope that my dad had passed along to us a long time ago, put the head part on his head and the ear parts in his ears, looked like a coal miner about to go underground in his strange get-up, and listened to the heartbeat--too bad no one took a picture! He tried to let me listen to it, but I didn't hear anything at all and quickly took it off because the stethoscope is so tight it hurts my ears! But I was glad Jeff got to hear the heartbeat. :) I know my worry is unfounded, but The Truth in Pregnancy Documentation on One's Blog that I faithfully adhere to demands that I own up to this. :)

Well, those are the negatives; here are some positives...
~ continuing to have time for relaxing activities, like listening to barbershop quartets at the free concert in Oakdale Park tonight (technically, last night, since it's after midnight now and a new day has begun) while I ate an M&M Blizzard from Dairy Queen and Jeff watched the boys on the playground
~ people--both friends and strangers--being so friendly and outspoken in their support of me during this time
~ nights that are interrupted by quick trips to the bathroom, rather than lengthy feedings/diaper changes/and PLEASE-go-back-to-sleep episodes
~ feeling the baby's hiccups inside me
~ watching my stomach ripple as an arm or leg moves
~ eliminating any worry about preemie-related illnesses!
~ still doing assorted little projects in my free time, like trying to update my Christmas card address list so that when December rolls around, I'll actually be ready to whip those out (and make it to the end of my list, which seems like a near impossibility!)
~ giving Tobin a chance to walk before the baby is born, although I'm extremely doubtful that will happen :)...he is, however, doing a much better job of cruising; and it's exciting to see progress even in the last few days...one of these days, he won't be so dependent on me for basic locomotion!
~ fulfilling Kate Sacra's wish that she would return from her mission trip to Israel in time for the birth :)
~ giving my mother a chance to get rested before the ordeal of labor (or rather, the ordeal of supporting me in labor!)
~ helping me identify more closely with the large segment of the female population who has also been in the overdue-and-wish-I-wasn't situation...I can relate with more compassion as my experience with this grows
~ reminding me that I'm clearly not in control of when the baby is born! :)
~ teaching me to trust God more fully with all the details of life!
~ and, of course, keeping a bunch of people on the edge of our seats for a few extra days :)

That's a lot more positives than negatives. It was good for me to make that list!

Here's a blog-housekeeping item: I already took down the boy/girl poll because that had closed and I recorded the final tally in a previous post. I'm also going ahead and eliminating the pregnancy ticker from Pregnology. I really liked that ticker, especially the pictures of fetal development that it included; but for some reason, it doesn't know what to do with this overdue status and is now saying that I'm 40 weeks and 9 days! Oh, dear, I hope I don't get that far. :) So thanks, Pregnology, and goodbye!

One more thing for tonight, just to keep things interesting. :) I was reading some verses tonight that have special significance because they are related in some way to the boy's name we have chosen.
Then Jacob made this vow: "If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father's home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshipping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me."
Genesis 28:20-22
If this child is a boy (like Jenny Sacra and I are so convinced it is!), I'll explain the connection with this passage at that time. Until then, happy pondering! :) (Maybe I'll include a different verse each day that relates to the name. Hmmm, that might be fun. Since my only blog readers who know the name are Jeff and my parents, I think the secret is safe since they're fully trustworthy. No comments giving away this secret, OK, Dad???) :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Simple Sunday - Tobin the Pianist

~ thankful for the beautiful grand piano Jeff got for me as a wedding gift...and thankful for this sweet boy who is finally tall enough and strong enough to stand by the keyboard and make a joyful noise :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Still Here

Same old story. The waiting game continues, and the pace of life for me has slowed as I take each day at a time, not knowing what the next day or even the next hours hold.

This week, in my planner, this quote was at the top of the page:
Leisure is being allowed to do nothing. - G.K. Chesterton

I've allowed myself more freedom to experience that during the past week or two than I had in a very long time; and ya know, I like it! :)

Today my "doing nothing" involved regular household chores and care of the boys, plus a refreshing nap interrupted only by a fly buzzing around my face (which I woke up long enough to smash, and then went back to sleep), plus a trip to Auntie Anne's Pretzels and a stroll around the mall with Tobin after I dropped Josiah and David and my dad at the barbershop to go with Jeff to a Harrisonburg Turks game tonight, plus some time spent organizing and cleaning and getting rid of stuff in our library. In a little while, my "doing nothing" will involve an early bedtime, just as soon as I get two little boys, who are currently running around outside and laughing with the neighbor girls, tucked in bed.

Maybe God is delaying this baby's birth so that I can enjoy a few more days of leisure before the pace of life picks up considerably! Oh, but I would trade this leisure for the sight of my dear baby's face. Soon, I keep telling myself. It must be soon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

39 Weeks...

Labor didn't start, but the rain did, so our plan to go to Sherando Lake got cancelled. Instead, the boys and I passed the morning hours by running errands in town, including a stop at Dairy Queen to use the gift certificates for free Blizzards that Josiah and David earned through the library summer reading program and a fun visit to Jeff in the very busy barbershop.

(Baby just made some body part nearly protrude through my side--the right one, as always. That must have been a foot because, if Baby's position is the way I imagine and the way the midwives tell me, a hand couldn't have reached that far. Thanks for the kick, little buddy; that was a strong one. It's nice to know you're still having fun in there!) :)

So, time for pictures, which are slightly humiliating to me at this stage of pregnancy, but I'm keepin' it real...
~ at 39 weeks, 1 day, I tried to do this photography experiment with measuring my belly; but since no one else was available to actually take the picture, I found myself unable to take it and hold the measuring tape at the same time so that it could be read...anyway, I'll tell you what it said: 45 inches
~ Josiah took this one of me yesterday at 39 weeks, 5 days; that's why I look so tall in it...the thing I like about the picture is that it shows part of my bedroom which is one of my favorite rooms these days, a place of peace and sanctuary for me with its newly-painted walls and newly-organized contents...I don't have a thousand projects screaming "do me, do me!" when I walk into this space :)

Well, here I am, a mere 90 minutes or so from reaching my due date. To tell you the truth, I am beyond surprised that I made it this far. I didn't expect this AT ALL! So much for the "I always deliver early" spiel that I've been telling people (and myself) for months! It seems like this baby is determined to surprise us in every way, from conception to birth. :) I just can't believe I haven't had it yet. I'm in shock... :)

Fortunately, I actually feel pretty good physically, with nothing major to complain about and no new issues that make it truly important that this baby be born soon. My blood pressure continues to be very good...baby's heartbeat is strong and steady...I have no reason to believe that the amniotic fluid is getting low...I'm not having swelling in my legs and feet...things are going fine!

The mental game, however, is a horse of a different color. Did I mention my total surprise that I'm still pregnant?? :) I really had myself fooled, I guess; and now I'm finding that it takes a little while to adjust my expectations to this reality I didn't plan for! But why not still be pregnant? There's nothing wrong with that, right? What's the big deal? Why am I so impatient? Only because I REALLY WANT TO MEET THIS BABY!!! :)

I don't have any sense of impending labor, and so my mind goes to crazy thoughts like, "I'm really going to be pregnant forever. This is just how life will be for me--huge belly, 30 extra pounds, and all--for the rest of my life. This baby will never be born." Completely irrational, but I'm sure I'm not the only woman who's ever thought that in the last days of a pregnancy. :)

I keep reminding myself that with Tobin, when I was eating lunch on that warm-for-January beautiful Saturday, I had NO CLUE that he would be born around suppertime that day. I tell myself that this baby could be the same way. Any minute, things could change and in a matter of a relatively few hours, I could be holding this little one in my arms. I've been telling myself that for...oh, the past 17 days or so. :) I'm starting to not believe myself! :)

I feel like the legendary watched pot that never boils. I KNOW I'll boil one of these days, but when???

My dad has been very helpful in giving me suggestions to start labor. Here they are:
1. have Jeff take me for a very bumpy Jeep ride
2. go over and jump on the neighbor's trampoline
3. drink castor oil
4. wait for the next low pressure storm system to move through, and that will surely get my labor going! (except--wait--we just had one today, and it did nothing...so much for that theory!)

Actually, despite my unmet expectations for an early baby, I've had a good week. The hardest day was Wednesday, particularly when the midwife (Tammy, whom I hadn't seen since very early in the pregnancy so was glad to see again) checked me and cheerfully said that I was 2-3 centimeters dilated. That wasn't good news to me! She then asked, "What were you at your last appointment?" and I told her, "3 centimeters." She said, "Yeah, that's about where you are." So much for my hope to at least be at 4! Although, really, what does it matter? It's still not a strong indicator of when labor will begin; it's not like each week brought progressive dilation when I was pregnant with the other boys so why should this one? It was just one of those silly emotional triggers that made me tear up when I came home and told Jeff about it...and made him kind of scratch his head as he tried, once again, to figure out the logic of female hormones. :) He did what any wise husband would do: let me go to bed and sleep off my emotions in a nice, peaceful nap while he took the older boys to town. :)

Also during my appointment, Tammy and I were talking about how my labor with Tobin started with my water breaking, specifically how that is definitely not the norm (only about 8-10 percent of births begin that way). She mentioned how the bag of waters is really a tough membrane, and my dad concurred later that evening when I was talking with him. In the early years of his medical practice, he used to deliver babies; and he remembered how it was actually kind of difficult to pierce the bag of waters when he needed to do so. Jeff remembered the same thing from watching the doctor use a "crochet hook" to break my waters before Josiah's birth. I, of course, didn't have a clue. :)

Speaking of Jeff...and this stage of pregnancy...he makes me laugh by asking me a zillion times a day, "How are you? Are you feeling OK?" One day from work, he sent me an email with nothing in the body of the text, but only this written in the subject: How are you? :) When I call him at work, I try to reassure him immediately that I'm not in labor, only calling about something else entirely, so that I don't leave him in suspense. As much as it amuses me, I find it very comforting and reassuring that he's so solicitous of my welfare these days! Not too long ago, when I was teasing him about all his "are you OK?" questions (as if I would NOT tell him if I wasn't OK!), he asked me if he should keep up this frequent questioning, even after the baby is born. Sure, why not? It will give me an opportunity to vent as I deal with crazy postpartum hormones!! :)

Tonight as I was praying with Josiah and David before bedtime, I realized anew that God is making such a special story for this child. He/she won't share the same date as anyone else in our family, when it comes to birthdays (for example, if the birth had happened today, the baby and David would both have had birthdays on the 17th--different months, but same date). He/she won't have the same story as the other boys as far as "I was born one day early" or whatever. God continues to remind us of the perfectly unique plan He has for this little one, and that's very exciting!

One more thing to note tonight: the blog poll, which has been in the sidebar for quite a while, is set to close in a matter of hours. The result so far, which I assume will be the final one, is 21 votes for boy, 44 for girl. Who will be right???

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Diversions

I'm not even going to say it. If you're looking for a baby report, go back and read the first paragraph of yesterday's post. Ditto for today.

So, to keep myself busy and take my mind off this baby (who is obviously way too comfortable in my womb and has decided to stay for a while!), these are some things that I did today:

~ completely organized everything in my bedroom...finished the job of unpacking regular non-maternity clothes...put my remaining maternity clothes (that I deemed possibly useful in the coming weeks) into two neat piles in my closet and packed the rest away...made sure all the storage boxes under the bed that hold wrapping paper were in order...checked to see if the flashlight I keep in my nightstand still worked (it did)...found 20 items that could be donated to Gift & Thrift and put them in the back of the van already...straightened the shoes on the floor of Jeff's closet...let David and Tobin play in that closet and mess up the shoes...straightened the shoes again after the boys were done playing

~ washed some laundry...dried some laundry...folded some laundry...put some laundry away

~ took the sheets off my bed...washed and dried them...remade the bed

~ read a magazine about the first year of baby's development, month by month...remembered why I despise such magazines because my boys NEVER meet those milestones "on time"

~ carefully planned the schedules of all three boys so that I could coordinate Tobin's nap with Josiah and David's quiet time so I could take a nap

~ was too wide awake and energetic to take a nap

~ let Josiah and David have homemade grape popsicles outside this afternoon, bare-chested so that the juice wouldn't drip onto their shirts and stain them...didn't even complain when they got the juice all over their shorts instead

~ looked through my picture archives to find some photos of the boys to get printed to hang in some new frames in a corner of my room

~ played "guess who this baby is?" with my boys as we looked through the archives...the answer to the identity of the picture below surprised them (who do you think it is?)

~ took pictures of random things, like bowls...yes, bowls...bowls that nest...aren't they pretty?

~ took pictures of David, then experimented with photo editing using Picasa...I have so much to learn, but it was fun





~ couldn't resist taking a picture of this curious boy who scooted over to me and wanted to press all the buttons on the camera--or maybe he just wanted to eat the camera

~ went to a church softball game and managed to see a few plays, in between having a pleasant chat with the coordinator of the homeschool co-op we were a part of last year...and making sure all my boys were safe and happy and didn't wander off or get snatched or fall off the rock wall or stick their fingers in the outdoor electrical outlets or eat gravel

~ had a yummy dinner at Traditions, eating one-handed so I could hold a cup with a straw in it for Tobin to entertain himself by putting the straw in and out of the lid a few hundred times and only occasionally drinking from it...yay for nights when I don't have to cook!

~ smiled as I remembered Jeff's retort the latest time somebody gave us the "it doesn't matter if it's a boy or girl as long as it's healthy, right?" line...he calmly said, "We've pretty much decided, even if it has nine fingers and eleven toes, we'll take it anyway," and that got the point across quite well

~ noticed that some of the local Old Order Mennonites were having a social at one of the farms I passed on the way home...the sight of the buggies lined up together, the young trees encircling a pond on that farm, and the young folks playing softball in the field yonder was like something out of a dream or a storybook, beautiful and quaint beyond words...as I continued on my way, I passed several buggies still on their way to the social; and in one, a girl drove while a young man (probably her brother) leaned out the side to smoke a cigarette...so much for beautiful and quaint!

~ watched the lightning bugs appear as I walked down to my parents' shed to get another gallon of milk as darkness gathered

It's been a good day. :)

Tomorrow's diversions, provided I don't go into labor between now and then, include a trip to Sherando Lake with some friends...and maybe, an official 39 Weeks post.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Talkin' About Tobin

Nothing to report in the baby department. No birth, no water breaking, no labor. Nothing. Bummer.

However, since I have no news to share in that area, this gives me a chance to focus again on Tobin and get some things written down about him that I don't want to forget in the hustle and bustle of a new baby!

First, a series of pictures I took one day recently... We were having celery for lunch; and I was, of course, cutting much smaller pieces of it for the boys. For myself, however, I had a long stalk to munch on; and that intrigued Tobin greatly. I gave it to him, curious to see what would happen.

Hmmm, this is a new thing. I've seen Josiah and David eat these green sticks, so I guess I can, too.
Maybe if I do it like this, I can get a bite in my mouth. You watching, Mom?
That didn't work; maybe this is a better way to do it.
I KNOW I can do it SOMEHOW! Let me just see how wide I can open my mouth to get it in.
Rats. I can't do it. Here, Mom, you take it!
And so I did and crunched it happily while my little man went on to eat much smaller, easier things (like the black olives on his highchair tray). Cutie pie!

One thing that happened a while ago with Tobin but which I never jotted down previously is that on Father's Day, he said "dada" A LOT. As we left our church service to go out to a Mexican restaurant to celebrate, Tobin was saying, "dada" and "dadadadadadadadada," more than I've probably ever heard him before. At his stage of life, it's hard to know how much connection he makes between certain sounds and the actual object--for example, he has said "mama," but he doesn't routinely say that when he sees me so how much meaning does he really attach to it?--but what a perfect day on which to practice his "dada"! :)

Now that Tobin has recovered from that horrible diaper rash he had a few weeks ago, he's back to being our little Scooter. When he had the rash, he didn't want to scoot anywhere because of the pain in that area of his body! But now scooting is his primary means of transportation once again. One thing I've noticed is that he likes to scoot on top of stuff. For example, he'll get some books off the shelf to look at, then after a while, scoot on top of one and use that as a seat to scoot around on. When he does that with books, I put an end to it so the book doesn't get ruined. :) But another example is rugs: he likes to scoot on top of them...or shovels in the sandbox...he doesn't seem to mind having something under his little bottom as he scoots around.

As he travels from Point A to Point B, he's definitely a fan of choosing the shortest, most direct path, which is not necessarily the path of least resistance. It's funny to see the wheels turn in his brain, so to speak, as he determines to go somewhere and tries to plow straight through something (toys on the floor, for example) when he could much more easily go around them. That's a cognitive process that he hasn't gotten to in his development yet!

During the diaper rash weeks, we thought he might actually learn to crawl--or even, surprise! walk--because he was so resistant to scooting. He did manage to figure out his own unique style of crawling: two hands on the floor, his right foot on the floor (with the sole on the floor, in a standing position), and his left leg in his typical scooting position (slightly in front of his rear). He crawled a little bit in this position, but it wasn't very efficient so he didn't use it very much. In fact, I haven't spotted him doing that for quite a while now. Even when he did use it, he usually quickly abandoned it in favor of a better way of getting around: sitting down, whimpering, and holding both arms up to be picked up by some compassionate adult. Oh, and having a sweet pitiful face at the same time. It worked like a charm. :) Even when I was tired and overwhelmed and feeling a bit like I was at the end of my rope, the sight of those two little outstretched arms melted my heart. Such a simple gesture, but such an effective way of communicating!

One more thing about him moving: he is getting so much more adept at pulling himself up to standing, and he occasionally cruises (walks a little while holding onto objects--like the bench in our kitchen or the fence by the sheep pasture) although he hasn't really taken off with that. Recently, he has started letting us walk with him by holding onto his hands as he walks. He used to resist that, but now he sometimes really enjoys it. He's definitely advancing, although his timing is "delayed" (according to most children, but perfectly normal for him) and his progress is through small advances. We're not worried though. :)

I mentioned yesterday that Tobin is enchanted by animals, and that's certainly true: animals in real life, animals in books, animals on cups, animals anywhere! Speaking of books, Tobin wasn't such a book fan a few months ago. He would look at them occasionally, but didn't really enjoy looking at them for the long periods of time that I remember his big brothers (especially Josiah) looking at books when they were younger. When we moved Tobin's crib from the nursery into the guest room, I decided to try a new tactic to interest him in books: I put a few books into his crib for him to look at before and after he fell asleep. That strategy seemed to pay off, as well as the strategy of more consistently sitting with him in the rocking chair in his room to read a few books before I tucked him in bed (which, by the way, he didn't always want me to do, but I just told him gently but firmly that it was time to read and he settled down...the books I chose were very short and baby-friendly, of course, so it wasn't like I was forcing him to sit through a reading of Beowulf). :) It wasn't long at all before he was turning into a little bookworm; and now he enjoys his time with books, whether by himself or having someone read to him--especially if the books contain pictures of animals! The book could be about something entirely different; but if there is a picture of a dog or a cat or a sheep or other animal in it, he'll find it. :)

Here is a short video of him looking at a Richard Scarry book with David. In it, you can occasionally hear his "dahkh" word...
video

And now, the hard stuff. I've mentioned before that one of the most challenging parts of this whole summer has been Tobin and my unease about his adjustment to the new baby and my diminishing ability to quickly meet Tobin's needs. The fact that he was sick for several weeks only added to the hardships--both real and imagined ones, as I tried to picture how life would be as I cared for four children. As his sickness lingered on, it was sometimes hard to know whether he really wasn't feeling well and needed the extra attention/extra cuddle time/extra whatever...or whether he had simply learned to manipulate us to get what he wanted. I'm certain that I didn't always "read" him correctly and didn't always respond properly--one of the challenges of dealing with sickness in pre-verbal children!

One thing I realized and was able to discuss with my good friends Misty and Julie M. one evening, as we got a chance to slip away from our respective families for dinner and some girl talk, is that in our home, Tobin often sets the emotional tone for the family. That's not supposed to be his role. We've all heard many times about how the mother is the emotional thermostat: set her on "happy" and "peaceful," and the rest of the family follows along. But I was finding myself too tied up in Tobin's emotions; and when he became fussy, I became (the adult version of) fussy, too...which then led to short fuses and underlying tensions with and between the older boys. I had to learn (and still have to work on it) to disengage myself from Tobin emotionally--obviously not to the point of not caring about his feelings--but being able to step back and realize that even if he was sad because his little world wasn't revolving around him like he thought it should, it was OK and life would go on (and maybe be better because of it). I could still be calm, even if he wasn't. That's harder than it sounds; and although I've learned to do that with Josiah and David, I'm still working on that with Tobin.

Another thing I talked with Julie and Misty about is how Tobin has been in the "adorable baby" category for so long, and now his "fall" from that position is all the more painful because the timing coincides with a new little sibling. Fortunately, Julie and Misty knew what I meant and were able to identify with this, rather than criticize it. :) With Tobin not walking yet but using his cute scoot to get around, with him not really talking much, with him still being a "young" 18 month-old, he still seems to fall into the baby category; but in reality, he's very much entering the toddler stage. He understands SO MUCH (even when he can't express it verbally), he's as smart as a whip, he's reaching the age of testing boundaries (and being very aware while he's doing it, as evidenced by his sly look over his shoulder when he reaches for something he shouldn't have or goes somewhere that is off-limits). He's beginning to gain an understanding that he is not the center of the universe or even the center of our family, but instead a beloved, extremely important part of it. He's learning patience (or struggling against that concept!) and realizing that just because he wants something RIGHT NOW doesn't mean he's going to get it. In short, he's doing all the normal toddler stuff, learning all the hugely important lessons that a child his age must learn in order to grow up to live a well-adjusted, productive, happy life. It just so happens that he's going through this stage at the end of a pregnancy, and that is a juxtaposition that I've never dealt with before.

Enough heavy stuff! Tobin is undoubtedly a beloved, treasured son; and I know that as he grows and learns, God uses him to teach and refine me into the woman God wants me to be. May I learn these lessons well, and may I not fear the days to come but approach them one day at a time, savoring the moments of togetherness with my sweet Tobin Bear: like watching him scoot in and out of the Thomas the Tank Engine tent today, seeing him peek out at me from the tent flap, "taking pictures" of each other with our old camera, seeing his big grin as I put silly play sunglasses on my face and then put them on him, playing piano with him sitting on my lap and delightedly pressing the keys with me, noticing how he reached for his puppy dog from Jenny Sacra and cuddled with it as soon as I laid him in bed for his morning nap today. These are truly precious moments.