Happy 4th Birthday, Ezra

Dear Ezra,

Today is your 4th birthday. 4. I can’t even believe this will be the 4th year we have celebrated your birthday without you here. Wasn’t I just in the hospital waiting to deliver your tiny, lifeless body?

So much has happened since that day, Sweet Boy. 4 months after I delivered you, I became pregnant with your little sister, our rainbow, Peachy. But that’s not all. There were 4 foster children in and out of our home since then. We moved— my goodness leaving the house we lived in where you lived and died in my womb nearly shattered my heart. I’ve experienced hosts of physical ailments, and a few diagnoses. Your big brother and big sister have gone from toddlers to elementary aged kids. After saying goodbye to you and two of your baby foster brothers who came and left after you, the Lord blessed us with a forever baby boy, your brother Gordito. He’s sleeping now in my arms with a full belly of mama’s milk and swaddled like a chubby burrito.

There has been so much change since you left us, and yet? I still miss you. I still feel your loss in physical and tangible ways.

Sometimes when I am kissing your baby brother, his soft, bubble gummy cheeks, I wonder if you would have looked like him if you had made it. I sniff in his pungent smell and remember all I have of you is a little box of ashes.

Sometimes I think about how different life would be if you had lived. There would be no Peachy, in all her wild insanity, I love her so much I can’t fathom life without her, and yet if you were here, she wouldn’t be. That makes me feel guilty if I think about it too much.

Sometimes when I’m in the living room with your brothers and sisters, I count their heads “1, 2, 3, 4…” and then I go into a mild panic scanning the room looking for you. Where is my other child? There have been times where I have gotten up and looked in other rooms in the house for a fifth child, and as I do, I am overcome with sadness again remembering you aren’t here. There’s no fifth head to count.

Ezra. My beautiful, itty bitty boy. I’ll never stop grieving your loss. I’ll always have a piece of my puzzle missing with you not here. I’ll forever remember you and keep your memory alive in the hearts of your siblings, so that even when I’m dead and gone and holding you in Heaven, your name will not be forgotten on earth.

But for now my love, I know you don’t miss me. You’re complete. You have lived a fuller life in the 4 years you’ve been in the presence of the Lord than I have 32 years on earth. You are held by arms more capable than mine, you are cared for better than I could have done, and you are loved even more than this imperfect mama ever could. I have such great joy knowing you are not mourning, you never have and never will.

God is good— all the time, and I take comfort in knowing that one day, we will be reunited together with Christ.

I love you, sweet Ezra Eugene.

Love,

Your Mama

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Why I Won’t Share My Due Date— or Baby’s Name!

It’s funny the things that annoy other people about a pregnancy that is not theirs. There are two things I keep a secret during every pregnancy.

1. My EDD (that’s estimated due date!)

2. The name we have chosen for the baby

Thankfully, those closest to me no longer hound me (except maybe my friend in Missouri who tries to trick me regularly into telling her the name of this little guy haha!) But for some reason, people get real cranky when you don’t tell them these things.

So why keep it a secret?

Our EDD

With our first pregnancy, we shared Captain’s EDD with people. One minor annoyance was as soon as I would tell people “He’s due March 13th” they had the weirdest responses.

“You should keep that baby in til March 16th! My uncle’s dog’s brother’s owner’s sister’s cousin was born then and he’s a great kid.”

“I’m pulling for March 5th! That’s when my son was born! I hope you have your baby on his birthday!”

“Don’t have your baby on March 8th. That’s the day my father in law died. That’s a horrible day to have a baby.”

I have no control over holding this kid in or making it come out. The baby comes when the baby comes. I guess people were trying to relate, but for some reason, I found it really annoying. This is probably because I’m a horrible person and need to learn patience, but it still makes me feel awkward and I never know quite how to respond.

However, the main reason we don’t share my EDD is this: it’s just what it says it is. An ESTIMATED due date. I’ve never had a child on their EDD. One was a couple days before, one was a week after, one was 23 weeks too early, one was 2 days after. I don’t need people hounding me at 38 weeks until 41 weeks every day saying “did ya have that baby yet??” Yeah, I totally had the baby weeks ago and just didn’t tell you. Like, c’mon y’all. You’ll know.

Some uteruses are slow cookers and some are microwaves. Mine is a slow cooker. Gotta let that baby marinate a bit longer til s/he is ready.

Our Baby’s Name

Why keep their names a secret? I think this is multifaceted. Firstly, opinions on names are like armpits. You know the rest, right? So let’s say I’ve picked the name Naphtali for my next child. You tell someone little Naphti is on the way and suddenly everyone is an expert on names. “Aren’t you afraid he’ll be nicknamed Nympho-li in 8th grade?” “Isn’t that gonna be hard for people to spell?” “I knew a Naphtali in kindergarten and he used to pee his pants all the time. Whenever I hear the name Naphtali, I smell urine.” But after that baby is born and named, no one can say anything to your face about it without seeming like a major jerk, and that cute baby is already charming them, so they are more likely to be accepting of his name.

Secondly, names are a really big deal. Like you are pegging someone as a Gertrude or a Lambert for life. What you name them will define them. It’ll sometimes decide if they get hired for that right job someday. It will determine how often it is misspelled or mispronounced. It’s a big decision. And it’s one Milkman and I like to make on our own! We love the fun aspect of having a secret that belongs only to us. Yeah, that’s right, we don’t even tell our kiddos! (Mostly because they are all really young and don’t know how to keep secrets!) I love getting into bed at night and Milkman kissing my belly and talking to our baby, using the name that only we two know.

Thirdly, and this applies to both the due date and the name, surprises are fun. I LOVE surprises! They are my love language. When I called my mother to tell her that I had given birth to her granddaughter and told her said grandchild was named for my mother, she cried! It was beautiful. The anticipation leading up to the baby being born and being named is fun. People guess and wonder, and I get to giggle at their ridiculous guesses! We already know so much before our babies are born, their sex, often genetic issues, how much they weigh (okay, they are basically ALWAYS wrong about that), and with 3D ultrasounds, many know what their baby already looks like (if their baby was modeled out of peanut butter that is). So having something to save for the end is always a treat.

Now, I have lots of friends who tell their due dates, names, stats, and post ultrasounds of their unborn child’s genitals. That’s cool for them, and I love knowing and celebrating with them beforehand. So I don’t judge people who do it differently, and I get why people think we are annoying for not sharing. But in a world of information overload, it’s kind of fun to be different.

What things did you keep a secret before delivery? Or do you like to share all your happy news at once?

As Much— but Different

One fear I had going into Fostering was “what if I don’t love the children as much as my own biological children?” And then the follow-up was thinking, I suppose if I didn’t love them as much and they are only here temporarily, that’s not the end of the world, but what if I adopted and I didn’t love that child as much as my bios?

I read blogs, Facebook posts, and books where people always just said they loved their foster and adopted children as much as their bios. But, it still scared me. Okay, so those people love their kids as much, but what if I don’t? And frankly, no one can answer that question before they begin fostering or before they’ve adopted, and it may be on a case by case basis. You may have that “as much” love for one child and not another.

Last night, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel with a former foster youth who aged out of the system, a reunified parent, and I was representing foster parents during a training for new foster parents. As I was answering a question about the dynamic in our home between bios and fosters, I came to this realization, and voiced it: I love my foster child with the same intensity that I love my biological children. I often think that no one has ever loved their foster child as much as I love mine. But I would be lying if I said it was the same type of love. Before you judge me too harshly, let me give you an example.

I love my husband intensely. If the dial goes to a 10, I love him at an 11 (name that movie reference!). I also love my bio children, and I love them at an 11. But it’s a different type of love. Same goes for my parents. 11… but on a different dial. I love them all to the same intensity, but my love for each of them is a love that plays out differently. So, when I say I love my foster son just as much as I love my biological children, I don’t want to give you a false idea about how it may be for you, by leaving it as simple as that.

You will (hopefully!!!) love your foster child just as much as you love your bios, but don’t be surprised or feel guilty if that love is different. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe because I co-slept and nursed my bios, so there was that really early physical bonding. Maybe because they are a permanent fixture in my life and in our home. Maybe because I’m parenting with just their father, and not co-parenting with a stranger. I’m sure there are lots of components to the puzzle.

My encouragement to you today is this:

If you are considering foster care or adoption (yes, those are two very different categories!) and the fear of loving a stranger is holding you back, I’m here to encourage you, that it is very possible to love a child who is not from your body, just as much as you love your bio kids.

If you are currently loving on a foster or adoptive child, and you love them just as much, but it feels a different? That’s okay. I think it’s that way for a lot of us. It doesn’t mean you love them less— it’s just a little different.

A Forever Changing Family

First, two became one. And that was the day Milkman and I were married. We were going to wait a year before trying for a baby.

2 months into our marriage we decided to “leave it up to God and see what happens.” We were pregnant the next month. Just two weeks before our first wedding anniversary, we became a family of 3 when Captain was born.

We thought we would wait a year before trying again. And then when Captain was 8 months old, we got another positive pregnancy test. Our sweet Mamitas was born 41 weeks later, and we became a family of 4.

When Mamitas was 11 months old, we had another positive pregnancy test. We were so excited to be a family of 5! We cherished each moment we had, but at my 17 week appointment, our little baby love was no longer. I delivered Ezra’s sleeping body 4 days later, and we remained a family of 4.

4 months later, another positive test! Our rainbow baby was the greatest joy of our lives. Peachy was born that Fall, and then we were 5. We knew after such a difficult pregnancy and traumatic labor and delivery that biological babies would not be in our near future, but we had already completed our foster parenting requirements, so we trusted that our family would grow in time.

9 months later, we received a call for two sisters from our foster agency. Within 24 hours of getting a call, we were a family of 7. Three months later, they reunified, and for two weeks, we became a family of 5 yet again.

It was too quiet, so imagine our joy when we received a call for an “adoptable” 5 day old newborn baby boy. Sweet Warrior. He left us just under 3 months later to a non-family relative home. We were devastated.

And the calls stopped. We were just 5 again. For 6 months we sat by the phone, and no more children came. But then, a call. And we were 6, when little Chatito came to live with us. And 6 we have happily been, and 6 we shall remain for a little while longer. Then 5 again when he reuinifies, but not much longer after that…

And we will be a family of 6 yet again. Because the Lord has blessed us with the gift of pregnancy!

We are grateful to God for giving us another baby to love. Our hands are full, but our hearts are bursting. What a joy to have 4 children at my feet to love on while a 5th steadily grows in my womb! Join us in praying for a healthy pregnancy and a sweet, full of life baby in Summer 2018!

I Remember Ezra.

I won’t forget the butterflies I felt when I saw those two lines.

I won’t forget the excited look on your daddy’s face when I told him you existed.

I won’t forget the sound of your big brother and sister praying for their “tummy baby” every night at bedtime.

I won’t forget the first time I heard your heartbeat.

I won’t forget my tummy bulging with you growing inside.

I won’t forget you moving around on the ultrasound, dancing like a little sprite on the screen.

I won’t forget the feeling that something was amiss.

I won’t forget when the Doppler was placed on my stomach and came back silent.

I won’t forget when your body was so very still on the ultrasound.

I won’t forget how hard my body shook as I wept for your short life.

I won’t forget picking out the green yarn for your baby blanket, and wanting you to be warm.

I won’t forget driving to the hospital for your induction.

I won’t forget the awful, heart breaking, soul crushing feeling of my water breaking and your body beginning to detach from mine.

I won’t forget the nurse wrapping you up in a wash cloth and exclaiming, “dear God, he’s so tiny!” As she handed your lifeless body to me.

I won’t forget how we bundled you in the little green blanket I crocheted during your labor.

I won’t forget how we sang to you. 10,000 reasons, stay awake, Jesus loves me…

I won’t forget your itty nail beds, precious earlobes, your miniature nose that looked like Captain’s, your absolutely perfect little feet.

I won’t forget parting your mouth as I dropped a single drop of mama’s milk in between your lips.

I won’t forget when we gave you one last kiss, placed your sweet, small body wrapped in that soft green blanket into the white basket so the nurse could take your body down to the hospital morgue.  

I won’t forget any of it. I will remember. I will mourn. I will miss you. I will cry. I will say your name. And I will keep telling your story, so that other people will remember you, too.

My sweet, sleeping Baby.

Happy 3rd Birthday in Heaven, Ezra Eugene. I love you. 

Their Papa

It all started on a Friday night in July and we were going to get drinks and listen to Brazilian jazz downtown, and I had a strange feeling that I should stick to the jazz and not the drinks. I came out of the bathroom and into the living room in the converted garage where we were living, and I said “it’s probably a false positive.”

And in that moment, your face displayed a joy I had never seen before. I just remember you saying “Babe! Babe! Babe!” and kissing me. I refused to let myself get excited because I was scared of the unknown. After googling “false positive pregnancy tests” I took another and it was also positive. You held me and you said “I’m going to be a daddy.” And that night I got a virgin Mai Tai.

And when Captain was born 9 months later, he was placed in your arms all swaddled, and I watched you from my bed while I cramped and bled and was sore, and nothing was more satisfying than seeing the man I loved the most hold the physical proof of our love– our son.

And 8 months later, I was tired and decided to take a shower after a nursing marathon with Captain, and before I got in the shower, I looked at the test on the counter to see 2 lines. I came bursting down the hall in piles of tears, so scared to be pregnant and nurse a baby, and you held me and told me it was going to be okay, and you once again had that look of joy in your eyes, though slightly dimmed by 8 months worth of sleep deprivation. I didn’t know you were scared about money in that moment, because you never let it show, you just held me and kissed me and said “We are going to have another baby!”

And when she was born after 57 months of pregnancy (okay, it felt like that) you stood over Mamitas’s screaming, pink body and she let out the most ghastly shriek I had ever heard, and you said your baby girl was perfect and beautiful.

And then 10 months later, Captain announced mommy had a baby in her tummy, and you gave me a look of astonishment and once again I saw that light in your eyes I had seen twice before, and you were so excited, you even ate the oatmeal I made for breakfast that day.

When I delivered his sleeping body at 17 weeks, it was just you and me in the room, and you cried with me. I sang “Stay Awake” to Ezra, and he couldn’t hear me, but you did, and you sang me and our still child praise songs and held his tiny body in a green blanket I made just hours earlier.

4 months later, I asked you to get my glasses off the bathroom counter on a weekday morning before work, and after you saw the test on the counter, you came back to me in the living room with tears in your eyes, and you held me and we cried, and I didn’t see your eyes because mine were too clouded from crying, but I felt that light and warmth and joy radiate through my body from yours, because we were going to have our rainbow baby.

And when we met Peach, after a very awful 48 hours of little sleep, and frustration, you cried at the sight of our baby girl– the first birth you cried at.

Late nights, and middle of the nights, and early mornings, you are present. When Captain cuddles up close in the dark of the night and I hear you kiss the top of his head, when you wash Mamitas’s hair in the bathtub and assure her you wont let the shampoo get in her eyes, when you take Peachy from me because I’m tired and put her in your Ergo and sing to her. When I get into bed and begin whimpering, missing our Ezra Eugene, and you hum “10,000 Reasons” in my ear and whisper that you miss him too.

Your children love you. There is some sort of magic in your relationship with each of them. Captain wants to be just like you, Mamitas wants to have your attention every second, and Peach? Well, she wishes she was glued to you 24/7 because you are her favorite person.

I hear so many say that women become mothers the second they see those 2 pink lines, and fathers have to grow into their role as a dad after the baby has born. You were different. I have grown into motherhood, but you were made out of the fabric from which the finest fathers are constructed.

And now that I think of it, it didn’t all start on a Friday night in early July, it started in a church parking lot in April, 14 months earler. We were both nursing confused and broken hearts and we sat on the curb in the middle of the lot and cars began heading home that Sunday night. We talked about our faith, and we talked about how we were raised. We talked about goals in life and morals and values. And we talked about children. And I had never seen a man my age so passionate about the idea of getting married and having babies and raising a family. And though in that moment I didn’t know for certain what would become of our friendship, a little light flickered in my mind’s eye– a little hope, that maybe those babies you seemed so excited to have one day, could be my babies, too.

When you don’t sleep for 4 years and you spend most of your life covered in some sort of bodily fluid from a child, the time that passes seems to grow into centuries. But here we are, babies, kids, family, and so much love.

And when you walk in the door every day after a long day of work, and you drop your work bag on the floor and your children see you, I see the same light in their eyes that I saw in your eyes each time you found out they existed– and that makes all the craziness worth it.

I love you, Milkman. Our babies do, too! Happy Father’s Day.

Happy Birthday, Poochie!

To My First (and only!) Nephew on His First Birthday:

 

Sweet little man, with the big, brown, round eyes and little smirk, you are one today!

 

I was there when you were born!  Witnessing your birth was one of the most special things I will ever experience.  It was such a privilege to be there.

 

Your mama labored a long time, and when I got to the hospital, she was ready to push. I have often referred to your mama as my “little sister” though she is older than me.  I have always thought of her as fragile and in need of my protection. But as I cooled her head off with towels, and held her hand while she roared your little body earthside, I saw a mighty warrior.  Though I had delivered 3 babies before you were born, I was in awe of her strength to go through her labor unmedicated!

 

You were placed in your mama’s arms and you smelled like the earth.  You screamed and fussed your little head off while your mama and papa admired you, and while your little cousin in my tummy kicked away at the early hour of the morning.  You were too fussy to latch to nurse, but your mama kept you warm and safe against her skin,

 

You were so tiny.  I have never held a baby as small as you, and I remember thinking you had the cutest little rump, and you had your mama’s nose.  Your papa snapped away pictures proudly, and after a while I made my exit, and got into my car.  

 

It was very late and dark, there were few cars on the road, and I turned on Pandora to keep me awake on the drive home and blasted Kaskade with the windows down and wept.  You were so precious.  Your papa was so proud.  And your mama?  She was fierce.

 

A year later, I’m watching you grow.  Loving the rare but flirty smiles you flash my way from time to time.  Watching you and your baby cousin Peach play together.  Wearing you close to me when your mama is getting things done.  Seeing so much of my own first, sweet, shy boy in your personality.  You are such a joy to your parents and such a wonderful addition to our growing family.

 

I love you so much Poochie.  Happy birthday.

 

Love,

Taunty Paych

 

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