Thursday, June 30, 2016

Patience is the Fruit of Gratitude ~ Remembering Blaise's Birth

Several years ago, my spiritual director told me that gratitude is the gateway to patience.

Yeah.  Just let that simmer for a while.

I kind of hated it when she would say stuff like that to me.  Because what she said was true, and truth can be uncomfortable, even annoying, since sometimes I'm a toddler and I don't like to do what I know I'm supposed to do. Read: get better - grow up - get over myself.

Two weeks before Blaise was born, her words came back to me.  They were a spiritual life preserver thrown out from my memory as, sadly, I had forgotten all about them.

Her wisdom really did rescue me from drowning in the waves of worry, doubt, and despair that kept pulling me under into the depths of self pity. I just couldn't get over the fact that our seventh son had decided follow in the stubborn footsteps of brothers #2, #4 and #6, by hunkering down for a long twelve days past his due date.

Practicing real, sincere, prayerful gratitude isn't always an easy thing to offer up, especially when you've decided that you simply cannot survive being pregnant for one more single solitary day.

If you've ever been in my flip flops, you understand what I'm sayin' here. At 40+ weeks your whole body aches. You haven't seen your ankles for a good three weeks. And the only thing thing that fits is your husband's bath robe - which you've convinced yourself, with the right pair of shoes flip-flops, could pass for a classic, albeit fuzzy, wrap dress.

But, given the fact that my chocolate stash, and all my other earthly comfort-seeking strategies for distraction had failed to keep my inner tantrum sector from screaming, When in the hell am I going to have this baby??!, I gave in to the one thing that I should have been choosing all along: GRATITUDE.

(See how it says attitude right there in that word? Probably not a coincidence, huh.)

Still determined to help this baby get his birthing rear in gear, I gathered up my gratitude and, as I contemplated God's generosity, proceeded to mow the lawn, weed the garden, and walk the curbs around neighborhood until I couldn't walk any more.

Unfortunately, all that determination made me a wee bit tired. It just so happens that the only prayer I had prayed for myself over the last two months of pregnancy was that the Lord would allow me to go to the hospital feeling rested, and that circumstances surrounding the birth would be relatively uneventful (unlike the last time). Because I'm not able to handle an epidural, I need every ounce of energy and strength possible to get through the labor and delivery.

But, wouldn't you know, the night of all that curb-walking, around 11 p.m., just as everyone was sleeping soundly and it was finally my turn to crawl into bed, ba-boom.  Contractions.

At first I wasn't too worried because I had been having contractions at night for about three weeks. And, since those were all uneventful, I figured this was just a repeat situation.  But, after about three hours of activity, things really started to crank up.

Wanting to labor at home as long as I could so that Steve could sleep, I settled in to the recliner and tried to rest. Around 4 a.m. it was time to wake Daddy up.   Exhausted, yet excited, I grabbed the coffee pot and, in desperation, chugged down the cold bitter cup that was leftover from breakfast and waddled out the door into the dark.

Once we got to the hospital, my contractions began to slow down.  I wasn't about to pop into the maternity ward only to have them tell me I wasn't in "real labor." So, for nearly an hour, Steve and I walked a loop around the admissions floor until my contractions were two minutes apart.

After checking in, I was happy to hear from the experts that not only was I really in labor (insert eye-roll), but also dilated to a SIX (insert rock star jump).

Like the six births before this one, the details of the labor and delivery quickly faded as the miracle of life passed from my womb to my arms.

But there are two very poignant moments during the labor that I don't think I'll ever forget....

About an hour before Blaise was born, I had really hit a wall. It took every last bit of energy I could muster to keep my emotions and bay and to stay focused.  As I stood hunched over the bed, leaning on the rail for support, I looked up at Steve seeking his encouragement.  In our silence, the exchange of glances spoke a thousand words.  His eyes told me that he knew just how fragile I felt.

Leaving my side for just a moment, he went in search of my journal, the one that I had recorded a little over one hundred prayer requests from my readers, friends, and family. Returning to my side, he opened the book and laid it between my hands. As I hung my head over the scripted pages, one by one I read, again, the needs that had been entrusted to me weeks ago. As I prayed, every weakness and every pain I was feeling was completely taken up into those intentions.

As I prayed I remember seeing very clearly in my mind the image of the crucified Christ. Up until that time, I had only considered that it was our sins alone that Jesus bore upon the cross. But, it was there that He also took ahold of our every pain and suffering as well. He knew, with deep love and tender compassion, every ounce of pain I would endure to bring a new life into His world, just as He knew every measure of suffering being borne by the hearts of each and every name I had written on the pages of my journal.

In that space in time there was a beautiful unity between us all - Christ, myself, and those whom I was praying for.  I cannot describe the peace and joy that flooded my soul at that moment.
On May 27th at 10:02 a.m., Blaise Maximilian Kolbe was born.

I was once asked, since we have had multiples, if the experience of giving birth ever ceases to be amazing . The answer is a resounding, no. It's a truly humbling, yet thrilling experience each and every time. Steve and I are always a total mess at the moment of the birth.  We hug and kiss and bawl over our new child, completely unaware of anyone else in the room.

It's a glorious time!
We decided not to tell the boys the gender of their new sibling until they arrived at the hospital. When they walked into the room, a curious silence came over them.  As soon as they heard they had a new brother, the room turned into a gymnasium - woo-hoo's, high fives, chest bumps and all!

One by one they held him...(Not pictured, Ninja Joey, who was only allowed to admire from afar.)
George, the first to request the honor of holding his new brother.
 Andrew, Mr. Tender.
 Henry, so proud to finally be big enough to hold a baby on his own.
 Ben, the oldest holding the youngest.  I can't even type that without getting teary-eyed.
Charlie, 100% in love. 

For weeks we volleyed back and forth over three names for our new little guy, and thought we would choose the one we felt suited him best once he was born.  My top pick was Ambrose John Vianney. Steve's was Louis John Vianney, but we also had Blaise Maximilian Kolbe on the roster.

In the end, it was the boys who chose Blaise.  They campaigned hard for his name, and came out victorious - we just couldn't say no.
 Blaise has no idea just how incredible the father who holds him truly is.
 Blaise is my parents' seventeenth grandchild.  
My dad always tells his children that he has more love than grandkids.  He's right.
Oh, my darling Blaise! 
Thank you for reminding me that patience is the fruit of gratitude.
Your sweet face will forever be a reminder of that truth!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

First Glimpses of Blaise

Tomorrow our sweet baby, Blaise, will be three weeks old. The first few weeks at home with a newborn are always a bit of a blur for me, especially during this particular season, since our family is quite busy with athletic camps, church activities, baseball games, and some seriously looooonnnngggg hours of farm work.

As I find myself marching through these crazy days in a mental haze, struggling minute-by-minute to overcome the deep, deep aching desire for sleep, for quiet, for peace, my one comfort is knowing that I am right where I am needed, whether it means nursing Blaise for the hundredth time, delivering meals to the field, shuttling someone to a camp, or cheering on one of the boys at a baseball game.

While the difficulties of the present moment probably seem less than ideal to anyone on the outside looking in, I assure you, there is no absence of beautiful delights. For every tear and every sigh of exasperation, there are twice as many blessings in the way of laughter, joy, wonder, and surprise - especially in the expressions of affection and love from six big boys toward the tiny, fragile boy whom they have welcomed into their brotherhood.

Such is the mystery of love...that there can be such indescribable goodness in the midst of suffering, and how one gives the other greater purpose, greater merit.

I'm hoping to find a moment or two over the weekend to compose Blaise's birth story, but until I can get back on my blogging feet again, here is a peek at just a few of the photos I've been able to capture of our little prince!
Every day for the first week after we came home from the hospital, we took Blaise to the doctor to have his blood tested, since he had a moderate case of jaundice.  He's a little yellow, you can see! Thankfully, with every visit his bilirubin levels came down, and he is how perfectly rosy!
While snapping these pics, in my brief absence, Joey ate a half a pan of brownies. Then, on a chocolate high, he proceeded to finger paint the refrigerator...and the pantry door....and himself.

Terrible two's + sleepless newborn nights = best reason to keep the wine fridge stocked!
Baby Blaise is a curious wonder to the boys, especially Charlie.  He can sit for the longest time inspecting every inch of his brother, from head to toe.  There is some sweetness underneath all their rowdiness!
My dad's sister, Elaine, has crocheted a blanket for every single one of our boys. Each one is a unique treasure. 
Last week Steve was working around the clock to get our hay baled and stacked, but he called one day, out of the blue, to say he was going to take a break and come HOME for supper.  (Yay!! Oh Dear... ) I had only a short amount of time to get a meal on the table before he arrived, and needed some help with Blaise, who was very fussy at the time.  

With Ben and Andrew away on a mission trip, the younger boys had to step in.  Henry was the first to volunteer. He scooped baby Blaise right up and rocked him tenderly by the radio.  We soon discovered a little George Strait and some cuddling works like a charm on Mr. Fussypants!
This one I will frame.
Posted to my Facebook page last week:
Blessed is the mom whose son rises at 5:30 a.m. to get to football camp, then puts in an 8 hour day helping dad turn wrenches on a swather, only to come home and pass up a hot supper for the chance to hold his baby brother. Man, I wasn't ready for the tears that sight would bring - babies make us all a little better don't they?