Monday, November 29, 2010

Baking with Mama

Gemma and I made cookies today- well, I made cookies and talked her through the process. She was very inquisitive in her bouncy seat, wondering what craziness her mama was involved in. I'm certain that she won't remember it, which is good, since I am not a big baker so she won't come to expect this of me! :)






This photo makes Gemma look like she's been eating the cookies which she has NOT been doing... that's just Prevacid drool on her face. Her mama should really wipe that off- sheesh.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

musings on motherhood... a post about pumping.

I am finally starting to feel a bit more like my old self- my pre-Gemma self. When I had Gemma, I had a CRAZY hormonal trip for a good two weeks. I was miserable. I was anxious and crying at the drop of a hat, I felt out of control of my emotions, and totally helpless to make decisions about what was best for my daughter. All this was hitting me while we were in and out of hospitals, clinics, specialists etc seeking answers as to why Gemma wasn't nursing. All of a sudden, I had a baby who had special feeding needs and concerns and I had to wrap my anxious, hormonal, crazy self around managing her needs. I swear Abe looked at me like I had grown another head every time I freaked out.

Once I got all the thickening stuff under control, I felt better. Gemma was gaining weight and I was spending all my time taking care of her or pumping. (Sorry if this is too much information- I'm just being honest.) So, pumping occupied a TON of time especially when each feeding takes almost an hour and she has to be held upright for another 30-45 minutes post feeding, and then I would have to pump. Also, Abe was at work so I was all by myself all day trying to manage that schedule and the dogs! Phew! Then to top it all off, pumping made me feel AWFUL. I don't know if anyone else has had this experience but whenever I pumped, I felt horrifically nauseous and depressed. It absolutely made me feel like someone I loved just died. It was bad. I began to dread it and when the doctor told me that all I had to do was what would keep me sane and happy, I decided to taper back on pumping.

So, about that... unfortunately, I'm done pumping today. I was really hoping that I could breastfeed Gemma eventually- the speech clinician at Children's thought this might be a possibility. Unfortunately, I have not been pumping enough to make that a reality. It makes me really sad, actually. NOT sad enough, however, to feel nauseous, moody and awful 8-10 times a day. I have enough breast milk saved to give Gemma supplemental bottles for another two weeks so she's getting antibodies from me for a bit longer. She's doing wonderfully well on formula so I should feel good about that transition but... I still grieve the loss of the breast feeding experience.

A lot of people give their very kind opinion that breast feeding is the ONLY way to go and that if you don't breast feed, you are not a good mom. They would never say that in those exact words but the phrase, "it'll get better, keep trying," or "it was never that difficult for me, you must just be doing it wrong" and "you know, breastfeeding is the best for baby and I know you want to do what's best for your baby." I get it. Breast milk is best for babies but for me, it's NOT an option. My daughter choked when I tried to feed her. She got red in the face, struggled to breathe, looked terrified and choked. So, No. I could NOT breast feed my girl. Now unfortunately, pumping has not made it a possibility ever. I tried, I did. But I am not going to feel awful about making the choice to be the best mom I can.

Since I decided to cut back on pumping, I've felt so much better. I have more time to spend with Gemma and I'm not feeling awful while I pump. After a few weeks of cutting back, I'm all done now. So all this to say... and I'm certain that my mother and grandmothers would be mortified at a post about gasp! pumping!... I'm making this choice for us, me and my daughter. The choice to be happy and have more time in my daily schedule has helped me enjoy this holiday season a bit more like I used to. The time leading up to Christmas is my favorite time of year... and I'm starting to feel a bit more like myself.

I think pumping is really not the big point of this post, but more an example of motherhood. The decision to stop pumping has been torturous to my heart. I have never battled guilt or shame like I have contemplating quitting breastfeeding. Ultimately, I have to overcome that guilt and shame, because neither of those emotions are how God wants me to mother Gemma. I'll choose to do what's best for us, and as I get back to being myself- happy, spontaneous, freakishly excited about Christmas etc., I become a better mama to my precious Gem.

I am still not 100% there- I think it has to do a lot with lack of sleep and lack of time for Abe and I to spend time together. But it also has to do with this whole new phase of life. I feel like I'm living with one part of my heart on the outside of my body- Gemma is like a part of my heart, my soul. She's so precious to me, it's unexplainable. Because of how important she is, I am that much more vulnerable to hurt. When she's hurt, it's like I feel physical pain. So, this is what motherhood is all about. It's learning to live life with a part of your heart wandering around outside your body; it's being vulnerable beyond belief because you have no control. It's terrifying and exhilarating, sobering and silly, painful and joyful, mundane and breathtaking... do all mothers feel this way?

Friday, November 26, 2010

7 weeks

Here she is... seven weeks old. I'm so thankful for her! We celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday and I realized I hadn't taken any pictures of her lately. So, here she is in all her pink glory... I thought the hat was a hoot!








Monday, November 22, 2010

heavy

Today I have a heavy heart. If you've read my blog for a while, you know I had a miscarriage a little over a year ago. I was so saddened and grieved the loss of Abe and my first baby deeply. When I became pregnant with Gemma, I was overjoyed but acutely aware of the unpredictable gift of a healthy pregnancy. Today I am acutely reminded again of the marvelous gift of my healthy beautiful daughter as those around me are bathed in grief.

This won't be a long post but please lift up some of my friends in prayer. I have a friend who just delivered her little boy 19 weeks early. He lived for an hour with his parents and then went home to Jesus. Another friend just found out her little baby has a fatal genetic disease. She is just starting her 2nd trimester. Lastly, a dear friend is faced with worry as her daughter is experiencing complications in utero. I still am praying for friends who have been struggling to conceive for years- praying that their empty wombs are filled with life even now.

How humbling, how heartbreaking. Hold your kids tighter than you did yesterday- nothing is guaranteed and I know that there are many women out there who would gladly trade places with you for a midnight worry session or feeding over a beautiful little baby.



Lord, please remind me constantly to be immensely grateful for Gemma- for every cry, for every late night, for every giggle, for every messy diaper, for every gas pain, for every nebulizer treatment, and puke covered pajamas. She is more than I deserve and for You to entrust me with her is staggering.

God you are good, please reveal your mercy, love, and grace to those whose hearts need you now more than ever. Lord, the ones you love are heartbroken... You know what to do- You are King of the Universe, Lover of my soul, Prince of peace, and the great Healer. Draw near to Your children and bind their broken hearts.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Surrender



I am almost one month away from going back to work and I can't imagine leaving Gemma. I know moms say that all the time and that the hardest time for them is dropping their baby off at daycare when they go back to work. I am anticipating a lot of tears on my part as I drive away from her.

Although I will be sad spending the day away from her, she will be in such good hands. My mom has graciously offered to watch her full time until the summer. My mom is such a good grandma. She just dotes on Gemma and it's really wonderful and touching to see her love love love my little girl. I have been so stressed out about finding a daycare that I feel good about, that is close by, and affordable. With the extra concern about Gemma's risk for respiratory infection, I was even more concerned about her being around other kids and germs. I had an amazing friend lined up to take care of Gemma 3 days a week but she lives really far away from me. I was so willing to drive to know that my girl would be in good hands but I am absolutely overjoyed to be able to drop her at my mom's (about 10 minutes away). My dad is retiring sometime in the near future so they should be able to have some good quality time with her. What a gift for her to really be loved by them and known by them from such a young age.

In other news, we are vaccinating Gemma for some of the crud she could get this season. I had a really big knot in my stomach about vaccinating her. There is a lot of information out there on why kids should or should not be vaccinated and it's hard to know what choice to make. I have a lot of friends in the medical field and they are usually horrified at the possibility of not vaccinating kids. My brother, a physician, said that once you see a child die of whooping cough, you'll never argue against vaccination again. How horrible- I can't imagine. There really is no option for us due to Gemma's lung/aspiration issues and my being surrounded by germy kids all day every day. With RSV season winding up and flu and whooping cough starting to make the rounds, we just can't risk it. I did some independent research through the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I talked to our pediatrician and my friend who is a nurse practitioner and picked their brains about the safety of vaccines. Both of them encouraged me to protect her as much as I can- there are even some additional vaccines that she may qualify for due to her lungs being "compromised". So, I will be praying for the absence of any side effects to any of the vaccinations she will receive.

That brings me to the title of this post. Surrender. If God has been teaching me anything through my beautiful little girl, it's surrender. Most of you who know me would probably say I'm pretty high strung. I guess I thought I wasn't that much of a control freak but I have seen myself become more and more stressed out about things that are out of my control. This has been especially obvious to me during my pregnancy and Gemma's first 6 weeks of life. I can't fix her feeding issues- I can't make her stop aspirating. I can't prevent her from refluxing. I can't possibly be next to her every second of every day to make sure she doesn't choke on her own reflux- and it's really hard for me to let go!

I read a great book by Angie Smith called I WILL CARRY YOU about the sacred dance of grief and joy. She lost a beautiful little baby Audrey Caroline, started a widely read blog, and unearthed a whole new understanding of God. I highly recommend it. It's beautifully written and so authentic. God is using her in mighty ways in honor of her daughter Audrey. Like Heather said about Briana, it's not a ministry she would have chosen but it's one God has called her to and a way she can celebrate her daughter. One of the things that really spoke to me from this book is how to communicate with God when we so desperately want something. She paralleled her story with that of Lazarus. When his sisters sent word to Jesus hoping for healing, they simply told him that the one he loved is sick. Jesus knew this and more already, as evidenced by his telling the disciples that Lazarus was dead. The sisters never told him this, he was already aware of the situation. What deeply moved me was the idea that the sisters didn't ask that he heal Lazarus, or make him well, or name specific things that were going wrong that they wanted Jesus to address. They simply told Jesus that the one he loves is sick and left the details up to Him. They simply went to him with their concern and believed Him to be big enough to know what to do. It was a message that communicated their belief in who Jesus is and their faith in His power. Sometimes, in my need to control things, I just have to communicate my concern to God, and believe that He is big enough to take it from there. Is it possible, that's what God wants us to do with everything? Surrender?

Every night I place my hands on Gemma's softly rising and falling chest and beseech God to be with her when I sleep. What a struggle to offer my child up to God and simply say, "Lord, the beautiful, precious, little girl, You love, is sick." and leave it at that. I have to qualify it usually by saying, "and I'm not going to tell you how to do Your job... You know what she needs and I surrender her to You." :) I say this multiple times, to convince myself to let go. I could stay up 24 hours a day and watch her to make sure she doesn't choke but I would not be able to parent her in the way that God wants me to parent her if I neglected sleep and my health. I would be ill, mentally and physically, if I chose to be that controlling. I know she needs a healthy mama to be a healthy girl. I know I can't completely protect her- I know I can't "save" her- I know I can't be everywhere all the time. But my God can. and is. All the time, He is with her. When I close my eyes to sleep, He is with her. When I hear her cough, gag, or stir- no matter how fast I get there, He is always with her. I know that surrender implies the outcome could be painful. But that is what true surrender is. NO matter the outcome, surrender is letting go of the reigns. That's why it is so HARD!

When I finish praying over her, I slowly leave the room, crawl into bed and turn on the monitor. I can see her picture in the video monitor we have but I turn the picture down to sleep (it's like a giant search light in our bedroom). Sometimes, I pray over her through that monitor, surrendering her again, beseeching my Savior to give me peace as I turn her over to Him. This has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do- not dealing with her health, not making decisions about which direction to go for treatment options- no, the hardest thing I do every day is leaving her side to sleep. I know it's possible that she will throw up her last feeding and could choke on it- I do everything in my power to help her digest it before she goes down for the night but ultimately, I have to leave the room- I have to sleep- I have to hand her over to the King of all Kings.

If He is who He says He is, which I believe to be true, He is more than able to care for my little girl. Surrender means knowing that He is God and I am not. Surrender means knowing that I can't do everything. Surrender means knowing that my girl could choke even on His watch. Surrender means turning off the video screen of the monitor and closing my eyes. Surrender means knowing and acting on the belief that God is in control no matter the outcome, no matter the situation. If I believed that everything would be fine or Gemma will always be perfectly safe because I am a Christian, then surrender would be easy. But that's not truth, Jesus says in the book of John, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Whatever pain I endure or fear I struggle with does not change who God is. He is mighty and powerful, all-consuming, and the the ultimate Prince of Peace.

Being a mom has made me feel different about God. Knowing how I love Gemma, how I feel about her and tying that directly to how God feels about all people- and me personally, is so humbling. To be the recipient of that depth of love is staggering. It's also made me look at my parents differently- to know that at one time my tiny little heart was in their hands and they cherished me as much as I cherish Gemma. And even though I'm all grown up now, being loved by my parents or being loved by my Father doesn't change. The love doesn't go away or lessen; that fire in your soul for your kids is permanent. God designed it that way- for us to see in each other a poor man's representation of true love. And I don't know about you, but this divinely inspired "poor man's representation" or human version of marital love, parental love, brotherly love, is unbelievably intense and wonderful. How much more magnificent is the love of God? God lit a match in my heart the day Gemma was born, a match that lit a candle, that lit a bonfire, that lit a wildfire that is uncontrollable, and unquenchable.

One of the songs that I sang a lot while I was pregnant and play now for Gemma is How He Loves- on this blog, performed by David Crowder Band. Here are the lyrics.

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us

Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves.


We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don't have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way

He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us

Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves.



It's so true... how He loves us- hurricane force, tender as a kiss, unchanging mercy. I'm unbelievably grateful to be on this journey of surrender with a God who loves me more than I can fathom- more than my bursting heart loves my precious girl, more than I could ever possibly love Him back. What grace, what mercy, Oh, what love!

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy 5 Week Birthday, Beautiful!







No words needed... enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gemma

Today is the day before my girl turns 5 weeks. She celebrated her one month birthday by being baptized at church. It was beautiful. We had intended on having a big celebration with our family and friends and a luncheon but due to her health risks, it was quick, quiet and perfect. The baptism happened during the church service and she was so quiet and slept through most of it. After the service, members of our church family and our "family" family gathered around her to ask God for her healing. Because she is at an elevated risk for respiratory infection/illness, they didn't lay hands on her but they did gather around her with their arms outstretched as I cradled my little girl in my arms. It was so amazing to feel the love and the peace extended through their arms. God has His hand on all of this. As our pastor so eloquently said, "even though our hands are not on Gemma, God's hands are." Thank you for your prayers and support. Thank you for loving our girl and respecting our requests to keep her free of germs. Thank you for checking in on us through this blog. We are doing well and soaking up our time with Gemma before I go back to work and life gets really busy.

Today, she is napping in her bassinet in the living room with me and I'm going to go pick her up and cuddle her because I can't stand letting her sleep there and not in my arms any longer. I love to feel her breath on my neck, her tiny hands patting my skin, and her little body smushed up on my chest. Heaven.


Right before I go get her...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Eye Contact

Just yesterday, Gemma started making eye contact with us. She follows our voices and looks for us and then when she sees us, she locks in and gazes. Before yesterday, she would turn towards our voices but her eyes would be all over the place. She still has a short attention span for focusing on us but it's amazing to see her look right at me. Abe loves it too- he says her name and she cranes her neck to find him. It's so sweet.

So, while she was awake this morning, I had to take a few pictures. She even looked at the camera! I'm just over the moon for this little girl. She is lulled to sleep by my voice so I read out loud and she dozes off. She would much rather be held while she naps than placed in her crib or bassinet. She hasn't really noticed the dogs yet but they notice her. The constantly want to sniff her and be right up next to her. Violet especially, seems to take interest in her. When we are doing tummy time, Violet lays on her tummy on the floor with her nose about 3 inches away from Gemma's face and just watches her. It's quite sweet actually.

Right now, Gemma is in a baby bjorn, snoozing. She will sleep here for hours if I let her... or if my back would hold up...


Here are her 1 month stats!
Weight 9 lbs 2 oz
Length 21 3/4 inches
Head 14 inches

She's in the 50th percentile for her weight and head and for her height. She's just perfect! Then again, I already knew that. :)

Enjoy!



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

4 weeks ago...

Abe and I received the greatest gift imaginable...



4 weeks ago, today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pretty in Pink

Just because she's so cute...

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