Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Baby, News, and Restoration

This post is about restoration, and what it has come to mean to me in the past few months. This is a very personal post. It's not funny. There's no tap dancing (see last post). I have been holding onto this for some time, feeling like maybe it was too private to share with the world.

But too often, I write something from the heart, and I am hesitant to share it. If this is something that God has put on my heart to write down, then I should really consider who He wants me to share it with, because then it would be selfish to keep it to myself. Maybe there is someone who will read it and connect with my experience and feelings. Maybe it will bless someone in some way. Maybe there is someone who is yearning to be restored in some way. So I tentatively offer this post, for that person, whoever you are.


It was early February when I found out about this fourth pregnancy, in the midst of a chaotic day.

Chloe had been feverish all weekend. Monday morning when I called, the doctor's office was already booked into the afternoon. I texted the ABA therapist and explained that, I was sorry, but she would have to go with all of us to a doctor's appointment that day when she came for therapy. But Morgan is flexible like that. She could do therapy with Lilli on the top of a speeding train.

So Morgan, Lilli, Chloe, Josh, and I all piled into the mini van and drove to the pediatrician's office.

The nurse coaxed hesitant Chloe into getting the strep test, which ended up in a positive result for strep. The doctor examined squirmy four year old Josh, who did not have strep.

And then it was Lilli's turn.

Chloe and Josh sat on the crinkly papered examining table side by side three feet away from me, and proceeded to grab and hit each other and yell. Josh yanked one of the doctor's instruments off the nearby wall and played with the curly cord, using it like a sword and waving it around.

But even though some might be thinking, she should discipline and control her children, my hands were tied at that moment. Morgan was holding Lilli's legs, I had Lilli on my lap on a chair and was attempting to hold both of her arms and her head, and the doctor was crouched in front of us trying to look into Lilli's throat while Lilli flailed against our restraints and yelled in protest.

No, there is no other way. There is no coaxing, no explaining, no bribing, no reasoning when it comes to having Lilli examined. Trust me, we have been here for ten years. I have tried it all, even going to great lengths to balance a mini dvd player on various parts of my body while singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and making big smiley encouraging expressions (you think I'm kidding). Sometimes you just have to hold a kid down for a few seconds and get it over with. Lilli has had a lifetime of horrible doctor experiences, thanks to monthly blood draws, insane amounts of labwork, countless hospitalizations, and scary procedures early on in her life. Some of them, even borderline torturous for a child with sensory issues, like the EEGs. I know, because I personally had an EEG done. No wonder she cried; I myself felt like punching the technician who was roughly rubbing the glue off of my scalp for an hour.

I think most moms have experienced having to hold their young child down at the doctor's office for some reason. I just don't know if many moms are still doing it when their child is ten.

So rather than trying to make it any "easier," I knew we just had to push through and hold her tightly for just a minute. It's getting harder as she gets older, because she is getting bigger and stronger. The whole time, I was not really even mentally there. All three of my kids were yelling for different reasons in that tiny exam room. But I was distracted, thinking, I feel like I'm going to throw up. I'm so exhausted. I've got to get a pregnancy test after this. If I'm not pregnant, something is wrong with me.

I knew this familiar feeling. It had only been a couple of weeks, and I just knew.

Lilli did not have strep. Josh did not have it either. We packed up and moved the mini-circus out of there, and Morgan was just a teeny bit shell shocked from that whole experience.

When we got out into the parking lot, she confessed that those were the most stressful moments that she had experienced in over two years with our family. But she was pretty impressed with how incredibly calm I was throughout all of that craziness. I told her a little about our early experiences with Lilli; how we had to take her to the doctor every month for blood draws and have three people hold her down while they tested to make sure she was on the right level of seizure medication and it was not affecting her liver. I told her about all of the hospital procedures she had been through, the many tests of all kinds.

Those days were nightmarish. This day was nothing in comparison.

"Say Ah ah!"Morgan doing therapy at the kitchen table
 with Lilli. Six days a week for three years,
and it all ends in a month.
Painful. Not quite ready to write about that yet.
I was tired like no other kind of tired, feeling like I was swimming though the day as if it were a swamp. I asked Morgan if she minded if I ran into the dollar store to get something quick. She sat in the van with the kids while I darted in and brought two pregnancy tests. (Always buy two, in case you doubt the first one's results.) I hid the bag in my purse, and drove us all home in an exhausted fog.

Morgan sat at our kitchen table with Lilli and asked her to match picture cards and find answers on her communication device.  Chloe and Josh were occupied playing together (and not fighting), so I snuck off to the bathroom with my secret dollar purchase. I was not the least bit shocked when I saw the pink line pop up immediately. I felt the rush of a thrill in my heart, despite my exhaustion and the busyness of the day.

It was such a quick confirmation to my suspicions, I did not even bother taking the second test. Out in the kitchen, I could hear siblings yelling. I needed to go be a referee and get dinner started. But as I walked out of the bathroom, hope and thankfulness buoyed my wearied heart.

God had answered my secret prayer, and I could hardly believe it.

A few months before, I had a conversation with God about another baby. I told Him I really had always wanted another child. And He knew this, God knows what is in our hearts. I had wanted a fourth child from the time Josh was born four years ago. But the way life had been going the past few years, it seemed impossible. We had just gotten through four straining years of Jasen's doctorate program, had Josh, and then had three very intense, emotional years with Josh with testing, early intervention and therapies to catch him up developmentally. (Once again, a story and struggle I have yet to share.) We had just moved into an older house that we were still slowly trying to renovate ourselves. We had major decisions to make - soon - regarding Jasen's employment.Our daily lives were so full and busy.

Jasen and I had talked about it, and we had just decided that now was not the time for a baby, if ever. It seemed...financially impossible. Overwhelming with everything else we already had going on. It was not logical. It was not a good time.

And yet, I was about to turn 39. If now was not the time, there might not be any more time. Even so, we decided it was not going to happen right now. We tried to not have a baby (awkward to write that detail.) We sold or gave away almost all of our baby things, and all of my maternity clothes. It was looking like we were going to always be a family of five, and that was okay. Kind of. We were trying to do what realistically "made sense" in life. But it did not change my unspoken desire to have another baby. We talked about how maybe one day, we might adopt... way in the future.

And then we stopped talking about babies.

I remember the prayer I prayed. I secretly said to God, "I'm almost 39. I don't think it will ever happen. I cannot see how. It seems crazy. It seems impossible. But if You want us to have another child, well, You will have to make it happen, Lord. It will have to be a miracle. Because right now... it seems impossible to me."

But there is no such thing as impossible to our God. In fact, I believe God delights in showing us this. We often do not notice God working in our lives until the moment we realize we cannot handle something by ourselves, and we have to turn matters over to Him. So silly of us, because He is in control of absolutely everything all the time.

God knows something we do not know, because even though in our eyes, our circumstances did not seem fit for having another baby right now, He has blessed us with a precious little one that will arrive this fall. And as time goes on, I realize how perfect in so many ways this will be, to have a fourth child.

We did not tell anyone for many weeks. We both had to let the shock wear off, and get used to the idea. We were thrilled, but slightly overwhelmed. We also were still reeling from other news. Just three days prior to the pink line on the stick, Jasen opened a very distressing letter from the bank, explaining that they had made a massive mistake with our mortgage. It literally doubled overnight, and there was nothing we could do about it. (I know that detail will bother people, trust me, we did everything we could, and it was definitely not our fault.) Before, we had just been making ends meet. Not anymore. Now, we were unsure how we would pay all the bills, and have a baby too. Those first few weeks were a mixture of joy, morning sickness, and serious anxiety.

The last thing I needed was for others to tell me we were crazy.

was a little crazy. I could not sleep. Instead of trusting God, I became filled with fear as we tried to figure out what we could cut out, how we could make a little extra income. I lay awake every night and stared into the darkness, thinking about everything, especially the details about this inevitable c-section and how petrified I was during Josh's c-section. About how we had barely anything for a baby now. About money. During the day, I became worried about small things as well as big things. Such as how to explain to Chloe, who kept bringing home notes each day from school about money needed for field trips, icee day, book orders, picture day, snacks needed, donations for various fundrasiers at school... that we could not do all of those things right now, and she would just have to understand.

We had big decisions to make. Maybe Jasen would change jobs. Maybe we would move again. Jasen researched practices and I looked at schools and programs for Lilli in other areas near the jobs he was researching. We traveled to several places to check them out. We crunched numbers and looked at areas and jobs near all of our different family members. I was already anxious about the actual pregnancy and the birth, because of our unique experiences and high risk complications with each of our other three. Now I was anxious about money and moving.

The serious talks about jobs and moving continued every single day. Me going back to work was out of the question for many reasons, but mostly because of Lilli's special needs. It was up to my husband, and that meant we would probably move. Even with a baby coming. I remember crying one day, breathing hard and feeling like I was about to have a panic attack. I have had panic attacks before - years ago when Lilli was little and I was still working full time. I texted my sister and asked her to pray hard for us. I asked other close friends to pray too. This situation was bigger than we could handle ourselves. We needed support.

And then... we began to tell people the news about the new baby.

I so desperately needed people to remind me that this was a blessing, and that God had plans for all of this. But only a few did at first. I was so grateful for those happy reactions.  Thankfully, there were those that were genuinely happy for us.

But some laughed and joked at the news. We kind of laughed (a sort of loony-bin laugh) along with them, because we know the news is a shock. But some told us outright that we were crazy.

I hadn't expected negative reactions. Apparently, this is quite common after you have more than three children. I was so hurt and surprised that one sleepless night, I actually googled the words "negative reactions to a fourth baby." Wow, LOTS of hurt, pregnant mamas are out there struggling with this issue. I had no idea.

Jasen had this great idea to video people's reactions. But after awhile, he stopped. There were a lot of not so great reactions, I'm sorry to say. From family and friends alike, the steam was let out of us each time someone acted incredulous and said, "Oh, another one. Wow, you guys are nuts." Each time someone acted unexcited, simply saying, "Oh, ok, well, wow," almost like, wow, another one, how the heck are you guys going to handle that? it was such a letdown. Even the jokes were not that funny to me. I laughed on the outside to be polite, but inside I was upset. (And hormones did not help this situation any.) Why would someone react like that? It's a baby! A gift! A new little person! It started to make me paranoid. One exception was this (seriously spoken) just too-odd-to-not-be-funny-response:

"Wow, Jennie is now the most productive female in the family."


One day while explaining to one of Lilli's caseworkers that Lilli's ABA therapy was ending in July, and Lilli still needed physical help in every way, I mentioned that I was pregnant with our fourth and could really use a helper for Lilli this summer. This caseworker's reaction to the news of another baby was an exasperated, "Good Lord." Nothing else. I felt like she was implying that we are irresponsible and made a bad decision to have a baby.

Another person said to me with shock, "Four kids? You guys are done after this, right?" No congratulations.

I struggled through a few weeks, feeling nauseous from morning sickness and worried about money and moving, and I actually felt obligated to explain to others why we were happy about having another child. I attempted to explain to a few people why even though this might seem overwhelming in the beginning, that this is right. That many years from now, I look down the road at my children in the future, and I see an older version of Lilli. I see her siblings helping her and loving her, and eventually, when Jasen and I are gone, I see them having to make life decisions for her. Jasen and I will not be around forever, and I want my children to have each other. They will need each other, in so many ways. We are a team. The bigger the team, the easier it will be on each of the team members to care for a sibling with special needs. The more there are, the more they can help each other. That's the way I see it.

Who thinks into the future like this? I don't know about other moms, but I do. Maybe it's because I lost my mom when I was young, and I've depended so much on my own siblings for most of my life. Maybe it's because when you have a child with special needs that you feel certain you will be caring for in every way for the rest of your life, you think about the future.

You think about it all the time.

Lilli cannot swing herself, but we
are so happy that she can sit and
hang on. Her Daddy is pushing her.  Chloe
and Josh know how to push her now, too.
And you wonder who will love your special needs child when you are gone. Who will love our Lilli like we do? I desperately do not want Lilli to be left alone, with no one who loves her. If you had a "Lilli," who you loved with every fiber of your being, you would want to know who is taking care of her and looking out for her when you leave this earth. She cannot defend herself. She cannot advocate for herself. She will need family. I know how hard it is right now, with all of my children being young and needy. But it will not always be like this. One day, they will be all grown up.

One day, Jasen and I will be old. And then, gone.

And there will be Lilli. But she will have her younger siblings, who love her.

I pray every day that my children always really love each other. That they will be best friends and close all of their lives. That they will look out for each other. I pray this with the awareness that special needs often makes things very difficult, even at their ages right now. Chloe and Josh already see that some things are uneven in life..."unfair" when it comes to certain things with Lilli. But I want them to see that these differences do not change how we love each other and help each other. We are a family.

Best buds. They do really love each other. 
At first, I felt obligated to explain all of this to everyone. But in reality, only another parent who has a child with special needs can truly understand this rare way of thinking. So I finally stopped trying to explain. I don't really owe anyone an explanation.

One night, I rolled out of bed at an early hour yet again, long before the chirping birds and the rising sun. I sat on the couch and asked God to please speak to my heart. I needed so desperately to hear from Him and know that everything was going to be alright. I felt like we were drowning in worry. God does not want us to worry, and I know this.

I opened my Bible randomly, as I often do, and read in my Bible about the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings. Her story is about restoration, in several ways. I knew the beginning of her story, but I had never thought about the ending before. At several points in her life, she has lost everything, but by the last time she is mentioned, God has restored it all to her. I am fascinated by her story, her faith, her boldness, and how God takes care of her. Something about her really touches my heart. Must be because she is a mom, and I have really thought about her life and tried to imagine some of the details that are not included in the story. If you want to read her story, it begins in 2 Kings 4:8. But then there is a break, and the second part of her story is a few pages later, in 2 Kings 8:1. Both have the word "Restored" in the titles of each section. I had never noticed this before, in all the other times I had read about her.

I closed my Bible and thought about restoration. Would God restore us if I asked? And in what way? We had a lot that could use restoring. Our finances. Our energy. Our hope. It seemed as though everything in our whole lives was just plain depleted. We could use some restoration. Everyone can, in some way or another.

While Jasen and I were eating breakfast, I told him what I had read. We pondered it together, what it could mean to be restored. I began to pray that God would restore us. But I meant it in a spiritual sense. I needed hope and encouragement so desperately.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.

Psalm 23 is so well known that many people can quote it by heart. I am surprised to find that for the first time in my life, I am really thinking about what it means to say, "He restores my soul." Some versions say "He refreshes my soul" or "He gives me new strength." The Message version says, "True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction." Being restored can have so many different meanings, literally and figuratively.

A few days after reading the Shunammite story, we received our tax return. It surprised us, because it was larger than we had expected. Even better, it was for the exact amount we needed to pay off two important bills. After tithing and paying off those bills, we would be back at zero. But that was temporary financial restoration that we needed at that exact moment. Restored.

I began to focus on getting ready for the baby, going through boxes and taking inventory of what baby things we had left. And as I prepared, I began to see little ways that God was restoring us each day. Maybe God restores us all constantly, and we do not realize it unless we look specifically for it. Or maybe He is waiting for us to simply come to Him and ask for restoration.

I had no newborn clothes, I had given them all away. A friend passed me back three huge bags of baby clothes I had given away to her a year ago for her baby boy. Restored.

After Josh was born, I had sold our bassinet. I had not mentioned the need to anyone, but a friend called up out of the blue and asked if we wanted her old bassinet. She gave it to us. It is perfect. Restored. 

My sister in law passed me two bags of maternity clothes, and many of them were previously mine. What a relief for me as my clothes were already not fitting. Restored. 

I stopped at a yard sale one morning and found a pack and play, high chair, and booster seat all for $15. Restored.

Friends offered other baby items to us, and I found a box of baby girl clothes that did not sell at a yard sale last summer and got misplaced in our move. I felt like we really were going to be prepared for this little one after all, and we would have just what we needed. More than we needed, whether it would be a boy or a girl. How blessed.

One day I called Jasen and told him I thought I should quit the tap class I had been taking since the fall, because we could not afford to pay for the monthly tuition anymore. He reluctantly agreed. After we talked, I hung up sadly, sighed, and simply thought, "Oh well." Literally one minute later, a text popped up on my phone. A friend had just randomly been thinking about how her daughter started dance class because we told her about where Chloe and I took classes. I had not talked to this friend in awhile, and she knew nothing about the pregnancy or our finances. This is what the text said:

"Hey there! I hope u r having a great day! I was thinking about dance and wondered if you ever got a credit towards tuition for u referring us to them?"

No, we hadn't. That sure was out of the blue, I thought. I asked at the dance studio, and found out that we got a free month of dance tuition for referring a friend.

Restored. I literally laughed and figured God wanted me to keep tap dancing throughout all of this.

But these are all small things. The biggest way I have felt restored has been spiritually. He has given me a deep peace about having this baby, about moving, and about the unknown future. My deep sense of worry, simply...went away. My anxiety disappeared. I really can't explain it, because a few months ago, I was a total wreck about the idea of picking up and moving again, with a newborn. The very real chance that we will move to another state and begin a new life in many ways, is imminent. It is just on the other side of happening in a few weeks. A few more papers to be signed, a few more meetings, and our lives will completely change, again. Everything will change. School. Church. Community. It will not be easy.

But I have peace now, about what may come. I have not felt anymore panic attacks coming on, and I no longer wake up with anxiety and tears in the middle of the night. I am actually excited for this opportunity. I am hopeful for many things. God is faithful and He knows the future. I have restored hope, restored peace, and faith that God will restore us in finances, employment, and other ways.

Me, in all my nauseous,
only-sweatpants-fit, makeup-less,
pregnancy glory, pushing Lilli.
Why would I post this picture?
Cause it's real life.
I trust Him.

I keep looking for ways that God restores us, and I keep seeing it everyday. I could not list them all here, there are too many. Some ways are big, and some are tiny, but meaningful. Most of all, I feel that He is restoring my soul.

When I look back at our past, I can see ways God has restored us stamped all over our lives. Over and over again, He restores us in so many ways.

I treasure the delighted reactions about the news of this baby - those who squealed excitedly, teared up, hugged us, or wrote sincere notes of congratulations. This baby is a gift that I never expected, and I realize I don't need to try and explain my feelings.

Maybe the news of a fourth baby is not like the shocking, surprising news of a first or second. I guess maybe people see our lives, and how crazy it already can be at times, especially with having a child with special needs. They might wonder how we will handle it all. But God knows what He is doing, and He has big plans for this baby. There is purpose in all of this. This baby is a blessing and will have a special place in our family.

What's so crazy about having a fourth baby? I do not think it's at all crazy to have this baby. I think life is always crazy in some way or another. Having more children might add to the craziness in some ways, but it also adds indescribable joy and immeasurable blessings. Through the craziness that life often brings, I see God working. I see our family of five easily opening up to get ready to be a family of six.

And I am learning what He restores my soul means, one day at a time.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why I Tap Dance. (That's Me - The Pregnant One Up on Stage)

I had one pathetic experience as a dancer in the first 38 years of my life: as a five year old ballerina at the YMCA.

I have two vague memories of that experience. One was the feeling of the recital: being on the big stage in the bright lights in my glittery green costume and make-up. That is a good memory. The other memory is of how I was not very good at dancing. I know- I was five. But compared to the other five year olds in my class, I remember not being able to do certain things that other girls could do. I was not very coordinated. I was not flexible.(Still not!)

Little ballerina-me, with my mom.

My dance career ended after that one season, and I was ok with that. I moved on to other important things like attempting to roller skate in the driveway. The best thing about being a ballerina that year was getting to wear the tutu for my halloween costume - a top priority for a five year old.

The best thing about this pic to me is the
reminder that my mom always took pictures off-center.

Fast forward through my non-dancing life to now, where I am a stay at home mom with three children. Our daughter Chloe started dance when she was five. The main reason behind this activity was because Chloe needed to get out and do something that was just for her. Her older sister who has special needs takes up a lot of time and attention with all of her therapies, appointments, and the physical help she needs all day long. I felt like Chloe just needed an escape from that every once in awhile.
Chloe. Kind of resembles me as a kid! Only she
is more flexible and coordinated.

Last spring, I wrote about Chloe's dance recital, from the perspective of being Lilli's mom. If you are new to this blog, you may want to check that post out because it explains a lot about our lives with a special needs child:

  Lilli cannot attend the recitals. She would not be able to sit quietly in a dark auditorium. Maybe one day we might try it again, but for now I am still confident from a previous show experience - and all of our experiences in large group settings, that she is not quite ready to sit quietly for a dance recital.

The actual getting to the recital last year was a crazy time, because Lilli had just had a bad seizure beforehand. Maybe it was partly because I had been so stressed from all of that, or maybe it was because I desperately needed something for me. Perhaps I was just so frazzled and tired that I was even slightly loony. Whatever the reason, I was perfectly ripe to fall in love with adult tap dancing that very day.

At the beginning of the 2013 recital, the owner of the dance studio came on stage and introduced a new tap dance teacher. They were going to offer tap classes by him in the fall. Even for adults. Then the music started, and they began to tap dance. I was instantly mesmerized by their incredible tapping. I was absolutely riveted and amazed. By the time they were done, they were out of breath and smiling. I was a little out of breath myself, just from watching. (Also, it doesn't take much for me to be out of breath.) It looked like the most incredibly fun workout I'd ever seen.

I leaned over to my husband and whispered ecstatically, "I want to learn to do that!"

He must have thought I was joking. It was pretty funny that I would say that. They were professionals, with decades of practicing and shows. I am klutzy. I am not a dancer. I am a stay at home mom who counts housework and chasing a rambunctious four year old boy as exercise. I was 38 years old, and learning to tap dance at my age seemed... laughable. Ridiculous.

Still, I thought about it all summer long. In the fall, I started Chloe in her seven year old ballet class, but I got busy with the kids and their school schedules and therapies. I did not sign up for tap class myself. Then one day in October, I decided to finally ask about the tap class. Even though it had already started, they said I could come one time and try it for free, to see if I liked it. It was not too late to join. I began to have second thoughts.

But I don't have any tap shoes....

That was ok, they said I could just wear my sneakers and if I decided to take the class, I could go get tap shoes later.

But I have never, ever tap danced before, and I might be awful...

That was fine too. There were beginners in the class. Even some who had never danced before.

But I am seriously out of shape. And totally uncoordinated. And completely mentally distracted. And old. And I don't have any cool workout clothes. And......

Just try it. Just come to one class.

I arrived to the class that first night, feeling completely silly and out of place. But all the other women in the class were plain old moms, just like me. They were not decked out in sparkly outfits. They were not professionals, they were just regular moms, wearing t-shirts and yoga pants, wanting to do something different and fun.

The tap teacher patiently (slowly) explained the steps to me, demonstrated them multiple times, and included me right away. I tried my darnedest to tap dance in my sneakers and keep up with the others. It is ridiculously hard for a beginner to try and tap dance in sneakers. Fortunately, I can laugh at myself. This is how I get through most things in life that make me feel completely stupid. This image of my badly dancing-self in the big mirror was just hilarious to me.

As I pathetically attempted to "tap dance," I concentrated with all my might.

And something happened to me that had not happened in ten years.

In my determination to make my clumsy feet move in the steps he was demonstrating, and my focus on my body in the mirrored wall, I completely forgot about everything else in my entire life for those moments.


I was concentrating so hard, I forgot all about the rest of my life.

I forgot about Lilli's overwhelming special needs, her seizures, and medicine, and therapy, and planning and preparing her special meals. I forgot about IEP goals and therapy goals and what time I was supposed to take Lilli somewhere tomorrow. My brain was completely incapable of thinking about anything else while I was tap dancing.

It was glorious.

It was honestly the first time that had happened since Lilli was born. And hands-down, it was seriously the best mental break I had experienced in a decade. I felt like I had used a completely new part of my brain and shut the rest of it off for an hour. Any other type of "break" I had experienced in ten years had not been like this. I might have had breaks away from the kids to have coffee with a friend, take walks, or go on a shopping trip. But it's not a complete mental break when you can still think about your life, talk about it, and listen for your cell phone in case someone needs you. Because of Lilli's seizures, Jasen and I are connected by our cell phones and constantly check in with each other all day long. We do not even get a break at night, when Lilli sleeps in our room with the oxygen tank in the corner and emergency medicine on the nightstand. We monitor her for seizures every night because she has bad seizures when she sleeps. There is never, ever a break from our awareness of her, her safety, and her health.

For that one hour tap class, I turned the ringer on my cell phone off and left it in my purse, knowing that Jasen had everything under control at home. And I tapped and thought of nothing else but my feet and my balance.

As I walked out into the parking lot after that very first class, I realized that my brain felt...refreshed. Like it had been able to shut part of itself down for a little while. A break from remembering, planning, worrying, and being alert at all times for Lilli having a seizure, choking, tripping, needing to use the bathroom, needing to have her pull-up changed, needing help, needing to be fed, bathed, dressed...a break from Lilli pulling on me, getting into trouble, wandering off....a break from any of my children crying, fighting, whining, or getting boo boos.

It was that feeling that absolutely compelled me to take Lilli and Josh shopping for my first pair of tap shoes. Yes, I was really going to DO this tap dancing thing.

I called the dance supply store and explained that, ("Sorry"), I would be bringing my children when I came to try on my first pair of tap shoes, that I was a beginner, and that I had no idea what I was looking for. I needed to prepare the employees for the craziness that was about to descend upon them.

At the dance shop, a soft-spoken woman patiently brought me several pairs to try, while Lilli, who absolutely hates shopping and most public places, tore away from me, ran to the front door and instantly yanked off the pretty handmade "Open!" sign and threw it onto the floor while whining. Meanwhile, Josh ran straight to the back of the store, into the "employee only" section and towards the private back entrance. I was frazzled within seconds, and the poor woman did not know how to help me. I needed to run in two opposite directions at once and have four arms.

When Lilli collapsed into a loud, sobbing heap in the middle of the open tap shoe boxes surrounding me on the floor, and Josh started yanking on the hanging sequined tutus, I gave up and we were out of there.

No tap shoes that day.

I went back another day by myself while my husband was on his lunchbreak and could watch the kids - and bought my very first pair of tap shoes, feeling nervous and kind of silly. But not as nervous and silly as I felt when I tied them on my feet at the next tap class.

I laughed a lot at myself, in my embarrassing attempts to tap dance badly in public. But I kept going back for every class. Each week, I felt dumb and exhilarated at the same time. But I actually began to learn the steps. And it was real exercise! I was getting my heart rate up and even sweating a little. I was thrilled that this fun activity counted as exercise. On tap dance night, Jasen would walk in the door from work and I would already be ready to bolt. I would get in the car, ecstatic to be leaving all by myself. I knew my brain would get that break, I would get a work out, and I would come home feeling refreshed.

After three months of tapping at class, in my kitchen, and on my cement porch, (with traffic occasionally driving by and curious neighbors looking at me) I figured I was getting to be pretty "OK."

And then... I found out we were expecting our fourth baby.

Can a pregnant woman tap dance? Heck yeah! I decided to keep on tapping. I felt awful with morning sickness, and would drag myself to class. If nothing else, I was escaping the dinnertime/bathtime insanity for an hour while my husband took over. Who cared if I felt like I was about to get sick while I tap danced? Many nights before class, I complained to my husband that I was nauseous and exhausted, but he would encourage me to go anyway.

And I discovered that tap dancing actually made me feel better. Guess it's those endorphins that are released when you exercise or whatever. Maybe it was all the laughing at myself. Whatever it was, it helped. So I did not miss a class. My belly increased in size, but so did my confidence. My morning sickness dwindled, and I continued to laugh at myself. Now it was funny to see a pregnant woman tap dancing in the big mirror, with my belly bouncing around. I loved the dance we were learning. I wasn't great, but I could kind of keep up.

And then it came time for the big recital.

Yes, we learned a dance to actually do on stage. In front of real people. A lot of real people.

See, this recital was for all the dozens of little girl dance classes at this studio. Chloe was going to perform ballet with her class. I was in the only "adult" class, at the very end of the recital. I was kind of excited, but I was also kind of concerned that I might lose my balance and trip, or get off step in front of hundreds of people. I was halfway through my pregnancy, but I had definitely felt subtle changes in my balance and coordination after gaining some weight out front. I felt like I had peaked a little in my skill, and now the exhaustion and weight gain was beginning to affect me. But there was no way I was quitting now.

Despite my trepidation, I readied my now 39 year old pregnant self for the big night on stage, where we would tap dance to a remix of the 70's disco song, "Let's Groove." I stretched the recital t-shirt over my protruding belly and put on my getting-a-little-too-small black yoga pants. At least I didn't have to wear a tutu.

Chloe and me before the recital.
I only had to run to the bathroom four times before we had to go out on stage. I told the others, "I'm not nervous, I'm just pregnant." That was true.

The lights came up, the music began, and I could not have wiped the huge smile off of my face even if you'd bribed me with a hot fudge sundae. It was a blast. I did not trip, I did not forget the steps, and it was the silliest, most fun experience I've ever had in any pregnancy. The others in the class made jokes about this tap dancing baby who performed in the recital with us.

I will never forget this pregnancy. And somehow, despite having a baby on the way, three children, and a very busy life, I plan to keep on tap dancing. (Whether it's in class, or in my kitchen.) It's just too funny, and fun, to ever stop now. I was not going to post the video. I was going to be chicken and just post pictures. But I just sat here and watched it, and I have tears squirting out of my eyes. Whether they are from laughter, or just pregnant wacky hormones and the emotion of accomplishing something I never thought I would do, I am not sure. So I will share it with the few that read about my experience. Enjoy. You are allowed to laugh. :) I did!

(It's important that I note here in the video that the four really good dancers in the middle are professional dance teachers. The mom dancers are the ones on either ends. I'm on the left end. Also, you get to hear commentary by my husband, daughter, and mother in law.)