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.


  1. If I can do four, you can do four :) And for the record, I got the odd responses too!! I am daily overwhelmed by mothering four children, but when I look toward the future, I have the same hope as you that they will support and love each other through anything.
    No funny faces from me...Congratulations to you and your growing family!

    1. Thank you Chelle, so good to hear from you and such a thoughtful thing to say. Thanks for your encouragement! It means a lot to me!