Sunday, December 1, 2013

Enjoy every single moment. That will be the theme for the Christmas season begun.

This past Tuesday, I was at the HEE (Home Education Exchange - where our boys take classes once a week) and my cell phone rang. I saw it was Jenny and as soon as I picked up, it was immediately very apparent that something was very wrong. She was crying hysterically. For several minutes, it was difficult to understand what she was saying. I could tell she was in the car so I asked if she needed to pull over. She calmed down a bit.

And then I asked the question that I didn't want to ask, "Did you say that your dad died?"

The answer was a sobbing "yes."

Bob Buckley was alive and well one day and then returned to Jesus the next. He passed while doing the Lord's work--tending his parish grounds beside his priest.

My heart is so sad for her right now and I wish I could take some of her grief away. While of course this hasn't happened to me, I can't deny that it has been on my mind all week, especially as I reflected on what I am thankful for this past week.

This all has been such a clear example of why we need to appreciate each day and try to live each moment fully. Bob would be proud to know that his daughter has always inspired me to do just that, as I explained in a post this past April in which I describe Jenny:
She is such a joyful, funny, outgoing, friendly and radiant woman. Watching Jenny inspires you to enjoy your life more.
So today I am thankful for today. With Jenny and her father in mind, I will strive to continue that sentiment throughout this holiday season and always. And when God decides my time has come, may I also be doing His work here on Earth.

On this particular day that I am thankful for, we were able to enjoy some fun family time before Adrienne had to return to Portland. We had a picnic lunch at Jason's work, visited Santa at Macy's and rode the carousel. Now back home, we have some time to relax in our pajamas.

During all of our festivities, Jenny and Bob are so present in my mind and in my heart. Today, I am thankful for our friendship. I am thankful for Jenny's husband Mike, who loves her so very much and is taking care of her. I am thankful for her three children who bring her joy. I am thankful for her mom and brothers and that they are able to support and comfort one another. I am thankful for all of her friends and family who have shown her love and support this week. I am thankful for our faith and the comfort it brings her now. I am thankful that Jesus is with her always, holding her hand and sharing her sorrow.
Thanksgiving Breakfast

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Teresa's Baptism

Not much to say, other than it was a beautiful, Spirit-filled day. We are such proud, joyful parents and so grateful for the very rich faith that we welcomed Teresa into today. Thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate!

Here is Teresa wearing the baptismal gown that my mom made for my baptism and that both of our daughters have now worn.

The best shot of the day. Welcome to the Church, Teresa!
Mike, Teresa's godfather, lighting the baptismal candle
Teresa's godmother Jenny - how special that we are now godmothers for each other's daughters
The very proud daddy with a peaceful baby
Adrienne, who just arrived last night, holding Teresa for the first time. She is an amazing big sister and so good with babies - our children are so lucky to have her!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Two months!

From 17 days to two months! I cannot believe that Teresa is two months old. While in my last post, I spoke of how hard we had worked in those first seventeen days, now another 45 days have passed! Wow! Where has the time gone???

On Sunday, Teresa will be baptized! I am so excited. It's odd to say, but with each child, I have become more excited for their baptism. I think as we raise our family, the roots and traditions of our faith mean more and more to me. The sacraments mean more to me. Jesus means more to me. So consequently, I find the day of their baptism more inspiring and moving.

This is contrary to what I think many people believe about the younger children in a large family. It is assumed that parents won't be as excited about their milestones as you have experienced them before with older children. But so far, I have found the opposite to be true. First of all, I am a calmer mother and am not as stressed out. This alone makes it much easier for me to enjoy babyhood. Secondly, I know how fast this is going to go. It has fleeted before my eyes three times already. It is easier to accept now that every day will be different and that there is no routine, as this is a short-lived phase. And as I fully realize that this will be gone before I know it, I also cherish each coo, each smile, each nursing with more ferocity. As autumn slips into winter, so too will this season slip by.

While I could never say that the transition of having a new baby has been easy, I will say that it has gone well. It has gone well in lots of ways. For the most part, I believe that Joshua, Noah and Veronica have adjusted well and are used to the new little person in our house. Teresa is a pretty easy baby so far. She is happy most of the time. And in the past week, at night she has been sleeping for 6-10 hours at a time without nursing. Thank you, Lord!

The most challenging part for me lately has been feeling somewhat isolated. As I am home with the children by myself on most days, I can get a little stir crazy, lonesome and hungry for some adult interaction. Realizing this in the past week or so, I have reached out to more friends and am so thankful to feel their love and support. Otherwise, I might just go crazy!

Homeschooling has gone wonderfully. It's not easy and it requires a lot of flexibility. But we have definitely been able to complete more work in the past two months than I had expected. This has just been God's blessing on us and an answer to prayers. For if we had a baby that was crying all of the time or if I was seriously sleep deprived, then surely homeschooling wouldn't be happening so consistently. That is what I was most nervous about before Teresa arrived. As we have chosen to educate our own children and have taken on that responsibility, I would feel some serious mom guilt if it wasn't happening enough. It would be irrational guilt I realize, because it would just be a phase and really would not affect their education in the long run. But mom guilt is usually just that - irrational.

As my heart has grown with this new babe, so has my patience. I told Jason the other day that I must have received a shot full of God's grace in the arm when we were at the hospital. It's as if I have gone through a growth spurt in my patience level. This is something that I have prayed about and struggled with for a long time. I'm not saying I don't ever lose it with the kids. Of course I do. But those times are further apart and I am finding more ways to work out conflict with my kids without losing my temper. All of the sudden this seems much easier than it used to. Like I said - it's God grace bestowed on a mother of four who needs it :)

Teresa has been growing too. At the doctor's office on Wednesday, she weighed over 12 pounds, what the doctor said was the weight of an average four month old! It's time to get out some bigger clothes for her and make sure that I don't miss a moment of her growing up!

Monday, October 7, 2013

17 Days!

Day 17! We've been working hard around here and I am proud of those 17 days the way I was proud of each mile I ran in a half marathon. You don't just say thirteen miles. You say 13.1 miles. And you don't just say two weeks old around here. Around here, it is 17 days old :) Similarly, I am proud of the weight Teresa has put on in those 17 days. She was born at 8 lb 2 oz, went down to about 7 1/2 lbs a few days later and is now at 9 lb 7 oz, a testament to the hours we have spent nursing.

Today is Jason's first day back at work, which I have been dreading. I have never suffered from postpartum depression, but I definitely tend to have some major postpartum anxiety. I am not a typically anxious person and I don't like it! After Joshua was born, it was a few months before I took him grocery shopping because I had this irrational fear about it. Of course, when I finally did it, I wondered why I had been so anxious. And now it just seems absurd to be afraid of going shopping with just one little baby!

A few days ago, Teresa fell asleep on me and all of the sudden I felt incredibly anxious just trying to decide what to do next. Should I lie her down in the living room? Should I just continue to hold her and rest with her? Should I lie her down in her crib? I stood paralyzed with indecisiveness for a couple of minutes, tears streaming down my face and feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy racing through me. Realizing that my tiredness and hormones had the best of me, I laid down for a nap with Teresa. Thank goodness I had enough wisdom and rationale to choose a nap! Such moments come and go, and while they can be very difficult, they don't last for long. And thankfully, once we have discovered our new normal, this unfamiliar anxiety will pass.

I have been afraid of this week, doing it all on my own. When expressing this to Jason, he immediately offered to work from home this week. But I explained that this would just prolong my anxiety. It's like ripping off a band-aid. I just need to get through it, to see that I can do it and that it's  not as bad as I feared.

It has quickly become apparent that I absolutely must be taking care of myself in order to take care of the others who are counting on me. I have to think of this almost as an item on my to-do list and really make it a priority. My idea of what this means has changed and matured over the years. It used to be that I considered taking care of myself as pampering myself or treating myself to something yummy. Well, there isn't the time for pampering myself right now which is just fine. And eating junk that is only going to make me feel lousy has really lost its appeal.

This is like marathon training, remember? I don't need treats. I need fuel! And I need that fuel to be as nutritious and lactogenic (milk producing) as possible. After doing some research, I have decided to limit my dairy intake, chocolate, cabbage, broccoli and peanuts as these can cause gas and colic in babies. If you knew how much ice cream I ate over the summer, you would understand that giving that up is a huge challenge!

On the menu for the coming weeks will be lots of yams, beets, carrots, spinach and other dark leafy greens, oatmeal, almonds, cashews, macadamian nuts, brown rice, salmon, butter (all fats in moderation), olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, tumeric, garlic, lentils, hummus, papaya, asparagus and apricots. And of course, lots and lots of water!

Of course, taking care of myself also means trying to rest when I can. There's always the advice given, "Sleep when the baby sleeps." Yeah, well, that's good and all with your first baby. But with number four? It usually isn't possible. Occasionally I will be able to nap when she does. But I have to broaden my definition of rest. For instance, right now I am writing. Teresa is sleeping, Joshua is reading, Veronica is napping and Noah is listening to an audiobook. So I am taking a break from folding laundry and doing dishes, sitting and writing about life which is very therapeutic and relaxing for me. Also, I have been going to bed each night around 9:00 or 9:30, helping me to make the most of the nighttime hours.

I also have to make sure I am connecting with the outside world. When my whole world is diapers, nursing, crying, whining, sibling arguments, dishes, laundry, cooking and schoolwork, I can easily get overwhelmed. Getting out of the house, going for a walk, talking on the phone to a friend--these are all important in order for me to keep some sanity and make my problems and concerns not seem so daunting.

I also need to make sure that I remember to pray. I especially need to pray for God's grace and help in being patient with the older children. It's easier to be patient with a baby. But I tend to focus on how hard things are for me and forget that this is a difficult change for the older children too. 

I realize this post may seem like I am complaining or unhappy. Neither is true. It's just real. I could sit here and write about how beautiful my baby is, which of course she is. I could write about how amazing it is to look into her eyes, which of course it is. I could write about how moved I am to see Joshua, Noah and Veronica already love her the way that they do. I could write about how the other day, I was so euphoric as I watched God's light pour through our window and was moved to tears. These are all real moments too.

But the truth is, it's more comforting and helpful for me to write about what I'm struggling with.

While I'm sure I put my best self forth on my blog, I try to also be real and share my difficulties too. And like all of the most worth while things in life, this journey is wonderful, but it is also hard.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Veronica's Pregnancy

As the story of Teresa's birth was quite long all on its own, I decided not to include the details of another pregnancy in our family. Veronica's.

Throughout the past nine months, Veronica has experienced many symptoms. Her back has hurt. Her head has hurt. And quite regularly, she has reminded us of the baby in her tummy.

Well, coincidentally, when I went into labor, so did Veronica. Every few minutes or so, she would announce to the room, "I'm having another one," meaning another contraction. And as I would breathe through my contractions, so would she. "Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hooooooo." For a woman in such pain, she was also very helpful to me. She would play with my hair, hold my hand and walk with me.

The boys had very different reactions to my labor. Noah really just went on with life and acted like nothing was happening. Joshua wanted to be near me, to know how often my contractions were coming and to help me. He also played with my hair, held my hand and walked through contractions with me. 

It is unclear whether Veronica's baby has been delivered or not. Occasionally she is taking care of her new baby. But at other times, she is holding her abdomen and telling us that the baby is hurting.

However, her hormones seem to be producing in high gear. We have had a lot of meltdowns this past week. And occasionally when I haven't understood why she was upset, I've asked why she was sad and in response she cries in a confused, frustrated way, "I don't knoooooooow!" Yes, Veronica, I completely understand.

Veronica came down with a cold the day I began labor, so when she came to visit in the hospital two days later, she had to wear a mask. The boys both ended up with the cold too, but so far neither Jason, Teresa or I have caught it. Knock on wood!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Teresa is Here!

*****This is a long post. I write it really for myself, so that I don't forget the details of Teresa's arrival. But of course, I share it for anyone who wants to read.*****

About one week ago, on Thursday the 19th, there was a big, beautiful, full harvest moon. I had noted this on my calendar at least a month prior, hoping that the old wives' tale may be true and that the pull of the full moon would put me into labor before my due date on the 22nd.

On that Thursday, I had a doctor's appointment at 6pm. I didn't even want to go. I had just been one week before and doubted the necessity of such regular appointments or that there would be any update. Joshua had been delivered by cesarean and both Noah and Veronica by VBAC, both of which were very long labors. Despite having had contractions on most nights last week, I really didn't believe that any real progress had been made. They were all irregular and as this was my fourth pregnancy, I definitely knew the difference between these practice rounds and the real deal.

Well, I was sure surprised at the appointment when my doctor told me that I was 2 cm dilated! Those contractions had actually done a little something and I would be going into labor with a jump start and 20% done with dilating! That WAS good news.

At home that evening, I made sure to eat a substantial dinner of meatloaf and a baked potato in case it would be my last meal before labor. During dinner, contractions began to become more regular and intense, about every 5-10 min apart. I called Damian to let him know that we may be bringing the children to his house sometime that night. We put the children to bed wondering if we would be waking them again soon.

I paced around the living room, in our kitchen and on our deck, watching the pregnant moon rise in the eastern sky. The question arose again and again--Is it time? Should we go to the hospital?

Thankfully, more wisdom has been gained with each pregnancy. When pregnant with Veronica, I went to the hospital too early and was sent home for the night until things were much further along the next day. I did not want to go through that disappointment and frustration again. While I was most definitely in pain with each contraction, I was able to breathe and walk through them and could recall how bad they got during my labor with Veronica. We weren't there yet. Sleeping in my own bed and getting as much rest as I could seemed like the best option. But if this had been my first pregnancy, we most definitely would have gone to the hospital at this point.

Contractions continued through the night.

The next morning things had slowed down, which was frustrating. I walked throughout the house to try and move things along. I watched that same full moon setting now in the beautiful western morning sky. As the day went on, labor began to progress more and more. I felt exhausted. I tried to nap. I tried to eat. I waited and waited until about 2pm when I knew that the time to go to the hospital was near. My mom came to pick up the children and deliver them to Damian and Kristal's.

Thank goodness! Shortly after, I was vomiting and had begun a much more intense part of labor, moaning and crying through each contraction. The time had come. We arrived at the hospital at about 3pm.

Despite the intensity of the contractions, I was still worried that we would be sent back home from the hospital. But as we arrived, I became reassured that this was the real thing. A young girl in the parking lot watched me with large, alarmed eyes as I worked through the horror of another contraction. Upon seeing me, the man at the reception desk immediately put me into a wheelchair and escorted us to the maternity ward. The charge nurse took one look at me and immediately and frantically began trying to open up a room for me, apologizing the entire time that I had to wait. Apparently, the full moon myth is no myth or old wives' tale at all. Every room was full and my doctor and nurses confirmed that with every full moon, this is the case.

I was given some fentanyl through an IV for the pain, while I waited for the glorious anesthesiologist to arrive. My cervix was checked and I was at 4 cm. Woo-hoo! Two more out of the way! The baby was facing forward rather than backward, making for possibly more difficult pushing later if the baby didn't turn. I laid onto my right side to try and encourage the baby to turn the easier direction. About an hour later, my magnificent epidural was administered and all became right with the world again.

In the mean time, Jason had called my mom and Jenny and they arrived a little after we did. This is absolutely the most attentive birth team you could ask for. How loved and supported I felt as each of them talked with me, encouraged me, made me laugh to tears while in labor, played with my hair, put a cold cloth to my head and waited with me for this new life to enter the world. A while later, my dad also arrived and the room was even more full with love and support. How blessed I am and how blessed the children are who are born into a room so full of people who already love them.

Also, the nursing staff at Swedish Edmonds was phenomenal. First of all, I had two nurses to choose from when we arrived. The first was Rachel. Rachel had actually been my nurse when Veronica was born. I had very fond memories of her. She was my nurse when I had arrived 2 1/2 years ago. Her shift then ended and I was assigned a different nurse. When she came back the next day, I was still in labor and was assigned her again and she was with me through the birth. I remember her telling us how special and joyful Veronica's birth had been and how it had even brought her to tears. 2 1/2 years later, she actually recognized us and our name when we arrived, remembered Veronica's birth and came into see us.

The second nurse was Marie, who I had been assigned as soon as I was admitted. She had been taking such wonderful, sweet care of me. Rachel was only going to be there for part of the evening while Marie would be there for the whole night. While I was so happy to see Rachel again, I was ready for a long labor and wanted to switch nurses as little as possible. So I chose Marie.

My water broke at about 3:50 pm. Marie told us that there was some meconium in the amniotic fluid, raising a small concern at birth that the baby could aspirate some of it.

My cervix was checked at about 4:20 and I was at 5 cm. I was happy with this progress and prepared for the baby to arrive sometime the next day on Saturday or perhaps even Sunday. As I mentioned, I had experienced such long labors before and was ready for that again.

My epidural was really only working on one side of my body, making my left leg heavy and unable to move while my right leg was a little tingly, but able to move just fine. This also meant that while I felt nothing on my left side, the contractions were becoming more and more painful on my right. This same thing had happened with Noah and Veronica, making me wonder if it has something to do with the shape of my spine. I was about to have my epidural redone, but after raising the dose a couple of times, it finally began to be effective on my right side as well.

A little after 7:30 that night, my cervix was checked again. Rachel had come by just before to say goodbye and good luck as her shift had ended. I thought I would maybe be at 6 or 7 cm, but really would not have been surprised if I was just at 5 1/2 cm. As I was checked, Marie gave me a big smile.

"What?" I asked.

"You're at 10! You're ready to push!"

This was an absolute shock! We had been at the hospital for a mere 4 1/2 hours!

Before Marie actually called the doctor, she called the front desk to have them let Rachel know before she left that I was ready to deliver. Rachel actually stayed after her shift to come and help again with my delivery!

The doctor arrived and confirmed that I was at 10 cm, but he was conflicted. He had another patient who had been sent over from the emergency room and needed his care very soon. I described my other births and how I usually pushed for about 45 min to an hour before the baby arrived and told him that I wasn't feeling any pressure. He decided to have me go ahead and try to push while he was still there and to see what happened.

My parents and Jenny had been outside the room as they checked my cervix. They watched as the doctor, pediatrician and nurses entered my room. Finally, mom decided they were coming back in. Thank goodness they did!

I pushed once for a few seconds and was told, "Stop! Stop! The baby's coming!"

Again, I was shocked! Marie had joked that with all of the laughter in our room, I might laugh the baby out, not knowing how close to the truth that may have been!

I pushed one more time for about 20 seconds. I was able to place my hand on the baby's head and feel them leave my body and enter the world, a strange and absolutely amazing feeling.

At 8:02 pm, the baby was born. That was the biggest shock of all. In less than thirty minutes, I found out that I was surprisingly at 10 cm and ready to push. Then I pushed for what seemed a moment and the baby was born! That was it! It was over!  It all seemed so surreal and so sudden and I could hardly believe it had happened. I'm not sure if I cried or not. Mostly, I just laid there in disbelief.

I waited for what seemed a long time but was probably only about 10 seconds, before I heard the doctor announce, "It's a girl!" A few moments later, I was handed our new daughter, Teresa Miriam Burdullis.

I laid there in awe and wonder as I gazed at this new person. After waiting, often impatiently, for an entire nine months for this moment, I could hardly believe it now that she was here.

A little while later, she was weighed in at 8 lb 2 oz. Recall also that she was born at 8:02 pm. Add to that that my birthday is 8-2, that I was also 8 lb 2 oz. and born in Room #82. Make of that what you will.

That was all a week ago today. Time is so strange. How can that seem like just a moment ago, yet at the same time it seem like Teresa has always been here? How can our whole family be catapulted into a big adjustment, but at the same time it seem as natural as can be? How can one's heart feel so full and yet grow even more with each child? Such are the mysteries and blessings of motherhood :)

Our hearts and prayers are filled with gratitude as we watch our family continue to grow.