Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Tree of Life

Below is my journal entry from this morning, I thought that I'd share my first thoughts about welcoming our daughter:

Our Anna Patricia was born yesterday. What a Beauty for sure. We are grateful to have a baby in our arms, in our room, on Kathryn's breast. God has been so kind. This is how it is supposed to be. Not that we deserve this, but that this is about as un-broken as child birth can be in this world, in this life.

She was born at 5:13 pm on Saturday, June 25, 2011 - 8 lbs. 15 oz., 21" long. Kathryn elected to have an epidural for the first time. That made for a totally different experience than our previous three births, especially in comparison to Samuel's, in which the normal pain experienced by an unmedicated mom was accompanied by the stresses and uncertainties of his known (yet unknown) heart defects. Anna's birth was remarkably calm for the last hour-and-a-half. We were able to hold her right away, and there were a few emotional moments for me when Kathryn first held her daughter - a healthy child who was not whisked away. Because of everything going on in the moments immediately after a child birth and because of all the people in the room, I wasn't able to remain in those moments for long. Just the same, they were moving. As I reflect on them now I am reminded again of the wisdom and truth of Proverbs 13:12: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." If a tree of life can be an emotion, that's what I was feeling. Seeing Kathryn hold Beauty was watching a longing fulfilled. We have been through - and are still navigating - the lands of hope deferral with the loss of Samuel and our subsequent grief. But as far as I can see, trees of life are the best salve for the ache of disappointed dreams.

I don't want to overstate this. A healthy Anna is not the same as a healthy Samuel. She does not replace him. She can't. We don't want her to. Our specific hope of August 2009 - that God would heal Samuel - will not be realized in this life. But, our broader hope for a growing family, for more children, has come to fruition in the birth of Anna Patricia.

Thank you, God, for your kindness expressed both in comfort and healing, and in life, health, and birth.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

She's Here!!!

Introducing the world's cutest Beauty:

Anna Patricia Apinis
Born on June 25, 2011 at 5:13pm
8 lbs, 15 oz.
21 inches long

We're all doing great.  Anna has fabulously strong lungs which she's been showing off all evening.  Praise God!  We are thanking the Lord for this incredible miracle and blessing.  Thank you, Jesus, for our sweet Anna.

More to come later...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Latest on Beauty

As of Thursday I will be 39 weeks pregnant.  (My due date is next Thursday, June 23.)  As of yesterday, I am 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced.  My fluid levels have been utterly normal for the last 4 weeks, so everything seems to be hunky dory.  I was really hoping Beauty would have made her appearance by now, but that's obviously not been the case.  At this point, I suspect she won't be showing up until next week sometime.  Now that I've adjusted my expectations, it's easier to live each day as it comes instead of in the constant hope and question of "will this be the day?"  It gets really old really fast spending your days waiting for something to happen.  So, for the rest of the week my plan (goal?) is to just live the day we get and soak up another day with just the boys.  Each day is a gift, and I hope to make the most of them.

This morning the boys and I surprised Bryan at work by joining his team for a little celebratory breakfast in honor of coming Beauty.  I loved being prayed for and having Beauty prayed for, and I felt very blessed by the team's thoughtfulness.  The boys loved our breakfast treat of Dutch Monkey Donuts and BB's Bagels.  Yum!  When we got home, we did a LEGO set (something the boys love), and then we watched the classic Disney Robin Hood while eating lunch.  Caleb prayed at lunch time, "Thank you for special, special sweet best Momma in the world and for her letting us watch Robin Hood."  I am glad I get these special days with my precious boys.

Beauty-girl, we can't wait to meet you!  Come whenever you're ready.  We will do our best to wait patiently for you.  :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Caleb's Concerns

Yesterday I spent a little time with Caleb in Beauty's rocking chair.  I have noticed that when I ask him about Beauty coming and how he's feeling, he usually responds with some degree of hesitation, reluctance, or even negativity.  About a week ago he said he would be sad when she comes, and when I ask if he's ready for her arrival, he always says no.  So I scooped him up yesterday and sat down to try to understand what he's thinking and feeling.

At first he couldn't articulate his feelings at all.  He would say, "I don't really know how I'm feeling.  I don't understand it."  Once I started asking better questions, he was more able to explain his concerns.  I asked him, "Are you worried about Beauty coming?"  He nodded his head vigorously.  When I asked, "what are you worried about?" his answer revealed the root of his reservations.  He said, "I am worried that the same thing that happened to Samuel will happen to Beauty."  I hugged him close and told him I understood that worry, but I reassured him that all the doctors think Beauty is healthy.  I reminded him that we knew Samuel wasn't healthy before he was born; we knew about his heart.  And the doctors have looked at Beauty's heart and say it is healthy.   I revisited the conversation we had back in December about how God has faithfully been healing our hearts from our sorrow over Samuel and asked if he thought God would do that again if Beauty isn't healthy.  He readily agreed that God would heal us.  I asked if he thought we'd still be able to smile and laugh and have joy.  He nodded his head but said seriously, "But not at first."  I asked him if he remembered when Samuel died and how he felt and what it was like, and he said he remembers it well.  I could see the fear on his face.

So we cuddled more, I tried to reassure him that all the doctors think Beauty is healthy, and I told him that we can trust God to take care of us no matter what.  And then I suggested we pray about it together.  He was happy to do so.  We asked God to help us trust Him, to grant us a healthy baby girl, and to give Caleb peace.  We acknowledged that Beauty is in His hands, and we can trust Him with her.  We prayed that Caleb wouldn't be afraid but would know that God is always with him, always understands what he's feeling, and always loves him.  And we thanked God that we can talk to Him about anything, anytime.

Caleb seemed more himself when we finished praying and he climbed off my lap, but what showed me the conversation had been helpful was Caleb's prayer at the dinner table.  He prayed, "Dear God, Please help Beauty to be healthy.  And please let her come soon -- even tonight -- if that is Your plan."  He has never asked that Beauty come soon -- especially not as soon as that very day, and I've never heard him use the phrase "Your plan" before.  It's not a phrase I use when I pray with the boys or when I talk to them about God, so I'm not sure where He came up with it, but I love his attitude.  I love his submission to God and his desire to trust God even when he's afraid.  He is a courageous kid in so many ways, which is something we pray for him everyday.  Caleb means "faithful, courageous, and bold," and nightly we pray that Caleb would be faithful to God and others -- that he would acknowledge God's faithfulness and be faithful in return (as Caleb in the Bible was -- seeing God's goodness and faithfulness to the Israelites as they fled Egypt, he believed God would be faithful to help them conquer the "giants" who dwelled in the Promised Land), that God's faithfulness would make him courageous to follow Him and seek after Him, and that he would be bold to speak the truth and to love others and show others God's love.  I am proud of the boy Caleb is and his sincere desire to follow and trust God.

I am praying for my boys' hearts as Beauty's arrival is in the next few weeks.  I am praying that she is a healing balm for them, that when Bryan and I head to the hospital, and my mom comes to care for the boys, that the similitude to Samuel's arrival will not be on their minds, and that we will swiftly be back home, a Daddy, Mommy, oldest son, second son, and baby sister.  Oh, Lord, hold my sons' hearts close.  Grant them peace and a deep trust in You.  And please give them the joy of growing up with a healthy baby sister.  Amen.
Me and Caleb at his school's Mother's Day brunch

Friday, June 3, 2011

Celebrating Caleb's 6th Birthday

This week our precious Caleb turned six.  We had three days of celebration.  On Memorial Day the Thiels came over for a cookout lunch and water fun in the backyard, and on Tuesday, Caleb's birthday, we went to Barnes and Noble to read (at his request) and enjoyed opening his presents, eating red velvet cake, and just being together.  Today we went on a birthday trip to the Georgia Aquarium with Caleb's fiancee, Lauren.  I distinctly remember the phone conversation Caleb and I had when he first told me about Lauren.  It was the first day of preschool, about a week after Samuel was born, and Bryan and I were at Egleston Children's Hospital.  We called home from the CICU lobby to see how Caleb's first day went, and he immediately told me that someone asked him to marry her.  When I asked him what her name was, he said, "I don't know.  I didn't ask."  Then I asked, "Well, what did you say?" and he replied, "I said 'Yes!'  She was soooo beautiful!"  And my loyal Caleb has been devoted to Lauren ever since -- nearly two years -- despite them rarely seeing each other.  This year we gave Caleb a few options for his birthday, and without hesitation he picked going to the aquarium with one friend, and he had no trouble naming that friend.  So Lauren it was!  We had a ball today exploring the whole aquarium and eating lunch at McDonald's, Caleb's choice, and playing on the McD's playground.  We also overhead many a hilarious conversation between the engaged couple and witnessed 11 furtive cheek kisses.  These two mean business.  And funny enough, Lauren's parents, who work with Bryan at North Point Community Church, are named Brian and Katherine.

I cannot possibly express what an incredible joy and privilege it is to be Caleb's mom.  There is something about Caleb that I have never seen in another kid -- a gentleness, kindness, selflessness, and purity that amazes me.  (It kind of reminds me of Beth from Little Women or Betsy from The Hiding Place.)  He has been practically angelic from the time his personality first began to emerge, and he has grown into such an exceptional kid.  He loves to give to others and to figure out ways to make other people happy.  Just after opening a birthday present that included some stickers, he took out a sheet and handed them to Joel with complete joy.  I see how much it blesses him to serve and give to others.  A few weeks ago his soccer coach was talking the team through which goal to guard and which to score on.  Caleb responded, "I think we should let the other team win."  He would prefer to make someone else happy rather than pursue his own pleasure.  As we've prayed for countries in turmoil the last few months, he has asked to give some of his money to buy Bibles for the people in Libya, that they might know about God.  And he has said when he grows up he wants to travel to "countries where people don't know much about Jesus and teach the leaders there about God and Jesus so that they can lead their countries better and help the people there learn about God."  What six year old (or adult!) thinks about such things?  Tonight at bedtime he prayed, "Dear God, Thank You for this day and this world You made and for Momma, Dadda, and Joel.  Help me to think about You more and love You more and think of others first.  Help me to trust You and to love my family and friends even more."  I am dumbfounded by the profound depth of asking God to help us think about Him more.  I have never thought to pray for that, and it's a wise, wise request.  Caleb's sincerity and earnestness and deep love for others often show me my own shortcomings and selfishness and pride.  I admire so much about my first born son, and it is beyond a joy to love him every day and spend my energies investing in his soul and life.  Caleb, you are a treasure beyond words, and we are CRAZY about you!!!  Happy 6th Birthday, my sweet, sweet son.

Caleb requested Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin/Darth Vader fighting on the lava planet, Mustafar.  Bryan says this is not his best work, but only one thing can be, and it's far, far better than anything I could create!

The Thiels (minus Emily who is in Texas for the summer) ready to celebrate Caleb -- and sporting red in his honor

The family

Me and my biggest boy

At the GA Aquarium

Caleb and Lauren so happy to be together

The whole gang at the aquarium -- A friend of mine said we'll have a similar picture on their wedding day.  :)

Holding hands
On another note, I am now officially full-term as I passed the 37 week mark yesterday.  Samuel was born at 36 weeks, 4 days, so we're already passed his arrival point.  My fluid is holding steady at a completely normal level, and everything continues to look great.  I think I am officially at the "I'm ready when she's ready" point.  The most important part to me is that she be ready, of course.  Beauty-girl, I can't wait to meet you.  Come soon, littlest love!  And Lord, grant me patience if we still have three weeks of pregnancy ahead.  :)