Saturday, June 27, 2009

What I Learned from My Mom about Motherhood -- part 1

Have you ever opened your mouth and been SHOCKED to hear yourself sound exactly like your mom? Sometimes when people hear themselves parroting Mom, they lament the fact that they now sound old, or that they have started turning into someone they didn't want to turn into! I can't tell you how many times I've heard Mom in my words these past 4 weeks. But I don't groan. I do weep, but I don't lament the way I sound. Here's why: I realize I'm now learning about motherhood without her. So her words -- even in my mouth -- are an assurance that some of those lessons are from her, passed on back from when I was growing up and watching her in her role. Here are a few precious motherhood lessons I am now applying from the school of Sue Benzing.

1. Enjoy your children. There was NEVER a question about how Mom felt about her kiddos! She enjoyed them at every age -- for real! Babies, toddlers, school age, teens -- Mom enjoyed the journey, and found pleasure as we grew and changed. Some of the things she'd say to my sisters (these are my strongest memories, since I was so much older as they were growing up) have popped out of my mouth with Sus. "You are a Dollyanna-Pollyanna!" she'd say when a tiny one was all dressed up -- I've said that to Sus. "Do you want to keep all those dirts?" she'd ask when changing a diaper or washing a face and the child fussed at the process. "You like your dirts? You want to keep them?" So good natured! Not frustrated at that menial task or the unhappy recipient. "You are just being a naughty! I will put you in a garbage can. What color garbage can do you want?" This faceteous question was always posed to a non-speaking baby -- and clearly since the baby could not choose her color of garbage can, she would not be going in one. Mom explained that logic to me -- haha! Mom's words to her children reflected her enjoyment of them. Why be so grouchy? Why not enjoy those precious babe -- even the tougher parts? They are only that age once -- don't long for it to pass! I have reminded myself of this so often when I think ahead to how it will be a bit easier when Sus is a bit less fragile and easier to understand. THIS is today -- enjoy her!

2. Spend time with your children. My mom read to us for hours, when we were very small, and continued when we were older and could read ourselves. When we were tiny she sang songs in baby talk. When we got older, the baby talk did not stop -- and it was a CONSTANT source of humor! Nicknames were abundant (that would be the case for Susan! She probably has a couple dozen nicknames already!!), and silly conversations were entirely engaging for her. I remember Mom giving the girls their bath on the counter in the kitchen and spending forever playing with their hair, making funny styles with the wet hair for our viewing pleasure. She certainly could have rushed through the bath, and bundled the baby off to bed as quick as a wink, but instead, she took her time making it more fun for everyone.

I'll finish with part 2 soon. Unless I hear myself teaching new lessons. :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thoughts on Motherhood

18 days into my journey as a mother, I'm loving and appreciating this new role more than I ever thought possible. I'm also more overwhelmed than I ever thought possible. It certainly is a learning game -- I would describe it as starting a new career where you have to learn to do everything the job requires without very much (or mixed) instruction. You obviously can't learn a new job all at once -- it takes a while, and you learn things bit by bit. Here are a few things I have learned, or have been surprised to discover:

1. I do not mind late night feedings. My precious Susan is so wonderful to spend that sweet time with! I do love it that she needs me, and that it's just her and me at that time. I do love it when she goes right back to sleep, too. :)

2. God's design for motherhood is amazing. I am continually surprised by the instincts that have kicked in -- in just a matter of days. I have never been a huge baby person, and everyone assured me it would be different when it was MY baby. They were right! I am humbled to see the way God has designed me.

3. We're taking one day at a time. . . well, it's more like one feeding or nap at a time. I think I could describe my parenting these past 2 weeks as a form of Flexible Attachment Scheduling. :) It's really true that each family has to figure out what works for THEIR child, and their lives together! What a joy to discover, though!

4. The Lord answers the prayer of His child when she prays for wisdom. The other night I was afraid that I was not producing enough milk for Susie (she just seemed really hungry all the time for a couple days, and I was feeding her a lot, but had nothing left!), and we had one particularly difficult evening when I was crying harder than she was. :*) Hormones, grieving for my mom, and sleep-deprivation played into these tears, but as I calmed down, I asked the Lord to give me wisdom -- or show me a good source for wisdom. He graciously provided my cousin Corrie to give me some input on nursing, and several other encouraging people (including my kind husband!) to help me navigate those rocky days. James does say that if we lack wisdom, to ask God for it! THANK goodness!

5. Josh and I are like kids at Christmas with that cute baby! I love sharing the fun with him. We both think she is utterly adorable, and that she already has a fun personality. We're grabbing the camera every 2 seconds -- I see now why there are only 2 million MORE pictures of my brother than there are of me. 2 adults with one baby to watch -- that means there is always one set of hands to be snapping away. :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Grace upon Grace

Yesterday in church we sang this song -- which was new to me -- that just seemed to be the theme song for the past 6 months of my life. It is called "Through the Precious Blood" by Mark Altrogge, and I just wanted to post some of the words here for you along with these precious pictures of Kari, Lukas, Max and Baby Sawyer going home from the hospital! God is so good, and answered the prayers of so many of you. THANK YOU for praying! Kari is now taking full care of her little guy at home, keeping him in a sling so he's close with her all the time (even that is an amazing example of God's goodness! For the 1st 2 weeks of his life, she hasn't been able to touch or hold him nearly as much as she wanted to, and now the doctors are instructing her to wear him in a sling at home! What a precious blessing!).

Here is the song:
"You have ordained every breath we take
In pleasure or pain there is no mistake
Gladness and grief, both are in Your hands,
And sufferings brief carry out Your plan
And our fleeting sorrows will yield an endless prize
When some bright tomorrow we'll see You with our eyes!

And grace upon grace flows down, flows down,
And grace upon grace flows down, flows down
Through the precious blood of Christ."

Please keep Sawyer in your prayers as he continues to recover -- and Kari, too, for strength and endurance as she now keeps up with 2 little guys! Our Lord is mighty to save!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Baby Sawyer

Josh's sister Kari was due one week after me, and ended up going into labor the same day! She didn't have beautiful little Sawyer until 2 days later when they finally induced her, but we still consider Susie and Sawyer to be birthday buddies.

Please pray for Kari's precious baby. He was born with a mass inside his nose that obstructs his breathing. After being moved to the NICU in another city, and multiple cat-scans and MRIs, the doctors still are not certain whether the mass is coming from his brain or nasal cavity. He will have to have surgery to remove it, regardless, and right now, a surgery of some kind is scheduled for Tuesday.

This darling baby has been in the NICU for a week, and Kari, Lukas and their little boy Max, have been staying away from home, by his side in the hospital. Some days have been very scary, when Sawyer's O2 levels have dropped and it seemed possible he'd have to be put on a ventilator (praise the Lord, that hasn't happened yet). Of course, Kari wants nothing more than to be able to hold and care for her baby, and take him home! But God, in His omniscience, knows just what is wrong with his sweet frame, and we are trusting the Great Shepherd to guide the Hafeli family at this time.

Please pray for this precious baby! Pray the doctors will be able to discover the source of the mass so the surgery can be done quickly and effectively. Pray also for Kari and Lukas, and the rest of the family who love this baby so much that their faith will be strengthened, and that they will be able to have peace and endurance through the long days. Pray the Lord will be ever near to Kari as she recovers from giving birth, and goes through all the physical side-effects while enduring so much stress and anxiety.

O God, our Help in ages past! Be our hope for the future. Help us to trust You -- we are so blind. You are mighty to save -- please heal this baby!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

We love you, Aunt Abby

My sister Abby has been staying with us this week, to help with the baby. We have had such sweet times together, and I cannot be thankful enough for her help! She is only 16, but showed incredible maturity and flexibility in her willingness to be helpful. She slept on the couch, which meant she couldn't go to sleep until everyone else decided to leave the living room at night, and each night she sleepily told me "I'm not that tired, so let me know if you want me to help." I will never forget how, on the first night, she offered to help get Susie through a stretch until it was time for her to eat again. I stumbled to bed, and that 45 minutes of shut eye were so refreshing. Abby woke me up "sorry, Gret, but she's really ready to eat now." I couldn't believe it! I hadn't heard a peep, because Abby had patiently cuddled Susie and kept her passy in so I could get a little rest. Abby has also been so deferential, always asking me if it was okay if she did something, which was such a kind way to treat a new mom who probably knows less about babies than her teenage sister!

I am so thankful for Abby's help these past few days. She did the job my mom would have done, and she did it sweetly, and happily. Abby is a baby expert. She should be; she learned from the best -- Sue Benzing! I know Mom would be so proud of how we are taking care of each other -- and not just the older kids taking care of younger. Abby has really taken care of me this week by caring for Susie. I will never, EVER forget it! Here are some pictures of Susie with Aunt Abby and some of the things we did together:

She taught Susie to take a passy. I wasn't going to try it yet, but it really has helped sometimes! It hasn't slowed down her eating at all!

Helped give Susie her bath -- which she has loved! There is just nothing cuter than a little wet slickery baby. Abby gave Sus this pink giraffe towel, so we will always think of Auntie Abby at our bathtime.

Took Susie for her first ride in the stroller. I can go for walks, but the doctor told me to wait a couple weeks before pushing the stroller. But Aunt Abby can push it for us, and we had a nice walk around the park (Susie snoozing the whole time) in the gorgeous June sunshine. (I guess this picture hasn't uploaded yet -- but I'll add it later).

And of course -- took a MILLION cute pictures! Sometimes a camera phone can capture those little faces better than a regular camera. So, thanks to Aunt Abby, we have some priceless shots of Susie's gorgeous face.

I love you so much, Aunt Abby. You can come stay any time!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Welcome to this World!

I began this post the day after I had the baby, but just now got to finish the story! I have been a little busy in the past few days. . .

My baby is here! And her name does not start with "J". :) Here's the story of how she came to us. . .

Thursday night (the 28th) I was watching a movie with 2 junior high girls from church. I had a contraction that caught my attention -- it took my breath away! I knew it was the start to something new . Sure enough, I was awake al
l night that night with contractions 20-30 min apart. Some were more intense than others. By the next morning, they had not increased, so I went to work. After a couple hours there, they slowed to just an hour or more apart. But throughout that day, the intense contractions would pop up every now and then! I was on the floor in the Church History department at one point. That evening, Josh and I went out to celebrate our anniversary (which is actually on Tuesday), and I had more of the same while we were at Cheesecake Factory and the mall (the worst was in Payless shoes, where I was on the floor gasping for breath while the lady shopping nearby tried to get some shoes right where I was crouched!).

Friday night I was up on the hour, or more frequently, with very intense contractions. I tried writing down the times, becau
se it seemed like something was happening, but I was so out of it during the night -- this was my second night of getting very little sleep. By early morning, I felt like things were shifting big time. Close to 7, when Josh woke up, I told him I thought things were progressing. Little did I know what a long day ahead of me I had! Josh called into work, and I started experiencing strange, heavy contractions that gave me the dry heaves surrounded by less intense more normal contractions. A few times, I threw up, and I had a contraction that lasted 9 minutes! However, the doctor I called told me my body was trying to go into active labor, but I needed to regulate more before I could head to the doctor.

Praise the Lor
d, at about 4:00 that afternoon, I started having a series of regular contractions! I actually prayed for them to continue. By 6, they'd been 5 minutes apart for an hour so we started packing up to head to the hospital! I was so relieved when they told me I could stay -- after my water broke when I got into the bed. Right away, I had another extreme contraction that lasted 7 minutes and caused me to vomit. The baby's heart rate dropped very low during my contraction. "She doesn't like that," the nurse told me "your contractions should not last that long -- we want them to be shorter and more frequent." As it turned out, it was Providential that I had that contraction, because we knew what to expect as the night went on!

My Aunt Pat arrived shortly before I got my epid
ural. She was traveling back from Alabama that day, and happened to be just an hour south of Louisville when we were admitted to the hospital. I was so thankful to see her! Around 9ish, the nurse was checking me, and suddenly another nurse was at the door. "She's dropped" the nurse said, and suddenly the room sprang into action. There were more nurses around me than I realized, and they were flipping me from side to side, and putting an oxygen mask on me. I realized that I could hear the baby's heartbeat and that it was still low. Josh and Aunt Pat were in the room, just talking -- they hadn't quite realized that things were getting urgent. The next thing I knew, everything was getting unplugged and the nurses were wheeling me into the hallway, talking about calling the doctor. I was very frightened, but the Lord graciously gave me the words to the William Cowper song:

"Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take
the clouds that you now dread,
are rich with mercy and will break
in blessing on your head.
Oh, God, we trust in You!"

I repeated the chorus softly to myself (inside the oxygen mask) over and over. My heart filled with tears, but the Lord showed me great grace!

In the operating room, I was flat on my back on the operating table when I heard the heartbeat monitor pick up again. A sweet nurse with lots of pink lipstick bent over my face and told me my baby sounded good! I lay there with these words on my lips

"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. . . there's just something about that name,
Master, Savior, Jesus, like a fragrance after the rain."

I don't even think anyone could hear me, but in my he
art, I was able to enjoy the sweetness of Christ in that moment. I wanted Josh to be with me so bad so he could know that I was okay, and trusting in Christ, believing that God was good, even though this was scary -- he came very soon. The doctor did, too. She looked at the baby's strip very quickly and told me she wanted to go ahead and do the c-section because there was some reason the baby's heart kept dropping and she didn't want to risk it happening any more. I was so relieved. I hoped she would be very decisive about what course to take -- I trusted that the Lord would use her to show us what to do.

Moments later, a curtain was up, and Josh was talking to me, when the anasthesiologist said "Hey, Dad, get your camera ready!" and I heard a baby cry. I could NOT BELIEVE how fast it was! Was that my baby?

"Here's her trouble!" I heard the doctor say "her chord is wrapped around her wrist!"

My heart was flooded with relief
and joy as I heard the baby crying. I just sobbed as they brought her around to show me and didn't stop as Josh followed her around taking pictures as they tended to her. I was SO THANKFUL to hear her precious cry, and I couldn't believe the amazing gift the Lord had given me.

"What's her name?" someone asked.

"Susan!" I answered as loudly as I could -- it was hard to know if anyone could hear me, under that curtain, covered with hot blankets as they stitched me up. Josh explained our name -- Susan after my mom, who had passed away a couple months ago. Her middle name is Faye, after Josh's mom.

Here is the Psalm I prayed for Susie as I lay in the recovery room:

Psalm 20:5
"May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!"
Susan Faye Neisler Born, May 30th, 9:59pm 6lbs, 3oz, 18 1/2 inches long
We just LOVE her.