Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Anniversary #4: Finding Blessings in Our Losses

Our fourth wedding anniversary silently crept into the midst of chaos: a baby's food falling onto the floor while the puppy eagerly lapped it up before the mess gets cleaned up, a loud incessant talking from a toddler slowly turning into a pre-schooler boy as he kicked his feet underneath the dining table, a quick rattling of "honey-to-do" list being signed across the room to a husband hurrying his way out with keys in his hand, and balancing dirty dishes on my free arm as I balanced a happy drooling baby on my other arm. It dawned to me that today is our anniversary, and it surprised me how quickly it came. 

Has it been really four years already? 

In these four years, I have experienced two pregnancies, and births of two beautiful boys, a transformation from being a married couple to a family of four, and hurtling through life changes that inevitably changed our marriage into something richer. 

With our increasingly busy lives being rocked back, and forth by so many events recently, we have come to learn how to keep our marriage strong, fresh, and alive. It has not been an easy feat with two little boys, a rambunctious puppy, bustling career, endless doctor appointments, and family time. It is rather eerily amazing how my sister-in-law's letter echoes exactly what we are going through right now: 

Stuart & Ashley, 
Wow! 4 years already! I hope by now you have made me an auntie! 
The first few years go by quickly, and your relationship changes. You begin to know what 
comes next: I hope that you are both still looking for ways to keep your 
relationship fresh, and young! Never forget the feelings you had on the magical day of your 
wedding! Wishing you many more years of wedded bliss! 
Love, Jennifer

With our chaotic, crazy lives; our marriage has often taken a back-burner. Our marriage is not as impulsive as going on a last-minute trip to Door County just because we feel like it. It is not as romantic as having a candle-lit dinner spilling into a late night conversation. Instead of impulsiveness, and whimsicality; our children takes up most of our time for each other, and we often find ourselves smiling to each other with our boys tucked underneath our arms between us as our puppy dozes softly on the edge of our bed. 

It is fortunate that I have a wonderful husband to hold on as my rock through the hurtling madness called life. I believe that Stu feels the same way toward me. This is when I am most grateful for our solid marriage. We may not be as romantic, as impulsive, and as carefree as we used to be when we first got married, yet our marriage has evolved into something much deeper, and solid. This deepness, and solidness of our marriage has been allowing us to stand upright on a rock of foundation while the losses continually collided with us. 

Many losses have rocked us in this recent year; a loss of our first fur baby, Layla, a several losses of our friends' family members, a loss of our grandparent, a loss of friends' pets, a loss of a family friend, and so many more. It has been so difficult to bear a constant on-slaughter of sad news, and it has not been easy to feel such sorrow in our hearts. 

One of our losses became a remarkable gain for us. I may come off sounding wrong, or strange, and there is no really right way to convey exactly what I mean in words. This loss pertains to our son, Frank. At six weeks old, Frank, our second child, had been diagnosed with Torticillis, and Plagiocephaly. Gone is the carefree pace of watching Frank grow without the gray cloud of medical mumbo-jumbo hanging over our heads. Gone is the luxury of walking through any public places with Frank without getting rude stares from the strangers. Gone is all the time in the world. Time has been replaced with a lot of driving trips to doctor appointments for the head correction therapy, physical therapy sessions, investing in home exercises, and having to dance the dance of taking two steps back every time we take a step forward. As a second time mom, I learn that I am not always immune in knowing that our child is delayed with achieving milestones as I watch my friends' babies achieve theirs on time, or earlier, or quicker. 

In its place, a swell of pride has grown by knowing that Frank has been overcoming so many challenges that an ordinary baby hasn't encountered, celebrating momentous accomplishments when Frank DOES hit a milestone, and despite worrying, there is more relaxation in knowing that Frank will be just fine. By having a baby with medical issues, I meet, and befriend wonderful mamas going through the same struggles. My friendships grow richer not just with my new friends, but also with some old friends, whom I could not connect with earlier, who also have children with special needs. I become an advocate for Frank, and other babies with the same issues. By this, I become a stronger person as a mother for not just Frank, but for Forrest as well. This is a blessing in so many ways.

With all the struggles whirling all around us, I am so blessed to have a husband by my side, who happens to be my rock. While I am usually the one that does the bulk of attending to doctor appointments, bringing both kids with me to places, and scheduling all the commitments to fit everything in without compromising one over other, Stu often fades into the background, silent, and forgotten, because our society has far often focused more on mothers of children with medical issues, and special needs. More often than not, I struggle with trying to explain the importance of Stu's role in our family, and especially so, in our marriage...until I came across to this beautiful excerpt from a blog that hit the nail on its head perfectly. 

Brenna, the blogger of her blog named Blessed, said it perfectly: "Maybe you can't always be there physically; though you desperately wish you could be-but you ask questions after each therapy appointment, you call the pharmacy to get refills on prescriptions your child needs. You support your family in the best way you know how. You work hard at your job to earn raises to cover the co pays, medications, and therapy sessions. You stay. You might not think this is commendable-of course, you stay, right?-but I have seen it so much. Fear and stress and grief and anger cause so many fathers of special needs babies to leave. You stay and you selflessly put your family's needs before yours. Maybe you don't talk about it as much, or show it emotionally, but you feel it as deeply as mothers do. You feel helpless, wanting to do everything in your power to protect your children from pain. And you love, and lead fiercely, wrapping your strong arms around your baby so gently, and carefully." 

Yes, this is exactly why Stu is my rock, and in of our family. Our marriage acts as a glue, adhering everything important to ourselves, in the face of adversities, losses, and hardships. We create our own happiness, and count blessings from our sorrows. It encourages us to love more freely, judge less, find solace in our tears, to reach out to those who matters to us, to allow others hold on to us for support, and to live life more deeply. Our marriage continues to bloom, even in the face of a wintery storm, and become into something beautiful. 

We may not always been able to keep our marriage new, in a sense of being adventurous, impulsive, and romantic; we still do find time over a fire, working on our garden, or watching an episode or two of our favorite show on Netflix. Our marriage has grown stronger, deeper, and richer. We know, and understand that this time in our lives is only temporary, and we are enjoying every moment, because we know we will miss this time with our kids someday. We often find fleeting moments to laugh as our eyes locked across the room while our kids are screaming, or running around like a bunch of animals in the zoo! With our children, their infectious energy keeps us young. With our love for each other, our marriage remains fresh, and carries the same message from the day we married--friendship, love, and happiness. 

Stu returns back into the hallway leading into our kitchen, and quickly called out to remind me, I love you,and headed out. I smile. Yes, I am incredibly blessed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

FDR is SEVEN Months Old

Dear Frankie,

You are SEVEN months old!

It is a special day, because today is the anniversary of the date when your parents got married, and even more special that you are turning 7 months old. It is such a whirl to see you grow, and become a wonderful happy boy. Mama, and Daddy barely can remember the days before you, and Forrest came into their lives, and it doesn't matter about life pre-kids, because life has become richer with you two in it. 

At your 6 months wellness check, your statistics showed that you weighed at 17 and half pounds, 27 inches tall, and have 44 CM head circumference. According to WHO, it basically meant that you remained to be a tall, and skinny kid with a big head! You received vaccinations, which made you sleepy, and fussy for a couple days. Once that cleared up, you were good to go! Dr. Karbon said that you don't have to see her until 9 months wellness check in late August.

You had an X-ray done on your hip, and the x-rays were sent to a pediatrician orthopedist. A good news came back, showing that your hip was perfectly clear, and everything checked out great. It made Mama, and Daddy super happy for you. It meant one less thing to worry about! 

Dave continued to work with you on your physical therapy. You went from 72 percentile to 85 percentile for the head range! Dave was confident that you are approaching an end of your therapy sessions with him. He wanted to keep you under his care a bit longer to make sure that everything continued to progress well.

You had a different PT coach at one of your sessions, due to Dave out sick, and Mama learned a different tip how to make tummy time more pleasing for you. Ever since, you have been tolerating tummy time a lot better, upward to ten minutes at time, with each diaper change! What helped was putting on a Youtube musical video to keep you entertained during your exercise. You continued to get your neck stretched out twice, sometimes three times, a day. It became harder to do neck exercises, because you learned how to fight it more. What a strong kid that you are!

You continue to do well with your helmet treatment. Despite your numbers plateauing, your head is starting to look more, and more round these days! Daddy, and Mama could not be any more pleased with how well you're doing. Dr. Staci thinks you might be done with your helmet by the end of July. She is hoping to see that your number will go down from 8MM to 5MM. At this point, it is no longer medical necessity to fix your head; nonetheless, Dr. Staci is somewhat picky, and would like to try get your head as round as possible. To us, your head looks phenomenal, and any imperfection you may still have after treatment would not matter. After all, no one in the world has a perfect dome of a head!

You started rolling onto both of your sides! In time, you will be able to roll all way around with a lot of prompting, and practicing. You go, little man! You are so strong in your belly, and you can sit up at an angle, which makes Mama laugh. When you are sitting up, you are able to sit up for a minute before toppling over. Wow!

You have started eating solids! Initially, Mama wanted you to try BLW; baby-led weaning, which meant no pureed food, but rather regular food cut up in small pieces, but you had a hard time swallowing textured food. Due to this, Mama decided to start with purees for you, and it was much easier for you to handle. You had sweet potatoes, guacomole, apple sauce, and squash so far. It was a bit confusing for you at first to start eating something so different from breastmilk, and once you realized how yummy some food tasted, you enjoyed eating them! You love to feed yourself, and create a huge mess. Daily bath is becoming a must!

Dr. Karbon discussed with Mama about types of food to give to you, because of your brother's allergies to dairy, eggs, and peanut/nuts. Even though Forrest had outgrown both dairy, and eggs; Mama still wanted to err on a caution side to make sure that you did not end up with the same allergies, and was glad to have a discussion with your pediatrician about this. Dr. Karbon said no eggs, and no dairy until you turned one year old, then no nuts/peanuts until you turned two years old. Mama decided she would have to ask Dr. Warpinski (Forrest's allergist) about having peanut trial for you at his office, rather than at home, and put Forrest at the risk of having peanut butter in the house.

You have been sleeping through the night consistently for the past month. It is as if as soon as you turned six months old, a magical number, because poof, you started sleeping from 7 pm until 5 am! Mama definitely feels like a new woman these days!

You are now on a schedule for naps in your crib. You often have 2-3 naps a day, but usually just two, and go to bed by 7 pm. Your longest nap is usually in the morning from 9-11 am, then your second nap is usually between 2-4 pm. It is nice, because you get your rest, while Mama gets to spend time with Forrest, and Forrest get to enjoy this one-on-one time with Mama. While Forrest's, and your naps overlap briefly, Mama gets to catch up on her sewing projects, which makes her happy, because she has been missing her sewing!

It is wonderful to see you, and Forrest interact, and have your brotherly relationship grow over the time. Soon, before Mama knows it, you will be crawling all over the place, trying to keep up with your brother, and the dog!

We love you so much, our little sunshine.

Mama, Daddy, & Forrest