On May 24 we welcomed our beautiful Ava Rose into the world, weighing 7 lbs, 8.5 oz and perfect in every way! This particular pregnancy/birth experience was such a healing one for me. When my husband and I discovered (to our delight) that I was expecting again at age 35, my daily prayer was that this pregnancy would be completely complication free. I had yet to experience such a blessing. If you've followed this blog or read my book, you know that we had a terrifying start with Benjamin literally fighting for his life and facing huge medical hurdles. You may or may not know, however, that we had some scares with our next two children as well. When I was pregnant with our daughter Joelle, I suddenly began bleeding at 12 weeks. It lasted for over a month and was one of the most frightening months of my life. Thankfully the Lord sustained her in my womb, and she was born perfectly healthy. My pregnancy with Josiah was without incident, but his delivery was another matter. I was required to have a repeat C-section. The moment he was pulled from my womb he inhaled amniotic fluid into his lungs and began to drown. He was very critical for about 20 minutes until they were finally able to get his lungs mostly cleared. He was kept under an oxygen tent and supervision for a few hours and then had another breathing episode. He ended up being taken by ambulance to a hospital an hour away and placed in the NICU. Meanwhile I was confined to the local hospital for recovery. I did not get to see or hold my precious baby for three painful days. Needless to say, I was nervous entering into this fourth pregnancy!
However, early on the Lord's peace descended on my heart, and I went on to experience my easiest pregnancy yet! Every thing went smoothly from start to finish. As I was being stitched back up after my C-section, Ava was placed right up by my face so I would kiss her and talk to her right away. Once I was wheeled to my room after surgery, she was immediately placed on my chest. My heart overflowed with gratitude as I drank in the beautiful privilege of holding my healthy baby close to my heart where she belonged!
The blessing and wonder has continued as Ava has turned out to be the EASIEST baby we've ever had. She has a happy, mild personality, and she actually lets us SLEEP! It's been amazing to say the least. She loves watching her siblings, and they have all adjusted better than we expected to their new sister. Joelle absolutely adores her and is always eager to help. Josiah is getting used to not being the "baby" anymore. He doesn't pay her much attention, but he is gentle. Benjamin has been fantastic, and has appeared to be very accepting of another baby in the home. (He had a really hard time adjusting when Joelle was born and still struggled with Josiah...) Shawn and I are absolutely delighted with our lively little household and the amazing treasures that have been entrusted to our care!
After attending summer school part time over the vacation, Benjamin was extremely eager to begin full time again for his second year at Paths to Independence school for autism. We continue to be so grateful for this exceptional school that is playing such a key role in unlocking his potential. The staff genuinely love him, and he genuinely loves going! The summer school program ended a few weeks before the school year began, and the last week especially was a difficult one. Benjamin was so bored being home all day, and my time and attention was obviously divided with four children to care for, including nursing my baby full-time. As his frustration mounted, he acted out more, and I found myself feeling increasingly frazzled (just being real)!
One day I was slammed again with a wave of grief over the more recent diagnosis of autism. At times I feel that the autism is a greater hindrance to Benjamin that the Down syndrome. The older he's gotten the more sharp the contrasts have become between him and his peers who only have Down syndrome. Sometimes I feel so helpless to reach him, even though he is an affectionate little boy who knows he is loved. However, our communication continues to be so limited, and his interests are so few. On this particular day when my heart felt extremely heavy, I logged into my secondary e-mail account that I use primarily for writing purposes. I was so surprised and so encouraged to discover a message from a young mother who recently read my book. She had to request it through an inter-library loan and had a lengthy wait time to receive it. However, the Lord's timing was perfect. You see, she was approaching the one year anniversary of her own child's (successful) open heart surgery, and the memories brought a re-surfacing of the pain associated with that difficult experience. On that exact day, she ended up reading the chapter in my book about Benjamin's open heart surgery, and the Lord used it to bring such comfort to her heart. I was amazed, and my own pain began to take on its proper perspective. In a response email to her I wrote, "I discovered your message at the perfect time--a ray of sunshine in what's felt like a gloomy day! Thank you for reminding me that our trials are never wasted when offered to the Lover of our souls. He is so good!" How beautiful it is when God takes our broken pieces and weaves them into something beautiful that can be a blessing to others.
Within the first week of Benjamin returning to school, encouragement once more started to pour in. As I walked into the building one afternoon to pick him up, I saw one of the high school students, who also has the dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, walking out with his mother. He was enthusiastically telling her about his day. His speech is not easy to understand, but he does talk, and his parents have told me before that it was around fourth grade when his language started to really emerge. Their story gives me so much hope! Any way, as I headed down the hall to my son's classroom, I whispered a prayer to the Lord that in time Benjamin will be able to speak as well. His teacher greeted me at the door with a glowing report. Apparently, the day before he had accidentally whacked his elbow, and she heard him say, "Ouch!" She was surprised and asked, "Did you just say, 'ouch'?" He then repeated it! Then, that afternoon during a snack time, he used sign language to form the simple but clear request, "More eat please." WOW!
I titled this blog post, "Time Flies." However, when you are raising a child with special needs, sometimes it can actually feel more like time is standing still. This handsome little man turned nine years old two days before the birth of his baby sister, but the developmental milestones have often felt few and far between. In many areas we will get stuck for years at a time. Yet when breakthroughs do happen, the celebration and joy runs deep. It is a very bitter-sweet process. Though I have been a parent for nine years, my five-year-old is by FAR my "oldest" developmentally, and this season of having little ones to care for has been all I have known. The day-in-day-out mundanes of life can make it feel as though it will stretch on forever, even though I know that's not true. This week I listened to a wonderful podcast about the seasons of motherhood. I am still in an early season, and with Benjamin, the seasons will inevitably take on a different course then they do with our other children. However, they are no less precious or valuable. Time truly does fly by. The Bible tells us...
Life is precious, and it is not guaranteed. Motherhood is an extraordinary gift, and it is not one I ever want to take for granted. I want to cherish this time of caring for my little children. I want to be intentional with this time of raising them up in a God-honoring way. I want to celebrate this time and all the precious memories to be made. I don't want to waste this time because once it is spent, it cannot be regained. I want to make the most of this gift of TIME, whatever the journey may look like and whatever the future may hold!