Face of hope

Face of hope
Courtesy: TIffany Kay Photography

Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Graduations" and "Goodbyes"

I'm always so happy to see my girls accomplish something new, or reach a goal that propels them on to new stages in their life.  However, sometimes, it's bittersweet.  Especially when it follows a time that has involved a lot of emotional, physical, and spiritual effort.  Meagan has hit a few of these "changes" this week, and it is definitely tugging at my heart!

Turning into such a big girl!

As we know, Meagan has been struggling to gain weight.  Thankfully, she is still eating table food....but still has not increased her volume.  We had been using high calorie formula, but she started to refuse bottles or not finish them recently.  I didn't want her to start losing again, so we worked with her feeding therapist and came up with a new plan.  My focus was for her to eat, whatever that may be, and so the decision was made to ditch the formula she wasn't eating well anyway.  She has "graduated" from formula and are now doing pediasure or instant breakfast mixes with either almond or soy milk instead of water.  This way she gets some of the calories and vitamins from the soy or almond, but we are not inundating her little system with cows milk.

Bye-bye formula... Meagan didn't like you anyway!

She is still getting a ton of calories from the instant breakfast packets and pediasure, and most importantly, has started to once again finish 6 ounces of every bottle.  We have been doing this for 2 weeks now, and at her weight check today, she is up 8 ounces.  She hasn't even gained an ounce this fast before.  Matter of fact, Meagan hasn't gained much at all from last June through just a few weeks ago.  So I'm hoping our new "graduation formula" we made up is what we need to make gaining work.  She also seems to enjoy it more, which definitely helps. Who wants to eat something that doesn't taste good?  It was starting to be a struggle for her to finish bottles with her old formula, so hopefully this weight gain trend continues. I honestly thought we'd never see good growth from her - it has been such a challenge this past year, but I'm praying she has reached her "magic age" where she starts to catch up.  She is still way under what she needs to be for her body and age, but, her Pediatrician, feeding therapist, and GI doctor are still in a "watch and see" mode until we see what she can do these next few months.  So we will see where the eating goes from here.

Meagan also had a follow up with her eye surgeon.  Dr. B did a thorough exam, including dilation.  He did each test with and without Meagan's glasses.  After the appointment he came in to talk to us.  He said we can officially say "goodbye" to Meagan's glasses. He explained that the glasses had served an important purpose over this last year, and did what he hoped they would for her vision.  As it stands now, though, they won't do any more for her vision.  It is time to officially say "goodbye" to the glasses.  That said, he also told us the eye surgery he talked about being possibility will in fact end up being a reality in the near future to help her eyes be the best they can be so she keeps her improved vision. We go back next week for new measurements so he can be as accurate as possible for surgery, and then set up a surgery date.  It was a happy and sad moment for me.  While I'm very thankful the glasses served a purpose for Meagan, I am going to miss them.  As with anything else she has had to use to grow and thrive, they have been a part of her this past year.  They have been her "look" and were a significant part of her first year. I will miss that cute "chicken little" face!  But on we look to surgery for a new step in vision improvement. I'm thankful to God we had the glasses to help her along the way, so I guess, although we say "goodbye" to her cute little pink frames, we are "graduating" to a new place in Meagan's vision.

One last picture of Meggy in her cute pink glasses!

Probably the saddest "goodbye" for me, even though I knew it would come at some point, is nursing.  Meagan has officially weaned herself this week.  I had no plans of weaning her, as I knew it brought her comfort and nourishment, and she could use any calories she could get.  But, I think increasing her bottle intake with her new high calorie meals, and trying to push more solids has done it.  I have a lot of mixed emotions about this one.

 If you knew me with my oldest, you would know I did not even like the idea of nursing.  I was very misinformed, uneducated, and plain and simple stubborn about it.  I will never forget... my dear dad even brought a breast pump to the hospital trying to encourage me, and I flat out rejected it.  How ironic that a pump would become my lifeline to Meagan years later.  As I had more children, and I got to know other moms, I grew.  I grew in understanding, in knowledge, and in experience. I nursed my second, third and fourth child, and each time, it was a little easier, and more enjoyable.  Then came my pregnancy with Meagan.  I knew she would probably be our "last" (unless God has a pleasant surprise planned for us), so I just knew I would nurse "one last time."
Meagan's diagnosis changed all of that however.  The more research I did, and the more stories I read, I knew it was going to be a big toss up whether Meagan would be able to nurse.  I learned a lot, gathered information from other wonderful Hydro moms, and then waited.  I was ok with whatever outcome we had as far as feeding went.  I was comfortable with whatever we had to do to get Meagan healthy, home, and thriving.

When Meagan was in her first weeks, I began to seriously doubt we would cross the nursing bridge.  And that was ok... I was well prepared.  Eating ended up being a huge struggle for Meagan....which accounted for a large part of her NICU stay.  I finally got sick of her being away from me for just eating issues, and worked with (er... pushed)  the nurses and doctors to get her home on a feeding tube.  During those weeks, as many other moms had advised me to do, I pumped.  It was awful. And a pain. And annoying. With their guidance and support, however, I did it.

When Meagan came home on her feeding tube, I planned to keep pumping.  But it did get trying. And time consuming.  I started to see an end to the process and was ready to give in. Then, one night, Meagan woke up and cried.  She cried a different cry.  Being my fifth child, I just knew that cry.  It was "Mom, I'm hungry!"  It made no sense to me because she was being fed through her tube, as always, but something had changed.  Why and how, I have no clue. But it just did.  I remember vividly picking her up that night to attempt to feed her. We'd been working vigorously with the bottle and she started to improve.  I was so exhausted, though, after a few seconds I decided to just put her to me and see what she did.  I didn't want to walk downstairs and fix a bottle... and I was craving some snuggles with my girl who had been away from me for so long.  Miraculously, and surprisingly, she latched right on and nursed.  I remember sitting there in shock and also disbelief... was I so tired I was imagining this? Or was this really happening?

Meagan never looked back after that night.  Ironically, the one child whom I thought I'd never nurse, and couldn't feed for 6 weeks, ended up nursing the longest of any of my girls.  My others had self weaned around 10 months, and now here was Meagan, weaning at 16 months old.  While I'm glad she is showing some independence, and some typical tendencies of being ready to move on from our nursing relationship, I am also sad.  It has been such a struggle with her from the beginning, and this was one of our accomplishments together.  It was one of our successes along a very bumpy road, and one that gave us great joy and many quality hours together.  I'm so happy we have finally found a way for Meagan to gain some weight, but I will definitely miss those snuggling moments.  Her hand gently tapping my chest.  Those eyes looking at me so sweetly.  The feeling that with all her challenges, we had something that was just ours together.  Something we did, and no one else.

Nursing may be over, but snuggling is not!

If you told me I'd feel this way after I had my oldest, I would have thought you were crazy.  As a matter of fact, I would probably have laughed.  However, 8 years and 5 kids later, I have truly grown to appreciate the little things we, as moms, enjoy with our children.  For every mom and every child, these moments are so different.  For Meagan and me, nursing was the gift that gave us many of those moments.  So, this last week in January, Meagan and I both say "goodbye" to a great part of our growth as mommy and baby.  I thank so many other Hydro moms for encouraging me in the beginning because without that support, it wouldn't have come about. And I thank God for allowing it to come about, and for showing me on that one November night, miracles still do happen.

It's certainly been a week of changes for Miss Meagan. Taking new steps towards her new year of  new challenges has been exciting and bittersweet.  However, through it all, I have come to realize that "graduations and goodbyes" are not "ends."  They are merely the conclusion of one part of our existence that can only open bigger doors and better hellos to the next chapters of our lives.

So here's to you Meagan on your little steps of "growing up."  I will surely miss some of those sweet moments we shared, but I knew new exciting ones will come to fill the void.  Mommy is so proud of you.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Let Me

A Letter From Meagan

This is me at birth......

This was me just before birth....and in several states, it was still perfectly legal for my mommy to terminate my life. As a matter of fact, it was what she was advised to do.

My cute little body wasn't enough. 
My sweet lips and pointed nose weren't enough. 

My personhood wasn't enough...because I wasn't perfect. I had fluid in my head and hardly any brain. 

But my mom thought I was pretty perfect though. She fought for me.

It wouldn't be easy......

My beginning would be harder than most......

But it was ok. 
God was with me. 
My parents were with me. 
And I felt love. 
Love that allowed me to feel joy even through my challenges.

It makes me sad to know that 4,000 babies of my generation are willfully killed each day....

....and those Mommies and Daddies suffer too.

Life will have hardships

....there will be trials and pain....

...but God is good.  
He helps us find the light...

...and joy through even the darkest days...

So please don't worry.....

....don't fear....

....just be.

Let's keep this the safest place on earth for our children.

When times are tough.....just hold me...

..and take my hand....

...not my life.

I promise there will be happiness.....

...there will be joy......

....there will be memories....

I may have to work harder at things......

but we can find the beauty in it all.

With help, I can thrive.....

...with help, I can find comfort

...and with help, I can rest.

I can touch lives in ways we never thought possible...

So let me experience....

...let me celebrate my Birthdays.....

....let me learn...

God doesn't make mistakes....

...so just love me....

...just let me see....

...what God meant me to be.

"America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts -- a child -- as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters.........."

".........By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion. "

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Loving Meagan

I was laying Meagan on her blanket the other morning to start working with her on rolling.  As I reached behind me to grab some of her toys, I happen to look back at her.  The sun was peeking in our window lighting up Meggy's sweet face.  The rays were around her in such a way, that it almost appeared she had a frame of light around her. She was the focus of the room.

As I laid toys around her blanket, I noticed Meagan staring up at the ceiling.  She wasn't 'out of it,' but almost seemed 'deep in thought.'  I looked at her little shirt and noticed it said "dreamer."  I wondered at that moment what her dreams were.  What was she thinking about? What does she wonder about? What are Meagan's dreams? Will God help me be strong enough to put her dreams ahead of my own?

All of these thoughts were swirling in my head due to a recent visit to the store.  As we were standing in line, the woman behind me asked if all of the girls were my children.  I told her yes, they were.  She then asked me, "Do you work?"  I immediately thought of my good friend Jenn, a mother of six, who always says "Which job would you like me to list?"  I simply answered, "yes," (as I'm sure the woman was well intentioned) and smiled to myself as I thought of the many jobs I do as a mom; caregiver, cook, nurse, bookkeeper, teacher, advocate, counselor, tutor, therapist, cheerleader, disciplinarian...and the list continues.  However, as the day went on, I couldn't help but think about that question.  I'm only human, and I started to think..... why is that always the question I get first? Am I not doing a job? Am I doing all I am supposed to be doing? Am I reaching my potential?

As the days went on, it still weighed on my mind.  I spent time catching up with some friends.  It was exciting to hear about what they were up to, or to read about all the accomplishments they had achieved.  My thoughts wandered again.  Yes, I do many jobs as a mother.  But had I made the "right" decisions on my path? Had I 'shorted' myself on some of my dreams to be where I am today? Then I looked over at Meagan laying there in the sun, and it hit me.   I, in fact, had made the right choices.  Being a mother, especially to a child like Meagan, was exactly what I was supposed to do. God saw my potential in life just as I had - He simply knew a better direction for it.

I think I have realized  loving my kids isn't enough.  Loving them while also sacrificing is actually what my vocation as a mother is all about. True love is not easy because it involves giving of myself and sacrificing on a daily basis for my girls  True love for my girls is challenging and difficult, yet incredible and rewarding all at the same time.

I wouldn't trade my "job" for anything.  I truly love what I do. It doesn't mean everyday is roses.  However, it doesn't mean on the bad days I love my girls any less, just as on the good days I don't love them any more.  My love is not based on what they do, or how they act. My love for them is because they are.  No, I didn't miss a word at the end of that sentence.  My children deserve my true sacrificial love simply because they are. Period.  My 'work' isn't only the physical jobs I listed above. I have now learned that my most important work is giving them myself, especially when it is hard for me to do so. 


I believe it is only natural to go back and forth and think about the past as I move forward in my life. It's what we do as adults at certain crossroads in our lives. And that's ok.  That is how I know I'm doing what's right for me. What is right for my family. What is right for my girls.  And it's also ok if that's not always easy.  As I read in a recent article,

"Real love is hard. Real love hurts. Real love is a mess. And real love means putting ourselves on a cross freely for the one(s) that we love."

I think that is what God was trying to tell me that morning.  It's ok to wonder.  It's ok to examine past choices.  But ultimately, I need to know what I'm doing is work.  It is important work.  My focus needs to be like the sun on Meagan that morning.  It's about more than what I want out of life.  It's about what God is asking me to do for the life of my girls. It's about five little girls who are counting on me to be stronger than selfish desires.  It's about five little girls who are counting on me to show them the true meaning of love.  It's about five little girls who are counting on me to show them how to give of themselves to better others, realize their own dreams, and know God.

Thank you Meagan for teaching Mommy the true meaning of sacrifice when I have those moments of doubt.  You are the light of my life, and one thing I will never doubt is that loving you truly is the best choice I could have ever made.