A Letter to Moriah on Her First Birthday

My Dearest Moriah,

This past year has flown by, and it is hard to believe that you are one year old already!  You may have noticed that I always say, “It’s hard to believe” when I talk about anyone’s birthday these days, but it really is hard to believe.  It has been an amazing year.  We have made so many memories together, and because of you, I have learned to see life in a whole new way.

I am remembering back to the very beginning.  My pregnancy with you was difficult in some ways, and I was so afraid I would lose you.  Early on, it felt so much like my pregnancies with your two siblings I lost to miscarriage, and I braced myself for the worst, expecting to relive that heartache yet again.  I remember going to the pregnancy center for an ultrasound and being asked if I had any concerns about you.  I did, of course.  I didn’t have morning sickness, and in the past that only ever meant one thing.  One awful, horrible thing.

But I gathered up my courage and tried to be strong as we started the scan.  I wanted to, yet dreaded to look up at the screen, as seeing an empty, lifeless sonogram is a heartwrenching experience.  But you were alive!  There you were, wiggling, and your little heart was beating strong!  As I watched you on the screen, I was overcome with emotion.  I felt my throat tighten as a lump formed, then my eyes brimmed with tears, and before I knew it I was bawling great big heaving, hyperventilating sobs right there on the exam table.

You might think my mind was completely relieved at that point.  I was thrilled to know that you were okay, but just because you were all right at that moment didn’t mean you would continue to be all right.  For various reasons, I still couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something was wrong or was going to go wrong.  It made it difficult to love you with wild abandon, and it was hard for me to feel close to you, fearing I might lose you.  Oh, how I hated that feeling, and I hate even remembering it now.  It wasn’t fair to you, but at the time I didn’t seem to be able to do anything about it.  It’s not like I worried every day that something was going to happen to you, but it was always there in the back of my mind, lingering.

The weeks wore on, we both grew larger, and another ultrasound showed you to be a healthy girl.  I had wanted a second ultrasound halfway through to make sure there was no reason I should not continue planning a long-desired home birth.  I was so happy when everything looked good.  I told Daddy that as long as I was finally going to have my “dream birth” (as far as I could plan it to be, anyway) that I was going to splurge and have a water birth too.

As it got closer to the time for you to be born, we were all so excited to meet you.  We had hoped that last ultrasound would have revealed if you were a little boy or little girl, but we just couldn’t tell for sure.  So it was going to be a very big surprise when you arrived!  Hannah and Elisabeth were earnestly hoping and praying for a baby sister.

Because all your brothers and sisters except Caleb were born later than their due date, I wasn’t too hopeful about you arriving anytime before May 18.  But imagine my surprise when I knew you were going to be born before that date.  We had out-of-town company spending the night, and that’s when my labor started.  It was crazy!  Just imagine how ecstatic your siblings were—the next day was Mother’s Day, dear friends were staying at the house, AND you were going to be born too!  That was almost more excitement than they could handle, and we will surely tell you all about it someday.

When you were born, it was one of the most precious moments of my life.  Not only did I finally get to have my dream birth . . . and it was truly a dream birth . . . but you, dearest one, were blessed by my dream birth as well.

When I held you in my arms and looked at your sweet face, I felt right away there was something extra special about you and began asking my midwife what she knew about Down syndrome.  Though my interactions with anyone with Down syndrome were practically nonexistent and I had never before seen a baby with Down syndrome, I was pretty certain that’s what you had.

Oh, Moriah, you can’t imagine my gratitude at having those moments with you at home.  Home sweet home.  Home . . . where we could cuddle you and love on you and thank God for delivering you safely to our arms.  All my worries during my pregnancy that something would go wrong . . .  those worries were strangely gone.  Because I honestly did not feel like anything did go wrong.  You had arrived, and you were okay.  You had Down syndrome, but you were okay!  God’s grace was abundant, Moriah, because He helped me to see you only as the precious blessing you are.

At that moment, I was grateful for our home birth for reasons entirely different from the ones that compelled to plan such a birth in the first place.  There was no hospital drama.  No lectures about my age, or how many children we already had, or why on earth hadn’t I had an amnio.  No whispering behind my back, no pitying looks, no medical students coming in to stare at you, and no one telling me anything contrary to the fact that you are a precious child of God, formed by His hand and made in His image, a beautiful little person deserving of life and love . . . just like every baby.

It was all good, Moriah.  There was nothing but love.  And I was so. very. thankful.

Our faith in Jesus Christ is our rock, Moriah, and you will learn a lot more about that as you grow up.  I knew you were exactly who God planned you to be . . . exactly who.  And I know that His works will be displayed in you.  And even though your Down syndrome was a surprise to us, it wasn’t a surprise to God.  There is tremendous comfort in clinging to that truth, Moriah.  Because life is full of surprises and challenges.

Yes, I will tell you there were a few tears, but only a very few, and not even at first.  We didn’t know anything about Down syndrome and there was so much to learn, and it was scary to think of some of the difficulties you might have growing up.  Mommies and daddies don’t ever want their little ones to have to struggle, and that made me a little sad.

Besides being thankful you were born at home, there was one other blessing I was tremendously thankful for at the time, and still am—your brothers and sisters.  You know full well how much they all adore you, since you constantly seem to have somebody’s lips all over your face.  When you were first born, it was a comfort to my heart knowing that you had not only Mommy and Daddy here to love on you, but five big brothers and sisters too—five special people in your life who have been there for you since your birth and will continue to be there for you as you grow.

In those early days I said over and over again how much I was thankful for those two things.  And when I think back to the day you were born—one whole year ago—I am blessed all over again.  I love you, Moriah, and I can’t tell you how many times I have held you in my arms and had tears well up just because I have so much love for you that it overflows.

We have had some hard times too, though, haven’t we?  Mostly for me, I guess.  There is so much to figure out about how best to care for you and how to help you reach your full potential.  Nothing comes quite as easily for you as it did for your brothers and sisters, and we have to fight for each new milestone, don’t we?  It’s exhausting for both of us at times.  Many times.  Things are sometimes complicated, and often there are no easy answers . . . or even any answers.

But your smiles and giggles rejuvenate me, and I know that any sacrifice on my part is worth it.  Because YOU are worth it, my sweet, precious girl!  You have brought untold joy to our family.  You are my delight, and I am so thankful and blessed I get to be your mommy.  Today especially, we celebrate the awesome gift of your life.

With all my love,

Mommy

Five

It seems as though I am always lamenting celebrating someone’s birthday around here.  If you’re a mother, then you know how those dueling emotions can play tug-of-war with your mind as the little ones grow into not-so-little ones.

Elisabeth is 5.  Where has my little red-haired baby gone?

3 months

6 months.

Would you believe that four of our six children were redheads at birth?  And now none of them takes after mom in that regard.  Boo!

I’m pretty sure we have a picture like this of all our big-footed children.

Wintry cheeks and hot chocolate time.

The birthday girl was 3.  Sniff.

Shameless plug for Mommy’s Lilla Rose business. Have we mentioned how comfortable the adjustable headbands are? 

Elisabeth’s wedding (one of several).

Fun fall field trip!

Loving sister.  (Loving is both an adjective and a verb here!)

Elisabeth is pretty excited about turning 5, but she is sensitive to her mama, comforting me with words like, “You still have Moriah, Mommy.  She is still little.”

Yeah, my big girl even wanted to decorate her own birthday cake, with just a little help from Hannah.

Hearts, flowers, and loooooots of sprinkles.

Happy birthday, sweetie!  I am excited that you’re turning 5!  (But I am going to savor every minute of your 4-ness until 11:58 p.m.)

The Birthday Boy is 6

It was a good year of being 5 for my “baby boy,” and now he’s 6.

Already.

I’ll miss his adorable 5-isms, such as . . .

I wish I had antlers.

Mom, can we build a spaceship in the back yard?

Wouldn’t it be fun if we could walk on the ceiling?

Joseph’s always been a sweet little guy, and he’s a great helper too.  In fact, he gets an A+ in showing initiative, and he has many other fine and maturing qualities.  Considerate child that he is, he even said he’d stay 5 for me so I wouldn’t have to miss him being little.  Isn’t that precious?

Over the past weeks, he was having trouble deciding what he wanted on his birthday cake.  Thinking inside my mental box of decorator tips and buttercream, I made various suggestions of figures or designs I could draw with frosting, but he still couldn’t settle on any of his options.

Then from somewhere in the recesses of my mind, surfaced a memory of the kids once talking about a “dirt cake” they’d seen somewhere.  Since dirt and 5 year old boys go hand in hand, I knew I’d found a winner.

Joseph was all for the great idea, especially when he learned that he’d have a chance to try gummy worms too.  I do love making special cakes for my kiddos, and I know he’ll enjoy digging into this later.

Three!

Our dear little Elisabeth is now 3, having awaited this day with tremendous anticipation.  She had talked for a month or more of wanting strawberry shortcake for her birthday cake—that is, until last night.  We were flipping through some cupcake books, and she decided she’d rather have cupcakes instead—chocolate ones with pink frosting and strawberries on top.   I love the excitement, enthusiasm and awe of a 2 I mean 3 year old.  Her eyes twinkled with delight at her sweet dessert.

She is having an exciting day.  I had told her she could use scissors when she turned 3, and she’s sitting here with me cutting and cutting and cutting with her new pink scissors.  She also received other gifts to delight a little girl, including pink flip-flops, pink play-doh and pink “pretties” (that’s what she calls barrettes and hair clips).  Yes, pink is still her favorite color.

I cannot imagine life without the joy our dear Elisabeth brings to us all throughout the day.  How God has blessed us with our fifth-born child, and I am so glad we did not stop at four!

She continues to be an eager Mommy snuggler, kitchen helper and blessing speaker.  Following is a sampling of the many kind words I hear from her daily (I finally began writing them down.)  She speaks them in the softest, most sincere voice—either that or sings them to me over and over—and they’re usually accompanied by multiplied hugs and kisses.  Is this not precious music to a mother’s ears?

I just love your beautiful face.

You are cute and lovely and snuggly.

Mommy, I love you.  Do you know why?  Because you’re cute.

Can I give you a hug?

I just love my sweet Mommy.

You are so beautiful that I love you.

Huggy, huggy, huggy.  Will you give me a hug?

Do you know why I love my Mommy so much?  Because I love her.

You are so special.

What would I do without my sweet Mommy?  I am so glad God gave you to me.

Especially today, we are thanking God for our sweet, precious girl.

Birthday Boys and Camo Cake

Nathan and Caleb’s birthdays are just a week and a half apart, so we often celebrate them together.  As they share many similar interests, there is usually a particular cake theme that takes shape as we do some brainstorming in the weeks prior.

With them both being aspiring young hunters, we decided on a camouflage cake this year.  It was a lot of fun to make, and all were pleased with the tasty results.  :)

Caleb just turned 11, and Nathan will be 13 on Friday.  Happy birthday to my big boys!

Hannah the Birthday Girl

Hannah told me this morning she really did feel 7 now.  But then she added that she still felt 6 as well.

Here she’s sporting a few of her birthday presents, and yes, pink is still her favorite color.

Making a cake for the birthday boy or girl is one special task I look forward to as the big day approaches.  Sometimes I get a special request; other times they want me to surprise them.   And on a few occasions they have asked to decorate their own cake.  This was one such year for Hannah.

I’ll admit to having mixed feelings about that.  The sentimental mommy in me misses out on seeing the delight in their eyes when a frosted masterpiece is unveiled, and when they were young enough to think that only Mommy could make a beautiful birthday cake.  On the other hand, I want my girls especially to be handy in the kitchen, so I’m happy to step back and let their imaginations take form.

And I must say that Hannah did an amazing job on her cake!  Okay, I helped her with the base frosting on the sides, but 90% of the rest is her own decorating, and the design is all hers.

Great job, Hannah!  Keep up the good work in the kitchen; you are a blessing to us all.

 

 

 

No longer 4

You may remember that I’ve occasionally asked Joseph if he would stay 4 forever.  Alright, more than occasionally.  He almost obliged me twice, but alas, time has run out, and our youngest little boy is now 5.  Five.  FIVE!

There is something special to me about cuddly little boys.  Maybe it’s because that’s all I knew for the first several years of motherhood.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve had the privilege of experiencing those joyful rough-and-tumble years three times now.  And while I’m happy to see my boys’ growth and new abilities and accomplishments, it’s bittersweet to have the “little” turn “bigger.”

My Joseph is a dear, though.  Knowing how my boys tend to outgrow too much of the “mushy stuff”, I asked him if he’d still snuggle with me now that’s he’s 5, and his response was an emphatic, “Of course!”

I persisted, “You’ll still let Mommy give you lots of hugs and kisses all the time?”  And again, he replied, “Of course!”

What more could I ask for?  I guess I can enjoy him turning 5 after all.