Endless Strength Header

 photo blogheader-2.jpg

July 24, 2011

The Promise Made At Baptism

I received a comment Friday about baptism being the "high point of the whole birth experience."  I could not agree more.  Because baptism cleanses the eternal soul of the stain of original sin, it is the Glorious culmination of everything that has happened since that eternal soul was fused into the baby at conception; it is the new birth of the eternal soul into the Body of Christ.  Every time I have had my babies baptized, I have felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to our Lord for instituting the sacrament.  

I have written before about the fact that Sarah's baptism was the catalyst prompting Craig and me to dive in and learn more about our Faith.  However, with every child, it has only intensified this desire for me.
On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring her up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life, which God gives her, is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in her heart.
During Sarah's baptism, it was this part of the Rite that commanded my attention and consumed my thoughts in the weeks that followed.  I was literally afraid of what I'd committed to.  I was afraid because, at the time, Craig and I still missed Mass fairly regularly.  I was afraid because at the time, we were not fully in Communion with the Church regarding our family planning decisions. 

How could I keep my daughter safe from the poison of sin, when I was mired in it, myself?

Sarah's baptism holds a very special place in my heart because my heart softened and opened in order to desire to be closer to God through His Church.  I will be forever grateful for this.  With the rest of our children's baptisms, this part no longer struck fear in me. 

This part of the Rite of Baptism continues to command my attention but for different reasons.  It provides me an opportunity to take stock of the state of my soul and whether I am in a state of Grace or not.  When did I go to confession last?  Have I been going as often as I should?  What other sins are prevailing...Vanity?  Pride? 

Vincent's baptism brought on a new revelation.  I was prepared for what I've already described...the gratitude, the awe, the Grace.  This time my ears perked up to a part that hadn't seemed to cross my radar before.
If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which this child is about to be baptized.

What I wasn't prepared for during Vincent's baptism was this part about, "if (my) faith makes (me) ready to accept this responsibility..."

Whoa.  Wait a minute.  Is my faith strong enough to impart to my child?  The Rite of Baptism, lays the responsibility squarely on the parents and godparents.  "IF YOUR FAITH MAKES YOU READY TO ACCEPT THIS RESPONSIBILITY..."  

Is it not a leap of faith in and of itself to accept this blessing of a new child into our family?  But then our Church asks us to have the utmost CONFIDENCE in that faith.  So, it's not just faith we must have, but we must have CONFIDENT faith?  

I often think of the passage (and being the "good Catholic" that I am, I can't tell you the book or verse to find it in the Bible) where the disciples ask Christ how they can increase their faith (or maybe they simply ask Him to increase it directly, not sure).  

I feel like those disciples on the day of one of my children's baptisms.  I want to ask the Lord to increase my faith and to give me the utmost confidence in my faith that I can accept the responsibility of raising my child in the faith.   

Truth be told...I'm scared that I don't have what it takes to keep these children on the way to Heaven.  Sure, I have some faith.  I'm doing my best to know and practice my faith in accord with Christ's teachings.  I'm praying with my children before meals and before bed and every now and then we're getting a rosary in.  We're getting to Mass every Sunday and sometimes a day or two in between Sundays.  We try to attend prayer groups, adoration and Feast day Masses.  But sometimes I am scared that it won't be enough.  Sometimes, I am scared that I have faith, but I am not confident enough in that faith.

And so, I am struck by the awesome responsibility Craig and I have undertaken by cooperating with God to bring Vincent (and all my children) into this world.  

I give myself a little pep talk to remind myself that God also imparted some pretty crazy-fantastic Graces on Craig and me in the Sacrament of Marriage.  Those Graces are supposed to help us in this endeavor to raise our children to know, love, serve and fear the Lord.  

I also try to remind myself that the Sacrament of Baptism imparts some crazy-fantastic Graces on Vincent that can help fill in where Craig and I might falter.

And so, consolation descends as I am also reminded that we are not alone.  Christ instituted these Sacraments to give us the strength and wisdom and fortitude we need to do what He asks of us. 

July 22, 2011

7 Quick Takes (7)

It's Friday and there are lots of things going on for us this weekend!  It is very hot here in the midwest...how is your weather?  A big thanks to Jen at Conversion Diary for hosting 7 Quick Takes this week and every week!

Vincent is three weeks old!  He commemorated the event by allowing a picture to be taken of him with his eyes open!  See?
Isn't he cute?  (Of course he is!)

Vincent will be baptized after the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday.  I can't wait!  This is the soonest we have ever been able to schedule the baptism of one of our children...usually they are six weeks old,  But this worked out well.  Unfortunately, it's so soon that I am really bummed about my options for what I have to wear and how I will look.  But...*sigh*...I usually don't start getting *MY* (read: familiar) shape back until at least 6-8 weeks.  Oh well.  In matters of my child's eternal soul, guess that ought to take back seat.  (duh)

My Aunt Bea turns 100 this year on December 31 (God willing).  Since that is a horrible time to travel, our family put together a celebration to take place Saturday.  It should be great fun.  We will get to see lots of family and celebrate an extra-special woman!
Sunday is also the 12th anniversary of my wedding to the love of my life.  I can't seem to find words this year to express properly how completely wonderful my husband is.  Or how Craig is proof that God was watching out for me during all of my years of...well, let's just call them my lost early-adult years, shall we?  And I am amazed how intensely my love for my husband grows every time we have another baby and I watch how he takes care of all of us.  My husband is a rock and he gives our family a strong, solid foundation in just about every way.

I just finished reading Fatherless by Brian J. Gail.  Not only is it well-written with characters you care about, but there's so much reality to what is going on in the story.  It explores, from the lay person's side of things, some critical issues with the Catholic Church in America.  If you haven't read it...please do so!

My husband wants me to read this next:
He swears it's a quick read and he really enjoyed it.  Have any of you read this book?  I'll let you know what I think.

However, I also picked up......................"Motherless" by Brian J. Gail today at our Catholic book store.  It's a continuation of the story started in "Fatherless" with the same characters.

But, since "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" is a library book...I guess it will be first.

Back to the baptism on Sunday, since I just got a phone call.  Wow, I think we're going to have quite a crowd.  I didn't expect lots of people to drive up from Ottawa, KS (that's where the party is on Saturday for my Aunt Bea) to come, especially the older people with the heat and all.  But it seems even Aunt Bea will come up for it.  This makes me happy.  I do hope the heat won't be a horrible problem.

Have a great weekend!!

July 16, 2011

Happy Birthday Letter to Sarah

Dear Sarah,
10 years old today!  I remember when you were born that I couldn't even fathom the weeks that were passing by so very quickly.  And those weeks passing by turned into years...and here you are, a decade of life.

I couldn't have asked the Lord to bless me with a better kid for my first, my oldest.  There are many adjectives I could use to describe you and yet, they wouldn't be enough.

You are smart.  We've always said you're "too smart for our own good."  And it's not just book smarts, though you've got that.  But you're savvy about so many different things.  

You are kind.  I love the way you handle yourself with your siblings.  I've been proud to watch the way you've molded your friendships at school and at church.  

You are responsible.  I know that when I've asked you not to do something, that you won't do it.  I remember when the Second Grade teacher told me all about how you passed out the gum in your treat bags at a class party to your friends because you knew we didn't want you chewing gum.  You complete your school work on your own and you've taken on new responsibilities at home.

Your love for God shows in your interactions with everyone.  You've always been a prayerful and contemplative little girl.  I remember when you were three years old and you asked me questions about Jesus being the Son of God and ultimately came to the conclusion that Mary was the mother of God.  I was speechless at the time.  And now, after another 7 years of watching you grow in your prayer life and seeing your understanding of your faith come to light, I see that it was merely a foreshadow of the things to come.

On this, your 10th birthday, I pray for you, my darling.  I pray that you always stay close to our Lord and our Blessed Mother.  I pray that you form your conscience with their grace and maintain your humility.  I pray that you continue to see your place in our family as the wonderful blessing it is and that you know how loved you are by all of us.  

I pray that I can feel even halfway worthy to be your mother and to guide you toward the path to Heaven.

July 13, 2011

That Was a Fast 2 Weeks!

I took Vincent in for his first check-up with our family physician this morning.  I guess this 2-week check is mainly to make sure the baby is gaining weight and see how the feeding/pooping/peeing schedule is panning out.  I don't remember taking the other kids in for it, but I imagine I did.  

Vincent is doing a swell job of growing!

He was born and was 8 lb 10 oz and now he is 8 lb 14 oz!  He is eating very well (usually about 2.5 ounces at a time, but sometimes 3.5 ounces) and having lots of wet and poopy diapers. 

Get this!  Last night, Vincent finally went down in his crib around 11:30 p.m. and he slept until 4:45 a.m. this morning!  I have been setting my alarm every three hours in case I don't hear him and when I checked on him at 3:00 a.m. he was still sleeping away.  So I gave myself another hour...checked and still sleeping.  Finally at 4:45 I heard him crying and went and got him.  He didn't eat much at that time and went back into his crib around 5:10 or so and slept until about 7:15.  So, he's doing pretty well in the sleep department.  

Lest any new mom reading this get worried...my babies are all good sleepers.  I think they get it from their dad who can zonk out anywhere, anytime for any length of time.  I had my trials with Sarah and Helen with sleeping when they were little, but am happy that my boys (and Dani, too) seem to take after their daddy in the sleep department.

I know it will seem like I will blink and it will be time to take Vincent in for his 2-month well-child visit.  It all goes so fast.

Oh!  and because I just LOVE baby feet:

July 11, 2011

What's In A Name?

Naming your children is a grand thing.  It's the pure privilege of the parents to choose the name which their child will be called.  And most would agree, it's kind of a big deal.

People spend a lot of time thinking of names while waiting for their babies.  Some women admit that they've had the names of their children picked out since they were little girls.  Obviously, once married and expecting, they might have to bend a little to accommodate the husband's preference in names.

There have been studies to determine what a name can do for (or against) you.  And then, various aspects surrounding first names has been written about here (Relationship between Names and Personal Identity) and here (Relationship between Names and Personality) and here (Relationship between Names and Behavior).  I'm far from an expert on the matter, but I think it's kind of inherent in my understanding through naming my children, that it's a pretty important thing.

When we were choosing a name for our first-born, we were very particular about a name that couldn't be shortened.  For some reason, we didn't like the idea of a nickname for our first daughter and as soon as a name came under consideration, if a nickname was readily available, that name was usually cast out.  

What's kind of funny is that when I mentioned this to my grandmother when Sarah was a few weeks old, she mentioned that "Sally" was a nickname for Sarah.  I had never heard of that before, but I guess it made sense since I couldn't think of any other girl name for which "Sally" could be a nickname.  

But nonetheless, Sarah has been Sarah from day one and the only fond pet-name we've come up with is "Sarah-Bear" and that's used pretty sparingly.  Sarah's name has always felt like a perfect fit.

Now for the funny twist.  When we found out we were pregnant with Dani, Craig mentioned Danielle as a name and instantly I was open and embraced the nickname, "Dani".  I'm not sure why the nickname thing didn't bother me that time...but it didn't.  And when Dani was born, I immediately called her Dani even though her name was Danielle.  I just had a hard time calling her Danielle.  Dani was her name. 

Helen's name was a natural choice for no nickname, too.  No thinking on that one.  Again, I never had a problem calling Helen by her name and it's always fit perfectly.

When Dominic came along, I realized that certain nicknames could come up ("Nic" being the one I didn't care for much and "Dom" becoming one I use sometimes, but not enough that people know Dominic as "Dom").  I didn't stress because Dominic is the kind of name that commands that you use the whole thing, or so I thought.  I think a few people tried "Dommie" or "Dom-Dom" but I nipped that in the bud pretty quickly and nothing ever came of it.  And again, Dominic has always fit my son.

Before the birth of Vincent, I shared with some select people the name we were considering.  When we shared with the kids, Sarah was the first to bring up "Vinny".  Now, on the whole, I don't have anything against "Vinny" but I knew it would not be a proper name for my son.  Call me weird, call me hormonal, whatever...but I just knew I didn't want my son to be called "Vinny" when his name was Vincent.  It actually held me up on the name for a long time because I was very concerned about it.  There were a few other people who mentioned the name and I expressed my wishes that, should we name our baby Vincent, we would not allow him to be called "Vinny" for short.  If we shortened it, we could go with "Vin" or "Vince" but honestly, so far, Vincent has worked just fine.  It feels completely natural to call him Vincent.

Names are funny things.  As parents, we are proud of the names we pick for our children and we are emotionally attached to them as well.  We put a lot of time and effort into naming our children, and it doesn't take much to rile our hearts - simply make the wrong comment about our child's name and it's likely to provoke a response.  

When it's NOT our child whose name is being discussed, it's easy to think the parent of that child is overreacting to what is meant as a good-hearted "joke".  Growing up watching siblings' names be twisted into forms of mockery (newsflash:  kids can be cruel) impressed upon me how quickly and dramatically the work of the parents in the naming department can be reduced to "rubble" by an off-hand comment or "joke".

What are your thoughts on names? 

July 7, 2011

The Perspective A Week Brings

Vincent is one week old today.

I am amazed at the way that life before a baby is actually born seems to cease to exist so entirely once that baby arrives.  It's almost as if Vincent has always been here.  Of course, in my brain, I know that is not true.  He's only a week old.  But his presence brings such peace to our lives.

And by peace, I don't mean that things are not hectic.  

Or that we're all sleeping the required amounts at night.  

Or that Vincent never cries.  

Or that the kids never fight and everyone is completely adjusted.

But even though Vincent is up every 3 hours at night to eat and get a diaper change; even though I have a two-and-a-half-year-old who misses being the main attraction;
 and my baby girl (Helen) is acting out more often than usual; and Dani has thrown some unusual tantrums and back-talked a little more; and Sarah is trying to be more of a help than she ought at times and running her mouth saying some less becoming sorts of things...it just feels like this is how life is supposed to be.  

It is time for Dominic to start playing the part of a "big" boy and potty-training and picking up toys in the toy room and ending his fascination with a "sippy" cup.  It is time, once again, for Helen to become just a little bit "bigger" and a little bit more independent and allow me to take a little of "her" time and offer it to Vincent.   I have begun to expect more out of Dani this summer from her behavior to her responsibilities around the house and those growing pains have been, naturally, kind of painful.  And while I expect Sarah to help, what I really need from her is her help on things I set out for her to accomplish and not what SHE thinks she needs to help me with.  

Through all these changes, everyone is making space in their hearts and lives for their baby brother.  While Dominic isn't all that interested in Vincent (he's kind of boring since he sleeps all the time) he will ask "Where's Bin-Sent?" when Vincent is sleeping in his crib.  So, I know he already cares about his baby brother, boring or not.  The girls clamor to hold or feed Vincent all the time.  If I need a new onesie to replace the one he just peed on, they are willing to run and get one.  They want to feed him.  They want to put a binky in his mouth if he's crying in his carseat.  He's already a very important part of the family.

The changes are not just with the children either.  My husband has been a tremendous help in the first week.  I haven't had to prepare meals for the family because he's taken care of it.  He's taken the older kids to the pool.  He's ensured everyone is bathed and he's gotten all of them in bed every night.  

Every time we go through these early newborn weeks, I am so grateful I married my husband.  He is truly the most helpful man I know and he gives of himself so completely and so freely.  I never feel like he thinks he is "missing out" on anything by having to be here and take care of us.  He has a beautiful disposition - cheerfully cleaning, changing diapers, feeding children, telling me to go take a nap -- he'd take care of everyone.

I love seeing what adding a new family member actually does for everyone else.  Yes, it's work.  Yes, life might have been easier without having to take time out for pregnancy and newborn weeks.  Yes, we might suffer a little bit less if we didn't go through this.  But the growth that happens because we are going through it is a million times better in the long run.  With five kids, there's no room for anyone to make everything "all about them."  Yes, we all have our days or special occasions, but for the most part, it's all about US.  


It's about growing and loving each other - day after day. 

It's about expanding our hearts to their full capacity and then stretching even more.

It's about using the Grace that God bestowed on us in our family to glorify Him and lifting each other up and pointing us all toward heaven.  

And for some reason, that hazy, jumbled, sleepy first week of a baby's life puts that all in perspective for me.

July 3, 2011

Vincent Gerard has arrived!

Vincent Gerard made his appearance after 27 hours of induced labor at 10:37 p.m. on Thursday, June 30, 2011. 
As I mentioned, my doctor was concerned about the size of Vincent.  Even though I had delivered four healthy babies, three of which were over nine pounds, he was still a little concerned.  He had me go in for an ultrasound on Monday, the 27th and he called me after 10:00 p.m. that night to give me his opinion that we ought to induce as Vincent's ultrasound size indicated he was over the 90th percentile for baby size.  He admitted he hadn't done the conversion yet, but that the ultrasound indicated 8 pounds 10 ounces and that typically converts to another half pound in-real-life size.

I had thought about whether I would take my doctor's advice on an induction this go round.  In the end, I realized that he'd never steered me wrong with our decisions on what to do with the baby and the one (and only) induction he didn't suggest (I had begged for one with Dominic) still went okay.  Perhaps I had always avoided C-sections BECAUSE of his advice to go ahead and induce when we did?  Either way, I knew that the way he approached inductions was very safe, as evidenced by my history, and effective.  So, I decided not to push back and to accept his advice and act on it.

I entered the hospital around 7:00 p.m. Wednesday night.  I was still "all closed up" but around 40% effaced (i.e., "thinned out").  They started with a process that was very effective when I was induced with Dominic to prepare the cervix for labor.  And I settled in for the night expecting contractions to get going around 3:00 a.m. or so.

But it was not to be.  I think I had more forceful contractions sitting at home the week before I'd gone in to the hospital.  Kind of pathetic.  To make it more frustrating, Vincent kept kicking off the heart rate monitor and my poor nurse was in and out the whole time trying to keep him monitored.

Here is what it looked like outside my window.  
It was steamy outside on Thursday...highs in upper 90's.  Maybe Vincent thought he'd be more comfy in momma's belly, LOL.

Anyway, by the morning, when Doctor got to the hospital to check me out, I was maybe 1 cm dilated and about 70% thinned out.  A tiny bit better, but I was used to much more success than that!  So, he gave me a couple of options, one of which we had used when Dani was induced that had been successful getting labor going, so I selected that one (the other was to go straight to pitocin, but I knew we could always do that...)  The process was a four hour wait for the medicine to work that ultimately ended with me being dilated another 1.5 cm (total of 2.5 cm) and getting me to about 90% effaced which was a favorable circumstance to break my water. 

So, they did that around 1:00 p.m. and Craig and I settled in with our books, games and listening to some music.  I was in and out of sleep.  Craig went ahead and called his mom so the kids could know that we hadn't had a baby yet. 

The thing is, through all of this, I was having contractions, they just weren't all that intense.  But they were in a great pattern...every 3 minutes to every 5 minutes apart.  I kept figuring, it was just a matter of time before baby engaged and we'd have a baby.

The nurse informed me we could go ahead and start pitocin and this was close to the end of doctor's workday, so I decided to get the epidural in place.  The epidural was placed around 4:30 or so.  The anesthesiologist was awesome!  So fast, and he was really great about saying, "Hey, I know this is your 5th, so you know all this stuff, but just to remind you..."  His bedside manner was refreshing (I've had a pretty bad experience with a real "jerk" of an anesthesiologist with Helen's birth...) and he was really fast to boot! 

They started lower dosage pitocin to try and get the contractions to come a bit stronger and a bit closer together.  Well....they came stronger anyway.

My baby boy, Vincent, was all about a regular pattern of contracting.  He was just hanging out in there and didn't seem to be getting in any bigger rush to be born.  It was kind of frustrating.  I was breathing through the contractions (yes, you still feel them if your epidural is done properly) and kept mentally willing them to come more quickly, but they just wouldn't.

The pattern went on from 5:30 until about 10:00.  I was progressing...I was to 8 cm and I was 100% effaced, and baby was dropping slowly. 

At 10:00 the pain changed.  I told Craig it was different.  Now, my legs were still completely numb and even my perineum area was still completely numb.  But the contractions were coming and coming and coming and I was constantly having to breathe through them.  I started crying and it turned quickly to uncontrolled sobbing.  I told Craig to get the nurse and doc back in here because I needed to push the baby out...it HAD to be time to push. 

Looking back, it literally felt like Vincent had put his entire body into the birth canal at the same time.  The pressure was enormous.  And I was just sobbing and moaning and telling Craig that it hurt and I needed to get him out. 

The nurse came back in, checked and said I was complete, so it was time.  Doc was getting ready and I asked if I could push and he was like, "just do what you feel is natural...if that's pushing, okay..."  So, I started pushing even though we weren't really in position for that yet and I think the doctor could tell I was because after they put my legs in the stirrups, and told me to "push" he said, "Oh, she's been pushing already..."

Basically five pushes after that, Vincent was born.  The relief in my lower abdomen was incredible.  I just started saying, "My baby!" over and over again (I seem to do this every time) and as soon as they could, they put Vincent up on my chest and I looked at him and talked to him.  Almost as soon as he was up by my face and I was saying, "Hi baby, it's okay, don't cry" he was silent and just lay there listening to me talk to him.

Then they took him over to weigh him and all and he just cried...

But then he calmed down afterwards..
Doctor collected cord blood for the donation program, but unfortunately, the volume wasn't enough to qualify this time.  My doctor said, "Yeah, if you're paying them boo-koo bucks to store the blood for yourself, you can send them any old piddly amount, but if you're donating it for research, they have to have XX amount or they say don't bother."  I could tell he thought that pretty ridiculous, but what can you do?

They cleaned Vincent off and brought him back to me.  By now it was 11:25 p.m. or so, but Craig was on the phone to his mom giving her the news and he called my Dad who was up, still, too (since he knew we were having the baby).  He was gonna call my mom, but I told him not to that I'd call her first thing next morning.  She WAS NOT waiting up since she had no idea we had gone in for induction and would have been sleeping.

Vincent was 8 pounds 10 ounces and 20.5 inches long.  
He looks just like Helen did as a newborn only slightly smaller.  :)

So, here are some more pictures:

This is almost immediately when the girls see Vincent the first time --

Sarah holding her baby brother the first time:

Dani holding her baby brother the first time:

Helen holding her baby brother the first time:

Dominic finally showed some interest.  But he really wanted to see Vincent's feet and his diaper.  Eventually, he decided he'd like to "tiss" (kiss) baby brother and hold him, too.

As Craig said - "There's all of 'em"

In the car seat, ready to come home!  Vincent Gerard - my precious baby boy!
About the name!  Vincent isn't named after anyone (other than a saint or two ;) ) but it's a name Craig and I both liked.  I'm pretty adamant that I won't allow "Vinny" as a nickname, though.  I like Vincent itself or maybe "Vin" or "Vince".  

Gerard is my father's name.  Dominic's middle name is the same as Craig's father's name, so it seemed fitting to give Vincent my father's name for a middle name.

I'm recovering okay.  Five babies in ten years can be kind of hard on a uterus, I've found.  I'm making my way through the recovery pains and all...offering up for special intentions and managing the best I can.  My husband is one-of-a-kind awesome and the kids are doing great, too.

Thanks for all of your prayers!