MILESTONES

 

 

 

 

 

Are they ____________, yet? Fill in the blank…sitting up, rolling over, pulling up, crawling, walking, sleeping through the night, etc. This might be the most common question I’ve been asked the last 14 months, and I feel like my answer 90% of the time has been “no” followed with my standard “preemie- adjusted-age-milestone-achievement” speech. I wonder if I’m the only one who ever gets annoyed with this question. It seems like everyone has a kid or knows someone who had a kid who did whatever at a very early age and appears puzzled when I say mine have not done XYZ yet.

My babies have done everything on the later end of the standard milestone timeframes. It hasn’t bothered me; in fact, I was not looking forward to mobility and have not tried to rush them into anything. I know that babies do things at different ages and mine are continuing to develop. My brother and I are a prime example. He followed the patter of my mom and all her siblings with walking (running) at 9 months. I, on the other hand, was fourteen months before I took my first steps. I take after my dad’s side of the family in this respect. My mom always thought my Mama Kosko just didn’t remember when she said her kids walked later…and then I came along. Unfortunately, Mom couldn’t enjoy my more laid back demeanor because she was fearful something was wrong with me. Jeremy took his first steps around 9 months, busted his nose and didn’t try again until he was 14 or 15 months, at which time he stood up and walked like he’d been doing it his whole life.

Grant and Maria are 14 months old and I can report that Grant took about two unassisted steps yesterday. He cruises easily barely holding on and will gladly walk next to you if you hold one of his hands. I used this technique to prevent poo smashing after he stood in the corner and loaded his diaper yesterday. I guess there are some benefits to mobility.
Maria is cruising well too, and finally learning to put her feet flat rather than always stand on her tippy toes. She tends to hit her milestones in fast spurts, while Grant makes it a much more drawn out process. He army crawled for a month before getting on his knees. Maria watched this and just got up on her knees and lurched forward one day. He’s been standing without assistance for several weeks now, although we think he just realized it. On Sunday, he looked at me and I could see his wheels turning as he contemplated moving a foot forward before opting out and crawling to me. He’ll be running in no time.

So, I guess it won’t be much longer and I can answer yes to all the infant milestone questions. I rest assured that their college applications will not ask at what age they crawled or walked. I also remember what our pediatrician said when I was concerned about Grant’s swaddle addiction at 10 months… “I’ve never seen one go to kindergarten being swaddled.” He’s right; they are meeting and will hit their developmental milestones…and at the very least, they’ll be walking by the time they go to school. Now, we just have to have them figure out how to use the toilet.

TIME FLIES CAUSING ROLES TO CHANGE

I can’t believe how quickly time has passed this month. It seems that since the weather finally turned warm and dry, time passes much more quickly. Since the middle of May, it seems there hasn’t been a moment not spent preparing for something.

In mid April I had the idea of throwing a baby shower for one of my husband’s cousins. She was expecting her baby in June, and she was living on the West Coast while her husband was finishing his degree up in the Midwest. A few years ago she had lost a baby early in her pregnancy, and her mother died unexpectedly. It just occurred to me that this must be a difficult time for her, and a surprise baby shower would be a great way to show her others were thinking about her. The problem was now this: how do you throw a shower when all the potential guests are in other locales? I emailed my idea to Jim’s aunt, and she suggested contacting another cousin. We each started brainstorming, and I found a website that described a “Shower in a Box”. Quite literally, one person organizes, gathers and sends the gifts and cards to the recipient. Our goal was to have the package arrive for Mother’s Day, but we decided to have it come a few weeks later due to her schedule demands. The e-shower was a huge success, and she has since delivered a healthy baby boy, on Father’s day none the less!

This endeavor went so well that I next got the idea of organizing a class present from the kids for Joel and Chad’s teachers. I had planned on crocheting Market Bags for them, and suggested we gather items or gift cards for a related theme to fill the bags. For one teacher we chose a beach theme for her summer cottage and for the other we chose activities to do over the summer with her children. The e-vites were once again sent, and the responses began poring in. The boys and I managed to pull it off without both teachers finding out, and the gifts were presented the last day of school.

As the school year winds to a close, it always makes me think of what has transpired in the last few months. It makes me pause and notice how my children have grown, not only physically, but academically as well. This year is especially bittersweet, for at the start of the next school year in September, I will now have one child in elementary, middle and high school. I knew this would happen someday, but it is hard to believe the time has arrived. The hardest to accept is the fact that Chad, my youngest, is now going to be in school all day. He has grown the most this past year, entering Kindergarten not knowing how to read, and leaving able to read several books that contain mostly his sight words. It truly amazes and scares me at the same time. This leaves me wondering (and worrying) about how I will spend my days come September.

Jim’s aunt (the one who helped me organize the shower) came and stayed with us for a visit last week. She spent time visiting with Jim’s Mom as well as us. It was just a short visit, for she also cares for his Grandmother who is 96 years old (97 in November). It occurred to me after her visit that she has become the family caretaker, and that this role evolved over time, much as a mother’s does. I often times feel that my kids need me less as they get older, but that really isn’t the case. The needs just change, and you as a mother need to change as well.

A MOTHER’S LOVE

A few days ago I went to visit a friend in the hospital who is struggling to stay alive. She was always a very energetic, bubbly person, so it is so hard to see here strapped to a bed and in such pain. Her parents were there taking care of her and her mother was just as warm and loving as my friend always is. My friend’s mother has breast cancer and a herniated disc that she needs to have surgery on herself, but she was happily taking care of her daughter. A mother’s love for her child keeps her going even through very hard times.

After my visit, I started thinking what a special woman this mother was to do this for her child, with a smile on her face and such confidence in her daughter’s healing that it made me think of other mothers I know who have also shown great love. Below is a list of these actions:

Carrying a child in her womb even after she is told to have an abortion that there is no hope this child will live~

Going to the NICU day after day even after being told your child is going to die~

Going through infertility procedures month after month loss after loss because of faith God has given that you will be called Mother by a living child~

Fighting for your special needs child so they have the same rights as other children~
Day after day watching your child die before your eyes~

Doing God’s work, after the death of your child~

Sacrificing your own needs before the needs of your child is really what motherhood is all about. I had no idea how hard this role would be and it is only my fourth year. I cannot imagine what lies before me, but I know I am not alone.

I dedicate this blog to all the mothers out there who sacrifice day after day, to be a mother or just to become a mother. Thank you for all your hard work and your dedication to your children. Because of you this will be a better world to live in.

“Her children arise up, and call her blessed;” Proverbs 31:28

BELATED FATHER’S DAY MESSAGE

A song recently came on the radio that Jeremy referred to as one of his NICU songs.  “Let the Waters Rise” by Mikeschair was in heavy rotation at the time and he said that he could vividly remember hearing that song while winding up to the top level of the parking garage on our evening visit to the babies.  He liked parking at the top because the sky was so pretty that time of day and he always got a sense of peace seeing the beautiful canvas God created.  Jeremy is a typical guy in the respect that he doesn’t openly talk about his feelings.  During our NICU tour of duty, he maintained his Steady Eddie persona and regularly entertained the nurses with his offbeat sense of humor, even though he was challenged during this period in our lives.  His recognition of this song as one of his NICU songs reminds me that often the men in our lives might now show what is going on inside, but are deeply impacted by the circumstances of life.  For him, it was a time of surrender and knowledge that God will sometimes allow floods, but He is enough to get through.

There’s a raging sea
Right in front of me
Wants to pull me in
Bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise
If You want them to
I will follow You
I will follow You
I will follow You

God Your love is enough
You will pull me through
I’m holding onto You
God Your love is enough
I will follow You
I will follow You

I recognize that when it comes to infertility, we often hear about the struggles that women go through, but rarely hear from men.  I can honestly say that Jeremy was quite fine with our life with just the two of us.  He would have been content not to have children.  However, he also knew that it was a non-negotiable for me and knew that as long as he and I were together, children would enter the picture.  He still maintains that having children is the equivalent to inviting strangers to live with you on a permanent basis.  “I like you!” he’d exclaim. “I might not like them.”  Now, there is no doubt he loves and even admits to liking Grant and Maria, but he remembers fondly the days when our house was a quiet oasis.

Other men are different and long for a son or a daughter while suffering silently through years of failed infertility treatments and a crazy hormonal wife.  This has not gone unnoticed.  On behalf of all the moms and moms in waiting, I want to thank all the dads and dads in waiting for all you have done for us.  We couldn’t get through it without you.

 

MEET EMBRYO DONOR JENNIFER WINTER

Meet Jennifer Winter. She and her husband donated embryos that were adopted by the Colton family, and recently resulted in sweet Sienna. Thanks to Jennifer for sharing her story.

My name is Jen and I am a mother of nine year-old boy/girl twins conceived through IVF in October 2001. Throughout our infertility struggle, we never really thought about the possibility of having “extra” embryos nor did we even consider what we would do with any remaining embryos. I was completely consumed with my goal of achieving a pregnancy so I don’t think I could look beyond the present at the time. Who would have ever thought I would be sitting here writing about our choice to have our embryos adopted nine years later?

We achieved pregnancy and our twins were born in May 2002. Approximately 2 years later we were wrestling with whether or not we wanted to add to our family. We were concerned about another twin pregnancy if we pursued embryo transfer (it was a difficult pregnancy for me) so we decided to go the au-natural route and see if God wanted us to have another. If not, we decided we were very happy with two. Shortly after this conversation we started talking about our stored embryos. What do we do with them? We were paying an annual fee to have them stored in some frozen tank some distance from our home but somehow that didn’t seem fair to them. If we never used these embryos, what was to become of them? We would never consider donating them to science…our faith and beliefs about these embryo babies would forever prevent that. So, what were our other options? As far as I knew, there were no other options but to keep them frozen indefinitely. It seemed like life deserved a chance.

Until I found the NEDC on the web on a random search in 2006, I had never heard of embryo adoption. I met my husband for lunch that day and brought some printed literature from the website. I was met with enthusiasm from him. This really surprised me. So many thoughts about why we shouldn’t do this raced through my head. What if one of our kids meets one of his or her siblings without knowing it and gets married? How would we ever explain this very unusual situation to other people without being looked at as freaks? My husband was adopted so we were comfortable with the idea of adoption, however this was very, very different.

The worst obstacle that I had to overcome with embryo adoption was this nagging concern that I would want to take back my genetic child once he or she was born. I know logically I would never want to destroy another family in that way, but it was a real concern for me and I had to overcome it before we could proceed. It literally took me two years to overcome this fear. As weird as it sounds, I think I was imagining that these embryos were my two children. My husband finally said to me “Jennifer, these embryos are each a different child…not either of our kids. Different souls, personalities, and looks…and can be as different as siblings can be from one another.” I had to digest this for some time but I finally realized that he was right. These embryos (and we had nine!) may resemble (or not) our children but they will be each very different from our kids.

It does almost sound like a science fiction movie…embryos conceived on the same day as our children (who were also conceived via embryo transfer during IVF) are born 9 years later to someone else. How far has the “test tube baby” gone? How is it possible that sperm and embryos can be frozen and eggs can’t (or at least they couldn’t be frozen when we were in IVF)? It is really hard to wrap your mental arms around it all.

In late 2009 we decided to get started. I turned the ominous 4-0 the following year and we had never conceived on our own. It seemed like God was directing us to move on. I didn’t want a baby at this point. Our twins were 8 years old and things felt right. We met our first adoptive family through the NEDC and were eagerly anticipating the transfer. It looked like the stars were aligning with this couple, really. We had a lot in common with them and we thought it was the perfect match. It was not meant to be. Our embryos (part of them) never made it out of the “defrosting” (I don’t know the technical term). We were deflated. We had three embryos left and I wondered who would want to adopt just three? What if no one wanted them? Were we stuck? We reluctantly agreed to the idea of “pooling” our embryos if someone didn’t want just three or less, but that would require patience, for at least a year, to determine genetic links (if a child was born). We also wanted an open adoption and wondered if we would ever find another family interested in such an arrangement.

A couple of months later we heard about another family who seemed to match us really well. The mother had already adopted a little boy and was interested in experiencing pregnancy. We seemed to be really drawn to one another and she was so extraordinarily open. We started exchanging emails and got to know one another even before anything was official. I worried a little about getting to know this adoptive mother before we were connected by anything other than an agreement. She was not yet pregnant but we were so hopeful. I didn’t want to be let down again, but I put my faith in God and felt that having another friend in this world was better than nothing. Plus, if I was her friend and the embryo transfer didn’t work, I could possibly provide moral support for her as she made another attempt.

We both agreed on the embryo adoption and the process started again. This time, however, it was successful. We had two of the three remaining embryos survive and they were transferred. It was amazing and surreal. The reality of the whole situation surfaced. We anxiously waited to hear if the embryo or embryos had implanted and if there would be a positive pregnancy. It was difficult waiting, but I know it was not nearly as difficult for us as it was the adoptive family. We were somewhat removed from the situation, except the contact we had from our frequent emails. It really felt good to be able to provide support to the adoptive mother during this time and I was surprised at how relieved I was when it was confirmed that she was pregnant. Maybe I was even more open to this reality than I had once thought I could be.

Our adoptive mother and I had constant contact with one another throughout her pregnancy. It was enjoyable seeing her pregnancy through her writing. She eventually started blogging on the NEDC website and that became another source of information toward during the latter half of her pregnancy. I made a conscious effort to always speak of the baby as “her/their baby” and “their family’s addition.” I never, ever wanted to put myself in the place of the “mother” of this child, both for my sanity and for her security.

The baby was born this month (June 2011) and she is a girl. She is a beautiful, healthy baby girl. I’ve seen pictures (and so has everyone else following her blog!) and feel a sense of relief and confidence that this was absolutely the right thing to do. God meant for this to happen and it is a very, very good thing. No longer will I have to fret over what God would want me to do with my remaining embryos because each one was given a chance at life. One baby girl is the result of all of that hard work, but that one life means more to one family than anyone could possibly know.

The future is uncertain about if, when, where, etc., we will meet this fabulous baby girl. I imagine someday we will meet and someday I will tell my children that they have a sibling living in a different State, nine years younger, yet conceived on the same day. We think that is a lot to handle, even for an adult, so that conversation will have to wait. Right now my children know that we have a friend in another State that just had this great baby girl. They’ve seen pictures of her and think she is “soooooo cute!” When the time is right, they will learn about their connection with her. When the time is right we will meet her. Unlike the traditional adoptions, we cannot be called the “birth parents” so I imagine we are considered more like the “genetic parents,” but that doesn’t bother us. We have all been blessed in so many ways and this experience, however unusual, has brought closure to my fertility journey and joy to our lives.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

Father’s hold such an important role in a child’s life and I am so blessed to have had such a loving father myself for six years. I do not remember spending a Father’s Day with him or what I may have given him for Father’s Day. But I sure remember the hugs and kisses he gave me and the time he spent with me, letting me dress him up as my little girl I was taking to church. I would get his hair tangled in my brush every time, and yet he would still let me do it again! The day it’s self is a wonderful time to tell your father you love him and how much you are thankful for him. So when I got old enough I started giving my Mother Father Day gifts, since she had to be both a Father and Mother. I pray Natalie and Julian will have much, much longer with their father, but we are sure thankful for these past four years.

This Sunday I will miss Father’s Day, I will be in Haiti. I am very sad to be apart from my husband and children on this important day. So I want to take time to thank Brian in this blog to what a special Dad he is. He along with me, waited eight years for this very special title. Unlike me, he did not get the privilege to feel them kick inside the womb or know what it is like to be with them twenty four hours a day. But he was the first one to see them, the first one to hold them and the first one to name them (he decided to let me name Julian). His role is crucial and they would not be the children they are without him today. I cannot list all the wonderful things he does with them or for them. But I know I am thankful for all that he does and so are the twins! They just love him so much.

So to all the Fathers out there or all the want to be fathers, happy Father’s Day! What a blessing Fathers are in our lives.

KIDS, CATS AND DOGS

Before Jeremy and I adopted two legged children, we adopted three four-leggers – two cats and a dog. Over the last year, we’ve been observing many similarities between our children and the pets.

Kids and cats:

• They will follow the light from a flashlight around on the floor and wall. True story: Jeremy entertained a friend’s 18 month old with a flashlight making Nils turn in circles until the poor kid was so dizzy he almost fell over.
• They will chase after a toy attached to a fishing pole. See video. Note: Jeremy is both fisherman and cameraman.
• They wait until you are completely comfortable and dozing off to demand attention through a cry or pounce.
• They love playing with and chewing on cords.
• If you don’t close and latch the bathroom door, they will swarm around you while you try to do your business…and toilet paper is so cool!

Kids and dogs:

• They will eat anything off the floor — edible or not.
• They are exceptionally excited to see you and come as fast as they can. (The cats find this display of pleasure extremely undignified).
• If you can’t see or hear them they are getting into something they are not supposed to.
• Shoes and furniture make great chew toys.

Kids, cats and dogs:

• Whatever or wherever you don’t want them play with or go is the ONE thing they want to do.
• They manage to puke, poop, or pee in a non-designated area at the most inopportune time.

Thankfully, they all get along well. Maria is a HUGE fan of our dog, Charlie, and anytime she sees him or any other dog she happily exclaims “Dah!” (She exclaims “Dah!” to most any dog, except for Dachshunds; for those, she just stares blankly and I imagine wonders “what is that?!?”) Charlie is great with them, letting them climb, poke and pull on him. The cats tolerate the babies and will occasionally swat if provoked, which hurts nothing more than feelings.

Anatole France stated, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” I’d say the same goes for children.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.