*Author's note: the last time I wrote a blog with a similar theme as this one, I unwittingly created a bit of a stir. To those who know what I'm referring to, I want you to know that all is well and there is no need for concern. Happy reading!
The title says it all, I do not know where to start. It's been a long two weeks since I updated the blog with anything truly substantial and a lot has happened in that time. I apologize for not updating sooner, but I'm guessing you'll forgive me :). Two weeks ago...ah, yes, that is the day Baby Bright Eyes finally came home, the six pack was finally complete, and everything in our happy little world was officially turned upside down.
So again, where do I begin? Right now seems as good a place as any so here we go. It's 11:27 pm on Saturday night. Casey has been in bed for 45 minutes and I've been trying to get this blog going for the last :27. This is my fifth time to sit back down, laptop in tow, after getting up to bounce Ryan in her bouncey seat, each time saying a little prayer that she'll just give me an hour. So far, the prayers have gone unanswered. The other four are fast asleep, each in a bouncey seat of their own, snoozing away the hours until their next bottle.
I'm up, listening to some nonsense that's playing on the TV (why do they play nothing but junk after 10 pm??) while Ryan is sleeping - finally, face down across my lap between my stomach and the laptop. And I type away. I am up because I am pulling the first shift tonight while Casey gets her 4~ish hours of zzzz's for the night. The next feed begins at midnight, assuming they all cooperate between now and then, so I'll be lucky to finish this blog in this sitting.
There used to be a schedule to all of this, each of the babies had a set time and an order in which they fed and they pretty much stuck to it...not anymore. Now, if we can just get them all fed and quieted down within the two and a half hour time we have allotted for them to feed, life is good...exceedingly good. If all goes well, my head will hit the pillow around 2:30 and I won't have to get back up until around 7:00. Reality is I'll probably get in bed a little later than that and I'll likely get up a time or two to calm one or two or three of the babies before Casey's shift begins at 4:00. And that is how it goes on nights when we do not have help. It is now 11:41 and, as if an invisible spirit just went through the room and pinched all of the babies at the exact same time, Jack, Brooklyn, and Lila have all started to fuss. I'll be back...
Good morning! I'm back and it is now 9:51 on Sunday morning. Jack is in the cradle, the girls are all sleeping in bouncies, Casey is getting dressed, Eliot is playing downstairs, and I am upstairs, bouncing Ryan with my left foot and hoping that Lila's fussing doesn't turn into a full blown baby freak out. If I randomly type something like "Schlitterbahn" in the middle of a sentence, it's because Eliot has just come upstairs and asked me to help her name her dogs that she just bought from my pet store...(Schlitterbahn is one of the names we've come up with so far). Ryan and Brooklyn woke up this morning around 6:30 so Casey got them into bed with us and bought us another hour of sleep. The rest of them started fussing around 7:45 so that is when the day officially began.
All of the babies are eating every four hours and we still wake them up through the night to feed, whether they want to or not. We could probably stretch them out a little longer at night, especially Jack and Brooklyn, but the problem is that if we do not keep them on a regular schedule, I think we would be handing care of the asylum over to the patients. I'm only half kidding when I call this place the asylum because the babies all completely lost their minds around this time last week and just about drove Casey and I to commit ourselves. Call it a growth spurt, call it babies being babies, whatever it was, it was nuts for all involved. What used to be a relatively peaceful existence turned into utter chaos and is just now starting to settle down a bit.
Side note - you think my perspective on life has changed slightly over the last six weeks? Read that sentence before one more time and you'll have all the proof you need. Yeah, the one where I described life with five newborns in the house as "relatively peaceful". Knowing what you know about our lives these days, could you ever even come close to describing it as relatively peaceful?? Yeah, life has changed, just a bit, and along with it so has our perspective.
Alright, back to the story. For the first 3 or 4 weeks since Jack came home, managing the babies' care was about as easy as it could be. They were all like little alarm clocks that ran on formula instead of being wound up. every three hours, the formula on the clock would run low and its alarm would go off. Fill it up with formula, and the clock re-sets itself and goes into snooze mode for another three hours. Other than the occasional leaky clock or minor maintenance work needing to be done (aka: bath time, tummy time, or cuddle time), piece of cake. The nights were long only because we had to get up to feed them, not because they were up screaming for some inexplicable and inconsolable reason.
Like I said, relatively peaceful...until last Saturday. That is the day the babies, apparently in a collusive agreement, decided to flex their collective muscle and launch an assault on our sanity. Fussy? Check. Sleepless? Check. Inconsolable? Check, check! Baby team solidarity and commitment to the cause? Oh yeah! The four hour feeds became 1-4 hour feeds; the sleepy little angels became angry little devils; night became day, day became mayhem; minor maintenance became major overhaul; relative peace became a relative grip on reality. Honestly, I think it was just a growth spurt that they all went through...at the same time. They all wanted to be held all the time - even easy-going Jack, Britton was eating every two hours (more on that in a minute), and Ryan decided to scream for two hours at a time, several times a day. Collic? Gas? Who knows, but anyone who has been through it with their baby (we also did with Eliot) knows that it sucks, no other way to describe it. Oh, other than helpless, frustrating, and exhausting...
Ok, we're done with dog names - Schlitterbahn, Feliz, Boy, Pinkers, and Princess - and now we're onto watching Hotel for Dogs, carefully narrated by Miss Eliot McKenna. Picking up on a theme here? One of the casualties of this new life of ours was the dog we promised Eliot. She hasn't forgotten that one and may need therapy someday to forgive us for it... ;-)
Britton has now been home with us for two weeks and she is doing very, very well. The NICU reluctantly released her to us with careful instructions to zealously guard her daily formula intake. Two ounces of her own special mix, every three hours, only given by mom and dad - no volunteers or other family. If she doesn't take it down, insert a tube in her nose and get her the food that way. Those are the doctors orders...not easy, but better than keeping her at the NICU and struggling to get up there to see her every three or four days. In the NICU, whether she took her bottles or was being fed through the tube, she was having a heck of a time keeping her food down and gaining weight so we really had to be vigilant. After about 12 hours at home trying to keep her on the three hour schedule, we made the decision to pull back to a two hour schedule and feed her less with each bottle...'round the clock. That is six hours spent every day feeding one baby. I might have said this once already, but I'll say it again - not easy.
Well, I'm very happy to say that after about 12 days of two hour feeds, Baby Bright Eyes is gaining weight as she should, keeping her food down (mostly), and is now back to a three hour schedule!! It is such a relief to see her finally beginning to thrive! She actually sleeps now...with both eyes closed...amazing! I am also very happy to say that whatever demon had entered our home over the last week appears to have left as all of the babies seem to have calmed down a little over the last 24 hours or so. Except Ryan. I'm afraid her tormenting spirit will be with us for awhile...uuggg :(
Despite this week's craziness, the babies really are doing very well. Brooklyn still has the sweetest little cry I've ever heard and, as Casey told me this morning, she is by far the best cuddler. Britton is a total diva, but amazingly cute, alert, and ready to party! Jack - Chillmaster. The little guy is so relaxed about everything, rarely fusses unless he is hungry, and simply seems to be content with life. Lila, another chill bug, but more alert and social than Jack. Ryan, as before during the NICU stay, is competing with Britton for H.D.I.C. - Head Diva In Charge. Ryan doesn't fuss, she screams, but good lord, she is beautiful! I'll probably get skewered for saying this, but at this point she is the prettiest of the five, not necessarily the cutest and certainly not the sweetest, but without a doubt the prettiest little thing I ever did see!
Here are their weights as of Friday:
- Brooklyn - 8 pounds, 7 ounces
- Britton - 6 pounds, 10 ounces
- Jack - 10 pounds 2.5 ounces
- Lila - 7 pounds, 14.5 ounces
- Ryan - 8 pounds, 5 ounces
You can probably tell by what you've read so far that the smooth edges of our life are not so smooth anymore. I'm guessing you can sense a bit of frustration through my words and you are sensing right. Life with the Fab Five plus Little Miss Sparkplug is tough and it has taken its toll. We are tired, stressed, ready for things to calm down, and hoping that those calmer, relatively more restful days come sooner than later. Casey and I pass each other in the halls and are barely aware of each other even when we are arms length apart in our own bed. Everything we do now - from showering to eating to playing with Eliot to brushing our teeth - is done in a hurry, usually with a baby or two in hand. Our bodies ache, a sure sign of the worry, stress, and long nights that are now as familiar to us as anything else. We miss each other terribly, we miss our church, we miss our family and friends, and we miss the comforts of our former lives.
Yet, every time I'm at the peak of my frustration, times like last night when I was trying to write this blog, and the words "I can't take this anymore" begin to form in my head, something stops the thought from completing itself. Every single time, without fail, the thought retreats. Maybe it is the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me or maybe it is my faith in the One who brought this mayhem into my life, I don't know exactly because I haven't felt this disconnected spiritually in a good while (kind of hard to squeeze a daily quiet time into the new normal). But when I feel as though I'm coming to the end of my rope, something gently reminds me of how good I've really got it. Something always reminds me of how heartbreaking and life destroying this story could have been. Something reminds me that no matter where I am in life, no matter how challenging everyday living has become, someone somewhere has a steeper hill to climb...no matter what.
We have become a living case study in James's teaching in the first chapter of the New Testament book that bears his name. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds!" Read the rest of the thought outlined in that chapter of the Bible and you'll discover that the key to navigating the storms of life is to be happy, right where you are, no matter what is happening in the world around you. That is the challenge that God presents to us in those few words at the beginning of James and that is a challenge we are proud to have overcome for the moment. Yep, we are stressed, more so probably than we ever have been. We are tired and we are looking forward to a better day (which hopefully comes tomorrow!). We've been through some tough times before, some very rough patches, none as challenging as this one, however. But here's the part that is different this time around: we're happy. We are not bitter, we are not angry, and we are nowhere near regret.
We are in an odd sort of storm, maybe like a hurricane with several eyes where the sunshine shines through with random regularity, I don't know. I've tried to come up with an adequate way to describe the tempest that swirls around us, but to date that's the best I've come up with. Yes, this time in our life is HARD! But it is also the most gratifying, electrifying, and exciting time we've ever experienced. Our main complaints are so minute in comparison with what could have been thrown at us. And the steady mantra of "short term pain, long term gain" maintains its presence at the forefront of our minds, providing a nugget of wisdom and comfort that can be gained only from life experience.
No infections, no illnesses, a seemingly well adjusted, though completely nutty, four-year-old firecracker, great help from generous folks volunteering their time to help us through it all, abundant love for each other and for the babies, relative financial security, donations that still come in from time to time, a mini-community rallying around us, relationship with the God who made this all possible...five precious, beautiful, amazingly perfect little babies. We have so much to be thankful for that the thought of being unhappy seems as ludicrous as does the thought of having five babies at one time. Ha! Crazy, right??!
Be happy, right where you are. It hasn't always been this way for us, it's something we learned. Or rather, it is something we were taught through a conscious deliberate effort on the part of the Great Engineer. When we opened our hearts to Christ, he opened his arms to us and this peace amidst the storm that we now enjoy is the greatest gift he gave (oh yeah, that and the whole eternal life through salvation of our soul thing...). He's been good to us and given us a good life, as defined only in His special way. Sometimes it seems as if he has asked a lot of us though he has promised much in return. But when you boil it down to the basics and you strip away all of the baggage that we bring to the journey, life becomes a lot more manageable. Truly all he has asked of us is to love on these five little babies, to love on each other, and to love those around us as a witness to his power in our lives. That's not asking so much, now is it? :)
It is now 4:25 pm on Monday. It has taken me no fewer than 20 sittings to get this blog done. I am typing this one-handed because my left arm has been occupied by Mr. Jack for the last half hour as I attempt to hold him off of the bottle for as long as possible. For some reason, four of the babies decided to eat at the same time (maybe that evil spirit is not quite done with us yet). Casey is upstairs feeding two babies while a volunteer feeds a third. I think Britton is the only one of the five not being tended to at the moment. The volunteer is leaving soon and we have no one else coming until tomorrow morning...it is going to be an interesting night.
And so the mantra continues its steady beat...hard work always pays...short term pain, long term gain...be happy right where you are...someone somewhere has a steeper hill to climb...God works for the good of those who love him...consider it pure joy...