One kid, two kid, three kid, FIVE!
It was 2 weeks before Christmas and all through the house, EVERYTHING was stirring but thankfully not a mouse!
That’s right you read that title right. This past Christmas 2016, we were a family of 7. If you didn’t get a mental image of mass chaos let me help by painting the picture a little bit more. 7 of us, 5 kids all under the age of 5 in a 1,100 sqft home, 3 pets… and a partridge in a pear tree.
We got the phone call and our licensing work leads with the youngest (she knows me so well) “Hey, we have a 2 week old who is about ready for discharge are you interested?” Ummm, duh! was my thought. “Oh, he has 2 older sisters as well, 2 and 3 years old, but she turns 4 tomorrow”. Oh, that immediate yes just transformed into an “I gotta talk to Derek.” So, Derek and I talk about it, we said yes and a couple hours later 2 cute little girls are dropped off at our house and I am headed to the hospital to meet the baby.
Boom! 7 of us.
Baby boy was our first newborn. I walked into the hospital and asked told the front desk ladies who I was and why I was there and they walked me up to Peds. He had moved out of the NICU and the hospital asked that my husband and I do a full 24 hours with him. Derek and I both work so we worked out doing 2 over nights with him. A nurse came downstairs to meet me and with her badge unlocked the doors and took me to meet him.
Ya’ll, I am a mother of 2 boys. Held them at birth and have been holding them every day since, but when I walked into that room… he was so small, so fragile. Baby Boy was swaddled up all nice and tight surrounded by warmers in swaying gently in a Mamaroo. The nurse asked me if I would like to hold him, and I told him no. I told him “No, you don’t wake sleeping babies” but in all honesty I was scared.
I put my purse down, washed my hands, I sat down in the rocker and stared at him. All my confidence in motherhood left me as soon as I laid eyes on this little boy. Fell in love and met face to face with fear.
Baby boy was our first NAS baby. NAS- Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome aka “drug baby”. We were warned that he could have some of the following:
- Tremors (trembling)- Shakes
- Irritability (excessive crying)- Purple Crying
- Sleep problems
- High-pitched crying
- Tight muscle tone
- Hyperactive reflexes
- Yawning, stuffy nose, and sneezing – 4 sneezes means stressed
- Poor feeding and suck
- Fever or unstable temperature
But, I got over myself, I picked him up, I held him, I loved him. We loved him.
Derek ended up staying the night with him and did such a great job the doctor signed off on us being able to bring him home without having to do the second night. He came home on his older sister’s birthday and we all celebrated her together.
Now, they tell us in training that kids have a honeymoon period. My two little girls did not. God love them. They came in full tantrum and testing galore!
The second night we had them (our first night altogether) I was putting the 2-year-old down for bed. We didn’t make up the toddler bed at this point. We left it as a crib and lowered the platform. I placed her in there and she started crying. No problem, I took her out and held her and rocked. I told her she was safe and loved. After a little bit she settled down and I put her back in her bed… crying. So, I sat down in front of her bed and sang to her.. screaming.
Mind you this “trying to calm her down” went on for a little bit, meaning it felt like FOREVER!
At one point she grabbed the blanket and looked at me and blew her nose into it. I must have made a face because she stopped crying and smiled. She then stood up and leaned on the side of the crib, with her forearms resting on the top and her hands cupped and hanging over. Almost like contemplating her next move, she looked very studious if I do say so myself. She brought her hands to her face and blew her nose into her hands. Then she cupped her hands again, resting over the crib, and started squishing them together to make this awful finger in gak noise.
Nope, I’m out. “DEREK!!” Tag teamed my husband in. From that day on she used boogers against me… smartest 2-year-old EVER! She had the best laugh and smile, she really did.
The older one, the 4-year-old, didn’t so much test boundaries but she did have some wicked tantrums. She would get set off randomly and start screaming, crying and would hurt herself. Hitting her self, tearing at her skin, ripping her hair out… you name it. We had to act very quickly and the only thing that would settle her is to have my husband “bear hug” her and tell her she is safe and okay, over and over. She was my tomboy princess, very creative.
How scary it must have been for them. Being in strangers home and 3 new siblings to share attention with. Plus, being around people that looked different to them, new smells, new animals… new sensory overload.
To be our best, we had to be observant. We had to be creative. We had to be loving, and we had to be in 5 different places at once. Figuring out how to give everyone the attention they needed, to make sure the 3 felt safe and that our boys didn’t feel neglected was a constant on our mind. But we were a team and I like to think we crushed it.
These two girls, as trying as it felt at times, stole my heart and taught me how to truly step out of my own way to serve someone else. I am forever grateful for them.
A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and depth of that privilege are not lost on me. – Jody Landers
Within a couple days, DAYS, I was Mommy and Derek was Daddy, routines were being formed and within a couple weeks daycare was seeing improvements in their behavior (they had never been to a daycare before so there was even more adjusting). We were seeing actual growth within these girls and quickly, it was amazing. One of the coolest things to witness. Witnessing how just loving someone can create growth. How simple, how important! I read a quote recently that always comes to mind when a child calls me Mommy. It is “A child born to another woman calls me Mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and depth of the privilege are not lost on me. – Jody Landers. You feel that weight, it becomes this physical heft that you wear like a jacket, every day, or at least I did.
The 3 of them went to a relative who was already taking care of another sibling. I went with DSS to meet her (the relative) we thought it would be a good idea to show the kids that we were all a team and that everything was good and going to be okay. I pulled up to her house, her double wide with missing windows, junk in the yard and a missing dead bolt with a sock in the hole. My heart instantly sank and I became angry inside. I kept having to remind myself that materials
I pulled up to her house, her double wide with missing windows, junk in the yard and a missing dead bolt with a sock in the hole. My heart instantly sank and I became angry inside. I kept having to remind myself that materials don’t reflect love.
The visit was not as I had imagined and the relative was not kind to me, but what did I expect? I was this outsider who had been “playing house” with her kin. While I said my goodbyes to the girls she held Baby Boy close to her. I wasn’t able to say good bye to the Baby Boy we brought home from the hospital, and that had to be okay, it was okay. It hurt but you have to have faith. Faith in His plan and faith in DSS, as crazy as that sounds.
I cried that night. 54 days we were together. I like to think we were what they needed when they needed it. Love happens quickly, heart break even faster, faith heals in time. A few weeks later we got another call.