My Babies

My Babies

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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Cost of a Child

As I was helping my mother go through some boxes of hers the other day, I found this treasure and wanted to share it with as many people as possible.  My mom is nearly blind now, a result of repeatedly detaching retinas.  She basically has, at best, 15% of her vision left.  So, she has been asking me to help her go through her things "while she can still see a little bit".  As extremely heartbreaking it is to me to realize that she is never going to be the same, this time is time that we both cherish.  So, being the sentimental romantic that she is (like mother like daughter), she has kept countless prayer books and favorite quotes and printed stories in boxes...just waiting for someone to read them with her.  So, this one is precious to me, for many reasons.  Keep in mind - my mother and father have seven children, and they did it all on one salary.  Only God knows how...but I have such gratitude in my heart for all that they did for us.

The Cost of a Child

The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140 for a middle-income family.  Talk about sticker shock.  That doesn't even touch college tuition.  For those with kids, that figure lends to wild fantasies about all the things we could have bought, all the places we could have traveled, all the money we could have banked if not for (insert child's name here).  For others, that number might confirm the decision to remain childless.

But $160,140 isn't so bad if you break it down.  It translates into $8,896.66 a year, $741.38 a month or $171.08 a week.  That's a mere $24.44 a day.  Just over a dollar an hour.  Still, you might think the best financial advice says don't have children if you want to be rich.

It's just the opposite.

There's no way to put a price tag on:  Feeling a new life move for the first time and seeing the bump of a knee rippling across your skin. Have someone cry, "It's a boy!" or shout, "It's a girl!" then hearing the baby wail or seeing your child of the heart for the first time and knowing love ties stronger than blood.  Cupping an entire head in the palm of your hand.  Making out "dada" or "mama" from all the cooing and gurgling.

What do you get for your $160,140?

Naming rights.  First, middle and last.  Glimpses of God every day.  Giggles under the covers every night.  More love than your heart can hold.  Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.  Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds and warm cookies.  A hand to hold, usually covered with jam.  A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites, building sandcastles and skipping down the sidewalk in the pouring rain.  Someone to laugh yourself silly with no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.

For $160,140, you never have to grow up.  You get to finger-paint, carve pumpkins, play hide-and-seek, catch lightning bugs and never stop believing in Santa Claus.  You have an excuse to keep reading the adventures of Piglet and Pooh, watching Saturday morning cartoons, going to Disney movies and wishing on stars.  You get to frame rainbows, hearts and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray-painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, hand prints set in clay for Mother's Day and cards with backwards letters for Father's Day.

For $160,140, there's no greater "bang for your buck".  You get to be a hero just for retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof, taking the training wheels off the bike, removing a sliver, filling the wading pool, coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs and coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless.  You get a front-row seat to history; to witness the first step, first word, first bra, first date, first time behind the wheel.  You get to be immortal.  You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren.  You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications and human sexuality no college can match.

In the eyes of a child - YOUR child - you rank right up there with God.  You have the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever and love them without limits, so one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Almost 2 cm...

I’m sitting in an exam room at Magee Hospital, waiting to see the doctor.  They are all running behind today.  That figures, because today they are supposed to check me for dilation.  But since I’ve been waiting a while, Baby Boy might just come while I wait!  I hate waiting for news, and I hate waiting to have “an exam” even more!  I just want to get it over with - although I do realize, after two other deliveries, that this is just the start of the invasion.  Sorry – was that too graphic?  Nah – I’m pretty sure my readers, if there are any, are mostly women.

At least my Non-Stress Test went well.  He was very active this morning.  Normally this is his sleepy time.  He prefers the evening and nighttime to move all about and keep Mommy up.  I remember Aria being like this.  Oh no…and she STILL doesn’t always sleep through the night!  Well, I’m very relieved that she had an “ok” night last night, despite a low fever and runny nose.  Oh, yeah, and her split lip.  I can’t believe I was right there when it happened and she STILL cut her lip open.  She was hanging on my pant leg and my pants started to fall down, so I stepped away – ONE STEP – and she smacked her pretty little face on the my mom’s hard kitchen floor.  Let me just say that my daughter is stronger than me, because she cried for all of 15 seconds before she had her beloved prize placed into her hands – an ice cube – and I was a wreck for about an hour.  You know why?  Because I felt it was MY fault.  Mothers – you know what I mean, right?  So, my sweet, strong, stubborn little girl sucked happily on three or four ice cubes while my own mother had to calm me down, saying “Look at her!  She’s FINE!”  I guess no matter how old you get, you still need your mommy to say that to you.  She later laughed and gave me a big hug and said “See, you’re fine, and Aria is fine.”  Thanks, Mom.

As I was typing that last bit, Dr. Streitman came in.  He’s wonderful.  He has 7 kids of his own, a very compassionate spirit and a great sense of humor.  He reassured me of some things and checked me for dilation.  He said I’m almost 2 cm dilated and probably 50% effaced.  YAY!!!  He also said he felt the baby’s head – can you even believe that?!  I am in awe!  My baby boy is SO close!!!  I can’t wait to hold him and kiss him all over!  I am very happy and hopeful.  It won’t be long now… 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Prayer for Those Who Lose Shoes

I know it's been almost 2 months since I posted anything - I just haven't made the time.  However, this is something that I've been meaning to post for quite some time, and I think you'll all appreciate it.  My mother is a collector of poems and prayers and has been all her life (she passed that down to me).  She sat down with me one day to show me one of her collections, and we came across this amazing piece of work.  I will never be the same after reading it.  I hope it helps to bring perspective to your life, as it has to mine.  I've put it up on my refrigerator to remind me every day of how blessed I truly am.  I wish the author had taken credit for it.  If anyone knows who it is, please let me know.

Prayer for Those Who Lose Shoes and Those Who Have None to Lose

We pray for children
who sneak popsicles before supper.
Who erase holes in math workbooks.
Who can never find their shoes.
And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from
Behind barbed wire.
Who can’t bound down the street
in a new pair of sneakers.
Who never “counted potatoes”.
Who are born in places we
wouldn’t be caught dead in.
Who never saw a circus.
Who live in an X-rated world.
We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses
And fistfuls of dandelions.
Who hug us in a hurry
and forget their lunch money.
And we pray for those
who never get dessert.
Who have no security blanket
to drag behind them.
Who watch their parents
watch them die.
Who can’t find any bread to steal.
Who don’t have any rooms to clean.
Whose pictures aren’t on
anybody’s dresser.
Whose monsters are real.
We pray for children
who spend all their allowance
before Tuesday.
Who throw tantrums in
the grocery store and
pick at their food.
Who like ghost stories.
Who shove their dirty clothes under
the bed and never rinse out the tub.
Who get visits from the tooth fairy.
Who don’t like to be kissed in
front of the car pool.
Who squirm in church and scream
into the phone.
Whose tears we sometimes laugh at
and whose smiles can make us cry.
And we pray for those
Whose nightmares come in
the daytime.
Who will eat anything.
Who have never seen a dentist.
Who aren’t spoiled by anybody.
Who go to bed hungry and
cry themselves to sleep.
Who live and move, but have
no being.
We pray for children who want
to be carried.
And for those who must be.
For those we never give up on
and for those who never get
a second chance.
For those we smother
and for those who will
grab the hand of anybody kind enough
to offer it.

Author Unknown

Monday, January 31, 2011

Limitless Tears

So, you'd think that, since I've cried every day for the past 2 years and 5 months that I couldn't possibly still be able to produce tears.  At least, I'm amazed that I still do.  And I'm not always given warning that they will start to fall.   Some days are much easier than others and I only shed a few solitary tears.  My comical, active toddler certainly helps to distract me and shake me from my reveries!  I thank the good Lord every day for the bright light that she is in my life.  But other days...well, it takes me right back to those first few days after my heart broke into billions of pieces.

Christopher and I were watching something about the Kennedy's home movies on Sunday night, and it hadn't been a particularly difficult day - in fact it had been quite pleasant.  We'd spent a great Sunday together as a family, something that I always will cherish.  Yet, within a few minutes of watching, I spiraled into a full-on sobbing fit.  Did you know that Jackie and Jack had a baby boy that died shortly after birth?  His name is Patrick.  He was their last child.  I had no idea.  The "news" hit me like a bomb.  It took me right back to that cold, dark examination room, right when they told us that Ava had no heartbeat.  How could that be, when I was in labor, ready to deliver her?  Don't misunderstand - I am in that hospital room a little bit every day, in some degree or another.  But this just hit so hard and unexpectedly, on such a nice evening, and I was lost for an hour in my sweet husband's arms, sobbing hysterically about our dear 1st baby girl.  Two years and five months later, I still cry as hard as I did when it first happened.  Why is that?  HOW is that?  And will I ever run out of tears?

I can't tell my whole story of losing Ava at one time, so my posts now and then will contain little bits and pieces of what I can share.  I am hoping that someday I am strong enough to tell it in its entirety, because I think that that may help me.  I did have to give a pretty detailed account to the few lawyers with whom we spoke soon after Ava's death, but that was different.  That was an account of what happened...which we never actually fully found out.  But that's quite ANOTHER story.  So, blogging is certainly a wonderful free alternative to therapy sessions (which didn't really help me much)!  But, don't worry - I will also talk a LOT about my 2nd daughter and my son that will arrive in April.  I will share stories of my husband and all of my loved ones.  You see, even though Ava never breathed a breath outside of my womb, she is still very much alive inside of me, and as important and precious to me as any of my children.  I know that people who read this that have lost children will certainly understand.

There are days that I have had in the past two years and five months that have saved my life - physically, emotionally and spiritually.  And there will be many more happy times ahead, I know.  I won't understand why I had to lose my daughter Ava until I get to Heaven.  You'd better believe I'll wait in line to talk to Jesus and ask Him "why".  But something I heard on the radio last night - on a Christian station - gave me hope.  The speaker told of something someone said when a father lost his two daughters.  "You will spend more happy times in eternity with your children than you would have here on earth".  I believe that is true.  I HAVE to.  And so I move along on this earth, enjoying what I can, awaiting a joyful reunion with my baby girl and all of my loved ones.  In the meantime,  I'm going to go hug and kiss and squeeze my sweet, funny little 18-month-old.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Apple Spitter

I'm sitting here with my 18-month-old daughter Aria while she eats an entire apple (skin off). Well, she started off actually eating it, but now she's just taking bites and spitting out every other bite. I'm tempted to take it away from her, but to be honest, even though she's making a mess all over the couch and herself, she's quite enjoying herself. And she is actually staying still for more than 3 minutes...which just doesn't happen very often. Yes, I've tried just shaving pieces off for her, but for some reason, no matter how small or thin the piece of apple, she always chokes on it. So I'm trying to trust that she knows how much she can put in her mouth without choking, and it works really well in that respect.

I'm learning to let certain things go now, which I think comes with experience. Well, experience and a decrease in energy, being almost 7 months pregnant. But 7 months ago, if she's been making such a mess and pretty much wasting an apple, I would have made a fuss and taken it from her, which would have resulted in her becoming upset - and for no good reason. I am also really getting to know the strange creature that has completely taken over my heart and life. It's so funny - I loved her from the moment I knew she was coming into our lives, fell hard for her in her first several months here (despite a bout of post-partum depression), and have spent every waking moment with her in the past 18 months. And yet, there is so much more to learn every day about (and from) her.

My children will be 21 months apart, which means a lot of things. Things that I will learn as I go. I'm pretty happy with their age difference - I feel she really needs a constant companion other than me. All I know is that there will never be a dull moment! Speaking of the little man to arrive in was the first day that I could really balance my coffee cup on my belly while leaning back to check email. As soon as I placed the cup on my belly, he started to kick - it was really funny seeing the half-full cup jump around above my son. He's quite the mover, and I love feeling his crazy movements. Although when I imagine he's doing a complete somersault, it's not the most comfortable feeling! But I cherish baby movements - it helps let me know that things are alright.

Well, Aria is nearing the end of her apple - she's done quite well - and it's her nap time. So that means I get to take a shower and clean up a little around here. Only for it to get messy again when she wakes up!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Favorite Things

My Favorite Things:

My daughter’s smile, eyes, ears, nose, toes, fingers…you get the idea

Cinnamon candles

Baking cupcakes for my family

Fresh new notebooks

A new box of crayons – and actually coloring with them in new coloring books

Singing directly to people in Church and watching their faces light up

Hearing my daughter’s laugh when she teases the dog

Snuggling with my cat on a cold day

Snuggling with my husband on a cold night

Sunday dinner at my mom’s

The aroma of homemade sauce cooking

Buying my daughter pretty outfits without having to hear her opinion (I know that won’t last very long)

Listening to my baby girl talk animatedly in her crib upon waking up – her voice is so pretty!

Coming to the last few pages of a book and actually being able to finish it

Cheesecake Factory White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake – my husband got me a whole one for my 30th birthday as a surprise, and as an extra surprise, he got Aria her own little one for her 1st Christmas…

Feeling my babies move inside me during their gestational period

My Mommy Group – I’m so glad I started it in October 2009 – I love those women!

Wrapping presents

Going out to eat and having appetizers and dessert

Napping with my daughter

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New to This

I started writing my blog just in a Word document in October, and I'm only getting around to publishing it now. So I'll be a little behind to start, but I'll catch up. Today is January 22, 2011, but my first post is from October 1, 2010.

October 1, 2010

I’ve recently been inspired to start a blog. Not because I think anyone actually wants to read it, but because I have to get these thoughts and feelings out onto something concrete so that I can move forward. Literally. I feel held back by my passing thoughts.

I have many ideas for topics, but I’m not sure where to start. So I suppose I’ll just begin with introducing myself – to those who are bored enough to be reading this.

I am a 30-year-old who feels like a 24-year-old, most days. I am a true redhead. I am a trained professional vocalist. I am the sixth of seven children in an Italian/Irish Catholic family. My mom is arguably my best friend. I got married 2 1/2 years ago to a wonderful 100% American Italian Catholic man named Christopher who is from the same hometown and church parish. We’d never met until the summer of 2007. We have one daughter in heaven named Ava, one daughter here on earth named Aria and one baby on the way in April, the gender of whom is yet to be determined. We live in a cute Cape Cod style home in New Kensington, merely 10 houses away from where Christopher grew up, and where his parents still live. My parents live 5 minutes away, as do most of my siblings.

I am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom, although it makes things a little tight financially some months…especially during the Holidays! But it’s totally worth it to us. My mother stayed at home with all seven of us and we are all still very close to her and each other. I love being the main caretaker of Aria, and being able to witness every little change in her that comes with each new day. She’s starting to walk now and it’s the most amazing thing to me – I don’t remember the last time I got so excited by something like I do when I’m cheering her on. She is the most fascinating creature I’ve ever known. It’s safe to say that I’m totally in love with her.

The death of our first daughter, Ava, in August of 2008, has changed me forever. I used to be happier – I can’t explain it. The devastation that occurred inside me the moment we found out she had no heartbeat, while I was in labor, is something that will always be with me – physically, mentally and emotionally. I even look different when I see myself in the mirror and in pictures. It was a major turning point in my life and I can never go back to the person I was before August 27, 2008. But I’ve tried to piece together the parts of a “normal” life so that I’ve been able to move forward – not move on – move FORWARD. There’s a difference. Even though I wanted to die when the angel of my heart passed away, I knew that I couldn’t do that to my husband and my family. And then, three months later, when we found out I was pregnant again (something that I’d sworn I didn’t want in the weeks following Ava’s death), I knew I had to live for this next baby. And, in fact, it was this baby, Aria, who probably saved my life.

I love October. Today is the first day of October 2010 and it is such a perfect day. It is GORGEOUS and sunny and cool. October gives me a renewed sense of hope – weird, I know – since it’s the end of the year. But there’s something about the crisp autumn air and the seasonal treats and the reds, oranges and yellows…that make me joyful. I remember, for the longest time, I wanted to get married in the month of October. That was the original idea when Christopher and I first got engaged. But then we sped things along so that we could provide a home for Ava. I don’t even know how to address that now.

I feel like I should stop right here for now. I know it was a jumble of things, but I hope it served as a proper introduction. I will be elaborating on all this subjects in my coming posts. I want to thank my friends Janene and Christine for inspiring me to create a blog. I hope to get to know all of my readers in their blogs as well. Thank you for taking the time to humor me...