One month with Brooks Wilder.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

This letter was written in mid-July when Brooks was 1 month old but we still hadn't settled on his name. 

Dear Baby,

We've been together one month now and I'm learning you, though I feel we've known each other much longer. 

Here's what I know.

You love the outdoors. In the wee hours of the morning when you wrestle against sleep, you and I will sneak down the stairs and out the back door to the deck at 1:00am and 3:00am and 5:00am. The thick July air hits your face and you immediately calm, your breath slows, your wide eyes gaze up toward the silhouettes of the trees. Though I'm ready to sleep more than 90 minutes at at time, I know these times with you will soon come to an end, and I savor kissing your moonlit cheeks and having you all to myself. We sway and sway until your eyes grow heavy and you drift back to sleep. You love the sound of chirping crickets and running water and I have a feeling you always will. 
The week before we met you, I was working at the hospital and a patient's heart stopped. I happened to be the first one at his side, so I instinctively hopped up on the bed and started chest compressions to attempt to restart his heart. I'm sure it was quite a sight: my 9-months-pregnant belly hunched over a dying man, desperate to revive him. The code team arrived and quickly took over, and I felt a strong contraction as I backed out of the busy room. I thought it might be the perfect way to go into labor (though I didn't for a few more days). But then, I worried that maybe you'd felt the emotional intensity and physical stress of the situation. In reality, I think it must have just rocked you back to sleep. And maybe, in the smallest way, it prepared you for the intensity of a 4-year-old and 2-year-old who can't keep their hands (or lips) off of you. You are the calmest, most peaceful baby I've ever met. 

I've loved getting to know you this past month: the way you grunt like a piglet when you're hungry, and you eat like one too. You gained over 4 lbs. in month 1, shooting you up to the 88th percentile for weight. 
I've also enjoyed getting to know myself in a new way as a mom of three. No one can prepare you for the responsibility and privilege and weight of having three tiny children watching your every move and needing your every moment. 

We sang this hymn in the first church service you ever attended on the outside: 

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

Sweet baby, all other ground: a good night of sleep, health, well behaved children, our own "righteousness" - it's all sinking sand. I place the full weight of my hope and peace on the solid rock of Christ. I pray, more than anything, that you will too. 

I love you, sweet boy,
Mommy

Our son's name

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that the does, he prospers." Psalm 1:1-3


Never in a million years would we have planned to change our baby's name at almost two months old. Names have always been incredibly important to me - I rarely forget them - and we'd been searching for months for the perfect one to fit our little guy. He arrived 2 weeks early and we'd been circling over a few, but hadn't landed yet. But because you can't leave the hospital without a name on paper, we chose two names from our list: Ellis Lincoln. Though we loved (and still love) both, they just didn't fit him or our family for various reasons. It felt awkward calling him either one, like a suit that just didn't quite fit. This was a conundrum we never experienced with our first two, so we began to contemplate changing his name completely. (Side note: Not to worry, he hasn't been completely nameless. He does have plenty of unofficial names, Brother Bear being my favorite.)

I've scoured hundreds of lists of names for the past 8 weeks and become quite a student of nomenclature. I've learned that Kennedy has a lovely sound but means "misshapen head," and that Oliver ranks #12 in the US but tops the charts in a few other countries. I've entertained names as classic as James and as unique as Falcon (though not for long). 


After weeks of searching and praying and hitting walls and losing sleep over which name might fit him, Shawn and I prayed that God would reveal his name in a dream, if that's what it took. It was not a conventional prayer, as I'm not sure He's ever really spoken to me in that way. It was a prayer out of desperation, a last resort - and honestly, not something I expected to happen.


A few weeks ago, it did. 

I drifted back to sleep after a 4:00am feeding and into my dreams popped a smiling, confident little boy with blond hair and a striped shirt. He said, "My name is Brookland, B-R-O-O-K-L-A-N-D, but everyone calls me Brooks." I woke up slightly startled and searched for Brookland, a name I'd never heard, on all my bookmarked naming websites. I couldn't find any information other than a loose translation: "peaceful place." It struck me immediately because anyone who's held him to their chest has sighed, "Oh, he's just so peaceful." Brooks is a beloved family name we'd been considering, and the name I would have been given had I been a boy. I probably would've thought he was saying Brooklyn in the dream expect that he spelled it out.

A brook is a stream of water, and the passage that kept coming to me from Scripture was Psalm 1:1-3. It is such a fitting prayer for his life. A couple weeks after the dream, a friend who knew nothing of our quandary sent us a baby gift addressed to "Ellis Lincoln." When we opened it, we were stunned to see a beautiful painting of a brook surrounded by trees with the passage from Psalm 1:1-3 written out. 

To be honest, even after all these signs, we still considered other names. Brookland (pronounced BROOK-lund) wasn't a name I would have chosen from a list, but maybe that's the point. We just can't shake the feeling that this boy is our Brookland. Our peaceful place. We pray his life - in Christ - brings peace and order into this chaotic, confusing world just as he has already begun to do in his few short weeks on the planet.

So friends, meet our beautiful Brookland Wilder. B-R-O-O-K-L-A-N-D. But you can call him Brooks. 

Ellis' birth story.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Spoiler alert: The last couple weeks of my pregnancy with Ellis were the hardest I've experienced, but his delivery was the absolute easiest. God has answered so many prayers in Ellis' miracle of a life already. We celebrate the gift of this sweet-spirited boy a little more each day that we get to know him. The name Ellis means "benevolent" or "kind" and "Jehovah is God." The Lord has been so kind to us in giving this precious boy to us. He is such a gentle, peaceful little guy who fits our family better than we could've imagined. For those who like to read birth story details, I haven't spared any - mostly so I don't forget them myself. Thank you, Jesus, for giving such a lavish gift!

The final two weeks before Ellis' birth were grueling. For days on end, I contracted every 15 minutes or so, even through the night. This phenomenon has a name -- prodromal labor -- and it's depleting in every way. At my 37-week appointment, I was 3cm dilated and 60% effaced. It was encouraging to know that these contractions were doing something. Still, I knew of other moms who had walked around at 3cm dilated for weeks, so I wasn't hopeful he was coming soon.

On Sunday (the day before he was born), the kids and I stayed home from church because I could barely function. I was 37 weeks pregnant and had hit a wall. After cramping and contracting off and on for 24 hours, I told Shawn through tears, "I think I'd rather die than give birth." In reality, the only thing that would bring relief would be to give birth. But I couldn't think or see clearly at that point. Shawn's mom was able to jump in and help with the big kids while I limped around contracting all day. I was a miserable sight, I'm sure.

That night, I texted my sister and parents and a few close friends and emailed the pastors' wives at our church just begging for prayers for mercy on me. I was discouraged and afraid that I wouldn't be able to make it to the hospital in time for pain relief... or possibly worse, that I would be pregnant for weeks more. I spent some time in the Word and read through positive birth affirmations, asking the Lord to reset my outlook and give me strength for labor and delivery. Honestly, my expectations for a positive birth experience were very low and I needed my family and my Jesus to remind me to keep my head up and finish strong.

The following morning, exactly two weeks before my due date, a strong contraction startled me awake. I focused on my breathing because this one felt different - lower, stronger, longer. A few minutes later, another one came. Though it felt powerful, nothing was really that different from previous days when I'd been contracting consistently for hours. When I stood up to get out of bed, I felt a small gush of fluid. Shawn and I had prayed specifically for my water to break at the beginning of labor (in order to know for sure I was in labor and head to the hospital in time), but I still didn't really believe it would actually happen that way. I texted my OB to let him know about my water possibly breaking, and he told me I could come into the office for a labor check.

As I was getting ready, though, I had doubts. The contractions had stopped, and no more fluid was leaking out at all. It wouldn't hurt to check, though. We brought our half-packed hospital bag in the car just in case, but I wasn't feeling very hopeful that this was it.

Once arriving to the office, I still wasn't contracting, but was examined anyway. Surprisingly, my doctor tested the fluid and yes, it was my bag of waters that had started to leak. And yes, I was at least 4cm dilated and 80% effaced. Hearing those words was a game changer for me. We were directly admitted to the hospital to bypass triage (where I had given birth to Lanie) and our doctor congratulated us on having a baby... today! I still didn't quite believe it as I wasn't having any contractions, and felt nervous that going straight to the hospital would commence a string of interventions if I wasn't progressing (i.e. Pitocin, C-section, etc.). I asked if I could go walk around the mall for a bit before heading to the hospital, but my doctor was adamant that we get to the hospital soon, reminding me, "You know your body... you can progress from 4cm to 9cm really fast."

Amazingly, the moment we checked into the hospital, the contractions started with a vengeance. They were every two minutes and powerful. It's as if my mind told my body, "You made it here and it's a safe place to give birth... now go!" The nurse brought us to our room and made quick work of drawing labs and paging the anesthesiologist because I knew I wanted an epidural this time around. Within 20 minutes, the epidural was in. I was so impressed and so, so grateful for their expediency. Soon, though, I started feeling anxious and shaky, probably a combination of the epidural and dilating quickly. Shawn turned on Fernando Ortega music on my phone and read the first three chapters of Ephesians to me while I sipped apple juice and munched on an orange popsicle. Nurses came in and out of the room and were confused at just how peaceful it felt. We knew God's presence was there.

An hour into my hospital stay, around 12pm, I was checked and found to be 7cm dilated. About 30 minutes later, my contractions were slowing a bit, so I was checked again. 8cm. A few minutes after that, I felt strong pressure and knew I was complete. The epidural was working, but I had asked for the smallest dosage available, so I felt each contraction and the undeniable pressure to push. The nurse and the doctor came a few minutes later, set up the room, turned on the warming table, and helped me put my legs up. As soon as I felt a contraction, I pushed a few times, felt the ring of fire, and gave birth to his head. One more strong push and he was out. 12:57pm. 2.5 hours of active labor, one contraction-worth of pushes. My most peaceful labor and delivery yet, by far. 

Beautiful baby Ellis was placed on my chest and immediately began to pink up and cry. He was exactly the same weight as Lanie was, and his face looked identical to Liam's as a newborn, dimples and all. He had a head full of auburn hair, wide glittering eyes, and such a peaceful demeanor.

I don't think I realized just how much trauma was still lingering in my heart from Lanie's whirlwind, out-of-control birth experience in triage two years ago until the final days leading up to Ellis' birth. I felt so helpless in the face of a mountain of fear. Shawn helped me to pray specific, bold prayers to the Lord surrounding his birth - but I have to admit, I didn't really believe that He would answer them. In a haze of fear and doubt, I believed that fast, chaotic, wildly painful labors were just my lot in life and I would just have to get through it somehow. It wasn't a faith-filled response, but it's how I processed it. So for the Lord to choose to answer my faithless prayers in ways I couldn't have even imagined just undid me in the best way. I never imagined this would be my smoothest, even enjoyable birth; that at the end, I would say "I could do that again tomorrow!" Our God is so kind, so much more than I deserve - not only to give us a perfectly healthy boy, but to bless me with such a redeeming birth experience.

Brothers.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This image so typifies this new normal of ours: little brother is a bit fussy, so big brother asks to cuddle him, undeterred by his crying and squirming. Just look at Liam's face: pure love. He tells us every day, "I knew I would love him on the outside, but I didn't know I'd love him this much."

Because I want to remember...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Liam at 4.5 years old: Compassionate, perceptive, responsible, silly, and the most protective big brother around. Gives a hundred sloppy, wet kisses to baby brother every day. Keeps Lanie in line (or at least tries) and explains the rules and expectations to her. Is learning to read and can read simple sentences and books like "Go, Dog, Go!" Has an enormous imagination. Uses words like "obscure" in context ("Red and blue are basic colors, but gold and peach are more obscure.) Builds paper airplanes by the dozen. Aspires to be a race car driver, a singer, a doctor, and a builder when he grows up. Loves Lego kits, memory games, mazes, and dinosaur trivia.
Lanie at 2.5 years old: Spunky, vivacious, cuddly (on her terms), passionate, emotional. The highest pitched scream we've ever heard. Lover of string cheese and watermelon and "jelly" (Jello). Independent as they come. Has a constant song on her lips: current favorites are Holy, Holy, Holy; Oh Praise the Name; and Can't Stop the Feeling. Funniest Newby by far. Also the clumsiest Newby by far, tripping on something about every half hour. Thumb sucker and blanket hoarder. Says to the Trader Joe's employee who helps us load our groceries into the car, "Bye! I love you! Bye!" 

These two share a bedroom now and bedtime has become quite prolonged. The other night, I overheard Lanie singing (as usual) with some new lyrics to her favorite song:
Lanie: Oh praise the name of the Lord our poop! (Giggles)
Liam: Lanie! I know you're just singing that because you're not a Christian. But that is not ok!

The other day in the car, Liam told me this:
Mommy, I don't fink Lanie understands the Gospel. Can I tell her about it? Lanie, you are a sinner. Do you know what a sin is? It's when you don't obey God and stuff. But Jesus died so you didn't have to die... He died on the cross for all of our sins, not just one. And now He's alive! He's in two places at once: He's in our hearts and in heaven, behind those clouds over there. And when we get to Heaven we will be wif Him all the time.

As a mom, there's nothing more beautiful to my ears. Can't help but adore these two!
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