Fall is my absolute favorite time of year, no question. I love that chill in the air, the gorgeous fall colors. I love pumpkin picking and hayrides and hot chocolate and warm blankets. And most of all, I love being surrounded by my family. Since I feel like I am largely defined by my family, and since fall is the season of thanks, I would like to devote this post to them, and trying to explain to the best of my ability the impact each of them has had on my life so far.
My oldest daughter, B, turned 18 years old this past spring. For lack of a better way of describing it, I am the person I am today due in most part to her. As stated previously, learning of her impending arrival was one of the greatest shocks yet greatest blessings of my life. While I repeatedly questioned my readiness as a mother at that young (and admittedly selfish) age, I could not deny the unbelievable bond I felt with this child from the moment I learned I was expecting. I was constantly hugging my belly, talking to her, rocking her while still in the womb. I read to her and made her countless promises. There was never so much as a shadow of a doubt in my mind that this baby would be a girl although we never had any ultrasound confirmation. And when I was induced one week early (due to her father's scheduled departure the following week for basic training), all it took was one look at that gorgeous, screaming, chubby 8 lb 8 oz baby girl to change my life forever. B has had an amazingly outgoing, charismatic personality from day one. She's been making people laugh since she learned that specific behaviors solicited the reaction she was looking for. I have been blessed to watch her grow into the most beautiful, intelligent, responsible, hardworking, loving, caring young woman you can possibly imagine. She is in her first year of community college, has been in a loving relationship with an incredible young man for a little over a year now, and is still contemplating career pursuits. But the truth is, I am already bursting with pride and am so very honored to call myself her mother.
B was only 14 months old when she became a big sister for the first time. A was born on a sweltering July day in 1993. She was the polar opposite of her big sister from the beginning. She was born at a healthy 7 lbs, 15 oz but did not arrive screaming like B. The cord was wrapped around her neck several times, and for what seemed like an eternity, the doctors and nurses attempted to resucitate her. After what was actually only a minute or so, she began to scream and unfortunately didn't stop for most of her first year! Unlike B, who would smile at random strangers and happily go off with anyone if we let her, A quickly developed a preference for me and my mom. By preference I mean that if anyone else at all tried to hold her, talk to her, or basically come near her (her father included), she would scream. She was a tiny little thing which also concerned us as her big sister always had a "layer or two" to spare! The doctors assured us she would just be a little small for her age, and sure enough, at age 17, she only stands at about 4'9. Although she no longer screams at those she's unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, she is definitely very selective with regard to those she chooses to let into her "circle". She is sweet, quiet, and loving, and above all else, one of the brightest young adults I have ever seen. From the time she was in kindergarten, she has had an insatiable passion for learning. She developed a discipline and commitment to her academics that continues to amaze and inspire me to this day. She is currently a senior in high school and is looking at several reputable colleges in hopes of pursing a career as a Neonatologist. She was valedictorian of her middle school and is currently ranked first in her high school class. She has received numerous awards. This kid is going places, my friends. And I am so honored to be along for the ride.
Several years after the births of B and A, we welcomed the arrival of AB (I know~the letters are confusing!). AB was born the week before Christmas and what a gift from heaven she was. The happiest, most easy going baby I've ever seen. She has always been a "girl on the go"~she can't be still for more than 2 minutes at a time!. As a baby, it was her "Johnny Jump-Up" (a mechanism that hung suspended from a doorway that provided countless hours of jumping & bouncing)~~and boy, did she love that thing. She was far & away my most "girlie girl", always wanting to wear pink and play princess. Even as a toddler, one of her favorite household objects was the mirror, and now as a teenager, it still is to this day! She's always had a flair for the dramatic, and actually spent her middle school years at a local school for the arts as a drama major. She is quite the social butterfly, and has had a circle of friends around her at all times since she first entered preschool. She is sweet and kind and helpful. She can be a bit of an "airhead" at times, but is usually one of the first to laugh at herself. She loves sports and there isn't much she hasn't tried. She's partcipated in basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, gymnastics, soccer, swimming, and will be trying softball for the first time next spring. She is currently a freshman in high school and such a beam of light in our family.
On a cold winter day in 2002, my little man finally arrived. N was 4 weeks early, and although a healthy size, still experienced some problems due to lung immaturity. He was in the NICU for about a week and a half, but has had Mama wrapped around his finger from day one. He was a sweet, happy, lovable little boy who spent the first couple years of his life obsessed with Thomas the Tank and the Wiggles. He has always had a passion for music, and was quick to start dancing anytime he heard a beat. He developed an early fascination with the guitar and still loves it to this day. He continued to follow the "little boy playbook" and became enamored of cars, trucks, and all things sports. He has been playing t-ball/baseball since the age of 5, and has also tried soccer and basketball. He also loves watching sports and is a huge fan of all of our local professional sports teams. He also recently caught the movie "Rudy" on television, and has now also developed a bit of an obesssion with Notre Dame. He is thoughtful, caring, and has the most gorgeous blue eyes (and long eyelashes!) you've ever seen. He is a Mama and Grandma's boy, and since this past February, his most cherished role has been that of protective big brother.
Little miss A (yes, another A) was born this past February after the most tumultous pregnancy one can imagine. As previously explained, she was an IVF baby, and as anyone who has gone through IVF can tell you, there is very intense monitoring throughout the first trimester. I was only about five or six weeks along when they first disovered a problem which was later diagnosed as a subchorionic hematoma. Although I'm still not sure I ever completely grasped this, my best understanding is that it is caused by a "tear" in the placenta, and the most prevailing symptom is bleeding. And bled I did. Throughout my ENTIRE preganancy. I spent the entire 33 weeks and 4 days that I carried her fearing for the worst. I had countless trips to the L & D unit of my hospital, too many unscheduled doctor's visits to remember, and said thousands of prayers for the safe arrival of this little miracle. And so it was, in the very early hours one Saturday morning, at 32 weeks, 5 days, that my water broke. I spent the next 6 days in the hospital being monitored before she was born prematurely. Our little angel weighed in at 4 lbs, 10 oz and was more perfect that we could've ever dreamed. She too spent almost 2 weeks in the NICU and did extremely well in her time there. Since that time, she has been more than catching up, and is now the chubbiest, happiest, most amazing bundle of joy in the world. She is the apple of everyone's eye, and as doted upon as one baby can possibly be.
Last weekend, myself, my fiance, and all the kids (including my oldest's boyfriend who is now like a member of the family) did our annual pumpkin patch trip. There was a hayride and pumpkin picking and apple slinging and animal visiting and fritter eating. It was one of the most joyful and blessed days in recent memory for me. To be surrounded by these incredibly amazing, wonderful, individual personalities and know that they are a part of me and always will be is the most fulfilling feeling in this world. My heart bursts with joy. My cup truly runneth over.