We’ve been on a writing hiatus…for a great reason.
On Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 1:35am, we welcomed our FOURTH (!) little boy to the world. Please meet, Peter Simon Balentine. His birth was a cathedral moment for Adam and me.
Adam yelled out, “it’s a boy!” and I cried, “I wanted a boy so bad!" How’s that for honesty?
"We get to keep him?" I kept thinking as he let out his first beautiful cries on my chest. Death wasn’t at our doorstep. Life was fresh and new.
Mommy and Peter!
|Minutes after birth. A bunting hangs behind Adam and Peter of Teddy, Simon and Thomas' births.|
We took seven weeks away from the blog to relish and even mourn during the first week of Peter’s life, enjoy quiet time and quite honestly, rest. We are tired. When we had time to write, we chose sleep (or work in Adam’s case) and time to simply stare at Peter and play with Teddy.
We spent a day and a half in the hospital and decided to head home with our little boy. The nurse helped us gather our things and got me a wheel chair to be escorted out. I’m very familiar with this wheel chair ride out of St. Luke’s Hospital Kansas City. You see, the last time I was wheeled out with my baby, Thomas, our 13 week miscarriage, his tiny body lay in a small box on my lap, prepared for our funeral home to cremate. So many mothers leave the hospital without their baby. Memories of the families whom I have visited in the hospital who left without their child flashed through my head. I knew this moment was a tremendous gift. "You get to leave with your baby - something you very much took for granted with Teddy," I thought. We took photos of leaving the hospital with Peter – images and memories of Simon flooded my mind. "Amy, this moment, this new life, is a kiss from God. Soak it in."
Adam went ahead of me to get the car, and my nurse wheeled Peter and me out of the hospital. We went by the office where we found out how sick Simon was. And then wheeled by the back exit door, the one where Jesus carried us down after Simon’s prognosis was delivered to us. Thank you, God, for even this memory of Simon, but also for this new story, with Peter, as I am wheeled by this staircase.
During Peter’s first week of life, I snapped as many pictures as I possibly could. After all, this was the only time I had to compare Teddy, Simon and Peter’s sweet fresh baby looks. Although it wasn't, I felt like I was running out of time once we got home during that first week of Peter’s life – I wanted to capture as many comparison photos as possible. The Holy Spirit reminded me I was believing a lie. We weren’t running out of time – Peter’s life is here to stay with us at this moment. And if anything, with each day that passes we weren’t losing time but gaining time as we are getting closer and closer to eternity together. My heart and mind stopped racing once I heard this truth.
We are tired, like all new and "new again" parents, however, we welcome all of the tiredness. We know what a sleepless night feels like when your arms ache from not having a baby to care for. But I assure you, beauty abounds and God winks at me when I nurse Peter in the exact place where Simon’s life slipped through our fingertips. I rock Peter in the boys’ nursery. Sleep deprivation settles in and I start to long for sleep. But then my sight gazes between Peter nursing or often times screaming at the top of his lungs with gas pain, and the urn of Simon and Thomas’ ashes. Yes, even the screaming moments through groggy eyes are pure gift. And while the nights can seem long, they are a sacred time that I get to spend alone in quiet with my newest boy and in reflection of my life and God (and let's be honest, mixed in with some Amazon shopping and social media).
I'm in awe of God's goodness - His grace, His blessing, His fruit, His love for me. I feel so inadequate of such gifts. And rather shouting from the mountaintops about all He has done and is doing in my life, I seem to rest in this silently - hardly sharing with anyone, including Adam. This isn't a reflection of my gratitude. I believe it's obedience to listen to God and to savor this time he has given to me, to our family. Quiet, slow moving days, with time to pay attention to my children and be with Him. Vulnerability is hard for me right now - which is tough when I'm trying to lead the bereavement support group. I’m settling into this place of enjoying my secret thoughts of rawness between my Maker and me. Peter brings much healing, but certainly does not fill the void of missing Simon or Thomas - not that I ever thought he would. I still desperately long for our family to be complete and I continue to ache from these two missing souls.
I experience new "firsts" with Peter and think back to Simon. Though the seasons are different (Simon was born in May), the sunshine beams through our 1918 old windows just as they did during Simon’s grace-filled life. While all the dirt on my floor shows as the sun shines, I try to see beyond the dust bunnies and soak in the sun’s warmth while I watch my boys live out this life. Oh, how I’ve longed to say the words “boys” and “brothers.” While I would hardly admit to preferring a gender while I was pregnant with Peter (since his gender was as surprise at birth), my heart’s desire was a little boy - another brother for Teddy to play with, in our home, for a long time. Simple gratitude for yet another boy.
Just the other day, we decided to introduce a binky to Peter. Teddy didn’t care for a pacifier, so we had a huge stash of unused pacifiers. I opened the drawer where I store the pacifiers and saw a note that read, Simon Adam Balentine used this pacifier last on May 20, 2014. I had forgotten I had done that. I thought about opening it and sanitizing it and giving it to Peter, but just couldn’t. So I reached for another and as I looked at I, about to hand it to Adam, I realized this one had been used by Simon too – his dried mouth secretions remained on the pacifier. "Hello Simon!" I thought. I went to clean it and Adam encouraged me not to. I found one more pacifier like this. So thankful for the little things Simon left behind. I wept in that moment – feeling like my heart was trying to be in two places at one time – with Simon and with Peter. And that’s how I spend my days. Rejoicing of what was with Simon and Thomas, what is with Adam, Teddy, and Peter and what is to come once Jesus returns. We are an earthly family of four but Kingdom family of six.
I have much to be thankful for as we approach this Thanksgiving. Last year at this time, I was carrying fully alive Thomas. Six days from now will mark one year since I birthed his body after he had already passed away. And now today, I hold Peter in my arms. We like to think we now know what Thomas would’ve looked like - now that we know Peter. Thomas would have some variation of strawberry blonde hair with a cowlick at the crown identical to Adam’s, Teddy’s, Simon’s and Peter’s (which perfectly matches Adam’s mom’s cowlick).
I find myself with words of praise for small things - it would be easy to miss these, but the Lord makes them easily identifiable. I am thankful I get to utilize Simon’s unused oral syringes to give Peter his probiotic. I am thankful for Peter’s baths, I never gave Simon one bath. Adam gave him his only bath. I am thankful for Peter’s birth certificate and that it doesn’t have the word deceased on it. I am thankful for two chairs on our stroller. I am thankful for our first time with Peter at Adam’s parent’s Ozark cabin – the last two times we went to the cabin after delivering a baby was to rest and mourn their losses. And now to go there with new life, the cabin has a feeling of restoration to me now. I’ve walked into many familiar places after losing Simon and Thomas, like the grocery store, mom groups, and church with an empty womb and empty arms. Getting to walk Peter into those places has brought noticeable healing.
We recently took family photos. My friend and photographer, Shae, sent me one photo to view as she was editing. I was surprised by my first initial thought. How strange, I thought. I’ve seen this photo before, but yet I had not. It just looks oddly familiar since the last time we did photos with a new baby was with Simon. And now we are a new family of four again. But it’s Peter in my arms this time.
Oh how I long for the new heavens and the new earth. What will it be like to have this full gaggle of boys together? Sweet victory, I presume. And likely a whole lot of wrestling and chaos – which is all welcomed.
Thank you for collectively celebrating and rejoicing with us. Peter has no idea how much he is loved by so many. Our family is so loved – I look forward to writing another post about the enormous amount of prayers we are now aware of that took place prior to Peter’s birth. God revealed those who have prayed for us after his birth and I am in awe – wow, we are cared for. With a humbled heart, thank you!
Before birth, we chose a bible verse for our children. And this one is Peter’s:
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.Colossians 3:23-24 NLT
Lord – My prayers are simple right now, just as they were for my entire pregnancy with Peter. Please, please, please, keep my focus on You and my eyes seeing the world, my life, through Simon eyes. You have gifted me this special perspective of how different life could be – everything is a gift. We rested in each moment of Simon’s life. Please keep our life slow so we can simply enjoy this life you graciously gifted to us. Thank you for the perspective that I’m not running out of time, but running into eternity. Remind me to count my blessings but do not allow them to become idols – You always first. Continue my full surrender of Adam, of our children and of our life. I beg to live for you, giving you glory, and having a servant’s heart – first to my family and then to others. Grow me in my wifehood and motherhood. I pray for Peter and Teddy to know You intimately at a young age – I pray for that first moment of acceptance and for them to know your grace. I am so thankful for each conversation we have with Teddy about death and heaven. And Lord, thank you for all of those who have prayed and are praying for our family – their intercession is certainly felt and seen.
Pour into me, God. Give me a desired to get into your word more often. Help me as I live these days – stumbling between the past, the present and what is to come. Amen.