I am grateful for Blake, Hannah, Bethany, Seth, Matthew, Micah, Eli, Ethan, and Eliana. (Wait a minute — I have nine children? Just kidding, I knew that.)
In 1991, Mary and I went to a pre-marriage/newly-married retreat with the Baptist Student Union at Oklahoma Baptist University, where we were in school. One of the sessions included a set of questions that we were supposed to discuss and answer. I don’t remember if one of the questions was actually about children, but we ended up talking about how many kids we wanted to have. During that discussion at Falls Creek (the Baptist campground in Oklahoma), we agreed together and with the Lord that we would have as many kids as the Lord chose to give us. That’s a dangerous thing to do, folks! I’m kidding, again. Well, it actually is dangerous if you don’t really want to surrender your will to His, I guess. But we were not afraid to surrender our will to His because , we knew that He had a perfect plan.
When we got pregnant the first time, we were so excited. Every milestone during the pregnancy was so exciting. We had a calendar that gave facts about what was going on in Mary’s womb from conception until birth. It was miraculous. Every second of it. When Blake was born, it was such a wonderful event. Difficult for Mary, of course, but it was a fantastic gift from God. And then we went home from the hospital.
Blake’s days and nights were mixed up. He cried all night that first night every time we laid him down. What had we done? Of course, that all worked itself out when we figured out what to do. Every day was a new adventure and a new opportunity to be amazed by the miracle of birth and of life.
When Blake was six months old, we found out we were pregnant with Hannah. That was hard news. Not because we didn’t want another baby. It wasn’t that at all. We were just exhausted. Mary especially. It actually turned out to be a wonderful blessing that they were so close together in age because they became best buddies. But it was sure hard at first. Even in the hard — we loved the excitement of every milestone as they grew so fast.
We learned a lot when Blake was born. Like all first-time parents, we made tons of mistakes. (Somehow, Blake survived, and then we got to experiment on Hannah!) Blake always had sleeping issues, even after we got days and nights turned around. Let me tell you — when you haven’t slept and your baby cries every two minutes unless you are rocking him and singing to him, you become desperate to figure out what to do. Somehow, we read or heard that some babies like white noise. The only white noise we had was a vacuum cleaner. When we turned it on that first time, Blake stopped crying and fell dead asleep. We found out it was easier to sleep with a vacuum cleaner running than to sleep with a baby crying. Finally, we slept. Yes, we turned on the vacuum cleaner in Blake’s room and left it running all night, so he would sleep, so we could sleep. Don’t judge us! It was a miracle. At some point, we decided that running the vacuum cleaner all night, every night wasn’t good for the vacuum cleaner, so we bought an answering machine tape. You know, the kind that runs on a loop. We recorded the vacuum cleaner on that tape and played it at night. Every night. At home or away from home. That tape was miraculous music to our ears because it meant that Blake would be asleep in minutes.
Until the night the music stopped. I mean the night the vacuum cleaner tape broke. Mary was actually at the hospital with newborn Hannah, and I was at home with Blake. When the tape broke, Blake instantly started crying. I was sleep-deprived from Hannah’s long delivery (and yes, I know sleep-deprived is better than what Mary went through, so save your comments). I didn’t hesitate to go get the vacuum cleaner out of the closet and sweet bliss — Blake went back to sleep. Did you know that when a vacuum cleaner belt seizes up, that it makes a screeching noise in the middle of the night? Then I had a screeching vacuum cleaner and a screeching child who was now terrified of the vacuum cleaner. By terrified, I mean that he went cold turkey off the vacuum cleaner that night. When he heard one from then on, he would cry.
Eventually, he did start sleeping at night. I don’t remember how it happened because I have dissociated from those memories. Kidding not kidding. But to this day, Blake takes a box fan with him wherever he goes, so he can sleep. I have to have a fan on for some noise, so I can sleep, too. I guess we both got accustomed to sleeping with white noise.
I remember night after night singing Go, Go Joshua before he went to sleep. And he would want me to lay in his bed with him and talk. I would ask him what he wanted to talk about, and he would say that he just wanted me to talk. Sometimes we would just count up as high as he could. Those were sweet times.
Hannah was a much “easier” baby. That was probably partially because we had learned some things in the year and half we had had Blake. Unfortunately, she didn’t really like me. Anytime I would hold her, she would scream and cry. She was a mama’s girl in every way. It wasn’t just me that she didn’t tolerate, though. The only other person she really liked was my dad. She would sit with him as long as he would hold her. He loved that she wanted him to hold her. I sure wish she had gotten to know him after she could remember him. We lost my dad on Easter Sunday, April 7, 1996, when Hannah was only eight months old. He loved his grandkids and they loved him.
Getting her to go into the nursery at church was horrific and traumatic for everyone. That is, until the day we bought her the white beanie buddy cat. She would go anywhere as long as she had her white kitty! I don’t remember how many of those we went through, but it was more than one.
Hannah loved dressing up. She had a box full of princess dresses and plastic high-heeled shoes. She would clip-clop around the house all the day long in her heels, princess dress, bead necklaces, and tiara. The tap-tap-tap of those shoes could get on your nerves since we had ceramic tile everywhere, but she sure was cute! Those were such special days. I sure miss butterfly kisses.
Blake and Hannah stole our hearts from the moment we found out they were on the way into our world.
After Hannah’s birth, we were definitely more vigilant, so we didn’t get pregnant immediately. We did get pregnant again and boy were we excited. We had gotten some rest and were ready for another blessing. We were excited until things went wrong. After ending up in the emergency room because of some issues Mary was having, the doctor very nonchalantly announced to us that the pregnancy had ended and that Mary’s body should automatically slough off the “tissue”. And how it was very common…blah blah blah blah blah blah…try again in six months if you want…blah blah blah blah. That was the hardest day up to that point in our lives. Maybe it was just a common thing that happened, but it sure felt like more than that. We believe that life begins when the sperm fertilizes the egg and the cells spring to life. Our hearts told us that Mary’s body wasn’t merely sloughing off remaining tissue that was a result of a problem pregnancy. Our hearts lost a child that day. If someone is reading this that has lost a child before birth, or after birth — I am so sorry for your significant loss. For us, it was hard then, and it is sometimes still hard. We think of that little guy even now and wonder what he would have been like.
At the time, we thought life was going at a break-neck speed. In reality, life was incredibly simple then. I wouldn’t change what our life has become, but occasionally, I miss those simple, early days of our family.
Blake and Hannah — I am so grateful to God for you. There are countless things I wish I could go back and do over. For instance, I wish I hadn’t worked so much when you were little, and I wish I had been in a better place emotionally. But you were bright lights in my life back on Rambling Oaks and Main Street. You still bring light to my life. If a heart can smile, mine does when I think of you. I am blessed to be your dad, and now I am blessed to be your friend as well.
Obviously, this will be continued since there are seven more kids that I am grateful for.