Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Little Piece of Heaven

There are few things that bring the feeling of heaven into a home--children sharing and looking out for one another, meaningful family prayers, expressions of sincere affection and appreciation--are a few. But from my experience, newborn babies top the list. With their arrival comes a distinct peace, love and fulfillment that is unsurpassed. I've never completely understood how it happens; I only know that miracles often come in very small packages, and our latest came two weeks ago, weighing less than five pounds. Here is our latest piece of heaven--Berkley Maya Fern Conger.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

An Unforgettable Mother's Day Gift

I will never forget the anticipation I felt when my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child. I was elated; he was terrified. But it was an incredible moment. To know we were going to be parents, a mother and a father. It was unlike any feeling I had ever experienced. And when that child was born and we welcomed that beautiful baby girl into our home and our lives, I knew we would never be the same.

I was right. And so it was with each additional child. The thrill of the anticipation, the utter joy at the birth, the overwhelming peace and love at bringing each child home and caring for him/her--those are some of the best moments of my life. And now, as I watch each child grow and become their own individuals, it is so fulfilling.

This past year as my husband and I made a somewhat difficult decision to adopt a baby, I couldn't help but wonder what the experience would be like. There's such a natural bond between a mother and the growing child within her womb, I wondered how quickly or easily I would be able to bond with a child I had not personally carried for nine months. I was thrilled and elated at the prospects, however, and have looked forward to the day we would welcome this new child into our home with joyful anticipation.

After experiencing disappointment from one failed adoption, it was difficult to allow my heart to let go of fear and not hold back, and it was a struggle to allow my mind to even consider and hope for this to work out. It's taken a tremendous amount of faith, more than has ever been required before as we've prepared to add a child to our family. But knowing that the risk would definitely be worth the outcome, we plodded onward, putting our faith and trust in God that this adoption would in fact work out.

Last Thursday morning, May 5th, we received an unexpected text from the adoption agency. The birth mother was in labor and the baby would be born that day! We were not expecting the baby for nearly three more weeks, so to say we were surprised and excited would be an understatement. Less than 30 minutes later we were given the news that our baby girl was born, 4 lbs, 13 oz, 17 " long. Tiny, but beautiful.

I desperately wanted to shout for joy and thrill in the excitement of this anticipated event. But . . . I couldn't. Not yet. It would be at least 24 hours before we would know if the baby's mother would in fact sign the adoption papers and this baby would be ours. It was a long day and an even longer night. It was after 3:00 a.m. when I finally fell into a short and restless sleep. But eight hours later we received the news that the papers were signed and the baby would be ours! A thousand different emotions enveloped me: relief, joy, gratitude--especially gratitude.

Because this was a closed adoption we were not allowed to see the baby until the birth mom had left the hospital and the baby was more than two days old. I looked at this tiny bundle and could hardly believe she was ours! She was so beautiful! I felt an immediate love for her and desire to be the best mother to her I could possibly be. I held her in my arms and felt immense joy and humility and love. But I felt something else also that I didn't anticipate. I felt a deep love for her mother, who made a difficult and painful decision to give this child up to a family she knew could offer her baby a life she couldn't. I longed to know more about this courageous woman and I wanted desperately to thank her in person. But it was not to be. I could only express some feelings in a card and hope she somehow understood what an incredible gift she had given our family.

And so, this Mother's Day, not only am I profoundly grateful for the now five children God has so mercifully blessed me with, but I am grateful to another mother, an unsung hero, who on this Mother's Day, just three days after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, said goodbye to her only a couple of days later, allowing me the opportunity of being a mother once again. Mothers, no matter who they are or where they come from, truly are the most remarkable people in all the world. I'm so honored to be one, and so honored to the one who so recently blessed our family this weekend.

It has been the most unforgettable Mother's Day gift I've ever received!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Private Date

After receiving the news we planned to adopt, many people gave me the advice to use the time waiting for the baby to be born to really connect with the children I already have, to soak up the time spent with them and focus on them because adoptions and new babies take up so much time and energy. That sounded like great advice, so over the past two months I've gone on field trips with my nine-year-old, stolen my 11-year-old out of school for a special lunch date, dropped daily tasks to snuggle on the couch with my four-year-old and watch his favorite movie, and I took my six-year-old on a private date. Each experience was wonderful! There's absolutely nothing like spending one-on-one time with a child, and I loved every minute of it. The date with my sweet little daughter was a bit unforgettable. I was smiling clear to my toes as I visited with her. It was only one hour, but oh how much I learned--about her, her personality, her goals and her outlook on life. This is how part of our conversation went.

"So Regyn, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Long pause as she pondered the question. "A mother," she finally answered resolutely.

Loving this answer, I continued on, "A mother? That's a really great thing to be. What a fabulous choice!"

"Oh, and a vet," she interrupted.

"A vet? Do you know what a vet is?" I asked, just to be sure.

"Yeah," she said as if to say, of course! "Like, if you have a sick dog or something, you take him to the vet and he makes him better."

"Right. I didn't know you were so interested in animals," I said.

"Oh yeah, I love animals, so I'm going to be a mother and a vet."

Then, realizing it might be hard to manage both occupations all the time, she quickly added, Well, I'm going to be a vet on Thursdays."

"On Thursdays?" I asked, trying to peer into her mind.

"Yes. Because I want to spend as much time with my kids as possible so I don't want to be a vet every day, but then sometimes I'll need a break from my kids, so that's why I'm going to be a vet on Thursdays."

What great thinking! She seemed to have it all figured out. Except for one thing.

"So, who's going to take care of your children on Thursdays while you work as a vet?" I asked, thinking I was sure to catch her in a dilemma. Not so.

"Hmm," she pondered momentarily, then came up with the perfect solution. "My husband!"

I couldn't help but let out a chuckle. "So, let me get this straight. You are going to take care of your children every day except Thursdays, when you will work as a vet? Your husband will work every day but Thursdays, so he can watch the children while you work?"


"Just one more question," I said. "When will you spend time with your husband?"

At this point she must have realized I was trying to catch her off guard. We both smiled a knowing smile at each other and continued enjoying our fabulous ice cream cookie dessert. But as we sat there together and I thought about her answers, I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude over this child of mine. I watched her from across the table and tears came to my eyes as I realized once again how much I love her and how wonderfully unique and amazing she is. I forced my mind and heart to take a picture and never forget the moment, for it's all these little moments as a mother that add up to a wonderful life.

Just days later, I laughed once again at this precocious little child. She happens to be left-handed and very left-footed as well, we've noticed as she's played soccer this year and struggles to kick the ball with her right foot. She had a new little bag she was pretending to be a purse, and she asked me what shoulder I usually hang my purse from. I said, "I don't know, my right one?" to which she replied. "Not me. I use my left. I think it's because I'm left-shouldered."

I love it! I've never heard of someone being right- or left-shouldered, but I couldn't help but smile at her thinking process. I'm truly grateful for the ability to recognize these small moments that could easily pass as mundane and inconsequential. They make me smile from deep within and remind me that truly there is not a more wonderful job in the world than simply being a mother!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Driving home from Wyoming recently with only a sleeping four-year-old in the back seat, I turned off the radio and just enjoyed the peace and beauty of the drive. The sun was shining (kind of rare this year) and the snow-capped mountains caught my attention. They were beautiful. I thought to myself, I sure love peaceful drives and the amazing mountains that surround us. That's when my mind began reviewing all the things I love. And for the next few days I began paying attention to things that make me smile and bring me moments of joy and satisfaction. Here are a few of my favorite things:

-When my four-year-old wraps his arms around my neck and says, "I just love you so much." My favorite words from a child.

-When that same child says funny things, like, "What if my shirt was blue instead of red?" (How do you answer that question? Idk. "Then your shirt would be blue instead of red.")
OR when he's trying to prove himself right to his older sister so he asks my opinion. When I say, "I think it does this," and his sister says, "See?" to which he replies, "Think means it's a possibility, Regyn--not for sure." I love that kind of thinking!! It makes me smile all day.
OR when this same little boy asks, "Is it fast Sunday today?" and I answer, "No," he says, "So, it's slow Sunday?" How can you not smile?

-When my nine-year-old son tells me he'll race me home from a house down the street. He's on his bike and I'm running. Although running is totally something I shouldn't ever do due to major back problems, I shrug and think, what the heck as I set off on a dead sprint. I beat him home. This now super-competitive child tells me how amazingly fast I am and that I should be in the Olympics. Does it get better than that?

-When my six-year-old daughter gets a small package of cotton candy at the store and after tasting how good it is tells me she's going to save the rest to share with her older brother and sister after school. I remind her that a number of children walk home together and that she will have to share with lots of kids, to which she says she already knows that and she's happy to share one small pinchful with each child. I wish I was that unselfish. It warms my heart.

-When my 11-year-old asks me why anyone would want to interview me for the newspaper, to which I facetiously reply, "because I'm kind of awesome." Instead of rolling her eyes at me, she says, "Yeah, you are." There's nothing like the feeling your children think you are great--even if it is only momentary.

-When my husband comes home for lunch. Such a simple thing, but it reminds me that I am so happy he works so close to home and that he actually wants to see me in small spurts in the middle of the day. And that I want to see him. I get excited for lunch, even though we are only eating grilled cheese sandwiches. Spending time with my husband is definitely one of my favorite things.

-Family balloon volleyball in the living room
-Holding hands with my husband in church
-Watching one of my children do something hard and feel good about it
-Hearing "Thanks for dinner, Mom" on the rare occasion I fix it.
-Watching The Biggest Loser with my children and rooting for everyone on the show.
-Private dates with my children
-Seeing the sun shine
-Reading the Book of Mormon and knowing it is true all over again
-Hearing my children pray
-Laughing with my siblings and parents
-Watching my children grow up right before my eyes

I could go on and on . . .

Such simple things. So simple, in fact, that if I'm not paying attention, I could easily pass by the moment and miss out on everything that makes life worth living. Family.

Sitting at the ball park the other day on a freezing cold night, waiting for my son's baseball game to begin, I noticed a mother, baby on hip, playing soccer with a group of small children. It brought tears to my eyes. Mothers are so remarkable. Then I noticed a father pushing his two boys in swings for over a half hour. A half hour! That's a long time. I personally avoid swings at all costs because once you start pushing, your children never want you to stop. The boys were giggling and enjoying each push . When the father finally pulled his two small boys from the swing, one had wet his pants. I couldn't help but smile. It was a sure sign the small child had had so much fun, he couldn't contain it.

Everywhere I look and everywhere I go, I seem to find signs of all the things that make life so fulfilling and worthwhile, and they all begin and end with my family. From the family I come from and still love to pieces to the family I now have, my life is rich and full due to these relationships.

And so, even though life has its share of challenges and there are many unknowns ahead, I don't need to look far to find--not just a few--but many of my favorite things!