[Celebrating their 8th birthday last year]
As May 10, of yet another year, comes into focus, I can feel the excitement and curiosity surrounding me as I busily put the perfect finishing birthday touches on each and every detail, preparing for the big day -- this year, my sextuplets turn NINE years old!! It's so very hard to believe!
And like all moms everywhere, between the shopping, wrapping, and baking, the nostalgia and sadness (mixed with lots of happiness and thankfulness) creep in as I think back to their actual BIRTH day, nine years ago. And the many memories I cherish from that day. By the time we had flipped my paper calendar on the hospital wall to May 2004, I had already crossed off more than two entire months' worth of days spent in the hospital. I was HUGE, uncomfortable, and tired. I was stuck in my hospital bed in my 10x10 hospital room on my right side (because by now, the babies had claimed their spots based on my position and to turn over caused major mayhem -- trust me, I tried it! They fought and kicked until I struggled back to my right side) for over eight weeks -- and I was running out of humor! My worry about their health and how we'd manage to provide for eight kids threatened to overtake me -- and my appetite was long gone due to the fact that my stomach had literally been reduced to a one-inch space, according to my doctor. The pressing limbs and baby body parts created a “lap band surgery” result and, because of it, my 4,000-calorie per day intake requirement was a moment by moment battle! Not to mention that everything -- and I do mean EVERYTHING -- I ate gave me severe heartburn and nausea.
My doctor had hoped I'd make it until the third week of May before I delivered, which would have been 32 weeks gestation. This delivery timeframe, although still very premature for any baby, is considered “the icing on the cake” (and still has not been reached by sextuplets, to my knowledge) for a sextuplet delivery. It's the point at which the short- and long-term medical risks are much more decreased for the babies.
So, of course, I had set my sights on that 32-week mark and mentally told myself that I wasn't giving in until my babies were as safe as they could be -- as close to that mark as possible! Mind over matter, right? So, I gestated. I ate. I slept. I was prodded for daily ultrasounds and blood tests. I visited with my twin 3-year-olds who were even more bored in my tiny room than I was. I took my daily medications. I stared at the wall. I struggled my 54-inch (in circumference) self to the bathroom and back to bed. Exhausted. I slept again. And then did that again, day after day, hoping to welcome six healthy spunky babies into the world at the end of this. Every so often, a friend who was a massage therapist would come and give me a long massage. I recall these clearly because it. was. pure. heaven. Ahhhh! And then the day arrived, finally. The day that I KNEW it was all so very worth it! My babies arrived!
In 2004, May 9 was Mother’s Day. All of the nurses bet that would be the day I'd deliver. My ever practical doctor hoped against it because staffing on the weekend was always lighter than during the week, he said. So, as if my body knew to wait, very early on Monday, May 10, I realized that my now nightly annoying contractions felt very different. I rang for the nurse and she hooked me up to the contraction monitor. She watched briefly, then went to call my doctor. At 6 a.m. he arrived and declared that, at 29 weeks and 5 days, “we are going to have some babies today.” I weakly and calmly said “okay.” My body had had enough and even my stubborn never-give-up mind couldn't talk it out of delivering on that day.
As I laid wide awake on the delivery table, I awaited the finish line: the sights and sounds of six babies crying loudly as they were plucked -- in a record three minutes -- from me. And I not only heard them, I lifted my head and craned to see them. Despite blurry drugged eyes, I made sure I caught a glimpse of each one as they were rushed past me. I saw six tiny perfect miracles. I'll never forget the details of the day that I met my six precious, perfectly healthy, and beautiful babies face to face. They sailed through their time in the neonatal intensive care unit without any surgeries or complications. We had them all home by their due date of July 9, which was the end goal.
In the eight (soon to be nine) birthdays that have followed since their BIRTH day, I can't help but get choked up at some point as I prepare for the big celebration! I think I've already teared up twice this year ... and it's not even their birthday yet! I'm so thankful to be their mom and for all of the many happy memories we've created together! I am even thankful for the difficult times and decisions AND for the many sleep deprived days that a mom just learns to cope with. Their unique personalities and sweet selves keep me smiling, keep me going, and inspire me to do my very best as their mom ... at all times.
This year, we will celebrate as usual -- together as a family, after school. It is truly always a momentous occasion, if only our “little” traditional family celebration. There is always plenty of excitement, love, presents, and sugar to go around here! To start out the morning, I always wrap and leave one little present at each of their places at the table. This keeps them smiling all day at school and calms a tiny bit of their “gift excitement.” They always take a homemade birthday treat to share with their classmates at school. I evenly divide the treats into six containers so that each of them has the opportunity to hand out a portion of the treats. (Mom of multiples: gotta find solutions! This one has always worked like a charm!)
For dinner, the kids have requested my homemade pizza this year. I'll top it with any number of their favorites including pepperoni, onion, green peppers, mushrooms, and olives. For dessert, we will have our standard -- and insanely delicious -- Gosselin chocolate birthday cake and ice cream, flavors of their choosing. We could end up with six different ice cream flavors and that's fine with me. It's their birthday! Sugar up, kids!
After we eat dinner, we sing “Happy birthday dear Alexis, Hannah, Aaden, Collin, Leah, and Joel” and then cut and serve the cake. Finally, they will tear into their presents while I plug my ears to avoid hearing loss from the many loud high pitched screeches of joy. Together, they shriek a deafening chorus of happiness! I love it!
As always, I will clean up wrapping paper as I wipe my tears of gratefulness and joy while I try not to let the kids see. Kids sometimes don't understand the concept of mom's “tears of happiness,” LOL. Eventually, once the celebrations are complete, we will settle down and go to bed. This year on their birthday, I'll tuck my SIX 9-YEAR-OLDS into bed, and I know I'll feel blessed having had yet another wonderful and fulfilling year with them! It's been a great year and I'm really looking forward to the next!
Do you reflect back on your kids' BIRTH days each year? Does it make you cry tears of joy?
Image via Kate Gosselin