The Day Small Elephant Came Out of Retirement

We shared a video on Facebook this week that explained a lot of things like, 1. why I haven’t been writing a lot, 2. why I’ve been tired, hungry and emotional for the past three months, 3. why my kids are so in love with me right now, and 4. why I’m suddenly wearing tents and leggings every day.

Here, if you’re not on social media, you might want to watch it…

 

Um, WOW, right??

I have to admit, it feels so good to have this news out in the open.

At the same time, though, it has been nice to experience the first trimester of my pregnancy in the old-fashioned way. This secret was between me and my husband for the first month, and then we told the kids, not because I was really ready to let the cat out of the bag, but because I simply couldn’t hide it from them any longer. I was tired all the time, I was crying almost daily, I was sleeping late in the mornings, and I was under this constant cloud of nausea. “It will be better for the whole WORLD to know than to leave them in the dark about what is wrong with me,” I thought. Because I really felt that, once my kids knew, the whole world WOULD know, probably by nightfall.

We’re kind of a boisterous family.

Thus, on a total whim, we decided to tell them one by one, as you saw in the video. I had mentally pictured all the different ways we could break the news to them, but the minute I entertained the thought of telling them individually and really savoring their reaction, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

So I grabbed my camera, got settled on my bed, and Mr. Gore started calling them in, oldest to youngest, locking our bedroom door behind each one as they entered.

Then, after they’d been told the great secret, they had to go hide in our neighboring bathroom until everyone was caught up to speed.

It was so much fun, and I gotta say, the resulting video is one of the greatest treasures I have in my possession. I had no idea how they’d react (although I did assume they’d be happy, they all love babies and have been hoping for one for a long time), but a truer representation of each of their personalities could not have been captured if I’d scripted it.

For instance, our firstborn, who thought for sure he was in trouble, but then hopped straight up to tell the WHOLE WORLD our secret!! (Told ya!) Once we caught him and sent him to the bathroom to wait, I could hear him clapping his hands and just giggling in sheer excitement. It was so dear. I said all of our kids love babies, but no one has a softer spot for the little critters than he does.

And then our eldest daughter, with that pure gaze of hers that melts me, who was so beside herself she could barely contain it. When I get to the part of the video where she says “oh, Mama!” as she stops to hug me on her way to the bathroom, I get a huge lump in my throat, every time.

And then there’s Oh Honey who processes the news with her signature “blink blinks” before fainting in the floor…before getting back up and bouncing like Tigger. So spot on.

And then there’s our little man, be still my heart.

You can hear the poor guy pounding on the door, demanding to be let in, during his sister’s portion of the video. And when we finally sit him in the chair and his papa informs him that I’m going to have a baby, he reacts in his quintessential way that, roughly translated, means “Hi. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve never heard of anyone having a baby. But…I love you…and you’re smiling at me…so…THUMBS UP. I support you 100%.”

I love that kid SO stinkin’ much, and I love all the thumbs up that he has given me over the past year, and I LOVE that he gave me a thumbs up in this video. My husband and I just looked at each other (after I finished laughing my head off) and said something like “did that really just happen?!”

Anyhow, I didn’t really mean to review the video that you literally just watched, but…what can I say? I love my chiddlers.

But there’s actually more to it than that, I think.

You see, by the day we shot this video, I had been walking very silently through some pretty major things. First, the shock of a positive pregnancy test. All the emotions…both high and low…that followed it. The vivid memories of what I was about to go through and how real and raw and hard and beautiful it all is. The understanding that any momentum I had recently gained (such as…we had just put the high chair in the attic, we’d bought our last box of diapers or Pull-ups for the first time in TEN YEARS, our house was staying very tidy, we were killing it at homeschool, and I was waking up at 6:00 a.m. every morning like a BOSS!!) was flying out the window, all of it.

And then, of course, there was the realization that I am ten years older now than when I first began having babies. A lot can happen to a body in ten years! I mean, I have a friend whose hips start hurting when a thunderstorm is coming. We’re getting OLD, y’all!

And so I’ve just been a little more scared this time.

A little less sure of myself and my body’s abilities.

Add to that those long, trying weeks of nausea and fatigue where I had been pretending, even around my closest family and friends, that nothing had changed and that I was fine.

Phew! All that to say, I was SOUL TIRED by the day we made this video. I was lonely, with all kinds of pent up thoughts and emotions. And, again, I was truly scared. What if I couldn’t do this again? What if something bad happened? What if this changed our dynamic in drastic ways?

Enter, my children.

When I let them into my world once more and shared my great secret with them, what I found was such open arms.

Such love.

Such JOY!

Their reaction was a salve to me, and an immediate reminder that, yes, though this was going to be hard and though it might even be dangerous (did you know that being 35 years old makes this a “geriatric pregnancy”?!), it was also such a GOOD THING. It was going to be fun!!

And it was most definitely a blessing.

They just made it obvious to me from the very first second — you can see it so clearly in the video! — that any difficulties I had endured in the weeks leading up to this announcement were 100% worth it, for not only were we housing a precious and sacred new creation in our midst, we had made ALL of our children so, so happy.

Sigh. The four little people in the above video have embraced me so wholly in my current weakness that it has totally blown me away. They check on me constantly. They have zero expectations from me and hold no grudges about my failings (for instance, our two-hours-later-than-normal breakfast). They have fed me and soothed me and petted me and…well, they’ve just WELCOMED me, just as I am.

Even more heart-warming? They seem proud of me.

What a difference their reaction has made for this tired ol’ mama.

This is the kind of world that babies are supposed to enter into. A place where they are greeted with smiles and excitement and wonder and enthusiasm.

Children have got it all figured out, don’t they?

So after we told our kids, we’ve had the joy of telling many of our family and friends the old-fashioned person-to-person way, not all at one time, but slowly, as time and circumstance allowed. First it was my mom. Then my daddy. Then my husband’s parents. Then our best buddy at the nursing home. Then a sibling here, a sibling there, a friend here, a friend there, our neighbors across the street, my manager friend at Anthropologie, the owner of my favorite antique store, our church body…

as the news has spread over the past three months, our secret has gotten smaller and smaller and smaller, and now that we’ve finally made our way back to the internets, it is no more.

You know what? This sits well with me, even though the temptation was to keep things quiet until the baby was actually IN my arms.

Life begins at conception, and I believe that with all my heart. And I can read about my higher risks and I can be scared about the future all the live-long day, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is a human being IN my tummy.

Right now!

Right this minute!

You guys!

WE HAVE A NEW FAMILY MEMBER…

and, yes, come what may, I want the whole world to know it!

~

Sad you missed out on the first trimester adventures of Small Elephant? Worry not, I’ve been jotting down stories as they happen and will round them all up for you soon. Stay tuned!

Are you new here and don’t know who “Small Elephant” is? Oh, boy. You stay tuned, too. This is going to be fun…

 

How to (Not) Keep a Lid on Breastfeeding

I’m a pretty modest person.

My exposure to doctors and hospitals was nonexistent before my first pregnancy…

My Mom and I never had “the talk”…not even the one about puberty (in her defense, I think I would plug my ears and curl up into the fetal position when she tried)…

And I cannot for the LIFE of me dig up enough maturity to use scientific terms for body parts and bodily functions. Which explains why my husband says he sometimes felt like someone was going to come and arrest him for taking advantage of me when they saw that I was with child and then heard me try to answer medical questions without squirming like a 12-year old and using phrases like “a #2” instead of “a bowel movement”.

By the way, if you could have seen me at the hospital trying to discuss our plan for birth control with a wet-behind-the-ears and adorably awkward medical student, you would have been in stitches. I’m just so glad my husband was asleep at the time with ear-plugs in his ears.

And so having a curious little boy named Gideon in my life has posed a bit of a challenge to me, especially after an extremely awkward encounter we had when he was only two years old. I would tell you the story, but…I can’t. There are no words.

And while I was somehow able to skirt around uncomfortable discussions with him when pregnant with his sisters, I knew that my time was up this go-round. He is six years old. He has lots of questions. He notices everything...

Somehow, though, I lucked out. The “where do babies come from?” discussion didn’t come up at all when I was pregnant, only lots of questions about how the baby was going to “pop out” of me. In fact, several times, he tried to push on my belly to help me along in that process: “Here, let me help you pop that baby out!”

“I’m good, Gid!” I would insist, thanking him for his help as I retreated with my belly to a safer part of the house.

But I knew on our first day home with Baby Shepherd, when Gideon offered to go and make him a bottle, that a discussion on breastfeeding was inevitable; this became even clearer as he kept asking me, over the course of a couple of days, what his baby brother was eating. “Where is his milk?” he would ask, dumbfounded, “Where are the bottles?…”

“Yeah,” said Rebekah, “where’s his food?”

I looked at Mr. Gore. “I’m going to have to tell them,” I said. I knew, with our new family dynamic and our busy homeschooling schedule, that I couldn’t just hide out in my room for a year, nor could I carry Shepherd around under a blanket every 3 hours without them thinking I was a little off-my-rocker.

But, as Betsie would say, I was “skerred”. I had no idea how Gideon was going to react to what I told him. Would he gag? Would he crack up? Would he be mortified and flee from my presence?

I decided to give myself a head-start by talking to Rebekah first. Her calm acceptance of how I look in my birthday suit gave me confidence to know this wouldn’t be a big deal to her.

I was spot-on…

During one of the baby’s feedings, she joined me on my bed; the baby was completely hidden by covers.

“Where’s Shepherd?” she asked.

“Right here,” I said, “he’s eating.” I decided to plunge into it. “Do you want to know what he eats?”

She nodded her head, eyes alight with curiosity. I told her.

She fell over, laughing.

“That’s funny!” she exclaimed, “Can I have a drink?”

(That’s gonna be a negative, Ghost Rider).

So now it was Gideon’s turn.

His Papa had already helped me out by telling him that the baby was getting his nourishment “from Mama”, but that wasn’t enough for Gid the Kid.

He needed more details.

And so yesterday morning, I called to him from my bedroom where I was already feeding Shepherd under a blanket: “Gid, why don’t you come to my room and we’ll read while I feed the baby?”

He happily obliged, bouncing down beside me in his usual rough-and-tumble manner.

“Is he eating right now?” he asked, immediately, confirming my assumption that if I could get him to my room while I was nursing, he would naturally initiate the conversation.

I nodded, and my stomach started clenching up as I anticipated what was ahead.

“How is he eating?…” he asked.

“He just is…” I hedged, trying to find the right words.

But before I could stop him, Gideon peeked under the blanket.

“Oh!” he said, “he just gets his food from there?”

“Yes…” I replied, speechless.

There was a long pause…

and then my favorite goofy, crooked, top-front-toothless grin spread across his face.

“Really?!” he exclaimed, smiling hugely.

“Yes…” I repeated, hesitant. This was the moment I had been bracing myself for…

“Cool.” he said lightly, as if his mom being a walking milk-truck was the most natural and awesome thing in the world.

“…yep.” I replied.

And that was that.

I heaved a giant sigh of relief, and we started reading his book.

Why in the world had I waited SO long to let him in on this great mystery and miracle of life?

That was a cakewalk!…

Not so fast, Mrs. Gore.

We still had one more “talk” ahead.

Later that day, when I was feeding Shepherd yet again, Gideon joined me on my bed, a giant question written all over his face.

“So…where is the milk at?” he asked, obviously confused.

Oh geeze, I thought, here we go again…

It was obvious that I was going to have to GROW UP and be a little less vague.

I couldn’t bring myself to show him the exact source of Shepherd’s nourishment, and so in an impromptu stroke of genius, I lifted up his shirt.

“See those things right there?” I asked, bluntly.

He nodded.

“That’s where it comes from,” I said, boldly and without hesitation.

The question mark on his face was replaced with a lightbulb.

Ohhhh!” he exclaimed, understanding finally sinking in. “…so those are the lids!”

“The lids?” I asked.

“Yeah, to the milk,” he explained.

“…YES!” I said, thrilled. “The lids!”

You have no idea how happy I was, one, that our conversation about breastfeeding was finally over, two, that Gideon had given me a funny story to tell, and, three, that I now had a great word to use when referring to…you know. Those things.

I had never known what to call them before…

Home.

At approximately 1:30 on Friday afternoon, we pulled into our driveway…

They were waiting for us on the front porch, and my heart skipped a beat or two as they jumped up and clambered down the sidewalk to greet us, shouts of “Mama!” and “Papa!” causing tears to cloud my vision.

The one-hour drive home had never been longer.

The first to reach me was Gideon, freshly bathed and wearing my favorite shirt. My Mom said he was anxious to get cleaned up for us because he “smelled like a puppy”, which told me that he was as excited about seeing us as we were about seeing him. I gathered him into my arms before even leaving the passenger seat and we held on to each other for dear life. My son and I, perhaps more alike than any two people in our family, share the same struggles and the same strengths. This pregnancy has been hard on us, especially the last couple of weeks, and our reunion was what I had been living for that last day in the hospital. When we released each other, our eyes were definitely “waterin'”, our smiles almost too big for our faces.

After an extremely long journey, we were home. Both of us.

Rebekah was next, skipping towards me in the long, pink dress she never takes off, her hair in long, golden braids. She covered me with kisses and informed me that she was going to take care of me. Her cornflower blue eyes radiated happiness and contentment, warming me to my toes.

I’m always home when I’m with Rebekah Sunday.

And then came shirtless Betsie Fair, wearing nothing but pink, floral culottes and a spunky little ponytail, hopping joyfully across the cobblestones that lead to our driveway. “Mama! Mama!” she continued to exclaim, her happy little face causing me to melt into a puddle of mama goo in the floor of our minivan. Betsie was my MVP that last part of my pregnancy, keeping me entertained and distracted by her out-of-this-world cuteness and unbridled joy. Scooping her up, I hugged her tight while she manically patted me and giggled and squealed.

Home.

In a big jumble of bodies and beautiful chaos, we landed in the living room. There were presents of crayon drawings to be presented, everyone had important stories to tell all at one time, and Baby Shepherd had to be thoroughly inspected by three curious siblings.

And I?

I sat in my favorite chair and took in the blessed moment. Coming home with a new baby always brings with it a fresh perspective and for the time being, the noises weren’t grating, the responsibilities weren’t drudgerous, the to-do’s and expectations were nonexistent, and I was as happy as I have ever remembered being in my entire life.

“Mom?…” I asked, “would you mind taking a picture?”

It suddenly felt very important for me to capture this moment for my memories.

“Do you want me to put a shirt on Betsie?” she replied.

“No. I want them all just like they are…”

Like everyone else in America, sometimes our family photos are staged, and the preparation for them has left me breathless and sweaty and uptight. We might be wearing matching clothes and not a hair is out of place, but the smiles are probably not genuine and there is no story behind our photograph other than “we look nice today and our clothes are awesome“.

But this picture was different.

We stopped our reunion for the briefest of moments, we quickly gathered into a cluster, we looked at the camera, and our faces were already beaming before my Mom even had to tell us to “say cheese!”.

IMG_5156

The feelings I experienced at our homecoming will be impossible to hold onto. Life will eventually pick up speed and we’ll be back at the grindstone, going through our days, doing our chores, fighting negativity and frustration and cabin fever. This day was a gift, for all of us, and a sweet reminder that…

together, at home, is our very favorite place to be.

The Wrath of Miss Sunday

I have a new favorite picture of all time…

and I’ve been dying to share the story behind it.

A few weeks ago, Gideon and Rebekah (who were karate-kicking and jumping on my bed) called me into my room and made a special announcement:

“In one hundred years,” Gideon proclaimed, “Me and Rebekah are getting married.”

They were both beaming with childish innocence, and I think they were both quite pleased with their scheme. And let’s face it…I was pleased that they weren’t duking it out and seemed to genuinely like each other at the moment. Thus, rather than explain that brothers and sisters really couldn’t and/or shouldn’t get married, even in one hundred years, I simply said “That’s great!”

Cut to the picture above as we drove all around Tulsa running errands with my Mom.

Rebekah had just told her Grandmother of their marriage plans…

and Gideon chose to drop some heartbreaking news from his seat on the row in front of hers.

“We aren’t getting married, Rebekah.”

Shall we take a look at that photo again?…

“Yes we are.” she emphatically said.

“No…we aren’t.” he said matter-of-factly. “Abigail told me that we can’t get married.”

Rebekah was greatly troubled by this turn of events.

“We are too!” she barked.

“Here we go…” said Betsie (with her eyes) from her rear-facing carseat.

“No we’re not, Rebekah” Gideon persisted.

“That’s not nice, Gid!” she yelled.

Her wrath turned to sadness…

which turned back into plumb-mad wrath…

Hell truly hath no fury like a woman – or a sister – scorned.

Gideon finally did have mercy on her and said “Well…I guess after I get real married, I could pretend marry you. But I can’t be pretend married to you as long as I’m real married…”

Whatever that meant, she accepted their new terms, and before I knew it they had both fallen asleep and our family was once more at peace.

I’m just glad the two lovebirds worked it out.

And I pity the fool who ever breaks Miss Sunday’s heart.