Monday, July 4, 2016

Annabelle Jean Gerdes - Birth Story

Introducing...Annabelle Jean Gerdes!
Born: Sat., June 4th, 2016 at 7:54am
Weight: 7 lbs, 4 oz
Length: 19.5 inches
Hospital: DePaul
Midwife: Karen Carroll
Nurses: Mary and Martha
Doula: Verna McCrillis
Spiritual Support: Sandi Johnson

To God be the GLORY for the great things HE has done! Before I begin the birth story of Annabelle Jean Gerdes, I want to make sure I give all glory, honor, and praise to my Heavenly Father. It is He that allowed each beautiful chapter of this story to unfold just the way it did, and we give Him ALL the glory.

For those that enjoy extra details, it may be beneficial to get the “back story” about why a second VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) was so very important to me. You can read that story here: http://gerdes3.blogspot.com/2010/11/introducingjosiah-timothy-gerdes.html

Our story truly begins before Annabelle was even conceived. After Josiah was born in 2010, we thought our family was complete. Then when I went back to work in 2012, until 2015, I really truly thought we had made the decision to be done having children, as the long hours of my  teacher schedule (most days 7:30am-6:00pm) were not conducive to bringing a baby into the world. During that time that I had gone back to work, Jeremy asked me one night why I kept telling all of my friends that we were “done” having kids, and then went on to tell me that he was not done. Of course this brought on lots of other conversations, a counseling session, and quite a few prayers. Fast forward to June of 2015, when we clearly felt the Lord calling me to resign from my teaching job, and homeschool Jeremiah and Josiah, starting in September of 2015. We took the summer to really think about and pray about whether or not God was calling us to bring another child into this world. We both came to the conclusion that we’d wait to see how homeschooling would go, before we made our final decision. After our first couple weeks of homeschooling in September of 2015, we realized that this new lifestyle of starting school around breakfast, being done by lunch, and having all afternoon/evening to “play” really was working well for our family. It was at that time that we conceived, later getting our positive pregnancy test in early October. We were both thrilled and shocked that everything happened so quickly!

Because of my amazing first VBAC experience with Josiah at DePaul’s Woman Care Center, I knew I wanted to be seen there for this pregnancy as well. So we had our first pregnancy confirmation and ultrasound appointment with Dr. Hughes in early November 2015, and shared the news with the big brothers, as well as our family and friends, that same day, at about 9 weeks into the pregnancy. From the very beginning, this pregnancy proved to be more challenging than my other two. For about the first 16 weeks, I experienced terrible nausea, that made me vomit most nights, with cereal and crackers being about the only foods I could keep down. I hadn’t experienced this severity with my other two pregnancies, so this was all new to me. Thankfully, I started feeling better around the middle of my second trimester. That’s also around the time we found out we were having a girl!!! Yay! So exciting! Soon after that, though, is when I started having pretty bad heartburn, which was also something I had never experienced before in the other pregnancies. Then around the beginning of my third trimester, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. From the very beginning, the doctors had a feeling I might have GD, because in all of my ultrasounds, Annabelle was measuring 2-3 weeks ahead, and in the 90th percentile. Though this news was devastating at first, and it took some time to get used to the strict new diet, and checking my blood sugars four times per day, it all ended up being a blessing in disguise, because by the end of the third trimester, an ultrasound revealed that Annabelle’s growth was back to normal, and she was in the 57th percentile, which the doctors told me greatly increased my chance for another successful VBAC. It was also around this time, that I was told my blood sugars were so good that I no longer needed to see the diabetes doctors, and was cleared to still be able to deliver at DePaul, instead of Norfolk General, the high risk hospital. Just a few weeks prior to that, at 33 weeks to be exact, we had a little bit of a scare when I had to be admitted to the hospital for the afternoon, to monitor early contractions, that were showing up on the monitor, only three minutes apart. I was given medicine to stop the contractions, as well as steroid shots, just in case Annabelle decided to make a super early appearance. Thankfully, the medicine worked, and my contractions spread back out. We praised the Lord when I made it to 35 weeks, and into the “safety zone” where Annabelle could have come at any point, and would have still been allowed to deliver at DePaul. For the next six and a half weeks, I continued to have some fairly good contractions, which were tiring at the time, but in the end, I truly believe those contractions, along with all the walking I had been doing in my pregnancy, were helping my body get ready for a very speedy delivery! Already, before Annabelle was even born, God had answered so many prayers, and was paving the road for an amazing birthing experience!

As I was starting to prepare my heart and my mind for this birth, I knew that I needed to have a good support system in place for the day that God would choose for Annabelle to be born. I desired for this to be a spiritual experience, where the Holy Spirit was welcome to move freely and powerfully, so I asked my dear friend Sandi Johnson to be with me, as well as a precious new friend and doula, Verna McCrillis. Sandi and I have been friends for three years, and she is a major prayer warrior, who calls heavily upon the Word of the Lord in all situations, so I knew she would be an asset for spiritual support during labor and delivery. I met Doula Verna through my friend Brandi, who is in our homeschool lego club. I praise God for the day we showed up to lego club an hour late (almost didn’t even make it that day), where Brandi and I just happened to talk about birthing experiences and my desire for a Christ-following doula, which is when she gave me Doula Verna’s contact information. After talking with, and later meeting with Doula Verna, I knew her expertise she had developed through attending 34 other births would also be an asset to my birthing experience. It is with great pleasure that I get to share that God worked out LOTS of details, and performed many miracles with the timing of Annabelle’s birth, so that both Sandi and Doula Verna could be there! God used these two ladies in HUGE ways to bring me incredible support on the day of Annabelle’s birth.

On Friday, June 3rd, I had an appointment with Midwife Nell, who upon doing a cervix check, told me that my cervix was 3 centimeters dilated and “soft like butter.” Annabelle’s head was engaged in my pelvis at a -2 station. She predicted that Annabelle would arrive sometime that weekend. I told her that I really hoped she was right, because with my due date quickly approaching, I was feeling very “ready” to have this baby, as I was having lots of contractions, pressure in my pelvis, was having to use the bathroom about every 15 minutes, and was in a lot of overall discomfort. Little did I know at the time, Midwife Nell was in fact right, as Annabelle would be born the very next day! After my appointment, Jeremy and I took the boys to Sam’s Club to stock up on some groceries, as we were really hoping that we might actually be welcoming Annabelle into the world soon. Everything else was already done. Her crib had been set up for a few weeks, along with having the hospital bag all packed and ready to go in the van. Just a day before that, we had even gotten rid of two couches in our living room to make space for a pack-n-play, bouncy seat, baby swing, and comfy chair to nurse in. Even the carseat/stroller combo was in the van and ready to go! We walked around Sam’s Club for about an hour, having to stop every couple of minutes so that I could breathe through the contractions, which were coming on stronger and stronger by the hour. As soon as I got home and unpacked all the groceries, I got into some comfy clothes and decided I was going to take it easy the rest of the afternoon and evening. I’m so glad I did, because little did I know, my sweet baby would be born early the next morning!

I drifted in and out of sleep that evening and into the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, June 4th, waking up very often to use the bathroom and trying my best to get comfortable. Around 1:30am, I could not bare to be in my bed anymore, because my contractions were starting to get pretty strong. I went downstairs to tell Jeremy that he needed to start helping me time my contractions. He was actually still awake, because he was in the backyard working on the hot tub! Yes, he’s a night owl! Because I had gone through so many “false labors” in the weeks leading up to Annabelle’s birth, I made sure to do everything I could do to try to stop the contractions, in case they weren’t actual labor contractions. I was in and out of the shower and bath, guzzling water, laying on my left side as much as I could, and putting a heated rice pack on my back. Over the previous weeks, those kinds of things would stop the contractions I was having, which is how I knew it was just braxton hicks contractions/false labor. Well this time around, the contractions were not stopping with anything I tried, but rather getting closer and closer together. Soon, instead of being 10 minutes apart, they were 8 minutes apart, and by about 4:00am, they were about 6 minutes apart. I had remembered one of the midwives telling me recently that once they were 6 minutes apart, I needed to head to the hospital, as apparently things can happen more quickly with the second vaginal birth. So I called Sandi and Verna, and told them to meet me at the hospital. We woke up my brother-in-law Gabe (who lives with us) to tell him that we were leaving for the hospital, so he would be in charge of the boys. On the way to the hospital, a wave of relief washed over me, as I realized that God had already answered so many prayers about the timing of Annabelle’s birth, as He was allowing me to go into labor on a Saturday morning, where Jeremy was already with me, Gabe was already at home with the boys, and Sandi and Verna were easily able to get to the hospital. My original fear was that I would go into labor in the middle of a week day, where I’d have to track everyone down. Well God totally took care of that fear for me and allowed me to go into labor on a Saturday, of all days! Praise Him!

Sandi, Verna, Jeremy, and I all showed up to Depaul Hospital around 5:00am. There were a few times on the way up to labor and delivery that I had to stop and breathe through the contractions, which were now about 3-5 minutes apart. The gentleman working in the ER area, where we entered the building, kept asking if I needed a wheelchair, as he was escorting us to labor and delivery. But Verna kindly told him that I was fine to walk, as it of course is best to walk as much as possible when in labor. After we got checked into labor and delivery, and after I signed all of the paperwork they needed me to sign, Verna and Sandi got right to work, with making the room more comfortable for me. Sandi got the lavender essential oils going in the diffuser and turned on some calming music, as Verna helped me breathe/moan through contractions and gave me counter-pressure on my lower back. Soon after that, I was introduced to my wonderful team of nurses, of whom I can only remember two names - Mary and Martha. How cool that God gave me two nurses that reminded me of one of my favorite stories in the Bible! Midwife Karen came in to do a cervix check, and to inform us that she was the one who would be attending my birth. I was very glad to be told that I was 5 centimeters dilated. Just a few weeks prior, I had met Midwife Karen (a fellow Wisconsinite!) for the first time, and had told her about a wonderful idea that my Chiropractor, Tiffany Fernandez, had suggested, which was to use a birthing ball in the shower. During that previous appointment, Midwife Karen had told me I could do that, but ONLY if I was able to get the ONE set of wireless monitors that the entire labor and delivery floor had on hand, as I would need to be on the monitors 100% of the time, with attempting another VBAC (which is considered somewhat high risk). So right then and there, after that appointment, I started praying, along with many others, and sure enough God answered that prayer, too! That morning that I had gone into labor, that ONE set of wireless monitors just happened to be available for me to use! Coincidence? Definitely not! Totally a God thing, for sure! Upon receiving the news that I would be allowed to use the wireless monitors to get into the shower on the birthing ball, Verna, Sandi, and I looked at each other with joy on our faces and took time to thank the Lord right then and there.

After a few minutes of the nurse helping me get hooked up to the wireless monitors, I was able to get into the shower, on the birthing ball. Verna, being the amazing doula that she is, had thought ahead, and had brought a swimsuit to change into, so that she could get into the shower with me while continuing to help me breathe/moan through contractions and apply counter-pressure to my lower back. The monitors kept disconnecting, but God blessed us yet again, with a very gracious nurse who left the room for quite a while, giving us the space we needed, and allowing Sandi to keep an eye on the computer screen that showed Annabelle’s heart rate, as Verna helped me adjust the monitors and work through the contractions. Most labor and delivery nurses tend to hover and not want to leave the patient’s side, especially when there is a slightly high risk situation. Thankfully, this particular nurse could see that Sandi and Verna had things covered, so she only needed to check in on us from time to time. I’m not entirely sure how long we were in the shower, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was around an hour or so. I remember the hot shower water feeling SO good, and I also remember feeling an incredible sense of relief every time a contraction would pass and I’d get a break. Toward the end of my time in the shower, though, the contractions started to come on stronger and stronger, with hardly any breaks in between. So that’s when I said I was ready to go back to the bed and try to lay down.

Upon climbing back into the bed, which at the time felt like I was climbing Mount Everest, with all the pain I was in, I immediately started to bawl my eyes out. I remember thinking, “I just want my mom!” It’s true - I’m just a kid at heart - when I’m sick or in pain, I just want my mom! At that time, Verna told me she thought I was most likely in transition, seeing as how my contractions were so close together and I was so emotional. Well she was right! When Midwife Karen came in to check my cervix, she told me I was 9 centimeters dilated, almost a 10, with just small piece of my cervix left to open up. She went ahead and broke my water at that time. It was at that time that the pain became pretty much unbearable. I no longer was able to breathe/moan through contractions, as I had been, and instead started screaming in pain. I felt like my body was being ripped in half! I kept asking everyone if I could just have a break! I wasn’t getting any breaks between the contractions, and all I wanted to do was stop and rest. But, nope! That wasn’t going to happen! It was GO TIME! There would be NO time for an epidural this time around! I was going to have to do this without pain meds! Jeremy, who had been on the other side of the room, sleeping in a chair, since the time we first checked into the hospital, was abruptly woken up with my screams of telling him to, “Get over here right now and help me!” Oh, goodness! What a way to be woken up from a blissful slumber! Oh well! I felt like I was at the end of a race, where my whole body was on fire with pain, just trying to get to the finish line, and everyone was cheering me on, telling me to keep pushing, etc. Well around that time, Midwife Karen yelled at the top of her lungs for everyone to be quiet, so that I could focus just on her. She got in my face, just like a drill sergeant, and said, “Courtney, you better get it together! You STOP that screaming RIGHT now! You need to put that energy into pushing, NOT screaming!” To which I answered, “Yes, ma’am!” I am so thankful for her ability to get me re-focused, as I was in so much pain, I could hardly see straight. I had been on my side, but she had turned me onto my back, for reasons still unknown to me (I had wanted to be in any other position, except for on my back). I remember being told to reach down and touch Annabelle’s head, as she was crowning. Being able to touch her, gave me that extra strength I needed to push through the pain. Midwife Karen kept telling me to put my hands behind my knees and put my chin to my chest. No matter how hard I tried to do that, my legs kept wanting to go straight out, and my head kept wanting to fling back. But with Sandi standing at my feet, both of us praying aloud, begging God to help me, with Doula Verna on my right side calmly leading me through each push, and with Jeremy on my left side holding my hand, I was able to push through all the pain and finally start pushing the way Midwife Karen told me to. Still though, there were a few more times she had to get me back “in the zone” as at one point she told me Annabelle’s shoulders were stuck. Thankfully, she was able to help me ease Annabelle out, fairly quickly. I’m not entirely sure about how long I actually pushed for, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was around 15-20 minutes at the most. Everything happened so quickly, compared to my previous VBAC (24 hours, compared to 3 hours)!

At 7:54am, Annabelle Jean Gerdes made her grand appearance! The first thing I asked was, “Is she really a girl?” What a silly thing to say, right?! But in the weeks leading up to Annabelle’s birth, I kept having dreams that I would actually give birth to a boy, and then would be completely unprepared with all the wrong clothes, etc. So I was very relieved when everyone shouted back at me, “Yes! It’s a girl!” It was of course music to my ears to hear Annabelle’s first cry, and then it was so wonderful to have her placed right onto my chest, cord still attached, for that special bonding time. We all marveled at her perfect little nose, long fingers and toes, and all her hair, which at the time, appeared to be a strawberry blonde, many shades lighter than her older brothers when they were born. Because of how quickly she entered the world, she did have quite a bit of bruising on her face, which thankfully disappeared rather quickly over the next day or so.

After about a half hour or so, my placenta still had not come out, and so Midwife Karen tried several times to retrieve it, with her hand, as well as pushing on my belly, both of which were extremely painful, almost as much as the actual birth itself. Soon after that, Dr. Licor, who I had never met before, came in to explain that because my placenta still had not come out, he would likely need to bring me to the OR, put me to sleep with general anesthesia, and do a D&C to remove the placenta. He was a very nice doctor, who explained things very thoroughly, but even so, I started to get very scared, my entire body started to shake, and yet again I started to bawl my eyes out, praying aloud with Sandi, this time begging God to let the placenta come out on its own. According to Doula Verna, the kind of cry I had this time was a totally different cry than before - more of a “releasing” sort of cry. Well as soon as Dr. Licor was about to finish his lengthy explanation, he and Midwife Karen looked down and realized my placenta had started to come out on its own. One more big push and it was all the way out! Yet, another answered prayer! So Dr. Licor did NOT end up having to do ANY of the things he had told me he might have to do to get the placenta out! Praise God! After getting me all cleaned up, Midwife Karen mentioned that I had a very small first degree tear, which would not even require stitches. Yes! Another praise!

Through each part of Annabelle’s birth story, the months leading up to it, the day before, the day of, and everything in between, it is clear to see God’s mighty hand, and His answers to many specific prayers. Throughout the course of my pregnancy, I posted many prayer requests on facebook and through personal message/text. I was so blessed to have many precious friends and family members covering me and Annabelle in prayer the entire time. I was especially honored to have my sisters in Christ lay hands on me and pray over me and Annabelle at both of my baby showers. Hearing the precious prayers of those sisters in Christ, and then seeing how those specific prayers were answered before/during/after the birth, is totally mind-blowing! I truly believe in the power of prayer, especially praying for things by name! God stepped in and did BIG things the whole way through! From evening out Annabelle’s growth through the special GD diet, to allowing me to have Verna and Sandi at the birth, to being able to use the only set of wireless monitors on the labor and delivery floor, to being blessed with an incredible team of nurses/doctor/midwife who supported my needs and wants, the list goes on and on. God cared deeply about my desire to have another successful VBAC, and truly did exceedingly, abundantly MORE than all I could have ever asked or imagined! He even gave me the strength to do it un-medicated, which was something I had always wanted to do, but never thought I could actually do! I am so thankful to the Lord for this amazing birthing experience, and most importantly for bringing my sweet daughter, Annabelle Jean, into our lives. Truly, to GOD be the GLORY, for great things HE has done!



Monday, October 22, 2012

Josiah turns TWO!

Happy 2nd Birthday, Josiah Timothy Gerdes! It's hard to believe that Josiah is 2 years old today! The time has FLOWN by so quickly! It feels like just yesterday that we were snuggling with him at the hospital, rejoicing in our successful VBAC, praising the Lord for our healthy baby, and adjusting to being a family of 4. Josiah has brought SO much joy to our lives and to the lives of MANY others already in his first two years of life! His big smile, chubby cheeks, and long eye lashes (which he LOVES to bat at any lady who walks by!), are enough to melt the hearts of everyone who comes in contact with him. He almost always has a smile on his face and is SO snuggly! His new "best friend" is Mr. Bear (Bay-oh), which Josiah takes with him EVERYWHERE he goes - to day care, in the car, outside to play, to bed, etc. So sweet! He now speaks in short 3-4 word sentences and is VERY good at following directions. He LOVES to sing, especially the "clean up" song! Such a great little dancer, too! One of the biggest changes in his life happened a few months ago, when he started attending day care at Atlantic Shores Christian School where I teach 4th grade. At first, he had a few tears, but within weeks, he was running into his classroom, excited to see his teachers each day. His favorate thing to do at day care is to paint. He comes home with a new art project just about every day! He's also starting to learn his colors, numbers, shapes, letters, and animal sounds at day care. His favorite animal sound is the pig, and he is SO CUTE scrunching up his little nose, while making the oink oink sound! It's so sweet to see him interact with his older brother, Jeremiah, whom he loves, adores, and wants to be JUST like. They have such a sweet relationship and really do well sharing a room (bunk beds). Josiah - We praise the LORD for you and for the JOY you've added to our lives and to the lives of those around you! You are fearfully and wonderfully made! We love you SO much!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Jeremiah Daniel Gerdes is 4 years old today! It seems like just yesterday that I was holding him in my arms for the very first time, admiring his thick, dark hair and precious little face! Time passes SO quickly! As I'm reflecting on the past year, I am realizing how much Jeremiah has grown and matured in so much areas of his life. It used to be that he had absolutely no interest at all in sitting down and doing any kind of learning activities with me. But ever since he started preschool at Greenbrier Baptist Weekday Preschool this past Fall, he has grown and flourished in all areas of his learning! I am SO proud of him! He now has an excitement for identifying letters and their sounds! At a parent teacher conference earlier this school year, Jeremiah's teacher told me that he is exactly where he should be in all of the areas they cover in preschool. She did mention that he could use some practice tracing letters. So about half-way through the school year, we started doing a "learning time" every afternoon, as soon as we finished lunch/put Josiah down for his nap. During this learning time, Jeremiah traces letters, does sorting activities, plays memory games which help him reinforce his colors and shapes, etc. We have so much fun together, just the two of us! I came up with a little "jingle" to help him learn how to spell his name. To the tune of "All Around the Mulberry Bush," we sing "J-E-R-E-M-I-A-H, my name is Jeremiah." So a few months ago, he started to "sing spell" his name!!!!! I am SO proud of him for being able to do that already! We are now working on writing his name and he is doing a pretty good job with that. We are so thankful for Jeremiah's teacher, Mrs. Atkinson, and all that she has done to foster a love for learning in Jeremiah's heart this year. It's been a blessing to also see him grow spiritually as he learns new Bible verses and stories every week. We have filled up an entire stairwell with Jeremiah's preschool crafts this year. What an amazing first-time preschool experience this has been! Even though we've loved Greenbrier Baptist Weekday Preschool, Jeremiah will be attending a different preschool next year. I just recently enrolled him in the K4 Full-Day program at Atlantic Shores Christian School, where I will be teaching 4th grade in the Fall! We are SO excited! We know this will be a big change and transition for our family, but we also know that God will be there to smooth the way for us. Josiah will be in the staff day care at ASCS, so it will be nice that we can all be in the same building together. On top of every subject being Bible-based, ASCS also offers a wide variety of specials, which Jeremiah will be able to enjoy - Art, Music, PE, Chapel, Outdoor Classroom, Science Lab, Computer, and Spanish! WOW! I am SO excited for Jeremiah, and eventually Josiah, to experience all of these things! I'm even more excited that they will be going to school in a Christian environment. Because it is a private school, the tuition is of course expensive. But because I previously worked there 3 years, I get a rather nice discount, and then after a total of 7 years (so, 4 years from now), my boys will be able to attend for FREE - all the way through 12th grade! What an amazing investment - both educationally and spiritually! God is SO good! Jeremiah and Josiah recently started sharing a room and sleeping in a bunk bed together! They have totally rocked the transition and are sleeping really well, as they both like to snuggle on the bottom bunk together. So sweet! We set up a web cam in their room so that we can hear/see what they are doing at all times. It's so adorable to listen to them giggling together as they fall asleep! Surprisingly, after only about 5 minutes of giggling/playing in their bed, they are fast asleep! SO blessed! Today, on Jeremiah's big day - his 4th birthday - we are starting something brand new - Jeremiah's very first behavior chart. He is SO excited about it! There are 10 positive statements/goals, which he will be trying to accomplish each day: I wake up in my own bed. I get ready for my day with a happy heart. I show love to my brother. I show love to my friends. I listen to adults and follow their directions. I use my manors. I clean up my toys. I try new foods. I honor God through prayer and Bible verses. I get ready for bed with a happy heart. If he has a day where he gets a sticker in every category, he'll get to choose a prize from the prize box. When he gets a total of 50 stickers, he'll earn a date with Mommy or Daddy. At this age, it's tempting to use a lot of negative words, such as "don't, no, stop," etc. We'd really like to try to focus on positive affirmations as much as possible, so we are hoping that by using this chart, Jeremiah will be motivated to work towards positive behaviors. We are excited to see what God has in store for us through this new adventure! Jeremiah Daniel~We are SO very thankful that God brought you into our lives four years ago! You are so precious to us and we love you SOOOOOOOOOOO much! Happy 4th Birthday, buddy!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Josiah's Baby Dedication - Coastal Community Church, Virginia Beach, VA - December 4th, 2011

We dedicated Josiah Timothy Gerdes to the Lord today! At the beginning of the ceremony, I was asked to give a little 1-minute "schpeel" and this is what I said: "Good morning! My name is Courtney Gerdes and this is my husband Jeremy and our sons, Jeremiah and Josiah. Today we are here to dedicate Josiah to the Lord. In just a few minutes, we'll be promising, before God and you all, that we will raise Josiah in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We want you all to know that this is not a vow that we take lightly. Jeremy and I were both blessed to grow up in Christian homes and we each agree that we learned SO many valuable and important things from our parents as we were growing up, which we hope and pray to pass along to our kids. To most people, today, December 4th, is just another day. But to my family, this day has special significance. On this day, 16 years ago, God graciously spared my father's life, after he suffered a heart attack. At that time, I was only in 7th grade, and had I lost my father at that point in my life, I feel my life would be very different and that I would not be the person I am today. My dad has had an extra special influence in my life. He's always been my knight in shining armor. In my eyes, he is one of my biggest heroes, besides God and my husband. Since his heart attack on December 4th, 1995, he's also suffered through a brain tumor, spinal meningitis, and a brain bleed, among other things. In these types of situations, most people would feel sorry for themselves or ask God "Why me?" Not my dad. He's used EVERY situation to glorify God. He views each health challenge as a way to reach out to others and testify to God's mercy, grace, and healing! That's the kind of life I want to live! I want to glorify God in everything I do. Jeremy and I hope and pray that our boys will seek to glorify God in everything THEY do. We know that we can not make the decision of salvation for our boys, so we hope and pray that through our example, and through the examples of others in their lives, like our parents/their grandparents, they'll someday make the decision to accept Christ as their savior. We are not perfect parents. But we know that God's grace covers our imperfections. We will keep that in mind today as we make these vows, on this day, December 4th, 2011."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Josiah's 1st Birthday!


How is it possible that my "baby" is ONE YEAR OLD today?! It just blows my mind! This past year has flown by SO fast, I can hardly believe it! Maybe it's the fact that my two boys keep me so busy, or possibly the fact that we've had three different addresses in the past year. Maybe it has something to do with Jeremy being on night shift for the past three months, making life seem even more of a "blur" than usual! Whatever it is, I am just shocked that my precious Josiah Timothy is one year old TODAY!

I'll never forget Josiah's extra special entrance into the world - via successful VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean)! It was something I had prayed for and desired for SO long and God blessed me with fulfilling that deep desire. If you have not read Josiah's birth story/my VBAC testimony yet, please feel free to read it (it can be found in the 2010 archives).

Josiah is SUCH a precious baby! Since the minute he was born, people have always commented "all that hair" of his and his gorgeous blue eyes! Once he figured out how to smile, he never stopped! He is ALWAYS smiling! I was so proud of him when he smiled all the way through his 1 year photos the other day. So precious to see those six little teeth (4 top, 2 bottom) when he smiles! What a sweet boy! He absolutely ADORES his big brother and loves to follow Jeremiah wherever he goes. One of my favorite things to do is to listen to Josiah giggle. Who can make him giggle nonstop? His big brother Jeremiah, of course! It's absolutely precious to witness! Seeing my boys interact warms my heart in such deep ways!

Because he wants to keep up with his big brother, he is on the move constantly - he was sitting up/rolling across the room at 5 months old; crawling, cruising, and climbing the stairs at 8 months old; and just recently took his very first steps at 11 months old. WOW! Josiah's first word was "mama" (yay!)at 5 months old, and shortly after that, he added "dada," and most recently added "hi, bye, uh-oh, and ni-ni" to his vocabulary. It's hard to believe that he'll most likely be speaking in two word phrases/short sentences by next year at this time.

I'm very happy to report that at one year old, Josiah is STILL nursing! This was a HUGE goal of mine and I am SO happy we made it to a year! From the get go, he has been a great little nurser, and I am SO thankful for the precious bonding time that nursing has given me and Josiah. I know it sounds crazy - but sometimes I miss waking up with him at night (he started sleeping through the night at 2 months old), as now he only nurses about 2-3 times per day. I don't plan to "wean" him, but rather let him decide when he is done. I am assuming that when we start adding whole milk to his diet next week, he won't have much more need for "mommy milk." We'll see!

To celebrate Josiah's 1st Birthday, we are having a party at a nearby park (Oak Grove Lake Park) and are inviting lots of the boys' friends to play, have lunch, and eat cupcakes. We are SO excited to celebrate with our friends! God has blessed us with such an amazing "family"/network/group of friends here in this area! We are so thankful!

God is SO good to give us such an amazing, precious, adorable, smiley, snuggly, giggly, loveable little boy!

Josiah Timothy Gerdes - Our lives were forever changed when God brought you into the world one year ago! We are so very thankful for you and we love you SO much!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

JEREMIAH DANIEL IS 3 YEARS OLD!!!


Today, Jeremiah turns 3 years old! WOW! Where did the time go? It seems like just yesterday that we were rushing to the hospital, when my water broke two weeks before Jeremiah's due date! How was that 3 years ago, already?!

When Jeremiah came into my life 3 years ago, he fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine: to be a mommy. I am SO blessed to his mom and I praise the Lord for giving Jeremiah to me! He is SO precious to me! It's been such a joy to watch him grow, learn, and develop during these past 3 years and I am very excited to watch him become the young man that God wants him to be someday. I pray daily that he will choose Jesus to be the Lord of his life and will walk in the truth!

Jeremiah has been through TONS of changes in these first 3 years of his life. Praise the Lord for resilience in children! Jeremiah spent his first year of life in day care while I taught first grade for the third year in a row. He was well-loved and taken care of there, but I definitely missed out on some precious moments and am SO glad we made the decision for me to stay home after that. What an adventure we've had together these past two years, traveling for Jeremy's job, 2 times to Washington, and once to California. Just recently, I realized that in Jeremiah's 3 years of life so far, he has had SIX different addresses! WOW! That's A LOT of changes for one little guy! But he sure has done well, considering all of that! We all look forward to "settling down" soon, as God closes this "traveling" chapter of our lives.

Speaking of changes for Jeremiah, one of the biggest changes in his life occurred when we welcomed his baby brother, Josiah, into our lives this past October. What a precious time for all of us! I'll never forget the first night that we came home from the hospital with Josiah, after a day of LOTS of brotherly hugs/pictures/moments, and I looked at Jeremy, right before we went to sleep and said, "Our family feels complete. I love this feeling." Truly, I LOVE my husband, our boys, and our life together. God has blessed us tremendously. Yes, there are moments where I feel overwhelmed and struggle with with certain issues such as potty training, discipline, etc. But overall, life is GOOD! The boys and I always find ways to have fun together, whether it be through play dates, play areas, parks, toddler classes, etc. I really enjoy watching my boys interact. Josiah has the cutest little baby laugh, and Jeremiah is the one who is able to get him to laugh the hardest! It's so precious! Josiah loves to watch big brother Jeremiah play, dance, sing, etc. His face lights up the minute he sees his brother! I am really looking forward to watching their brotherly bond form over the years. Also, what fun it has been to put the boys in matching outfits! SO FUN for a mama!! :)

One of the most precious things to watch is Jeremiah's growing love and interest in God. During the past year, he's become quite the little prayer warrior, and LOVES praying for his friends, family, and those in need. I've heard it said that God finds children's prayers especially precious. I'm sure God is smiling when little ones are praying! I just know it! Jeremiah enjoys going to Sunday school, listening to his "Bible songs" (Cedarmont Kids), and hearing Bible stories. His two favorite Bible stories, which he can help "tell," are of Jesus's Birth, and Jesus' Crucifixion/Resurrection. Soon, we hope to start working on Bible verses together. He still LOVES to sing and dance. His favorite "Jesus songs" (in his words) are Jesus Loves Me, I Love You Lord, Down in my Heart, and Open the Eyes of my Heart Lord. When I hear him singing these songs on his own, my heart swells with joy and I feel like dancing!

Jeremiah also has started independently singing other "kid songs" such as Wheels on the Bus, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Ring Around the Rosie, Head/Shoulders/Knees/Toes, ABCs, and many others. One of these days, I need to record his precious little voice singing these songs! Speaking of his ABCs, he's starting to be able to identify some letters and their sounds. This makes the "teacher" in me VERY happy! He knows most of his colors, animals/sounds, can count to 20, is starting to learn some of his shapes, and even knows a few Spanish words. SO proud of my big boy! We are very excited about sending him to Greenbrier Baptist Weekday Preschool in the Fall on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. There, he'll enjoy daily Bible songs, Bible stories, crafts, Chapel, field trips, and will solidify many of the emerging skills mentioned above.

While we've been here in Bremerton, Washington for Jeremy's short term job transfer, Jeremiah has especially enjoyed going to toddler classes at the YMCA. On Tuesday/Thursday mornings, we go to a class called "1-2-3 Grow With Me" where the kids have "free play" with TONS of toys for about 45 minutes (any toddler's dream!), then the clean up the toys, and sit down on the carpet for a few stories, a snack, and songs. What fun! On Wednesdays, we attend a "Tiny Tots" class, which is a toddler tumbling class with mats, obstacle courses, a trampoline, ribbons to dance with, scarves to wave, and more! SO much fun! This past Thursday, while at Jeremiah's "1-2-3 Grow With Me" class, we celebrated his birthday, by bringing in goody bags and cookies for all of his friends! They all sang Happy Birthday to him and he was beaming! What special memories!

In today's post, I'll include the collage I made from Jeremiah's little party at the Y. Today, we are taking Jeremiah to Chuck E Cheese and Great Wolf Lodge to celebrate his birthday! We are all SO excited! So, sometime next week, I'll post other collages of our weekend birthday activities, along with Jeremiah's (and Josiah's) professional photos that we had taken recently.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Jeremiah Daniel Gerdes! We love you and praise the Lord for you every day! We are so proud of you for the big boy you are becoming, the great big brother you are to Josiah, your growing love for the Lord, and the love you show us and others around you! We hope you have the most wonderful day today, as we celebrate YOU!!! :)