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Thursday, December 2nd 2004

1:15 PM

Nate the Great

December 2, 2004

Hello to all our sane friends and family out there,

After months and months of waiting, we are very excited to announce the arrival of the newest Johnson member... and not a minute too late. You know its bad when strangers sympathetically cluck as you waddle by. I took the kids through our local drive through and when I got up to the window, the girl exclaimed that I just HAD to have the baby soon because it looked like I was going to bust open. I should have just peeled out then because the embarrassment was just beginning. She proceeded to grab her coworker and loudly point out the amazing size of my girth. Her girlfriend made such a racket that two other burger flippers were standing on their tiptoes to get a good look at my incredibly large belly. Just when I thought I would die of mortification, Kaleb piped up from the backseat, "You should see her button. It sticks out like a cooking thermometer." Out of the mouth of babes. Simply said, that was the end of fast food for the remainder of my pregnancy!

As anxious as I was to have my body back, I felt apprehensive about the whole reclaiming process. Chad reasoned as only a man can. Having successfully brought three rascals into the world, he reasoned I already knew exactly what was going to happen. I am a pro. What was the problem? Husbands, do not combat pregnant emotions with logic. It does not make for a long and healthy life. I usually feel a little twinge of pride when Chad brags how nice I am in labor but this conversation made me reconsider. Maybe I make it look too easy! The reality of the situation hit me when we went to the pumpkin patch and Kaleb picked out a ten-pound pumpkin. We were all excited about his monster pumpkin until it dawned on me that this was the same size they were forecasting for our baby. Ten pounds suddenly seemed like an awful lot of baby. When I voiced my concerns to Chad, my loving husband just chuckled about a "no returns" policy. Cute. Very cute.

I wasn't the only one concerned about delivering the Great Pumpkin. My doctor decided to induce me two weeks early. After my epiphany at the pumpkin patch, I was more than game to catch this critter while he was still likely to fit. My enthusiasm dampened, however, when the nurse informed me that I was scheduled to be ripened Monday and then induced Tuesday. Excuse me? Do I look like a Veggie Tale that needs to be ripened to you?!?! I am not a Veggie Tale... I am not a Veggie Tale... Oh, God, please don't let me turn into a Veggie Tale! I guess there were some residual effects from being the drive-through freak show. When she finally stopped laughing at the look of horror on my face, the nurse explained that "ripening" was a simple procedure to soften my cervix so they could induce me. Ramming a pumpkin sized head against a rock hard cervix sounded like something to be avoided. Ripening it is!

Monday morning I arrived at the hospital with a book in hand. I am not a Veggie Tale. I am not. I'm not. I'm not. Plan A: get "ripened", walk the halls in my ever fashionable hospital gown for an hour, and then go home so I can come back tomorrow for a healthy dose of Potosin. It sounded simple enough. I was actually looking forward to a little R&R before the big day. Curling up with a book for a few hours without children underfoot sounded like the best way to start an exciting week. Heck, a few hours doing anything without children sounded great.

My plan started off great. The doctor was running late so I got to enjoy three chapters while the nurses brought a steady stream of ice water and juice. I was a little surprised when the doctor walked in. Not totally convinced about the whole ripening story, I went home and called a girlfriend after my doctor’s appointment. She assured that this wasn't some backwater West Virginia procedure. A quick dab of gel was nothing to worry about. I don't know what gel she was "ripened" with. My doc was armed with what appeared to be a dishwashing tablet. Reassuring myself that this was a well-respected physician and not some quack, I consented to go along with the plan. It was that or wait for the Great Pumpkin to come out on his own.

Looking at the dishwashing tablet made me seriously consider the later until I remembered the size of Kaleb's pumpkin. How big of a kid did I really want to push out the birth canal? A few minutes later I was up roaming the halls. When I become queen of the world, I am going to put treadmills in every maternity ward. The Incredible Belly Woman felt incredibly lame waddling the halls in her ever-fashionable hospital gown. The woman screaming in the delivery room made me grateful I had a day to steel my nerves while the babies in the nursery window reassured me that it would be worth it. After an hour of walking, the food cart rolled by and I happily waddled back to my bed.

After a quiet lunch, the nurse informed me that I was good to go once she heard back from of the doctor. It was almost 1:30. If I got out there in the next few minutes, I would have time to swing by the post office and gas station before the kids were up from rest time. So much for the plans of mice and men... By the time the doctor returned his page, I had enjoyed my first contraction. The nurse returned three minutes later with the release papers. One look at my pink cheeks and white knuckles changed her mind. On a whim, she decided to check me before sending me home. Change of plans… I was dilated to seven and we were having a baby.

We were having a baby! After nine agonizing months, we were finally having a baby! We... Wait a minute! It was all good until I realized Chad was working three states away. The whole point of being induced, in my mind at least, was so Chad would witness the birth his son. OK, and so he could help me through labor. Here I am three contractions into labor, dilated to seven, and my husband is missing the boat. I am not a happy prego. I tearfully explain to the nurse that my husband is in Pennsylvania and, bless her soul, she assured me he would arrive in time. Before it occurred to me that she had no basis for her declaration, I was breathing through another contraction while they wheeled me into the delivery room.

The rest of the story is history. Both Chad and my mom, who had flown in from California, arrived in time for the big event. We were beginning to wonder if the doctor was going to make an appearance, but he strolled in just as I was ready to push. Five minutes later, we were blessed with a ten-pound baby boy. I had successfully delivered the Great Pumpkin! It took longer to stitch me up than it did to push him out, but that didn't matter. We had been blessed with a beautiful son and Chad arrived in time to watch. Holding our huge bundle of joy, the past nine months proved worthwhile. The Johnson Zoo was finally complete!

Now that we had a baby, it was time to decide on a name. In light of the fact that he is already half of Bekah’s current weight, Littlest Bit was no longer appropriate. Jolly Green Giant seemed much more fitting! After months of the great name debate, the list had been narrowed to three contenders: Luke, Nathaniel, and Joshua. In the past, Chad has come up with all sorts of creative solutions to narrowing the list to one. During Kaleb's delivery, he actually wrapped a coin in medical tape, wrote the choices, and then flipped it. Husbands, do not reason with your wife mid-contraction. The delivery nurse was so astounded by his actions, she declared me the winner by default. As a result, we have a Kaleb. I suspect the election coverage had something to do with it but Chad purposed we let our Johnson Chronicle readers vote. I had read too many e-mails in support of Luke to let that one fly so we compromised. Each of our children has a biblical first name followed by a familial middle name. It only seemed right that Grandpa Erdem pick the baby’s first name since it would be his namesake, even if he didn’t know that yet. The hard part was keeping our plan a secret!

Grandpa was never able to have children of his own and had never held a newborn. Even at ten-pounds, the miniature features of Baby Johnson awed him. It was fun watching him caress itty toes and melt when a tiny hand wrapped itself around his finger. Baby Johnson was already three hours old when Grandpa arrived so he was surprised we still hadn’t decided on a name. We explained that we had narrowed the list down to three. When asked which he liked, he paused before responding with Nathaniel. You should have seen the look on his face when I handed him his great-grandson, "Grandpa Erdem, I would like to introduce you to Nathaniel Erdem Johnson." The delight and surprise on his face made everyone laugh. Nate the Great was finally here!

The next five days crept by. It turned out that Nate the Great wasn’t as healthy as we had hoped. A lightning delivery prevented me from getting a full course of antibiotics and, as a result, Nate had some respiration problems. He required close monitoring for the first few days but was otherwise fine. After his breathing slowed back down into the normal range, the doctors heard a loud heart murmur. It turns out that he has four holes in both the upper and lower chambers of his heart. He is going to live a long and active life, but we have some bumpy months ahead of us.

It didn’t take long for us to hit turbulence. During his first three weeks, Nate had a few episodes of blue lips but I wasn’t overly alarmed. For the first time in my life, I am thankful for the nightmare we had lived through with Moose. Blue is a matter of perspective. A number of friends have remarked on my calm attitude towards Nate’s color changes. They weren’t around during Kaleb’s first year. I am definitely a seasoned mom when it comes to dealing with blue kids. Blue tinted lips are nothing after watching Kaleb turn shades of Cookie Monster blue.

Panic set in the day before Thanksgiving. I walked in and found Nate’s lips a disconcerting shade of blue and the usual flick (for that deep breath before the cry) didn’t work its magic. I felt like I had been hit over the head. I could only remember the frightening memories of Kaleb’s ordeal. No, Lord, not again! The next step was to undress him. I was startled to see the skin sinking into his rib cage. The doctors had explained that this might happen but I never pictured it looking so surreal. Ms. Calm was nowhere to be found!

Four hours later, we returned home from the hospital. Nate was none the worse for wear. The doctors had restored him to normal oxygen levels and armed us with an Apnea monitor to alert us at the first sign of trouble. Some people panic during the emergency, "What’s the number for 9-1-1?" Then there are people, like me, who fall apart after the crisis is over. I sat in my driveway and cried. Now that I had been assured that Nate was alright, I was overwhelmed by a case of the "What Ifs." What if I hadn’t walked in? What if his color hadn’t returned? What if this happens again? I just cried. Finally empty of tears, I herded everyone into the house and called Chad to fill him in on our morning.

Emotionally, this had been one of the roughest days since we lost the twins. The last thing I wanted to do was sort the mail Drew had carried in. I had to at least peruse it and make sure I wasn't missing something important. I was puzzled to find several oversized envelopes. I didn’t recognize the sender’s names but they were all stamped with the same web address. I can’t express how blessed I was when I opened envelope after envelope to find "Angels for Hope" enclosed. Apparently a friend had submitted our names to an organization that crochets angels and butterflies for struggling families. Each angel was meticulously decorated with obvious time and effort but what really struck me was the attached tag, "Someone special has requested that you receive this ‘Angel of Hope’ so that you know that you are loved and cared about. Our thoughts and prayers are with you." My tears ran free. I walked in from the hospital only to learn that there were strangers out there, thousands of miles away, praying for us.

God is so awesome! The angles have continued to trickle in, each time reminding me that we are not alone in our struggle. On Drew’s suggestion, our host of angels has been fastened to Nate’s bassinet. Every time the Apnea alarm brings us running, we are greeted by Nate’s angles and are reminded he is going to be ok. Even in our darkest times, we are so blessed!

It is hard to believe that a month has passed since Nate came into our lives. The kids are completely enamoured with their little brother. Drew was thrilled to discover the magic touch that soothes a fussy brother. Kaleb is the proud sibling. He introduces anyone who will listen to our newest family member. You never realize how busy the market is until you stop and meet everyone shopping there! I think Bek is Nate’s biggest fan. She is content simply holding him. Sleeping, crying, pooping- it doesn’t matter as long as she is holding her "baby budder". The most amazing thing is Nate’s ability to sleep through all their noise!

I was deeply concerned how a new baby was going to disrupt our routine. How was I going to juggle our stamp business with a newborn and keep the boys on track with homeschooling? Oh wait, you want clean clothes and hot meals too? Surprisingly, the fears I had wrestled with throughout my pregnancy seemed less threatening now that I had a baby in my arms. He didn’t cry incessantly nor did he demand to be held for hours on end. Better yet, Bek was content to entertain the baby while the boys fell back into their homeschooling groove. Maybe all that worry was for nothing!

Or not. Ever feel like things hold together just long enough to give you a false sense of security? Every parent has a least favorite aspect of the job. Some people can’t take the broken sleep. Others gag over dirty diapers. My personal pet peeve is having babies urp in my hair. I long ago abandoned lofty expectations of pressed clothes and peaceful meals. A mother of three learns to find joy in the little things… brushing my teeth before noon, going potty without an audience, taking a shower without a little voice calling to me through the door. I am no longer repulsed when the feverish little body laying next to me expels hot dogs all over my sheets but please, please, please keep it out of my hair!

It had been a great day. The boys were homeschooling. I had written the html code for our new auctions. I was a mommy of four who had it all under control. Until Nate erupted. In the blink of an eye, my day took a turn for the worse. My precious child blasted an amazing amount of regurgitated milk in my hair, down my shirt, and covered the couch. After I recovered from the initial shock, I couldn’t suppress a triumphant grin. And Chad thought the couch covers were a waste of money! A little urp, even if it was matted in my hair, was old hat for a mommy of my caliber. Determined to keep my cool, I set Nate in his bouncer, stripped the couch, and headed to the laundry room. A quick load of laundry and a hot shower and I would be as good as new.

Nate had other plans. I was getting ready to head for the shower when I heard juicy sounds coming from his direction. You know it is bad when you can smell the diaper across the room. He would rest so much better with clean pants. But my hair is so… sticky! I could probably enjoy a longer shower if I changed him now. Where are those stinkin’ wipes? Wouldn’t you know that this child had managed to smear it knees to nipples! Note to self: I need a pay raise.

Off to the bath! I long ago abandoned the cute little baby tubs. Some babies love the bath. They coo while you wash their hair. They smile when you smother them with lotion. Drew screamed like a banshee and in his flailing managed to launch his cute baby tub to the floor. We are now a sink family. There are many benefits of scrubbing your kids in the sink. Mainly, gravity is not your enemy. Secondly, it frees up the real tub for big brothers and sisters. It also frees up the tub to steam green nosed children. Since the adoring siblings had already bestowed their cold upon their little brother, I threw the shower full heat and started running tepid water in the sink. This may have been an unscheduled bath but I was proud of myself for killing two birds with one stone. Pride cometh before the fall.

Nate is not a baby who enjoys warm water running over his chunky parts. He screams. And screams. And screams. As a result, bath time is my most stressful time of day. Not only do I have the company of a screaming, squirming child covered in soap but his objections drown out the sounds of the rest of the house. Though I have often wished my children came with a mute button, I depend on their commotion to keep me alert. Loud clunks are bad but even a small stretch of silence necessitates immediate attention. Nate’s screams leave me deaf to the activities of my beloved rascals.

You would be amazed at the destruction wrought by three children in ten short minutes. You be even more astonished when you realized that it was not malicious mischief. One thing simply leads to another until the whole house collapses around them and they realize they are in big trouble. To avoid casualties on either side, I leave my children in the hands of a capable sitter, the television, with clear instructions that no one is to move. My rascals are thrilled to get t.v. time, a rare commodity in our house, and I have a small hope of returning to an intact house.

Satisfied that the big kids are fully immersed in their t.v. coma, I take Nate to the bathroom. The steam has warmed things up and Nate doesn’t object when I strip him. Maybe the fourth kid is the charm… I am really excited when he doesn’t cry as I apply shampoo. My day of glory has come. Nate has finally embraced bath time!

I should have known it was too good to be true. A glance in the mirror reveals the flaw in my grand plans. The dog has taken it upon himself to jump into the shower. In the blink of an eye, my seventy-pound pup realizes he has been spotted and takes off like a shot into the living room. My unprotected couches! I throw Nate in a towel and tuck him under my arm football style as I race off to save my furniture.

The kids think it is hysterically funny that their mother is chasing a wet dog. The cheers and laughter only make the dog, if possible, even crazier. He runs around the room spraying everything with water. He dodges my grasp and makes a beeline for the couch. I am usually a kickback person but I am not seeing the humor in this at all. In fact, I am now almost as furious at the kids as I am at the dog. Yelling at them to grab Rusty was a bad choice. Bad. Bad. Bad. We must have looked like a nutty parade. The dog raced around the entire house while my hysterical kids chased him and I chased them, howling towel still under arm.

By the time we had finally cornered the dog, I was exasperated, my couches, bed, and carpet were drenched, and the baby was covered in a new round of poop. I may have been able to see the sick humor of the situation if I hadn’t walked back into the bathroom. I had left the sink running in my haste and now the water was cascading onto the floor.

There are times when I am glad that Chad works three states away. I can only imagine what he would have thought if he had walked in at the moment. The house was destroyed. The dog was soaking wet. His wife was sitting in the middle of a flooded bathroom, crying, holding a very poopy baby.

So much for a seasoned Mommy! I suspect that my life just got very complicated.

Welcome to the zoo, my son.

Your Exhausted and Slightly Frazzled Zany Zookeeper

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