Today Nicolas Andrew (aka: Mookie, Nico, Nicolicious, Malibu-Nic — he tans easily, like the Malibu Barbie doll!) turns five years old. Like each of our first two children, he felt it best to arrive very close to a major holiday, thereby making the timing of birthday parties each year a little tricky. We hope to celebrate his special day tomorrow with family, doing some of the things he likes best. The weather is looking less and less like it will cooperate so I don’t know if we’ll be able to enjoy some of the outside activities we’d hoped to. This will likely ruffle me more than it will the Birthday Boy, though.
Because one of the great things about Nicolas is that he is fairly content and happy in most circumstances, especially when he is with the people he loves and who love him.
Nicolas is our most unique child: unique to our family, that is. The rest of us are admittedly a bit more uptight, and tend toward over-achievement in many instances. We’re all even a bit nerdy, you might say!! Nicolas has a personality that I think God knew we would need in this family. He is by far, the most comfortable in his own skin. He thinks he can do just about anything, but doesn’t come across as arrogant. He can make friends with anyone, and usually does. In tough times (in the life of a five-year-old, mind you) such as when he is picked on, falls very ill, or experiences disappointment, he sort of shrugs it off, gives a little sigh, and moves on with life. In a very non-five-year-old fashion. He is very trusting, and quite brave, in an almost-frightening way given how young he is. Most of all, he makes us laugh. He is so funny, and his often comical presence in our lives makes for a lot of humor.
Which I think God also knew we would need. God sent Nicolas to us as a wonderful surprise, at a time when we didn’t know we needed another baby, and for that, we will be forever grateful.
I wasn’t thinking this way though when I saw the positive pregnancy test back in October of 2001. We had just moved into a new house, I had a two year old and an eight month old, and Jay and I had already discussed a tentative plan of three years’ interval between our second and third babies. To say this third baby was a surprise was a massive understatement. Truly, to this day, we do not know how Nicolas was conceived. Well, I mean, we KNOW, but circumstances should have rendered a pregnancy impossible at that time.
But, regardless of circumstances and human planning, the first pregnancy test that I took was positive. So were the second and third, much to my dismay. One would think that a woman who had to wait over 18 (agonizing, at least to me at the time) months before being able to conceive her first child, and who experienced not one, but two miscarriages in quick succession before the safe arrival of her second child, would be overjoyed to see a positive pregnancy test announcing the potential arrival of a third baby into the family.
Instead, not only was I not overjoyed, I was panic-stricken. To my way of thinking, it was much too soon to consider welcoming a third child into the family. After all, I still had an infant to care for. I never wanted three children, aged three and under in my household all at once. Sure, we hoped for more children someday but not this soon. All I could think at that point was that I had prayed over and over for children, and really hoped for a houseful someday, and that God, employing some warped sense of humor had made the entire process an emotional roller coaster for me, culminating with Him “blessing” me with more tiny children than I could humanly handle at once.
Being a young, relatively immature and inexperienced mother, I envisioned a crazy and disorganized household in which children ran wild, and life was chaos. Our family calls ourselves Christians, but what sort of picture would the family in my wild imaginings show to a world in which we are called to be salt and light? I feared for our family’s future, I grieved for the lost childhood I was certain that Jonathan, our second child, was to experience, receiving another sibling way too soon, before he was even done being a baby himself. I had many dark and depressing thoughts as I spiraled into months of questioning why God was doing this. I was angry and frustrated with Him, and sadly, I generally remained that way for the majority of Nicolas’ pregnancy. My sweet husband can attest to the fact that I was not fun to live with during those months; being angry with God is neither conducive to an individual’s inner peace, nor to the peace and serenity of their family.
I tried very hard to present a brave and happy face to those I came into contact with, but inside I was panicking. The “helpful” comments of those individuals who constantly reminded me of my plight with statements like, “Boy, are YOU going to have your hands full!” and “Sweetie, don’t you know what causes this?” made me so upset. My husband’s assurances that God would not give us more than we could handle, and that my being angry at God would not make having this third baby any easier, but instead complicate the situation, fell on mostly deaf ears. I wanted to believe him, to trust that God’s grace would be sufficient, that He was the author and giver of life, that this baby was something to be amazingly thankful for, but I struggled mightily in those months leading up to Nicolas’ birth.
Providentially, the events surrounding Nicolas’ entrance into this world culminated in the best labor and delivery experience I have ever had. He was a week and a half late, and the only baby to not be either induced or delivered by planned C-Section. I still treasure the memories around the time he was delivered, and know this was just the first of many surprises and blessings God showered on me regarding this special child. I fell in love with Nicolas the minute I set eyes on him, and was so thankful for this third beautiful baby. But I still remember crying in the hospital as we prepared to return home, wondering how I would handle and care for three tiny children. Aside from some meals our church friends brought that first week home, there was no other outside assistance available to us as we adjusted to being a family of five.
But Jay was a great help and encouragement to me in the early days, and while he was home from work for about a week, he took care of Abigail and Jonathan almost exclusively, allowing me to focus on little Nicolas, and truly sleep when he slept, etc, in an effort to recover and gain strength for the task ahead. In those first few weeks, I truly cherished my one-on-one times with Baby Nicolas, and even waking in the middle of the night to nurse him and change him was a joy. It never felt as hard as it had with my two previous babies. I actually looked forward to those midnight and early morning feedings with him. And all I can think when I reflect on it now is that God was so gracious to allow me these happy emotions and precious times considering how I had fussed and fumed over what I was sure was going to feel more like drudgery.
Nicolas went on to be our easiest baby ever, in most every way. He slept though the night by three weeks of age, and continued that habit long-term. He seldom cried or even fussed, and he smiled often and giggled alot. I remember how Jay and I would look forward to our “Nicolas time”, which usually consisted of us holding our little baby boy and allowing him to smile, gurgle and cheer us in the way he managed to, even at just a couple months of age. His happy personality came through loud and clear, giving us a glimpse into the sunny and funny little boy he was to become.
Today our entire family and extended family is blessed with happy Nicolas.
Most people who meet him are charmed instantly by his sweet and friendly personality. And while he has some of the same struggles and issues as many five-year-olds do, yet in other ways he seems to possess a peace and calm that I only hope and pray to someday have. His sweet presence in our lives is an ever-constant reminder of the good gifts God lovingly bestows on us, even when we do not ask for them, even when we kick and fight against Him. Today, we thank God especially for Nicolas, our sweet five-year-old surprise, marvel at the little boy he has become, and look forward in faith to what the future holds for him.