The last couple weeks have had many special one year milestones for our littlest guy.
A couple days before Christmas we celebrated his first birthday.
365 days earlier I had no idea that the world had just welcomed a beautiful little boy. We had no idea that we would have a son in 2016, or that we would have a 7th child at all.
On the day of his birth there were no waiting room filled with friends and relatives anticipating joyful news. There were no balloons, excited birth announcements or celebrations.
There was an ambulance ride with a tiny little passenger.
A rush of medical professionals and social workers.
His first Christmas didn't include any "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments, there were no packages with his name under a tree, or families proclaiming that this new little life was the best gift they could recieve.
He brought in the New Year with beeping monitors and rotating hospital staff, as he fought of infections and endured symptoms no infant should experience.
A year later. On the day of his birth he was surrounded by a houseful of friends and family. He was doted on and celebrated by people who have embraced and loved him for the past year.
He was treated like a little Prince.
This much loved little boy received birthday greetings from friends and relatives near and far. Extended foster family, friends who have become family, and even some birth family sent him their love.
He ate cake, chased balloons and soaked up all the attention.
On Christmas morning he and his 2 year old sister were up early to marvel at the pile of gifts that had mysteriously appeared.
The day was spent enjoying just being together as a family of 9.
Grateful for all the good gifts we've been given in 2016.
This sweet boy was the best gift and biggest surprise of 2016.
It has been quite a year keeping up to two little ones 20 months apart...with five others all needing attention as well. Although I have been stretched further and dug deeper in motherhood than I thought I could be, it has been a beautiful year.
Another blessing this year is that we have had some stability in regards to case plan and a future with our two foster babies. After a year and a half of constant fear, case plan changes, stress, and heartache....it was simply wonderful to just breathe. To rest in hope. To know that people in charge agree that this little guy should not have to lose another set of parents, or experience more needless trauma. He has lost too much already. He has gained so much as well.
We were cautious and unsure. Our life was full, busy, and complicated. It was hard to envision how a newborn (one that could possibly come with special needs or health concerns) would fit into our home. We didn't know what his future would hold, how long he would be with us, or whether bringing him into the fold would disrupt and upset the careful balance we keep on the ledge of chaos.
We came to the hospital "to just see the baby". We hadn't actually committed to him yet. I was ready...my husband wasn't so sure. I was full speed ahead and he was all the things that "might be".
All it took with a glimpse though. In that second the abstract became a living, breathing, vulnerable, precious child.
Suddenly he was our son. Even if it was only for a short time.
That was our "yes".
We knew he needed a Mom and Dad. He didn't need perfection or story book happy ending.... just a regular imperfect family that would love him fiercely through whatever challenges might lie ahead.
All it took was laying eyes on him to have that confirmed.
It was love at first sight.
All our excuses, insecurities and fears felt so feeble and selfish.
They felt so incredibly weak next to this little boy who was being so strong and fighting so hard.
This was one of my visits to the hospital where he stayed several more days. He soaked up the steady heartbeat and warm arms. I loved sitting and holding a sleeping newborn. There's just nothing better in life. Someday when all my babies are grown maybe I'll volunteer to sit in hospitals and hold babies that are craving that steady heartbeat and warm arms.
At 12 months old this little man is a delight.
He's ridiculously gorgeous, deliciously chubby and charmingly happy.
He is 23 lbs and 85th percentile for height.
He is meeting developmental milestones and becoming a toddler, complete with curious mischief and a stubborn streak. He is sweet, sensitive and cautious.
He can stand on his own and take a timid step or two.
Other than some lung issues he's a healthy little guy.
Ray is a ray of sunshine in our home. He fills a spot in our family that we didn't even know existed until he arrived. He is adored and doted on by 6 big brothers and sisters.
He's Daddy's little buddy and side kick. He loves to tussle and play.
I have a feeling he'll spend his preschool years tagging along on trips to the Jon Deere dealership for farm parts, and riding in the Semi Truck and Tractors. He'll be the cutest little farmers apprentice.
Ray we are so blessed to get to be your family. It has been a privilege to witness and be a part of the first year of your life. Each new "first" and baby milestone is just as exciting to us as it was when we experienced it all for the first time 15 years ago as rookie parents.
We love you so very very much and we cling to the hope of experiencing many more "first"s and birthday celebrations with you.