Friday, January 30, 2015

Christmas Picture and a BLESSING, 2014

Notice anything different from my last post about Johanna?

She is HOME. After 5 months in residential treatment, and some horrible events (which I plan to write about soon), she is doing A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

While I believed in the power of prayer before, after this experience---I am even more convinced. We saw a definite turn of events when we openly shared about the struggles Johanna was facing and asked for an outpouring of PRAYER on her behalf.

I love the sparkle in her eyes. :)

Blogging in 2015

I love blogging. I really do. I love sharing my life with you and I love being an encouragement to others along the way.

But it's a love/hate relationship sometimes. :) Because as much as I LOVE to blog, I HATE being behind on blogging! In an ideal world (one in which I didn't have 8 children and didn't live in a travel trailer on the road full-time), I would blog everyday and you would find new content and gorgeous pictures every time you clicked on The Bergey Bunch.

However, the reality is that if I had ample time to blog, I wouldn't have ample topics to blog ABOUT! LOL.

There have been so many times over the past 18 months where I have felt SO behind on keeping this blog "up to date" that I have felt too discouraged to even write.

I want to share all about Johanna.

I want to share about how we've learned to make life work with 10 people in a very SMALL space.

I want to blog about our crazy day-to-day adventures, traveling, homeschooling, ministering in churches, meeting new people, and parenting our bunch.

But I never seem to have time to do EVERYTHING and do it usually the blog is the thing I leave out. :)

After talking with Brent at length about it, I've decided to try a new approach to my blog. I'm going to try to update it very frequently. I can't promise long posts, and I can't promise gorgeous pictures :), but I believe if I just start writing every day or so, I will feel less overwhelmed with how "behind" I've been! There are so many things I long to share and don't want to forget about, so let's see how this goes! :)

I've missed you all. Hoping to see you more frequently in 2015! Blessings!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Mama Bear Technique

(Click HERE for the rest of my Grace Parenting posts.)

In my post Embracing Boyhood: Finding Joy in Little Boys, I talked about ways to find joy while parenting busy little boys.

Today I'm going to add to that topic by sharing one of my favorite "boy" techniques. It's simple, really, but it might seem a bit unnatural for the more feminine/prim and proper/perfectionist type Mamas. (like me, lol)

The Mama Bear Technique: Physical Interaction with Little Boys
Little boys are, by nature, quite physical.
They run.
They jump.
They climb.
They struggle with sitting still for long periods of time.
They laugh loudly (and at things that we girls don't even find slightly funny, like body noises).
They throw things (hopefully like footballs and baseballs).
They love to wiggle and tickle and wrestle and tackle each other.
And often, these very things are what get them into T-R-O-U-B-L-E!
The Mama Bear Technique is simply a way we mamas can get on our boys' level and, essentially, get physical.
Sometimes it can be used to CONNECT with our boys in the language they understand:
--Instead of sending them outside to "run off their energy", play a game of tag instead. Shout out "Mommy's 'it' and coming to get you! Better run!"
--Play jumping or running games WITH them.
--The next time someone burps (and you're tempted to reprimand for poor manners), catch their eye and giggle a bit. Really shock them and announce a burping contest after dinner. :)
--When you're folding laundry and get to the sock pile (which is never-ending in our home), fold up the socks into little balls and throw them as hard as you can at your little guys. Start a sock war and watch their eyes light up with joy.
--Call a pillow fight or a tickle battle.
The Mama Bear Technique can also be used to RECONNECT with our boys when they are struggling. This is my favorite use of this technique:
--When your little guy is having a rough time respecting or obeying you, call them over to you, get good eye contact, then give an appropriate rebuke for the misbehavior. Then, when they least expect it, scoop them up and GET PHYSICAL. If they are still little, throw them in the air. Drop them roughly on the couch and tickle them firmly. Chase them to another room. Crawl with them like an animal. If they are older, start wrestling with them. Knock them gently to the ground and get on their level. Have a "who can punch the hardest" contest (prepare to lose, lol).
EVERY time I use this technique, it helps my boys have a more respectful attitude towards me. It's as if I'm speaking their language and THEY LOVE IT. 
Now, I realize that for some mamas, this technique comes natural. But for others, who might struggle with a little more authoritarian, no-nonsense attitude with their children, this technique takes purposeful thought and planning. I know for me, with my older boys (who are getting too big to hold, rock, or snuggle comfortably), I have to REMEMBER to give them that physical interaction they crave.
If you've not been physical with your boys lately, pull this tool out of your Parenting Toolbox and try it today!
*Speaking for myself, after two very long days riding in the van to get from Illinois to South Carolina for our meetings this weekend, I see a game of tag with my little boys in my very near future. :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Update on Johanna

Most of you know that we adopted Johanna (from China) 3 years ago, at the age of fourteen. We were in the process of adopting Alyssia when God so clearly told us to go get Johanna.

I remember how nervous we were when we said YES. After all, she was a teenager. She had spent 14 YEARS in an orphanage. Her file was outdated and incomplete. We didn't even speak the same language.

It's funny how, when you have such clear direction from the Lord, you can move forward through the paralyzing fear.

We brought home this toddler-in-a-teenager's-body and plunged headfirst into the extreme unknown of parenting her.

There were ups and downs. We blended into a family and grew to love each other. She was FUN, child-like and playful. She learned how to brush her teeth and be gentle with babies. She learned how to read and write and speak in English. She experienced unconditional love for the first time. But very early on, it was clear that she faced a long road to true healing. We took one day at a time and pressed forward.

Our love for her covered a multitude of very rough days. In the beginning, due to the language barriers, it was challenging to communicate on any deep level. Over time, and with extreme effort on my part :), her language skills blossomed. We were able to start scratching below the surface and see the heart of this precious child.

The hurt runs deep for Johanna. She has faced abuse on all levels, and multiple abandonments that have ripped the ability to trust right out of her. The lack of nurture, physical contact, and discipline in her early formative years have left their mark on her body, mind, and spirit.

She attached to me first, which is to be expected with the amount of hours I spent nurturing and teaching her. I knew some of her attachment behaviors were inappropriate and unhealthy.....but again, I hoped that they would mature with time and therapeutic parenting techniques.

They didn't.

Irrational fears, extreme "flight, fight or freeze" behaviors, rages and tantrums, insomnia, attention seeking behaviors, excessive self-soothing behaviors (like head-banging, scratching, rocking, etc).....the list goes on. We have so much empathy for this sweet girl, who, due to her past, has trouble regulating and stabilizing at times. But because of these needs, she has had several acute mental health hospitalizations.

Things became clearer as we were able to have her more fully evaluated, but the diagnosis was no comfort.

Very low IQ.

Cognitive, social, and mental skills of a 9 year old.

RAD. (Reactive Attachment Disorder)

Just 3 little letters, but those who have parented a RAD child know the needs are anything BUT little. :)

It's not all bad, for sure. Johanna is a beautiful soul. She has worked harder than anyone I know. She has never been anything but kind and gentle to my other children. She loves being in our family and loves our ministry (more than most, perhaps, since she has LIVED it). She has grown to be thoughtful and respectful. She truly WANTS to overcome her struggles and we long to help her.

This past year, Brent and I spent many hours discussing and praying about our Johanna's needs. We felt the time was finally right to seek out extensive professional help. She will be 18 next year and the clock was ticking on her ability to receive treatment as a minor. At the advice of a multitude of doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, we sought a residential treatment center that would address her attachment/trauma needs.

We are SO thankful that the Lord guided us to an amazing facility, where Johanna has been since August. She's had good days and bad days so far, but there is an entire team of professionals working with her. Every possible treatment is being considered as we all work together to help her heal and transition back into our family as soon as possible.

Would you please bathe Johanna and our entire family in your prayers? This has been a very dark valley to walk through for all of us, but God is NOT finished writing Johanna's story and we are SO thankful we have the privilege of being her parents. Our extended family, our pastor and the sweet friends at our home church, our mission board, and every professional that has worked with Johanna has been so supportive of our entire family. We love the fact that Johanna has so many people praying for her---would you join them in asking God to give us all wisdom in seeking what is best for her?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

One Month Old

You are one month old already.

You are staying awake a little more each week---oh, how we love your bright eyes!

You've gained 3 whole pounds since you were born! You love to nurse and are following in your 3 brother's footsteps and gaining quickly. :)

Your favorite place to sleep is on Mommy. In a pinch, Sissy or Daddy will do. :) Thankfully, you do like your carseat--a blessing for all of the traveling in your future.

Happy One Month Birthday, Titus Alexander! You are loved, so so much. :)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Birth Story: Titus Alexander Bergey, August 17, 2014

*Disclaimer: While the photos on this post are tasteful and not graphic, it IS a birth story. Male readers may wish to skip the details. :)
While this was a pretty uneventful pregnancy, I struggled from the very beginning with fear.
Fear that I would miscarry.
Fear that my baby would die in the womb.
And towards the end of the pregnancy, fear that he would die during the birth.
I distinctly remember the first time I gave my precious baby back to the Lord. I KNEW He was in control, no matter the outcome, but I found myself having to repetitively rest in His wisdom.
I think part of the fear came from just being SO very excited to experience pregnancy, birth, and a nursing newborn again. It seemed too good to be true so I thought perhaps it WAS too good to be true.
Regardless, as I neared the end of the pregnancy, I talked with my midwife about some of my fears. I have a history of big babies (largest one was 10 lbs, 12 oz) and I also tend to not go into labor on my own without a little "nudge". I was worried that I would go past my due date and have a huge baby (more of that fear, I guess).
I experienced real contractions for the first time at 38 weeks. I knew I was in "early" labor, but didn't want to get to the hospital at the END of labor, when I can't walk. LOL
I was dilated to 4cm, having good contractions, but baby was in a posterior position, which the midwife checked several times, and she wasn't comfortable intervening at all because of the position of his head. "Funny angle", she called it.
I trust her, so I went home with strong contractions, went to bed, and woke up with nothing.
Disappointing to say the least. :) The next week was very uncomfortable for me. It was as if the early labor had triggered hormones in my body and I was grumpy and miserable. :) I was in a lot of discomfort and started to feel like the baby was getting big (my guess was 9 lbs) and that he needed to come pretty SOON.
At my 39 week visit, the midwife spent quite a bit of time checking baby's position again. She felt like he might be in a better position than the week before (little did we know!). She said if I started having regular contractions again, to call her and come in.
The next day I started having very mild contractions around 5 pm. They kept coming, though, and I was so hopeful that baby would come soon. I called the midwife and she said to come in whenever I wanted to.
I got to the hospital around 7, and she came to check me around 8. I was having contractions, but they were so mild that I was worried I was still at a 4 and would be sent home AGAIN.
Nope, not heading home. I was 7 cm! The midwife was able to break my water but said baby was still pretty high.
I changed into my nightgown, called Lauren (my photographer and sweet sister) to come to the hospital, and started walking the baby down. I LOVE to walk during my labors. There's just something about the distraction of walking, swaying, leaning, moving that helps me relax.
Here I am at 9 pm, still comfortable and enjoying having Ellie's company. This was her first birth experience and she did AMAZING.
Every time I walked in or out of the room, I had to stop and touch the baby warmer. Just reminding myself that there would be a baby in there soon helped me stay focused.
From 9 pm to midnight, I mostly just walked the halls. The contractions were manageable and except for lower back pain, I felt GREAT. I was enjoying the fact that I was so far along and yet so very comfortable---but as the night wore on, I started to think, "Why am I not feeling this baby move down? Why is this still so easy?"
Brent, Ellie, Lauren, and the midwife kept my mind off of those worries for the most part. We talked, laughed, walked, laughed, squatted, and laughed some more. :) I felt such peace and joy at having these special people joining in the birth of my son.
Those of you who know my husband, know that he is a funny guy. :) Here he is, mocking me, with Ellie's help. I realize some women wouldn't want any joking during their labor, but Brent is very sensitive as to when/where/how to joke or STOP. At this point, it was a lovely distraction for me. :)
Around midnight, I started getting tired. The contractions didn't seem to be getting much stronger or closer together.....the midwife thought I might be the first woman to birth a baby in the hallway :), but I knew he wasn't moving down the way he should.
Brent suggested I get checked, but I was nervous that I hadn't made any progress, so I kept saying NO.
Finally, I agreed to a cervical check.
I was complete.
10 CM.
But the midwife checked me for a L-O-N-G time. I could tell his little head was still pretty high. She finally said, "He's still posterior. And his head is turned in a very unusual way." I wanted to know WHAT this meant and HOW to fix it. She calmly suggested some new positioning to try to bring him down.
I'm so thankful now that she didn't tell me what she REALLY was thinking----that this baby may not descend and we may be headed for a C-section. I would have panicked and not been able to think straight if SHE had seemed stressed. She had such a quiet, calm demeanor and she passed on that calmness to me.
First I tried sitting backwards on the toilet. Very painful, but I was looking to my midwife for direction. "Just a few contractions like this." she encouraged me. I was starting to quietly vocalize to stay on top of the contractions at this point.
It was 1 am.
For the next hour, I tried several positions in an attempt to bring the baby down so I could push.
I prefer to NOT be on the hospital bed at all, unless I'm pushing a baby out :), because it is just SO uncomfortable to not be able to move. So when the midwife suggested I try lying on my side in the bed, I was thinking, "Um, no. How about I go labor in the TUB instead?"
But I knew she was right. On my side I went.
The pain skyrocketed. After just a few contractions in this oh-so-painful position, I said, "Oh! I feel him coming down!"
I rolled over and she checked me again. She was still very calm---but not very reassuring that it was indeed time to push. (I know now that she was still worried, but again, she didn't show that to me at the time.)
It was around 2 am at this point, and I was on my back and in immense pain because of that fact.
I didn't know if I should get up and walk or if it was time to push.
Then the room filled with all of the "you're about to have a baby" staff. I could see everything being prepared, yet with the midwife seeming unsure, I was nervous.
"Oh, I think you're all lying to me and he's not coming soon." I wimpered.
The midwife kept saying, "Let's take it slow and let your body do the work."
And I was thinking, "YOU take it slow. I'm ready to be done." :) (I kept that comment to myself though.)
I pushed for 17 minutes. Slowly I felt him slide down. My last two births, I pushed them out with 2 pushes, so it felt like this was taking forever.
"Careful, slowly, let everything stretch." the midwife encouraged me. When she could see part of his head, she said, "OH, he's completely bald. Not a bit of hair!"
We had no idea that it was his FOREHEAD presenting. Normally, babies are born facing DOWN, with their backs against their mama's tummy. Occiput posterior babies are facing up, with their spine against mama's spine. (Hence the back pain.)
This baby was face up AND coming forehead first. The back/top of the head is the most moldable and usually the presenting part, and the majority of forehead presenting babies are not able to be birthed vaginally. A fact I'm glad I didn't know at the time. :)
I still felt him coming down, though, and I asked (begged?) her---"Can I just push him out now??"
Gently, (and extremely painfully, I might add) his head came out.
I gave another push, expecting the ripple feeling of the shoulders and body, but nothing moved. If anything, it felt like his head went back IN a little, instead of coming OUT when I pushed. I looked up at the midwife and she was calmly saying, "Call NOW."
The red cord, the emergency cord, the "I hope we never have to pull that cord because something BAD is happening if we do" cord---was pulled.
They dropped the bed down completely flat.
I had been watching the birth in a mirror, and I instantly KNEW.
He was stuck.
Shoulder dystocia is the fancy description of a baby that gets his shoulder wedged in the pelvic bone. Because his head is already out of the womb, his cord is compressed  (and in this case, wrapped around him as well) and he immediately begins to lose oxygen. He can't take a breath, but the cord can't supply him with oxygen either.
Three minutes.
The midwife told me later that they have THREE MINUTES to birth a SD baby before they are at risk of brain damage or death.
The seconds felt like HOURS. All those fears I had experienced during the pregnancy flooded my heart and I thought to myself, "He's dying. My baby is dying. I have to push him out NOW."
They put my legs in the air to open the pelvis, and the nurse pushed down on my stomach while the midwife reached inside me and released my baby's arm.
I closed my eyes and pushed with everything I had.
And when I opened my eyes, he was laying on my chest.
"Is he okay? Is he okay?" I kept repeating it. I looked at everyone in the room for reassurance.
The midwife smiled and said, "Stop looking at ME and look at your BABY!" :)
He was perfect. Blue at first, and bruised, but perfectly formed in the image of GOD.  
I turned to Brent and whispered, "I thought he was going to die."
"I know." he answered. "But he didn't. And he's here. And you did amazing."
Then I realized that Ellie, my sweet Ellie, had been in the room the whole time. I vaguely remember her backing into the corner when the midwife called for help.
"Are you okay?" I asked her.
"Oh, Mommy, I was so scared!" She began to cry a little, then reached out and touched her brother's hand.
"Me too." I whispered. "But he's here and he's okay now."
"I did it. It's over. That was terrifying. He's alive." These were the thoughts that kept running through my head.
After a couple of minutes, I looked down at my baby and I was instantly and gloriously in love. :)
This is my favorite picture from the birth. It captures all of the emotions perfectly.
I birthed the placenta, and the midwife quietly said, "Your placenta looks old, like it was starting to deteriorate. It's a good thing you had this baby NOW."
My mind thought for a minute, how different the outcome could have been, had I gone another week or two.....he would have been bigger and.....oh, I can't think about that.
Instead, I'm overwhelmingly THANKFUL.
For my husband, who supported me so gently and completely.
For my sister, who not only encouraged me, but also took such beautiful pictures to document the birth.
For my daughter, who got to experience the wonder and glory of a newborn's birth.
And for my midwife, who, with her quick thinking and calm personality, saved my baby's life.
Welcome to the Bergey Bunch, Titus Alexander. All 8 lbs, 13.6 ounces of you.
Ah, yes---I forgot to mention---he does indeed have HAIR. Gorgeous, soft, wispy blonde hair.
Just not on his forehead. :) 
To read Lauren's view of the labor and birth (and to see lots and lots of awesome photograpy!), click HERE.

Friday, August 29, 2014

New Baby for the Bergey Bunch

Last December, (right when I DISAPPEARED from the blogging world.....I truly love blogging, and I have a million posts I'm dying to share, but this past year has been spent LIVING, with very little time to write about that LIVING! ), we found out we were expecting our 8th child.
We had prayed for years that the Lord would bless us with another biological blessing, but we were SO busy with the adoptions, and then ministry, that we thought perhaps the Lord was saying "no".
But, on a rainy December morning, while Brent was hooking up the trailer for a day of traveling, I saw *two purple lines* on a pregnancy test and our already crazy life became just a little bit crazier.
To say the entire family was EXCITED is an understatement.  :)
We celebrated this precious baby the ENTIRE nine months of pregnancy. It was like our long-awaited first-born all over again, only a little bit better for Brent and I because we knew how amazing a new little life is. I struggled with morning sickness for about 17 weeks (compounded by our full-time sickness plus morning sickness is M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E!) but the rest of the pregnancy was FABULOUS!
At our 20 week ultrasound, we discovered that I was pregnant with another BOY.
Four girls and four boys. How perfect is that?  


My sister Lauren and my mom threw an amazing shower for little boy and me. Since we sold EVERYTHING we owned last summer, I was truly starting over with this little guy. I was blessed with so many little God-specific answers to prayer! Little boy Bergey was well-provided for and well-loved already. :)

My mom made 3 cakes for the shower! Yummy!

One of the highlights of this pregnancy was doing a Maternity Photo Shoot with my sister/photographer Lauren. She takes amazing pictures and without her, I wouldn't have so many incredible pictures from this baby's pregnancy/birth. I've never had nice pregnancy pictures (who feels pretty when they're big pregnant, lol?) so this is such a treat for me. :)

37 Weeks Pregnant with Baby Boy Bergey

Next post---Baby's birth! Stay tuned!