Nine years ago this week, four precious children came into this world three months prematurely -- all weighing 2 pounds. Bayleigh, Alexandra, Tanner and Hunter. They've overcome huge obstacles. Bayleigh has no sight in one eye and limited sight in the other. Allie is blind but has fairly good light sensivity. Tanner is blind and has cerebral palsey. Hunter made it through with no medical issues.
These four precious souls have changed my life.
L to R: Bayleigh, Hunter, Alexandra, Tanner
When I was a youth minister, the director of evangelization and ministry came to me and said she was going to meet with a family who just had quadruplets. The were overwhelmed and needed help with the feeding schedule for the babies. I quickly volunteered to go with her...I knew this had my name all over it.
L to R: Bayleigh, Tanner, Allie, Hunter
When we walked into their home, I quickly recognized the mother from youth group years ago. She was battling post partum and was completely overwhelmed. As I laid my eyes on each of those tiny babies, I became smitten.
At this point in my life, I was single and in full time ministry. Most of my friends were married with young families and my heart ached for the same. I just knew this was God's way of meeting that desire in me as well as proving an opportunity to be of service to others. I asked to be put on the feeding schedule. I went for weeks which turned into months which turned into almost daily visits. My favorite times to go were in the middle of the night when there wasn't a houseful of activity.
I started bringing my high school girls with me. Every now and then we would spend the night to give the parents and the Grandmother a break. Those girls would love those babies up, but the waking up multiple times with crying babies really made them aware of the reality of parenting and childcare. It was not only an important ministry but the most effective form of birth control --- and church approved! :) It's honestly one of the most affective and powerful experiences I offered my high school kids.
My relationship with them grew so strong as time went on. I remember telling their Grandmother who became like another mom to me, just how huge my heart had grown for those babies and how I couldn't imagine loving my own children any more. She was the first person to tell me that it was possible to love other children as much as your own. That stuck with me in a profound way. I always suspected God gave me a mother's heart long before I actually became a mother. (And she was right. When Gianna was born, I wasn't surprised how much I loved her. I was surprised how much I had loved other children!)
When the babies were one year old, I started dating Iain. I told him that I wouldn't bring him home to my family until he saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I needed him to know what he was getting into. :) But I clearly remember telling him, "Look, if you want a relationship with me, you have to like and accept my family, but you have LOVE my babies." I knew he would.
As a matter of fact, when we were newly engaged I asked Iain when he remembers the first time he really knew he was falling in love with me. His answer will stay with me forever. He told me that it was the first time I took him to meet the Quads. He said he remembered walking into their house and seeing babies everywhere. Apparently when they heard my voice he said it was like watching them in slow motion crawling toward me from all directions. They were crawling up my legs into my arms obviously ecstatic to see me. Those kids always make me feel like a rock star. It surprises me every time. I got the same reaction when I saw them Saturday. Everyone should feel so loved and appreciated! I guess Iain got a quick little foreshadowing of what I might be like as mother. Love that memory.
A few pictures from the day....
Bayleigh ALWAYS wanting to be the center of attention. So stinkin' cute. Same smile as when she was five months old. The girl's got star-power!
Allie. More introspecitve than the others. Likes to talk, but has to warm up........
Hunter: always the goofy, funny one. Sensitive heart.
Oh sweet Tanner:
Gorgeous baby - Gorgeous boy. Brilliant. Loves his little world.
LOVES music and will do anything to find his way toward it.
He is such a special kid.
Bayleigh led Allie to help her bowl. (Adorable)
You can see Allie's feet aren't even touching the ground in the second picture.
Happy girl. Looks like a strike to me! (She bowls better blind than I do, sighted.)
Gianna lovin' up on Allie.
Gianna, me and Allie
Allie got such a kick out of the fact that Gianna kept calling her. She would tell Gianna to say all sorts of things and Gianna would parrot them back with fairly good precision. Allie, her amazement said, "Hey ReRe. Gianna is a really good 'SAYER.' She can say almost anything!" Precious.
I have to mention the fact that although I don't have 'favorites' of the quads and I've been blessed to have unique relationships with each of them. They would come spend the night with me separately and I took them a lot of places in different pairings. Allie and I, however, I have had a very very special relationship from the start.
When they were all little, Bayleigh and Hunter were the dynamos of the group with over-the-top personalities. This made them pretty popular. Tanner was the smallest and the most beautiful of the group, so he had a pretty big following too. Allie was much more introverted and "observant" (interesting word choice for somone who is blind, but this girl was aware of EVERTHING. She didn't miss a trick!) People tended to pay less attention to her. I am such a supporter of underdogs, so it was such a pleasure to spend extra time with her. I good teach her things so quickly and she loved to learn and was so doggone funny. She was (and IS) absolutely brilliant. They taught her the braille alphabet in school when she was five and the kid taught herself to read. Brilliant, I tell ya.
Every now and then I get messages on my voicemail from Allie telling me how much she misses me and loves me. *melt* Her mom and grandmother tell me that she asks for me and about me on a daily basis. She has an enormous catalog of memories about me that stretches back into her babyhood. I've never met a child with a memory that incredible or that reaches that far back. And it's not even that she's remembering stories of the events --- she remembers details of the events that even I don't recall easily.
(For the record Bayleigh and Hunter have awesome memories too.)
<<<** Katie P.** They love and miss you and remember everything about you. Next time you come in, we HAVE to go see them. I promised them I'd take you to them. >>>
Gianna found use for the little dinosaur designed to help really young bowlers.
Oh...and this just cracked me up. These 2,3 and 4 year old girls befriended Gianna and dragged her all around. She didn't know what to do with herself since every last one of Gianna's young playmates are BOYS!! This was a WHOLE new territory and some pretty flashy little personalities. Ruh-roh.
Postscript: I just found these pics of when Iain & and were dating and took the quads to a local festival.
They were about 2 or 3.
Happy Happy Birthday, my sweet babies! Re Re loves you, BIG BIG BIG!!!