Robyn Barberry is the doting wife of her high school sweetheart, the mother of three precocious boys, and the art teacher at St. Joan of Arc school in Aberdeen.

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Your words are always so inspiring. I also spent 12 years in Catholic school and chose to give my children a Catholic school education. It is the best decision we have ever made!

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I attended public school and taught in them as well. My husband attended catholic school K-12 grade. When our children were born, I was sure they'd attend the local public school. However, my husband asked me to go to the open house at St. Joan of Arc just to see it. I spent about an hour to an hour and a half and when I walked out, I called my husband and told him our kids were going to SJA without a doubt. I saw God everywhere, friendly faces and a welcoming family atmosphere. I realized that my kids could have God in their life daily and be with other like minded families and students rather than just think about God at home and on Sunday. Both my boys attended SJA through 8th grade and then went on to The John Carroll School and I was extremely satisfied with their education, both academic and spiritual. I'm so grateful that 15 years ago my husband asked me to visit a catholic school and consider it for our boys. Thank you Robyn for your insight!

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Unconditional

A letter to my baby – on my first day back to work

Dear Teagan,

For almost a year, we have been together. First you lived inside of me; then, in my arms. I haven’t left your side for longer than a few hours since the day you were born. On Wednesdays when your brothers were with your grandmother, I had you to myself. You’d nuzzle up to me in your carrier while we shopped for groceries. We were almost as close as when you were in my belly and there was no one else in the world but us. That was our time. No one can ever take those early days away.

Now, it’s time for you to share me with the rest of the world. Today is my first day back to work. It’s my first day being without you. But, it will be okay.

I teach art to kids in a small Catholic school so that I can provide nourishment for our family and for my spirit. My job could never bring me as much joy as you have in these past six weeks, but if I’m going to be away from you, I may as well be doing something else that I love. When I’m not your mommy, I’m Mrs. Barberry. And I like having both of those names. 

I can’t carry you around all day while I teach. You'd be too heavy. You'd get messy. And, you’re so cute that my young students wouldn’t pay attention to me. The girls would coo over you and comment on your outfit like you were a runway star. Most of the boys would ignore you, unless you spit up. (They'd probably like that.)

My students would compete for my attention, too, because I can’t stop gazing at you or smelling you or kissing you or brushing my fingertips across your rose petal skin. When I’m at work, I need to focus on my students. But, from time to time I glance over at the photographs of you and your brothers on my desk. They remind me that I’m working to make a better life for you. (It especially helps when my students are acting up!)

Your picture is all I have of you today. The one of you draped in my wedding dress and veil on my desk and the one I took of you yesterday in the coral dress my students’ mom made for you. (It’s the picture I’d share with my coworkers when they asked about you.) I snapped one last picture of you in your pajamas before getting you dressed.


 


I drank in every drop of you, Sweet Tea, before your Daddy loaded you up for a fun day at your Lovey’s. I kissed you goodbye as Daddy walked out the door. The second he closed the door, I cried, just as I did for each of your brothers. Even though I knew you were heading to another place where you’d be held close and surrounded by love, I wished that I could be the one to share the day with you. I breathed in the milky smell of your pjs (the ones with the little teal and purple birds on them that your brother’s teacher gave you.)

Throughout the day, I kept checking the clock and counting the hours until we’d be together again. Your grandmother sent a picture of you to my phone. It made me smile and boosted my energy. Before I knew it, the workday was over and you were back in my arms. I asked about your day. You hummed and purred. That will have to do for now.

As much as I wish I could be there for every moment of your life, I can’t. Sometimes the only place where I can hold you is in my heart. I know I’m going to miss some milestones. You may say your first word to a grandparent. A babysitter might be the first witness to your first go-round on a bike. That first tooth might fall out when you’re in someone else’s class. But, I will be there when you need me instead of someone else. I’ll read to you. I’ll listen to you practice your recorder (but only if I can wear ear plugs). I’ll wait for hours with you at the MVA to get your first license. I’ll cheer as you walk across a stage. I’ll sob when you down that aisle. If you call, I’ll always pick up the phone. And I’ll never stop praying for you.


Love,

Mommy




 

 

August 29, 2016 02:05
By Robyn Barberry


Next in line: Waiting for baby


I’m at a point in my life where I know a lot of other women who are expecting babies. Many of my friends, family members, and former students who have entered the “adult” phase of their lives, are simultaneously sharing the experience of carrying and growing a life.

I found out I was pregnant on November 1st and learned that my baby would arrive sometime around July 9th.  With the exception of one friend who is sharing a due date with me, I could line up all of my fellow moms-to-be on a continuum based on when their babies are expected to arrive. As time has passed, there have been women before me and women behind me. “Like being on an escalator,” I told Patrick.




Time moves without stopping, just as an escalator does. Inevitably, some of my friends with due dates before mine, have reached the top and exited into a beautiful new life, their babies nestled in their arms. As I move up on the escalator, I get closer to the top and look over my shoulder to find more friends filing in behind me, their bellies growing in time with the incline.

One of these days, I will reach the top and there will be no one else in front of me. Then, it will be my time to step off of this ride and take my daughter, Teagan, in my arms. I can’t wait to explore the next level, but I’m a little nervous. What if something bad happens? Suppose I fall or get stuck? What if the escalator stops and ceases forward progress? (At 38 weeks, it feels like this sometimes.)

Then, I remind myself to trust in God. He is in control of that escalator. He knows when and how I will get off of it. He knows what awaits me on the second floor. He is always good.

The final weeks of this ascending journey are the hardest. (Sometimes I feel like I’m on the never-ending escalator at Camden Yards.) This is my fourth time here, but it doesn’t make it easy. I do, however, have some coping strategies that have helped me in the past and are providing me peace now as I wait:

1. Pray for patience, not the expedited arrival of the baby. (I wrote about this in the final weeks before I had Leo. It definitely helped.)

2. Accept that “This too Shall Pass,” including the rude comments from strangers, like the man at the gas station who shouted, “You’re gonna explode!” I thought he meant I was creating sparks by cleaning out my car while I filled up, but he wasn’t talking about spontaneous combustion. He was talking about my gigantic belly. I had a miserable final few weeks when I was pregnant with Frank (probably because he never stopped moving!), but the only thing that got me through the agony was knowing that he would eventually have to be born.

3. Stay busy. It’s summer, so I’m off from teaching, but I’m trying to get into work one day a week to clean and organize for next school year. I’ve also planned fun activities for myself and the boys, like a visit to an “escape room” with some old friends and a trip to the movies with Collin and his godparents to see Finding Dory. I even had an artist friend paint a giant, rosy teapot on my belly. I try to have at least one small activity to look forward to each day.




4. Nesting and prepping. With the help of my mom, Patrick and I FINALLY cleaned out our garage and storage areas. We’ve also spent some time decorating Teagan’s room. It’s been fun sorting through her adorable little clothes and finding cute personalized things on Etsy. (Poor Leo didn’t get this much attention because he was born in October, our most chaotic time of the year.)






5. Snowballs. Right after I told Patrick about my escalator analogy, we visited the Emmorton snowball stand where I ran into a former student who was rapidly approaching her due date. We talk online regularly and have both agreed that a Styrofoam cup of ice drenched in sugary syrup is exactly what we need to cool us down – body and mind. I couldn’t help but think about the irony of her waiting in the long line before me, both of us eagerly awaiting the moment we finally embraced our icy treat. I watched longingly as she received her snowball, indulging in that first taste of sweetness. I was anxious to meet my own frosty bundle. Before I knew it, I was back in the car, savoring every spoonful of my new arrival.

A few days later, my student had her baby, an adorable little boy named Theo.



That meant there were only two women I knew before me, waiting just a few more weeks – or even days -- to get off the escalator. One delivered a healthy boy three days ago. The other and I are eager for July 9th-ish to meet our fourth babies.


Hopefully by next week, I’ll be writing about meeting my daughter for the first time, but if not, I’ll be trusting God to get me there safe, sound, and soon…and consuming my fair share of snowballs!

 


June 27, 2016 02:34
By Robyn Barberry


Big Brothers


Collin became a big brother for the first time in 2012, just shy of his third birthday, when Frank joined our family. Almost a year and a half later, Leo appeared on the scene, bolstering Collin’s oldest sibling status and adding a confused and (to an extent) reluctant Frank to the “big brother club.” Each time, they received t-shirts advertising their important roles, small gifts from the new addition, and the paparazzi treatment from mom, dad, grandparents, and countless friends and family members.

For the most part, our transitions from a family of two, three, four and five have gone pretty smoothly. (Except for the whole Frank biting Leo ordeal, which still hasn’t fully resolved itself. We blame their narrow age gap and opposite personalities on top of Frank’s developmental delays.) Collin, especially, loves being around toddlers and babies, who are always a captive audience to his silly antics.

For most of my dwindling pregnancy, Collin has been excited about Teagan’s arrival. He likes picking out decorations for her room and tiny little girl clothes. He even draws pictures of her. But, over the past few weeks, he’s started to show some anxiety about her arrival.


I bought him a book called The Big Sibling Book, which is a baby book that an older brother or sister fills out for his or her family’s new little one. The first section is intended to be filled out before the baby is born, so one day after school Collin and I started working on it together. At one point, he wrote that he was nervous about his sister’s arrival because he thought Mommy and Daddy weren’t going to have time for him. I tried to reassure him that we’d find special things to do together, but he still seemed anxious.

I talked to our school guidance counselor who advised me to arrange for “dates” with Collin (and the little boys, too). I started on it right away, taking Collin to run errands with me after school, stopping to buy a cool new Orioles hat, snack on some sushi, and listen to Teagan’s heartbeat at my OB’s office. (She even let Collin use the Doppler machine. He was so excited.)

On the way home, I asked Collin to think of some things he’d like to do with Patrick and me over the summer. Maybe we’ll catch an Aberdeen Ironbirds game or walk to our new snowball stand or play a round of mini-golf. Whatever we do, we will make sure Collin knows that he is more than just a big brother, he’s our oldest son, and he matters to us as an individual.


Frank and Leo probably have no idea that the baby is coming. Or maybe they do… When I lift them my shirt to show them my belly, they say, “Goodnight baby!” in an indignant tone and pull my shirt back down with the kind of tug one uses to close a window shade. They haven’t been around many babies, so we will have to practice being gentle and kind, maybe with one of the cute dolls Teagan’s already acquired. We also have some great books on the exciting things that happen when you become a big brother. (Frank probably needs a refresher course.) The adjustment is sure to be difficult for them, especially our current “baby,” two-and-a-half-year-old Leo, but if I follow our guidance counselor’s advice and make time for puzzles, stories, and bubbles with each of them, they’ll get the attention they need to feel important and loved.



June 07, 2016 10:49
By Robyn Barberry


By any other name


Choosing a name for a baby is a daunting task for any expectant parent. After all, it’s the one constant that will stay with a person from the day they’re born until the day they die. It’s the first thing we usually share about ourselves. It’s what we answer to. It’s who we are.

So, hey, moms and dads-to-be…no pressure.

Baby naming is an especially difficult obligation for teachers, like myself. You don’t want your child’s first name to be followed by an initial, so you stay away from anything too common or too trendy. You want your child to stand out. At the same time, you don’t want to choose a name that’s weird or hard to pronounce.

It must be a name that sounds good whispered or hollered. It must look good on paper. It earns bonus points for carrying special meaning, like a virtue or a nod to cultural heritage. And it MUST blissfully coexist with your last name (which is why, despite it being one of my favorite places on Earth, there will never be a Kerry Barberry).

If you’re me, a saint’s name must reside between the first and the last. And, of course, the initials can’t spell out anything crass or embarrassing.

Finally, it has to work well with sibling’s names. In my case, there are three older brothers on the line. Which means that my list of boys’ names was a short and slim as a piece of gum. And every bit as sticky.

Fortunately, I’m having a little girl (I found out my baby’s gender for the first time ever back in March), so the debate between Christopher, Sean, Anthony, and Vincent rests.  I contemplated the girls’ names I conjured up for each of my previous pregnancies – Magdolyn (Maggie for short), Lillian (my grandmother’s name), Hope, Grace, and a slew of other whimsies – but decided that this little girl needed a name of her own, rather than one set aside for the daughters I imagined, who ultimately became my sons.  

I’m still not sure exactly how I stumbled upon her name. (She won't be carrying on a legacy, like Frank, who is named after my grandfather.)  I know there’s an Irish pub in St. Louis that my husband once visited with a similar name, but I’m pretty sure it came from one of my visits to a “Baby Names of Ireland” website.

When I found out that the name Teagan can mean “beautiful” or “little poet,” I fell in love. (I also decided it would be cute to call her “Sweet Tea” for short.) Just as I did with my current youngest, Leo, I began to imagine her when I settled on the name. It was the next-to-the-last piece to the puzzle within me. Now, all I need is to see her face.

The middle name was a point of contention. Patrick’s not crazy about the names Brigid or Kateri, who are two of my favorite saints, but we ultimately settled on Rose, especially after I read up on St. Rose of Lima. It’s a classic, feminine name that will help diminish telemarketer’s confusion when they call to speak to a victim, er, prospective customer, with a quasi-androgynous name.

I was initially going to keep the name a secret, like I did with Leo, but on the night I found out I was having a girl, I immediately ordered some gorgeous fabric from England with teapots and roses on it, along with a teacup-embellished hat and some rose headbands. Coincidentally, my neighbor gave me a Beleek teacup. I knew then that I had to share Teagan Rose’s name with the world…or else I’d burst.



So, I assembled some clues in a box and had my family guess her name on Easter. Most people got Rose right away, but few were familiar with the name Teagan. Once they saw it all spelled out in Scrabble letters, they were happy to learn a little more about the special person who will be joining us sometime around July 9th.

Yesterday, my beloved coworkers hosted a lovely shower for me and Teagan. The gifts were adorable (I never thought I’d love pink so much), the food was delicious, the decorations were gorgeous, and the company was splendid. But, the most special thing was seeing her name on a beautiful cake baked by my wonderful friend, Gina. At that moment, I knew for sure that this is really happening! I’m going to have a daughter!



 

May 19, 2016 10:49
By Robyn Barberry


The reveal


What's it gonna be? Blue or pink?


From the moment I announced that I was expecting my fourth child, friends and strangers alike have asked the inevitable question every pregnant woman finds herself answering over and over again: “Are you finding out what you’re having?”

“I never have,” was my consistent reply.

It’s true. Unlike most women (at least the ones I know), I chose to wait until each of my first three children made their grand entrances into the world to find out whether I’d have a son or a daughter. And each time, my OB shouted out “It’s a boy!”

Part of me always wanted a girl. There’s a line from the song “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire that goes, “Can’t you understand/that I want a daughter while I’m still young?/I want to hold her hand and show her some beauty before the damage is done./But if it’s too much to ask/if it’s too much to ask/send me a son.” All I ever wanted was a healthy baby, but I couldn’t help but wonder what it might be like to have a little girl.

All of my prom dresses hang in the back of Collin and Frank’s closet, just in case I had a daughter who liked to play dress-up (or wanted to wear something vintage to a high school dance). I’d held on to my wrought iron bed and some of my favorite books and my American Girl doll (Felicity) because I wanted to relive a few slices of my childhood vicariously through my own little girl. I wanted someone to get pedicures with me and watch the kind of movies where nothing blows up. I wanted to shop for a First Communion dress and help plan her wedding and hold her baby one day. I wanted to raise a young lady who wasn’t the damsel in distress, but a benevolent force who would improve every corner of the world she touches – just by being her strong, sweet self.

My best friend Melissa has two amazing little girls. They’re spunky and, even though they love princesses, they’re not your typical “girly-girls.” (Two-year-old Nora’s favorite color is blue and four-year-old Stella is a huge Darth Vader fan.) The boys adore the girls and treat them like sisters. I know that if I ever had a little girl, Collin, Frank, and Leo would protect her, play with her, and pester her, just as big brothers should.

In December, while we were visiting Melissa and the girls, I told Melissa that I was going to break tradition and find out what I was having. It was hard to explain why, though.

When it comes down to it, I suppose it’s about preparation and planning. In general, I’m not much of a planner. I tend to make loose plans and graciously accept the twists and turns God sends my way as an opportunity to hone my on-the-spot problem-solving skills and discover the great plans He has in store for me, rather than the ones I orchestrate for myself.

On the other hand, having a large family calls for a little bit more organization on my part. I will always accept what God sends my way, but I think He’d like for me to be prepared, as well. Adding a fourth child means rearranging bedrooms and having all the clothing, blankets, and other essentials ready for his or her big arrival. Since I consider myself a pro at this now, I have a good idea of what my newborn will require to be safe, comfortable, and content(-ish) in the early days of his or her life. I’ve acquired a massive amount of stuff for little boys over the years, but I couldn’t help but wonder…what would happen if I had a little girl?

She’d wear the green, yellow, and white gender-neutral attire her brothers wore in their early days, and I supposed she and Leo would share a jungle-themed room. I didn’t want to drown her in pink. Or did I?


Melissa and just-born Collin (in his gender-neutral sheep sleeper.)



I asked myself if I really needed to wait for the OB to tell me I had a son or a daughter in the harried moments before the baby is placed on my chest. Wouldn’t I be equally surprised if I found out sooner rather than later? It’s not like I had a say in the matter. God had already chosen whether I was having a boy or a girl. My job was to accept the gift with open arms. But, there wasn’t any harm in peeking, right?

 “And here’s the best part,” I told Melissa. “You’re going to reveal it at our St. Patrick’s Day party.” Her blue-green eyes widened and she let out one of her enthusiastic signature laughs.

Fast forward a few months and Patrick and I are having our sonogram done by the same woman who gave us a peek at Collin, Frank, and Leo when they were the size of a banana. “You don’t want to find out what you’re having, right?” she asked. Patrick and I looked at each other. “Actually, we do,” I explained, “but not today.” She told us to look away and wrote our baby’s gender on a small piece of paper which she promptly sealed in an envelope, which Melissa picked up a few days later. Our fate was in her hands.

Our St. Patrick’s Day party is one of the highlights of our year. All of our friends and family gather to celebrate our Irish heritage (actual or adopted for the day). It fell on Melissa’s birthday this year, and I’m honored that she chose to celebrate by preparing a special surprise for us. Only Melissa, her husband, Mark, and another of our closest friends, Bob, knew about our secret plan. When just about everyone arrived, I gave Melissa the nod. Bob cued up the video camera on his phone as Melissa and the girls entered the room with an enormous box decorated to look like a leprechaun’s hat.

“We swore we’d never do this, but we’ve decided to find out what we’re having!” I told everyone. Patrick and I pulled the tape on the top of the box and…four pink balloons came flying out! The entire room cheered. I jumped up and down. Patrick’s grandmother shed tears of joy. Leo was just happy to have a balloon (but I’m not quite sure how happy he’s going to be to have a baby sister).




Since then, I’ve been preparing for my little girl’s arrival. The day after the St. Patrick’s Day party, my mom and I picked out a gorgeous bohemian-inspired, elephant-themed bedding set for her room.



We moved all three of the boys to one bedroom. (They love it!) I bought the baby a few irresistible dresses and, of course, headbands to match.



Meanwhile, I gave most of the boys’ baby clothes to a former student who is having a little boy. Patrick and I settled on a name we love. (You’ll find out next time!). I even booked her baptism.   

I like new experiences, and I’m glad I decided to find out my baby’s gender this time around. I’m generally a person who enjoys mystery, even ambiguity, but I have found that this time it’s easier to imagine what life is going to be like when she (isn’t that nice to say?) gets here. There will be hair to be braided and jewelry to be collected and Irish dances to be performed and so many aspects of her personality to be discovered. And when she arrives, we’ll be ready for her.

April 17, 2016 02:23
By Robyn Barberry


Zika: What expectant moms need to know


I have permanent scars on my feet from mosquito bites I acquired while I was pregnant with Collin in the summer of 2009. I don’t know if it’s my fair skin, my AB- blood, or my vegan diet that make me such a delicacy for mosquitos, but when I’m pregnant and my blood volume is drastically increased, I find my extremities covered in itchy red bumps.

Naturally, when I first heard about the recent epidemic of Zika virus in Central and South America, I panicked. Zika virus is a common occurrence in several African countries, to the point that the virus is considered “endemic,” and people are more or less used to it. Central and South America, on the other hand, are facing a sudden epidemic with possible links to an alarming increase in birth defects in pregnant women bitten by Zika-infected mosquitos. Though most infected people suffer few if any symptoms, babies born to infected mothers are demonstrating a trend of birth defects, most significantly microcephaly, or extremely small heads. Many of the affected babies are dying and those who manage to survive face a difficult life of profound developmental disabilities.

On Wednesday January 27th, a high school classmate and current University of Maryland professor, Dr. Jennifer German posted the following message on her Facebook page: “Family and friends, before you commence with the panicking about Zika virus, please remember that you have access to a virologist that studied Flaviviruses (the family of which Zika is a member) for her dissertation and is happy to answer questions. That is all.” And the questions poured in.


Dr. Jennifer German


Dr. German reassured her friends that the virus isn’t severe for the average person and that scientists aren’t yet 100% sure of a link between Zika virus and the rise in microcephaly cases. She explained that a vaccine is being developed, but that it could take several years.

After gathering more information from Dr. German’s responses, I was feeling better, especially since the two feet of snow covering my back yard reminded me that mosquito bites were two seasons away. Besides, I’m not planning on visiting any of the afflicted regions any time soon. Still, I had my concerns, which Dr. German promptly addressed.

My first question: Is the birth defect likely to develop later in pregnancy?

Being due early in July, I knew those pesky bloodsuckers wouldn’t be making an appearance until the tail end of my pregnancy, but I was still concerned that a late bite would have an effect on my baby. Dr. German explained that the virus would most likely pose a threat in the first trimester and, to a lesser extent, in the second trimester. Towards the end, the baby is “mostly developed and getting fat and happy,” and brain development is unlikely to be affected by Zika virus.

I also wanted to know what I could do to prevent infection. Dr. German suggested I apply lemon eucalyptus oil, avoid going outside at dusk, and wear long sleeves and pants, if possible. A friend suggested to have a fan blowing because mosquitos have weak wings and wouldn’t be able to tolerate the fast moving air.

Even in the rare case that I did contract something, I reminded myself that unlike many of the women in the countries most affected by Zika virus, I am blessed to have access to excellent prenatal care, with frequent doctors’ visits, close monitoring with sonograms and heart monitors, and less than an hour’s drive to some of the best hospitals in the world.  

Still, I can’t help but feel heartbroken for the women who are losing their babies to this epidemic, which may or may not be tied to the Zika virus. Additionally, I’m saddened to hear that in several countries women are being told not to get pregnant for at least two years. I pray that a solution comes soon for healthier mothers and babies everywhere.  

 

 

January 29, 2016 10:56
By Robyn Barberry


A hands-off approach to greeting pregnant strangers


When I shared this (old) news story on my Facebook page, I didn’t expect a debate to start. In 2013, a Pennsylvania man touched a pregnant woman’s belly after she asked him to stop. She pressed charges, and it is now considered illegal to touch a pregnant woman’s belly in Pennsylvania.

“Looks like I’ll be spending more time in Philly,” I posted, referring to the fact that I like to visit museums and restaurants in the City of Brotherly Love, as well as the fact that I’m three months pregnant (looking more like six)…and I don’t like to be touched.

A high school friend, who has a beautiful family composed of homemade, adopted, and foster children agreed, noting that she once touched a man’s belly in return after he reached out for hers. Several other friends agreed, but my own mother did not. She said that it’s normal for people to feel excited when they see a pregnant woman and that most pregnant women would welcome the attention because they will ultimately miss it. And both sides of the debate raged on.

I can’t speak for all pregnant women, but I can honestly say that for myself, pregnant or not, I prefer my interactions with most people, especially strangers, to be hands-off. I don’t mind a belly pat or rub from excited family members, good friends, and my first graders, but I would prefer to limit my physical contact with people who don’t have a personal relationship with me. It’s not that I’m a germophobe or that I am afraid they will try to harm me, I’m just a private kind of person who needs personal space to feel comfortable.

I recognize that people mean only to share in my joy when they reach out for that beach ball I’m hiding under my shirt or ask questions or make remarks, but their attention is not always welcome. You don’t pet a cute dog without asking its owner for permission, do you? Just because a woman is pregnant, doesn’t mean she’s up for grabs or even that she’s always up for conversation.

People also have a tendency to forget their manners during small talk with pregnant women. Yes, this is my fourth child. I’m not the first mom to pull it off. Yes, I’m exhausted. Yes, my hands are full -- full of love. God sent me each and every one of my children right when I needed them most.

Some women are carrying high risk pregnancies. Most heartbreaking of all, some women are carrying babies who have already died or who will probably die shortly after being born. Touching them or asking questions may hurt more than you could imagine.    

 It’s natural to feel a sense of wonder and awe when you see a woman whose big round belly lets you know that a new life is in the making. But, you don’t need to feel it with your own hands to know it’s real. You don’t need to know when that baby is expected to come, whether it’s a boy or a girl, his or her name, and the color of the nursery. The best thing you can do for that mother, her baby, and yourself, is smile. Smiles are always a welcome gift.

January 16, 2016 02:41
By Robyn Barberry


Let it be known

Most women are advised to wait until after 12 weeks to reveal that they are pregnant. At that point, the miscarriage rate drops significantly, which lessens the heartache of having to break the bad news of pregnancy loss.

But what is the alternative? To suffer alone in silence over the loss of an unborn child? Why are we so afraid to talk about miscarriage? Is it the embarrassment that something might be “wrong” with the mother? Or is it the painful reminder of the baby that will never be when a co-worker or a family friend congratulates her without knowing that she is no longer pregnant?

My second pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I told family and friends at 6 weeks that Collin was going to be a big brother. When I went in for the sonogram a few weeks later, the baby’s heart was no longer beating and mine was broken. I didn’t leave my bed for a week, but the cards and flowers sent by family, friends, classmates (I was in grad school at the time), and students reminded me that my baby and I were in God’s hands.

A year later, I was pregnant again. I decided to tell everyone at 8 weeks because I wanted that support again if I lost the baby. I had their prayers for a healthy baby and soon Frank joined our family, followed by Leo. If I had waited the extra month, what would have changed? I’d have to avoid the people closest to me to hide my ceaseless morning sickness. I’d have to dress in my baggiest clothes (maybe even my husband’s) to hide my growing belly. (I “show” rather quickly.) And I’d be denying my baby and me prayers and well wishes from people who care, whether things turn out fine or for the worst.

Pregnant women need love and support in the first trimester more than any other time. It’s when they’re the most vulnerable and feeling their worst, without the visible bump to remind others that they’re working overtime to create a human being. These are the days that demand the most of their bodies and their spirits. And they shouldn’t be endured alone.

And so, at 8 weeks, I’m letting the world know that I’m expecting my fourth child in the first week of July. I’m aware that I haven’t entered the “safe zone,” but my symptoms are strong and my hopes are high. I’m trusting God to make the best decisions for me and my family and counting on the people I love to keep my spirits up on days like today when I feel like I was hit by a truck. My raspberry-sized baby and I are not alone in this journey, no matter where it takes us. Please keep us in your prayers. 

November 29, 2015 02:38
By Robyn Barberry


The most important element of any birth plan - prayer


"When patients bring me three page birth plans, I have to laugh," my OB said.  "I tell them that the opposite will happen.  If they'd just relax and realize it's all in God's hands, everything would be better."

She and I were finalizing my "birth plan," or my preferences for delivering baby number three.  Since she'd delivered Collin and Frank, she knew to expect another stubborn, big baby.  Fortunately I'm an incredibly patient person, so we would put off a C-section until it was an absolute medical necessity. However, I have little tolerance for pain, so she checked "yes" next to epidural. I had dilated to 3 cm, which meant labor was close.  Now all I had to do was wait.

The contractions started Sunday morning, Oct. 13 as I was getting ready for church.  Patrick wanted us to stay home in case we needed to call the doctor, but I insisted on going to Mass, especially if I was in early labor.  I waddled down the street, sunk into the pew, and "sneeled" my way into the kneeler.  The contractions were coming strong and regularly, exactly 10 minutes apart. We had sent Collin downstairs with the other kids for the Liturgy of the Word, but Patrick, who had been watching me and timing the contractions himself said, "when he gets back up here, it's time to go."  

So, in odd fashion, we left Mass before Communion, packed up the car, called my mom to take the boys, and checked in with the doctor, who told us to head to the hospital.  When we got there, they put me on a monitor and determined that my contractions weren't strong and regular enough to admit me.  So, they told us to take a walk around the hospital and its grounds for two hours. 

While we walked, I prayed.  I wanted so badly to meet my baby, and I wanted it on that very day.  Being sent home is the worst feeling in late pregnancy.  Prolonged discomfort.  So many nagging questions and comments from well-intended people you know and don't know.  The shame of not knowing false labor from the real thing.  When I got home, I stuffed myself in my bed, swearing not to come out until it was time to have the baby.

I was on edge all week, expecting my water to break at any second.  Having never experienced it outside of a hospital bed before, I didn't know what to expect.  And every stomach cramp felt like a contraction, but it wasn't.  I prayed for my water to break or the contractions to start, but they didn't.  And there was nothing I could do about it.

The good news was that there was an end in sight.  My OB had scheduled me to be induced on Friday October 18th because an ultrasound had measured my baby to be big.  Given the size of the older brothers at birth (Collin was 9 lbs, 14 oz and Frank was 8 lbs, 13 oz), she wasn't willing to risk birth complications or a C-section.  So, I counted down the seconds until October 18th, praying for the patience to get me through to that day.

On the morning of the 18th, Patrick and I were running late getting out of the house.  We were supposed to be at the hospital by 6 a.m. to start the induction, but we would be there closer to 6:30.  I began to panic.  "What if they make us reschedule?" I asked Patrick, as I frantically called the registration desk over and over, and finding no answer.  "We'll be okay," he said.  I prayed for mercy to trump my tardiness.  It did.

Once we were checked in, we were introduced to our nursing staff for the next half hour.  I really liked our nurse, a bubbly blonde with a daughter Collin's age and a passion for Halloween, and was worried that after she left we'd be stuck with a grumpy old troll by our side.  I prayed for another nice nurse.  Then, in walked Donna, the easy-going, attentive nurse who helped deliver Frank. Plus, my own two doctors would be on staff all day when it came time to deliver.  It was a fantasy birth experience, and these were my star players.

I waited until the contractions were just painful enough to make me clench my jaw at a tooth-cracking intensity before I asked for the epidural.  With Frank, I had a spinal migraine afterwards, so I was nervous just getting the numbing needle.  I said a few Hail Marys while the anesthesiologist did his thing, reflecting on the admiration I have for Mary and every other woman who ever brought or will bring a baby into this world without anesthesia.  The entire procedure was done, and I was numb in no time.

Just as it did with Collin, Frank, and even this little one on the previous Sunday, my labor slowed down for several hours.  "They're not sending me home, right?" I half-jokingly asked.  "Nah, you're leaving here with a baby," Donna said.  I said a few decades of the Rosary, just as I had with my older two, and before I knew it, my OB showed up and said it was time to push.  

In the final moments before my baby entered the world, I reflected on what an incredible journey this pregnancy was.  With my circumstances, there were so many things that could have gone wrong.  But they didn't.  When we first saw this baby on the ultrasound just after Valentine's Day, a tiny beating heart was all there was to see.  When we met with the high risk doctor, we were told that heart might be defective because of the medications I had to take.  Scan after scan came back clear.  Our baby was growing strong only because we kept praying and believing.

After a final prayer, not asking for anything, but thanking God for the gift He was about to give me, Leo Matthew was born.  At 11 lbs, 12 oz he made a big entrance into this big world.  With a first name that means "lion," he's sure to be courageous - he's already fought his way through a number of obstacles.  With a name that means "gift from God," he's already been the answer to my prayers.            
Robyn and Baby Leo

 

October 29, 2013 04:28
By Robyn Barberry


Ready times three


I looked at my calendar one day in early October and realized that my due date was closer than I realized. I felt a rush, but of joy, not panic, even though I had done little to prepare for our new arrival. This time, I knew what being ready truly meant.

With Collin, making way for baby was a different story. He was my first and everything needed to be perfect. Every detail of his farm-themed nursery was in place six weeks before I expected him. Sky blue walls, new carpet, an espresso covered crib with embroidered linens, photographs of livestock I’d taken in Ireland hanging above a well-stocked bookcase. Tiny clothes meticulously organized by size and color lined the closet and dresser. Diapers and wipes were stuffed into baskets around the house. No less than 30 receiving blankets waited to swaddle him. A dozen bottles had been washed and neatly stored. I’d already started filling out the baby book as I stared down the calendar, anxiously waiting to meet my first born child.

With Frank, I had experience, more realistic expectations, and the needs of an almost 3-year-old to guide my preparations. I still spent a lot of time decorating his storybook-themed bedroom, but I brought out less clothing and blankets, had lost a few bottles along the way, and had developed a more practical diaper-management system. I neglected the baby book until one afternoon when he was about 6 months old, and haven’t touched it since. I had tremendous anxiety waiting for him to arrive, but once Frank made his appearance, I had everything I really needed -and nothing more- in place.


Frank's room

With my third baby, I found myself overwhelmed with work and duties to the older siblings. I moved the two of them together into a big bed in Frank’s room, but the baby’s room remained rather bare. We converted the toddler bed back into a crib, but a stripped mattress remains while the pack ‘n play is still in use. A cross is the only thing hanging on the still sky-blue walls. The bookcase has been picked through and what’s left is a jumbled mess. Most of the clothing was in a laundry basket, only half folded. Five bottles remained and an unopened box of diapers sat in the closet downstairs. The receiving blankets are nowhere to be found. The baby book does not exist. And yet, I’m more prepared for this baby than ever.


Baby number three's room

This time, I know just how little it takes to bring home a new addition to the family. He or she will need clothes, food, diapers, a place to rest. They don’t need to be perfectly organized or beautiful, just there. The most important things any baby needs are love and prayers. And in this family there are plenty of those to go around. 

Every night at dinner, we ask that God bring us a baby that is happy, healthy, strong, and (Collin’s addition) lovely. Hopefully, all those things will come true for us soon. Because we’re ready.

 

October 23, 2013 12:14
By Robyn Barberry

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