Valencia’s Baptism

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“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in
the  name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28: 19

Valencia Katerina Witschen was baptized on Saturday, November 16 after the 5pm mass.  Her sister, Laurencia, was baptized in the delivery (operating) room by my sister, Laurencia’s godmother, Laura.  I wrote on here about how Laura baptized Laurencia with her own tears.

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(My sister, Laura hugging Laurencia’s other namesake, Rachie and Rachie’s hubby, Billy in the back of church)

I only recently found out that Auntie Laura was frantic after she got into the O.R. to witness the delivery because she had no idea where she was going to get water.  Laur told me that she was extremely concerned and only after holding Laurencia and realizing that her tears were falling on her goddaughter did it occur to her that she could use her tears.  And so Laurencia was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit only moments before she joined Jesus.  I thank God for that gift.  We did not baptize Valencia in the hospital because we just knew she was going to be ok.  And she was!  And is!  So Saturday was her turn.

Valencia’s godparents are my good friend, Janelle and my brother-in-law Matt.  Sadly, Uncle Matt is presently out at sea (he’s a merchant marine, cool right?) and we missed him at the baptism but I have no doubts he will be the best godfather to Valencia.  Janelle and I have been friends since my first year in college (1993).  She can remember Laura’s first baby, our niece Katrina, coming to visit us when Trina was just one year old–she is now 19!  I was telling some of my family at the baptism that Janelle and I became friends after I went to her dorm room one evening to study and I spied a poster with a pro-life message on it.  We’ve been friends ever since.

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However, we hadn’t seen one another for about 12 years until last January when Matt and I went to visit Janelle and her hubby, Tony.  It was during that visit that I asked Janelle to be the godmother of the new baby in my tummy that I had just learned of.  At that time even my family did not know I was pregnant and Matt and I had no idea what was to come.  I recall at the hotel laughing about how I already had heartburn (I was only about 4 weeks pregnant) and wouldn’t it be crazy if we had twins again?

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Janelle graciously accepted.  When we found out about the girls she was one of the first people to know.  I do believe that in the past year Nellie may have shed almost as many tears as I have.  She loved Valencia and Laurencia before they were even born.  She has prayed, visited (from far away!!), supported and loved us in so many ways.  She showed up again on Saturday with Tony after traveling all day and I put her right to work changing little Miss V into her baptismal gown.

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Mae crashed into a table and Lencia decided she needed her voice to be heard on her special day.  Both at the same time, of course.  What’s new?

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Meanwhile, the cousins were squirreling around in the back of church before the ceremony began.  I love these kids.  They exude joy, especially when they are together, and always when they are together.  There are some in here from Laura’s crew and some from Pete’s crew.  We are always doing kid trades and finding them all at their own houses on any given weekend is quite rare.  They usually start to join the kid swap somewhere around age 4.  I think Mae is ready now though (see photo above) c’mon, why not guys?

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Valencia is not wearing the gown that all four of my other girls wore.  Rather, she is wearing a gown lovingly made by my cousin’s wife Angie’s mother (got that?).  Thank you Angie’s momma!  Such a precious gift.

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Angie’s mom also made an identical gown for Laurencia, who was buried in her gown.  This was the gown that caused Polly to exclaim that Laurencia looked like a queen the day we buried her.  It was pretty much impossible not to think of Laurencia a lot in the days leading up to the baptism.  I was somewhat obsessed with finally hanging the photo that Tessi gave me, the little feet image from Dee Dee and a candle and my favorite photo of my girl.

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I don’t need these things in my living room to remember my baby.  I think of her throughout the day so often.  Also, looking at Valencia while I’m feeding her reminds me so much of her sister lately.

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(sweet little birthstone bracelet given to Valencia before her baptism by her godmother)

Last week we received a beautiful gift from Paul and Jacque which included this little box that I set next to Laurencia’s picture, and a book.

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The book is called, “Wherever You Are”.  It talks about how my love will follow my baby wherever she is.  “My love is so high, and so wide and so deep, it’s always right there, even when you’re asleep”.  On the page accompanying this part of the book, there is an illustration of a some lambs and a person embracing one of them.  The last page reads, “You are my angel, my darling, my star…and my love will find you, wherever you are.”  Every single day I tell Laurencia how much I love her and how much I would have loved to have her here, even if she joined her sister in keeping me up all night, every night 🙂

We have lots of little lambies and they always remind me of Laurencia.  Recently another friend gave us a musical lamb which is identical to the one we buried Laurencia with, only bigger.  I had been meaning to go buy one for Valencia and so it was very special to receive it.  Thank you so much Katy!  I also finally bought the little recorder for another stuffed lamb that I bought Valencia and I recorded Laurencia’s heartbeat on it from the recording I made while the girls were being monitored in the hospital.  I often wondered prior to the girls being born if these types reminders would be too sad or too hard but I am so grateful to have them now.

During the ceremony little Valencia just smiled as the water was poured over her head.  Then we all made the sign of the cross on her forehead.

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kids sign of cross on lencie

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family with nellie

Katrina took these photos of our church and the statue of St. Michael the Archangel which sits outside.  The evening was misty which made the illumination of the cross so beautiful.  Trina is such a talented photographer and I think I have permission from her to use these!

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Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host –
by the Divine Power of God –
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

How many times we said this prayer during our trials.  And he did defend us.  We never lost hope, we never lost faith.  As I’ve said so many times, Laurencia, just like her name, was victorious and no matter how much it hurts to have lost her, she won.

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!

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Most of my family attended the baptism and came to our house afterward.  I was frantic as usual trying to get all of the food out and ready but Laura snapped a few pics of everyone crammed into my tiny living room.

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So here we all are, on the other side of our most difficult battles thus far.  Pete and Nellie brought their ENTIRE family, that means baby Benedict.  Yep, there he is, right there on my very own living room floor!  He is doing superbly.  I guess in my haste to feed the masses I didn’t have time to reflect until later that we dreamed of this day, when we would all (or most of us) be together celebrating rather than grieving.  Yes, God is good.  Of course, I’d rather we were ALL together again but we will be, one day.

To remember our Laurencia on this special day and commemorate her baptism as well, I gave each of my kids a special box with their name on it and the inscription “I’ll Always Be in Your Heart -Laurencia” and we released some lanterns and told Laurencia we loved her.

I told all of the kids to say whatever they would like to her as they let their lanterns drift slowly upward.  Some told her they missed her, some said they hoped she was happy in heaven and some told her they love her.  It had been raining all day but finally stopped and there was an almost eerie mist in the air.  The mist was lit up by the lanterns and it was so calm and so beautiful.  As Rachie and I watched each of the lanterns rise up and leave us, out of sight, I was sad and happy at the same time.  The lanterns were like my girl, a shining little light disappearing from my view but still there somewhere.

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bella light bella light2      cousins light  daddymommyfirstlight1   hands light hands up light              polly light gabby light bubby light

When they all came back into the house I was sitting on the couch feeding Valencia and the kids were in the garage for a minute rehearsing, then they came in and sang the songs to us that they had sung at the funeral.  They came up with this impromptu concert on their own and it was so special to me and so sweet.  I love that they didn’t forget her.  God bless their little hearts.

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singing cousins

We are so thankful to have made it to this day.  It’s very hard for me to believe that one year ago I wasn’t even pregnant.  To think about how I was feeling physically and emotionally only three short months ago makes me even more appreciative of days like this when we can celebrate.  Valencia is a miracle and to have her here with us and healthy is a wonderful blessing.  We thank God for entrusting us with her care, promising Him we will do our best for as long as we have her.  We ask Him to do the same with her sister.

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Valencia visits Laurencia

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Valencia’s favorite position is to lie on someone’s chest and feel and hear their heart beat.  She can sleep like that for hours.  So the Sunday before last when I brought her to visit her sister’s grave for the first time, I set her in her favorite position.  A million thoughts went through my head.  “Laurencia’s little body is only about 4 feet away. 

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It’s as if they are together again but not really. 

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Does Valencia remember feeling her?  Does she remember her heart beat and that’s why she likes being on my chest?  I can’t remember feeling Laurencia on my chest.  I wish she would have been with us longer. How long will it be before they are truly together again?  I don’t want it to be soon.  Is that selfish?  Does Laurencia know we are here? 

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Does she know us?  Where is she?  I know she’s not really here but she really is here.” 

John 14:1-4 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”

And then I had to scoop Valencia up because it was chilly and I had to chase after Mae who likes to run rampant through the cemetery.

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She likes to run rampant through pretty much anywhere.  If you’re friends with me on Facebook you already know that.  And you know how we’ve been doing since Valencia has been home.  I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard but infinitely better than her being in the hospital.  Hard because Mae is terribly in love so I can’t set Valencia down anywhere without risk of Mae attacking.  Mae also begs to “hode” her ALL OF THE TIME but I can’t let her since she still doesn’t get that the baby is still fragile.  As you can see from the video, letting her hode her isn’t a good idea.  Oy vey.

*for the record, I was RIGHT there, inches away and this is NOT the norm, I don’t just let Mae hold her without me also holding her beneath her.  I thought I’d let her try without me but clearly she’s still not quite at the age which can grasp that a baby can’t be tossed around

Oh how I wish I could instead be telling of the trials of Mae and her TWO baby sisters.  My greatest goal most days is figuring out how to keep both Mae and Valencia alive.  Noble goals, I know.  I’m not joking either.  It occurred to me how quickly and easily Mae could really hurt her without knowing it, Valencia is still so tiny!  She just has no idea that her love is lethal.  I think I may, in a sleep deprived stupor, have offered Mae up for sale on FB last week but I retract the offer.  No, she hasn’t gotten better but dangit if she isn’t the cutest and funniest and squooshiest thing.  Plus I had too many takers.  I don’t blame you all, there is nothing on Earth like a Mae Mae.  Even when she gets into my brand new eyeliner and long lasting lipstick when I had to answer a call from the kids’ teachers, knowing full well the ramifications of making the choice to answer the phone and leave her alone for 5 seconds.  The result:

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I’ve been trying to find new things to keep her busy like taking her to lunch with Polly at school.  After about one hour she started to melt down and I had to drag her out kicking and screaming.  BUT, before that she was hilariously cute following Polly to the wash hands line and then lunch line.

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All the while Polly’s awesome, amazing, sweet, kind, loving teacher held Valencia and loved on her.  Her teacher also let Mae loose on some coloring pages in the classroom later and let Mae take over her entire free time.  We have been SO FORTUNATE with our kids’ teachers and school.

Valencia is now nearly 7 lbs. and growing well.  I thought there was a chance she’d actually sleep in her crib for brief periods in the nighttime since she slept in her bassinet in the hospital but I thought wrong.  She’s just like all of the others and she doesn’t want to be set down at night.  She’s also got her days and nights mixed up pretty well which has been challenging as it usually is when the newborns come home.  She’s so dang sweet though that holding her all night isn’t the worst thing I can think of 🙂 I am praying that somehow we can at least get to a few hours of sleeping at night since I have to go back to work soon!  We’ll figure it out.

In other news, we dressed up for Halloween and Valencia was the star of the group.  Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs.  My cousin Lana gave me two big bins of adorable girl clothes (I knew she’d have cute things, she has five boys and one little girl!) and in the bins was a 0-3 month snow white costume.  As soon as I spotted it I knew what we had to be for Halloween!  Dorks, I know.  My poor, long-suffering husband.  He was Dopey — the kids (and I) thought it was hilarious.  I was Sleepy of course, Gabby – Sneezy, Wyatt – Doc, Bella – Happy, Polly – Bashful and Mae – Grumpy.

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We were finally able to schedule Valencia’s baptism which is coming up in a week and we will be getting ready for several holiday parties and birthday parties.  Everyone says the first holidays without Laurencia will be especially difficult.  I am going to try to incorporate loving reminders of her in everything we do.  I had photos taken of Valencia and used a little lamby in the photos as a reminder of her sister (she’s got her arm around it in the photos at the cemetery).  I get asked A LOT about Valencia when I’m out with her.  She’s so tiny so people ask how old she is.  I should probably just say “three weeks” and leave it at that but I don’t and it invites questions.  I try to explain about Laurencia in a way that won’t make others uncomfortable but still not deny that she was really here.  Two little boys in Wyatt and Bella’s class were sitting next to me while we had lunch.  They are identical.  I asked them if they were and they said, “Yes!”  I told them that I thought it was pretty neat and that Valencia has an identical twin too.  I was holding her so all of the kids were oogling over her 🙂  The little guy said, “Well, where is she?”  And I told him, “Heaven”.  “Oh, she died?”  “Yes.”  “That’s sad, that’s really sad.”  He was so sweet about it.  I didn’t want to stress him out but the facts are the facts.  I am learning that kids sometimes understand things in ways we can’t, sometimes better than we do.  Polly told me the other day that she was really sad and upset that she didn’t get to see or hold Laurencia while she was alive.  I had no idea.  We generally talk about Laurencia casually throughout our day but this time I had asked if there was anything they were thinking about or had questions about.  I told her I was sad too that she didn’t live longer and that I didn’t get to hold her in my arms more while she was alive.  I also told her that I have video of when she was alive and I’d show it to her.  I could never possibly describe how grateful I am that my sisters were there during the delivery to capture those precious few moments.

Back to these moments…and back to chasing Mae and feeding my sweet Valencia.  Thanks again for the sweet notes and for asking about how we’re doing!

Katrina