Leif’s Story (Day 1 Continued)

Breauna 

I’m not tough. I wouldn’t call myself tough at all. I knew Who had me. When the doctor told me how far along I was, I was dumbstruck, as well. How could I be almost ready to have a baby? I wasn’t in pain! My quick bathroom prayer was definitely being answered. However, I also knew this took me completely out of the running for an epidural. I was too far gone. So, this is how it’s going to be, huh? I thought. You’re going to allow me to feel the full force of what I’m about to do…All the pain…on every level… And then, a warm thought filled my heart. What WE’RE about to do. I’m here. I’m carrying you. I’m carrying all of this. Lean into the pain. Trust Me. 

I couldn’t stop crying. I’d dry up for a minute and then a new flood would burst forth. I still had no idea how I was going to do this, but I knew I wanted to see him. I wanted to see my baby.

The OB and nurses had left the room for maybe ten minutes when my contractions started coming on full force. This was the kind of pain I remembered well. I turned to Leslee, “It’s time! It’s happening! They need to hurry back in here.”

He dodged out the door and they came back with him. I was in the middle of an intense contraction, so they and Leslee lifted me onto a different bed to take me into the delivery room. I sat bent over, cringing, on the edge of the bed as they wheeled me down the halls. Laying down hurt so bad that I was refusing their directives at that point. When the uncontrollable desire to push started to present itself, we had arrived in the delivery room. They needed to move me to a different bed. Seriously? I was able to stand just long enough for another contraction to take me down. Leslee and the nurses lifted me again. The OB was in the room and I pushed. I couldn’t help it. My body had taken over and my brain could only focus on getting this baby out. Emotional pain went out the window while I felt the full physical force of bringing my son into the world. My son that wasn’t even alive. That thought never really left me.

The nurses put my feet on the stir-ups and told me to hold onto the back of my legs. I moaned, “I can’t!!”

“Yes, you can, Breauna! Put your hands up here!” they coached me.

Another contraction rocked me and I pushed again, crying out to God for help.

“One more push,” the doctor said.

“Breauna, honey, you need to grab hold behind your knees and push!” the nurse said again. I was in so much pain that I didn’t even have the ability to pull myself up there. As the next contraction started, I drew up with all my might, sideswiped several nurses with my right hand on the way up, and grasped hold of my husband who was standing at my left. He stood there like a boulder while I held onto him for dear life, face buried in his shirt, and brought Leif’s little body into the world. Three pushes. I thanked God for that and fell back onto the bed completely exhausted.

In the nurses rush to help me labor, they hadn’t had time to hook me up to anything. Leslee went into a little bit of a panic. “Hey, can we make sure she’s ok over here? She’s not hooked up to anything. Nothing’s monitoring her. Can you—can you just make sure she’s ok?”

I wasn’t concerned. At that point, I didn’t really care if I lived or died.

***

That moment was short lived when the nurse turned to me and gently asked, “Do you want to hold him?”

I nodded. There was nothing I wanted more. Nothing in the world.  He was swaddled and she placed him carefully in my arms. He weighed only almost 6 pounds, but I was surprised at what a solid almost 6 pounds it was. His eyes were peacefully shut and it looked like he was sleeping. I studied him with tears rolling down my face. Leslee was looking over my shoulder. Our son. The little boy I was so proud to give Leslee. I knew he was destined for great things…and now this… Dreams completely gone and love that felt like it had nowhere to go. Could he feel it? In Heaven, did he know that I loved him with everything I had?

“He’s beautiful,” I said as I looked at Leslee, both our eyes full of tears that streamed down our faces.

He nodded. “He is. He’s perfect.”

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We both continued to simply stare at him. His hair was dark, but as it dried, it went blonde. It had grown in a ring around his head and the top was bald. I smiled and looked at Leslee. “He has your hair.”

Leslee smiled and laughed a little, nodding.

His eyes were closed, but we could tell they were big, with long, wispy lashes. He had a cute little smushed nose and generous little lips. Pretty lips. Kissable lips. We both saw a very even mix of his sisters in his features. The girls the Lord blessed us with are absolutely beautiful and Leif was, too.

The OB had told us by looking at Leif, his estimate was that he’d been gone for 2+ days. His coloring was not that of a baby born alive, but that was ok because parents only see perfection anyway. And I was thankful—so thankful—that I was able to see him when I did. That I was actually able to give birth to him rather than have him removed from me via medical intervention. I thanked God for allowing me that mercy. I didn’t get to meet my son, but I got to see him. I got to see the little soul that was knit to mine for 9 months.

The medical staff left us alone and I handed him to Leslee. I still didn’t feel like this could be real. This couldn’t be happening to me. This happens to other people, not me. I’m not sitting here watching my husband cradle our dead baby in his arms while we cry. My heart continued to cry out to God for something to hold on to while wave after wave of grief overtook me. I turned to Leslee.

“Can you have someone bring the girls? I want to hold them.”

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Leif’s Story

Note to the reader: On August 27th, 2017, we arrived at the hospital to have our full-term baby boy only to find out his heart was no longer beating. From that time on, I’ve been writing. Writing has been my release. October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month, so it seems as good a time to share as any. I’m posting this today with the full intention of sharing everything I’ve written and what my husband and I have been through so far. It is my hope that the Lord will do something wonderful amidst this tragedy and I believe knowing our story better sheds light on where and how He’s been moving. I don’t do this with any desire for attention–only the desire to process this process. To let other parents that have experienced this loss know I now see, hear, and feel them. And, ultimately, to glorify the Great Comforter who has been with me through this even before I knew I needed Him to the extent I would. This story is written (to the best of my ability) in the voices of my husband, Leslee, and I–because fathers are so often looked over in this loss. So, here’s our story and it will continue on this blog as I am able to post.

 

Leslee

We pulled into the hospital parking lot after stopping by Panera to get some breakfast. Neither one of us had eaten breakfast and Breauna was only moderately uncomfortable every 9 minutes, so a little breakfast was necessary for energy to bring our son into the world. It was just a couple minutes from the hospital and when we arrived there, Breauna said, “Don’t worry about pulling under the covered drop-off area. I’m ok right now. I’ll finish my bagel and we can just walk in together.” We were happy. Jubilant, really. Breauna was nervous about the pain she knew was involved, but her anticipation overshadowed it. I always tend to be more high strung about everything than she is, but it was excited anxiety.

We had left our house that morning uncertain whether this was the real deal or not. The doctors had told us our son’s due date was August 30th based on where he was measuring at his 21-week ultrasound, but by our account, he was due September 7th.  Today was Sunday,  August 27th, so we were definitely full-term and ready to welcome our son, Leif, to our lives. We had two wonderful little girls already and this boy was icing on the cake. Our family was complete.

Breauna was having to breathe through the contractions when they came, but they only lasted for a minute and then she could resume whatever she was doing.  The closer we got to the hospital, the less anxiety I felt. We arrived with time to spare, ( more than I could say for our second daughter’s birth) walked into the hospital, and made our way to Labor & Delivery. Breauna greeted the desk attendant with a smile and said, “We’re here to have a baby.”

 

Breauna

I grabbed the gown I was instructed to put on and made my way into the bathroom to change. While in there, I breathed through another contraction and talked to God. I was feeling anxious and fearful about labor. I had decided I was going to do this naturally long beforehand and Leslee was on board. I had done it with Luxe—but not by choice. This time…I knew what was coming. I whispered a quick prayer, “Father, I’m feeling nervous. Be with me as I do this. Calm my nerves. Eliminate my fear. Give me strength and endurance. I’d be so grateful if this labor could be quick.” I asked Him for strength…not knowing I would need so much of another kind.

I laid down on the bed and prepared to have the nurse do the routine heartbeat monitoring. She squeezed the green gel on the monitor and started on my right side. Nothing. I wasn’t worried, though. Nurses had found Leif a little uncooperative before. She moved to my left side. Nothing… Maybe this nurse didn’t know what she was doing. I glanced at Leslee, aware that this kind of thing always freaked him out, but couldn’t get him to return my gaze. We had just heard his heartbeat—good and strong—on Monday. Everything had to be fine.

Without any look of alarm on her face, the nurse said, “I’m going to go grab a different machine. I’ll be right back.”

She returned with an ultrasound machine and another nurse. The two of them brought our son into view on the ultrasound screen and the first thing I noticed was the lack of that little pulsing, rhythmic beat you see when a baby comes into view. The nurses exchanged several glances as they looked with us at the screen, but said nothing. I continued to glance at Leslee, but he was boring holes into the monitor. Our eyes searched frantically for the one thing we weren’t finding.

“I’m going to go get the OB on call and have him take a look at this,” the nurse said to me. Leslee still wouldn’t look at me.

 

Leslee

I couldn’t look at her. One look and I would have fallen apart. I knew. And she wasn’t there yet. I had prayed so hard for this baby. Harder and more consistently than I’ve ever prayed for anything before. I prayed he would be born healthy and that Breauna would labor quickly. That they both would make it through Leif’s arrival in the world. Our oldest daughter, Taegan, never left him out of her prayers, either. Oh, God, I thought, please give us a miracle. Please don’t let this be. If not for me, than for that little girl who thinks she’s going to meet her baby brother today. Father, please! I’ve been down this road. You gave me Breauna and she helped me pick up the pieces. Please don’t make her travel it, Lord. Don’t let her suffer. I’m begging, Father! Please let him be ok. My mind ran crazy. All I wanted someone to do was come in here and tell us we were scared for no reason.

 

Breauna

I was scared—but I still had hope. There was a mistake. There had to be. I had prayed too long and too hard over this little boy for something to be wrong. A doctor we didn’t know walked into the room and took over as the nurses stood alongside him. We couldn’t read his face. It was emotionless. Tears started to roll down my face. My body and my brain already knew, but my heart refused to believe.

He turned to look at the nurses, his mouth in a grim line, and quietly said, “Yeah, I’m not finding a heartbeat.” He turned to us with that same grim face and repeated it. Meanwhile, my heart raced. It wanted to beat out of my chest. I looked at him and said, “So, are you saying–are you saying he’s dead?” I needed him to say it. That was the only way this unbelievable, unimaginable situation was truly happening.

“I’m sorry. He’s passed.”

I couldn’t look at anyone. I could only stare at the white sheets on the bed, my eyes tethered to my feet while my soul felt like it left my body. Disbelief. Shock. In moments like this, the two take over and a person can’t even think. The brain goes numb, a form of protection, and you can’t even speak.

The medical staff stood in there and quietly discussed what the next step was while my world fell apart. “We’re going to have someone from radiology come down here,” the doctor said. “They’re going to take a look and maybe what they find can give us some answers.” All I could do was continue to stare off into space.

I looked at Leslee and his face mirrored mine.

“Can we have a moment?” he asked.

“Of course,” replied the nurse.

The door shut, he grabbed me, buried his face in my hair, and we wailed.

 

Leslee

“This is not your fault. I want you to know that, baby. This is not your fault.” I cried into her hair and kept repeating that. All she could say was my name. She had told me last night in passing that she hadn’t remembered him moving during the day, but how could he move? There was no room. Plus, she’d been busy and distracted with the girls and grown so used to him moving that it simply became commonplace. She said all this last night to calm her worry wart of a husband down. I couldn’t bear for her to think in this moment that I blamed her for not being more aware. I didn’t. I didn’t at all. “I can’t do this! I can’t do this, Leslee. God, I can’t do this! I’m not this strong!!” I have no words for what my wife was going through, but I mustered up the strength to say, “Yes, you can. We can. We’ll do this together.”

They left us in there for a long time. Finally, the OB on call came in and it was time to talk about what we were going to do from here. By that time, we had called our parents and close family members to tell them our horrific news. The OB wanted to check to see how far along Breauna was and make a decision of whether to induce or let everything happen as it would. As he was about to check her, Breauna stopped him.

“I’m starting another contraction. Can we wait just a minute?” she calmly asked.

“Of course,” he replied.

As she came down off of it, she said, “I have questions. If we have to induce, does that make the contractions more intense? Do they hurt worse? I wanted to do this without an epidural, but—“ she started to cry—“I don’t know if I can without having something to look forward to.”

He nodded his head and said, “Yeah…well, a contraction is a contraction. Induction doesn’t make them worse. They’re as bad as they’re going to get on their own. So, no, it doesn’t make them more intense, it just brings active labor on more quickly. It’s like going 0-60 in 5 seconds rather than a slow acceleration.” I don’t know if that put her mind at ease at all, but she was processing the information.

He had to leave the room for a moment, which left us and the nurse in there. Breauna turned to the nurse with a pained look of dilemma on her tear-stained face. “I don’t know what to do. I can’t even think right now. And I’m scared! I mean, seriously, what does a man know about this?”

The nurses face was full of sympathy when she said, “Woman to woman, I would go with the epidural. There’s no pressure to endure the physical pain when you’re already suffering this emotional pain.” A tear rolled down her face. “We want to make this as easy as possible for you if that’s what you want.”

“Ok, I think I want the epidural.”

Immediately after she spoke, the doctor walked back in and proceeded to examine Breauna’s progress. He quickly looked at the nurse and said in a rush, “She’s 100 effaced and dilated to a 9.”

He looked at Breauna—who was calmly lying there– with a slightly dumbfounded look on his face. “You must be one very tough woman. I’d be screaming like a little girl right now.”

The Village That Raised Me

In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to write something for the moms that shaped my life. I had the privilege of being surrounded by some very special women as I was growing up who each had a very unique influence on my life. In fact, they still do.

1. My mom

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She’s number one on the list and she’s number one, period. She gave birth to me. She raised me. After I had Peanut, my appreciation for my own mother soared to new heights. Newborns are a lot of work with little reward at first. I reflected on my mom being a first-time mom with me and I knew that somebody felt the same love and responsibility towards me as a child that I felt towards my own. Knowing the power of my own feeling about motherhood helped me realize hers towards me. And I had to call her and say, “Thank you, I never knew exactly what it took until now.

As a little girl, my mom was everything I wanted to be when I grew up, naturally. She was the epitome of beauty, class, grace, and poise from the beautiful suits and dresses she wore to work to just the way she interacted with people. She was quiet, but warm. My mom has always had a way of putting people at ease. She’s easy to talk to, full of wisdom, and never judgmental.

She taught me all about how to walk in heels, how to appear graceful (even though I might be one of the biggest klutz’s in the world), and she shared with me a love of fashion and make-up. Even though she worked full-time and was a single mom, she never missed a school birthday party and brought cupcakes. She’d surprise me with McDonald’s for lunch every once in a while. I remember all the little kids asking me if my mom was a super model. Seeing her walk into school always made my day because I was so proud of her. And she was always sitting front and center for every school play and concert. She juggled a lot when I was little, but still created happy memories for me even amidst seasons of upheaval in our lives.

She gave me confidence as a child and told me to “never brag to others. Only to Momma. I want to hear every last detail about how awesome you are.” She’s still the first person I call when I’ve been successful or have good news to share.

Our personalities are very different in some ways. I’m a little more high-strung. However, I watched how that comforting presence worked as a child and try my best to exude it myself. It helps me temper the type-A, compulsive side of myself. Mom somehow found a way to help me figure out how to be both driven and likeable at the same time.

Other women have had a very strong influence on my personality, but there’s just no way a person can have more influence than your mom. And no matter how old you get, she never really stops raising you. And you never really stop needing her to.

I love you, Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

2. Grandma Betty

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She’s right smack dab in the middle. My little sister, Bailey, is on the far right. Continue left and you have Chelsey (Aunt Rachel’s daughter), Aunt Rachel, Grandma, Aunt Julie, Alisha (Aunt Julie’s daughter), me, and Peanut

Wild horses could not have dragged this wonderful woman away from anything my cousins or I were ever involved in. She’s my dad’s mom and without her, I might not have known that side of my family and that would have been such a terrible tragedy. My parents divorced when I was five and my dad left Missouri, worked in multiple states, and just wasn’t around much. However, my parents shared joint custody and it was Grandma that usually came and picked us up on Dad’s weekends. We got the chance to play with our cousins, bond with our aunts and uncles, and go to church with people that I adore and still go to church with. Even if it wasn’t Dad’s weekend, Grandma would still come and pick us up for church if we wanted to go. No matter how far out of her way she had to come. Sometimes, my mom would meet her with us. Mom never tried to stop us from going with Grandma. Raising kids that loved the Lord was important to her, as well, and Grandma was always tickled pink to come get us.

I’m surrounded by musical people on both sides, but Grandma never stopped singing. She taught me all about how to sing gospel and I remember how all of us kids would just sing song after song with Grandma.  I still can’t get enough of singing and a lot of that has to do with her.

Another thing that is so wonderful about Grandma is her love. She loves everybody. She’s warm, kind, generous, and I’ve had friends adopt her as their grandma. I’ve never encountered one person in my entire life that doesn’t like her. Just saying her name alone makes people smile, even if they haven’t seen her for years.

She’s something else and an immeasurable part of why I still walk in Christ today.

Thank you, Grandma. I love you.

 

3. Aunt Rachel

Still playing. :-) Helping Peanut hit the piñata. Deja vu.

Still playing. 🙂 Helping Peanut hit the piñata. Deja vu.

Aunt Rachel is that aunt that you just absolutely adore. She is my dad’s sister and when I was growing up, I thought she was the coolest thing ever. Her energy was endless and she was always up for a good time. Rachel didn’t just send us kids out to play; she played with us. She taught me how to bat, helped me swim, drove us around with Ace of Base blaring while we all sung at the top of our lungs, set us up at the dining room table with an endless array of crayons, colored pencils, paper, stickers, etc. You name it, she had it. Her kids and my other cousin, Alisha, are like my own siblings. We all loved going to Aunt Rachel’s because her home was filled with fun, love, and peace. Rachel and her stable, drama-free life was always such a constant for me. I always felt so safe there because nothing ever changed. And I look back now and admire her so much for taking on a passel of kids for a weekend and doing it without seeming the least bit overworked or haggard.

As I got older and entered my teenage years, I turned to Rachel a lot for guidance. She seemed to always have it so together. I wanted to be just like her in that regard. We are kindred spirits when it comes to knowing exactly what we want, but once in a while, I needed her input on whether what I was wanting was a good thing or not. She never led me wrong and she was always one of the most encouraging people in my life. She believed in me and her faith in my ability to do whatever I set my mind to was always a driving force.

Rachel was always laughing, always smiling, and always outgoing. Studying her helped me become more that way. I wanted to have the comforting, calm presence of my mom, but be able to be comfortable in my skin around whoever I encountered like Aunt Rachel. She taught this somewhat introverted girl that being quick to smile and laugh opens a lot of doors. Like my own mom, she was always encouraging me to let people see the person she saw. She always told me how funny I was and that I needed to speak up more. It was always my mom and my aunt Rachel that appreciated my sarcastic, goofy, sometimes morbid, sense of humor and that gave me confidence in myself.

Today, I would say that I’m a pretty even mixture of my mom and Aunt Rachel. Not exactly like one or the other, but a mixture that makes me uniquely me.

Thank you, Aunt Rachel, for always being so solid. You taught me about home and gave me a picture of how I wanted my own to be. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day!

4. My mother-in-law, Fae

Taegan and Grammie

She didn’t raise me, but she raised the man I’m married to and without him, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. He picked me up, dusted me off, and showed me what love was supposed to be. The farmer restored my faith in humanity. He showed me that some people don’t expect anything from you; they just do things out of the kindness of their hearts. He could never have done this if he didn’t possess a kind, generous, selfless heart…just like his mother’s. Fae has never been anything but kind and welcoming to me and I love her dearly.

Peanut loves going to Grammie’s house and Fae just lights up every time she sees her. It warms my heart.

Fae, you are part of the village through your son. Your heart shines through him and I can’t even articulate what he is to me or what he’s done, but I know he wouldn’t be the man he is without you. Thank you for raising the man that saved me and thank you for everything you still continue to do for Peanut and for us. We love you. Happy Mother’s Day!

 

5. Mandy

Mandy didn’t come into my life until I was already married to the farmer. My dad had brought her back to Missouri with him and something about her quiet, down-to-earth nature made me feel like maybe he had somebody special here. He must have thought so, too, because he married her.  I’ll admit that my relationship with my father was a little better than non-existent at the point she came into my life. He and I had very little in common (I thought), and I found it difficult to be around him, let alone carry on a conversation. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, I just felt like maybe too much time had passed for me to really bond with him. He had missed out on so much and I knew nothing about him, as well. However, with Mandy, she and I had to get to know each other, anyway. She learned about me and I learned about her as well as learning things about my dad that I didn’t know. I’m sure my dad learned about me from her, too. She was the messenger there for a while, but, over time, she created this bridge through which my dad and I were able to reconnect.

Eventually, Dad and I had a conversation where he just laid it all out and I saw his heart. That was when my defenses officially came down and I’ve never looked back since. Mandy instigated all of that. She helped Dad see what he needed to do to get back on track with me and she helped me see that he really wanted that. She gave me hope.

After I had Peanut and I’ve seen how my dad is with her, I can’t help but melt. He’s my dad. I never stopped loving him, but he makes it so easy now. He makes me proud.

Taegan and Mandy

And then, Mandy, as if you didn’t already do enough, you love my daughter. You love her like your own. You helped me so much with Peanut and there’s a special bond there between the two of you. I can’t put it into words, but it oozes out when you’re together. She thinks you’re great and so do I.

Happy first Mother’s Day, Mandy! When you had Chaser, I’ll admit, I was worried about whether you would be able to balance it all. I shouldn’t have worried. I mean, this is you we’re talking about. You still continue to go above and beyond. You do your best not to miss anything and I love you so much for that. Thanks for being Peanut’s “Nanny” and a person that she can always count on. I’m certain that she will consider you part of hervillage when she reflects back.

You’re also a person I can always count on. Thanks for being my friend.

 

That is my village and I thank God every day for placing these women in my life. Each one of them is so special and I’m blessed to know them.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

With love,

 

Breauna

 

 

A Letter to My Daughter on Her Birthday

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Taegan,

Four years ago today, I first met you and my life changed forever. I fell into a kind of love that I didn’t understand up until that point. I looked at you and your face said, “Hi. I’m yours and I already love you. It’s nice to finally put a face to the voice I’ve been hearing.” I felt known in a way I had never experienced.

 

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I can’t help but look back at that day and still be in wonder. That was the day God entrusted me with a little soul. And He chose to give me yours. Out of all the ones He could have given me. He chose you for me. And the way your presence in my life has changed my soul is something I can’t even put into words. On that day, a transformation happened. A girl became a woman. A woman became a mother. And a sinner felt sanctified. My purpose had never been clearer.

 

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These past four years I am certain that you have taught me just as much as I’ve taught you. We’ve learned a lot together, you and me. I’m still flying by the seat of my pants. I will be until you’re grown and you’re making your own choices. I bear the weight of guiding you through life to make the right ones. That responsibility is quite heavy, but I consider it an honor, as well. Raising you to this point has taken me on the greatest spiritual journey of my life. I’m stronger, better, kinder, and softer than I ever was before you. You will continue to grow and change, but the pleasure of getting to raise and know you is all mine. Maybe I got the earlier part wrong. Maybe God entrusted you with me. Your existence continues to make me the best version of myself.

 

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Now, we await the arrival of your little brother or sister and you call it “our baby.” Like the family has collective ownership. I think it’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard and I can’t wait to see you take on your role as big sister. I’m not delusional enough to think that the two of you will be sunshine and rainbows all the time, but I look forward (with a moderate amount of anxiety, honestly) to the new dynamic of our family. You already love this baby and your influence will strongly shape the person he/she turns into.
I need you to know that even though today is your birthday, I get the gift. The gift of coming this far with you and the hope of traveling much further. Even though you won’t be an only child anymore, you are my firstborn. The impact you have had on my life thus far is immeasurable. That impact is yours.

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Daddy and I love you more than words could ever say and we wish you the best birthday a 4-year-old could ask for.


Always yours,
Mommy