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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

It’s Christmas Eve and the landscape outside my windows changes from a thicket of green to a blanket of white.  My babies are sleeping, at least for now, and there is nothing like big snowflakes falling to put me in the mood to write my long anticipated Christmas letter.

This is the year that has changed everything.  Last Christmas my mom asked me if there’d be more grandkids at Christmas next year.  She knew we had been trying to get pregnant for awhile and so my response was : “it depends how hard you pray.” Pray she must have!  What a shock to find out we were expecting twins this year (and my sister also became pregnant with her 5th child).  Indeed our family is blessed with life this year!

We started our year with a trip to Ryan’s parents’ in Florida in January as we often do.  This trip was highlighted by a trip to the zoo, trips to the beach, crocodile spotting, and lots of pool time. When we arrived home we switched Rayna’s childcare to a preschool-like daycare called Treehouse.  Treehouse has become a wonderful experience for Rayna.  She loves the circle-time learning, crafts and art time, and the many friends she gets to play with.  Even as I am now on mat-leave Rayna continues to attend Treehouse 3 days a week which gives me a break and gives Rayna special time away from our home.

In February we found out that we were pregnant.  The pregnancy started off challenging and the answer to these challenges arrived at our 9 week ultrasound when we found out we would be having 2 babies! (You can read my blog for further thoughts on that surprise) With my twin pregnancy limiting my energy we had a bit of a quieter year.  We did go out to find snow in February with a trip to Manning Park and hiked our last real hike for probably a while up Lindeman lake also in February.

Highlights of our spring and summer include a get away for 3 nights to Las Vegas where we slept in, relaxed and enjoyed our last stretch of solo time; extended family time at Harrison Hot Springs Resort (Rayna’s favorite local get-away); and a week at the Shuswaps with 3 other families of close friends.

Ryan has become addicted to playing pickleball at every opportunity and attended a number of tournaments in BC, Toronto and near Seattle this year.  He is in withdrawal as family demands limit his current playing time!

Now our family is learning what the new rhythms of life look like.  Nothing is simple! But we have been able to enjoy the Christmas parade, the Christmas Train and a Christmas party with friends and we plan to travel to Florida in February.

As my baby awakes I shall close by sending you all the Merriest Christmas wishes.  May you find joy and blessing in this wonderful season.

Much love from the Rosteks,

Ryan, Cheryl, Rayna, Garrett and Allison   

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Advent Letter 2015

Advent Letter 2015

This year as I ponder the advent season I am drawn to think of Mary’s story of Jesus’ birth.  With the story of my newborns’ arrival fresh in my mind, Mary’s story takes on a new quality for me.  I think of this amazing blessing that Mary was granted: to be mother of the Saviour. Yet, I can only imagine that Mary had to deal with thoughts like: “Why was I chosen for the virgin birth, everyone thinks I’m crazy!”, then when at full term I can hear what I would have thought “Seriously, the census has to be now!?”, and then arriving in Bethlehem, “Really!? There’s no room in the hotel?  Look at me, there’s a baby ready to pop out of me.  Are you sure there’s no bed?”  Perhaps Mary struggled with these thoughts. I have to think that she had to have. Yet, despite all these hardships and struggles we hear the bible announce the birth story of Jesus as the biggest celebration ever experienced.  And Mary was chosen to be center stage in it all.  In all the craziness there was joy incomparable!

This season of my life is full of its own craziness.  Strangers and acquaintances dote on my twins with oogles and ogles with comments like “how wonderful!” and “how perfect!” (even as Allison is screaming her head off) They don’t wake at midnight, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the morning to the needs of very needy babies.  They don’t have to face the cries of a baby that you can’t attend to because you are already attending to a crying baby.  They don’t have to type their Advent letter with one hand because they’re nursing a babe in their other arm!  When we first found out we were having twins Ryan got tired of people being exuberantly congratulatory.  His response: “Congratulations or condolences, both are accepted.”  It was just yesterday at an appointment when I first felt like I could fully enjoy the excitement a stranger had over my twins.  I have tried very diligently to focus on only the positive in these days where I am stretched thin. (And it has paid off! I look back and don’t know how I made it through these weeks! And praise God for the graciousness and patience He has granted me!).  This season I choose joy.  I am sure Mary had to choose joy and embrace what the angel spoke on announcement of her pregnancy: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” We too are “favored” when we celebrate that we are children of the Lord. And there is no other season where it is more apparent that the Lord is with us.

Whatever your story this advent season, I invite you to choose Joy.  It can be hard in the darkest places; but, consider this: we join as believers to celebrate a Saviour who came to show His humanity a better way to live, and gave us an invitation to be freed from the sin that weighs us down.  If nothing else we can rejoice that we are not alone. The Lord is with us and we are a family of Christ-believers who celebrate this season collectively.

What joy fills my heart today as I focus on the gift of my family, my blessed, God-given family! Where is your joy this season?  Find it, embrace it, and celebrate it as you ponder on Mary’s joyous story of Jesus’ birth!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Garrett and Allison: A Birth Story

Garrett and Allison: A Birth Story

We joyfully welcome the arrival of our healthy twin babies.  After 8 and 1/2 months of pregnancy I was ready to meet my babies and discover what life with twins would be like.  Here is the story of the day of their arrival.

Monday October 26th at 37 and 1/2 weeks pregnant I was booked for labor induction.  There was a turning point the Thursday prior where my comfort level dramatically plummeted. So, while I had some apprehensions about the potential "risks" of induction, I was also very ready to tackle labor.  Ryan and I arrived at the hospital at 8:30 in the morning.  "We've got a reservation for Rostek." Ryan says to the maternity ward clerk.  I was settled into an assessment room where I was to wait until the 2 mommas laboring on the ward delivered their babies at which point my induction would begin.  Around 10 AM I was 1cm dilated and Dr. Ross, my GP inserted the cervadil to begin the progression of labor.  It wasn't until noon after my obstetrician Dr. Smith came to exam me (rather vigorously) that I actually started to feel like I was starting labor.  By 3PM I was 3 cm dilated and Dr. Smith moved me to the high risk delivery room (essentially an OR on the ward for emergency c-sections) where I would be delivering the twins.  At that point Dr. Smith broke my water ( which really hurt!) as I squeezed the nurse and Ryan's hands tight as can be.  The nurses laughed that my water broke all over Dr. Smith (he did not seem so amused)!  Then REAL labor began.  I'm not sure the exact time; but my contractions were starting to feel more and more intense with little break in between.  In fact many of my contractions were coupled such that a second contraction started before the first had finished.  At this point I asked for the gas to help with pain.  The nurse said it was a bit early, but found some for me.  I started using it sparingly.  However, it didn't take long until the pain became intense, much more intense than my labor with Rayna.  I couldn't believe the pain was this severe, especially because I thought I wasn't even transitioning yet.  I had decided the week prior, after discussion with Dr. Smith, that I would get an epidural. This would allow for manipulation of Allison's position to prevent c-section if she turned after Garrett was delivered (both were head down prior to labor) which would be too painful for the Dr. to perform if I did not have an epidural.  So I knew it was time to get the epidural and at this point I was so glad that relief would be coming.  I was examined and was 7 cm dilated and told I would have to wait fifteen or twenty minutes for the anesthetist to arrive.  I made those minutes fade away by sucking back on the gas almost constantly so I could pass into a sleepy stupor.  It was around 5 PM when I got my epidural. Everything changed at this point.

I was so grateful for the pain relief. I relaxed.  Dr. Smith came shortly and assessed me at which point I was 10cm dilated.  I gave a couple pushes but Dr. Smith wasn't satisfied enough with the progress they gave and so instructed me to wait and let the baby descend naturally since I was now comfortable.  I found this rather odd, but indeed I was comfortable and relaxed and the awesome nurse I had at this point assured me that this was the best way to proceed.  I was reassessed about an hour later, Dr. Smith consulted with the OR team that he wanted in place for the delivery, and I was told it would be 45 minutes until they were ready.  So again I was to wait.  Ryan was chatting away with the nurse and at some point asked if it was ok if he grabbed some food to eat.  I looked at him incredulously thinking that he wanted to head to the cafeteria at which point he clarified and asked if he could pop out to where our stuff was (since we were in the OR we didn't have our belongings with us) and eat a granola bar.  This request I granted.       

When the OR team was ready Dr. Smith along with a nurse for each baby, the pediatrician, 2 residents and a medical student came to finally deliver these babies.  Dr. Smith had been in the habit of not fully informing the other staff of what he was up to (he was in charge after all) and so while my GP was just outside the delivery room doing paper work while we were waiting, he ended up missing Garrett's delivery!  With the epidural it was a bit difficult to tell when I was truly having a contraction.  So when I thought one was coming I would double check with the nurse who would then coach me on pushing.  Dr. Smith chose to use forceps to help with Garrett's delivery (I'm not 100% sure why, though apparently he is extremely skilled at using them; and he had asked me prior if forceps were ok or if I preferred a c-section) It didn't take long for Garrett to arrive at 9:59 PM.  I didn't realize at the time, but he had the cord wrapped around his neck.  He let out one brief cry as he was born and so he was given to me immediately.  However, he began turning blue and wasn't crying so he was whisked to the pediatrician for attention.  At this point Dr. Smith was assessing the position of Allison.  I'm not entirely sure if she remained head down or if Dr. Smith had to manipulate her position; but she was presenting head first for delivery. Dr. Smith broke Allison's water and again used forceps with her delivery.  She came out in very few pushes as well at 10:16PM.   She didn't cry immediately and so was shown to me, but taken immediately to be attended to by the pediatrician.  Seconds later I heard her cry.  I was relieved.  Both my babies had been born without a c-section!

At this point I remember thinking also," that felt way too easy".  Modern medicine is indeed lovely!  It had been a long day; but with the pain relief and in comparison to my 27 hour laboring experience with Rayna, I felt great!  Both the twins at this point had been taken to the next room for brief observation until the pediatrician was comfortable with them being handed over.  I had just delivered twins and yet it felt so surreal, especially because I didn't have my babies yet.  Ryan was able to go at this point and have some skin-to-skin time with the babies.  Minutes later he came back holding Garrett.  Allison was given to me to hold.       

Eventually we made our way to a recovery room where I was able to comfortably breastfeed the twins.  Garrett looked like he was starving, sucking on Ryan's arm, and so at the advice of the nurse I fed him first.  He was given 20 minutes, then Allison was given 20 minutes and then I fed them both together.

And so twin life has begun in the Rostek house.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


I have longed to write this piece for months now (indeed, I wrote some in May which I will share along the way).  I want to share what being pregnant with twins has been all about for me.  I want to be able to remember these challenges and to recall the wisdom I have gained.  Even now as I feel focused and ready to sit at my computer, penning these words, it’s a struggle.  What’s in my heart is not flowing into words.  And I think I know why.  It is because what’s inside my heart cannot be categorized neatly.  It’s a flux of ups and downs, clear and foggy, positive and negative.  Indeed it’s a challenge I hope I can work through with you here.  Thank you for joining me in this pursuit.

Ups and Downs
It’s fall.  I have always loved fall.  It is crisp and fresh and primed with the potential of new beginnings.  This fall I find the end of summer heat and fun swirl into the beginning of a season of slower, methodic, cooler rhythms which I anticipate will break way to the onslaught of a winter storm.  I am full of many different emotions.  The days are inconsistent.  I have “good” days and “bad” days.  The bad ones are a struggle to keep pressing through.  Today is a good day: my mind is refreshed  and my body feels able.  I have space between thoughts, my breath feels deep and nurturing, and I feel like I can focus on what really matters.
The Marathon
Indeed, this pregnancy is best summed up as a marathon.  I love running and the sense of accomplishment it gives.  I love pushing my body and how alive breathing deep makes me feel.  But, my mind and soul must also be present when running a race, just as much as my body is. It has been a struggle to keep my mind and soul in this marathon.  I am used to being naturally determined, disciplined, and full of resolve; it has shaken me to have to give myself regular “pep-talks”.  However, I have discovered that many times that is just exactly what I need: to talk back to myself when my self-talk is not positive, determined and disciplined.  Furthermore, once I realized that I am not entitled to an easy life, as so much of my generation feels, I have become better equipped to lean in and press on.

First thoughts
I have struggled with many aspects along these months.  Let me share some of my first thoughts on this pregnancy which I wrote back in May.

Twins.  I am pregnant with twins.  That means I'm going to be having 2 babies.  All day after finding out the shocking news it calmly reeled through my head:  "I have never wanted to have three children."  (In fact, while I really wanted to have a second child I was beginning to brace myself to have a one child family; it was taking awhile to get pregnant and we were only a few months away from throwing in the fertility towel.)

It took a week before the disbelief and shock started giving way to a small slow-growing excitement.  My energy began to amp up and prepare for the battle ahead.  I had an excellent run in this week where I found myself feeling truly triumphant and the thanksgiving overflowed in my heart.  Thanksgiving for my wonderful husband, for my beautiful daughter, for my career, for my mother's healing that she will be alive to meet these babies!, for my mother in-law's great health and willingness to support us and help us.  Even if I was thankful to be pregnant, I still struggled to be thankful for twins; but, there was indeed much to be thankful for.  And the thankfulness and joy for these babies is sweetly growing.

I know this is going to be a crazy challenge, one that no one is ever properly equipped or prepared to handle.  Just a couple weeks ago at our friends' baby shower my one friend asked a mother of 2-year old twins how it was in the beginning.  Her reply was starkly truthful: "horrible."  I chuckle now, knowing indeed that will be the truth; there will be times of horror.  I suggested to my sister that she and my brother-in-law were partially to blame for our double pregnancy with their wishes all along for twins for us and our certainty they petitioned God for such a surprise.  She just laughed and said, "No, I don't think that has to do with it; but, I do think God has a sense of humor."  Indeed, doesn't a sense of humor do us all well in many different circumstances? (My husband has always purported that there's nothing in life you can't laugh during or about.)  So, I was reading the familiar verses in Jeremiah 29 "For I know the plans I have for You," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."  I thank God for spelling it out plainly for me and in almost a comical manner for our situation:  these twins are not meant to bring disaster to our household, they are meant to bring a rich goodness.  I think too of John 10:10 which tells us that Christ has come to give us "more and better life than we could have ever dreamt of."  I never dreamed of having 3 children!  I trust that the rich blessings of these lives will carry Ryan and I through the chaotic, sleepless times.  

It is in these upcoming days that I know I need to fortify my spiritual health, my marriage, and my prayer life.  In church the other week as my energy level was beginning to return I heard God say "it's time, Cheryl."  As in its time to lean in.  It's time to buff up.  It's like carb loading before a race - I need to fuel myself well in these next months, so when I have no time think, no time to sleep, no time to myself I will have some sustenance left.  It is time to pray, so in those days when don't remember to pray I will be covered.  It is time to create habits and to embed patterns into my day and to begin certain healthy thinking processes, so when chaos hits, I can stay my usual calm self.  Not everyone is given such advance warning for trying days approaching in their lives and thus, I feel a particular need to use this time well.

Be a Willing Student
I feel like already I am beginning to learn.  This is the concept: to be open to learning, so in the changes I can adapt and cope well.  I anticipate being a very tired mother of 1 + twins and so I found myself reading Matthew 11:28-30: " Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke fits perfectly and the burden I give you is light." (emphasis mine)  Let me teach you.  These are the words that popped out as I read this passage.  Jesus is my teacher.  If I listen to him and trust in him I will be able to find rest amidst the chaos.  I am a creature of habit and so learning new things is not always enjoyable for me; however, I am well aware that due to changing circumstances  I will have to do things differently and so learning from the greatest teacher how to do them is a reassurance.

Fixed Identity
Now, with less than 2 months until these babies arrive, I recall a conversation I had with my sister when we first found out we were having twins.  I said something to the effect that I will have to give up my identity for a couple of years.  She said to me that rather than giving up my identity, I will be gaining a new one.  Today, I don’t find myself lamenting giving up my identity (perhaps because so much of it has given way already as I can’t even go for a walk and I am so happy to be done working so I can rest); but I remember clearly a church service shortly following that conversation where it was stated that Jesus must be my treasure.  And I realized that my primary identity is a daughter of God.  Nothing, absolutely nothing can ever strip that identity.

Don’t Give Up
Many days I have struggled to have the confidence that “I can do this”. As in, that I could get through the time until I was off work, that I can make the most of my “bad” (being mentally and physically tired and  worn out) days, that I can succeed at the feat of labour and delivery and finally that I can be the calm momma these babies will need to nurture their little, precious bodies.  It was on one of these bad days that I was having trouble talking back to myself that this verse came to me: “We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated.  We often don’t know what to do, but we don’t give up.” (2 Corinthians 4:8 ERV)  Press on, Cheryl, press on.  It is more work than usual; but, don’t give up!

Claim God’s Power and be Thankful EVERY day
Furthermore, I have been reminded of my God’s power. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”   Only 1 year ago my mom was in the very middle of battling cancer and I see what power and strength He gave her in those days.  I know there is no comparison between cancer and pregnancy; however, I find myself understanding much more of my mother’s fatigue and frustration at a mandated slowed pace.  I understand more the time needed to become accustomed to a “new normal”.  And I admire the grace my Mom had in all those moments.  Grace through the power of an Almighty God.  I am also reminded of the verse I  recently blogged about, “For this is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Daily, I am trying to make this my mantra.  This includes the bad days.  This includes the crazy exhausted days sure to come.  In these days, how will I respond?  Indeed I will have to be intentional if I want joy and gladness to be my response.  And indeed I want thankfulness to flow out of my heart.  Just a couple of days ago as we were clearing yet some more space out to make room for the twins, I came across some papers and things I had written about Mrs. Peters.  Mrs. Peters was one of the most influential people in my teenage years.  In  particular I had written about how in her blindness and discomfort she never complained. And if she spoke anything negative it was sure to be followed by a bouquet of positive.  I have always admired this woman and particularly her generosity.  But in this moment I realized that Mrs. Peters is still teaching me.  She has years ago passed away; yet, I see her smile, I sense her thankful heart in everything and I can’t help but feel moments of this lovely woman rejoicing with me in anticipation of my twins’ impending arrival.  Thank you, God, for placing Mrs. Peters in my life all those years ago to continue teaching me about thankfulness in these present days.  

Anticipation of Joy
It is important for me to take care of myself so I can be the wife and mother I desire to be.  I feel like I can finally do this now that I have moments to rest when Rayna goes to daycare and I am no longer working.  It was a struggle to get through the first trimester of fatigue and nausea, the very brief month or two when that subsided before my belly started getting BIG, and then pressing through to the 27 week mark when I went off work and even still pressing through the tired days when my mind or body or both don’t work like I want them to.  That said, I feel I need to close by saying that I’m starting to feel like I’m going to love these babies dearly when they arrive.  I say this tongue in cheek, but those of you that know me well know that I am not a “baby-person”.  Indeed, even the thought of “getting through” one more baby stage didn’t thrill me.  But, what joy to watch my eldest daughter laugh and learn and to share in shaping and teaching her.  What joy to anticipate how our growing numbers will stretch and grow and strengthen this Rostek family.  Precious babies I await your arrival and thank you for all your little lives have taught me already.  I am running this marathon for you little ones!  I love you!