#5 in WBW series
Tuesday’s Child is Full of Grace by Michelle and Pete Pehoski
“Tuesday’s Child is Full of Grace.” Of such is our son, Zebadiah Samuel Pehoski, born on Tuesday, February 25, 1997. We had originally learned that line of the popular European nursery rhyme from our friendly German landlords early in our marriage. Pete was in the Air Force and we arrived in Germany shortly after our first daughter’s first birthday. Our son, Joe, was born less than two years later and our family and parenting style were becoming well established.
Jessica was conceived soon after we were married. During pregnancy, I was determined to breastfeed, not only because of the money saved, but because of the example my own mother gave me. She had breastfed the last two of her six children and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks to her, I discovered La Leche League and attachment parenting. Jes nursed often at night and it was so much easier to have her in bed with us. She was also a vocal, demanding child, needing to be close to Mom 24/7. LLL helped us cope, to realize that it was OK to hold your baby, nurse often, and survive parenting without babysitters. She was a difficult child but a more than ample introduction to attachment parenting and ecological breastfeeding. To say we learned a lot from our first baby is an understatement.
Pete and I are proud of being independent, logical thinkers. By the time Zeb, our fifth child was born, the family bed was the only way for our family to sleep. Our previous 4 children had weaned, with Mom’s encouragement, between the ages of 2 ½ and 3 ½ years. It often took a year or more after that before they graduated to their own beds in a separate room. Our babies were held close to Mom or Dad by using baby slings and back carriers. Rarely were they out of our arms longer then twenty minutes, and they would not sleep for long periods unless our familiar warm bodies were close to theirs. Because of that close contact, it seemed only natural to use breastfeeding to space our babies. When my cycles would return between 16 and 22 months postpartum, natural family planning easily took over as a healthy and rewarding alternative to artificial types of family planning. We also did not use babysitters until our preschoolers were comfortable with them. We delayed and even eliminated some routine vaccinations, grew and raised most of our food organically, and were well into home schooling our older kids. Our kids were rarely sick, even with routine colds or flu. Zeb was the healthiest of them all.
That is, until he was 13 months old, crawled out of Mom’s lap after nursing, laid down on the floor, then stopped breathing. Yes, every parent’s nightmare. We did the 911 call, ambulance ride, met Dad (who was at work) at the emergency room, and prayed that Grandma could keep the rest of the kids under control. Within 24 hours we had moved into Milwaukee’s Ronald McDonald House and Zeb was a patient in the Pediatric Cardiology ICU of Milwaukee’s Children’s Hospital. We soon learned that Zeb was born with a badly deformed heart. It should have been detected at birth, or at well baby checks, but never was. Simply put, two of the four vessels going to his heart were switched, causing inefficient functioning of his heart. He also had a large hole between the upper chambers. He underwent open heart surgery to fix what they could, heart/life support machine for a week, drug induced coma during that time, and then a permanent pacemaker installed. Thanks to our family and many friend’s prayers and support, 3½ weeks later, we were all back home. Zeb’s prognosis was iffy, but still positive. And we settled back into our routine.
Children’s Hospital was wonderful with their support of breastfeeding and attachment parenting. They even had a separate room called The Dairy with curtains and several different breast pumps. As soon as he was taken off his coma-inducing drugs, Zeb was allowed to nurse whenever he wanted. But more important than that, we were allowed to be with him at all times. Zeb nursed when he had to but he preferred that Pete take care of him. Zeb was Pete’s baby.
After parenting 4 babies that wanted only breastfeeding and Mom, Zeb took to Pete almost from the moment he was born. After his hospitalization, this became even more pronounced. Zeb slept next to Daddy at night and only rolled by Mommy when he needed to nurse. They both thrived on sleeping together, taking daily walks, watching Dad mow the lawn or rototilling the garden while being carried in Dad’s backpack. I say both because Pete grew up in a dysfunctional home. Attachment parenting was a true blessing. It healed emotional and spiritual wounds that we didn’t even know were there. It made Daddy a stronger parent but more importantly, it made him a healthier person. It also sustained both of them during the following, stormy 17 months.
In late October 1998, Zeb caught the common respiratory virus, RSV, which put him back in the ICU for five weeks. Once again, he pulled through, but refused to go back to breastfeeding. All he wanted was Dad to hold and sleep with him. As soon as he was out of a hospital crib and into a regular hospital bed, that’s exactly what Dad did. And as Pete said, “To hell with hospital regs. This is MY son. Let them try and stop me.” They left Pete and Zeb alone.
When Zeb came back home, our large king sized family bed (bought in Germany before our second child was born) was Heaven to him. Unlike any of our other kids, who always fought going to sleep, Zeb would literally laugh when we put him to bed. He made it obvious what was most important to a two year old. Always having a Daddy or Mommy next to him, especially at night. Nothing, literally nothing, made him happier. He wanted to be at home, with Mommy or Daddy, with his loud, rambunctious siblings to watch and entertain him. Number One was easily Daddy, especially in the dark night, his large arm wrapped around Zeb, keeping him warm and cozy.
I cannot imagine going through the same situation without the parenting style we had.
Zeb died in the family bed, next to Daddy, at 6:35 AM, on August 24, 1999. He was one day short of 2½ years old, being diagnosed terminal only 3 weeks earlier. He died on a Tuesday and took his Daddy’s heart with him. ‘Tuesday’s Child is Full of Grace’. Thank you God for the love we were able to share in such a special way: spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. And all of those because of the physical touch between parent and child that came to us so naturally.
Copyright © Michelle and Pete Pehoski. Permission required for use.
Tomorrow: A Religious Search
Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood
Natural Family Planning (online manual)