Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Usually on Thanksgiving Eve I post my thank you list. Well, this year is a bit different. Sure I could sit here and list out several things or people I'm thankful for this year (and if you're a facebook friend, you've seen my daily "Today I'm thankful for..." posts) but this year I'm basically thankful for one all-encompassing thing: God's faithfulness.

It was a little over a year ago when I started Beth Moore's study on Esther - and if you haven't done this study yet, PLEASE DO! It remains my all-time favorite of hers. Anyways, I remember watching Beth speak in one of her videos and feeling envious of how close she seems to God. Not that God is closer to some than he is others - the bible says he doesn't play favorites - but I believe Beth has asked God to be her everything, to walk so closely with her that without prayer, without the Word, her life would turn upside down. And I wanted that kind of relationship with God. I remember asking God to draw me so near to him that I could see him at work in my life, for real.

Let me tell you. He answered. Time and time again I've seen his hand at work. But it hasn't always been the way I thought he'd answer.

Its no secret that I'm a stay-at-home-mom. I love that I get to be home with our kids every day. But there are days I really wish I was the one getting up, going out into the world of adults with grown-up conversations and lunch dates and coming home to dinner and laundry done. (In Drew's defense, this totally happens on the semi-rare occasion I'm gone while he's home with the kids.) And I definitely wish I was getting a pay check when it comes time to review the good ol' budget. Finances have not been as great this year yet we continue to trust God with them by being faithful in our tithes and offerings. And time and time again God has met our every need. Not that checks have magically appeared in the mail (although that has happened before) He answered that prayer in other ways. When we were preparing for Anniston's arrival there was a "Mommy/Annie Wish List" posted on our fridge of items I just wanted to have before she was born. Things like some nursing tanks, a new breast pump, a moby wrap, new burp cloths, long-sleeve onesies, etc. God provided all of those things through random donations of many different people. A friend at church loaned me her pump, another friend loaned me some nursing tanks without even knowing I needed them, my sister-in-law was given a wrap she didn't plan on using and graciously gave it to me. My friends threw a surprise shower for me and had managed to sneak a peek at that list and got most of the items on it in addition to a huge diaper cake, some wipes and other necessities for our baby girl. Because of those donations we were able to still meet our needs financially  - because we weren't spending money on those items - and I still got to have some wants too. "He will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches..."

As you all know Anniston's birth did not come as routinely as we expected. And while I was in the hospital being monitored for my blood pressure I kept praying that God would keep her healthy and that she would do well in the delivery. He did answer my prayer, but it wasn't an "As you wish my child". She didn't do so hot, to be honest. All the nurses kept referring to her as "really sick" - which I hated - but at the time she was the baby who needed the most help in the special care nursery. But that doesn't mean God wasn't faithful. HELLO?! He made sure the hospital I delivered in, the hospital on the south side that had NO previous nicu capabilities at all, got a ventilator a mere 6 days before our baby was born because He knew she would need it. He arranged for Christ-following doctors to be the ones on call to take care of her during those first critical hours of her life, who made the decision to give her the surfactant and played a huge role in turning her breathing around. He was with her. He was with me. I knew people were praying for her and I knew they were praying for me because quite frankly, I wasn't freaking out. "Everyday Bethany" would have been freaking out in that situation. True story. I'm a worrier, I get it honestly and while I pray against it daily... it happens. But I physically felt those prayers while Annie was in the hospital and I was sending out specific prayer requests and one by one those were answered. God's glory was all over that Special Care Nursery. He is faithful.

Right after Annie came home I struggled a lot with some baby blues. I was hormonal, thats a given, but I was also dealing with grief over not having the birth experience I was prepared for and struggling to adjust to life with 3 kids. I was praying against post-partum depression and had a few of my closest friends praying with me. And each day got better but in the midst of this was my first MOPS meeting since Annie had been born. I had every excuse already to go as to why I wasn't going. First of all, it starts at 9am. To most of you, thats not a problem but since my kids don't wake up till 9 and I was just up at 6 with Anniston I was determined just to go back to sleep. But something told me to get my silly butt up and go. The speaker that day spoke right to my heart. Right now I can't even tell you what it was she said specifically but I just felt God speaking to me. And to think I almost missed out on it because I wanted to sleep! He's done that several times over the last few months.

I could go on and on but the bottom line is this. God is near. He's so near that He knows your every thought, He sees your fear, your worry, your tears. He is faithful. And when I say that I don't mean "He is faithful to make everything turn out the way you want it." What I mean is that He is faithful to show you His glory in the midst of those trials and will bring you safely to the other side. There may be heartache - but He will heal that broken heart and make you whole. There may be suffering - but He will be your strength.

I'm so thankful that as I look back on the last year I see God's hand all over our lives. In the big things, in the teeny tiny little mundane details of my everyday life. He is there. And He is faithful.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Anniston's birth story, Part 1

Last summer after hearing about some scary discoveries in a friend's delivery, another friend emailed me to let me know she would be praying for our baby and me through the duration of my pregnancy and that she hoped those stories hadn't frightened me. She assured me that God had already written our baby's birth story and it would be unique to her. Was she ever right... 

On Thursday, September 15th I went to the doctor for my 35 week visit. Everything was fine...initially. My blood pressure was a bit high but the nurse thought it could be that she just didn't get the cuff tight enough or something so she was going to have the doctor take it himself. Long story short, not only had I started dilating but my blood pressure was slightly elevated and there was protein in my urine indicating possible pre-eclampsia. After some lab work on Friday, I saw the doctor the following Monday where he confirmed that I did have pre-eclampsia, put me on bed rest and moved our c-section up 3 weeks to the following Monday, September 26th.  Drew and I were in a bit of shock! In our previous pregnancies we had never had any complications, Cash & Corrinne were both born full term: just one day shy of 40 weeks (Cash) and 39 weeks exactly (Corrinne). 

Tuesday morning (the 16th) I woke up with constant lower back pain and dull cramping in my lower abdomen. After having a nagging feeling about it all morning I decided to call the nurse just to let her know since my doctor had encouraged me to call if anything changed at all. The nurse told me to go into the hospital to be checked since my doctor didn't want me to go into labor with the pre-eclampsia. Turns out I wasn't dilating, but my blood pressure was high enough that he wanted to keep me overnight to monitor it and do another 24 hour urine catch to check my protein levels. The next afternoon (Wed. 9/21), just as I was about to be discharged - on strict bedrest with a brand new c-section date of Sunday, September 25th, (instead of Monday) my nurse decided to check my blood pressure one more time. Sure enough, it had spiked and I wasn't feeling so great. So guess who wasn't going home?! Me. 

I'm going to stop right here just to let you know how obvious it is to me that God was orchestrating this all along. So many opportunities for me to be sent home, or for me to have ignored some symptoms that could have drastically changed the outcome of our story. I'm so grateful to my doctor for having Godly wisdom (he loves the Lord -- woo hoo!) and to the Lord for being so sovereign even when I was desperately wanting to sleep in my own bed and may or may not have been a bit grouchy with my nurse when I was told I couldn't shower that second night because of my high blood pressure. ;) 

Ok, back on track. Thursday I fully expected to be sent home. My blood pressure had been down all night and nothing was really happening... until about 1:00 pm. My doctor was set to do rounds at "lunch time" which apparently is anywhere between noon and 4:00 in OB time.  Around 1:00 I randomly started contracting every 5-7 minutes for a good hour just before my doctor came in and sure enough, I had started dilating! Not only that but the protein levels in my urine had risen and while my blood pressure hadn't gone up, it hadn't really gone down either. So Dr. S. made the executive decision to go ahead and do the c-section, at 36 wks 4 days. (The goal all along had been to get the baby to 37 weeks).

I was a nervous wreck but everyone kept reassuring me that the baby would be fine, she hadn't shown any signs of distress throughout the whole hospital stay and was moving just as she should have been, etc. The only thing that didn't look good (and worried me to no end) was my placenta. The ultrasound tech had noticed some "old spots" that were probably linked to the pre-eclampsia. Knowing the placenta is the baby's source of nutrients, I didn't like that very much. 

After about an hour, I found myself in the Operating Room, numb from the belly down and waiting to meet my second daughter. After 15 minutes the felt like an eternity, I saw this beauty:

Annie started out really well! Her apgars were 8 and 9 and she was screaming! Girl's got some lungs! But after a few minutes the respiratory therapists noticed she was grunting a lot and breathing really fast. Way too fast, actually. They suspected she had some fluid in her lungs - not uncommon for a c-section baby and especially one born "pre-term". They told Drew they would be taking her into the nursery to do some x-rays to get a better look at her lungs, which is apparently protocol for preemies.

Being naive (or hopeful) I didn't expect Annie to be gone long. I thought they'd take her in, do the xrays, get her breathing slowed down and bring her back to us in our room. Well. Thats not exactly how it happened. Anniston needed a lot of help. She was breathing incredibly fast and couldn't calm down enough to slow it down. About an hour after my surgery the pediatrician came in to tell us she would be put on a CPap machine to help her breathe so she could stop breathing so quickly. And the good news - everything else looked great! She just needed help breathing essentially.  

A few hours later, Dr. K came back in and told us the CPap wasn't really working so well and she really felt like Anniston needed a break so she wanted to put her on the ventilator - the ventilator that wasn't even available at this hospital until just 6 days prior to Annie's birth. Thank you, God, for providing before we even knew we needed it.  If she needed to stay on the vent longer than 24 hrs, she would have to be transferred to another hospital nearby that has a higher level NICU. She also wanted to give Annie a dose of Surfactant - a synthetic form of the enzyme already in our lungs to keep the tiny air sacs open. She really felt like this would allow her to slow her breathing down so she didn't tire out and just stop trying to breathe altogether. This was when I realized she wouldn't be wheeled into our room anytime soon... 

I immediately sent an email out to our church's prayer list asking for specific prayer that she would slow her breathing and not need to ventilator longer than 24 hrs. I couldn't bear the thought of sending my baby to a hospital and being separated from her. 

I finally got to see Anniston at 5:30 the next morning. She was just as gorgeous as I had suspected! The tubes and ventilator didn't seem to phase me at the time. I was just in love. Looking back at those pictures now is rough. But we're so thankful we're beyond that. 

At noon, the director of the special care nursery came in to tell us Annie was a rock star and came off the ventilator. Her breathing had slowed down dramatically thanks to the surfactant  and she was just on a nasal canula and she didn't expect her to be on that very long -- not even until the end of her shift that afternoon! Thank you, church family, for praying. It works! 

 This picture is from 5:30 that evening, right before I held her for the first time. Her vent had come out - she just had a nasal canula running a constant flow of room air. Girlfriend was breathing on her own less than 24 hours later! Thank you, Lord, for providing doctors that were quick to act according to what was in the best interest of our baby. 

Even 24 hrs later, there is nothing like holding your baby for the first time. Instant love! 
See that bald spot on the side of her head? Yep, she rubbed that off in my belly! She was constantly hitting my hip bone on the right side and when I asked the nurses about her bald spot they said she must have been born with it and explained that sometimes babies rub hair off in the womb! Crazy!!!

Annie got a few feedings from her feeding tube that day (Friday) but that evening we got to try nursing, she was awesome! The doctors just kept marveling at how great she was doing and how quickly she turned around. We gave God the glory and continue to do so!

Unfortunately Annie didn't get to come home with us. On Sunday evening, I had to say goodbye to her and cried the entire walk out of the hospital. It felt so weird to leave without my baby. While I hated not having her in my hospital room while we there, I was just down the hall. I could go see her anytime I wanted, and I did. How was I going to balance being with Cash & Corrinne, who hadn't had their mom home in 5 days, and being with my newborn who I desperately wanted to bond with and care for? HOW?! It is so true when they say God's grace is sufficient. He gives you the grace and strength specific to your need. I don't know how we made it through that week without Annie home with us, but we did. And my only answer is that God was getting us through it. I knew she was being cared for and loved on... not in the "best way" because thats only by Drew and me. ;) But I felt confident those nurses love their job and truly love those babies. And that was so encouraging to me. 

Monday night, Drew and I got to give Anniston her first real bath. She was tube-free -- except for that darn feeding tube which she pulled out at least 5 times a day! 

Tuesday morning she got rid of her feeding tube and was on bottles (of expressed breastmilk) and nursing as often as I could get up to the hospital for feedings. Thank you, Lord, for awesome friends and family who volunteered to watch Cash & Coco for us so we could be at the hospital several times a day. 
Such a pretty girl. :)