Saturday, January 28, 2012

Out of the comfort zone

It never ceases to amaze me how much God can use you when He takes you out of your comfort zone.  We are at our best when we just surrender to Him and let him speak and move through us.  This past Sunday was Sanctity of Life Sunday and Jamie gave our testimony at church that night.  When I first approached him about doing it, he looked at me like I had grown two green heads with unsightly hair sprouting out on both noses.  Then he answered with and emphatic "No way!!!...!!!" I asked again and he said no again and so on and on we went until I wielded my womanly wiles on him and gave him the best puppy dog look I could muster. He couldn't resist my "Please baby, your the best baby, I love you baby...You can do this!"

I must say, God truly spoke through him so wonderfully Sunday night.  I'm so proud of him.  I asked him if he would clean up his notes and send them to me so I could post them on my blog.  So, my sweet hubbie sent it to me this morning (Yes, it is tax season and he is working :( )

So, in the words of the world's best daddy:

In observation of Sanctity of Life today, I have been asked to share our story of Eli. Many of you know who Eli is, but not all of you know all of his story and how our little man changed us forever.

I'll start from Eli's beginning. My wife, Jennifer, and I had been married for a little over 12 years and had three beautiful children at the time. We both wanted number 4 to top everything off and to "complete" our family. We found out that we were pregnant and were overjoyed. This was in August 2009. Jay, Cooper, and Lucie were just as excited as us - for the most part. Ironically, his due date was April 16th. Everybody who knows what I do for a living should get a kick out of that.

Well, for the three months following, the pregnancy seemed to be progressing just fine. We all had images of what our life would be like with our new little "peanut". Everybody had suggestions for girl names and boy names and we could not wait to find out if our little baby was indeed a boy or a girl. For the record, I thought our baby was a boy, but then again, I thought ALL our children would be boys. Even to the point of getting the ultrasound technician to check multiple times with Lucie and Amelia because I was sure that she had missed something.

The day finally came for our 20-week ultrasound and we could find out if we were having a boy or a girl. We decided to bring the kids with us and let them be part of this too. So Jennifer loaded the kiddos in the car and drove them up to our doctor's office in Montgomery. I was already at work and just met them there. They finally called us back to the ultrasound room and we all crammed in there with much anticipation…..

I know that most people have, or will be, at a point in their life where all you can think of is I wish I could go back to the way things were just one minute ago. Just minute ago, when I didn't know what I now know. Well, that time was upon all of us. Almost immediately into the ultrasound examination it was clear that something was very wrong. At that time, I wasn't sure what it was, but judging from the ultrasound technician's and Jennifer's reaction, I knew that our lives had just changed forever.

You see, Eli didn't have any amniotic fluid. Our doctor told us that it was most likely due to a problem with his kidneys. He was very caring, but he laid it on the line. He let us know that if the lack of amniotic fluid was because of the kidneys, then Eli had a condition that made him "not compatible with life". So there it was.

Jennifer and I had been through a lot with this doctor even before this. He knew Jennifer and me and he knew our faith. He never once brought up the option of terminating the pregnancy. We were told to go home, for Jennifer to put her feet up for a couple of days and drink plenty of fluids. In the mean time, we were scheduled to go up to UAB for a level 2 ultrasound so the doctors would try to diagnose what was going on.

We did what we were told. We went home and we waited. To be honest with you, we were pretty numb. We were holding out hope that there could be another explanation for the lack of amniotic fluid, but the more research we did, the more the reality set in that we were not going to have Eli with us for very long. That night after we found out about Eli's condition, we made a decision right then and there. Although we may not have Eli with us for very long, we do have him right now. As long as that was case, we were going to love him and enjoy being with him and just cherish the time that God DID give us.

We went up the UAB a couple days later and found out that Eli did indeed have issues with the development of his kidneys. He had poly cystic kidneys which basically made them non-functioning. The UAB doctor, was not quite as ''caring" as our doctor in Montgomery. He gave us the dreaded "not compatible with life" diagnosis and then asked us when we wanted to be scheduled to terminate this pregnancy. We were both pretty taken back by the casual nature of this request. We let him know that termination was not an option for us. He honestly seemed dumbfounded and couldn't understand why we would continue with a pregnancy that would result in death. We told him that our baby was very much alive at this moment and that we believe in a God that is fully capable of healing our child if it is in his will. Who are we to take that option out of God's hands? And even though we did say it, and it probably did not come through as a concrete thought at that time, we both knew that we had plans for our baby while he was with us!

However, I feel like I need to add that the doctor warned us that going through this pregnancy without amniotic fluid would be very painful for Jennifer and possibly for Eli. We had discussions about if we were being selfish and just putting off the inevitable. We prayed about it and did some more research and it did not take long at all before we were both at peace and knew that we absolutely made the right decision. And for the record there is no indication that Eli was EVER in pain or agony.

The next couple of months were really like a blur and full of mixed emotions for our family. I'm not going to sit up here and say that everything was great from that day on. It was toughest time in our lives. We were scared, we were sad, we were even mad. There were times when tears flowed freely and often. There were times when anticipation of what was to come felt like it was too much. But it wasn't like that the whole time. There were good times too. In fact, looking back, and I know it sounds crazy, I see a lot of joy in that time and Eli was part of us every step of the way. Eli took a trip to beach, enjoyed many, many Ben & Jerry's ice cream cups - chocolate fudge brownie was his favorite - so I've been told. He also enjoyed many avocado turkey burgers. I guess there is no accounting for some baby's tastes. He was talked to all the time, received good-night and good-morning kisses and hugs from his brothers and sister. And even got into a snowball fight. Selfishly, some of my favorite times were at night when the other kids were in bed, I would get a chance to talk to him and tickle him through Jennifer's tummy. When there is not any amniotic fluid, it is easy to tell how the baby is positioned. Anyway, I would tickle his little hiney and he would just squirm all around. Once every three weeks or so, we also were able to have an ultrasound. Now I know that the ultrasound was not necessary, but I think it was Jennifer's doctor's way of helping us how ever he could. This was kind of like our face-to-face time with Eli. The ultrasound tech was so unbelievably sweet. She had a way of stretching most ultrasounds so that they lasted 45 minutes to an hour. Even though we told her how much what she did meant to us, I don't think she could possibly realize what a blessing she was to us. And through all of this, I would just think to myself, "How in the world could we terminate a baby who was so much part of our lives?"

On Sunday, February 21, 2010.we had to rush Jennifer to the hospital. It was what is referred to as a cord prolapse. This is basically when the cord comes out before the baby. Normally, Jennifer's water would have broken and we would have had some kind of sign that she was in labor. But with no amniotic fluid, there was no water to "break". They diagnosed the problem in Troy and rushed her by Ambulance to Montgomery. The time had come to meet Eli face to face and, we knew, to say goodbye to him.

Eli was born via c-section in Montgomery at about 4:00. He immediately received a little medical help and looked like he was trying to rally some strength. He had already experienced so much in his short life, I guess he knew that he had a few more things left to do. During most of this time, Jennifer was in recovery and still did not have a chance to see Eli yet. So when she was out of recovery, Eli got to take a walk with just him and Daddy - a walk that I will forever cherish. He got to meet Jay, Cooper and Lucie Rose and feel their touch and hear their voices. And he got rest in his mama's arm and feel her kisses. Eli went to heaven that day, a couple hours after he was born while he was right there in his mama's arms.

Eli lived an extremely eventful life for a very short amount of time and he knew nothing of hurt or pain. He only knew love. And we found room in our hearts for even more love because of him.

Going back to that day at UAB I cannot fathom the possibility of choosing any other way that we did. I sincerely thank God for the time that we got to spend with Eli. What a blessing my family could have missed had we chosen another way.

Jamie read this to me before he shared in church Sunday night.  I was reduced to a puddle by his precious words.  My favorite part was when he talked about taking a walk with Eli.  The one and only walk he would ever get with him.  Jamie, I love you so much and I am so glad God made us for one another.
Much love,

Sunday, January 15, 2012

First Steps

Today, I am linking up with Kelly at Walking With You. Kelly is hosting a series for mothers who are on the journey of infant loss.

Part 1 ~ Baby Steps

D day as I sometimes call it...The day we "found out".  Ignorance was bliss for this family of five.  November 30, 2009 was to be a happy one.  One of naming a baby...finding out the sex of our sweetling...It was a family affair.  I worked half a day and took off to go have our 20 week ultrasound.  I left amidst co-worker's well wishes...some stopping to venture a guess as to whether we were having a boy or a girl.  All smiling telling me that they could not wait to find out.  Students telling me to wear pink tomorrow for a for a boy.  I promised to share the wonderful news in some special way.  I was almost giddy with excitement.  I left work and stopped for a bite to eat.  After a quick lunch, I went and picked up the kiddos and we made our way to Montgomery where we would meet up with Jamie.  There was so much excitement in the car on the 50 mile trip to the doctor. We met Jamie in the parking lot and all walked up to the office with lots of chatter among our happy little family.  We sat in the waiting room waiting to be called back.  We read the standard doctors office magazines during our wait.  We tried to tame the wild beast of excitement building in our children.  Our time eventually came.  Michelle came to the door and called for us to come back with a wink and a grin. We went in and Lord have mercy we tried to all get settled in that dark little room.  Then she began and in that moment...that one tiny, little moment the walls came tumbling down. Just as the walls of Jericho tumbled down, so did our ignorant bliss...our lives changed forever.  We learned our baby had no fluid.  Without fluid our baby would not live.  I knew instantaneously that our road would be a difficult one.  I saw it on their faces...Dr. K, the nurses, the staff...They all had that look...If you are walking this journey, you know the look I am talking about.  I'd like to say I remember every single moment of the rest of that day, but truth be told it is all a hazy fog.  I remember bits and pieces of conversation with Dr. K...bits and pieces of others (the amazing ladies in the Dr. office) taking care of my kids while we tried to figure out our next step...Mrs. J putting her arms around me while I shook with racking sobs...Jamie telling me it was going to be alright...bits of conversation with the kids about their disappointment over not finding out if it was a boy or girl (They didn't know what was going on.)...checking out and being told we would go to a specialist for confirmation in the next couple of days...Stay off of your feet...Drink plenty of fluids...It all runs together after time.
I do have vivid recollection of walking to my vehicle and Jamie being concerned that I was unable to drive home.  He made me promise not to call my mama while driving.  Truth is...I was in no condition to drive and I did call my mama. the power of God's hand, I made it home. Jamie had to take the boys to their first Upward basketball, I came home with Lucie Rose and shortly thereafter my sister came in.  My mama and daddy were not far behind her. We prayed together and I distinctly remember feeling sick to my stomach and feeling the need to vomit. I went to the bathroom but could only sit on the floor in front of the toilet...In a daze. My baby was going to die.  He was so strong and such an active little fella. Yet, he was going to die. Jamie came home as soon as the boys finished with practice.  There was no family dinner this night.  The boys ate chicken fingers that my sister brought over and I just sat in the living room so confused and hurting more than I ever had.  I remember going to bed at some point and dozing off to sleep and waking up.  Jamie was sleeping so I went to the bathroom and just sat and sobbed. Where had this all gone wrong? Jamie woke up to my sobbing and came to me.  He put his arms around me and tried his best to reassure me.  Be positive...We don't know for sure.  I knew...I just did.
Two days later we went to a specialist for a level 2 ultrasound. Our worst nightmare was confirmed.  Our son had Potter's Syndrome.  He had no kidney function and as a result his lungs would never develop.  Where do we go from here?  The doctor suggested we make an appointment for an induction.  There was no way this was even an option for us. We left the office with a box of tissue in hand that a receptionist had placed in my hands and a few pictures of our baby. At this point, I would alternate between tears and numbness. There was a sad fog settling over me like I never had experienced before. Sadness and fear.  I didn't even know what to pray for or how to talk to God right then.
I fully believe that when we do not know how to communicate with God, He finds ways to communicate with us.  He lets us know that He has not forsaken us or left us alone.  On the way home Jamie had turned the radio on for some background noise.  I honestly didn't realize that it was even on until better than halfway home.  Chris Tomlin's song I Will Rise came on and caught my attention.  It was the first time I had heard that particular song and I do not think it was coincidence.
While a great deal of that time is very foggy, I can still vividly remember certain smells and many other little details.
Those days are some of the darkest most bittersweet days of my life.  In the very moment we recieve a fatal diagnosis for our son, I learned to cherish every single second God gave us to spend with him. Those are some of the most precious memories I will ever know.
Much love,

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Joy and Thanksgiving

Not the one day a year we stop to give thanks...learning to give thanks daily, moment by any and all situations. Is it possible?
Can I truly give thanks through everything? We are commanded to you know...
1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

How? How do we give thanks in everything? I've been in places in my  life where thanksgiving was the farthest thing from my mind...How do you thank God for a dead child? How do you thank God when you miss him so much it physically aches?

Tina, my sister-in-law, gave me a book for my birthday...yes, I turned 38 last Thursday.  How did I get to 38 already?
The title of the book is One Thousand Gifts written by Ann Voskamp.  I picked it up and couldn't put it down.  I fully intend to turn around and read it again for fear that I missed some important morsel. I soaked up her poetic truths like a dry sponge. Honestly, it was not an easy that you fly through in say a day or two.  I quickly learned that I needed my pen and or highlighter in hand.  In essence, Ann embarked on a journey to find chara or joy...deep joy...the kind only found in a relationship with Jesus. Charis, grace...the beginning of deep joy only complete when followed up with eucharisteo, giving thanks. Ann has had struggles in life.  There are things that she has been unable to come to terms with on her own. Haven't we all? Ann's journey sees her keeping a journal of one thousand gifts.  She finds a gift and writes it down. It becomes a part of her. She gives thanks through the finding of these gifts.  The gifts are everywhere when she looks with the "eyes of her heart". A harvest moon that she chases...mail in the mailbox...long lisped prayers...kisses in the dark...All things she stops and gives thanks for...practices eucharisteo.  The more I read, the more I want to practice too.
As I read, I had one resonating thought...This is the day the LORD has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! I repeated it over and over and over again.  I jotted it in the margins of the book because I couldn't stop thinking about it.  Before Eli was born, my uncle David told me about hearing God speak to him after the death of his son. Those were the words God told him.  He told them to me that February day a week or two before Eli came. I was quick to reject.  I couldn't rejoice right then...I just couldn't.  Eli was alive and kicking in my womb then...Thank you Lord for those moments! Eucharisteo! Looking back, I rejoice!  Why didn't I rejoice more then? I was scared, fearful of what was to come. Had I rejoiced and thanked Him more would I have been as scared?  Here I am on the other side and God is stronger today than then.  My "heart's eyes" see now what they couldn't see then. I am thankful for His strength.  Eucharisteo! I rejoice!
The day Eli was born those words repeated in my hollow soul or as Ann calls them "soul holes". This is the day the LORD has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.  I heard them... I was not in a place to rejoice.  In her book, Ann calls this hard eucharisteo... give thanks for grace even when it is too hard. He beckons us to practice this hard eucharisteo. I think back...
   I wanted to give to that sweet baby boy.  I wanted to give him a lifetime of love.  God allowed that in the short two hours of his little life. He was in his mama's arms when he slipped from earth. He knew only love.  Thank you Lord for those moments of love. We were able to prepare his sweet, beautiful little body just as Joseph of Arimathaea so tenderly and lovingly did with Jesus'.
     Thank you Abba Father for those moments. The moment his brothers and sister so gingerly touched and held him. The moments as Eli's daddy unwrapped his fragile little body and so gently bathed him...all the while speaking to him...calling him buddy.  The moments Jamie spent making sure he smelled just like a lotion...fresh diaper...swaddling him up...placing him back in my arms.  Those are some of my most precious memories. THIS.IS.HARD.EUCHARISTEO... Thank you Father...I rejoice for this is the day You have made.
I never, ever knew I could give so much thank amidst so much heartache. As I went and took his Christmas tree down today, I was able to practice eucharisteo. I was dreading doing this but knew it needed to be done.  So, I went and knelt to take the ornaments off.  I noticed a new ornament there.  One we didn't put.  Who, I wondered? A lantern was placed on his marker by my mama Christmas eve and lit to burn through Christmas day.  Thank you Lord that his brief life is still remembered by others. Thank you for remembering!
What about giving thanks, practicing eucharisteo brings deep joy and an unfailing relationship with God? It is not only the "hard eucharisteo".  It is the daily, momentary eucharisteo...praising Him through the storm, but praising Him in the calm also! Isn't that when we tend to get lax? As Ann points out, "it must be learned." It is about giving thanks when those precious arrows in my quiver are poking me in the side! It is about giving thanks and trusting when the bank account is drained and dental work on top of broken arms demand more. Dig deep and then dig even deeper to find the Grace in those moments. Then thank Him for His Grace!

This book opened my eyes to wonderful truths.  I must practice this thing called eucharisteo! After reading the other night, I went to bed only to be woken up at 2:30 by the cries of my baby girl.  I made a conscience effort to practice this eucharisteo instead of being ill and grumbling.  I thanked him for full arms...for baby smells in my nose...and dozing sleep in the rocking chair.  It was a sweet time. I didn't feel cheated of sleep. I felt chara.
I encourage you to journal your thousand of them.  If you would like to join, take the dareHERE.  Read the book!  I promise you will be blessed!

Much love,