Sweet Relief

It’s crazy to think that in two weeks the Sweet Smith Stories show will have been happening live and in person from Richmond, VA for an entire year. An entire year people! And what a radically different year it has been – different than I would have ever written (if I were actually the writer of my own story). Sitting here, I’ve been asking myself why I continue to be shocked that life still unfolds in completely different ways than I imagine… Truthfully I think it’s because most days I’m still largely unaware of how “not in control” of my life I really am. My systematic brain follows the logical and linear progression of how events should or have historically played out, so when the progression deviates from that – I stand befuddled. But if our transition to Richmond has taught me anything, it’s that I’m finding there is sweet sweet relief in leaving it up to Him. After all, He knows me better than I even know myself…

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Almost 1 year ago!

It’s no secret that one of our greatest struggles and deepest longings since moving to Virginia has been establishing friendships, building community. The heart of our church back in Jacksonville really centered on 3 things: Big Faith. Radical Discipleship. Spiritual Family. All of which are relational at their core. So we had become to accustomed to having any/all opportunities to connect with others & were surrounded by people who held the same desire for authentic friendships. Yet, buying our very first home gave us a starting place. We did our best to pursue relationships with the people God had placed around us – our neighbors! But we quickly realized that, not unlike other places, people here lived their own lives, with their own routines, doing their own things, how they wanted, when they wanted with very little thought of stopping to truly connect with the one living next door (no judgment from this lady – I have been, too often, one of those people). Many times I’ve had flashbacks to being the “new kid” in school, although I will say building friendships when I was younger wasn’t nearly as challenging! And I don’t think our culture helps any – with phrases such as “my tribe” or “my people” being so commonplace now, we’re unconsciously building fences to keep others out. To protect what we have, fearful that opening our lives to anyone might make things messy. And I’ll never cast stones, because I am so guilty of this! But it’s given me a new perspective. It’s helped me see my own propensity to resist opening my life to others, or alternatively to be highly selective about who I will allow in. Thank you Jesus that He doesn’t choose His friends like I do (because if He did, this girl would still be left sitting on the outside looking in).

After getting pregnant with Caden, my fervor for pursuing relationships diminished. I actually still have some guilt around it (wondering if I didn’t love well during that time), but with all of the physical complications & the emotional highs and lows – I just didn’t have the energy to intentionally seek out people. And honestly, I didn’t want to. I still don’t want to. I would even share that with the Lord frequently during our conversations – and mention that if I wasn’t right in feeling that way, then I was going to need Him to change my heart & mind, because I had no desire to be an initiator anymore. Just being real… And while I desperately knew I wanted & truly needed friendships after losing my boy, I can also tell you that it brought a whole new level of “hard” to it as well. If you could get a glimpse into my life for the first 2 months after losing Caden – you might not even recognize the girl you were watching. I did a lot of hiding. A lot. I watched more TV & movies in those first 2 months than I think I’ve watched in the last 6 years combined. I ate constantly. When I was hungry and even when I wasn’t. I avoided phone calls. And I don’t have an ounce of regret or remorse over any of it. In moments, I would feel surprised at my behavior & sometimes self-conscious. Is this healthy? Should I be forcing myself to do & be “more productive”? Should I really be eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon? And then I got the greatest gift I could have – a dear dear friend reminded me to show myself grace. That this behavior, while unable to last forever, was certainly allowable during this time. That eventually I would find my footing again. I would reacclimatize to a new normal, but in the mean time to be gentle on myself.

This advice gave space for me to just breathe deeply. To stop overanalyzing myself (which by default I’m constantly doing). And to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Day by day by day. It was life-giving advice. It reminded me again of the BEAUTY of living a life of surrender to the One who created me. Being able to just “be” – knowing that it was never too much for Him to handle (even if it felt like it was too much for me). I can remember one moment in particular when I had to pull this advice out of my back pocket & remind myself to use it once again…

The church that we’ve been attending is a far cry from any other church we’ve ever been apart of. And, if I’m being honest, I wrote it off initially. At first glance, it just wasn’t my style. The Pastor’s teaching was amazing, but the service itself is extremely traditional. I’m talking hymnals, choir robes & an organ traditional. (Note: I do not think there is ANYTHING wrong with any of the above mentioned. I happen to prefer a more contemporary style of service & worship – but that’s just it, a preference). And yet, every week we were drawn to go back, because every week we met another couple or young family around our age. We sensed that perhaps the Lord was answering our prayers for community, and calling us to lay down our preference for worship. During one Sunday recently, the time for greeting others around you came and I introduced myself to a few people sitting closely around me. Following the service, and I reached down to grab my purse, and as I did I felt someone standing next to me. A sweet young mommy-to-be was standing there, and she happily reached out her hand to me saying “Hi I’m Emilie – I didn’t get a chance to meet you earlier in the service”. She could tell I was knew to the church and after finding out I was also fairly knew to the area – she mentioned she and some other girls in the church were just starting up a Bible study and, if I were interested, she’d love to have me join. We exchanged information & she emailed over all the information for the first Bible study night.

I left church that day feeling pretty excited – a Bible study with girls my own age?!? It was certainly an answered prayer. I really do love that God cares about me – ALL of me – including friendships – which may seem somewhat trivial for God to actually care about. Nevertheless, He does! The following Tuesday evening was the first night of Bible study, and as the night approached, anxiety began to creep in. Have you ever felt like you’re at complete odds within your own self? Like a battle is happening – but the field being fought on is actually in you? So often throughout these past 2 months I have felt that way. My mind will want one thing, but then my heart siezes up at the idea of it. Or sometimes my heart wants something, but my mind tries to rationalize or shame it away? Initially I was really excited at the potential for making new friends, especially with other girls my age (I think I’ve shared with you about my prior attempts in attending Bible studies up here – needless to say, I have been the youngest by DECADES). But as the night drew near, some of my greatest fears post-Caden began to surface.

One of the reasons I hid (and sometimes still hide) after losing Caden was because I couldn’t bring myself to have to relive the reality. Especially being in a city where I had very little community already. Having to face questions like “Do you have any kids?” from well-meaning people who were just trying to get to know me, was more than I could handle. So even though part me of was excited at the opportunity to have a girls night with new friends, there was another very real part that wasn’t sure I could do it. I literally called, texted & emailed all of my family and friends to ask for prayers – that God would shield me from having to answer any questions I just wasn’t ready to answer. And He did! I went to Bible study that week – sweaty, anxious & afraid – but I went, I did my very small part of showing up and God handled the rest!

But then the next week rolled around – and for no reason at all, other than it was a regular Tuesday & grief decided that he wanted to park himself in my home that day – I lost it. I was overwhelmed by the thought of having to go to the Bible study. By the fear of having to face new friends, answer questions, relive any of the story. I battled all day long. Trying to “get myself together”, to “muster up the strength”, but nothing I could do seemed to help. And I felt so so guilty for that. But that’s when the Holy Spirit reminded me of that life-giving advice my friend had shared with me: Allow yourself to be funky some days, show yourself some grace. The advice was echoed by the reassuring voice of my husband who told me, if you don’t feel like you’re up to going, then don’t go! It was the release I needed to stop being so strict with myself & allow grace to have its place…

Are there areas of your life where you need this gentle reminder? Grace isn’t a free pass to live for self, or in partial obedience to what God may be calling you to. But it is a free GIFT, given in love, as a reminder that we don’t have it all together & we never will. But the One who created us, never told us we had to in the first place! If fact, He reminds us over and over again to remain plugged into Him – because He’s the only one to have it all together & He’s the only one who needs to. Somedays we have to remind ourselves that “no rest for the weary” is a lie – and in fact, Jesus beckons us to come to Him and find rest! So today my prayer for me & my prayer for you is that we release ourselves to allow Love to His way in us and through…

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xoxo,

Caden’s Mama

 

 

 

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Milestone

So much time has passed since my last update. It’s February already, and looking back at January feels like such a blur! I have actually sat down multiple times to write this blog. For some reason the words just haven’t come as easily this time around, but I really want to continue to capture the story – so I’m doing my best to create a routine to try and write more often.

I again have such deep thankfulness for all of you who continue to pray for us. Your calls, texts, emails & messages have been GREAT encouragement to this mama’s emotional heart.

While December 13, 2016 will forever be an important day in my life – January 11, 2017 was an incredibly big milestone. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d bury a child. Not ever. The day I actually delivered Caden was surreal – but it was that very day that we also had to make the decision about how we wanted to lay him to rest. Private burial? Cremation? The community burial service the hospital assisted with? I had very little capacity to process what had actually happened that day, let alone properly think through these options. Being so new to Richmond, not having much community or support, Josiah and I had both decided that the hospital community service would be the best option. I am unbelievably grateful for the hospital offering a community service – it was one less thing to think about during a time when my brain had seemed to shut down.

The weekend before Caden’s service we got to experience our first snowstorm in our new city! It came in fast and furious with around 10 inches of snow in 24 hours and for those of you who know me, you can probably guess that I loved every minute of it’s wintery beauty. It felt like a gift, specifically delivered to me from Jesus. It was a reminder, as if He were telling me – Leesh, I know this is going to be a hard & sad week for you, just remember I am with you. Always.

There is something so relaxing, so calming about a fresh snow. Everything slows down. Even the chatter of birds or the rustling of squirrels stops in those first few hours – all of creation seems to take that moment to just rest and breathe. And for us – it was certainly a weekend of peace that we needed.

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Our families traveled in for the ceremony – a priceless gift that I would have paid a million dollars to have made happen. To have their physical presence, support & love for what was an emotionally exhausting & sad day was more tangible evidence of God’s grace. While He warns us that our earthly lives won’t be void of hardships (even as Christ followers), He also promises to be with us – every minute of every day, He is Emmanuel. And we felt His closeness through our people.

Wednesday arrived, and Caden’s ceremony was at 9:30am that morning. I woke up that morning – exhausted. The night before had been a heavy one. Both of our families had traveled in that Tuesday, so we had plenty of people in our home for dinner & time together. But as the night approached, tension seemed to rise in Josiah and I. Looking back on that night, I can now see how we were probably operating out of anxious emotions about what the next day would bring. And isn’t it just like the enemy to see a moment of vulnerability & try to seize the opportunity to cause division, chaos & misunderstanding? But we try to NEVER let him win (and by win, I mean dig our heals in the ground, refuse forgiveness and allow anger to take root in our hearts). We are not perfect, but we are learning – the more ground we give, the more ground he takes. So we stayed up late sharing our hearts – and sharing what was ACTUALLY the source of our behavior. I think we were both scared. Scared for what the next morning would bring. Scared that we wouldn’t be able to handle burying our son. Scared that it would somehow erase our Caden boy from existence. We finally ended up getting to bed, but it wasn’t long before the alarm clock went off.

I remember getting out of bed & heading downstairs to make a cup of green tea before jumping in the shower. I woke up in a stupor, completely dazed. And I almost wanted to be that way – I wasn’t sure if I could handle being totally present in those first moments of the day. Having to contemplate what the next few hours would be like. The guest bathroom shower was on, so I knew my family was up and getting ready as well. My Dad was downstairs in the kitchen. He asked how I’d slept and I told him, not long enough. No more words were exchanged, he just lovingly got up from our kitchen table, walked over and wrapped me in his arms. I’m only now beginning to really understand the love that parents have for their children – and I can only imagine how hard it must have been for mine to see their own baby hurting so deeply. Once my tea was made, I headed upstairs to get in the shower.

I finished getting ready, and put on my new dress that I had bought specifically for Caden’s service. For some reason it was really important for me to get a new dress. I guess I wanted my boy to think his mama looked beautiful on that day.

We loaded up cars and headed to the cemetery. One of my requests was that Josiah and I drive separately to and from the funeral. This also happened to be one of the sources of our misunderstandings the night before. In his ever efficient brain (one of the things I truly love about him), it didn’t make sense for us to take additional cars when we could drive other people in ours. But I didn’t care about efficiency on that day. I wanted to know that I’d have the space & freedom I needed to be however I needed to be pre-burial and post. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel or react – and I just needed to know that in the comfort of my own vehicle I could be silent, scream or wail…

Several friends texted me on our way that morning, and while they weren’t there in person – I felt their love from afar. One of the gifts from this season of life has been the birth of a deep deep thankfulness for the relationships that God has given me. We truly have world-class friends. Ones who love without expectation of reciprocity. Ones who sacrifice their own family time to walk beside us. Ones who give so generously.

The closer we got to the cemetery, the quieter our car ride was. Not even our shallow breaths could be heard. I kept having to remind myself to breathe. We arrived and had a parking spot right up front. We had gotten there early – not sure of how the ceremony would unfold. A tiny chapel was located on the property and which would be where Caden’s memorial service would be held.

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The service that the hospital offers is a community service – and it’s offered every 6 weeks for parents/families who experience stillbirths or whose babies survive less than 48 hours after birth. So this ceremony wasn’t going to be just for Caden, but for all the babies who hadn’t made it in the past 6 weeks. As we walked up to the chapel, we were handed the program for the service and were SHOCKED to see 30 baby names listed. Not all families were physically present, but just to see how many other parents had experienced similar loss as us was heartbreaking.

The ceremony started and we were seated in the pews. The chapel itself was VERY tiny – so the organizer had asked that only immediate family sit in the pews unless there was extra room. I was thankful to have my sister sitting to my left & Josiah to my right. I understood that they were trying to make sure all parents of the babies were able to have a seat, but I so desperately wanted to be surrounded by people I loved in those moments. I don’t remember much about the ceremony itself (except that it wasn’t Jesus-centered enough for me). I just remember sitting there, my eyes staring straight ahead gazing at the tiny white satin casket that my son laid in. Involuntarily, tears just streamed down my cheeks – I couldn’t have stopped them even if I tried.

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I was only brought back to the present moment by the quiet sobs of my sweet love sitting next to me. A man full of such strength, was courageous enough to allow this wave of grief, of deep sorrow to just wash over him. We have processed this loss very differently – one way not being good or best, just different. Knowing the pain that my husband was experiencing felt almost more unbearable than the burial itself. Almost…

The ceremony ended – and typically the burial and committal portion of the service happens graveside but because of the major snowstorm that had come through a few days prior, the grounds were too wet. I think this was God’s fatherly protection over us, the ceremony was hard enough – I think watching them lower my son into the ground would have been too much to bear and our good God knew that.

So often the characteristic of God being present among us, being Emmanuel (which translated means “God with us”) is correlated in my mind with Christmas (which it certainly is – but isn’t only). The Christmas season is a time when I stop to remember that God came down, left the fullness of His majesty, His divinity and took on humanity in the form of a baby, to be present among us. What LOVE that is. And while I’ve believed that He does indeed dwell among us, I am beginning to see that this goes well beyond the Christmas season. He has promised to be with us, always (Matt. 28:20). And if there is anything I know about God it’s that He is a promise keeper. He never goes back on His word. He never makes mistakes or is caught off guard. He is sovereign over ALL. This can be a hard thing to try and reconcile with through the trials and tragedies in our lives. If He is always with us, and in control over ALL things – then how could He allow…. (you fill in your own blank). And believe me when I tell you, that I too, have wrestled with these same thoughts. And truthfully I don’t have “the answer” that will make it better. But here are some of the things that I cling to, and that continue to help me:

He is God & I am not – and I’m so incredibly thankful for that. Because in a season of loss, during chaotic cultural/political times, when emotions seem to ebb and flow like the ocean’s tide – I can rest in knowing that He is God & I am not. I don’t have to have the answers, because He does & He is working out ALL things (there’s that completely inclusive word again- ALL) for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I may never understand – because His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and His ways are higher than my ways and that brings comfort – because it means there is ALWAYS someone who does understand, everything. I am human, He is divine – while I can only see in part, I only see a 5 second clip within the larger story playing out – He has directed the entire thing and knows every detail how it’s meant to unfold (and it’s always for my good & His glory).

I don’t know why my story has been written the way it has. And I may never fully know. But I was reminded by a dear mentor of mine, that our story is meant to bring glory to God and that it is. She wrote in an email to me recently

“God shines through in every part. God’s grace, holding power, healing hand and Presence shine forth. God shines forth in your love for another. Your family is a sacrament…an outward and visible sign of the love and Kingdom of God come very near.”

She also reminded that while we may never know why Caden was taken so early, that we do know (at least in part) why my Caden boy was given:

“And why Caden did not survive and thrive here on earth, I do not know. We probably won’t know why in this life…but as you both so beautifully give witness, we know in part why he came…why he was with us, even for such a brief time…as a sign of God’s mighty power, that God hears our prayers and answers us, that God would be glorified in and through you, so that a warrior would be formed in both of you, so that you would meet the amazing cast of medical folks you did and that bonds would be formed among you, and thousands of other reasons…and you will add to that list as time goes by.”

So walk with me friends, through this crazy journey we call life. And if you haven’t yet, I implore you to allow Jesus to have the reigns – He is the Good Shepherd – He knows His sheep (you and me) – He loves His sheep – He never leaves them & He deeply cares for them. Trust Him at His word – remember He is a promise keeper.

Love to you all…

 

 

New Season

So much of life has changed since losing our little love. Today marks exactly 4 weeks & as I stop to really think about that, I can’t even begin to believe it’s been that long already. We miss him daily & while the pain of losing him won’t ever go away – we know we are experiencing the abundant grace of God – because every morning, we continue to get up & turn our faces toward Him. Faith isn’t being confident of what we know, or what we can see. No, Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “Faith is the confidence of things HOPED FOR, assurance of what we cannot see.” Josiah & I love Sweet Frog – their froyo is such a special treat for us. But the main reason we love them is because of what they stand for. Their name defines what Faith, in action, is- FROG: Fully Rely On God. We have never been more tested in this in our entire lives. 

Grief is a funny thing. It is unlike any other emotion I have ever experienced. If my emotions were all relatives within the same family- grief would most definitely be my “crazy uncle”. Completely unpredictable & wildly irregular. But I suppose there is one constant – it seems to come in waves. And unlike the ocean, you never know when a wave will hit. You could be at dinner on NYE with your husband & over hear a conversation about babies at the boisterous table next to you- only to have to tell him “we have to go” and immediately get up from the table (thankfully we had been able to finish our food)- WAVE. Or you could be walking into church & run into the Pastor as you walk through the children’s area only to be met with eyes of pain & sorrow, and it’s all you can do to keep it together for the remainder of the service – WAVE. Or it might come in a thousand different ways, none of which you can ever predict or expect. 

People have encouragingly told me that what I’m experiencing is “normal” – as normal as grief can be I suppose. And while I do take comfort in trusting their encouragement, knowing I haven’t totally lost my mind – I wrestle with those words because it isn’t normal for me. The old me… 

One of the weirdest parts to process throughout this journey is that I will never go back to being the woman I was. She was forever changed, not only by her son’s life but also by his death. Life completely changed for me over the course of 3.5 hours. My body changed, my dreams changed, my purpose (for the immediate future) changed… So in moments when I’m grappling for some semblance of normal, of routine – I am met by the reality that those things will have to be forged again. A new normal, a new routine… because we transitioning into a new season. 

And while transitioning into a season that will not hold the physical presence of my precious Caden boy, I do know it will be marked by him. Our prayer for our boy has been answered- he is, indeed, a world changer. 

Caden boy – do you know you changed the world? You not only changed Mommy & Daddy’s world, but you are changing lives everywhere with your story. You, my boy, ran your race well. You taught me to love without reserve – even when it would have been safer to distance my heart. You taught me to trust God with everything I am given – even your precious life. Your warrior spirit birthed a fighter in me I never knew could exist – refusing to let the enemy steal the peace & joy that are always available to me through Jesus. You helped me see & experience the miraculous – the odds you defied shouted the glory of the Lord to everyone around. I am honored to be your mama baby boy. Sure, I am sad that I don’t get to hold & kiss & squeeze you – but know how much I anticipate our reuniting. 

Love you always Caden boy,

Your Mama
(Note: If you think of it – our family could use some prayer coverage this week. While we know that our son is enjoying the glory & majesty of Jesus’ presence – tomorrow will be closure of his earthly life as we remember & bury our love. Please prayer for Mama & Daddy – that Jesus would be EVER PRESENT – lavishing grace, peace, truth & love upon them. Please pray for Kagy, PoPo, Uncle RyRy, Auntie Shan, Uncle Jason, Colin, Annalynn, Lillian, Grammy, Poppy, Auntie Beth, Uncle Jon, Alina, Hallie & Kyla- adoring grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins who loved our boy deeply and are, too, mourning the loss of our son. Again- we have no words to thank you for the outpouring of love we’ve received. It’s evidence of His grace.) 

Daddy’s Perspective

One thing I’m learning about the grieving process is that it’s incredibly personal. There is no universal way to grieve. It happens differently for each of us. My love is an incredible writer in his own right. Talking just a few days ago, he mentioned that he felt like he was ready to write, that he needed to write. Writing is a way of release, expression & processing for both of us. It’s a way for us to capture moments in our life, yes, but more importantly sometimes it’s how we communicate most authentically with God & with ourselves. So here is the account of the tragic page in the chapter of our lives just written from Daddy’s perspective. I’m warning you (from personal experience)- grab a box of tissues now…

 

It was a Tuesday. December 13th, 2016 was the worse day of my life. My life forever changed. I now know what it is to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. It started the evening of the twelfth. Alicia and I had just driven all day Monday back to Richmond from Jacksonville where we had two baby showers for our son Caden. It was a weekend of celebration and joy with anticipation of his arrival at a later date, which was to be determined based on the pregnancy. Upon our return, we just relaxed in the family room. Nothing unusual about it. As bedtime drew near, it was the same nightly routines as every other day. However, Alicia did mention she was in some pain and having some cramping.

Cramping and Braxton Hicks contractions happened once before to her after a three and a half hour long sonogram appointment, so we thought she must be extra tired from the trip and all the emotions that went along with the festivities. After crawling into bed, the pain begin to get a little worse for her. It was around eleven o’clock. I fell asleep. A little after one o’clock in the morning, Alicia woke me up stating she was having bad pains. I got her some water since dehydration could be a cause of the pain she was having. Also, I got her some essential oils that she’s been using throughout the pregnancy. Nothing seemed to help.

At that time we called our OB/GYN, Dr. Moore, to get some guidance. He said if it continues another hour with no change then we would need to go to the emergency room. Well, we couldn’t wait that long. About fifteen minutes later, Alicia was in excruciating pain. It was time to go to the hospital. So we scurried around quickly, me being half asleep still fumbling around trying to get my bearings together. We hustled out the door and were on our way. My wife is tough. She has been through many challenging life events, many that are and were health related. I have never seen her in this much pain before and it was quite nerve wrecking because I’ve seen her suffer through some major stress but nothing like this; it was different that night.

After going as fast as I could to get there, running several red lights per my wife’s request, we made it to the emergency room around 2:15 in the morning. Alicia’s pain kept getting worse and truth-be-told, I was scared at this point. Grabbing bags out of the car and leaving my car in the valet circle, I rushed her in. Thank God no one else was in there. When we ran inside, the lady at the check-in counter had a look of shock and surprise on her face; like she had seen a ghost or something. I stated Alicia was 24 weeks pregnant and having severe contractions. The lady must have known I meant business, because someone came and got Alicia into a wheelchair within one minute. The desk lady was very nice and already called up to labor and delivery, so by the time we got up there, they were expecting us and hurried us into a room.

From that point on, it was whirlwind. A storm unlike any other I’d ever seen or experienced. The staff worked speedily to get Alicia hooked up to monitors. The nurses prepped her, got her into a gown, and informed us that the doctor would be here in about five minutes. I knew it was bad when the doctor arrived like thirty seconds after they said that. The doctor got the sonogram equipment together and began to scan Alicia’s tummy. She couldn’t find a heartbeat. My heart dropped and my stomach went into my throat. Trying to be strong, I told Alicia, we will be okay. I peered at the monitor when the doctor tried a second time and again no heartbeat was found. I was perplexed and obviously am not a doctor, but I didn’t even see our little warrior on the screen and was dumbfounded. By that time the doctor was manually checking Alicia and realized that our son was already in the vaginal canal which was why we couldn’t see him on the sonogram monitor.

Holding my wife’s hand and hearing the doctor’s words was just crushing. How could he be coming already? Would they be able to get Caden’s heart beating again? Trying to concentrate on helping Alicia and making sure she was fine while wondering what was happening to our son, I bet I had about one billion thoughts each second rushing through my head. I kept telling her we were going to be alright, all the while knowing that this situation was not alright. Then the doctor said she saw Caden’s head and she was needing Alicia to push. With one or two surreal pushes, out he came into the doctor’s hands; lifeless. My heart and body started to crumble as I stood there leaning over Alicia. I looked back and forth from her to my son. It was 2:35 in the morning when my son arrived. The doctor checked his little chest; there was nothing she could do. She said she was sorry and handed our son to a nurse who laid him in the baby cart in the corner of the room. There was still work to be done with Alicia.

There was a problem with the cord and the placenta in which the cord broke off. The doctor couldn’t get the placenta out and after trying multiple times, she stated Alicia was going to need surgery in order for them to get the placenta. Everyone quickly ran out of the room to prep the operating room and within five minutes the anesthesiologist came in and did his introduction and explained what they needed to do. I couldn’t go with her. All the nurses came back and they wheeled her out about ten minutes after that. They whisked her away as I kept telling Alicia she was going to be alright.

And just like that, all the commotion stopped. The frantic pace of nurses running back and forth ceased. I breathed for the first time in a half hour. I was alone in the room. I walked from the doorway to the corner of the room where my son was laying in the cart. I couldn’t believe this just happened. It seemed like a nightmare. How could I be looking at my son, my little warrior, being born at 24 weeks and laying there before my eyes with no movement? As I looked at his precious face, a nurse came back in to check on me. She whispered how sorry she was for us. I asked her if she could get a fresh blanket around him so I could hold him. She was happy to do so. I took him from her and sat in the chair that was next to the cart. She left the room. Again, I was alone and now I was holding my son for the first time and I just lost it. I don’t cry; ask anyone who knows me. But I just couldn’t help it. My whole body shook uncontrollably as I just sat there holding and looking at my Caden, my son.

So many questions ran though my head. No answers to be found. Shock was probably the main emotion felt. I just couldn’t believe it, it was so surreal. The loss was devastating. I just sat there crying as I held him. I felt alone. I kept repeating, ‘how could this happen’ over and over again. There were complications the entire pregnancy. We knew that he had severely low amniotic fluid. But when we had went for our checkup the Thursday before all this, he still looked perfect. Strong heartbeat, measuring where he should, and organs all looked good. No significant change in fluid. All seemed okay. As I sat there, I repeated over and over ‘how perfect he was on Thursday, what the hell happened’? Again no answers, just questions. I had lost my first born son. A dream had died.

While holding him, I’m not sure how I had any wits about me, but I knew I needed to make a couple calls and inform family. I had called my mom, Alicia’s dad and my childhood best friend, Anthony. I would have called my sister, but I didn’t feel like waking her up in the middle of the night. Holding Caden, I explained to them, in brief, what had happened and that I would call them later that morning. Looking at my son, he was beautiful. Again, by some miracle, I had enough wherewithal to make sure I took pictures of him. I wanted to capture his life, so I did. I’m thankful God dropped those thoughts into my head or we really wouldn’t have any photos of our little guy, our warrior, our Caden boy.

Somewhere between thirty to forty-five minutes, the doctor came in and said that everything went well with Alicia. The bright spot was that they didn’t need to do additional surgery. Once they gave her the local anesthetic, her body relaxed enough where the placenta came out on its own without any further surgery being required. The nurses wheeled her in about five minutes after that. Alicia did get through it all; she was amazing! Once they got Alicia and the bed all squared away and hooked up, the brutal reality set in for her. As I was still clutching our little one, Alicia just began to cry. It was time for mommy and baby time, as I laid Caden on her chest so she could hold him. We were a family of three. In our wildest nightmares and preparations for his coming, we never thought this could happen. Unfortunately, this is our story and for some reason, we do not know why God wrote it up this way. But in that moment, it was just us three; and all our emotions.

I took a few more pictures of mommy and son. It was hard for me to see her brokenness. There was nothing I could have done or do. We just cried together. Alicia held him for a while then I got to hold him again. I didn’t want to let him go. I’m not exactly sure for how long I held him before handing him off to the nurses to get his measurements and hand and foot prints. I fought the idea of giving him up. An eternity’s worth of time wouldn’t be long enough to hold him. Eventually I acquiesced to letting him go. There was no pressure, but it was time. Saying goodbye to my son was the hardest thing ever. Even as I write this, I tear up and cry again. I just wanted to clutch him forever, the time was too short.

Then it was just Alicia and I. Confused, lost and hurt. Where do we go from here? Why did this happen? Where is God? All these thoughts and many, many more filled my head. Broken in pieces, how could life be scripted this way? Our story is still being written, by an Author we know. There is more to come and that is what I cling to right now.

 

 

Caden Boy…

Our weekend of celebrating had come to a close. Little did we know that this day, Monday, December 12th would usher in a day that literally changed our lives forever.

We were up and off on our way back to Richmond! It’s a long drive – a good solid 9 hours – but with traffic can be longer. I have been so pleased with my body and the way it’s been able to handle traveling- especially at 6 months pregnant (another testament to the healing work God has done in and through me!). Most of our drive time consists of either singing to music (and recently it’s been non-stop Christmas music) or just talking to each other. I’m the co-pilot, Josiah is always pilot – and like any good co-pilot, I like to keep my pilot company on these long drives. So we might occasionally listen to a podcast or sermon, but most of the time we just talk… and more importantly, we’re both learning to listen. These road trips have made space for us to hear and be heard. To share mundane, trivial thoughts but to also expose some of the most intimate and vulnerable pieces of our hearts with one another. And we’re learning – like any married couple, how to listen WELL to the other person. Our road trips have quickly become one of my favorite past times with my love…

We made it back to Richmond in great time, stopped at the store to pick up a few things and then unloaded our car full of baby goodies once we arrived home. We were so blessed by friends and family over the weekend – and as we made trip after trip of unloading everything, I couldn’t help be reminded of ALL the love and support God has surrounded us with. Richly blessed…

We made an easy dinner (because neither of us felt like cooking anything) and we settled into the family room to relax for a bit before heading to bed. We played a game of Farkle and then decided to watch a little TV. Sitting on the floor playing the game, I began to feel a slight pain in my lower abdomen – so as soon as the game was over, I crawled up on the couch and laid there trying to rest. But the pain just kept getting worse. It was about 10:00pm at this point, and I was finding myself having to breathe deeply through the waves of pain. It reminded me of the braxton hicks contractions I experienced weeks before. And like those, the pain soon enough traveled to my back and then pressure began to build in my lower abdomen and bum again. At 10:30pm, we decided to retire to bed, thinking that perhaps all of the festivities from our weekend of celebrating had been too much, and my body was just in need of some rest. We crawled into bed around 11:00pm, read to Caden out of the Jesus Storybook Bible (something that had become a nightly routine) and tried to get some rest.

Josiah fell asleep quickly, but the waves of pain I was experiencing were keeping me up. They weren’t subsiding like the last time, in fact I laid there feeling like the pain and pressure were becoming more intense, and the intervals of time in between becoming much shorter. At around 1:30am, I woke Josiah up because the pain hadn’t yet stopped and I didn’t know what to do. He quickly looked up causes of braxton hicks, and saw that dehydration is one of the causes- so he ran downstairs to get me some water. I put some essential oils on (ones that were safe during pregnancy & that I had been using the entire time) and tried to lay there for a few more minutes – but I was beginning to get scared. I needed to know when/if I should go to the hospital. So I woke Josiah up again and told him I needed him to call our OB, Dr. Moore. God bless our doctor – because it was probably 1:50am and we woke him up out of his sleep. Josiah explained what I was experiencing, and he said to drink a bit more water but that if the contractions didn’t stop in 1 hour, to make our way to the hospital. I drank the rest of the glass of water, and then waited…

Maybe 10 minutes passed, and I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. It was no longer a physical urgency to get to the hospital, something in my spirit didn’t feel right and I knew we needed to go and needed to go now! Josiah jumped out of bed, got dressed, helped me get dressed and loaded me in the car. I was in writhing pain at this point & the hospital was a 30 minute drive away. What I remember about that car ride is feeling like I was fighting against my own body. Everything in me wanted to push – and the pressure and pain were so intense I wasn’t sure I could keep it in for much longer. I knew this wasn’t good – and all I could do was press my feet firmly into the floorboard of the car (as if me pushing back in the opposite direction would somehow keep our baby boy inside of me), and cry out “Jesus, please let me make it” and “Bring peace to my womb Lord, Shalom in my womb!”. Over and over and over again I repeated those phrases, sometimes only able to get out the word “peace” or “shalom”.

We were 6 minutes away from the hospital, when we came to our first red light – and I told Josiah that I needed him to run the red light otherwise I wasn’t going to make it. I made him run 2 red lights that night before finally pulling into the Emergency Room valet of the hospital. Josiah parked the car there, and came around to the door to help me in to the hospital. I could barely stand, and as I walked in holding the bottom of my belly, I can remember the women responsible for check-ins asking “Are you in labor”. I could only manage a breathy, “yes”… before Josiah came to my rescue letting this women know that I was only 24 weeks pregnant and having major contractions. Josiah tells me that a transporter was down to get me in less than a minute, but it felt like the longest minute of my life. I kept thinking in my head, “if I can just get back there, the doctors can give me something to calm my body and stop the contractions”. I so wish that had been what happened…

The transporter took me back in a wheelchair, and by the time we arrived on the 3rd floor of the hospital (the Labor & Delivery floor) I was immediately taken to a delivery room. A team of nurses seemed to be swirling around the room, but I barely remember much of anything because I was in so much pain. I remember a nurse quickly undressing me and throwing a hospital gown over me. I remember my husband standing by telling me over and over again that everything was going to be alright. I remember telling them to please help me. And I remember them hooking me up to their monitors and getting an IV of fluids started. The doctor came in about 5 minutes later, and asked when I started to experience this pain. Josiah gave her a quick run down of the night, but also of our case. She asked the nurse to pass her the ultrasound equipment because she wanted to try and find out where exactly baby was (he had been breeched the entire pregnancy). And it was in that moment that our lives changed forever. She couldn’t find a heartbeat…

She checked again & this time not only could she not find a heartbeat, she couldn’t even find our little love. I remember the doctor telling me that she was going to do a physical exam to see how dilated I was. As she inserted the tool, I could feel every fiber of my body tighten – the pain was excruciating. I looked over at Josiah, who continued to tell me everything would be okay and then over at the nurse who was trying to help me get control of my breath. And that’s when I heard the doctor tell me, “Mrs Smith, I’m so sorry but I couldn’t find a heart beat. Your baby has no heart beat and he is already in the vaginal canal (which is why she couldn’t find him on the ultrasound). I’m going to need you to deliver this baby Mrs Smith.” In the next moment, I remember taking a deep breath in and bearing down to push like my body had been wanting to this entire time. After 2 pushes, out came my Caden boy. The doctor held him in one hand, and tried to massage around his chest with the other. Blood was everywhere. I can remember seeing how soaked the doctor was, and realizing that was all my blood. And then seconds later she looked up at me and confirmed my worst nightmare – “I’m so sorry Mrs. Smith, there is no heart beat and there is nothing we can do…“.

My body and brain seemed to go into a state of shock. I couldn’t compute any of what just happened. I looked over at my Warrior of a husband (our Caden boy definitely took after his Daddy) who just kept telling me “I love you” and “We’re going to be okay babe“.

The next thing I knew, I was being prepped for surgery. Apparently, there was a complication with the umbilical and it had broken off inside of me once Caden was out – which was preventing the doctor from delivering the placenta. She tried a couple times, but the placenta wouldn’t budge. So they called in an Anesthesiologist, who quickly introduced himself to me and told me I was heading into surgery. I can remember the nurses telling Josiah that he couldn’t go with me, but I remember him looking at me and telling me loved me and that I was going to be okay. They wheeled me to the OR, and transferred me from the hospital bed I was in onto the operating room table. I can then remember the anesthesiologist telling me that I was going to go to sleep for a little bit, and when I woke up it would be all over. I can remember his hand being over my throat, as if holding on to my esophagus – which makes sense because I later found out that they inserted a tube down my throat for precautionary purposes. Before drifting off to sleep, I can remember feeling like I was leaking a ton of blood and telling them that. Come to find out – as soon as my body relaxed due to the general anesthesia, my placenta delivered itself and surgery wasn’t needed (which I am so grateful for).

The next thing I remember is being back in our labor & delivery room. I remember seeing Josiah, and he was holding our son wrapped in a blanket. He came over to me and laid my sweet Caden boy on my chest. I just stared at him – not being able to believe all that had just happened. I couldn’t believe he was finally here, but this wasn’t how it was supposed to be… I cried and held my boy for a while & Josiah just stood hovering over both of us. We were simultaneously enjoying & mourning our first family moments. He was the sweetest of boys. The image of his profile proved to be so true – my boy had the most perfect nose, lips and chin I’ve ever seen. His skin, so soft. His body, so small.

It’s been a week since that horrific day – and it has been the hardest week of our lives. We yearn to hold our boy again. We miss him more with each passing day. We grieve the dreams that have stopped being dreamed about him. We are allowing ourselves to cry whenever we need to & vent whenever we need to. We are wrestling with ALL the many questions. We are processing all of the change – especially a lot of the physical changes that happened to me so quickly. I am mourning the loss of my pregnant belly & the daily reminder of what happened as it continues to shrink each day. I am mourning the fact that my milk came in, milk intended to bring life and nourishment to my boy, but milk I had to allow to dry up without a drop making it to my son’s mouth. I feel like a bear in hibernation mode. Not wanting to leave the comforts of home for a variety of reasons. And truly, writing this update has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. So why write it? And why so soon?

For 2 reasons, 2 very important reasons.

  1. I wanted to try and capture Caden’s story without forgetting too many of the details. I want to be able to recount & remember him forever and to record this event so that when God’s redemptive plan takes shape in our lives (because I promise you, it will) – I will have all of the details of what was, so that I’m BLOWN AWAY by the “what is”  of our future.
  2. I want to make sure Caden’s legacy, the true legacy is what remains intact. The resounding theme of Caden’s story has been about what a miracle baby he was. Defying the odds from conception, Caden Harvest Smith is proof that God is real, that He is good & that He still performs miracles today. But some might look at the end of his story and doubt that any of that is true. If God is so real, so good & able to perform miracles then how could He let this happen? Trust me when I tell you that we, ourselves, have wrestled with those very same questions. And truth-be-told, I don’t have the answer we’re all looking for. I don’t know the “why”. But what I do know is that January of 2016 is when I had my first period in over 6 years without any medical intervention. And in August of that same year, I took 3 pregnancy tests that all told me I was pregnant. And that despite fatal reports from 5 weeks on, our Caden boy defied the odds week after week and made it to 24 weeks.

And I know that NONE of those things could & would have happened, if God wasn’t real (and wasn’t who He says He is), if He wasn’t good & if He wasn’t able to still perform miracles today. We don’t know why our son was taken from this physical world so early, but rest assured our hearts anticipate the day of being reunited with him – oh what a celebration THAT day will be!

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(Note: Thank you to ALL of the people near & far who have prayed for our Caden Harvest. Words escape us as we think of you. Please continue to pray for Mama and Daddy as we navigate daily life without him. We know it will be a hard process, but we ask that you pray that amidst the junkyard, we’re able to see the single roses God places before us. We love you all.)

Miracle Baby of Glory – Pt 7

The night of our last appointment, after we settled back home and made dinner – I began to feel some pain in my lower abdomen. It felt like an intense cramping at first, so I laid down on the couch to try and relieve the pain. But the pain just began to spread to my lower back & intensify. It was coming in waves, and eventually I started to even feel major pressure in my lower abdomen and (as weird as it sounds) in my bum. The pain became more and more intense that I was actually having to breathe through the peaks of pain as they came. I ended up drinking a coconut water, putting some essential oil on my belly and back and crawling into bed. Within 2 hours the pain had stopped and I was able to get some rest. I didn’t realize that what I had experienced was likely contractions, until I explained what happened at our next doctor’s appointment. Due to the length of our appointment (which was almost 3.5 hours), and the fact that they were pressing on me for the majority of those 3.5 hours- it was likely that it was just too much for my body to handle. I rested for the remainder of the weekend, thankful to not have any other episodes- but scared about that one none-the-less.

December 8th was our next scheduled appointment with Dr Troyer. We had a lunch time appointment, so we were hoping to be in and out faster than our last one.. Unfortunately the office was running 30 minutes behind again, so we snuggled up in the office waiting room and waited. Luckily, I married the best man in the world (sorry ladies, I got to him first!) – who puts my needs before his own and packed us a cooler of snacks/drinks. I have been noticing that my stomach can no longer handle 3 meals a day – I can’t seem to finish a full meal without feeling overly full and sick, but then an hour later I’m starving again! It’s such a weird sensation & one that continues to remind me of how much healing God has already done in my  body! I can remember losing my hunger sensation altogether – truly, for years I NEVER felt hungry, never a grumble or hankering for anything, I ate according to time (lunch time, dinner time).

We were called back again by our dear Paulina, and a shorter scan was done this time. Shortly after, Dr Troyer came in and began a scan of her own. She said baby boy was still looking good, but not much else had changed. Fluid levels looked like they had gone from 2.0cm to 2.89cm but that wasn’t significant enough for her. We were officially 23 weeks, and being recommended for hospital admittance. She wanted to schedule one more appointment the following week – and by that appointment we needed to have our decision made about our plan of care moving forward. We discussed our desire to be transferred down to Jacksonville if hospital admittance was needed, and while we could tell she wanted us to remain in her care, she understood our need for support and said that she would help organize our transfer if that’s what we decided. Before we left, we asked her what fluid level she would need to see by our next appointment in order for us to prevent hospitalization (we wanted to know what we needed to specifically ask God for). She said the fluid needed to double… she wanted to see pockets of fluid measuring 5-6cm. It felt like a tall order for only a weeks time, but we’ve seen God do the impossible already, so we left prayerful for a doubling of fluid levels. Tears again came flowing from my eyes as we left the hospital. Words escaped both of us. So many questions swirled through my brain… Why was it happening this way? Would God actually double the fluid or was His plan & purpose for me to be in the hospital? Would I be able to handle living in a hospital 24-7? Would I be safe when no one was able to be around? What if I had to spend a night alone in the hospital? The tears just kept coming as the questions swirled. And then, all I knew to say was “Lord, I trust you. I don’t like it & I don’t understand it, but I trust you”.

We stopped for lunch after our appointment & then headed home. We tried to push aside the fear, anxiety worry and allow our faith to arise and carry us. After all, we had an EXCITING weekend to look forward to! The next day we were set to travel down to Jacksonville for a weekend of celebrating! We had 2 baby showers scheduled (one thrown by my mother-in-law in Deltona, and the other thrown by my mom & sister in Jacksonville), my 3 year old niece’s first ballet debut in the community Nutcracker & a family dinner to celebrate my brother’s graduation with his Master’s!

The weekend was exactly what we needed. Despite the bad news, we needed to celebrate our son’s life – he continued to be our miracle baby and we knew celebrating him would be the reminder that we needed. We also knew being around family & friends would be just what our hearts needed. Moving has been great for us in some regards, and excruciatingly hard in others. We have missed having fellowship with people. Relationships are so life-giving and we were hungry for a refilling! The showers were both amazing. While we were certainly showered with gifts, most importantly we were showered with LOVE. Our little warrior, was already tugging on the heart strings of so many people – and as his mama, I was getting to be the recipient of their reciprocal love. Did I mention that he finally decided on our little fella’s name? Drum roll please…

CADEN HARVEST SMITH 

Caden – meaning Spirit of a Warrior

Harvest – meaning the reaping of God’s faithfulness to His promises

Here are a few pictures from our fun weekend!

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One of the most special and memorable moments came as a surprise gift from my sweet sister. She set up a maternity photo shoot for Josiah and I prior to our baby shower on Sunday. She knew that if I had to be admitted into the hospital, I’d never get the chance to have any photos done – so she arranged to have one done for us that weekend! These pictures are ones we’ll cherish forever…

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Miracle baby of glory – Pt. 6

Where to even begin…

Throughout the story of our sweet baby boy – we have been blessed with receiving the miraculous week over week. Our little love is continuing to defy the odds and grow healthy and strong. Our doctor and his team remain amazed at every appointment, knowing full well that the life of our son is being sustained by the Great Physician alone. While we try and continue to hold sight of the miraculous, our story has also been full of the impossible. We seem to receive more bad news at each and every appointment – and not only is this hard for the heart, but it’s waging WAR on our minds. Faith and Hope are beginning to take on a deeper meanings – possessing both requires you to sometimes shut out the “noise” of reality and choose to shift your focus to the unrealistic. Everything in your mind fights resting in that place because it seems irrational, irresponsible to rest in the land of impossible. And if you were trying to rest there in your own strength, through your own ability you would fail. Every. Single. Time. Because God is responsible for the impossible, not us. In fact, God is responsible for the possible too (but we often don’t recognize Him until we find ourselves face-to-face with the impossible). I recently heard a Pastor say “God is the God of the impossible – but He often calls us to do the impractical”. Oh how true that has resonated with me. Having hope, against all the odds that have been stacked up against us has felt completely impractical – and yet He presses me to continue to hold on to Hope.

So our last post we found out that our precious babe was a BOY (oh boy, oh boy!!) and he is still growing healthy and strong, that I am still bleeding like crazy and unfortunately that it’s causing issues with sac expansion and his level of amniotic fluid. Our next appointment was scheduled for November 9th, and we were really looking forward to it. I would be 19.5 weeks and we were having what they call the Fetal Scan (or Anatomy Scan) done – a longer ultrasound that’s much more in-depth because they take look at and measure all the major organs, arteries and blood flow, brain and heart function, etc.

In between appointments, I was able to make a visit home to Jacksonville for my sister’s littlest baby’s 1st Birthday! Even amidst the trials, God has been so good to give me moments to celebrate – which is filling for my soul!

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Josiah met me down there that weekend. The longer I’m married to that man & the more we “grow” through together – the deeper I fall in love. He has been amazing throughout the entire journey – and during the busiest time of year for him – FOOTBALL SEASON! We calculated it out – he’s working on average 82 hours a week between his job and officiating high school/college football games. He has never ONCE complained or been too tired to help me around the house, nor has he complained when I’ve kept him up all night running to and from the bathroom. He is a pillar of strength, so patient and loving, self-sacrificing… I am beyond blessed! And speaking of blessed – we are so grateful that my sister had twin boy & girl because we were able to load up our car with LOTS of baby boy gear as we prepare to welcome our own little boy! We are overwhelmed to see God’s generous heart in the hearts of our family members…

The day of our next appointment finally arrived, and unfortunately it had to be postponed until Friday, November 11th because our OB got called into an urgent surgery. We were called back for our ultrasound and noticed that Mary (our beloved, most favorite ultrasound tech) wasn’t going to be doing our scan that day. Instead, we had Debbie – and unfortunately we didn’t jive well with her. The appointment was a bit disappointing. She kept to herself, not explaining any of what she was seeing or measuring. We asked questions along the way, to which she responded with an annoyed expression “I’m not your doctor, I can’t diagnose. You’ll have to wait to speak with him.”. I couldn’t wait to finish up the ultrasound and get out of there. It wasn’t fun like we dreamed it would be. We immediately met with our OB, Dr Moore, after the scan was finished. I quickly told him that I would like to request not to have Debbie again for any of my scans & he apologized because he understood with how sensitive our case was that she probably wasn’t the right tech for the job. We then asked questions regarding the results of the ultrasound, and that’s when Dr Moore dropped what felt like a giant ticking time-bomb in our lap.

Nothing had significantly changed. Baby boy was still growing, but there was still a significant amount of blood in my uterus and his fluid levels were still low. Dr Moore told us that we needed to have a discussion about our options for the not-so-distant future. I was almost 20 weeks by this point, and we had some decisions to make prior to me being 24 weeks. Why 24 weeks? Great question – 24 weeks is the earliest that a baby even has a fighting chance of survival outside of the womb. In a nutshell, Dr Moore was convinced that we wouldn’t be able to carry this baby full-term, and thought it another miracle if we’d even make it to 30 weeks. Before this appointment, we weren’t entirely aware of the danger of his low fluid levels – but we learned that the fluid creates cushion around him which protects the umbilical cord from being pinched if his body presses up against it. Without a certain level of “cushion” he could cut off his supply from the placenta which would be fatal. So we needed to know our options in order to decide what would be best for our baby & our family. Essentially we had 3 options:

  1. If our little love was still looking strong, we could schedule our delivery at 24 weeks to try and give him the best fighting chance
  2. I could be admitted into the hospital at 24-25 weeks for 24-7 monitoring for the duration of my pregnancy. It would keep him growing inside the womb & enable the doctors to check him multiple times a day. But I would be living in a hospital, potentially up in Richmond, where we have no family, and very few friends
  3. We could opt to stay “out-patient” and schedule more frequent appointments- but we would run the risk of something happening in between appointments and losing him, and we’d have to be okay with that (Note: if you’re thinking “that doesn’t sound like an option”… you’d be thinking the exact same thing I was!).

Dr Moore told us we really needed to be thinking about our options, and figure out what we would want to do. We also told us that he thought it’d be in our best interest to schedule and appointment with one of the MFMs in the practice. MFM stands for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, which is essentially a fancy name for the doctors who only see high-risk patients. He thought it would be informative for us to understand, from their perspective and expertise, the state of our pregnancy – that perhaps it would help us make our decision moving forward. He also wanted us to meet with the NICU team at the hospital downtown. They are one of the hospitals in Richmond with a Level III NICU, and should we decide to have our baby at 24 weeks or be admitted into the hospital- this would be the facility we would need to be at. We scheduled our appointment for both, and left the office dazed. That “reality” that I mentioned earlier… yeah it hit us like a ton of bricks.

Our appointment had originally been scheduled for November 22nd, but do to miscommunication had to be rescheduled to December 2nd. We did our best to release any/all worry or fear to the Lord and celebrate some of the festive moments in our life – Our 4 year anniversary, Josiah’s Birthday, my brother’s birthday & Thanksgiving! We were able to host Thanksgiving this year at our home. Josiah’s entire immediate family was able to join us – which made for a full and festive week!

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Over the last month, my bleeding had changed. It had actually lightened up quite a bit and became more watery. It wasn’t the thick, dark blood I was used to. This was VERY light in color & seemed to be looser. I shared this information with our OB, and he said this could be a good thing – because when blood really starts to break down it can become less “dense”. But it could also be a bad thing – indicating that I may have ruptured membranes (essentially I could be leaking amniotic fluid because of tiny holes in the sac – which would explain the low fluid levels). I went in for an unscheduled physical exam – to do an elementary test to see if I was potentially losing fluid. The test came back negative, which I was pleased about, but our OB said it isn’t definite because the test could be skewed due to my bleeding. Mercy… one more thing we added to our prayer list!

December 2nd finally rolled around. We were scheduled to meet with Dr. Troyer, MFM at the hospital downtown @ 2:30pm. We got to the hospital & checked in at the front desk. They were behind schedule, so we just sat and waited in the office for a bit. We were then taken back by the ultrasound tech who would be doing our scan before we met with Dr. Troyer. Her name was Paulina – and she was God’s redemptive gift to us after our last ultrasound! Our scan with Paulina lasted 45 minutes – and she took her time, explaining EVERYTHING that she was seeing and measuring. It was like we got a second chance at our anatomy scan and I loved every minute. She was so engaged, speaking sweetly to our little boy – telling him how great and strong he looked. And we noticed that he had finally moved positions – all of our ultrasounds, up until this point, were only able to capture him from a front-facing angle. And while I have loved each and every “alien-looking” ultrasound picture – I was OVERJOYED to finally see my boy’s profile!! I melted laying there on that table. He had the most perfect profile I had ever seen. His nose, lips and chin were perfect!

Once Paulina finished her scan, we waited in the room for about 30 minutes before meeting with Dr. Troyer. She came in and ended up doing a scan of her own. She wanted to be able to see our baby boy for herself, so she could accurately determine the current state of our pregnancy. I layed there for another 35-45 minutes while she looked more intricately at his heart (which was beating & forming perfectly), his stomach, kidneys & bladder (which were all working together perfectly), his brain (which was developing extremely well). Overall, our boy was looking great – it was his environment that caused her concern. The good news was that the blood did appear to be breaking down and trying to reabsorb back into my body (Praise!! God was answering many people’s prayers!), but the concerned came from the dangerously low fluid levels. Dr Troyer explained the risks of low fluid – and it was more than just the risk of his cord being pinched. At 20 weeks baby’s begin making the majority of their amniotic fluid, and they do so by ingesting the fluid and making more through excretion (I know, it sounds gross, but it’s just how it works!). It’s vital not only to the development of the digestive system, but it is the very thing that’s needed for the lungs to development. Babies swallow the fluid and before it travels to the stomach it actually travels to the lungs, where it’s used to help inflate the lungs sacs. Once the sacs inflate, the fluid then moves out of the lungs and begins its descent into the digestive system, allowing the lung sacs to deflate. This inflation and deflation is what helps the baby begin to learn how to breathe. It really is so breath-taking to see how intricate, detailed and thought out God’s great designs are! The Author of Life literally penned everything to work in harmony with one another. The body is integrated, totally dependent on all other parts and functions in order to work well.

As soon as her scan was over, she was completely honest with us about her thoughts regarding our pregnancy. She told us that she wanted to start seeing us on a weekly basis until we hit the 24 week mark & that we really needed to consider our options. She recommended hospitalization – for the sheer fact that she could keep a close eye on me and our son. She said that no one was going to force me, but she wouldn’t advise staying as an outpatient. Heaviness began to settle into my chest and core… I was 22 weeks and having to face the harsh reality that I may have to live in a hospital for 10-12 more weeks (I wouldn’t be allowed to go past 34 weeks with a case like mine – they could schedule delivery no later than that). We scheduled our next appointment for the following week and left the office.

I couldn’t even make it to the elevators before breaking down. Tears just streamed down my cheeks & Josiah pulled me close as I contemplated my option. In the car on our drive home I began to process our options – and really there was only one: hospital admittance. But I couldn’t imagine being admitted into this hospital in Richmond. We didn’t have any family around, and truth-be-told we have had a very hard time making friends – so the idea of spending my days in a hospital, alone for the majority, scared me. Then I got to thinking about the burden it would be on Josiah. Not only would he spend his days working full time, but he would also be responsible for taking care of our home, cleaning, grocery shopping, preparing meals, bringing me food, doing laundry, and trying to spend any spare time with me at the hospital. This did not feel like an option, so we started tossing around the idea of being transferred to a hospital back in Jacksonville. Even though I’d still be faced with living in a hospital, at least it would be in a city where we had more support. Josiah’s boss was gracious enough to let him know he’d do whatever he could to help us during this time – even allow him to work remotely from Jacksonville and make monthly trips back up to Virginia to touch base with his clients. While not my ideal situation, it felt like the best choice of our options.

Over the next week, we continued to pray for an increase in fluid. We asked God to seal up any/all ruptured membranes, continue to breakdown and remove the blood, double the fluid supply and keep our boy safe…

Rest assured – one thing I have because MOST aware of during this season is that IN EVERYTHING (in the good & the bad, in the hard & the easy, in the trying & the simple) I am dependent on Jesus. Nothing good happens without His favor & nothing bad is endured without His presence. I have been reminded often of the song, Lord I need you

Lord I need you

Oh I need you

Every hour I need you

My one defense, my righteousness

Oh God how I need you… 

Miracle baby of glory – Pt. 5

It’s been absurdly long since my last post! I have no excuse other than, I write best when I’m alone and when it’s quiet – and I just haven’t made a ton of time for quiet. But I have a window of opportunity, so I’m finally seizing it!

Our last update ended with finding out (even after some insane days of constantly bleeding) that there was still a lot of blood in my uterus. I wish I could say that the story has changed. But it hasn’t… yet. There is still a lot of blood in my uterus… And it’s unfortunately causing complications.

Our next appointment was scheduled for October 4th, and I was going to be just shy of 16 weeks (which is the earliest that they can typically determine the gender of the baby – without doing any of the new genetic testing that’s available… which Josiah and I have opted out of several times). We prayed and prayed and prayed for that appointment. That the Lord would remove all of the blood and that the baby would be a position where we could actually find out if they were a HE or a SHE!! Appointment day came and we were anxious to see our little love. The ultrasound tech that we had for this appointment was a different woman. Come to find out she is THE very best in sonography within the entire practice and our doctor specifically asked that she do our scans. Her name is Mary and she is a dream of a woman. She’s one of those people that from the instant you meet her, you feel like she already loves you deeply. She was kind, gentle. She answered any & all questions we had while she was scanning my belly. She took time to teach us about what we were looking at on the screen, what we were actually seeing develop in our baby. One of my favorite things about Mary is the way she talks to our baby. Part way through the ultrasound, she kept speaking words of encouragement & love to our baby. Telling them how great they were looking. How strong they were growing. It brings tears to my eyes just reliving that moment.

Baby was looking so much bigger since the last time we had seem them. And during our ultrasound Mary was able to see that baby’s stomach was full (a good sign), kidneys were measuring well and bladder was full! All signs showing that our little one was developing as necessary. Which, we all know, is still a miracle in and of itself. Unfortunately she confirmed, yet again that there was still a lot of blood in my uterus and there was also concern of an enlarged placenta. She couldn’t determine if the placenta was in fact enlarged, or if there was a huge blood clot connected to it – either way it wasn’t something she was happy to see. And sadly all of that blood was making the space in my uterus really tight for our sweet babe. So when other babies have space to move and stretch – my little could just manage to wiggle a bit. Arms were pressed up towards face & legs were criss-crossed and tuck up towards the chest. It was incredible to actually physically see the legs crossed – one over the other – 2 little sweet legs! But this obviously made it impossible for Mary to get in between to try and determine the gender. We were so bummed, but she didn’t give up. She kept talking to our babe. Asking he or she to move so Mom and Dad could find out what they were! I shut my eyes while lying on the table and just whispered a quick prayer: “Lord, let those legs move so we can find out! Please!”.

And then a loud gasp came out of Mary, followed by a “Wait a minute… Wait a minute…”. Josiah and I looked at each other wondering what she was seeing. This babe certainly has his Daddy’s flair for the dramatic! After a few minutes, Mary finally turned to us, smiled and said “yep, I know what we have… we have a BOY!”. Tears streamed down my face as I sat there and let the words soak in deeply. A boy. I was having a precious baby boy! I couldn’t believe it. From the start, I’ve never had a gender preference – boy or girl – all I cared about was a healthy baby. Perhaps it’s because I’m hopeful to have more than one, so with the first I was going to be happy either way! But my handsome hubs, while completely desiring a healthy baby above all else as well, did indeed have a preference. His heart wanted a boy first. A son who he could teach things to. A son who would carry the family name. A son who would help shepherd the younger kids & help mom when he was away. So finding out we were indeed having this boy that my love had been dreaming about made my heart explode even more. Josiah couldn’t tear his eyes away from the ultrasound screen. I think it was finally sinking it… it was simple to think we were having a baby, but it made it so much more real for him to know he was having a son. Exciting, yes – but also risky. We both ache with desperation – we didn’t want to lose our little boy.

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We met with Dr. Moore after our ultrasound was done. With amazement still ringing in his voice, he explained to us that everything with our baby looked great. All signs were showing that he was growing and thriving. But this blood issue was like a black ominous cloud hanging over him. As he continues to grow, the blood is creating tighter tension within his sac. Our case is considered so abnormal that Dr Moore reviews every appointment with the MFMs on staff at the practice. MFM stands for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, which I’ve learned is just a fancy way of saying they are the “high risk” doctors. The specialists who only see the “crazy, abnormal” cases. They have never seen anything like our pregnancy and have even gone to other specialists across the country sharing our story and asking if they know of any interventions that can be done.

Because I know what you’re thinking! Trust me, I’ve been thinking the same thing. With how advanced technology and medicine have become – isn’t there any way to go in and just drain the blood out? We’ve asked. Our doctor has asked. And the research and trials that have come back (with situations that could also be relatable to ours) are with extremely poor results. The bottom line showing that, as of right now, the risk of those procedures majorly outweighs any chance of a positive outcome. Have I mentioned that I have never been more deeply aware of my dependency on Jesus (on His strength, on His wisdom, on His love, on His comfort, on His healing touch, on His guidance, on His peace…) than I have been throughout this pregnancy. All I know is, I just need more of Him. Because Jesus made it a point to show throughout His ministry that what WE see, isn’t what HE sees. What WE hear, isn’t what HE hears. His thoughts are (always) higher than our thoughts. And His ways are (always) higher than our ways. So when we see a dreadful situation, or when we hear more bad news – we are learning to, in those very tender moments, to turn our gaze to the One who sees and hears differently. Remember that in your own life friend. He is not just my Jesus, my Savior. He is and can be yours too!

As we finished up our appointment, our doctor reminded us yet again that he, his wife & their small group were all continuing to pray for us. It’s been humbling to see the army (and it literally feels like one HUGE army) of prayer warriors that God has raised up around us. We are being carried through this process.

(Warning: the next section does indeed become a bit more graphic. So please read at your discretion. Again, I don’t share the details to be gross but to accurately recount the journey.)

Our next appointment was scheduled for 2 weeks later – October 18th. And the time in between these appointments was the worst I had experienced thus far. I was bleeding like a banshee. Easily going through 8-10 pads during a day & sometimes another 6-8 at night. Streams of blood would just pour of from me as I sat on the toilet. Praise God I’m not a squeamish girl! I was also releasing more clots than I had been. I’m talking somewhere between 40-45 golf-ball sized clots. Most often they would come out like a loaded machine gun, 10-12 at a time. I tried not to be scared, but I was. I would sit there praying – I really hope those were only clots. Lord, when I look down into the toilet, please don’t let me see my baby. And every time the Lord poured out mercy. Every time it was just clots. Josiah would remind me every time that this was getting all of the blood out to make more room for our son – and the hope of that is what kept my spirits high. But that wasn’t the only issue I was having. They say in your second trimester is when your energy comes back and you feel almost like yourself again – but I wasn’t feeling energetic. In fact, I was really REALLY tired ALL the time. I was starting to notice that my digestion was slowing again – which makes any and all food hard to eat. And I kept asking Josiah, “do I look more pale to you?”. We weren’t sure if I had come down with a bug, or if I was just tired from baby boy growing. But I planned to ask at our next appointment!

The day arrived and Mary did our ultrasound again. Have I mentioned how much I adore Mary? Once again we were overjoyed to see that baby boy had grown, that his heart beat was still in the mid 150s and that he was still thriving! Unfortunately, this time around we also found out that while baby boy had grown – his sac had not and the amount of blood in my uterus remained the same (did you get that? even after releasing all of that blood the amount was measuring the same – devastating). Meaning, the tight space he was occupying had gotten even tighter. The amount of amniotic fluid he had to move around in and breathe from was even less. And it was likely that I was still actively bleeding. Josiah and I may not know a lot about babies and pregnancy – but we knew this definitely wasn’t a good thing.

We met with Dr. Moore after our ultrasound, where he confirmed his concerns about the sac not growing. I sat there listening to his words, but not actually hearing them. All I could think was – why wasn’t my body trying to overcompensate for the blood issue by making more room? And he asked me how I’d been feeling? I told him I felt more tired, but I didn’t know if it was because I was up every couple of hours in the night with the bleeding or not. He said my coloring looked a bit off and wanted to run some tests to check my iron levels. So had more blood drawn & would get the results back in a day or so.

The results came in and because I had been losing so much blood – I was in fact iron deficient (anemic). So I was put on an iron supplement and urged to make sure I was getting more high iron foods. Organic burgers have become my go-to staple. I know people… it’s like I’m a whole new person (and I kind of like her!). I couldn’t have imagined being able to digest a burger just a couple years ago – let alone be eating one every. single. day. Another testament to how much healing God has done in me! All glory to Him! Once the iron supplement had kicked in – I was feeling MUCH more like myself. Energy was returning and I was pressing on in faith that Jesus and His army of Holy Angels were surrounding me and my little boy wherever we went. I have been awakened in my spirit multiple times throughout with pregnancy with a fierce desire that seems to just rise up in me – I have been SO tired of the enemy using sickness, using physical complications in my body to rob me of experiencing the joy that moments in life bring. Being so sick and getting married was fun, but truth be told – joy was robbed. I was in pain most of my honeymoon & the newlywed phase wasn’t “blissful” for me (thankfully I married a man who’s so much better than I deserve…). I’m beginning to see Satan’s pattern – and I was no longer going to stand for it. I wanted to dream. I wanted to plan. I wanted to celebrate…

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Stay tuned for the next update – it was a hard one…

**Again we cannot thank our families, friends & blog readers for all of your encouragement, support, prayers and love. We seriously have people who we have NEVER met before continually praying for us and touching base for new updates. The idea of “Spiritual Family” has never felt more real to us. Thank you again – we love you with all of our hearts!

 

Miracle baby of glory – Pt. 4

Our next appointment was a week later, September 1st, which also happens to be my sweet sister-in-law’s birthday! Our doctor wanted to monitor us pretty closely and you weren’t going to me complain about getting to see my sweet babe more often!

The day came and it was a really quick appointment, basically a check-up to see if the baby still had a heart beat & to see if any of the blood that had been collecting in my uterus had diffused out. I had yet to have any physical bleeding, so our prayers around the blood situation was that God would break apart the blood that had clotted and allow it to just diffuse easily back into my bloodstream. We did a quick scan, and Dr Moore used a hand-held ultrasound device (NOTHING like the mac-daddy machines we had been used to, I had been so spoiled!) and shortly after moving the wand around my stomach was able to detect the baby and it’s heartbeat- which was in the 160s (still really great). He said that it looked like all of the blood in my uterus was “old” blood which made him a bit more confident that the hemorrhage had clotted- because old blood looks gray on the ultrasound but new blood would look more fluid and black. Hallelujah!! So we were pleased with the update and he had us schedule another appointment for 2 weeks out (September 14th- oddly enough my sister’s birthday!).

But then things changed… (NOTE: the following section is pretty detailed & for some may be too graphic. So please read on at your comfort level. I am not one to shy away from detail, but understand if it’s too graphic for some.) 

Monday, September 12th rolled around and I just hadn’t been feeling great that day. I told Josiah I just felt off, really lethargic, uncomfortable… digestively I wasn’t doing great… just blah. I did go for a little walk/jog to see if that might help- and I did feel a bit better afterwards. But post dinner, everything started to go downhill.  I decided to get to bed early that night, so around 9pm that evening I headed upstairs hoping a good night of sleep would be just the ticket. After brushing my teeth, I then used the restroom before heading into bed- and that’s when I noticed I was bleeding. I called for Josiah because it shocked me to see so much brown blood in my underwear. He came up & encouraged me- reminded me this was a good thing and that God was protecting our little baby while releasing all of this old blood. I wasn’t scared- I really felt like what Josiah had said was true. But the bleeding just continued – heavily and steadily over the next 36 hours. Wednesday morning (the morning of our next ultrasound appointment) I woke up very early in the morning because I could sense I was leaking blood pretty badly. So I got up quickly from bed and immediately it felt like a river had unleashed from my body. Blood. Was. Everywhere. It was profusely dripping down both of my legs, got onto our bedroom carpet, all over the bathroom floor… it was a mess, I was a mess… Poor Josiah’s sleep was interrupted by my constant yelling of “oh my gosh, oh my gosh” as I ran from our bed to the bathroom. The man has grown in humility & patience through this process. He has been such an example to me. He didn’t grumble or fuss – he just jumped up out of bed to see what was going on. Streams of blood just poured from me into the toilet along with several small clots. And then, minutes later, the bleeding sort of subsided. I thought to myself – ok, maybe that was everything! I was really excited to have the doctor check and see how much blood had been removed, praying that he would confirm all of it was gone and I could have the peace of being able to move forward with a “normal” pregnancy.

We arrived at our appointment at 10:00am & quickly got taken back for our ultrasound with the same tech we had the first time. When we started the ultrasound she again announced (much her to surprise) “well we still have a baby and a heartbeat”… I think soon enough the staff will come to learn that God is doing the miraculous in us- so they’ll come to expect the miracles!

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My bracelet says “Expect Miracles”

Baby’s heartbeat was 168 this time- another great reading. But then she explained to us that my uterus still looked really junkie, that I still had a lot of blood and clots in there and that she would let our doctor discuss this further with us, but that it was concerning. I was so disappointed to hear that. We had really hoped for better news. Ending the ultrasound though, she started to zoom in on the baby and we got to see an overhead view of him/her (we still didn’t know the gender at this point). It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen – our little baby was wiggling and swimming around in there! With our own 2 eyes we could see the head, eyes sockets, body, arms/legs and we could see that they were wiggling around in there! Then all of a sudden everything went still & the baby put one hand up and began waving to us. The ultrasound tech even said, “Oh look how cute – their waving at you Mom & Dad”.  The best part about that experience is that on our way over to the appointment that morning Josiah had prayed, asking God to help the baby wave at us so that we would know he/she was doing ok. So the moment for us wasn’t just cute, it was divine. We were reminded that God hears ALL of our prayers- and cares for even the smallest of ones. He loves to bless us – and the first wave from our little one was such a blessing that day!

After the ultrasound, we waited to meet with Dr Moore (who had to run over to the hospital next door to deliver a baby… so crazy!), but when he arrived you could tell he, too, was still shocked that the baby was doing so well. Around their office we’re known as the “couple with the crazy case”. He confirmed that the baby had grown to the size that it needed to & still had a strong heartbeat which was proof that the baby was getting all of the nutrients/oxygen it needed from my blood supply. It is my belief that with all of the blood I was losing – Jesus was transfusing His blood into me and directly to our little one which is why our little warrior was defying all odds. Praise God- sustainer of life! We discussed my bleeding with him and he mentioned that the amount I released was actually pretty nominal, that according to the ultrasound it didn’t look like much had even changed (and certainly not as much as he would have liked to have seen). WHAT?!? I felt so defeated. It seemed like I had bled nonstop for over 36 hours, so to hear that not much had changed was really disappointing. He said since I had already begun bleeding that I would likely continue to bleed and since several large clots were still in my uterus to expect to release those as well. He stressed how he really wanted to see my uterus cleared out- so his hope was that by our next appointment (a month from then- October 13th – the longest we’ve done between appointments) that it would all gone. I was in total agreement – praying quickly and quietly in my head, yes Lord, let it be so.

Our doctor is a blessing. He not only checks on my physical well-being, but also my mental & emotional. He asks how I’m feeling at almost every appointment. We started talking about fear and worry again, and almost reassuringly, as if to assume I would naturally be struggling with those emotions, he empathetically mentioned how with a case like ours it’s natural to become consumed with both.  I thanked him for his kindness in asking how I was doing, and told him that while I so appreciated his encouragement to not fear or worry- surprisingly, I wasn’t struggling with either. I had tangibly experienced God’s goodness, presence & miracles which leaves little room for fear or doubt. That whatever was happening, or whatever would happen I trusted what God was doing. That, for the first time in my life, I was beginning to understand the gift of Peace that Jesus offers- a peace that passes ALL understanding. Because, I know it would be understandable to be fearful and worried in this situation! But that’s the type of peace He offers – His Shalom (which doesn’t just mean “at ease” but means so much more: wholeness, harmony, tranquility, completeness, prosperity, welfare. THIS is the peace I was experiencing. One that rises above your circumstance and covers you!

Dr Moore ended our appointment just saying how grateful he was to be able to walk alongside of us through this. How WE were inspiring HIM, and causing his own faith to rise. God you are so good!! It has been our hearts biggest desire that throughout this ENTIRE process- He would get the glory- all of it! And these little moments are reminders that He is.

Thank you to all of the people who have/are reading our story. You have no idea the encouragement your posts, texts, phone calls & emails have been to us. We are also humbled by the way that God is using us, and our little warrior (already!) to bring His love & light to us all (because let’s be real- can’t we all use more of His love & light?). Hallelujah to our Almighty God!

Miracle Baby of Glory Pt. 3

WARNING: This post is not only going to be hard for me to write, it may be hard to read. But it wouldn’t be the truth if I didn’t share the FULL story. I could easily skip this part to paint myself in a better light – but it just wouldn’t be true. So I press forward in sharing. Hoping that others may relate and that He may get ALL the glory for His unspeakable mercy, love and grace!

(If you’ve missed the first 2 blogs you can read them here and here!)

Last post we left off with our excitement in confirming that we ACTUALLY were indeed pregnant but also with a looming cloud of fear – because the doctor at the ER had labeled me as a “threatened pregnancy”. This cloud mainly hovered over me. The doctor at the ER had recommended that we find an OBGYN in the area and make a follow-up appointment within a week or so. Routine check-ups were going to be important, especially because of “our case”.

As I’ve mentioned before- Josiah and I moved to Richmond not really knowing anyone. So the idea of researching OBGYN practices and trying to find one that would be the right fit for us felt overwhelming. But God gave us MORE grace. I have a friend from high school (yes, y’all high school – which was literally over 10 years ago… so crazy to even type that) who just so happened to live in our area about a year or so before we moved up here. She and her family have since moved to northern Virginia, but I happened to remember (because of social media!) that while she was living here she gave birth to her second baby. So casually I contacted her on Instagram, asking if she wouldn’t mind sharing what practice/doctor she used for her second pregnancy as I was trying to do some research for the future. We have similar ideals when it comes to healthcare & wellness – so I was really interested to get her response. I had done some research on my own (called our insurance first to see who was even covered) and from that list had gone through websites/reviews and was leaning toward a practice right around the corner from us. Much to my surprise, when my sweet friend responded she mentioned the exact same practice I was leaning toward! She raved about the quality of care she received from her doctor, Dr. Moore and their practice as a whole. She had nothing but positive things to say – which felt a bit like confirmation to me. So I ended up pulling up their website again and scanning the doctors to read the bio on Dr Moore.

And then I found HIM. Yes, him – Dr. ANDREW Moore. For some of you that may not seem like a big deal. Perhaps you’ve had male doctors before. But me? I have only ever had female doctors for any and all women’s issues. So I immediately wrote him off, and contacted the scheduling coordinator of the practice requesting to get an appointment with one of his female counterparts. I figured if my friend spoke highly of him, surely then the other doctors in the practice would have to be equally great. I received an email response back the next day, and here is what the email said…

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Seriously?!? I did my darnedest to avoid being scheduled with Dr Moore and out of ALL of the doctors in the practice, the one I do request happens to be on maternity leave! I knew that for whatever reason, God was leading us to this man and he was intended to be part of our story with our miracle babe – so instead of resisting His leading again, I decided to keep the appointment and see what happened. Our visit to the ER was August 6, 2016 and our first appointment with Dr Moore was August 15th. Thankfully Josiah was able to carve out time from work that day to go with me.

Do you ever have moments you’re so thankful that God keeps you from yourself? Meeting with Dr Moore was one of those moments for me. He so happens to be a believer in Jesus Christ, and is THE most kind, patient, genuinely caring, not pushy doctors I have ever known. He has prayed with us, spoken Truth into us and I think has even been challenged by us. It’s been a blessing of a relationship! He congratulated us on our news & shared a bit about his background and the practice. He conveyed his desire to walk alongside us through this pregnancy. He wanted to help us have the pregnancy and delivery experience that we desired. He emphasized that his role was to provide counsel but to also support us in our desire for a natural pregnancy and delivery. I showed him the results of all the testing we had done at the ER, and he didn’t seem too concerned. He gave a couple of options- we could have another ultrasound done that week but that the results may not show us anything really different from our ultrasound in the ER because we were still so early (only about 6.5-7 weeks at this point). He reiterated that if we wanted an ultrasound he would schedule it, but that his fear was it may be a waste of time and money at this point. The other option was to do some blood work to check my hormone levels – and specifically my HCG levels (which are your pregnancy hormones). These are the hormones that nourish the fertilized egg and typically at the beginning your HCG levels are supposed to double every 48-72 hours. He said checking my HCG levels would provide a fairly accurate picture of the health of our pregnancy. If the levels had increased like they were supposed to, then we could be pretty confident that things were moving along normally and our baby would be growing like it should! Since we had blood work done in the ER he would be able to reference my HCG levels from then, and compare then to the new results. The results would be processed quickly, so he told us we’d be contacted the next day.

This seemed like the better option for us, so we stopped by the lab on our way out and off we went! We got into our car and couldn’t help but praise God for His grace in leading us to Dr Moore – it felt like such a rich gift and more confirmation that He was with us in this pregnancy. I could feel the fear cloud shifting – if our doctor wasn’t nervous, why should I be? Plus, we both couldn’t imagine God orchestrating all of this only to have it end in bad news.

The next day, Josiah was up and out early for work. He had meetings out on the coast of Virginia that day – so I spent the day running errands & getting some chores done. I ended up missing a call from the doctor’s office while I was out – and the voicemail I received was from Dr Moore himself asking me to call him back. Being the somewhat naive girl I am, I couldn’t believe the level of service this practice provided. My doctor physically called me just to give me the results of my lab work – how great is that?!? Until I understood that typically when the doc makes the call – it’s because the news actually isn’t so great… I called the practice back and left a message with the nurse to have Dr Moore return my phone call when he had time. About an hour later, I received a phone call I’ll never forget… It went a little something like this:

Me: Hello?

Dr. Moore: Hey Mrs Smith, this is Dr Moore

Me: Hey Dr Moore- how are you?

Dr Moore: I’m ok. Listen, we got the results from your blood work back and they aren’t very good. 

Me: Ok…

Dr. Moore: So typically your HCG levels should double every 48-72 hours early on in your pregnancy. Your levels in the ER were a little over 12k, so by the time of this draw we were expecting them to be somewhere around 80k and they were significantly less. 

Me: Umm… Ok…

Dr. Moore: They were only 22k Mrs Smith.

Me: (Silence)

Dr Moore: I really hate to have to share this news with you Mrs Smith, but this doesn’t look good. In my professional opinion, from these results, it looks like you’re either at the beginning of a miscarriage or you’re having an abnormal pregnancy. Either way, it isn’t likely that this will be a viable baby. I’m so sorry…

Me: (choking back tears, trying to process what he’s saying, sorting through the MILLIONS of questions running through my brain) Ok… Um… Thank you for sharing.

Dr Moore: Mrs Smith we’d like to have you come back in soon for further testing just so we can confirm what exactly is going on. I know that this is a lot to take in and I’m sure you’d like to talk with Josiah, so please take time today – but I’d encourage you to call our office tomorrow to schedule an appointment. 

Me: (with a quivering voice…) Ok, I will do that…

Dr Moore: Again, I’m so so sorry Mrs Smith. Is there anything I can do? Know that my wife and I will be praying for you and your husband. 

Me: (couldn’t hold back the tears any longer) – No & thank you for telling me. I will call the office tomorrow. 

(Hang up)

The emotions that welled up in me after this phone call were of an intensity I’ve never experienced before. In my 30 years of life, I’ve been deeply wounded and hurt, disappointed, heartbroken even – but grief stricken? This was new. All I could do was wail. Dictionary.com defines wail as “to utter a prolonged, inarticulate, mournful cry…”. That is exactly what it was for me. I could barely catch my breath. I could barely think. I just crumbled on the floor of our family room and sobbed. I needed to call Josiah, so I picked up the phone and immediately called him. Barely making out my words, he understood that we hadn’t gotten good news and that I was likely miscarrying our very first baby. He told me to hang on and that he’d be there in just a few hours. (Side note to brag on my husband: He has been an INCREDIBLE pillar of strength during this entire story. He has been more selfless than anyone I’ve ever met. He has been more gracious than I deserve. He has been such a model of Jesus to me and for that I am forever thankful and more in love with him than ever). He canceled his last meeting and told his business partner they had to leave immediately because I hadn’t gotten good results from a medical test.

After getting off the phone with him, I called my sister (who was one of the only other person who knew we were pregnant at this point) – I needed to weep and I didn’t want to do it alone. She was at work, so I sent her a text telling her I needed to speak with her – that it was an emergency. My sister doesn’t have some regular desk job where she can easily step away, she’s a Pharmacist and when she’s working she’s the only Pharmacist on staff so any & all patient questions, prescription verification, dosage approval, etc. has to be done by her. It’s an intense and often grueling job – and yet for me, she stepped away and called me immediately. She answered and just the sound of her voice made me start sobbing again. I struggled to tell her clearly what was going on, but conveyed that I was probably losing the baby. She comforted by letting me cry how I needed to, and even joining me in shedding sorrow-filled tears. She reminded me of God’s goodness and that if something were happening to our baby it may have been God’s divine protection for the baby or for me.

I cried and cried until I felt like I had no more tears to cry. I just felt numb & I could feel myself building up a wall. In all truthfulness, I didn’t want to speak to God at that moment. I was hurt, confused, angry and sad. And I was unfairly putting the blame on Him – in my humanity, it was a natural response for me. Protecting myself. Josiah finally got home and just loved on me. I think he could sense I was numb and disconnected – and what he did in the moments that followed his arrival home, I will forever be grateful for. I think he could sense I was shutting down and pulling away. So he soaked me in worship music, singing and praying over me. When I was too weak to enter into the presence of God, my sweet shepherd-husband helped usher me in. He literally worshipped me into a breakthrough – one where I could finally approach God on my own. Bringing everything before Him. It’s a moment I’ll always be grateful for.

Josiah was not only a pillar of strength for me, but he was the Hope Torch Carrier for our family during this time. He had done some research later that night and ended up learning that HCG levels can actually tend to be pretty volatile, so they aren’t always the best indicator of whether or not it’s a healthy pregnancy. This was the spark of Hope that ignited him and over the course of the next week he kept reminding me “This is not over”. He would say it to me everyday, sometimes multiple times a day. I called the doctor’s office the next morning and the earliest appointment they could schedule was 10 days later. We were both really frustrated that we were going to have to wait 10 whole days before going in to see if our baby was still alive. They were some of the darkest & hardest days of my life. I would hear Josiah declaring anthems of Hope to me but in my heart I was resolving to the worst case scenario. I could feel myself not wanting to think about the baby – for fear of actually starting to bond because what if the baby wasn’t even alive anymore? I didn’t think I could handle the devastation, so I was preparing myself for what was, in my mind, the inevitable.

10 days seemed like forever, until we realized that God again had His hand in that timing as well. 10 days from our last appointment was going to put me at 8 weeks exactly – and 8 weeks they say is the earliest that you can detect a baby’s heartbeat.

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At 8 weeks

At this point, we knew we needed to rally the troops and get prayer coverage from our families. I had such grand ideas for how we would surprise our parents and siblings with the good news of our pregnancy – but our situation ended up being different and we needed their support. Praise God for FaceTime! We were able to share with Josiah’s sister in person but we video chatted with our parents & my brother to let them all know. They were OVER THE MOON excited for us and totally on board with interceding for us and for our baby. I know I’ve said this already a bajillion times but I truly believe that God used the prayers of His people to allow heaven to meet earth in my womb.

The day of our next appointment arrived and I was so nervous & anxious I felt like I could throw up. We got to the office and taken back to the ultrasound room. Our technician came in and told us she had reviewed our chart, and mentioned that today was going to be a big day for us. She, like my husband, were beaming with Hope. Josiah answered, yes ma’am it is, we’re expecting to see a strong heartbeat today! I sat on the exam table smiling, but in my head I was screaming “Can we just cut the chit-chat and get on with this? I’d like to be able to grieve and move on!”. And then I physically experienced a miracle from God…

We started the ultrasound, and not 30 seconds into the ultrasound the tech announced “Well, we still have a pregnancy, we still have a baby and we have a baby with a VERY strong heartbeat!”. Covering my face, I just sobbed. Despite my lack of faith, my loss of hope, my unbelief… God had worked another miracle in me. He poured at MORE grace. He had protected our little warrior & provided them with an environment for thriving! And it was a strong heart beat at that- 183! After leaving the ultrasound, we met with our doctor. He was confounded. He said to us multiple times that he didn’t know how this happened other than it was God’s divine intervention- because logically the baby shouldn’t have made it, let alone grown to the size it needed to be and with such a strong heart beat. He told us- you guys know that this was a miracle of God. So praise for His glory! For His protection! For His mercy!

But he told us that we weren’t out of the clear just yet. He shared with us there was still some cause for major concern. The hemorrhage I had was so severe that it had just been leaking blood out into my uterus for the past 3 weeks. He said it was an ominous amount of blood and when we asked how much that was, he said… the most he’s ever seen. It was a major concern because your uterus doesn’t like blood- so at some point it would likely agitate the uterus enough to cause it to expel the blood and the danger was that with the blood, it would also expel the baby. There were no safe interventions that they could perform to try and remove the blood. So it would just be a waiting game.

We have never been more reminded of our COMPLETE dependency upon God than through this journey…

Stay tuned for more!