Joy Comes in the Morning: The Story of My Son’s Birth & NICU Stay

12 Sep

Just a couple weeks ago, I had one of the hardest nights of my life. But if it weren’t for that night, I wouldn’t be able to grasp the full meaning of the verse, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

img_4818Our firstborn, our sweet son Luke, was born on August 22. Leading up to his birth, we knew that fluid wasn’t draining properly from his kidneys, and three days before I was induced, a nephrologist told us that he would have to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after delivery.

As much as I was dreading my baby having to go to the NICU, I was grateful to know that would have to happen even before his birth. But nothing could prepare me for how difficult it would be to have an infant — my first baby — in the intensive care unit.

It seems like we were met with challenges on every side when it came to Luke’s birth. I had had borderline high blood pressure during my pregnancy, which led my OBGYN to decide to induce me at 38 weeks. About one hour before Luke’s birth, my fluid levels dropped dramatically, which caused Luke’s pulse to plummet. They were able to pump me full of fluids, and fortunately, I dilated to a 10 shortly after that. Luke was ready to come out!

img_4803During delivery, my OBGYN told me at one point that the baby wasn’t happy and I really needed to push. I’m thinking, “I’m pushing with all I’ve got, but I can’t even feel anything post-epidural!” It turns out, I really needed to push because not only was Luke’s shoulder caught (shoulder dysplasia), but the umbilical cord was also wrapped around his neck … twice!

Thanks to the use of suction and my skilled OBGYN, Luke was delivered without any long-term side effects. I was even able to hold him for about 10 minutes before he had to be whisked off to the NICU. Being able to hold that little guy right after the intensity of labor was one of the most rewarding moments of my life, and I bawled my eyes out when Luke started crying as soon as they pried him away from me.

As challenging as the labor and delivery was, it was nothing compared to the trials that were in store for us over the next 8 days. Newborns need to be fed at least every three hours, and that’s especially difficult when your newborn is attached to multiple IVs, a heart rate monitor, a catheter, and under bilirubin lights. Trying to feed him under those circumstances while I was recovering from labor and delivery was exhausting. Perhaps the most emotional part was seeing my little man — so vulnerable and defenseless —

Chillin' under the bilirubin lights.

Chillin’ under the bilirubin lights.

having to go through so many treatments as a newborn. Granted, I realize that his condition was much less serious than most of the other babies in the NICU, and I’m extremely grateful that he spent only 8 days there.

After we had spent two nights in the hospital, I was discharged. This presented us with a new quandary. Where would I sleep? If I was to visit the baby once every three hours for feedings, how could that happen if I wasn’t at the hospital?

The NICU room Luke was staying in was tiny and contained a small sofa. It was just enough room for one person to “sleep” on. So we made the decision that I would spend the night in the NICU that night.

Daddy and Luke!

Daddy and Luke!

The NICU — with its crying, hurting babies, with the constant beeps of machines, with nurses coming in and out of the room throughout the night. As much as I wanted to be around my little guy, I couldn’t stand the thought of sleeping in the NICU.

But I did it. Because when you’re a parent, I’m learning, you put the needs of your child above your own and do a lot of things that you really don’t want to do. Parenting is a lifestyle of sacrifice.

As I attempted to sleep on that tiny couch that night, my baby cried his eyes out multiple times. This was where I reached rock bottom. I tried to feed him. And that was all I could do. I wasn’t allowed to hold him outside of feedings since we weren’t supposed to limit the amount of time he was under the bilirubin lights. I couldn’t even change his diaper, lest I mess up his catheter.

I did all I could. And still he cried. I felt helpless. Around 1:30 a.m., I texted my husband out of sheer desperation, “I don’t think I can do this.” I considered asking him to come pick me up so I could sleep for a few hours at home.

It was about that time that I put in my earbuds and listened to an old school Sandi Patty song, “I’ll Give You Peace.”

Here are some of the lyrics:

Sometimes when you’re in the valleys
All of your burdens you carry alone
Oh, but I know
I know when you need Me
Call I’ll be there
Longing to prove how much I care

Peace, I’ll give you peace
When the wind blowns on
Peace, whenever you call Me
I’ll give you peace
When the wind blows on

How I needed peace in those moments! As I listened to the music and drifted off to sleep for an hour or two, I felt the peace of God surround me and had a deep knowing that everything would be OK.

Still so cute, even with a "unicorn" IV attached to his forehead!

Still so cute, even with a “unicorn” IV attached to his forehead!

As dark as that hour was for me, God used it to show His faithfulness. The next morning, so many good things happened. First off, my breast milk finally started coming in! That is a huge answer to prayer for a momma of a 3-day old. Secondly, at 7 a.m., the door to Luke’s room opened and the neonatologist walked in. We had been waiting to hear whether Luke’s surgery would be at the hospital he was already at or if he would have to be transported to a different hospital. The neonatologist gave me the great news that his surgery would be at the hospital we were already at, saving us added stress and a bigger hospital bill.

Later that day, we got the great news that a guest suite at the hospital had opened up for us. We had been pretty low on the waiting list for a room, but the lady in charge knew we were NICU parents and made an opening for us.

img_4874

The day we brought our little bundle of joy home!

All of these great things that happened within a period of a few hours were proof to me that God was listening; that we weren’t alone. And the next day, Luke had his surgery, and it went great! We were able to discharge a few days later, and he’s enjoyed the last 2 weeks safe and sound at home.

Sometimes it really is darkest before the dawn. It’s during those difficult times, like my night in the NICU, that we must hold on with all our might to the faith that we have in our Savior. When you’re going through those difficult season, I encourage you to hold on to at least one verse or song that will get you through. Mull that song or verse over and over in your head until it gets into your heart — until it becomes more than just words — until it becomes living, active faith.

Why We Waited to Have Kids

27 May

IMG_4209I’ll be 33 by the time my first child (yes, that’s him to the left) is born at the end of this summer. By many folks’ standards, that’s ancient. Especially considering that my husband and I have been married for six years.

The thing is, I love kids. I have always loved kids. I’ve been volunteering in children’s ministry ever since I was 18. I have always dreamed of having lots of kiddos and all the fun we’d have together. In many ways, I’ve felt mentally ready to be a mom for years.

When Devon and I got married in 2010, we realized we would not be able to have kids right away. Here are the reasons we waited to have kids:

  1. classic_romantic_caucasian_J144_willyoumarryme_1We wanted to develop a strong foundation to our marriage.

The truth is, we were a bit of a wreck when we got married. Even though we’d known each other since we were teens, our entire dating and engagement was spent long distance. There’s very little real life problem solving that occurs prior to marriage when you have a couple that’s madly in love that lives eight hours apart until a week before they get married.

So, let’s just say, things were a little rocky when we first started out. We’re two people with strong, stubborn personalities. Heads butted. Tempers soared. And I’m so glad there weren’t little kids in our lives at the time. Both of us needed a few years to learn how to be a good husband and wife before we could even dream of becoming good parents.

Now, I realize this isn’t true for every couple. Some couples have a very solid foundation to their marriage before getting married. They’ve known each other for years and have worked through tough situations before tying the knot. Even for couples that don’t feel “ready for kids” when the kids come, they make it work. But for us, I’m so glad we waited.

  1. PiggyBankIt was the wise financial decision.

When we were engaged, my husband and I decided that he would return to school for five years to earn a nursing degree and a Nurse Practitioner degree. This was a big decision to start off a marriage – one that meant we would rely on my income for five years.

Naturally, the question of when to have kids came up when we discussed our five-year plan. Sure, we could have kids and technically get by on my income, but it would require even greater sacrifices than the ones we were already making. Not to mention that we were going deeper “in the hole” every day due to the fact that we had to take out student loans for my husband’s education.

We realized that if we waited to have kids until after my husband finished school, we’d be living on two incomes and we’d be at a point where we were paying off those student loans. In essence, our kids would be born into a more stable financial environment. We decided we could afford to wait a few years to not only build a stronger financial foundation in our family, but also to help our kids have even more opportunities.

  1. Negative-Pregnancy-TestsWe didn’t have a choice but to wait.

Finally, after five years of my husband being in school, he graduated last May! It was truly one of the biggest successes of our marriage. We had waited so long to have kids and were mentally ready to have our first child within months of him starting his career.

But that didn’t happen. We started trying in January 2015 and had to wait nearly a year before I got pregnant. The year of waiting was one of the most frustrating of my life. I had already waited five years for kids! I expected God would drop a baby in my womb the minute He got the memo that Devon was out of school and that we were ready to have a kid. But that didn’t happen.

I’ve learned that our timing is not the same as God’s timing. We may think we’re ready for something, but God may still have something to teach us in the waiting. In my case, it was a matter of learning to trust Him more. There came a point after about nine months of trying that I truly started to doubt if I would ever become pregnant. My doctor mentioned that I might be infertile, and it tore me apart. Why, after all this time of faithfully waiting for my husband to get through school and for us to be at a good point in our marriage, would the Lord allow me to be infertile?

I am fruitfulIt was around that time that I discovered an amazing community of women that brought me much encouragement. A gal I grew up with, Lauren Bourne, has started a Periscope channel and blog for women struggling with infertility and miscarriage called I Am Fruitful. With God’s help, she helped me realize that birthing a child was a desire of my heart that God had put there. And therefore, it would come to pass as I delighted in the Lord (Psalm 37:4).

I know there are countless families out there who have tried years to have kids and have not been able to conceive. I don’t pretend to understand your heartache or frustration. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know that sometimes, a child who desperately needs to be adopted is the answer to that heartache. Other times, it’s a matter of praying and trusting that God is going to help you conceive at just the right time.

Whatever your situation may be, I’ve found that often times, the solution is learning to trust God. Do you trust Him, even if you don’t become pregnant? Do you trust Him, even if you don’t have children for 10 more years?

If you’re waiting to have kids at this point in your journey, stay encouraged. Whether you’re trying to develop a stronger marriage before having kids, become more stable financially, or just waiting to get pregnant, God is not having you wait to torture you. He is a loving Father and knows what’s best for you. Trust His timing and know that He will fulfill your heart’s desires in His way.

A Baby: A Blessing or a Burden?

17 Mar

IMG_4504Recently, I had lunch with three ladies who are all at least 50 years older than me at the retirement community where I work. Admiring their wrinkled faces and carefully selected outfits always makes me feel like I’m hanging out with adopted grandmas. During the lunch, I had the chance to share with them the good news that my husband and I are expecting our first child.

One of the women is a 97-year-old whose sense of style and wit are still fully intact. For the sake of HIPPA, we’ll call her Betty. When Betty was 9, her mother became pregnant with yet another child while her family was trying to survive the Great Depression in rural Oklahoma. The Depression, from her perspective, sounds like everything the history books have told us it was – limited resources required folks to come up with creative ways to get by. Betty has told me stories about how they would wash their clothes using a huge tub and she would jump in the tub and dance around as the “agitator.”

"A Vendre" means "for sale." Some babies were actually sold during the Depression era.

“A Vendre” means “for sale.” Some babies were actually sold during the Depression era.

When Betty’s mom found out she was pregnant yet again, the baby was not seen as a blessing, but as a burden. The child would be yet another mouth to feed. “It’s wonderful that women these days can be excited about their pregnancies and see babies as the blessings that they are,” Betty told me.

Honestly, I was a little floored by this perspective. In my cozy, middle class American life, babies are seen strictly as blessings. We host extravagant baby showers to welcome these tiny humans. We throw gender reveal parties filled with pink balloons or blue-frosting cupcakes because our families are so delighted to find out if it’s a boy or girl.

I have waited and prayed for the child growing inside of me for nearly six years. My husband and I were able to choose when we wanted to have children, and because he was in school the first five years of our marriage, we were grateful that birth control allowed us to wait until we could afford a child. And now, we’re all set! We’re both working, we’re looking at buying our first house… it seems the baby will be born into a relatively peaceful, comfortable environment.

But it’s not so for every baby… not in the past, nor in the present. Obviously, for the millions of unwanted pregnancies each day, the baby is not viewed as a blessing. Some pregnancies are terminated, while other babies go to adopting families who will cherish them. Still other children are born into families that do not want them.

Lyrics from the Elvis Presley song “In the Ghetto” come to mind:

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto
And his mama cries
‘cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need
it’s another hungry mouth to feed …

America, of course, isn’t the only place where babies have been and are still, in some cases, viewed as burdens. India. Have you seen Slumdog Millionaire? Remember the two brothers digging through the trash in hopes that they might earn a few rupies? They are Dalits, a portion of Indian society that is considered sub-human by other Indians.

dalit-about-photo-1The Dalits often try to get rid of their children because the have no means to provide for them. There are countless stories of Dalit mothers who have boarded a train with their children and abandoned them on the train. The saddest story I’ve come across, from the book, No Longer a Slumdog, is of “a little boy, half naked, lying on the sidewalk of a busy street. Next to the boy was a dog. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a female dog, and the little boy was actually sucking her milk.”

Stories like this rip my heart open. Stories like this make me wonder how many children I can handle… how many could I possibly open the doors of my heart and my home to? What can I do to make sure that one more child is viewed as a blessing, not a burden?

While adoption isn’t for everyone, there are so many options to help both locally and around the world. You can sponsor a child through programs like Compassion International. You can contribute to organizations like Gospel for Asia, a ministry that helps the Dalit children of India. You can foster a child in need in your own town.

When my baby is born late this summer, he or she will truly be a great blessing in our lives. After contemplating Betty’s story, I treasure that I’m in a position where I can view my child as a blessing. Still, I want to do what I can to help lift the burden from others who aren’t able to consider a child to be a blessing. I am just one person, but what can I do to help another mother embrace the fact that her baby – whatever condition he or she is born into – is nothing short of a precious gift from God?

Don’t Miss the Heart of Christmas

24 Dec

christmascarolsSo often, I miss the heart of Christmas. So often, I’m too busy, caught up in the hustle and bustle of buying presents, wrapping them, delivering them, cooking, cleaning, putting a cute Christmas dress on the dog…

I’m determined to not miss the heart of Christmas this year. Early in December, I asked the Lord to open the eyes of my heart to all He has for me this Christmas. And I’ve seen Him — I’ve seen Jesus this Christmas more than ever before.

In Christmas carols playing on the loudspeaker as I’m walking through the grocery store, I hear His glory being spread…

“Let every heart, prepare Him room…”

“Hark the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!'”

“O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”

In the greetings from colleagues, strangers, and family, I love hearing the Name of Christ… “Merry Christmas.”

I’ve also seen Jesus through the extraordinary generosity of others. I have been gifted extraordinarily this Christmas. It was a gift so wonderful and unexpected that I shed tears when I opened it. Just receiving that gift made me want to give extraordinarily. I had the opportunity to do so when I met a woman in the grocery store parking lot on Saturday who was asking me for money. God showed me what she needed in that moment — a hot pizza and a ride, and I was able to give her both.

Don’t miss Jesus this Christmas. It may be Christmas Eve already, but it’s not too late to ask Him to show you Himself.

Merry Christmas, friends!

How I Overcame Lying

9 Dec

ahZOUCan I be honest with you?

I’ve not always been honest.

It’s true.

Until I was about 28, I really dealt with lying. Mind you, I wasn’t committing any kind of crimes through my lies. I wasn’t lying to the government about who I was or cheating on my taxes or anything like that.

But I was surviving day to day on little white lies. And it was totally accepted by society. People do not wag fingers at each other in American society when little white lies are told; we just pretend we didn’t notice for fear of confrontation.

The things I was lying about were SO ridiculous … and it only got worse when I got married.

When my husband and I first got married, we both had insecurities we carried into marriage. This naturally led to issues the first couple years of marriage. Sometimes, when my husband was asking about how my day was, I would purposefully leave out details for fear of what he might say in reaction to people I had hung out with. I wasn’t doing anything questionable, but I knew he didn’t 100% adore all of my friends as much as I did. So I would just leave out those parts of my day… on purpose.

Stop-Telling-White-Lies-Step-4Naturally, it seemed like every little thing I lied about or purposefully left out ended up coming to light at some point. For a series of about a year, I was exposed as a liar so many times. My husband even began to doubt if anything I said was true. Was I a pathological liar?

I began to dig up the roots of my lying tendencies. The lying seem to have started back in high school, when I was very concerned about what other people thought of me. So I would exaggerate during my storytelling, making myself seem cooler than I actually was. The thing was, every time I lied, I had to tell another lie to cover up the last lie. I remember at times I even had to retrace what I had told people to make sure the story I was telling them lined up. Lying really is a never-ending cycle.

How did I stop lying?

  1. I chose to stop lying.

    I realized it was screwing up my marriage and probably countless friendships, whether they realized I was a liar or not. I started thinking about my words before they popped out of my mouth. I used to sometimes devise a plan on how to lie in order to cover something up. I told my husband that instead of doing that, I was just going to tell him the truth upfront and we were going to deal with it. And we did. And it was and is so much easier just dealing with it upfront than having to cover things up in a series of lies!

  2. I sought the Lord for help.

    I realized that God hates lying. “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” Proverbs 6:16-19

    Wow. In that passage, lying is listed not once, but twice. And one of the mentions is listed right before “hands that shed innocent blood.” Apparently, lying is a bigger deal to God than our society makes it out to be.

    So I repented and asked God to help me to stop lying. I promise you, when you truly ask God for help, He will come through.

  3. 319578-always_lie_lying_nowI resisted lies daily.

    I’m not going to lie by telling you I’ve never told a lie since that day, but I cannot recall the last time I lied. I used to lie pretty much every day. Now, when I think about telling a lie, I’m able to think about what the consequences could be, and I resist the urge. I feel so free! It feels SO good to not feel like I’m hiding anything — to know that I don’t have anything to cover up!

So many times a week, we’re all tempted with the urge to tell a white lie. It’s true that most of the white lies we tell probably won’t affect anyone. And while many lies do affect and hurt others, it’s important to remember that the person who lies affect the most is yourself. When you lie to others, the truth will always come out. And your reputation, your good name, your integrity will be questioned. Why take the chance? Why not just tell the truth up front? John 8:32 is so right on: “The truth will set you free.”

How Technology is Changing Life as We Know It

6 Dec

cellphoneI have a love, hate relationship with technology. I’m at that age – the young 30’s – where I can remember what it was like to have relationships outside of technology. I endured my adolescence largely without technology. I was a teenager when the Internet became commonplace, so I recall the thrill of chatting on AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ with my friends online for the first time. It wasn’t until I was in college that a cell phone became a necessity, and text messaging and Facebook usage didn’t become big until early in my career.

Now, I am somewhat forcibly hooked to my smart phone, as are most people between the ages of 12 to 75. This technological shift over the past decade has caused the foundational principles of many relationships to be rocked. We now live in a world of relationship dichotomies. Many of my friendships are largely in-person – over coffee or lunch dates or visiting that friend’s new baby. Then there are the friends who I know mostly online. Many of them are people I haven’t seen for years – as far back as elementary school – but I seem to know everything that’s going on in their lives, thanks to Facebook.

Some of these changes that technology has introduced are causing issues that need to be recognized and addressed. Here are three ways that technology is changing relationships:

  1. fb friendsThe definition of the word “friend” is evolving.

When I was in college, a friend was someone that I spent time with – someone whose company I enjoyed. I was selective about how I used that word. A person who I simply knew from class or as a dorm-mate was classified as an “acquaintance,” not a friend. However, Facebook has changed everything.

Now, I have 1,200 “friends,” meaning that people I haven’t seen since high school can learn the “exciting” details of my Thanksgiving vacation at the same time my best friend does. I’m sure that old friend from my high school track team really enjoyed seeing the picture of my nephew losing his tooth during Thanksgiving dinner.

Several studies have shown that the number of close friends a person claims to have has diminished in recent years. A study by Cornell University found that Americans’ lists of close friends shrunk from three in 1986 to two in 2011. Has social media contributed to this? Are we content with the surface-level friendships we’ve established online and feel less pressure to develop deep, face-to-face friendships?

automate-your-social-networks12. Technology can make it more of a challenge to be present with the people you’re with.

How many of us have seen a family at a restaurant enjoying “quality time” while each person is holding a cell phone? Great way to bond, guys!

I cannot tell you how many times during the course of my five-year marriage my husband and I have had to ask each other to put our phones or iPads or laptops down. There is always something going on online – whether it’s a sale at Overstock.com or an exciting Facebook update. You can never be completely caught up with technology.

Of course, technology can actually improve relationships – we can FaceTime with family members in other states or countries; we can share pictures on Facebook much more cheaply and easily than it takes to mail them. What matters is that we value who we’re with when we’re with them. We must fight off “FOMO” – fear of missing out –being so ensnared wondering what’s going on online that we can’t enjoy the people we’re with.

3. We only show people the version of us we want them to see.

Authenticity is hard to find these days. If you look at your friends’ lives only on social media, you see only the very best versions of their lives. You see cute pictures of their babies; not the sleepless nights, dirty diapers, and spit up all over their best blouse. You see the airbrushed photos of your friend and her fiancé; not the argument they had last night about credit card debt.

When we spend too much time on social media, we get trapped in a game of comparison, believing that our lives are mediocre compared to everyone else’s. As Steven Furtick says, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

A study by the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that Facebook and depressive symptoms go hand-in-hand, and that the mediating factor seems to be social comparison. In fact, the study showed that people who logged more Facebook time had more depressive symptoms. Most of us who are Facebook users don’t find the results of that study surprising. Spending an hour scrolling through Facebook updates does not fill me with glee, that’s for sure.

With that in mind, I set out to either log off Facebook for weeks at a time when I can feel myself getting sad, or I choose to only log on in small doses. More than anything, I strive for genuine relationships face-to-face where my friends and I are sharing more than just our highlight reels. Technology can either be a great boon to our friendships, or it can suck the authenticity out of them. The choice is at our fingertips.

An Extra Hour of Life? Yes, Please.

1 Nov

wpid-mjaxmy1lmmu1mwmyztk5oddhmdi4_52711b7445cdaOne chance a year, we are given an extra hour of our lives. Don’t we all cherish the time change where we “fall back” — turn back our clocks so that we get one extra hour of sleep? Or, if you’re like me… you don’t actually sleep an extra hour because your body won’t allow you to sleep more than 8 hours… but you do enjoy getting up and having an extra hour of your Sunday.

Time is one of the greatest treasures in life. It’s not something you can purchase or do over. I love the movie “About Time.” The main character, Tim, realizes that every male in his family has the ability to travel back in time. So naturally, he goes back to moments in his past where he said or did something dumb and has a do-over.

At one point in the movie, Tim’s father (who can also time travel) shares with him a tip: Do each day twice. First live each day with all of its mistakes and anxieties, and then go back and do it over. The second time experiencing things, Tim is able to fully enjoy his life. Instead of being stressed out like he was the first time through while traveling to work, he smiles at the cashier and takes time to make conversation. He fully enjoys his friendships instead of worrying over his next appointment.

about-time-image03Over time, Tim gets married and has three children. Eventually, he stops traveling back in time. He decides instead to fully cherish each day as it comes. Here’s a great quote from the movie: “The truth is, I now don’t travel back at all. Not even for the day. I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day to enjoy it as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.”

So as we cherish this extra hour of our day, let’s contemplate: How can we cherish this gift of time? How can we make the most of each hour, each day? If we treasure this one extra hour that we are given once a year so much, what if we realized that each hour of each day is just as precious as this extra one? Each hour has the potential to be spent drawing closer to God, our family, our friends … those who are most precious to us!

God, help me to treasure this gift of time and to make the most of the fleeting time I have on earth.