Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sweet Elizabeth

This morning marked what should be the last appointment with my high risk OB before I deliver. I didn't realize this beforehand, otherwise I probably would have tried to savor the ultrasound even more than I did. The news was all good. The first thing I was told was that she is in the head down position. I practically let out a "whoop!" and definitely exclaimed, "Good girl, Elizabeth!" I had a feeling she had moved from breech, to transverse then finally to head down just last week. And by "feeling" I mean hard and swift kicks to the ribs as she got herself that way. I was having coffee with a friend when it all went down (pun intended!). I could barely stay in my seat and nearly spilled my peppermint mocha all over the place. Totally worth it. I know I'd been told by all the medical professionals I'm seeing that I would and should be able to deliver her breech, but the thought always made me uneasy. Labor and delivery make me nervous enough--especially this one--so, this news was a relief...and an answer to prayer.

More good news: she's estimated to weigh four pounds, right on track for a 33 week old baby. At my regular OB appointment last week I was measuring four weeks behind, so it was nice to find out that she's where she's supposed to be and it's simply due to how I carry (read: my freakishly long torso). She's still swallowing well and my amniotic fluid was in the average range, another big praise. My doctor noted that she was "very active"--something I could have told him months ago. I'm not sure if she really does move a lot more than my other kids did, or if I just notice it more with her, but this baby never stops. And I love it. In the picture I got today, she has her little hand up by her face, a favorite move of hers.

Since she's head down and "thriving" according to my doctor, he won't need to see me again before delivery unless a problem arises. He made sure I still have support in place and asked me to call him after Elizabeth is born so that he can come visit us in the hospital. What a blessing my high risk doctor has been throughout this pregnancy.

Still coveting your prayers, friends. We're in the homestretch now and I'm feeling many emotions as Elizabeth's due date draws closer. I'm truly excited to meet her, still praying for a miraculous healing, all while preparing for the worst. I'm constantly claiming Romans 8:28, constantly having to relinquish control and trust God with all of this. He has been so gracious and He is so faithful.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Charlotte's First (Professional) Manicure

We were able to go "home" to South Florida the week of thanksgiving and were blessed to see lots of friends and family while down there. My youngest sister, Amy, even came down from the Big Apple for a few days. We hadn't seen her in almost a year, so it was especially nice to get to spend time together. She wanted to take Charlie out for a manicure--something I hadn't planned on doing til she was five (okay, fine, at least three), but Amy insisted: "There are ALWAYS toddlers getting their nails done when I go in New York!" (Well, I don't doubt that.) I thought it would be something special Charlotte could share with her aunt, and she's about as princess-y as they come, so I knew she would love it.
First things first: picking out her nail color with Aunt Amy (pink, of course!).

A little timid at the start: "Um, what exactly is going to happen here?"

Starting to relax during the massage portion (always the best part!)

Oh yes, I do think I like this!

Time for the polish...

Ooh la la!

I think we may have to make this a weekly occurence, Mom!

Time to dry...

Thanks for treating me to my first mani, Aunt Amy!

I have a feeling there will be many more to come...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guest Post: "Learning to be a Thanks Giver"

This week, in light of Thanksgiving, and because my husband is a much better writer than I am, I'm sharing his most recent article at The Patriot Update, where he writes weekly. Obviously, I am incredibly thankful for him.

"It’s the week of Thanksgiving, one of our most important American holidays, and a writer would be remiss to not write about this important day. Several hundred years ago our forbears landed on the Atlantic coast and settled in for a long stay. These early colonizers met their challenges with fear, trepidation...and thanks. How could they be thankful for a cold, harsh, dangerous and imperfect new land where life was precarious and so many of them would die? Freedom. Not just any kind of freedom, but the freedom to worship God in the way that they believed the Bible taught was correct.

We have so many reasons to be thankful in America today, but perhaps the most important reason is our freedom to worship (or not worship) freely. No American is forced into an “underground” church, our religious leaders are not told to keep from preaching about certain topics, and our citizens are allowed to give freely of their income to their religious institutions. Perhaps there is a day coming when some of these things are not so, but for today we are a “free” people.

At my family’s Thanksgiving gathering this year we will no doubt gather around the table, holding hands and each of us recite one thing that we are thankful for this year. Someone will mention our soldiers overseas, someone else will mention having work, another their health, and invariably someone will mention family. We are so blessed to have our family, as crazy and imperfect as some of them may be. Isn’t that the crux of our society’s current ills? The failure as a culture to remember just how important our families our? Fatherlessness, single mothers, broken marriages, abuse, addiction, abortion… aren’t all of these just symptoms of a basic misunderstanding of what the family is supposed to be? The family is supposed to be a brilliant reflection of God’s desired relationship with us, a community of love, mercy, discipline, and most importantly grace.

I want to give thanks today for my family. I am so thankful for my beautiful and brilliant (in so many ways) wife, Leah. I am so thankful for my three wonderfully unique, hilarious, and energetic children who brighten my life to no end. I am so thankful for our fourth child who is on her way, due in January, Elizabeth Grace because she has taught me so much already.

It was through Elizabeth that I learned about something called anencephaly. Anencephaly is a condition where the top of the baby’s skull does not grow into place, and so the brain is left unguarded from the amniotic fluid that the baby lives in for their first 40 weeks (or so) of growth. Without this protection the brains higher function cannot develop and so the baby will grow and mature with only is lower level brain functions. The short version of the story is that while the baby will generally grow and develop normally, after she is born and removed from her mothers’ body she will not be able to live on her own. The condition was described by our doctors as … fatal. She may live outside of the womb for a few minutes, a few hours, or maybe a few days – but she will leave us, far sooner than we ever imagined.

I cannot adequately describe the absolute shock I felt when we were told, or explain the excruciating pain that comes not from a physical blow but from what feels like an emotional bludgeoning of finding out you will lose your child, and soon. The sharpness of the early pain has dulled, but the throbbing ache of loss is still constant. There are days when I feel as if I have had no sleep because of the fitfulness of my dreams, and the understanding that my night was filled with thoughts of my baby girl. Mornings are the worst, as I ready myself for my day and my mind settles on thoughts of my beautiful and precious Elizabeth. I think about all that she could have been, and all that I will miss – and how it all seems so unfair. My perfectly imperfect baby girl, who is so beautiful and precious to me, will be gone so soon. Why? That was my first question, isn’t it everyone’s? Why is this happening? What have I done to deserve this? It took months before I could say in a clear headed way, the answer is sin. We live in a world that God once said was good, but since the entrance of sin into our world and the fall of man, we and our planet are far from good. We sin against an Almighty God and there are consequences. Our perfect little world, and our chance to be perfect here – it’s gone. It seems like a sad story, that only gets sadder with the news of my perfectly imperfect baby girl, but Elizabeth’s story is not one of sadness but one of Mercy and Grace. Thinking about Elizabeth has made me realize the beautiful picture that God is painting.

You see, the story doesn’t end with the fall and our imperfections. No, as soon as man sinned God’s plan went into action, and one day His Son, Jesus Christ was born to this Earth. The Perfect, sinless Christ lived, died, and rose again to defeat our sin, and our imperfection for us because we couldn’t do it on our own. Why does Elizabeth and anencephaly remind me of this? It’s why I am so thankful this Thanksgiving, for my freedom and for my family.

The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ assure me freedom, and it can do the same for you – if you will accept it. His gift promises us freedom from sin and from the penalty of sin, which is eternal separation from God after death. In fact His gift offers us the very real promise that we can one day be made perfect again! Just like it was supposed to be way back when, before it all fell apart…and that’s where I am so thankful on behalf of my family because, I know that one day I will get to see my beautiful precious baby girl again, and she will be perfect.

This Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for my freedom and for my family. I am so blessed."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Duggar Debate

I hadn’t necessarily planned to use my blog as a soap box for anything (other than God’s grace), but I’m going to go a little controversial and jump on up there. The heated debate that sparks up every time the Duggars announce that they’re once again expecting always makes me a little feisty and this time it has more than ever. I think it’s because I’m carrying Elizabeth Grace—and never before has an unborn life seemed as precious and sacred. So as I read through comments about Duggar number twenty being on the way at, Babycenter and Facebook—everything from the harmless jabs, to the downright horrid vitriol—I decided I’d get my two cents in as well.

First off, I just have to say it: why the surprise, people? If there’s one thing Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are crystal clear and extremely vocal about it’s their views on child bearing and the use of contraceptives. They’re a quiverfull family and will not do anything to prevent pregnancy. Ever. It doesn’t matter if Michelle had preeclampsia and delivered her last baby at 25 weeks gestation, or if she’s forty-five years old, or if she already has two grandchildren. They believe that God should have complete control over their reproduction practices and will not stop having children until it is a physical impossibility. Whether or not you or I or anyone else agrees with this stance doesn’t make any difference to them. It’s their conviction. It’s their right. Please don’t be shocked if they have more after this. If it’s possible, I promise you, they will!

And while I don’t necessarily agree with everything the Duggars believe I have to admit: they’re loving parents who are raising well-rounded and respectful children…and they’re debt free to boot. That’s gotta be worth a little street cred. Not to mention, they’re my brother and sister in Christ and I feel like they get enough criticism from everyone else. Speaking of, I have no doubt that their loudest opposition—those who scream that they’re crazy and irresponsible and how dare they have twenty children when all the world’s water is drying up?!—are mostly likely pro-choice. The same people who staunchly support a woman’s “right to choose” somehow become positively irate when that woman chooses to have as many children as the Lord would bless her with. Oh, if they could see the irony.

And here’s the biggest thing for me--our culture’s view of children in general is really messed up. Kids aren’t seen as a heritage from the Lord and parents certainly aren’t bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. People (even some in Christian culture) become judgmental and cruel if a couple chooses to have more than 3 or 4 or 5 or “X” amount of kids. In a day and age when the average American household has no more than 2.5 children, both parents work full-time and the accumulation of “stuff” seems to be the goal in life, I find the Duggars’ lifestyle refreshing. I’m not planning on having twenty kids, but I won’t be disparaging of the family who does and can do it well. Congratulations Jim Bob, Michelle and family!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Halloween and Hypochondria

Things have been busy around here and our sticky doorknobs are even stickier than usual thanks to that oh-so-anticipated last day of October. Actually, this was the first Halloween my kids went out trick or treating. All three of them were big fans of dressing up in costumes.

OK, Sophia doesn't look like a super happy little Tinkerbell here...

That's a little better. Family shot! (Charlie, look at the camera.)

My two and three year old were pretty amazed that people will give you candy just for knocking on their door and saying “trick or treat!”

They especially liked the houses where you could just go up and grab the candy yourself. Free for all!

Corban keeps asking when we can do it again. Apparently “Next year, honey,” is not a satisfactory answer. He usually suggests we go out again “tonight.”

Yesterday I had my 28 week prenatal appointment. I had to do the glucose screening and by this point I’m truly a pro at downing that drink in under the allotted five minutes. I’ve always been given the fruit punch flavor and it reminds me a lot of Tahitian Treat. And who doesn’t love Tahitian Treat? (Come to think of it, drinking Tahitian Treat on a regular basis is probably a good way to get gestational diabetes. Don’t do it.)

My appointment went well. The doctor I saw is always positive and upbeat, one of my faves in the practice. She confirmed that Elizabeth Grace is still breech but said that it may actually be better if I deliver her that way. She did have to give me a couple scary scenarios about the dangers of delivering breech, but I am confident that this baby girl will enter the world just as God intends and am choosing not to fret over the worst possibilities. She also asked if I had spoken to the neonatal doctor and about whether or not we planned to have Elizabeth taken to NICU after she was born. I wasn’t even aware that this was an option. I’d always been under the impression that life saving measures would not be performed (my OB’s are not even going to monitor her during labor) and so we would simply keep her with us for as long as we could. I believe that this will continue to be our preference unless there is some significant change down the road. My OB said when I get closer to delivery I will most likely have a consult with the neonatologist over the phone. I’ll be doing some more research in the meantime, and would certainly welcome any input from the moms reading this who have been in situations similar to mine. I plan to put together a birth plan (for the first time!) and include our wishes and expectations as well.

Another new fact I learned at the appointment: my due date is January 28th, NOT January 26th as I’d been thinking throughout this whole pregnancy. The date hadn’t changed after my 20 week ultrasound or anything—apparently this has always been what my OB’s had on file and I was unaware. I used babycenter’s due date calculator as soon as I got that positive pregnancy test result and just assumed the date determined was the same as my doctor’s. Nope! With any other pregnancy I’d be annoyed with a later due date, but with this one I don’t mind a bit.

Also discussed at the appointment were my fractured foot (which is healing quite nicely, thanks for the prayers!) and the possibility of blood clots in my leg as a direct result of the injury. “Oh goodness,” I told my OB, “no one had mentioned that. I’m sure I don’t have any blood clots!” “Well,” she told me seriously, “if you have any kind of pain or cramping whatsoever in your leg you need to make sure we know about it ASAP.” Would you believe me if I told you that when I woke up this morning I had such pain in the back of my right knee (same leg as the broken foot!) that I could barely move it? Talk about a self fulfilling prophecy. I’m no hypochondriac (really, I’m not!) and I know that I wouldn’t even have given it a second thought (would’ve chalked it up to sleeping the wrong way or a pulled muscle because I have to walk weird with my broken foot), but since just the day before the idea of blood clots had been planted in my mind, I immediately got online to self diagnose. All it took was one pregnant lady’s babycenter post about having a blood clot in her knee crease (same place I was experiencing MY pain!) to convince me that I surely had one too. I called my OB’s office and was thankfully able to talk to the doctor I saw yesterday. She didn’t think I was crazy at all and wanted me to go get checked out by a vascular doctor. I had an ultrasound done on my leg and…no blood clots. Whew. Must be that I slept on it wrong or pulled the muscle. HA! But I’m seriously glad I went because my leg is hurting worse right now then it has all day and at this point I wouldn't be giving myself through the night to live if I hadn’t gone in to make sure I was blood clot free! :) Thanks for letting me share and thanks always for your continued prayers.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Which I Break My Foot While Scoping out the Haunted House my Husband Wants to Buy

It’s just so ridiculous. I’m turning into my mother. NOT because she’s ridiculous. My mother is sweet, precious and wonderful…and also happens to be the most accident prone person on the planet. Freak incidents hound her. Injuries afflict her. And I think it might be genetic…

For those who may not know, we are renting out our current home and squatting, er living, in our friends’ beautiful and spacious ground floor efficiency (sounds prettier than “basement apartment”, huh? And it IS pretty! We are so thankful that they are letting us crash their house—indefinitely, no less!). Our hope is to buy a new place with a bit more room and a lower mortgage. It’s possible in this market. But not necessarily easy, as we’ve found out. In the past three months we’ve had three houses under contract, all of which have fallen through for one reason or another.

All that to say, we’re house hunting. It’s kind of become a hobby. Our realtor wasn’t able to take us out this weekend, but that didn’t stop us from going to scope out a few houses on our own yesterday. It probably should have, but it didn’t. My husband has fallen in love with a charming, cozy 1920’s bungalow fixer-upper that he found online and wanted to go check out. It’s charming, cozy…and old. And if I were superstitious I would also tell you that it is haunted. I mean, it’s over 90 years old, it’s got haint blue paint on the porch ceiling (!!!) and I broke my foot there. Of course I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’m just sayin’—I broke my foot there.

After peaking in all the windows (it’s vacant, promise) we were walking around the grounds, discussing possible paint colors for the outside of the house. I was standing at the top of some steps which lead down to the driveway and took a step back to get a “broader view”, as it were (“I think yellow would be fun and really give the place some pop!”) fully expecting my right foot would meet solid ground as I did. It did not. I mean, not for like another 6 to 12 inches, anyway. And when it finally did…um, OUCH. I rolled my ankle and all my weight came crashing down on my foot. It hurt. It hurt bad. I gripped it feverishly and started to cry. And then I started to laugh because really, it was just so ridiculous.

Right away I thought that baby Elizabeth was probably fine. I fell on the soft earth, in tall grass, on my bottom. I wasn’t cramping or contracting and she was moving just fine. But my foot was swelling up big time. As soon as I unwrapped my hand from it, a golf ball sized lump ballooned out of the left side, right by my ankle. That coupled with the fact that I heard several pops on my way down made me think that I’d better go have it checked out. This was around 1:30.

We dropped the kids off at home, which, as we’ve established, is actually our friends’ home and said friends graciously offered to keep our children as we headed off to urgent care. We were there for three hours. After x-rays showed that I had, indeed, fractured my foot, I was ace-bandaged and received crutches and a stylish orthopedic boot. Told to elevate, ice, and wait for a call from the radiologist to determine whether or not I’d need to see a bone doctor. I thought we were almost home free and then the doctor handed me a prescription for pain killers. I wanted to confirm that they were safe to take while pregnant and it was at this point that we discovered that the doctor did not know that I was pregnant. I had told the receptionist first thing, and had discussed it at length with the nurse who did the x-rays, so I assumed that it had been communicated to the doctor as well. Nope. And apparently the two pound baby in my 26 week pregnant belly isn’t as obvious as I thought. Or maybe she was just really focused on my foot. At any rate, she apologized profusely, but said I would immediately need to go to the ER for a full evaluation. “You don’t have an ultrasound machine back here that we can just check her out on really fast?” Nope. We needed to get to the ER and now. She would call the hospital to let them know we were on the way.

We were at the hospital for another four hours. My OB orderd a non stress test (which Elizabeth passed with flying colors), wanted to monitor any possible contractions that I may be having (none) and wanted to run a blood test which would show if my placenta had detached/ruptured (it had not). I’m glad we were able to find these things out. Better safe than sorry and all that. Through it all Onan and I were comfortably set up in a labor and delivery room. (Well, I was as comfortable as one can be in a hospital gown.) We watched TV and ordered subs from Jimmy John’s across the street for dinner. It was practically a date. Hey, when you have a one, two and three year old, any place that they’re not present counts as a date. (Onan would like to note that I’m an “expensive date.”)

I was finally discharged and we got home around 10:00 to find that our amazing friends had taken our kids for a picnic dinner at the park, changed a bunch of diapers put everyone in PJ’s and then to bed. Amazing, I say. John and Rebecca, we don’t know what we’d do without you! Truly.

My foot still hurts. But I’m ok. And so is Elizabeth. And it was lovely to hear her precious heartbeat and the swoosh of all her movements for nearly two hours last night. If I follow in my mother’s footsteps, you can expect future visits to the ER for various broken bones and whatnot. Especially if we buy the (haunted) house. Fair warning. Thanks for letting share! And in all seriousness, we are feeling a little worn out and beat down right about now and really appreciate your continued prayers. Our hearts are comforted through your effectual, fervent prayers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Elizabeth Update

A wonderful friend had this made for me and gave it to me this week. The artist's work is simply beautiful. You can check it out at Thank you so much, Lisa, I absolutely adore it!

Yesterday I had an appointment with the high risk OB who gave the original diagnosis of anencephaly six weeks ago. I hadn’t seen him since then and wasn’t exactly sure what these specialist visits were going to include, but I knew there would be an ultrasound and probably some serious discussion and therefore would not be toddler friendly. A dear friend came to babysit my kids (we love you Erin!) and I made the 45 minute trek to his office feeling a bit nervous…and cautiously hopeful. While I wasn’t necessarily “expecting” some miraculous news, I wasn’t counting it out either. I’m still not, even after seeing Elizabeth’s ultrasound and once again receiving confirmation of her condition. I’m always praying for a miracle, if that’s how God would be most glorified.

The appointment actually went really well, despite the discouraging news. The doctor was professional, but more laid back this time (probably because he didn’t have to deliver life-altering news). He took his time with the ultrasound, pointing out everything he was seeing. One of the first things he told me was that Elizabeth is breech. Once I could see it on the ultrasound, her positioning made perfect sense to me! She moves constantly and her kicks have always seemed so low. She had her head burrowed up in the right side of my rib cage (which I can also totally feel) and her little hands up by her face. She is nearly two pounds. I specifically asked about my amniotic fluid level, as I had researched that women carrying babies with anencephaly can sometimes have an excess (causing discomfort and in some cases early labor) because the baby often does not have the capability to swallow. He showed me her full little bladder and said that she is, indeed, swallowing. My levels were in the average range, though on the higher side. No cause for concern, a blessing. We looked at her heart, her kidneys, her tiny hands and her not-so-tiny feet—she definitely has my feet! I asked for some print outs.

After the ultrasound we went into his office to talk some more. He was concerned with my emotional well-being and wanted to make sure that I have support in place. We discussed the fact that Elizabeth is breech and he explained that this is more common with babies who have anencephaly. While he did agree that she has plenty of time to flip into the head down position, he didn’t seem extremely hopeful that this would happen. He asked about my birth plan. I told him that Onan and I want to do whatever we can to ensure the most time possible with Elizabeth. That while I prefer to avoid a c-section, if having one means an easier delivery for her then I will gladly do it. He was quick to assure me that delivering her breech poses no greater risk to me or Elizabeth in our case. He encouraged me to wait for spontaneous labor and warned that I would most likely go past my due date, especially since all three of my other children have been late. He said that babies with anencephaly who survive the pregnancy usually survive the delivery.

It was a heavy discussion and somewhat draining appointment, but I was so impressed with the doctor’s obvious concern and care. He was unhurried, informative and supportive, for which I am hugely grateful. I will see him again at 33 weeks.

Thank you all for the continued prayers and encouragement. I literally just weep over the comments, praising God for kindred friends who want to share in my burdens. It means so much more than you know!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


We've had a lot of out of town company, which we love. Both my family and my husband's family live in South Florida--a good 10 hour drive to where we live in Northwest Georgia. We make it down there often (thanks to my husband's teacher schedule!) or they take a few vacation days to come up and visit us. We miss everyone "back home" so very much and try to make the most of these visits, which are an extra special treat for the kids.

My fabulous mother-in-law came a few weeks ago. (I think we wore her out!)
Love you, Grandma!

My brother-in-law came the next weekend. (We wore him out too!)

Love you, Tio Brandon!

My wonderful mother came soon after that.

Love you mom! We didn't wear you out, did we?

Corban learned the amazing art of "owling"...

And then my other brother-in-law came to visit!

In case you didn't notice, Corban loves to wrestle with his uncles. And poor Tio Eric...all he wanted was one good shot with all three of the kids. (This was the best we got.)

Just a couple of Elizabeth Grace, 25 weeks:

I think Sophia may have wanted my attention...

I thought it was time for some pictures. Thanks for letting me share! :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Elizabeth Grace

First things first, we’ve officially come up with a name for baby girl. Disclaimer: We reserve the right to change it at the last minute if we’re so inclined, but I’m pretty sure we’re settled on Elizabeth Grace. Since the day we found out I was pregnant, my husband has said that this baby is his to name as (he claims) he had no input in the naming of our third—which is not entirely true. I mean, he always has veto power (love you, honey!). We found out she was a girl the same time we found out about her condition, so we wanted her name to be all the more special. Onan’s first choice was Elizabeth, mine was Emma, and somehow we both knew her middle name would be Grace. I've always thought that Elizabeth was beautiful and when I found out the meaning --“God’s promise”-- I was sold. Thank you to those who are praying for her specifically by name!

Here’s something you don’t usually hear a pregnant woman say: things are going too fast. This pregnancy likely constitutes the bulk of my time with Elizabeth, so I’m desperately trying to savor and enjoy it. I hit the 24 week mark on Thursday. The time I have left with her is brief, already flying by. She moves a lot. With every kick, jab and roll I’m reminded of how alive she is right now—how this will probably not be the case after she is born. She is developing perfect little hands and feet—but for what purpose? I am often struck by just how paradoxical the situation is. While I’m mourning that I won’t have much time with her here on earth, I am also grateful for this knowledge because it allows me to prepare my mind and heart for the loss.

I also had a prenatal appointment this week. I rotate among five OB’s in my practice and genuinely like them all, but the doctor I saw this time has sort of an “off putting” bedside manner. I’m not sure he knew exactly what to say to me. After quickly listening to her heartbeat, he began discussing worst case scenarios for my labor and delivery. Of course this is something that has been in the back of my mind, but I wasn't really ready to be confronted with it yet. He said there is a chance that she will not survive the delivery (about 20% according to my research), a chance that I will not dilate correctly, a chance that she will be breech. If this is the case, he said that since she’s not “viable” the decision of whether or not to have a c-section would be up to me, which, I suppose is a plus. He did graciously mention the fact that I’ve had three normal deliveries is in my favor.

So, not exactly the most pleasant visit. Worry over labor and delivery is something I am now battling against. The Lord has reminded me that it’s already been planned by Him and I am resting in that truth. Once again I am so thankful that He is sovereign—in control over every minute detail. Praising Him for this. And thanking all of you for your continued prayers.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

All is Grace

Is it completely cliché to create a blog after receiving life-altering news? Probably, but I’m doing it anyway. I’ve actually been toying with the idea for months now. I’ve always enjoyed writing and my children are wildly entertaining. I've had the title "Sticky Doorknobs" picked out for a while. Up until recently my life has been like a comedy of errors and who wouldn’t want to laugh with me about it? But since our daughter’s diagnosis, I’ve found myself wanting to write for different reasons. To update friends and family about this pregnancy and our baby girl, to have a place to process my feelings and let others know how we’re dealing with all of this (because I know people are curious), but most importantly to allow God to use our situation to bring glory to His name. And so I will blog.

I’ll start with something that I think is important for people to know. For several months now, I felt that the Lord was preparing my heart for some kind of suffering. I knew it by the way the Spirit whispered to me as I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, giving a name to what I now often refer to as the “hard eucharisteo.” I knew it through blogs I came across, outlining mother’s stories of grief due to children they had lost. I knew it through Scriptures that I’d been reading and testimonies that were shared personally with me. I just knew. And for the past several weeks, I felt like this suffering, this trial, would somehow pertain to this pregnancy. It wasn’t necessarily a feeling of dread, and it wasn’t something that I even shared with anyone. Just a knowing, a preparing of my heart that God was gracious in giving me.

So I knew that when I scheduled my 20 week ultrasound I would need to have my husband there with me. I knew we’d need to have a babysitter for the kids. And I knew as soon as the sonographer clicked on the screen and our baby came into view and her first words were, “Um…when was your last ultrasound?” that it had come upon me. I answered, “Not since I was seven weeks. There’s something wrong, isn’t there?” I know that ultrasound technicians are usually not permitted to give information about the scan they are performing. For whatever reason, however, mine immediately told us what was going on, for which I am grateful. “I’m seeing some incompatibilities,” she said slowly. “Her skull and brain have not formed properly. They’re… just not there. I am so sorry.” Onan and I grasped hands and began crying as she continued with the scan, apologizing over and over again to us. “It’s okay,” I told her through my tears, “God has been preparing me for this.” I silently cried out to Him. “This is it. The hard eucharisteo is here. Please give me your strength. Please help me to suffer well.” A few minutes later, she asked if we wanted to know the baby’s gender, and we did. “It’s a little girl,” she told us. I responded, “I knew that too!” Out of my four babies, this is the first time I’ve been right about the gender.

After the ultrasound was completed, we went into an exam room to wait for my doctor. My husband wrapped his arms around me and prayed Romans 8:28 aloud. A nurse came in to take my blood pressure and it was obvious that she had been informed of our situation. She was kind and quick, not saying much. When my doctor came in, she gently explained the diagnosis more fully. She told us that this baby would not live outside the womb, but would continue to grow as long as she was in utero. After quickly assessing our family medical history and asking about my folic acid intake (to which I answered that I’ve taken a prenatal vitamin every day for pretty much the past four years), she assured me that this was just something that happens quite randomly—not usually caused by any genetic problem and not something I could have prevented by doing anything differently. She presented us with our options (something legally required of her): termination of the pregnancy or continue to carry, probably to term, only to have the baby not survive for long after birth. She told me that we would meet with a specialist, a high risk OB whose office was right next door. She was going to get us the next available appointment, which happened to be 8:15 the following morning. We left, still crying.

I’ll never forget the car ride home. Honestly, I considered termination for a solid couple of minutes. It just seemed easier. I sobbed to my husband, but just as much to the Lord, “What kind of a choice is this? End the pregnancy when she’s alive or carry her for the next 4 months knowing that she’s going to die after I give birth anyway? How can He ask this of me? It’s just too much.” And it was. I had prepared myself for there not to be life. That was the worst scenario I could come up with. But this…this was just wrong. Unfair. Too much to bear. Thankfully, the Truth about who God is, what His Word tells me, gradually began to seep into my heart. Scripture that I had known for years flooded my mind, this time, with new meaning. As I recalled these verses and affirmed them, I felt a comfort, a sustaining peace deep within my soul that simply cannot be described. This, coupled with my husband’s quiet words, “I think we need to try to enjoy her as best we can for as long as we can”, changed my perspective. I knew that this baby girl belonged to the Father—and I placed her life in His hands. When it began, and when it will end, is up to Him. I saw the pregnancy--these next fleeting and precious months with her--as a blessing, rather than a burden.

The next morning Onan and I sat in the specialist’s waiting room, eyes bleary and heads throbbing from the lack of sleep and near endless crying. The mood in the room was somber and I realized how much I’d taken my three previous uneventful, low risk pregnancies for granted. The specialist we saw was serious, the all business type, which seemed fitting. He performed the ultrasound himself and told us, “The first question I know you’re asking is whether or not we can fully determine your baby’s condition. I can tell you with certainty that we can. We are looking at clear, diagnostic pictures here, and there is no doubt about what we’re seeing. The second question I know you’re asking is if this diagnosis will be fatal for her. It will be. It will be fatal.” He asked us into his office to discuss things further. For the first time, we were given the name of our daughter’s condition and I repeated it after him, scribbling it onto my notepad. “Anencephaly.” I had never heard of it. Once again we were presented with the option of termination. I explained that this would not be an option for us, and he was very supportive. “Many women choose to carry,” he told me. “We will treat this just as we would any other pregnancy. You will continue to see your regular OB and have appointments here as well.” He answered the questions I had written down on my notepad prior to the appointment. “Will she continue to grow normally while in utero?” Yes, because her lower brain is functional. “Will I be able to have a normal labor and delivery?” Yes, and the hospital is fully equipped for such a birth. “What is her life expectancy outside the womb?” Minutes, maybe hours, not more than a few days. He likened her being in my womb to “life support”—as long as she was inside, she would grow normally. As soon as she is out, however, that support is no longer in place. Without any upper brain function, she cannot live.

When we arrived home from the appointment I got online and began researching anencephaly. Thankfully, I came across an excellent site before I opened up the wiki page (which I do not recommend doing). Anencephaly info is dedicated to parents who choose not to terminate and is full of information regarding everything from the definition of this condition to what type of infant caps best fit the babies who are born with it. It also includes several personal testimonies from parents. This has been hugely encouraging to me.

The overwhelming support we’ve received from our friends and family is nothing short of astounding. Prayers, cards, email messages, meals—it all means so much. There are several women in my life who are able to identify, at least in part, with what I’m going through. My pastor’s wife lost a baby girl when she was three months old. One of my dearest friends gave birth to twin boys who lived for only four hours. I have numerous close friends and family members who have endured miscarriages. I know that God has placed these ladies in my life for such a time as this, and they weep with me as those who understand.

Just a couple more things that I want to make clear before I close out this very, very long first blog post. Onan and I wholeheartedly believe that God is fully capable of growing our daughter’s skull and forming her brain. He is Creator of the universe, God of miracles, healings, resurrections. We know that He is able to heal her, if He so chooses, regardless of any specialist’s diagnosis. But I want people to understand that if he does not, if he chooses instead to heal her by taking her, this is also a miracle. A life with Jesus, without this sin and sickness and sadness—a perfect and whole life in His presence—shouldn’t this be our hope for her? For all of our children if it is God’s plan for them? The Lord changed my perspective on death a few years ago and it is no longer something I fear for myself or for my loved ones who know the Savior. This life is a vapor. I know that I will have an eternity with my daughter, even if I will mourn not having her on this earth.

We’ve received several comments along the lines of “God is still good—even if it doesn’t seem that way to you right now.” While I completely understand the well-meaning sentiments behind such statements, I want it to express that we know God is good. Now more than ever. I’ve experienced the God of all comfort in a way that I didn’t even know was possible and have fallen more deeply in love with Him because of it. While I have no doubt that the hardest days lie ahead, that there will surely be times of questioning and great sorrow, I will not stop believing that God is good. That He is working all things together for my good. That he is sovereign, fully in control and loves me more than I can imagine. His plan is perfect and I’ve decided that it is far easier to trust him, lay it at his feet and give him my burdens rather than the alternative of worry, bitterness and anger. Please pray for me as I do this. I realize that what I’m saying won’t make sense to some people. If you don’t know the Savior, then I am certain this will sound like utter foolishness to you. That’s okay. I will continue to testify about what I know is Truth, praying that the name of Christ be magnified as I do so.