When’s Your Due Date?

“When’s your due date?”

It’s the most oft asked question of pregnancy.  You answer it every time you call the obstetrician’s office. You answer it every time you stand in line at the grocery store.  You answer it for friends, relative, acquaintances and strangers.

January 31st was my most recent answer.

And yet.  She came on November 18 and I almost left this world on November 19th.

It still seems surreal to be sitting here in my pre-pregnancy jeans, looking across the room at a feisty miracle baby sleeping deep in her swing.  She is unaware of how special she is, of the circumstances of her birth. She just knows that she is here and that she is loved.

It’s been a wild ride.

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At first, there were two.  Two little lives that we loved and longed for.  Nora is on the left and Asher is on the right.  In spite of weeks and weeks of bleeding, those two hung in there.  Little hearts beating with every ultrasound.

I was on bedrest and it was hard but the prize made it worth it.

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But then at twelve weeks, Baby B was gone and we were shrouded in grief but so hopeful for Baby A.  For Nora.

The summer ended, bed rest ended and it seemed like we’d turned a corner.

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At 28 weeks, my water broke and I began what I thought was going to be a marathon of patience and endurance.  I was admitted to the hospital and there I stayed for eight days and that’s when everything changed.

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On November 18, I began to hemorrhage.  I had a panic attack, I was so afraid.  Afraid for Nora, mostly.  I was so worried about how my twenty nine week little girl would do.

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But she did fine.  She had apgars of 8 and 9.  She only needed oxygen by cannula, did not need to be intubated.  She was 2lb. 14oz. of spitfire and determination.

IMG_1337And while she was doing so well, I was doing just as poorly.  My bleeding would not stop.

The family gathered in the waiting room…unsure of what would happen next.  My three oldest were awakened and given the news.
“Mommy has lost a lot of blood and we don’t know if she’ll make it.”

My husband and my sister who are…there aren’t words to describe what these two are to me…rallied the body of Christ.  They texted, they called, they put it on Facebook.  They called the saints to war on my behalf.

Stories of people waking out of nowhere to pray, stories of people praying like never before, stories of friends staying up to contend for hours.

And I came back from the brink.

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After a few days in ICU, I was finally strong enough to see my baby.  To hold her.

IMG_1386What a wonder she was and what a wonder she is.

I went home without her about a week later.

10 Days Old

 

Every day that first week, we came to see her.  I ignored how I was feeling and we went to Norfolk, we did Kangaroo Care, we loved on our tiny miracle.

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Then I started to feel sick again.  Fevers, vomiting, pain.  Back in the hospital I went where I was treated for seven days for, it turns out, a terrible UTI.  It was a hard, hard week.  I still shudder to remember it.  I couldn’t see Nora the first five days because I was too ill.  We were reunited and I wept.  This was such a hard journey.

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Home I went again and for a while, I could only visit Nora every other day.  I was weak and I was afraid of getting sick again.  But, her daddy was there every day.

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Slowly, I began to feel better and have a little more stamina.  And for a while, I took myself to the hospital every day to see my sweet girl.  Those were precious hours, she was growing bigger and stronger.

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And then, it was January 14th and it was time to bring our sweet girl home.  Eight weeks old!  It was bittersweet, saying good bye to the NICU and the nurses and all that place and those people had meant to us.

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But oh how sweet to have her home.  I sat in my wonderful recliner that my beloved friends had gotten me to recover in.  The chair that symbolizes so much of our journey- its presence is a testimony of how people rallied together to help is.  It’s big and soft and comfy like a hug, like the love that’s been poured out on us.  It’s solid and dependable, the perfect place to get well.  I sat in that chair that means so much to me and I held my little daughter and just breathed that moment in.

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And now, here we are.  Her due date.  I feel like we’ve “done it”.  We survived a hard thing.  We are together.  We are well.  She is beautiful.  She is fearfully and wondefully made.  And while I feel a pang of grief for Asher today…and while I still shake my head in dismay at all that has happened…I can’t shake off this grateful heart.  It overwhelms.  I am so thankful to be here with Nora, with Claire, with Lila, with Chase, with Aubrey, with Julia.  I am so glad to be part of John’s every day.  To be part of my sister and her family’s lives.  To still be here with my parents and my inlaws and my cousins and aunts and uncles and all of my sweet friends.  To still be an alive and living piece of the Body of Christ.

Nora and I have a story to tell.  A story of His faithfulness and a story of how He hears our prayers.

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Thank you, Readers.  Thank you Family.  Thank you Friends.  Thank you Strangers.  Thank you to every single one of you who prayed for us.  Thank you to every one who cooked, cleaned, raked, babysat, listened, called, texted, emailed, face booked.  Thank you all.

Thank you, Jesus.

 

 

Two Weeks Later

Two weeks ago, I woke up and my water broke.

Two weeks ago, I didn’t have any idea how much my life was going to change.

Two weeks ago, I didn’t know what I was about to face.

Yesterday, a friend said she had the epiphany while driving to the hospital to see me, “I could have just as easily been driving to your funeral.”

Sometime when we sat beside our teeny, tiny daughter’s bedside this past week John said, “I just didn’t know how I’d be able to show her who you were.”

Many times, doctors and nurses that I don’t remember have stopped and said with hushed voices and a squeeze of the hand, “I am so glad to see you today.”

And over and over again, many times an hour, I say an awestruck thank you to God for hearing the prayers of His people and calling me back from the brink of death.

This two weeks has been a crash course in the beauty of the body of Christ and the majesty of God Himself.  These two weeks have shown me miracles.  Miracles of provision, miracles of service and love towards us, medical miracles and miracles of answered prayer.

It started with miracles of provision.  As I waited in the hospital for something to change, my sister was organizing and mobilizing the people of God.  People I know, people I don’t know, people I can’t wait to get to know have fed my family, cared for my home and yard, taken care of my little girls, purchased needs for our home, Christmas gifts, a recliner for me to recuperate in.  God opened up the floodgates of heaven and rained down provision, it just streamed through the hands of His people.  We sat in humble amazement as the people of God loved on us.  Our hearts swelled.  Our cup ran over and over and over.

And then I began to hemorrhage again on Sunday after this post and a long visit from my dad and my husband and my kids.  It was scary and went from scary to really scary pretty quickly and it stayed really scary.  I remember almost nothing from Sunday night at 10pm  until 1:00 on Monday.  I opened my eyes to a clock that said 1:00 and I could see that it was daytime outside and I knew that just wasn’t right.  I’d gone into surgery at 10pm.  It should be 1:00am…what had happened in the night?  I had one flash of memory- tons of voices talking, pain in my mid section, feeling paralyzed and terribly afraid but that was my only memory.  And it was brief.  I lay there, intubated, trying to figure out what had happened.

When I finally got the tube out (shudder…that was rough)…John and Bethany filled in the gaps for me.  I was prayed away from the brink of death, friends.  John said it did not start to turn around until he and the rest of my family began calling on people to pray and pray with authority.  I had been losing blood faster than they could replace it.  I was up to 24 units- the body holds 8.

I had a procedure done in radiology that was a last ditch-this might work procedure that did begin to work.  As the people prayed, my bleeding slowed.  As the people prayed, I began to come back.

I listened to John and Bethany talk about how close I’d come to leaving this world and was humbled anew.  Miracles of medicine and medical know how.  That my doctors never gave up.  Miracles of a praying people.  Miracles of a praying people who spoke, sang and shouted life over me.

And as all of that went on and the battle for me was raging…a little girl noisily entered the world and defied all expectations.  Nora Elizabeth Jean, world changer did well from the moment she was born screaming and flailing.

This tiny two pound, 14 ounce long miracle girl burst into the world and amazed us all.

She has done so well since the very beginning.  And now she is six days old and she has a long road ahead of her but I can see her strength and I know that she will continue to grow and grow stronger.

At first, after my surgery and my experiences, I was really unwell.  I would fall asleep in mid sentence, I had pain, I was exhausted.  It took until day three to have the stamina and the strength to come and meet my sweet little warrior princess.  But that day came and I was deeply amazed by her.  For one thing, she is indescribably tiny.  For another, she is fearfully and wonderfully made.  For a third…she is my prize for surviving all of this and I love her big.

It’s as though all the strength of all the women she is named after (and there are about 20 people she is named for with Elizabeth and Jean) have come together in Nora.  She is strong, feisty, tough…a fighter.

Her daddy and I are so grateful for her big presence and her tiny, well formed body.  She has a purpose and a destiny and she is beginning life with an amazing testimony.

The second time I went to see her, I still felt such awe…but also overwhelming love and gratefulness and I wept as I held her for a good ten minutes.  Tears just fell as I held her warm little body close.  Thank you, Jesus for saving us.  For letting me hold this precious daughter.  For letting us have each other.

 

Our lives have changed in two weeks.

We are humbled and loved deeply.  We are thankful and our hearts overflow.  We are aware of the power of God’s people, of the power in His Hand.

Two weeks ago, my water broke…today, I’m going home.  I’m recovering.  I’m going to be okay.  We have the day Nora comes home to look ahead to.  We have days in between where we can just sing praises and shout our thanksgiving and love each other.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousnessfor his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

More Gifts, More Gratitude

November continues and I continue the work of gratitude.  Gratitude when I’m grumpy, gratitude when I’m frustrated, gratitude when I’m exhausted…it comes easy when joy flows and happiness is all around.  It’s work all the other times.  But almost more precious.  Those little gifts are God saying, “I am here.  I will not forget you.”

So here are three more.

November 3

I am rich in family.  Not just John and the kids, but my extended family and his.  My parents, my sister and brother in law, my nieces and nephew.  My cousins, my aunts and uncles.  The grandparents I was able to know and the ones I wasn’t.  My special Paw whose loss I still feel.  John’s family, people I would choose to know if they weren’t related to us.  They are like the dream in laws.  We are rich in family.  Here’s a picture of just one part of my family.  

November 4

I’m grateful for my church, Waters Edge Church.  It’s the place we landed after leaving the church my children and I had gone to since Chase was not quite two.  I will always be grateful, grateful, grateful for my years at Hope Community Church and I could write a 2000 word post about all that place was to me and how much I loved it. I left with nothing but love for Hope…it was just time.  But November 4 is for Waters Edge and I’ll tell you why.
1. Waters Edge is committed to excellence. There are the components and only three- Sunday worship, community groups and volunteering. Each component is done well and thoroughly and each one is a pleasure to participate in. I love the worship service, I love my community group and I love volunteering. I do my service in the children’s ministry. My little girls love their classes and that makes me happy. All of us, except Chase serve in in Kid Kraze or Wee World. (Chase is a greeter.) It’s wonderful to go, plug in, serve the Lord out of our giftings and then go to another service time for worship.
2. Waters Edge wants to change the way the peninsula views church. I love this concept. Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost. We are commanded to love one another. Waters Edge is fixed on these two things. Salvation and love. What more is there? What could be more important? When I hear the stories of salvation, when I see the baptisms, when I watch the church grow…I am reminded that you will know a tree by its fruit. I’m happy to be a part of it. Just yesterday, Waters Edge’s third campus was opened and 1100 people attended. I think that’s amazing.

November 5

This one may seem crazy at first but bear with me.
I am infinitely grateful for hard times.  I know, I know, what person in their right mind would be glad to endure hard things…but I am.  Because every time I go through the Big Life Stuff and every time my table collapses and I have to rebuild….God and I hash things out.  And every time, I come away changed.  I come away refined.  And yes, I’d rather it be rainbows and sunshine all the time…but that’s not the reality of life.  I am so glad that God is faithful to use these hard things to purify me and to make me better.

He really does work all things together for our good.

I’ve learned a lot about me and even more about Him as I’ve navigated tough waters.  I’m grateful for that, because I want to be better.  I want to do better, I want to be a better witness for Him.

Listen to the whole thing:

Love

From downstairs, I can hear Claire’s voice.  She’s learned to say, “Hey Daddy!”  and then Daddy says, “What?”  and she says, “I luh you!” and Daddy melts into a big puddle of sappy.

If you say it back, “Hey Claire!” she’ll say, “What?” and you say, “I love you!”  she’ll say, “I luh you too!”  It’s so cute and none of us ever get tired of hearing her say it.  From the oldest sister down to Lila, they all love to hear it.  Because LOVE is a common thread in the culture of our family.v

I look around this room I’ve been in since Sunday and I see echoes of Lila and Claire everywhere.


In our house, it’s not at all unusual to find plastic animals basically anywhere. (Examples: the refrigerator, the snack basket in the pantry, any windowsill, your purse, John’s desk, the toilet) Lila sets up these intricate scenes and Claire comes along and destroys them.  It’s not unusual to step painfully on a Littlest Pet Shop creature in the night or to trip on someone’s shoes or backpack at the bottom of the stairs.

In our house, it’s not all unusual to find books all over the place either.  We all love to read.  The older girls are always reading their Bibles or the Hunger Games or Jane Austen and they’re always leaving their books everywhere.  I’ve read two books since I got my Nook on Wednesday.  (I can’t leave those laying around though.)  John has eleventy million books and they are in piles and on shelves and all around.  The little girls love their books too and never tire of being read to.  I like that books are part of the culture of our family.

In our house, people don’t always remember to put things away, stack their dishes in the sink, return things they’ve borrowed.  It’s not uncommon to find water glasses on bedside tables or discarded jewelry on end tables, shoes in the hallway.  It’s not uncommon to have to search three bedrooms to find your hairbrush…or make up brush…or the good mascara.  It’s not uncommon to see big girls going from room to room searching for a shared article of clothing.

In our house, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise and it’s hard to hear the tv over voices talking and cracking up.  In our house, you might hear up to three instruments being played, one to five voices singing, or three girls squealing over Bollywood and K-dramas.

In our house, it’s weird and strangely quiet in those rare moments when just John, Claire and I are home.

Claire looks for the chaos when that happens.  She wanders the house saying, “Lila?  Aub-bee, Ju-ja, Duh…Bubby?”  She’ll try the next tier of loved ones, “Nonnie?  Gunkie?  Meema?”

I love that the culture of our house is relational and people oriented, that we worry more with loving well than having a super clean house.  That you can’t hear yourself think because everyone is buzzing with chatter and laughter and conversation.

I told a friend who came to visit yesterday that I’m happy as long as the house is at about a level six or seven and that’s really true.  I’d rather have a Calico Critters village in my bedroom and books everywhere and the shoes of teenage girls all over the place than a clean and empty home.

I listen to Claire, she’s singing now….”I luh you….you luh me….” and I think we’re teaching her something good.  That love comes first. That relationship comes first. That sometimes sitting in the kitchen floor with four teenage girls until 1:00am is more important than finishing the dishes.  That reading the Blues Clues pop up book for the nineteenth time today is nothing but a pleasure.

Our kids may not be spectacular housekeepers (well, except Deanna but we can’t take credit for that, she came that way) but they know how to love well.

Our household motto is “Love Well”. What’s yours?

Important Things

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s really important in life and what I’m really living for.

Lots of things are important, lots of things are urgent…we must work, take care of the house, care for the children, get dinner cooked, finish the laundry, drive this one here and that one there.  We must walk the dog, pick up kids from preschool, clean the bathroom, do the homework, get to the doctor’s appointments, pick up the groceries.  At the end of the day, we fall into bed exhausted and I wonder sometimes aloud–

Did I do what was important today?  Did I do what I enjoy doing today?

Because doing what I want to do, what is enjoyable, is a whole other thing.  We want to watch a movie, check Facebook, play Draw Something or Words With Friends, we want to nap, eat Reese’s cups, visit with friends, linger over one more cup of coffee.  We want to paint our nails or color our hair or read a magazine.  We want to sit in the sun with eyes closed.  There are so many things we want to do that don’t necessarily fit in with the urgent.

The days fly by and all I’m doing is rushing around and trying to Get Through The Day.  

And I want more than that.  I want more than just getting through the day.

I say to John all the time, “It’s another marathon week.” because we have one jillion things planned, scheduled and that urgently needed to be attended to.

But what really matters most?

If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know that my inner me is under major reconstruction.  God is really weeding some crap out of my heart and making me better.

This has been a painful and glorious process.

Since Paw has gone on to the Lord, my heart and my prayers have been fixed on the heritage she’s passed down to us.  The heritage of faith and family.  On Easter Sunday, my heart almost broke with love for my family, not just my immediate family but aunts, uncles, cousins.  I saw unique beauty in each one, I saw Paw in us all.  Memories and moments and quirks and strengths and weaknesses of  60 odd people coming together in the most beautiful tapestry that Paw began with her own two hands years and years ago.  This is Important.  This is Vital.  This family is full of love and life and laughter.  This family is a good, good gift.  And what better way to honor our Paw than to keep it close.  Deep inside, I hear a cry, “Do not take this good gift for granted.”

Here is the children singing their hearts out to the Lord in honor of Paw on Easter.

All the kids in attendance!

We watched “the Passion of the Christ” on Sunday and I keep seeing Jesus, beaten and bloodied and just made of love and mercy.  I want to burn the images into my eyes and on my heart and I don’t want to forget how I feel right now.  Because seeing that…remembering Him in that way…it makes all the worries that I worry over, all the stressors that I stress over, all the strivings that I strive for…it makes those things seem almost ridiculous.  And while I’m not saying that I should just stop washing the dishes and doing the laundry and only ever read the Bible and I’m not saying that I should never laugh at “Raising Hope” again…I am saying that all the things that make me crazy (or crazier) throughout the day are just almost nothing.

I’m saying that I must examine my life and get rid of the things that hinder love.

And that’s a tall order and it carries enormous implications.

But when I think of Jesus on the cross…when I think of Paw and her faithful, love filled life…I know it’s the next step.  He died for my sins and my pain.  He died for love.  And He didn’t just take too many Ambien and go to sleep…He suffered and struggled and was separated from His Father and descended into hell.  He was beaten and bloodied and bruised.  And my face was in His heart as He did this.  So was yours.

So…all this rushing around…all this stressing and worrying and panicking…all of this must go.

“Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”   Ephesians 5:1-2

Real Love