Thursday, May 19, 2011
My doctor at the specialist's office was much kinder at this appointment. Not a mention of words like "defect" or "problem." That was a good move on his part because I didn't have time to print out Psalm 139 and this hormonally challenged mama knows all 24 verses, was armed with a Sharpie, and spent an hour staring at a bare wall needing embellishment. (Yes, these days I'm one insensitive comment away from destruction of private property.)
I got to take Daniel and Brady with me Monday morning because the younger grades at our school had a teacher work day. They loved seeing their baby sister on the big screen. They kept saying "that's so cool" as red and blue lights illuminated the flow of blood to the baby and "oh, she's so cute" when we'd get a glimpse of her face. (I never realized my insides could provide such entertainment.) It was really a sweet time with them and was a comfort to me to hear them talk about her with such love and excitement.
I had another ultrasound today at my regular doctor. There was a bit of concern because the cord is again around her neck, but this time it's loose and not wrapped multiple times. There were no signs today of distress and my doctors felt it safe to go home.
The definition of the word "safe" has changed for me considerably over the years. It was a word I never gave much thought to until I became a mom--then suddenly I was obsessed with keeping my children safe. Safety seats, safety locks, safety seals, safety helmets, safety precautions. I realized about 15 minutes after becoming a mother--as I watched Olivia sleep out of fear that she might stop breathing--that keeping your child safe can become a full-time job if you let it.
So when we lost a baby at 36 weeks, my first thought was that I hadn't kept him safe. That somehow I should have known he was in trouble. That I had failed him as his mother. But then I remembered something that happened just hours before he died. Some day I will try to share it, but all you really need to know is that it taught me that there are no accidents. God knew the number of our son's days. He knew that January 9, 2004, his earthly heart would stop beating and this wasn't something that was supposed to have been prevented. And He also knew this mother's heart would be broken. He knew this because thousands of years before, Christ carried my sorrow to the cross. Knowing that this was His plan released me from guilt and freed me from fear.
But here I am again, wanting to keep this baby safe. And often I fall back into my old thinking. I'll wake up at 3:00 a.m. in a cold sweat and lay there till I feel a reassuring kick. And I'll think, "She's safer outside of my body, than within it."
That's when conviction pours over me and I remember God's faithfulness. That's when I surrender that the absolute safest place this baby could be is out of my reach and completely in His hands.
I know once she is born, my tendency to want to bubble wrap her through life will continue. I will have to fight it on a daily basis.
I had proof of this last Sunday as I put my 14 year old Olivia on a bus headed to Washington D.C. for their 8th grade trip. I wished I had been able to go as one of the chaperones, not just so I could enjoy this experience with her but also so I could keep her safe.
As the bus pulled away, I'm ashamed to admit that I said a prayer for her safety out of fear of the "what-ifs"--not out of surrender to God's sovereignty. In about 30 seconds I was able to come up with a hundred reasons why I shouldn't let her go. It wasn't until I actually thought about running after the bus, 8 months pregnant, and demanding that they let her off did I realize my foolishness. And once again, I realized that the absolute safest place she could be is completely in His hands.
I will go to bed tonight with complete peace that I don't need to count kicks or go back to the hospital to be monitored. It's simply because I know God loves this baby even more than I do and has a perfect plan for her life.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
They dance through 40 weeks of impending motherhood with grace. They are able to pee in a cup without getting it on their hand. They don't throw up during the gestational diabetes test. They don't pass out when giving a blood sample.
They gain just the right amount of weight. They don't get stretch marks or varicose veins. Their labors are short and easy. Their babies are born looking like they are ready to model for Pampers.
And then there's me.
Nothing about my pregnancies has ever been easy. My medical chart reads like the section in What to Expect When You're Expecting under the heading "When Something Goes Wrong."
I've had 1st trimester and 3rd trimester loss. Preterm labor, placenta previa, pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, prolonged labor, postpartum hemorrhaging. Thus after we had Brady, I mentally put my uterus in retirement. All done. I was very much at peace with this even though I still longed for more children. But God provided a beautiful way for us to add to our family through adoption and we felt called to adopt older and special needs children.
And then on the morning of November 1 we discovered that I--at 40 years old--was pregnant! Although I was so incredibly grateful that God would bless us with another child, I wondered why in the world He had granted us the miracle of another biological child when we were so passionate about the miracle of adoption. I felt terribly undeserving of such a gift when many of my precious friends have never been able to get pregnant. But I have learned that God's plan is always so much better than anything I could ever dream up. I have learned to say thank you when I'm given a gift so extravagant, so unexpected, so undeserved.
To be honest, this pregnancy has been perhaps the easiest of all of them. Yes, I was sick those first 15 weeks and I've been so exhausted the entire 34 weeks, but really it hasn't been that bad. I can give a urine sample without peeing on my hand, I passed the gestational diabetes test the first time, my blood pressure has been low and my weight on target. I think I have finally moved from amateur to professional.
But just as I was beginning to get a little cocky about having a worry-free pregnancy, we hit a little turbulence last week.
Thursday I had one of my very frequent doctor's appointments. You see with my age and my history, I have VIP status at my OB/GYN. I get to drop in a lot. And when I do, I get to stay a long time. I might just forward my mail for the next few weeks.
One of the things I get to do as a VIP patient is fetal non-stress tests (NSTs). This is basically where they strap a couple monitors to my big belly. One tracks kicks and contractions. The other tracks the baby's heartbeat.
Well, last Thursday I was there for my NST and my precious midwife came in to check on me. She asked if I'd like something sweet to drink and I said, "Sure. And could I have a mani/pedi while I here, too?" (No, not really. Would be a total waste of money at this point because I can't see my feet.)
She informed me that the baby wasn't moving much and a sweet drink might get her going. Well, one Sprite later, Baby Girl was still not feeling like dancing for the doctors. And her heart rate was showing some signs of distress.
They moved me to the next room for an ultrasound. I was thrilled to see her cute little self
seemed okay. The dear lady who does the sonograms there quickly announced that she looked great and was even sporting a little hairdo. My heart rejoiced.
Then she left to talk with my midwife and doctors. For a long time. And my midwife returned to say that the baby looked great, but she was breech and the cord was wrapped around her neck. She reminded me that this is very common but with my history of loss due to a cord accident (Luke's story is here), she wanted to play it safe. They wanted me to see a specialist with ultrasound equipment that could determine if there was any problem with the blood flow through the cord.
I picked my boys up at school and headed home to fix them lunch and wait for the specialist's office to schedule an appointment. As soon as I walked in the door, the phone rang. They asked me to come as soon as possible. I had just enough time to call my husband who was having lunch with some friends from church and I sent a quick e-mail to my prayer group of moms from our children's school. I wasn't sure what was ahead, but wanted to enlist prayer support just in case.
As I waited in the reception area, I counted the baby's kicks and was grateful for each one. I was told that if she was in danger, they might do an emergency c-section. I couldn't believe that I might actually get to hold her so soon. But I also couldn't believe I was back on the same journey that 7 years ago ended in so much pain.
As their sonographer was doing the ultrasound, she was completely quiet. She certainly didn't have the bedside manner that the sweet sonographer had at my doctor's office. I wondered if everything was okay and finally asked. I got a quick, "Fine." I made my own uneducated assessment of the baby I could see on this high tech screen. She looked perfect.
The sonographer left to consult with the doctor. Brad and I sat in the dark room. I was still on the examining table with my belly covered in cold goo. We waited over an hour to hear if she was okay. We spent much of that time praying. By this time, word had traveled fast and many others were praying as well.
The doctor came in with a face that said, "I've got good news and bad news." He shared that the baby was no longer in danger. She had flipped and was head down and the cord was no longer around her neck. Praise God! I envision God unwrapping that cord just as so many were praying on her behalf.
But he continued sharing that they saw some concerns. I have an excess of amniotic fluid which can increase the risk of cord accidents. (This was the case with all my pregnancies.) He also shared that the baby was much smaller than she should be at almost 34 weeks, especially since my other babies have been over 8 pounds at delivery. He said that could indicate a birth defect. There were also some measurements that can indicate a chromosomal problem like Down Syndrome. He saw on my chart that we had chosen not to do any invasive testing for birth defects and he couldn't understand why at my age we didn't. We tried to explain that we didn't want to do the amnio because of my history of miscarriage when it wouldn't change the outcome. We would carry this baby to term regardless of any problems.
We left that office relieved and rejoicing that the baby was no longer in danger. We honestly are not concerned that our child might have special needs--we know that she is a Masterpiece of God. We felt led to adopt a child with special needs and Down Syndrome was one of the needs that we seriously considered. But still, I was troubled by the appointment.
You see, this baby is being knit together inside me by the Lord God Almighty. Just as Psalm 139 so beautifully describes "my frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place."
Every time we have an ultrasound, we get a peek into this secret, sacred place. We should behold this miracle in progress with awe and reverence. So for this doctor to use words like "defect" . . . well, I was offended. Don't get me wrong. I am so very grateful for the technology that can determine problems, prepare parents medically and emotionally for challenges ahead, and potentially save a baby's life. It was just the way that he flippantly assessed our baby that bothered me. Who is he to find fault with the handiwork of the Almighty God?
I go back to the specialist tomorrow to be monitored again. This week I'll divide my mornings between the two offices on my VIP tour. I am so very tempted to print out a copy of Psalm 139, stick it in a frame, and hang it in the sonographer's examining room.
We would appreciate any prayers for the safety of this little life God's has blessed us with--this little girl, perfectly made in His image.
I haven't posted a "Sunday Dinner" in a long time, but today I have two scriptures that are dear to me this week.
One is a declaration of God's majesty as the Creator:
13 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. "
14 "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
16 "your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
The other is a scripture that I claimed last Thursday and will continue to claim this week:
This week's dessert of song is based on that scripture--"You Are My Hiding Place" by Selah. They do such an amazing job with this beautiful song that my mom used to sing to me as a child.
May you find refuge and deliverance in Him this week.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
I have months of catching up to do--posting of birthday photos, Easter celebrations, poetry and ballet recitals, and everyday happenings in our crazy family. God has been so good to us these past few months. Not only is He weaving this new life inside me, He's weaving a beautiful story in our family. Perhaps the day I am the most grateful for His goodness and mercy in my life is Mother's Day.
I'll never forget 15 years ago sitting in church as they recognized the mothers in attendance. It had been a tough year. I had had three miscarriages, one after the other. A never-ending roller coaster of hope followed by grief.
The pastor asked all the mothers to stand and a round of applause followed. I remained seated--fighting back tears. Although I felt alone in my pain, I knew there were others who had a mother's heart but no children. Others who had lost children, those who were battling infertility, those who were still waiting to find a spouse so they could start a family.
I prayed for goodness and mercy to follow, in my life and in the lives of those who remained seated but ached to be standing. God answered my prayer and the following Mother's Day I held Olivia, just a few weeks old, in my arms.
Now 15 years later, I celebrate and marvel and laugh at how God has blessed us with biological and adopted children. I'm so grateful to have the gifts of my two daughters, my two sons, and this baby girl who will be born in a few weeks. I rejoice in knowing God isn't finished with us yet. And I pray for those who are still waiting for God's goodness and mercy.
This morning I sat in church, surrounded by my precious assortment of children in small, medium, and large with a fifth one doing a tap dance on my bladder during the praise and worship music. And I was grateful.
I was grateful for the children I have the privilege to parent on earth and grateful for the four blessings that I will some day meet in heaven. Grateful for the ridiculous number of handmade cards I received today and for the love that made them.
(This is my favorite because they worked on it together.)
I'm grateful for my amazing mother. Although she died 7 years ago, she still inspires and encourages me. I'm grateful for my grandmothers whose legacy of faith has been passed down from generation to generation. And I'm grateful for all the precious mothers in my life now--mothers by marriage and mothers through friendship. What a blessing you all are to me.
I hope you also had a very special Mother's Day. May you see His goodness and mercy in your life--today and every day.