Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Our Rainbow Baby: Light After Darkness

My husband and I recently sat around the dinner table one evening with a friend I had not seen in years. As he ate his Subway, we began catching up on life and little time given to small talk. The evening wore on and I left the conversation to bathe, nurse, and rock our little miracle to sleep. When I returned to the table, our friend looked at me and asked, “How has having Norah been healing for you?”

That might seem like an odd question to ask after the birth of a baby, but our journey to biological children was not easy. Three miscarriages, lots of doctor appointments, fertility treatments, and many months-turned-to-years of waiting were all served with sides of heartache, longing, grief, and that ever-elusive thing called hope. But those things were not the focus of his question – it was how Norah had been healing for me.

Healing may not be the best word, but I know things in my heart and mind are different now. I know that my emotions get stuck in my throat with the realization that this miraculous baby girl is not a dream. She is here. After all this time and so many prayers and tears, there are moments along the way when my heart wells up to near explosion as I am reminded of the preciousness of this gift.

I remember lying in the labor and delivery room and getting close to the big moment. The nursing staff started bringing in the appropriate medical newborn care items – the incubator and the towels. In that moment, I had the realization that they were preparing for and expecting that we were going to have a living baby. For my scarred heart, that realization was like an exhale.

After she was born, I was waiting in the pediatrician’s office for her appointment when I heard them call out Norah’s name. My emotions rose as I carried her back to the exam area, flooded with incredible pride for this tiny perfect human.

Her first Sunday in church I held her and simply wept. There had been so many Sundays of singing in that space. Sundays shortly after miscarriages. Sundays after yet again, only one line on that pregnancy test. Sundays when I wasn’t always feeling the words on the screen. But there we were, mother and babe, swaying, singing, tears flowing. My heart was overwhelmed.

We took Norah to a wedding when she was around a month old. Before we left, I laid out her clothes for the event, and again, oh, my heart. We can pick clothes for our baby girl.

Standing at a Fourth of July picnic at the Guthrie Green, I chatted with two other mommas with their baby girls similar in age to Norah. I was one of the moms with a baby. I was one of the moms with a baby.

One afternoon I was at work and tired because, well, babies do what they want. Yet I was so intoxicatingly happy that I was tired. Because she’s here.

These moments are stitched through my life since Norah. She reminds me daily of this miracle. The happiness is greater than the grief. The gratitude has overtaken the longing. The perspective covers a multitude of inconveniences. The joy has replaced the sorrow. True to the meaning of her name, “light” has illuminated our darkness. Our rainbow has arrived after the storm.

I don’t know that these moments would have been quite so definitive for me if we hadn’t walked our twisty path to get here, and I don’t want moments like these to ever become mundane.

May I never forget our journey, and may I always see the small things as sacred. We love you, Norah girl. Thank you for the light.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Our First Big Outing

I thought I would record the events of tonight, and who knows - if I start to blog more, maybe I will have quite the collection of memories. ***I do talk about nursing, so you have been warned. (-:

Tonight, on the eve of Norah's one month birthday, we went to a wedding - with her. The wedding started at 5:00, and our plan was to leave the house at 4:20, but no surprise, that didn't happen. Between us scrambling to get everything ready to go, and then her not wanting to go in the carseat, we ended up leaving at 4:38. We made it to the church and Mark dropped us off. We sat in the last row, in the event that a meltdown ensued. Mark came in and we were all seated before the wedding started. #win

Norah was asleep and remained asleep during the entire wedding. She didn't cry or cause a ruckus. Afterward, she had her own little receiving line, as many people hadn't met her yet. She's quite the famous baby and so many people have prayed for her and love her. We are so thankful. She slept through that as well. #win

We walked to the reception, where she continued to sleep like a little angel baby. Pretty quickly after arriving at the reception, I realized we hadn't packed her wet bag. Norah wears cloth diapers, which means you bring home the dirty diapers to wash instead of throwing them away, and the wet bag is a way to transport the dirty diapers. (Kind of an important accessory.) So, I approached a catering lady and asked her if she had a plastic bag or ziplock that we could use, and explained the situation. Thankfully, the lady came through for us and brought me a ziplock baggie. #fail that ended with a #win

Things went well until we decided to change her diaper and feed her. Mark took her to the men's bathroom, where they had a fancy foyer area with a sofa that he used (he brought a changing pad, too!). He was almost home free when she started peeing mid diaper change, and apparently, said fancy sofa was at a decline, which meant the pee flowed up her back, wetting her super cute romper, and even managing to get on the back of her head. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for him to change her so I can then feed her. Unbeknownst to me, the "diaper change" had turned into a total outfit change. When Mark finally emerged from the bathroom, she had a new outfit on, and a new headband (even though the front of the headband was on the back of her head - at least he tried), and her hair felt odd. I eventually had the suspicion that he had used a wet wipe on the back of her head, which he confirmed via text when I asked. #fail

So, my turn in the bathroom. I went to the ladies bathroom to feed her, which also had the fancy sofa area. The first time went okay, but then upon returning to feed her later, things went downhill. Nursing at the reception was not easy. Between obstacles like trying to be modest and Norah being frustrated (I think maybe somewhat due to me wearing a dress that was not super conducive to nursing) we had a bit of a difficult time. Girlfriend was not always happy, and actually got pretty darn upset. After a pretty dramatic cry, she just quit - perhaps exhausted, and finally relaxed. So I had her held against my chest, and at this point I had multiple items in the bathroom - my phone and a pacifier cleaner wipe, my sweater which I had taken off, and a breast pad which I had just taken out. So I managed to hold her and collect those items and walk out of the bathroom (yes I knowingly walked out with the breast pad in my hand). #fail

I handed her back to her daddy and went back to the bathroom to fix the breast pad situation, etc. After fixing myself, I went back to the table where I noticed these straps hanging off the sleeve of my sweater, and messed with it a bit and then realized my sweater appeared to be on inside-out, which I had my friend confirm for me. So, I fixed it. #fail

After dressing for the wedding but before arriving, I realized that I had breast milk on the front of my dress. It dried, but was still there. After the nursing debacle in the ladies restroom, breast milk got on the other side of my dress, so bright side - things were at least a little more even? #fail

Also, bonus of the evening, my nursing bra kept showing. #fail

But, after all of that, Norah ended the wedding as a content little baby, and Mark went and got the car for us. We all loaded up in the car and went home, alive and well. #BIGWIN

As I was picking out her outfit for the wedding tonight, I got a little emotional. Just the fact that I was able to have a baby to pick out an outfit for a I am so, so thankful. I love our little adventures with our miracle.

After getting home, we gave Norah Bean a bath. Is this not the cutest baby you have ever seen?

Tomorrow morning, we go to church. I wonder what kind of adventure that will be? I am so thankful for our adventures with our Norah girl. Thank you, Jesus, for this precious gift.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

I have a tiny person asleep on my chest right now. I hear her little newborn sounds, the noises she makes while she sleeps. The little sighs, the snoring, her breath warm on my chest. I kiss her face and her head so many times she may end up with a permanent indention. I can't help it.

Her tiny body radiates warmth. It's late. It's my shift with her - her daddy is asleep upstairs. Actually, I should probably put her in her bassinet right now, but I don't really want to. I want to sit with her sleeping on my chest. I know all too soon she will sleep through the night, not preferring to hear my heartbeat. So for now, I hold her. I kiss her face. I sing her hymns, and I get a little choked up in the process. I am nearly suffocated with gratefulness and love.

Oh, Norah girl, how long we have waited for you, and how thankful we are that God would allow us to steward you. You are our miracle girl.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided--
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!


Thursday, April 14, 2016

She's Here!

Norah Grace arrived on Thursday, March 24th, at 2:18pm. She weighed 7 pounds 14 ounces, and was 20 inches long!

We arrived at the hospital early Thursday morning for an induction around 39 weeks. Our appointment was at 5:00am, so we called that morning beforehand to make sure they had a bed for us. Mark called, and I was in bed, waiting to hear if they had room for us. They said they did, which meant we were having a baby that day! Ummm.... wow. We got there a little early and waited.

Once they got me hooked up to everything, the monitors showed that I was already having contractions! Woohoo! I was dilated to a three, so we were at a great starting place. They hooked me up to the pitocin and got things going, sometime maybe around 6:00ish.

Sometime around 10:00am I got my epidural. Pain was getting real before that. Yikes! My sweet friend Leah, a past labor and delivery nurse, accompanied us at the hospital. She's awesome. We had other family members there as well, waiting for the big moment! We also had an incredible labor and delivery nurse named Bethany. She was extremely attentive and kind. She had me try various positions and use the labor peanut.

Things progressed quickly, and by noon I was fully dilated. They had me sit up and let gravity work until around 12:30 and we started pushing after that. After pushing for a while, it was discovered that Norah's head was turned to the side, which is not ideal. So we stopped pushing and they had me lay on my tummy with one leg up (called the running man, I believe) to see if she would turn. After about 20 minutes in this position, thankfully Norah had turned her head. I am so grateful she had turned! Before she had turned, our doctor had told us that basically she wasn't sure how we would deliver her yet (possibly c section) so I was a little discouraged after that. Things had progressed so well up until that point. I knew a c-section would be fine and it didn't really matter, but it was a bit discouraging. Thankfully, Norah Bean cooperated and turned her head!

So, we started pushing again, and after this round of pushing, Norah decided to make her grand entrance! Mark got to cut the cord, and there she was - our baby was alive and well! This is the first photo that Mark took of her after she came out:

Mark and I were able to have the "golden hour" for a while. Once we moved to postpartum, lots of people came in and met Norah. She has lots of people that love her. (-: 

We stayed at the hospital until Saturday, the day before Easter, and then we were able to go home. Leaving the hospital was very emotional for me. I was being wheeled out of the hospital with our baby. Our healthy, beautiful, perfect little baby. I thought about the moms who leave the hospital empty-handed. It was an overwhelming moment. The drive home was overwhelming as well. Lots of tears were shed. See?!

When we got home, some family members were there waiting for us. My brother recorded us arriving. (-: It was, without a doubt, the most wonderful Easter weekend we have ever had. I am so, so grateful for this precious gift.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

On Waiting For Norah and Advent

Recently I have been feeling a deep sense of longing to meet Norah. I want to look in her eyes. I want her to be here, healthy and whole, and be okay. I just want to hold her and stare at her. I want to know what color her hair is. Will she have Mark’s dark skin, or my fair skin? Will she have very little hair like her momma had or will she have dark hair like her daddy has? Will her nose really look like mine as it does in her sonogram? Of course, I want her to continue growing in utero as she should, but I so desperately want to know she’s going to be okay and that I will get to meet her outside of the womb. I’m sure most mothers can’t wait to meet their babies, so maybe my longing is normal. But I also wonder if my longing isn’t accentuated because I have yet to meet any of our babies outside of the womb, and we have waited so long. I know that along with her birth will come a completely different set of worries, risks, and challenges, but oh, how I want to know her. 

I see her now on ultrasound screens, trusting and hoping she’s okay with each beat of her heart and with every movement, and seeing just a glimpse of her - her little face, her tiny hands and feet, her little neck and shoulders. I love her so much already, and I want to see her without an ultrasound wand between us.

I want these next fifteen weeks or so to fly by. While I’m generally not a person to want to rush life away, I just want to get on the other side of this fifteen week hurdle. I guess the race really started in the fall of 2012, and so now we are hopefully approaching the last leg of the last lap, the last few steps and jumps before crossing the finish line. It’s so close, and I so desperately want the race to end well. 

Looking back over the race, I remember a couple of years ago, where a series of circumstances lead me to a very dark valley. It was a season of sadness and darkness, and I’m scared to think what would happen if I end up in that very place again. In some of my worst moments, self-preservation allows my heart and mind to fill with dread of the “what-ifs”. We have come so far from there. While I trust there will be grace for those days, I don’t want to experience it. I even have a reminder on my phone that says, “But if not, He is still good.” 

The last couple of years I have read some beautiful writings on Advent and longing. I was going back over these posts this week to send to someone, and happened across a comment made by a pregnant woman talking about Advent. I had a bit of a light-bulb moment, relating my longing for Norah to the longing of the Advent season.

Sarah Bessey said on her blog, Would we be so filled with joy at his arrival if we weren’t so filled with longing already? If Christmas is for the joy, then Advent is for the longing. As I learned in particular through our lost babies, one after another after another, the joy born out of suffering and longing is more beautiful for its very complexity. The joy doesn’t erase the longing and the sadness that came before but it does redeem it, it may even stain backwards changing how we look at those days or years. But the joy is made more real, richer and deeper perhaps, because we longed for it with all our hearts for so many days.

I can’t help but think that my perspective, my sense of wonder, my coming joy, my longing, are all so very different, so much deeper, because of our journey. Sarah also said, Now that I have wept, now that I have grieved, now that I have lost, now that I have learned to hold space with and for the ones who are hurting, now I have a place for Advent. Now that I have fallen in step with the man from Nazareth, I want to walk where he walked into the brokenness of this life, and see the Kingdom of God at hand. Now that I have learned how much I need him, I have learned to watch for him. Advent is perhaps for the ones who know longing.

I know that my longing to meet my daughter is a speck of dust in comparison to the longing the world has for a Savior - the collective longing of all the hurts in the world to be healed, needs to be met, and beauty to be made from ashes. 

So this Christmas, as I long to meet Norah Grace, may my longing for my Savior be so much deeper. May my longing for my daughter remind me of the need I have for salvation and the need the world has for redemption.

May my longing not be merely a selfish desire for my own happiness, but may it serve as a catalyst in my heart to draw closer to another tiny baby - a baby wrapped not in a hospital blanket but in rugged swaddling cloths, a baby not laid in a fancy nursery crib, but in humble manger straw. May I find my peace this Christmas not in a perfect pregnancy outcome, but in a perfect, tiny, baby boy named Jesus. 

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight. 

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Tricky Bedfellow

Faith. I don’t know if you have ever taken one of those spiritual gifts tests - you know, the ones that tell you how cool your spiritual gift is? If you get to sit at the cool table of spiritual gifts you get something like prophecy or discernment and then everyone thinks you can see the future and read other people’s minds. Then there are the spiritual gifts that are a little less glamorous, like mine. I took that test and got faith. Faith. Like, the thing that every Christian is supposed to have, right? Kind of like the foundation for Christianity. I mean, what is so cool about faith and how is that even a gift?

And then there’s prayer. Prayer is not so much a spiritual gift, but has been something that has also come relatively naturally to me. The ability to pray throughout the day as things pop into mind and converse with the Lord is something for which I am very thankful. That is, until recently.

Things changed. My prayers weren’t so easy. I wasn’t sure how to pray. I wasn’t sure that I believed my prayers really mattered. I wasn’t sure what I believed about prayer at all. After all, hadn’t I prayed for healthy pregnancies? And hadn’t I lost three babies to miscarriage? After a hell storm of circumstances it seemed like my prayers were anything but effective. And this was new to me - a bit of a stiff arm toward God and an apathetic attitude toward prayer.

In light of that, I recently decided that it was time I did something about my prayer life. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but I felt like I was paralyzed in prayer. Like my perspective and worldview had shifted. I knew something wasn’t right but I wasn’t sure what to do to fix it and it had been going on for a while. In true form, I decided to research and do some reading on prayer. I decided I needed to get some good theology on prayer to help me overcome this hurdle - this silence. This distance.

So I bought a book. I started reading the book, didn’t really give it much of a chance, and realized maybe I needed something more specific - something more along the lines of theology of suffering.

And then I happened upon a sermon by Jen Hatmaker at the IF: Gathering conference this weekend and I was kind of hit between the eyes. Jen talked about faith - you know - that thing I’m so gifted in, right? She talked about how faith is one of the highest prizes we can expect to obtain, and that we should expect it to be hard-won.

Then she went on to talk about four reasons why we struggle to believe God and grab hold of faith, and you guys, she totally nailed me. I realized pretty immediately that my issue wasn’t prayer. Prayer was my symptom. I believe it was my pastor who talked about how prayer is a good thermometer for one’s spiritual life. Well, let me tell ya, in this case, that was certainly true. My problem was faith, and because of my faith struggles I wasn’t sure how to pray.

While her entire sermon was spot on, the last reason she gave for why people struggle with faith resonated with me the most. She said some people struggle with faith because they have endured a real beatdown and are afraid to believe God. Bingo. You want to talk about a beat down? Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you about mine. But before she went into this one, she talked about suffering, and said that suffering is a tricky bedfellow with a God that tells us He is good. Because the thing is, we will ALL suffer, and so as she said, if death and sickness and loss and confusion and abuse and sadness mean that God’s character is in question, we should throw this whole thing out. No one has ever made it through life unscathed. So there’s that - suffering - a tricky bedfellow. Suffering? Check.

But then she talked about the beatdown. I think this is perhaps a little more extensive than suffering. Perhaps it’s repeated suffering or prolonged suffering or maybe suffering with no end in sight. Regardless, she talked about the Israelites and how they experienced FOUR HUNDRED YEARS of slavery. And then, just like that, they were free. And so it’s no surprise that the Israelites struggled to believe in “freedom” under “God’s favor” in a “Promised Land” - it was just too terrifying to hope for.

Too terrifying to hope for. Yep. It’s a scary thing to get one’s hopes up about a healthy pregnancy that results in a living baby after experiencing the same terrible ending three times in a row. Hope can be elusive. Hope can be scary.

So you know what the Hebrews did? They said, “let's just go back to slavery.” Debilitating? Sure, but at least it’s familiar.

For many of us, belief takes a lot of courage. For me, belief takes a lot of courage. I want to believe that God will provide healthy children for us, I truly do. But that belief, that faith, gosh, it’s so hard-won. That thing that had been so easy for me - faith - belief - suddenly I’m fighting tooth and nail to hang on to it.

You see, my issue is not prayer. My issue is faith. This beautiful gift of faith that I have been given has been taken from its resting place and beaten with a baseball bat within an inch of its life. And so I hold onto this mangled gift that is unfamiliar and confusing - barely recognizable.

No, I have no idea whether or not God will grant us biological children. No clue. I have no guarantee that we will get pregnant again, nor do I have a guarantee that our subsequent pregnancies will be healthy.

But here’s the thing Jen said: Yes, God works His purposes through the captivity. Yes, He uses the wilderness for good. But His story tells that he is a Promised Land God. Guys, He’s a Promised Land God. Not a God that leaves people high and dry, alone. He is a God of redemption. He is capable. He is trustworthy. He is for me. He is for you. He is for us! He is good. He is trustworthy.

He is a God of redemption. He is capable. He is trustworthy. He is for me. He is for you. He is good. He is trustworthy.

He is good.

As Jen says, faith is its own prize. It isn’t the formula to get the good stuff - it is the good stuff.

I’m still processing everything in my heart and mind as I hope to mend my faith. But what I know is good for the soul is being reminded of the Truth that we have a Promised Land God who is good.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain...  (Hebrews 6:19)


*This post references Jen Hatmaker's recent sermon from the If:Gathering. Run, don't walk, and check it out. I quoted her some, and paraphrased her, and used her ideas in my blog. Credit due to her! (-: *

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Room In The Psalms

I read a book recently in which the main character was a piano student. Her teacher forced her to learn hymns so that the words would be rooted deep in her heart for use at an appropriate time. The girl became a prodigal daughter of sorts and through her wanderings, her mistakes, and her pain, those words would spring up in her head and she couldn't push them out. They flooded her rebellious and hurting heart with Truth.

I totally get it. Music permeates - it has a way of getting right to one's soul, cutting out the superfluous. It has been doing this to me lately, and I admit I don't always like it.

Singing on the worship team at my church is a privilege and something I really enjoy. But it is not always easy to get up week after week and sing songs. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it and I love Jesus - I feel called to proclaim the Gospel to people in this way and wouldn't change it. But oh, there are days when it is tough.

Within two weeks of losing our first baby I was back there, standing in front of my brothers and sisters in Christ, singing. Some days it's hard to get the words out. 

There was one Sunday, I believe after our second loss, I cried during a song we were singing in the choir. And let me tell you, there are few things more miserable than crying on stage and not being able to do anything about it. That song spoke to my broken heart.

There are also Sundays where those songs are a balm, a banner over me, promises from God. Those days the songs are my hope and I cling to those words of encouragement. Those days the songs are reminders of God's provision and his love, that He is able to do immeasurably more than what we ask. And those are great Sundays!

Then there are Sundays, like Mother's Day, when I just don't even go there. I give myself some grace and don't sing.

Lately, I have been surprised by my emotions. At my last counseling session, after we had talked about several things, my therapist asked me how my heart was doing. As I answered I began to cry - I had been forced to show my cards. Then at my MEND meeting last night I was an absolute mess. I see that under the surface, the waters of my heart are murky and unsettled. I have been doing a bit of treading water - keeping my head above what is below. I have been doing well, really, but I think I have been neglecting the tough stuff a bit too much. My due date for our second baby is June 30th. Father's Day was this month. We are close to getting more medical testing done. Sometimes our story is overwhelming to me. There's the waiting. My hope is a bit deflated. And there's the longing.

Then tonight. Tonight we rehearsed for this Sunday morning, a day I have already been expecting to be more emotionally challenging than most. We sang those Jesus songs. And I felt like I was singing the words but crossing my arms, not wanting to hear them.

"The enemy, he has to leave. At the sound of Your great name."

Yeah. Yeah. Seems to me like the enemy is not leaving. Seems to me like he is camping out at my house, having a flipping hay day. 

Bratty, I know. Hearing truth, but not wanting to hear it, because really I wasn't feeling it. Internally I was covering my ears and shaking my head, working to drown out the noise of the words that felt a bit like a personal affront.

But those words. They permeate. I can't sing them and not think about at least some of them, even though I might not want to. The truth is God is Redeemer, He is Healer, He is our Savior, Defender, Lord Almighty. I know that even when I might not feel it, He is

Later in rehearsal we sang another song with a line that said,

"[He] knocks outside my broken heart till I let Him inside."

That's it. The words pierced again. There He is. Knocking. In my heartbroken state, He is knocking. Waiting. Even in my anger, even when my flesh screams that it's not fair. Even when I shake my head at those words, not wanting to hear them. He is knocking on my broken heart.

And I have to decide. Even though I have no guarantees that things will go my way, do I let Him in? Or do I only open the door when there is a celebration going on inside? Is He allowed to come in only on those days? Or is He allowed to come in when my house is a wreck and my face is tear-stained and I might be angry? I don't think God walks in and pretends like the pain is gone, forcing us to move on to other things. I think He comes into the living room, sits down on the couch and grieves with us. He knows there is a time to mourn and a time to dance. He is our comforter. Because even when I might not feel it, He is. 

When I don't let Him in, He is still there, waiting. And when I let Him in, He gives me space. He gives me room to lament. I may not always feel like singing those songs, but He understands that. As Sarah Bessey says, "There is room in the Psalms for your grief." God is near to the broken-hearted. The celebratory days are good, but the other days - that's when the hard work gets done. That's when the words can really pierce the heart and force us to examine ourselves. The words can wash over us and speak Truth. That's when we hear God knocking, waiting. That's when we have to make a decision.

I may not always feel like singing the songs, but I think that is when I need to sing them the most. 


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