Monday, July 30, 2012

Born with a Testimony

On Saturday, we celebrated our 3rd son’s 2nd birthday.  It was a celebration of survival!  This little man must have something great in store for him.  He has been our most difficult child, but our lives would be greatly deficient without him!  To say that he is difficult may sound harsh, but here are some Sammy highlights in his short little life:

He loves to climb.  One day, after literally taking him off of the dining room table about 10 times, he fell straight down, racking half of his two front teeth off…$500 of pediatric dental attention later, he smiles with his pointy front teeth and we thank God he’ll get new grown up teeth one day!

While taking the kids bowling, Sam, as usual, decided to run away from us…he tripped and fell into a set of concrete steps, giving him a huge goose egg right between the eyes…for the fourth time in his life!

Sam has eczema in epic proportions.  When he was a baby, he would scratch his head until he bled…his head got infected and as a 3 month old, we had to switch between applying antibiotic ointment to treat his infection and strong eczema ointment to keep his head in check…we still have to apply ointment every day to his poor, itchy skin!

Right after his sister was born, we discovered that Sam knows how to open child-proof medicine bottles.  He scaled the linen closet shelves, opened up a prescribed pain pill and proceeded to chew on one…thank God he spit it out…poison control was called, all is good, and we now hide ALL medicine…even the ones that are “child proof.”

Speaking of poison control…Sam again scaled the linen closet shelves one day, took a near empty bottle of pine sol out and drank what was left.  I was changing the baby’s blowout diaper at the time, and only became aware of the situation when he brought me the empty bottle asking for more…I then memorized poison control’s number.

He knows how to unlock and open all of our doors…even our old, big, wooden front door that gives adults a hard time!

He has broken two pairs of my eyeglasses, three pairs of my sunglasses, 2 vases, 3 picture frames, countless toys, all the doorknobs on the first floor of the house (no kidding!), one hinge off of a door, and has almost chewed through his crib. 

He loves to hang on things, climb on things, jump off of things and jump onto things.  He likes to rip things…paper, plastic…whatever he can rip.  He will play with toys sometimes…but unconventionally.  If it has wheels, he will stand on it.  If it is round, he will see how hard he can throw it.  And yes, he can climb out of his crib.

He hides our keys, phones, shoes, and the boys’ favorite toys.  He takes apart anything he can and conveniently loses small pieces that are needed to put those things back together.  He has flushed various objects down the toilet, and has taken off parts of the sink, never to be found again.

Now, before you start judging me (too late, right?), please know that I hardly EVER take my eyes off of this child!  Most of his antics are accomplished while I am attending to something that briefly requires my retreat…such as a diaper change, switching loads of laundry, running to the screaming cries of another child, or one of those selfish 5 second bathroom breaks that I seem to get about twice a day!  He is sneaky I tell you!  But he is ours, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.

The main problem with Sam is that all this is done with innocent curiosity.  Though he means well, he’s exhausting.  Just when I’m finished fixing something, there’s another Sam-created issue to attend to.  But there are so many wonderful things about Sam too…he is probably our funniest child.  He understands what makes people laugh, and he loves to entertain us.  He says the cutest things.  His new phrase is “I mama’s sunshine.” And he is.  He is incredibly sweet with babies.  He is so nurturing toward his baby sister, and he has grown to love and play with other baby friends.  One of his only calm activities is when he takes care of his stuffed animals, making sure they are fed, changed, and burped.  And, he’s a snuggle bunny.  There are really only three people in the world that get the awesome privilege of a Sam-snuggle, though, which makes it all the sweeter: myself, my husband, and my dad.  But the best part of having Sam is that he’s here.  All of our kids are miracles…but I still stand back in awe of how we didn’t lose him over and over again. 

My children are so amazingly different from each other.  My oldest is incredibly intelligent, my next is athletic, and Sam is plain old adventurous.  He is the one that has frightened me the most in life.  They’ve all driven me to my knees in prayer, but I never really knew how to pray until we were blessed with our Samuel.  And this lesson started soon after we discovered we were expecting him.

As soon as we found out we were pregnant, something didn’t feel right…it wasn’t pain, but just a strange feeling.  I had 3 dreams in one week that I had been taken to the hospital and it looked as though we were going to lose the baby, but I always woke up before the end.  My husband decided that it was just hormones, and that I was fine; I needed to calm down.  Then, one early January day, we were taking our oldest boys to an ice rink.  While getting into the car, I had this overwhelming feeling of panic.  The whole drive over, I knew something was about to go wrong.  Sure enough, as soon as I stepped out of the car at the rink, I started to hemorrhage. 

My boys were 3 and 1 ½ at the time.  I told my husband to take them into the rink, and panicking, I drove myself to the hospital.  My dad met me there.  We waited…and waited…I started to go into shock because of the blood loss.  They told me I was having a miscarriage and they’d get to me as soon as they could.  By the time I was in an exam room, the nurse was apologetic, not knowing just how bad this was.  They ordered an ultrasound, but told me that I had lost the baby, and would probably have to undergo a procedure to remove him.  My dad and I were devastated…we did the only thing we knew how to do at that time:  we prayed.  Despite the many nurses who were all saying the same thing, we prayed.  Despite the initial grief counseling I was receiving, we prayed.  As I was wheeled down to ultrasound, we prayed. 

The ultrasound technician did her thing.  I had cried so hard I didn’t think I had anything left.  Yet, in the middle of the procedure, I started weeping.  She asked me why I was crying.  After telling her that I was still in shock from the news that I had lost my baby, she handed me an ultrasound picture.  I was staring at what looked like a lifeless little alien…just as my chest started heaving again, she turned the screen and I heard his heartbeat…live and loud, there he was!  She explained, though I do not think she was supposed to, that I had what was called a sub-chorionic hematoma that hemorrhaged.  I had no idea what she said, but I was elated! 

By the time they wheeled me back upstairs, my husband had joined my dad.  The look of relief on their faces was priceless.  But we weren’t out of the woods yet.  The dr. came in and explained that I was still actively bleeding.  The problem was that sometime during implantation, the placenta had slightly torn away, but reattached.  However, it did not fully reattach and continued to bleed, but inside the outer walls of the uterus.  Ultimately, it burst, leading to my hemorrhage.  He explained that it was still actively bleeding and needed to stop or else we would lose our baby.

At a follow up appointment, my ob described to us the many horrible scenarios that we were facing:  the baby could die from lack of nutrition from a depleted placenta; the hematoma could burst again and invade the uterus, thereby killing my baby;  the hematoma could grow so big and hinder the baby’s growth, causing him to be severely handicapped; the continued bleeding could put undue stress on my heart, endangering my life.  Scared, exhausted, and overwhelmed, we left the dr.’s office, bed rest orders in hand, looked at each other and cried.  I was 10 weeks along, actively, internally bleeding, and had been counseled to terminate the pregnancy for the baby’s sake and my own. 

We learned to pray like we never had before.  We started combing the Word like we never had before.  We started seeking God’s heart like we never had before.  It was evident that this experience was going to change us, we just didn’t know how. 

Our first decision was to continue on with the pregnancy.  Despite all the risks, we were told that there was still a small chance everything could turn out fine.  I tried to mother my 3 year old and 1 ½ year old on my own, despite my bed rest orders, for about a week…then I re-hemorrhaged and ended up back in the hospital.  The nurses took about 45 minutes to find a heart beat.  They couldn’t find it.  They brought in an ultrasound machine, but still couldn’t detect a heart beat.  At that point, they told us they had to bring in the dr. to confirm, but that they were very sorry.  When they left the room, my husband broke down.  We were confident that the Lord had told us to continue on.  We were holding on to His promises, and were filled with faith.  But this was emotionally grueling.  We sat there crying our eyes out, praying for our little guy.  Looking back, it seems so strange how attached we were to our little guy at 11 weeks gestational age.  Yet once you become an expectant parent, you know how quickly and strongly that bond is formed.  We had faith that this little man would be born, and be healthy and whole.  Twenty long minutes later, the dr. walked in and instantly picked up the heart beat.  The bleeding had slowed and I was sent home.

God met our every need for the next 30 weeks.  Every week day, there was someone here to lift Noah out of his crib in the morning, fix my boys breakfast, change diapers, make lunch, and put them down for their nap.  I learned so many things in this season: one of which is that God is our heavenly father.  He nurtures us and takes care of us, despite our earthly deficit.  At the beginning of this ordeal, I was angry and bitter that I was without my mother.  But, at the end, I walked away with confidence that it is God and not man who provides for me all the days of my life. 

Unfortunately, the next 30 weeks I battled with fear.  I had weekly dr. appointments and bi-weekly ultrasounds.  I was told over and over again of the risks, and was not given good news.  We were told that if the hematoma did not reabsorb completely at 20 weeks, that we had less than a 20% chance of having a full term birth.  The 20 week ultrasound was a roller coaster:  he was still alive, and the hematoma hadn’t grown for the first time, but the high risk ob advised us to terminate because the continued bleeding was putting too much stress on my heart.  At 24 weeks, the hematoma had grown again, completely covering the circumference of my uterus. The chances that we were all going to come out of this healthy and whole were dropping week by week.  I continued to bleed on and off through the entire pregnancy.  Every time I felt the baby move, I panicked that he would break the hematoma and that would be the end.  But God is so good.  He gave me peace throughout the entire process.  He brought the right people into our home at the right time.  He enlisted some serious prayer warriors to do some serious praying on our behalf.

At my 30 week appointment, we received another mixed report.  The hematoma was shrinking slightly, but the baby’s growth was said to be abnormal.  We were sent for an additional anatomy scan, at which they told us that he may have a heart abnormality, that his legs weren’t growing right, and that one of his arms appeared to be deformed.  They rescheduled us for an additional anatomy scan a few weeks later, hoping that the hematoma would shrink and that they could get a better reading.  Though it had never actually decreased in size, at 34 weeks, it shrank down slightly!  They were able to get a better reading, but still not great.  We at least knew at this point that his heart looked healthy.

Finally, at 39 weeks, my dr. suggested induction.  The hematoma was still present, and my heart was under stress.  Our hospital experience was unique in that we had plenty of medical professionals assigned to us, most of which were “just in case.”  To say that we were without fear that day would be a lie.  We had lived through a 30 week nightmare, and had beaten the odds.  But we weren’t out of the woods yet.  There was still a risk that I could experience complications.  The hematoma was still present, so there was a risk the baby could still be harmed by it.  While it was a different experience than the previous two births, we witnessed a miracle that day.  I was induced at 5 a.m., and Samuel (meaning God heard my prayer) Jonathan (meaning a gift from God) was born at 1:30 p.m. that afternoon.  It was physically taxing on my atrophied, stressed body; it was emotionally draining trying to refocus my mind on faith and not fear; it was spiritually exhausting recalling every promise of God that I had crammed into my brain during the last 30 weeks.  But as I held my little boy, I thanked him for changing me.  Because of this experience, I would never be the same.

The following months after his birth included many other hard trials.  I honestly don’t know how I would have handled them without the experience I just had.  There were things about God that I knew in my head, but this trial of my life sunk them deep into my heart where I am confident they cannot be uprooted.

So every time we hear a crash in the house, a scream from a tormented older brother, a locked door opening, or the galloping feet of my fleeting toddler, we thank God for him.  We thank God that he entrusted us with this life.  We thank God that he hears our prayers and spares our lives.  We thank God that He is a good God, all the time.  We thank God that He gives us all testimonies, and that at birth Sam had quite the story to tell of God’s awesome faithfulness!  I thank God that he knows the end result of my life and has ordered all of my days to gently lead me and mold me into who I am supposed to be.  He is sovereign and powerful, still working miracles today.  I am glad that we are able to tell our kids about His faithfulness in such a tangible, real way so that they understand the power of God in their lives.

I know that not everyone’s story ends like ours did.  There are things on this earth that I do not understand.  But I thank God that He is always in control and has written down our days before we were born.  Despite our understanding, we must always bless His name…there is no one like our God. 
Happy Birthday to my Sam…a lover of adventure, a silly guy, and one of the loves of my life!

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