Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Luke's first birthday..

One year ago tonight.. our world completely changed. Our sweet baby boy was born and our journey as parents began. As I look back over the past year and how God has worked in our lives I am so overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with memories of the 12 days we had with our son. Overwhelmed by the support of so many people who reached out and loved us. Overwhemed by the faithfulness of a God who carried us and empowered us to face the impossible....

Wow - it has been a year.

One year ago, I woke up at 4:30am to get ready for our scheduled induction. I was 38 weeks 6 days pregnant and our doctor felt it would be best to induce labor so that I would not go on my own and not be near an equipped hospital. Benson, my mom and I stayed in a hotel in Indiana the night before the induction. I remember stopping to get Krispy Kremes (one of my huge pregnancy cravings!) the night before... it was the last thing I ate before having Luke.

We arrived at the hospital and I was taken back into the delivery room. I remember looking over and seeing the little isolette which helda little blanket and hat that Luke would be placed in once he was born and how real it suddenly became. Our nurse Tiffany was amazing... we started the Pitocin a little after 6am and I started feeling contractions sometime around 8am. The entire day, we sat around and talked while watching the World Cup. Our family came in and out of our room - I was relaxed, happy and excited. Around 6pm, my contractions began increasing in intensity. I asked for something to take the edge off and they gave me Stadol - big mistake. Apparently, I started seeing McDonald's characters and thought Benson was Grimace the Menace.. ?!

Around 7pm I was 7cm dilated and decided to go ahead and get an epidural. Soon after, they broke my water and things began moving quickly. Within and hour and a half, I was fully dilated and ready to push. In a matter of minutes, our room was filled with more doctors and nurses than I could count. I had such a hard time pushing because my epidural was so strong and I had no feeling at all. After over an hour of pushing and the help of a nasty episiotomy, Luke Aaron came into the world with a weak cry. I remember looking down and thinking about how long and blue he looked. Benson cut the umbilical cord and they handed him immediately over the NICU doctors who began to work on Luke. They handed him to Benson for a few moments and began to transfer him to Kosairs. Before they left the room, they looked at me and asked if I had held him. When I said no, they put him in my arms and I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him and that I needed him to fight for me because we needed him to be okay. The doctors pinched his little feet and said "cry for mama" but he was completely unresponsive and turning darker each second. It was in that moment that I knew something was terribly wrong. I knew HLHS babies usually come out looking like any other heart-healthy babies. I was so scared I gave him immediately back to the doctors and they wheeled him away. That would be the first and only time Benson and I held him without any tubes and wires.

You can read about the day of Luke's birth and the hours following written from Benson's perspective by clicking here. It is crazy to think how much we went through in just a few short hours. Needless to say, Luke's birthday was one that we will never forget...

Happy Birthday Sweet Luke! We love you so much and are so very proud to call you ours. I know that you are celebrating with Jesus and that it has to be way more fun than anything I could plan for you here.. my heart isn't sad for you today... it is sad for me and for your daddy and for all the people who love you who are left here without you. I cannot wait until the day I see you again.. until then, keep changing the world little buddy... you have surely changed ours! We love you!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Happy Birthday Cohen!

One year ago today, I sat behind a computer screen 36 weeks pregnant. I had just found out about our sweet Luke's little heart and desperately sought out stories and lives of other women who had given birth to a baby with a heart defect. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with Megan and Brent - a sweet couple who were anticipating the birth of their own little guy who they were told would be born with a broken heart.

So on June 7, 2010... I was one of thousands who kept refreshing the page to her blog, praying and pleading with God that Cohen would be born breathing and crying.... well, he was.

One year ago today, I had no idea that Megan would be the person God placed into my life to be the one who I would "vent" to on the bad days... the one who would email me on the 29th and 10th every month because she knew what living the space between was really like.... I had no idea that she would be the one who I would text when I found out I was pregnant again.... or that I would cry the biggest happiest tears when I finally heard the news that she was too (with TWINS!). I had no idea this girl I have never met would be one of the greatest instruments of healing in my life and that her sweet boy would mean SO much to my family and I.... but, he does.

One year ago today, my little guy was bouncing around in my belly when Cohen was taking his first breath on earth. I had no idea that both Cohen and Luke would share such similar stories or that they would both end up in Heaven together just a few weeks apart. Megan and I often say that we hope our little boys are "best buds" up there together. I had no idea when I saw that first picture this cute baby with dark hair and perfect little lips that he would end up being my son's best friend in Heaven.... but, he is.

So, Happy Birthday best buddy. While you are up there having an awesome birthday party with Jesus know that there are so so so very many people who miss you here. You are so very loved and so very special and I'm so glad to know that you can run around up in Heaven today and celebrate with no tubes, wires or broken heart. You are an amazing miracle and I can't wait for the day I get to meet you and give you the biggest hug and tell you just how you and your sweet mommy and daddy have meant to me.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The morning is here...

This is my first post in a very long time.

I know many people are under the impression that I have abandoned the blog. Some of you have sent me sweet emails and messages asking where I have been and that you have been praying for our family. I know many of you have followed our story so closely and care deeply for us...for that, I can never say thank you enough.

I wish I could just blame my lack of posts on being busy (which is true) or on the overwhelming physical strain my body is enduring with this pregnancy (also very true). However, I must be honest with myself in admitting that my absence is much more out of fear than anything else.

These past few months have been the most difficult I have experienced since Luke's death. I am very aware that the majority of people closest to me do not have the slightest idea that I have been struggling. I have managed to keep living life to the fullest, ministering and laughing all while fighting a battle within myself. While I am not one to purposely hide my feelings or emotions, I have intently drawn back from sharing my heart openly in public and have instead spent many quiet moments in the presence of my Savior. He has been true to His Word and has been close and provided me with a comfort that no person on this earth could give. However, I would be a liar I said that I have not been scared - scared of another bad diagnosis, scared of something else going wrong and scared of sharing it all.

During this season of my life, I have been reminded so often of Chapter 14 in the Book of Mark where Jesus retreated from those closest to Him and went to the garden to pray alone. I close my eyes and try to picture Him there..tears streaming down His cheeks, crying out to His Father. In that moment, He was filled with grief and He too was scared.

So much of my life this past year has been full of emotions...grief, fear, anxiety, uncertainty - just to name a few. There are no words to describe the terror of standing beside my baby's bedside watching him suffer, not knowing what the next hour would hold. There is no way to explain the uncontrollable anxiety of laying on a table in our OB's office for a second time, watching the tiny heart of our newest sweet baby flicker on the screen while we waited for the doctor to tell us that he/she was perfectly healthy. Grief and fear are emotions that have been all too familiar to us these days.

Alone in the garden that night, Jesus was also filled with emotions. He knew what He was going to face and was not ignorant to what the future held. He knew that the pain he would experience on the cross would be great. He knew that people who once praised Him would turn their backs and spit on Him with disgrace. He knew the physical agony He would experience in His flesh would be far more than He could ever bear alone. Yet, in the midst of His fear, I love how honest my Savior was in that garden crying out to His Father in verse 36... "Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

What a prayer! Those powerful words whispered from the mouth of Christ are far too similar to the ones that echo in my mind as I think back to that July night when I held my son in my arms for the last time. Oh, how badly I wanted that pain to be taken from me! How deeply I wished it would all just go away! Yet, in the midst of His fear, of my fear, God remained faithful. He did not stand silent to the prayer of His Son that night just as He did not turn His back on us as we cried out for the Lord to spare our baby that night in the hospital. He was at work through it all. After all, our God, while silent at times, does not remain silent forever.

While Jesus, that night in His flesh, saw only the darkness ahead,
God could see the glory of the morning that was yet to come!

That unforeseen morning is not just a reference to the third day when our Savior rose in glory, it is part of a promise that the Lord has made to each of us in His Word. In Psalm 30:5, God makes us a promise that "weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning."

No matter how deep the pain is or how dark the night may be, joy comes.

Not long after Luke went to Heaven, I remember longing to be pregnant again. I remember begging God to give me another baby...not to replace Luke but to fulfill my dream of being a mom and knowing what it was like to raise a child. I had tasted the sweetest love in the world when I held my baby boy for the first time and after Luke went to heaven, I craved to taste that love again. As Benson and I began trying to become pregnant, I remember digging in God's Word and reading over and over all the promises He had made me. I began putting my hands on my stomach multiple times a day and praying out loud, "God - I stand on the promise that I am loved and highly favored...that it is Your desire to bless me...that whatever I ask for in Your name will be given to me...that no weapon formed against me shall prosper...that You came so that I may have abundant life in You..." I remember literally screaming out God's promises to me - calling on them, one after another.

It did not take long for God to respond. The sweet baby girl growing inside me today is my promise. She is my long awaited morning, my answered prayer, my joy that has come. I feel blessed that God honored our requests so quickly and that we were able to get pregnant in a matter of a few months. I believe with all my heart, that God's quick favor was in response to our obedience and faithfulness to call on His promises and take Him at His Word. The sweet baby I'm carrying is an answer to a bold and persistent plea to my Savior.

Through praying for this baby, God convicted my heart that I don't pray as boldly as I should. I feel that often times Christians are afraid that their prayers may offend God in some way. Just as we don't want to ask our neighbors or friends for help, we are afraid our requests may inconvenience the Holy Spirit into moving. We feel like we are being selfish in praying audacious and bold prayers for our lives and lives of those around us. However, God WANTS us to be bold in our prayers to Him. He isn't put out by requests we make out of pure desires that come from our hearts. As long as we pray in faith, believing and asking for things not to uplift ourselves but to uplift His kingdom - God is honored and listens. It is an unfortunate reality that we find ourselves content with mindless prayers for God to bless our food, heal the sick, bless our families. We repeat the same prayers every day, at the same moments with little consideration to the words that we are saying. While blessing our food, families and the sick are good places for us to begin, the Lord does not want us to become satisfied just praying for the small things. Our God is big enough to handle big requests - so why are we so afraid to bring them before Him? Why are we not praying for nations to reconcile? For thousands...or even millions to come to Christ? For the dead to rise or the lame to walk? God wants His people to desire Him with so much passion and conviction that it stirs us to radically call His glory down from Heaven. Has it ever really occurred to you that by praying big prayers, God may actually answer?

As difficult as the last few months have been for us emotionally, Benson and I have witnessed a great movement of the Holy Spirit. We have started praying crazy big prayers for our lives and God has been coming through in amazing ways. We are truly trusting in Jesus and taking Him for His Word and our lives have been abundantly blessed because of it. People around us are being healed of terminal diseases, families on the verge of breaking are being restored, people are accepting Christ on a weekly basis...not because of anything that makes us special but because we, along with many others around us, have decided to pray beyond our imagination!

It has been a long night, but joy has come...and continues to come in new, fresh ways every single day. I am so glad that my God didn't forget me that night I said goodbye to Luke...and that though I had to endure pain for a short time, He promised me a morning full of more joy than I could have ever dreamed.

I write to you today to tell you, no matter what the pain may look like - there is a promise, a promise of joy and of abundant life. God never intended the night to last forever. It is time to call on the power of God to move in our lives, to redeem the promises He has made to us and to pray bold, audacious prayers that stir the very heart of God into action.

Its time to claim our promises, the morning has come!