Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Home Sweet Home at Last!

I was finally released from the hospital today around lunchtime. After my surgery on Friday, I went home feeling completely fine and then began spiking a fever just hours later. I ended up back in the ER (per doctor's orders) around 10 pm that same night. It was devastating and J.V. and I (up since 3:30 am that morning) were exhausted. I didn't know that I would be admitted once I got to the hospital, but with a fever of 103 and a recent induction and surgery, my body was sending up red flags of an infection. Still, I had no idea I'd be spending the next 3 nights there, separated once again from my family! It was hard, to say the least. This was not just emotionally challenging, but physically challenging as well.

I was put on strong antibiotics via my IV and had to be fever-free for at least 36 hours before being allowed to go back home again. Well, I'm home (dare I say) for good?? I am thankful to be out of the hospital and back with my family. So many of you have helped us in so many different ways--caring for our children, providing meals, and even groceries. We are so grateful. I can't tell you how much your messages by text, voicemail, email, etc. have meant to us and, truly, we could not have gotten through this experience with out all of the support. I am really tired and not really computer-savvy so J.V. has to do anything "technical" for me (including uploading photos to our computer from our camera) so we will hopefully do that in the next day or so.

There is a fabulous nurse that works at St. Joseph's Hospital named Barbara. She does clay hand/footprints for families who have lost a baby. She does this at no cost, but as a ministry to these families. I remember going to her house when she did our kid's prints 2 years ago (after Caden & Cooper were born). I saw these plates with teeny-tiny little hands and feet and I was shocked. I asked how old those babies were when the prints were taken and she explained that they were babies that hadn't made it. How sad, I thought. I never imagined that 2 years later she'd be making them for us. She worked that day I had my surgery and in recovery when I discovered my doctor had been able to get the hands and had made ink prints for me, I called Barbara right away and asked if she could come do more permanent clay prints for us. She said she would do whatever she could to make it happen for us and she did. Once she was off of work at St. Joe's, she came straight over to UC Irvine. She found the pathology lab where the body of our baby was and made us 4 tiny plates with perfect little hands. I haven't seen them yet, but she said they came out really well. I can't wait to share them with you all. This is the highlight of my last week, and I am so grateful that she went out of her way to do this for us. So many of you have gone out of your way to encourage our family in different ways, and we are humbled. Thank you so much for your kindness.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

We will deliver her tomorrow

May 12, 2011
I want to give an update because it must seem like things have been pretty quiet over here for the last several days and there may be some confusion about what is going on. Last Saturday morning I was admitted into the hospital to start an induction and allow our baby to be born “naturally.” After 4 days being separated from my babies here at home, my doctor finally consulted with the specialist again. I am (not surprisingly) in the small percentage of people whose body resists such an induction. In fact, my body was doing everything it could to retain this baby, and even still protect her. The nurses kept telling me that my body believed it was much too early to deliver a baby at only 20 weeks gestation, and even after several different drugs, my body was not letting go of this baby with out a fight. (No problems with preterm labor here!)
It was very hard to be away from my family for all those days, and I was ready to move on. Everyday the nurses listened to me voice my frustrations, concern, and sorrow for the kids who needed me at home. Some of the nurses even prayed with me, asking the Lord to touch my body and release this child within me (just the shell of a baby who had already gone to be with Him anyways). For whatever reason, the Lord didn’t decide to do that.
Instead, the doctors decided that the best route of delivery would be a D & E surgery. This is not pretty, and this is not what I expected would be the end of my precious child—but like I said—it’s only her shell I carry now. Still, we were hoping for the privilege of seeing her, getting her handprints, and experiencing a natural birthing process. None of these hopes will be realized with the D & E surgery. As disappointing as this is, at this point, we just need to be able to move forward.
We are realizing more and more, that the Lord is asking us to be willing to give up everything for Him. This is not only a sacrifice of my sweet baby to the Lord, but also a sacrifice of the hopes I had for the way she would depart. Probably no single part of this has happened the way I would have liked it to, but I am learning to surrender everything to Him.  I love what I read in the book, “I Will Carry You.” The author reminds us of a woman named Mary in the Bible, who shattered a very valuable bottle of perfume (estimated to be worth approximately $30,000 in our economy) over the feet of Jesus and wiped her hair along His feet as a form of worship unto Him. She compares the perfume bottle that was shattered to the valuable “bottles” we all hold dearly now. She says, “I still struggle with my false sense of control. In the weeks and months that followed Audrey’s death, I could feel my fingers tighten around the bottle He was asking me to pour out. My three daughters, my husband, my house, my parents—everything I could physically put my hands on—felt dangerously out of control…If you have been through this, you will know that what I am about to say is true. It never brings relief. The more we try to cling to our babies, our jobs, our bank accounts, the more we realize that they are not ours.” (pg. 123)
I know I am not elaborating much on this story, but it is worth studying and it applies to a lot of the things in our life, including my own situation. In short, I have broken my perfume bottle over the feet of my Lord and am pouring it out. I am fully surrendered now to whatever He is asking through this offering.
The plan is to go to the specialist’s hospital now (UC Irvine) in the morning and remove this little (one pound) baby from my body. If all goes as planned, I can go home about an hour and a half after surgery and resume “normal activities.” The thing is, I don’t think I’ll ever be “normal” again, but I’ll be just the way He wants me to be. Forever changed and armed with an entirely new testimony and sense of surrender to Him.
A couple last blessings in all of this that I want to mention: One, the fact that the Lord has chosen to preserve my body and spare me a c-section in this loss (granted everything goes as planned tomorrow), and two, that we have been presented with an amazing opportunity to minister to a person who performs abortions on live babies. I don’t think I would ever be in a position to talk to a person who does this type of thing and the fact that the Lord has brought us into contact with this woman causes me to believe that He wants to use us even in her life. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

An Answer to Prayer: Embryo Adoption


The video linked above was taken from over 2 hours of footage and any reference made to God was edited out. Please know that this story can't really be told fully with out Him in it.

Enjoying Baby While I Can

                                                                   18 weeks pregnant

Details & Prayer

I am scheduled to go in for induction in the morning (Saturday). Our prayer now is for safety over me and guidance for the doctors. I would ask that the Lord allow the process of induction to be one that is not very painful (physically) and happens quickly. A vaginal delivery is the ideal choice in this situation, however, a c-section might occur if all does not go as planned. Our desire is to deliver this baby naturally (meaning vaginally). We also pray for the care of our other children at home. The nurse said this process might be a slow one and could take days. It is very hard for me to be away from my other children, and so I ask for God's provision with care for them, and comfort for my heart. We would also be grateful if the baby could come out in tact and able for us to see and hold. Thank you, thank you for continued prayers and support!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Growin' Belly (16 weeks)

Telling the kids about the baby

On the day we told Christian & Cambria about the baby, we brought a birthday invitation into the house and said they'd been invited to a party happening in September. The invitation had a riddle inside to find out who's birthday party it was. They are really into riddles and love doing this kind of thing. It read:

You will find me where the hunger makes a rumble; 
and in here I like to dance & tumble.

I have a lot of space to swim and 
in this place you have also been.

It takes me several months to grow, 
but at this time I have my fingers & my toes.

Although right now we haven't met, 
you will soon love me very much, I bet!

So here's your final hint about my tiny life,
I am not number 1, not 2, not 3, not 4--but 5!

This is the day J.V. and I saw a heartbeat on our little "bean" for the first time. 
We were so thrilled and went out on a date night to celebrate at the Canyon restaurant. (I was just 7 weeks pregnant).

Blessed Day

May 5, 2011
I went to the doctor on Tuesday and, as I sat in the waiting room with my baby dancing around in my belly, I was filled with amazing peace. It wasn’t like the appointment just a week prior when I sat there, focused on my breathing and using everything in me not to burst out into sobs in front of all the other expectant mothers. No, this time, I sat there, looking through the scrapbooks the doctor keeps in her waiting room, enjoying all the pictures of babies she had delivered in the past. Looking at the different families and wondering about their different stories, and then seeing our own family’s growth through the years (pictured in the books) with the arrival of baby 1, baby 2, and then the twins. God gently reminded me of our journey and His faithfulness. I was really just able to sit in peace and enjoy my baby’s movements.
The feeling of peace continued over the next day when we visited Sea World and Cami rubbed my belly asking the baby if she was enjoying her time there. I experienced this (almost strange) calm and then it occurred to me that I hadn’t felt the baby move all day. I thought “Am I losing my mind?”
At home that night lying in bed with my hands on my stomach, I focused on the tiny life inside of me; watching to see if I could feel her movements. Although it felt like there was something still in my stomach, it didn’t feel like life anymore. The next day (Thursday) I went to my Bible study and they played a slideshow of all the children and with it played a familiar children’s song. They played “Jesus Loves Me” and quite suddenly I felt a rush of emotions in my heart. The only other time I had heard the full version of this song was when a good friend of mine had lost her precious daughter to a heart condition a few years earlier. We all know the first couple of verses, but then the song continues:
Jesus loves me! loves me still,

'tho I'm very weak and ill,

that I might from sin be free,

bled and died upon the tree.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He who died

heaven's gate to open wide;

He will wash away my sin,

let His little child come in.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
As I heard the words and looked at the faces of the children up on the screen, I realized that our baby girl had just entered those gates. Tears welled up in my eyes, but still, peace.
I left the study a little early and drove to my doctor’s office. As I lay on the table waiting, holding my breath and listening to the static of the doppler on my belly, the nurse finally set down her instrument and said, “I think the baby is gone.” Although I knew this moment was coming, my heart couldn’t help but sink again. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I told her that everything is ok, the Lord has given me peace. She cried and talked with me and then we walked to the front of the office. It was their lunch hour so the office was empty. We talked about the details of what would happen next. I would receive confirmation by ultrasound, and then be admitted to the hospital as soon as possible for induction. Like my other scheduled C-section with the twins, I would go in knowing that I would deliver a baby that day, but this baby wouldn’t be coming home with us. Still, peace.
We love this baby. We wanted this baby. We already miss this baby, but we know this is not the end. This precious child of God is made perfect with her heavenly father now and we will be united with her again one day. Our whole family, the kids we were allowed to raise here on earth, and all the babies that He called home sooner. We will be together and it will be a day of rejoicing!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

This cross is heavy

May 3, 2011
As J.V. and I were setting up this blog and reading over the events that have unfolded over the last week and a half, we realized that the call of concern from my doctor was received on the Friday before Easter—“Good Friday.” That’s the day that our seemingly “perfect life” began to unravel. That’s the day that I called J.V. at work, trying to catch my breath between frantic sobs as I told him that something was very wrong. We wondered if there was significance to the day and God’s timing, and we believe there is. The day that the Lord, himself, was tortured and beaten, carrying His cross to die for us is the same day that we were asked to pick up our own cross. Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
A friend told me something recently that has stuck and resonates with me even more now in light of our current circumstances. She said, “We are called to live a life surrendered to the Lord and that doesn’t necessarily mean always taking the road of least resistance.” The culture that we live in tells us to make life easy on ourselves, do what’s convenient, whatever feels good, but is that what the Lord has demonstrated to us? I don’t think so. He wants us to be authentic followers of Him and that will mean sharing in His suffering, that will mean answering His calling even when it doesn’t feel good. Stepping out in faith, when you can’t see how the next step is even possible. He only asks us to be faithful for today. We don’t need to worry about the future, or the details, or the how’s or why’s because we can leave that to Him. He just asks us to trust Him. This is how we are refined, how we show Him obedience, and how we become who He intended us to be. I am not suggesting that I am happy about our circumstances. Would I have signed up for this? No way. Would I take it away and make my daughter healthy and with us if it were in my control. Of course I would. My flesh yells out in the middle of the night, “This is not fair! This is a horrible, dirty trick. Why is this happening to us?” But I know that those thoughts are only the enemy whispering to me in my weakness. He will not have victory. I am living under a God that I have surrendered my life to and that I must trust with every circumstance of my life.
I would encourage anyone who has had hardship in their life and seen God work through it, to claim it and not keep it a secret. I think the Lord gives us testimony to be shared, not hidden. In a way, the Lord has prepared J.V. and I to walk this journey, because I have seen His faithfulness before when I had initially felt He wasn’t being fair in a circumstance. J.V. and I are not strangers to loss. We endured 8 devastating miscarriages before this. I experienced true anger at God during that time. I felt there was not even reason to pray anymore, because He never answered…not the way I thought He should anyways. Did He even hear me? He did, because not long after the suffering, He allowed us to be a part of a greater blessing, a plan that in our humanness we would not have orchestrated ourselves. He allowed us to adopt our beautiful embryos, which have given us the blessing of our twins. We are a part of a ministry for the Lord that we would have never imagined for our lives. He did answer our prayers, just not the way we thought He should when we were only looking at a piece of His tapestry. We serve a God who does not operate in a box. He tells us in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” He had a plan all along and He does now too. How gracious of Him to surround us with an army of believers who are intercepting and praying on our behalf! He is using all of you to carry us through right now and we are grateful! A lot of people, when faced with a loss of this degree, might feel alone and isolated in their experience, and I have at times, but because of all we experienced prior to this journey, we had several other couples we could call on who have walked this path before us, who lost their sons and daughters. They have shown us how to walk with grace and trust. They are the ones who are brave, faithful, and have given their lives completely to the Lord. I am inspired by their courage and they lift me up. Thank you, friends, you have paved the way for us and our own journey. 

The day our lives changed forever

In January, we were shocked at the news that I had become pregnant. We were a little confused, but rejoiced still and thought this baby to be a beautiful gift from the Lord.  However, after several prior pregnancy losses (early losses), and other events happening in our lives, we decided to wait to share our news. Around 16 weeks we joyously began spreading the word. We celebrated with family and friends until the Friday before Easter when we got a concerned call from the doctor.  I had gone for my routine 18 week ultrasound and they discovered that the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby was dangerously low. They asked me to see a specialist and have a more detailed ultrasound the following week. I was put on bed rest and told to drink as much as possible. Well, the very next week I went to see the specialist and what he found was more devastating than anything we could have imagined.
The doctor said that our sweet baby had not developed correctly, meaning that her kidneys were not functioning properly and they could find no bladder for her. It appeared as if she may have a hole in her heart and they concluded that she would be "incompatible with life." With no amniotic fluid, her lungs would not be allowed to develop as they should and her organs were not repairable. The specialist who told me that he is "in the business of fixing babies" suggested we terminate the pregnancy. Of course, we are unable to do that to our precious child, created with value and purpose by the Lord. So the very difficult journey begins. I will carry this little one until the Lord chooses to take her, whether that be in a few months or right after she is delivered. I am almost 20 weeks right now and she is due in September. We are clinging to the one who promises never to leave us. He is our "strength in time of trouble." Psalm 37:39

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The ending of this story is good

April 30, 2011
It’s amazing how much more we are capable of when we tap into the power of God. As heirs with Him, we have this ability, but I think we so often forget. When J.V. and I were going through a pregnancy loss group at Saddleback church (almost 4 years ago now), there were women in our group sharing about how they had lost their babies late in the pregnancy, and even at birth. All of our losses, at that time, had been early losses, and to try to imagine the pain that these ladies must be feeling was just inconceivable to me. “I just couldn’t handle that kind of suffering!” I thought to myself. My heart went out to them.
Many of you are probably thinking the same thing about me now. “How can she stand it?” “Oh my gosh, can you believe this is happening to them?” “How tragic.” The truth is, the Bible warns us, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
I have been very humbled in the last week as people walking their own “valleys” send their encouragement to us. Wow, I think. They are encouraging me when they, themselves, are going through such pain? I couldn’t do it! The truth is, we all have suffering in our lives, but He gives each of us exactly what we need to do what He has called us to do, and to walk through whatever trials we must. He promises us that we are not alone. That He is with us, carrying us. The Lord knows how it feels to suffer (so much more than we ever could), and the best part of our story is that it’s not over yet. Whether the Lord chooses to do a miracle in our little girl’s life by healing her or not, He will be glorified by this. He will use her precious life in a special way, and He has designed her for His beautiful and unique purpose. We can rejoice that this time of suffering on earth is nothing but a vapor of time that will disappear and will “… achieve for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  2 Cr 4:17 This is not our home, but a place we pass through only for a moment’s time. I can assure you that the ending of this story is good. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Our "borrowed baby"

April 29, 2011
The Lord allowed me some relief today. Our awesome, loving God gave me new eyes for our circumstances and my peace (at this moment) is so sweet. I told J.V. that I had been thinking about this pregnancy and how in the world I could have any joy at all in the next 5 months knowing that I will lose this precious baby. I wondered if it were possible in any way to go on with my life as “normal” and actually function, maybe do some of the things I had wanted to do with the kids this summer. As I pondered this, the Lord spoke to my heart. I remembered how along this journey J.V. and I had thought about doing a foster to adopt program to build our family and adopt a child. At this moment, I thought, no way I could do that, they might give me a baby for a year and then take it back (that might be just as painful or even more than what I’m enduring!) But suddenly I realized that fostering a child is kind of what the Lord has called us to do…with this baby within me. He has asked J.V. and I to care for a sick child for the next 5 months at which time He will bring back home to her heavenly father. This baby never belonged to me, none of my children do. The Lord has entrusted each of them to us for a time and then they will go where they can be truly whole, to be with Him. I can rest assured because I know that this precious gift He has given us for a time, is not just going to any home, she is going to an amazing home (not as in traditional fostering situations where the child may be put back into a home with drugs or a parent that does not care for her, etc). No, our “borrowed baby” is going to a place where she will have complete joy and a perfect, healthy body. No tears, no pain, no sickness. I think I can find joy in knowing that for as long as He gives us this child. The Lord chose our family to be the ones to care for her...what a special job. He has asked us to keep this child comfortable and help her feel love. It is a gift, and right now (I’m not promising for tomorrow), but at this moment, I can enjoy the kicks I feel as I write with out the enormous cloud of sorrow sweeping over me. This is what God has called us to in this season, and I’m honored to take care of this baby. I think this is kind of what it means when they talk about “the sacred dance of grief and joy.” Only He can do that.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why do bad things happen to good people?

April 28, 2011
During a time of recurring pregnancy losses, I found a Bible Study by Beth Moore that discusses people who love the Lord, and their experience with suffering. It is a difficult concept for us to understand. Why would a loving, all-powerful God allow such heartache in those who have given their lives to Him? This section spoke about Luke, chapter 1 and described how Zechariah and Elizabeth were blameless before God, yet Elizabeth was barren. The study explains that there are life experiences that come so naturally for many people, and yet for some, the very same life experiences are like chasing the wind. When they don’t happen according to our expectations we feel as though we are being punished unfairly.
She gives the illustration of a single woman who is not fit for motherhood (addicted to substance abuse, etc.)—nor does she even want to be a mother—and how easily she might become pregnant; contrasted with a God-fearing couple and their battle against infertility. Then she writes, “While there are many that have things happen naturally, God only chooses a special few to show off His supernatural power.” Yes, the Lord could have allowed J.V. and I to build our family in the traditional way. He could have spared us a child that doctors suggest we terminate because her tiny body is so “incompatible with life.” However, because he loves us, he is allowing us to experience the supernatural. He has given us a story and a testimony that could only have been written by His hand, and we are grateful. Each one of our children is a miracle beyond comprehension and we praise Him because He chose us for this story. He has not forsaken us. He understands our pain, and I have to believe His promise that “He who began a good work in (us) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 1:6
The Lord is weaving a beautiful tapestry with each of our lives. The side we can see appears to be a tangled mess of yarn going this way and that, making no picture at all. However, when you turn it over you can see an amazing work of art, each thread just where it should be, made by the most amazing designer. I wish I could see the other side of this tapestry right now…I get glimpses of it. I see it when I look at Christian and Cambria, Caden, and Cooper. I think of how gracious our God is to entrust us with these four healthy children for a time on this earth. For now, though, I just have to trust that He is working every piece of our life—every strand of yarn—together to reveal an amazing masterpiece when it is finished.