Our Babies

Our Babies

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dear Harper

You’ve been in heaven for 1,456 days today. Saturday at 1:43 pm, you would be four years old. We will celebrate that day with a camping party for your brother and his friends. I will smile and thank God for the healthy little boy running and playing in our back yard. I will undoubtedly shake my head and laugh at least once at the things he’s said during the party. I will do every single thing possible to make it the best day for him. 

And I will try my best not to cry, but at some point, the tears will flow. 

Because there should be two of you running around. Because no matter how much we celebrate Jax, there will always be a big piece of my heart that’s missing. Because no matter what I do, how much I plan or how perfect it all seems, it just won’t ever be quite right without you there..

This year i’ve become so insanely emotional. I think it’s because your brother is so incredibly big now. He’s smart. He’s hilarious. He rarely takes a breath in between sentences. He’s independent. You did such a great job of getting him to us. He will go to pre-k in a few weeks. Harper. Big big things are happening. Life seems to be moving faster with him. It’s a big, crazy, tear-filled time for your mommy. 

With every single milestone, I wonder what it would be like with both of you here.

I imagine constantly what you would be like, how your little personality would shine, the things you would love and hate.  In my mind even though you looked just like me, you would be much like your Daddy. You’d be my laid back, quieter kid. I can’t imagine your ever getting a word in edgewise with your brother around. I’m sure he would communicate enough for both of you. He is loud and crazy. He all but tap dances into the room. But he’s cautious and a little bit of a scaredy cat just like I am. I always worried that he would be jumping off of furniture and breaking bones, but that’s just not the case. You, my sweet girl, would be sneaky and unafraid. You would give me daily heart palpitations.  He is my snuggle bunny like Daddy and Sissy, and I’m certain that you would get your independence and “please don’t touch me” attitude from your mommy…. and it would drive me just a little bit crazy. 

I watch your brother play and love, and live his life and I know without a doubt that you two would have had the best time together.  He sometimes lapses into this crazy language that I don’t understand. He makes up words and gives them definitions. It makes me think that somehow he still has that twin language thing I read about when I was pregnant with you. As much as it makes me sad to live my life without you, I sometimes think it’s the saddest that he doesn’t have you around. You’re very much a part of him as you are Daddy and me. We talk about you. He asks questions, and wants to know as much about you as possible. 

I bought your brother’s first real backpack this summer, and in my head I picked one out for you too. His is a dinosaur, and yours is the cutest purple owl. It’s precious. I picked out another for you that’s bigger because I didn’t know if you’d need special care equipment with you. I filed it away with my list of birthday and Christmas gifts I’ve made for you over the last four years. This year I’ve added a Sofia the First Enchanted castle to the list for you. You’ll have your own pink cupcake amongst all of the others at the party this weekend, and when it’s all over and everybody has gone home, your daddy and I will sit with it and shed some tears. Then we’ll put it in the box in the freezer with the others. I sometimes find myself wondering to the girls side of the children’s department wondering if you’d like this outfit or that. It sounds crazy. It feels like I’m setting myself up for more tears and sadness. But it gives you life again for me. I can’t explain it, but it helps. 

There isn’t a single day that goes by that my heart doesn’t feel your absence. I relive your birthday and every second I had with you as much as possible. I’m afraid one day I’ll forget. It scares me.  

Just Saturday, a sweet church friend who prayed for you constantly talked to me about you. She reminded me that she has your photo in her bible, and how much you and Jax changed her life. Imagine that sweet girl. You only breathed outside of my belly for under 2 hours, and you changed a life.  If that was it, my heart would burst with pride… but you, precious love changed so many. Because of you, people pray differently, they love differently, they give sacrificially. Your daddy and I are no exception. Because of you, other mommies and daddies who can’t hold their babies are able to have a special plate to hold and remember their babies. Each one has your name on it. This makes me so proud. I’m as proud of you as I am your brother when he learns a new skill or your Sissy when she aces the Libero. I could jump up and down and cheer for you just thinking about it.  You continue to make us so very proud. 

You are my always my reminder of God’s incredible love for us. One of our favorite verses has always been James 1:17; “ Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  It’s on my wedding ring. It’s always been God’s promise over my marriage to Daddy, and over our family.  You, precious girl, are our good and perfect gift. You’re our reminder that even in our darkest moments, when we don't understand our own grief or when we fail to show grace,  His love is steadfast and unchanging. You’re our proof that even the smallest among us can make the greatest impact on the world around them… and you’re not stopping that impact any time soon. I’m so very thankful.

Happy Birthday week, Harper! Never stop changing our world for the better. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A love that gives. A love that sacrifices.

I've always been in church. My whole life. For 34 years, I've heard about Jesus. At age 7, I asked jesus into my heart. John 3:16 was the first verse I learned to quote from memory. I taught Sunday school for 12 years. I've been involved in ministry. Easter isn't a new concept for me. I've always known about the sacrifice God made for my salvation. 

But it took 32 years to fully understand it.

Because I was pregnant with 2 ️precious babies for 29 weeks and 6 days. And for the last 9 weeks and 6 days, I knew that without a miracle, my child would die. Every single day for 78 days, I begged God for the miracle that would let my child live, and breathe, and grow normally. I begged God to protect her brother so I wouldn't lose him too.  

I couldn't pray enough. 
I couldn't beg God enough.
I couldn't cry and worry enough.

So we prayed, begged, cried and worried until we could get the strength to do so again. Because He was our only hope. Because we were their parents. 

Because no matter what, at all cost, we were supposed to protect them from harm, nurture them to health, keep them safe.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, there was mention by our specialist that we would discuss our options at our next visit. This meaning that we would chart our course...make decisions which would make us acknowledge that Jax would be the only baby we brought home. Value his life and health above his sisters. 

Because that's what common sense would tell us to do. 
Because that's what medicine would tell us to do. 
Because there was no hope for my Harper. 

And for the first time in all of those weeks of praying, worrying, and crying I felt totally helpless.  Even with all of the evidence in front of me, I couldn't imagine making those decisions. I couldn't imagine giving up hope. I couldn't imagine giving one child's life for the other. Even if it was to save the life of my sweet ️precious Jax. 

And somehow in my grief, my confusion, and my worry...I finally understood the sacrifice God made for me thousands of years ago...

Someone who hadn't been born yet.
Someone who would make horrible choices.
Someone who would be angry at him at times. 
Someone who would lie, judge others, disobey her parents, and under-appreciate the blessings he would give her. 
Someone who was a sinner.

He did the unimaginable, the thing I could never have done. He gave his son's life. 

For me. 
For you. 
For your neighbor. 
For that bully in your child's class. 
For the facebook friend who has vastly different political ideologies than you do. 
For the wealthy, the poor, and the middle class.
For the selfish and the giving. 
For the ones who've mistreated you
For the ones you've mistreated.
For the liars, cheaters, and thieves.
For the terrorist, the child predator, and the dictator. 
For all of us. 

And where I struggled so, and had countless sleepless nights contemplating the mere thought of making such choices, he did this freely.  He didn't hesitate. He didn't second guess. He gave. When his child begged for his life. He gave. When his child was lonely and afraid. He gave. When his child suffered at the hands of bullies and tyrants. He gave.

Because He knew that one day a chubby little girl with a mullet in Arkansas would ask him to be her savior. And that little girl's path wouldn't always be easy. And that little girl would make bad choices. And that little girl one day would face unimaginable heartache. 

Because he knew me. 
He knew I would need his spirit to guide me, his grace to redeem me, his love to surround me, and his strength to sustain me. 

He knew me because I'm his child. 

And he loves me with a love I can't even begin to fathom. 

A love that it pure. A love that is kind, patient, and unselfish. 

A love that gives. A love that sacrifices.

"Could we with ink the ocean fill, 
and we're the skies of parchment made. 
Were every stalk on Earth a quill, 
And every man a scribe by trade.

To write the love of God above
Would drain the oceans dry. 
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Oh love of God 
How rich and pure
How measureless and strong! 

It shall forevermore endure 
The saints and angels song." 

Friday, November 29, 2013

I'm their Momma

"Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,for I am trusting you.Show me where to walk,for I give myself to you. Psalm 143:8"

Three months old. My baby is three months old. How did that go so fast? Just yesterday he was a teeny 2 lb 14 oz baby, struggling to breathe, so pitiful in that little isolette. Today he's a 10 lb strong, healthy chubby boy with big blue eyes and the most precious chubby cheeks imaginable.  

And he's three months old.
He'll be going to kindergarten tomorrow. 
I'm already crying thinking about it. 

Jax is the best baby. He's a sweetheart, a good eater, and a great sleeper (at night anyway). He's very alert...he loves lights and ceiling fans, and he loves his tummy time. He rolled over at 7 weeks, and he loves to show off how he can hold his head up and "stand" on mommy's lap.  During the day, he's a little spoiled. He would much rather be sleeping in my lap than in his bassinet, and prefers being held to entertaining himself. There are many many days that he rides in his carrier on my chest while I attempt to accomplish a few things around here. The nursery just got finished, there are a million thank you notes to finish, and now there are holidays to plan. It will all happen eventually. 

Some days I get a shower before Jerry gets home, and those days make me very happy. Some days I don't. And that's ok. 

Sometimes I get laundry done or dishes washed or dinner on the stove on time. Some days I don't. And that's ok. 

Some days it looks like I've made an effort to get ready. I've combed my hair. I've put on "real" clothes. I might even have on make up. And some days I look like I just crawled out of bed, I'm covered in spit up, and I haven't pottied all day. And that's ok. 

Some days it's just hard y'all. I'm not going to lie. Like the times when I've changed my shirt 5 times before 10 am because I'm soaked in spit up. Or the times I've worked for a solid hour to get him to sleep and I sneeze and I wake him up. Or when I just can't figure out how to get it all done in the course of a day. It's hard.

And through it all, I have the same question...all day, every day. 

Am I doing this right? 

I'm learning that motherhood is a job unlike any other. I never realized what it would truly be grow and sustain a life, to take care of this little life, to make sure it progresses as it should. I constantly wonder if the decisions I'm making are good for him, if he's on the right schedule, if he's eating ok, if he's pooping normally, if his breathing sounds normal. I worry that I'm not doing enough for him developmentally. Did I give him enough tummy time? Is he favoring one side of his head too much more than the other? Should I be doing more? Will he catch up developmentally to other babies his age? How do I help this? 

So I make the mistake of googling my questions. I read article after article on preemie sleep habits. I look at message boards and see if Jax is progressing normally for babies like him. I get lost in a web of information...and I end up more confused than before. 

And I wonder if I'll ever get it right. 
And I pray that he survives in spite of me. 
And I ask God to fill in the gaps that I know I'm leaving...

And then he does this

Or this...

Or looks at me like this...

And it's ok. 
Because I'm his Momma. 

Because regardless of what books I read, what opinions I hear, or how the world will define "normal" for babies that are like him, he still needs me. And I need him. Without even knowing it, he forgives my many mistakes and comforts my soul. He brings me a joy like I've never known. He is who I need. He is my heart, my purpose and my life. God knew that when he gave him to me. 

And no matter how rough it gets or how tired I am, I know it's going to be ok. I know it in the middle of the night when I'm rocking him to sleep, I know it when his little chubby fingers work out of the swaddle to touch me, I know it in the way he looks at me, and how he turns his head and raises his eyebrows when he hears my voice. I know it in the way that he relaxes when I sing to him. 

I know it will be ok.
I know every day is my chance to make it better for him. 

Because I'm his Momma. 

But I'm Harper's Momma too. I'll never forget that. I think about it every single day. Although I'm not raising her anymore, I still have questions. When I was pregnant, I analyzed the situation constantly. What did I do to make this happen? Why would my body not nurture her the way it should have? What could we have done differently? 

In the hospital, as I sat there with Jax, surrounded by rooms with twins in them I wondered what it would have been like to have them both there...watching and praying for two sweet babies to survive in the most fragile of situations. When Jax would cry or seem unsettled, I wondered if he missed her as much as I did. 

And now we're home. And life should be normal now, but what is that? How do we ever become normal when a piece of us is missing? I'm a momma of two babies, but I only hold one in my arms. How do I ever stop thinking of that? 

I know I never will. 

There are daily reminders. The way I always refer to my labor as the day I had the babies. The way I still call Jax's room the babies' room. The way that I want to sign her name just before Jax' I've always said them. The way that when I celebrate every milestone with Jax, a part of me hurts because I should be celebrating with two babies.The way that I always mention her when people ask if Jax is my first baby. 

My answer just comes pouring out of me. I know it must make people uncomfortable, but it's true. I just can't say "yes." He's my second born. She was my first. She always will be. I can't say it differently. 

Because I'm her Momma. 

I'm still some ways I'm more afraid than I was pregnant, but it's different now. When I was pregnant, I was afraid of what might happen...that my prayers wouldn't be answered in the way we hoped.

But there was a future.
Now my fear is different.

I'm terrified that there will be a day when I start to forget her. I'm afraid I'll forget her smell, the way it felt to hold her, how in complete awe I was by that precious person. I fear that I won't remember what it felt like to have her lay on my chest, how it felt to hold my daughter's hand, or what it was like to watch Jerry care for her and watch the sunset from our room for the first and only time. 

I want to remember every part of our day with her. My only day with her. So I relive it...a lot. I think about it, trying to recall every detail. I can't forget.

Because I'm her Momma.

And grief is a strange, tricky thing. I know when to expect to be emotional... The day we packed away her clothes and her bed. Holidays. Milestones. Receiving the plate with her precious handprints on it again.  But there are other times that just when I think I have a handle on it, it hits me out of nowhere.... Like when I baked Jerry's birthday cake and knew I'd never teach her how to make it, or when I look at Jax and can't be thankful enough for the gift she gave us. 

And no matter what I do, what books I could read on grieving, the people I could talk to and how many tears I cry, I'll always wonder...

Am I doing this right? 

I cry. I remember and smile. I get upset. I am proud of her. I am sad for her. I want to do something to honor her memory. 

Because I'm her momma. 

The thing is, no book, counselor, friend or family member can get me through this. There's no magic potion, no special prayer or prophetic verse that equates relief for someone who has lost someone they love. I wish there was something I could do like that...

Or maybe I don't. 

Yes. It hurts at times, sometimes worse than I ever thought it could...but my life is still better because of her. I am different because of her. I am who I am today for one simple reason. 

Because I'm her Momma. 

And even though it hurts, and I still struggle to figure it out from day to day, it's going to be ok. Every day is a renewal for chance to make a difference in the world like she made in my life. Even though I feel like I'm blindly making my way through this process. God's love surrounds me daily and guides me through even the darkest of days. 

He guides me. He loves me. He renews me.

Because I'm his daughter. 

And even through I'm at a point in my life when I'm celebrating the growth of one child and the memory and legacy of another, even though I can't see my way through spit up and tears at times, and I'm sleepless from midnight feedings and tears on my pillow, even though I'm unsure of what to do next, when I feel like I'm drowning in my grief. I know it's going to be ok. He won't leave me...just like I won't let Harper's memories leave my mind...or Jax's hand leave my finger. He's my advocate, my number one fan..the one cheering me on to be the best mom, wife, daughter & friend I can be, even on the days it feels like too much...just like I was an advocate for my babies, how I stood by Jax's bedside and cheered on every good blood gas and every ml of food eaten.., how I celebrated every movement from Harper in my belly and how proud I am of all the lives she changed in the little amount of time she was here. 

He is with me..just as he encouraged me in my struggle to get pregnant, how he sustained me  when I first heard the diagnosis, and how he surrounded me with love and reassurance when I went into the delivery room.

He's there. Just like he always has been. Just like I always will be for them.

Because he's my father. 

Because I'm Harper and Jax's momma.

Thank you Jesus for daily renewal of strength, for your unfailing love that surrounds me, and for the two precious world changers you entrusted to me. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Unaware of these Afflictions...

So I've been trying to write this blog for two weeks. In some ways, it's more difficult than the last one... I don't know why. I guess it's because we're moving forward. I'm still not entirely sure how to do that. We're working on that every single day. Figuring it out.... baby steps. Some days are better than others, and some days are just hard. One day it will be easier to see a set of twins in public. One day, I'll be able to talk about her without tears in my eyes. One day, it won't hurt to see little girls with big bows in their hair. One day.. but that's a process, and steps we've not fully reached yet. And that's ok. God is faithful to provide peace, reassurance, and a good cry when I need it most. He understands, remember?

Harper's celebration was perfect. We didn't want a traditional funeral. It didn't feel right for all that she's done in such a short little life. We wanted to celebrate God's faithfulness and love to us. We wanted to have a church service, worshipping God for all he's done for us.... and we did. And true to form with Harper, she touched more lives with that service too...Another fantastic way that God continues to answer our prayer that these babies would be used for his glory. He is good, and his faithfulness continues to amaze me. Yes, there were moments of sadness in that service, but as I sat and listened to the ways that Harper changed us all for the better, I was happy... and a very proud mama. In fact, I found myself smiling as I sat through her service.

So we've now been in the NICU for 25 days. Jax started out strong, but had his share of issues. When he was born, he just needed a little bit of oxygen, and it looked like he just needed to grow and learn to eat. Then he had a series of respiratory issues that set us back.  He's had a pneumothorax,  a collapsed lung that put pressure on his heart, a heart murmur, and a scare with a possible intestinal infection. It seemed that for every step we took forward, we took 2 steps backward. It's been a complete roller coaster. There's nothing that can ever prepare you for watching your child be "bagged" to help him breathe, be on a ventilator  for weeks, cough up large amounts of blood, face possible surgery, or be stuck a 100 times to test for more issues. Nothing can prepare you for the feeling that you just want to hold him when you can't, soothe him like a "normal" baby, or for that longing to be home...with him... like most other moms do with their babies.

It's difficult at best, but God is faithful.

Jax is doing so much better now. He's completely off of all respiratory support, breathing room air like a big boy. The intestinal infection they thought he had isn't a possibility anymore, and his heart murmur is healed completely. He's now getting real feeds that they increase daily, and doing really well. It's hard not to get your hopes up in these situations, but he looks really good. He needs to learn to eat now, which is a process, but he's so so much better than before. My pastor said it best when he pointed out that with every single incident with him, we asked for prayer....and with every single prayer came God's solution for it. every.single.time.

There's a song by the David Crowder Band called "How he loves us". Ever since that day when we were given Harper's diagnosis, I've had it in my heart. I don't know that before then I ever really sang it, but after that day I sang it constantly to them. I hummed it in the operating room while I was waiting on Jerry to be let in with me, and while I was waiting to go see my babies. I still sing it to Jax. I've always sung the chorus only, repeating "Oh.. how he loves us! Oh... how he loves us! How he loves us so!" Over and over again. I had heard the rest of the song before but had never paid attention to the lyrics until Jerry and I were in the hospital on the night the babies were born. This is the first verse:

He is jealous for me.
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, 
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful you are, 
And how great your affections are for me.

It seemed so fitting that we fully recognized these specific lyrics on that night. We were very much in the midst of a hurricane... a violent storm of sadness and sorrow...but somehow we felt so very loved. We were and still are so completely aware of God's love and provision for us that we bend with the winds of this storm, but we are not broken people. Jerry and I are living the first half of this verse. I understand more and more each day the depth of the love our father has for us. That he would go through this willingly to give us abundant life. How incredible.

So I look at my son who has had practically every preemie ailment imaginable, and still see this healthy, unaffected, laid back baby.  With the exception of one day when he was coming off of a morphine drip, he has been so at peace.  I've watched as they put in PIC lines and arterial lines without him even flinching. The doctors have all remarked about how he just doesn't act sick. He's never really acted that way. Through a pneumothorax and collapsed lung, 2 chest tubes, 2 ventilators, an infection scare and a heart murmur, he has remained this healthy looking baby who smiles and continues to grow. They have all said "his body doesn't seem to know he's sick. It doesn't make sense." His vitals stay stable. His face keeps smiling. He is calm.

Jerry said it best the other night. He said he had been thinking about our situation on his long drive home, and how God continues to bless Jax with good health and answered prayers. He talked about how the doctors keep saying he's just unaffected by what's happening to him. He said it was like this song...that Jax is just unaware of his afflictions because of God's glory and love for him. It's like he's so peaceful because he knows that God's in control and taking care of him. Jax is living the second half of that verse.

God loves us, and he is faithful to bring peace and reassurance in every situation... to Jerry and I as we muddle through how to cope with the loss of our daughter, and how to retain our sanity in the NICU with a sick baby... and even enough to bring peace and comfort to the body of a tiny little boy, only days old, through multiple ailments and procedures. He is faithful even in the tallest and the smallest of us, isn't he?

So as we continue to move forward, I thank God for his faithfulness in all things, for his peace that passes understanding, for strength to go on each day, and for his overwhelming love that surrounds us.

He is faithful.

I leave you with a picture of Jax at 1 week, and Jax at 3 weeks. We're so in love with this growing boy, and amazed by his progress in such a short time!

"For I am confident of this very thing, that God who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

Monday, August 26, 2013

Answered Prayers and Harper's Gift

Two days ago, I wrote my daughter's obituary. The day before, Jerry and I planned her funeral. These were never things I wanted to do. I believed with every fiber of my being that I wouldn't have to, but somehow God prepared me to do them. In fact, I knew before I went in for my c-section that this was going to happen. I knew what this blog would be about, and I knew that even though it would hurt like nothing I had ever experienced before, we would be ok.

On Monday, August 19th, I delivered my two precious babies at 29 weeks. Jaxson "Jax" Childrey Roberts weighed 2 lb 15 oz and is 15 inches long. His big sister Harper Solley Roberts weighed 2 lbs 2 oz. They were the most fantastic thing I had ever seen. I love this picture of them for several reasons. One of my silly worries in all of this was that I get at least one picture of them together. God gave me just that. Jax has had some lung issues since Tuesday, but on his birthday he needed no interventions. So I got to hold them together, talk to them together and get my picture I wanted.  God is faithful in even the smallest things, isn't he. I also love it because it just looks like Jax is thanking Jesus for his big sister...something we still do every day. It's just the perfect picture.

So after 9 weeks of prayer and fasting, my daughter met Jesus. She didn't come home or go to the NICU with her brother. She went to heaven.

So did God answer my prayers?

Absolutely. We got exactly what we prayed for.

Every single day, many times a day, we prayed for these babies.... along with all of you...these precious people whom we don't even know, but love our babies enough to pray for them. My prayer times were just me talking to God, with their prayer taggie on my belly and clutching their IVF dish in my hands. I started off by telling God how much I knew he loved my babies, how he was the only person who loved them more than I did. How I thought as their mom that I knew what they needed best, but I knew that he knew more than I did about what they needed. I reminded him of how he had held my babies long before they were in my tummy, when they were in that dish. And i reminded him of how he kept them when we thought we had lost them at 5 weeks. I told him all of this, and I believed it... every single word. I also prayed for Harper's healing and Jax's protection and continued growth--and how if he knew every little thing about them, he could do what was best for them.  I prayed for these little missionaries, that through their story, others would see how awesome God is. How powerful his ways are and how merciful and loving he is. I ended my prayer with asking God to give us two healthy babies. I asked him this a thousand times a day.

And He did.

You see, my sweet Harper didn't take many breaths on this Earth, but God knows her and knew she needed more than this Earth could offer. Her heavenly life was going to be more fulfilling than a life of doctors visits and medical interventions. He knew that although her "life" would be physically on Earth, that life didn't compare to what he wanted to give her. He also knew that as much as Jerry and I wanted to watch this sweet baby to grow in our arms and live and play with her brother, he knew that we needed to live through this and with the blessed assurance that she is so much better than her life would have been here. So he did what he does best... took care of his child, my baby, in the way that was best for her. He continues to take care of us in the process.

Two healthy babies. That's what he gave me. I realized it a few nights ago when I watched Jax in his bassinet.  I was thinking about how fortunate we are that his problems are so few. The perspective you get in this place is so valuable. I thanked Jesus for my precious, healthy boy.... the one the doctors call a "big boy," and for keeping him so safe. Then I thanked God for my sweet girl, who was now so so healthy and happy. Two healthy babies. That's what I have.

I've said for 9 weeks that these babies are missionaries already, that their story was going to touch hearts and lives for Christ even before they were born. I had no idea how big God would answer this part of my prayers. In 9 short weeks, my babies and their story reached literally thousands of people. They quickly had an army of people praying for them around the clock. Almost daily, I received messages from people who were able to share Christ through their story. We received messages from church after church that let us know they were praying. Friends would tell me of how people I didn't know would ask about them and pray for them. These two teeny babies affected our church in fantastic ways. Their journey changed others, but it changed us as well, in ways that I still don't fully comprehend. It changed our prayer lives, our hearts and challenged our faith daily.  I hope I'm with these babies in heaven when they meet all of the lives they've touched.  So much better than any softball win or dance recital I would've witnessed on Earth.

These little teeny babies, are so much to us. And before they were born, they became so much to so many.

Harper looked just like me. I mean exactly like my baby pictures. In some way, I know she would've been a lot like me. She was already a teacher. She taught us how to pray, about God's faithfulness, and how he loves us so unconditionally, but she also taught us how to give. She was the recipient of so many prayers, but in the end it was what she gave us that mattered most. From our first specialist appointment, the doctor told us that she was going to be Jax's angel baby. Her job was to keep her heart beating so that Jax could stay inside and grow as much as possible. In the end, that's exactly what she did. She wasn't stillborn like we had been told she would be, but she kept her heart beating through a fairly traumatic birth experience just so we could have her brother here safe and sound. Her greatest gift to us was her little brother--and what a fantastic gift he is. A "big" relatively healthy preemie boy who has blonde hair looks just like his father. She gave us his life. Thank you, sweet girl. I want to be a giver like Harper when I grow up.

So today, I celebrate one week of my precious son's life.... and one week of my sweet daughter's first day in heaven. I'll be honest, I'm sad...but it's selfish. My baby has already grown for one week, which seems too fast, and my little girl has been gone for a week. I miss her terribly, more so than I should anyone I've only seen for 6 hours. But I know she is my answer to prayer. She definitely has the better deal going on up there.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Considering the Lilles and God's Provision

“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? Luke 12:27-28

There isn't really anything new to report on our babies this week. Our appointments with the specialist only occur every four weeks, and we see my OBGYN every two weeks. I'm finally in my third trimester, and my body definitely knows it. The babies, both of them, are very active...kicking and moving a lot. They already have different little personalities. Jax kicks me a lot, but he nuzzles my ribcage all the time. It makes my belly go numb and tingly and it's the strangest sensation ever.  When he gets very active, I can see him rolling around in my belly. Harper kicks a lot, but it's more like a drumroll. It's like she's using me as a punching bag, and she kicks more when I eat... especially chocolate. Every night, Jerry puts his hands on my belly and prays for the babies. Every single night, she kicks away when he does this. I wouldn't trade these moments for anything in the world. I cherish every kick, every movement, and every flutter. It's my reassurance that my babies are very much alive and with us. 

Emotionally, some days are definitely better than others. There are days when I'm fine...confident and strong. Then there are days when all I want to do is sit and feel my babies kick. It's on those days that I desperately need the reassurance of their being with me... and so I sit, cry, pray, sing, and talk to them as they kick and move inside of me. Household things may not get finished on those days, but I'm taking advantage of this time. Every kick, every movement is God's gift to me. Only I get to experience it. It's my little moment when I'm reminded that God is indeed working in these little lives. A friend posted on her FB status today that she was praying for our little "pearls." I thought that was so appropriate. God's still working on these little guys to make them as beautiful and perfect as they are intended to be in the end. 

We are feverishly preparing for these new little people in our lives. We've had one very blessed shower, and our next is next week. Our due date is getting closer, and we actually don't know how early they will be here. It's exciting and terrifying all at once. We are so ready to meet our babies and love them. We are still believing that we will bring both babies home. But every now and again, the fear in my heart creeps in again. I know that our delivery date will be the day that we know God has either chosen to heal Harper here, or in another way.  To be honest, it scares me to death. I know I write about it a lot, but that's where I am... always fighting this fear that creeps in. I hate it, but I'm learning that it's very natural, and that God understands it fully. 

So how is it that with this fear trying to suffocate me that I can still have faith? How do I write or speak about the fear, and still say how much I know that God will provide for us? When there are so many unknowns in our lives, how can I be so sure of this thing?

It's simple...his provision and healing are very real, and I've experienced it.

Jerry and I had just started dating when I had to tell him my worst fear. I had been battling pain, swelling and other symptoms for quite a while and I had a pending appointment with a specialist to investigate. About the time we began dating, I developed a rash that covered a lot of my body. As much as I had tried to be a good patient, staying away from google and webmd, my curiosity had gotten the best of me. Every thing I researched led to a diagnosis of Lupus.  

The more I researched, the more it terrified me. I saw words like autoimmune, chemotherapy, organ failure and hair loss. I had finally started dating this man that I knew I would marry (yes, even then I knew) but how could I ask him to love me when I might have such serious issues? So on our third date I told him about it, explaining the large rash that had appeared on my arm. I cried in the middle of the restaurant, when he took my hands and prayed for me right there at the table. If I had only realized then what a prayer warrior he was and what a blessing his prayers would be to me. My doctor's appointment was the next week, and the doctor's words to me were "I'm certain this is Lupus, but we need to do tests to confirm it." We prayed, I spent a number of sleepless nights in worry until I got a call from my doctor on a Sunday afternoon to give me the results. He explained that he was "surprised" to know that I did not have Lupus, only a vitamin d deficiency. A dermatologist later diagnosed my rashes as severe psoriasis. Such a relief from my worst fears.  I worked for my primary care physician, and saw the letter from the specialist that was sent as a follow up. His words read "The patient had every indicator for Lupus, but now shows no evidence for the disease." This may have been a surprise to my doctor and to me, but it wasn't for God. This was his plan for me. 

Fast forward another year, and my health is much better, but the psoriasis rash had left horrible scars on my skin, especially my legs. It was superficial, but very embarrassing for me. I didn't feel confident wearing anything that showed my legs. We had a guest speaker at church whose wife had been supernaturally healed following a car accident. That morning, she stated that she was going to have special prayer for those who needed healing, specifically for those with skin conditions. When she said that, I didn't think it was intended for me. Surely God was planning to heal someone worse off than I was. My condition was under control, and there were many people who had worse issues than I... but when the time came for prayer, I felt more compelled than ever to step forward, so I did. I stood there, enjoying the move of God's presence while literally every single other person was prayed for. I had begun to think that I wasn't correct in my feeling, why would I have stepped forward for prayer for my scars and occasional flare ups? But the presence of God was so strong in that moment that I couldn't count my time there as a loss. Just when I was about to go sit down, the speaker's wife found me. She took my hands and said "You have a skin condition, don't you." With tears in my eyes, I nodded. She continued to speak, saying "God wants you to know that what is important to you is important to him. Nothing is too big or too small for him. He sees your condition and knows the desires of your heart, and he wants to heal you." Emotions flowed as she prayed a powerful prayer of healing and restored confidence over me.  Now, 3 years later, I haven't had a single flare up of my psoriasis, and the scars that once embarrassed me are completely gone. 

Sometimes I'm guilty of thinking that God is so great, so powerful, that he must use that power to take care of huge issues... issues much bigger than those I have. But I'm reminded by my own experience that God's power is big enough to heal me from a disease that terrifies me, and his heart is big enough to give me reminders of his provision for all of my needs: no matter how small or superficial. The God who created the world in all of its splendor took the time to give us beauty in it like that which we see in the lilies.  It amazes me that the same God who healed me of lupus, and was my provider through a terrible divorce when I had 40.00 to my name, is the same one who took the time to heal my scars and let me know that my needs were important to him.  The God who sent his son and raised him from the dead shouldn't have to prove himself to me time and time again, but he does and I'm forever thankful. 

So in the face of the most terrible trial I've ever known, I can have faith...that even on those days when I'm so burdened that I can't speak the words of a prayer he knows the need and the desires of my heart. He knows needs... and they are important to him. He knows my babies--better than I do--and knows what Harper needs to be healthy, and what Jax needs to continue in his health. He knows our needs and is able to supply the healing that Harper needs. But at the same time, he's considerate enough to give me the reassurance of kicks when I so desperately need them. He is powerful enough to give Harper the fluid she needs to survive, but also gentle enough to give Jerry and I peace to sleep at night. He is big enough to allow us the privilege of bringing home two healthy babies, and kind enough to provide encouragement through the prayers and scriptures of friends. 

James 1:17 is our verse as a couple. It's engraved on my wedding ring, and has even more significance in our lives now than it did years ago:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.

I look at God's faithfulness in my life, the way that he has orchestrated every single detail to the perfection of his plan, and I know that my faith isn't without grounds. It is because of his continued provision, protection and consideration for us that I can confidently believe he will continue the work he's already begun in Harper's life, and allow us to bring home 2 healthy babies.  He has provided for us time and time again... and he is unchanging. This is how I believe. 

Thank you, God for your unchanging love and provision in our lives. Thank you for the reminder that what is important to me is important to you. Thank you for the ability to have faith in spite of the worst circumstances. Thank you for my babies, for their health, and for the magnificent future you have in store for these little world changers. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

He loves us...

“Listen carefully to my words.  Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart; for they bring life to those who find them and health to their whole body."  Proverbs 4:20-22

Meet our babies: 

This is Jax. Ever since we could see his profile, I knew he had his daddy's nose. Goodness, he looks just like Jerry. He has the same chin, and even has his wrinkled up brow. (Jerry's thinking face) Even though he's the younger twin, I'll always think of him as big brother. He just seems to protect that other baby....maybe a little too much because it's always squished a bit. We love him so much already. 

This is Miss Harper. She has chubby cheeks and a cute button nose. Even in my tummy, she's quite the world changer. She's showing off her arms in both pictures... arms they once told us weren't there. We love this little girl so much...and that sweet little smile already melts my heart.  Can't wait to meet her and her brother. 

I had been hesitant about doing the 4D ultrasound before. Deep down, I was afraid that seeing baby A would make it worse. I didn't know what to expect to see. The picture they've painted for us has always been so grim.  So when she gave us this gift, I was totally caught off guard.  These are the most beautiful, precious faces I've ever seen. My how we're blessed by these babies already. 

The good news from our visit is this: Jax is healthy and strong. Harper's fluid levels were up again from 2 to 2.4... more improvement! They both have strong heartbeats, and Harper moved around more than we have ever seen her move on an ultrasound.  We know for sure that she has both arms and one fully formed leg. We've never been able to confirm exactly what limbs they could see. Last time, they just said they could see limbs. 

The doctor came in and delivered the not so good news. He said that the bottom line is that we have a growing baby in very little fluid. She will have difficulty avoiding the umbilical cord and will pass away. He expects this to happen in the next few weeks. He indicated that at our next visit, we'll have to start making decisions. Do we "try" to deliver two living babies, or do we let the pregnancy progress and let Jax's healthy delivery be our goal. 

This has knocked the wind out of me. How do I choose that? How on Earth do I even begin to weigh those options? I can try to have two living babies, and have two that are hooked up to machines and which might die. OR I can choose to sit back and do nothing for Harper, and just know that Jax will be healthy. These are choices that I can't imagine making... and no matter how much I think about it, I can't come up with a logical, sound choice. Either way, I feel like I'm sacrificing the life and health of one baby. It's absolutely impossible. 

So yesterday was rough. I cried a lot of the way home. I've cried a lot today. I can't stop looking at their faces.... and I can't imagine a life where they both don't grow up. We still firmly believe that God is still working on our Harper, but today is just one of those days where we struggle. I have faith in God's abilities to work miracles in our lives, but I'm a grieving mother today. I know that he understands this.  I feel utterly helpless. I can't pray enough or cry enough to feel like I'm making Harper change the way she needs to. Today, I have nothing profound to say about the situation. I'm just a sad mom. 

So I've spent a lot of time to day sitting, waiting and feeling them kick. It's my extra reassurance that they're both in there letting me know they're alive and well. 

I know today more than ever the depth of God's love for us. He loves us so much that he sent his son to die for us. I can't imagine that. I'm begging him to let my daughter live... to let me see her grow, to let me hear her laugh, and see her smile.... yet he did this willingly. I can't imagine that. He loves me so much that he let his son die. He loves my babies so much that he let his be beaten and bruised for their healing. He loves us all so much that he stood by and didn't intervene when his son felt helpless and hurt on the cross. He did that all for us. 

Because of that love, I know that God hasn't deserted us in our circumstances. I know that he still has his hand on my babies, and on  Jerry and I as we hurt. I know that he continues to give Harper fluid to swim in and is no less capable of continuing to give us miracles until their birthday. In my grief, I'm focusing on the continued miracle of fluid production, the fact that she was more active yesterday than ever before, and on the sweet faces that we got to see yesterday. I focus on Jax's health... this strong, healthy big brother whom we can't wait to meet. 

 Thank you God, for your unconditional love for us...for loving me when I was undeserving, for loving me when I'm excited and full of strength and faith, and for loving me on days like today when I'm just a sad mama.