Sunday, October 10, 2010

An Unexpected Turn of Events

After finding out about Austin's condition on September 8, 2010, I shared the sad news and prayer request with my  women's Bible study group. They cried and prayed with me, and I was subsequently asked to share my story of receiving bad news and my response at an upcoming church women's retreat as well as at another church for a women's meeting. The following blog post is what I wrote sitting by the lake at the women's retreat, and what I read (or cried through) at both events.


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October 10, 2010

An excerpt from a song called "Give Me Words to Speak" by Aaron Shust primarily sums up what I felt after a phone call from my nurse-midwife on September 7, 2010:
Calloused and bruised
dazed and confused
My Spirit is left wanting something more
Than my selfish hopes
and my selfish dreams
I'm lying with my face down to the floor
I'm crying out for more (crying out for more)

Chorus:
Give me Words to speak
Don't let my Spirit sleep
Cause I can't think of anything worth saying
But I know that I owe You my life
So give me Words to speak
Don't let my Spirit sleep

In November 2009, we felt led, after eight years, to try for our third child.  I had my IUD removed, went through numerous hormonal, physical adjustments, and ailments due to that removal, and was happily pregnant by mid-May 2010.

On September 7, 2010, I had my very anticipated 20 week ultrasound.  Later that day, my nurse-midwife called to say that there were questionable things found and there needed to be another more detailed ultrasound.  On September 8, I had this detailed ultrasound, and we were presented with a very crappy prognosis for our future child.

Now my typical reaction to bad news cannot be described as the most gracious and admirable of reactions.  In fact, events of 2008 and my reaction to them probably most exemplify my typical handling of a crisis.

On January 1st, my husband tore his ACL in a skiing accident.  On January 3rd, he received a phone call that his dad was driving his mother to work, had a heart attack and died.  While his mom tried to pound on his chest and control the car, she drove the car into a pole off the road, bruising her face and crushing her hand.  Within a week, my husband's mom and his sister, two brothers, and sister-in-law moved to town.  His mom and sister moved in with us.  My husband's brother and girlfriend, who were already living with us, continued to stay with us until the memorial service was scheduled and performed.

Towards the end of January, while I struggled with one of the worst sinus infections I could remember, my husband had surgery on his ACL at a local surgery center.  And wouldn't you know, all did not go well.  The surgery went quite a bit longer than planned with the doctor later explaining that the hole for the pin broke through the bone, the pin got stuck and had to be retrieved and another hole drilled to circumvent the original mistake.  I then found out that during and after surgery, my husband's pain was never managed and he was sent home by the end of the day in extreme pain with a list of pain killers to take.

The pain pills did not work and, after calling the doctor several times during the week with the result of being put on various narcotics, he finally woke up one night, to my despair, claiming that he couldn't get a deep breath.  He called his doctor who said to call back in the morning if nothing changed.  Instead, the next morning, my husband was in such stress, we dropped the kid's off at school and headed directly to the emergency room.  He was eventually diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs and was put on blood thinners to prevent any new clots.  He stayed in the hospital for about a week. The aforementioned doctor came to his bedside and apologized profusely.

After my husband returned home and was laid up in bed, I had a ruptured ovarian cyst and got my own trip to the hospital since I did not know what is was at first.  In the end, both of us were laid up in bed like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  My husband's injured mother and sister took care of our two boys and us while we were medicated and sleeping.

By now, I was seriously reaching my limit of what I felt I could take.  Eventually, one night while trying to go to sleep, I broke down and screamed out at God.  I was mad, angry, and felt alone.  I threatened and cursed.  I wrestled with God like Jacob.  And my husband prayed.

Later in May, for unrelated reasons, I was put on a low dose of antidepressant for a high heart rate and a history of migraines and depression.

By the end of 2008, I finally felt like life was getting back to "normal".  After recovering from our various ailments, we finally found a new church (which we had begun looking for in November 2007).  I cried through the service every Sunday.  I had also read several Christian books given to me that summer, including The Shack, which provided encouragement and hope over time.  From the end of 2008 through 2009, I experienced a time of relative peace and rest even in the midst of two more family deaths and additional family illnesses.

And then it was September 8, 2010.

Psalm 139:13-16 (New Century Version [modified by me]):
13 You made my [baby's] whole being;
       you formed [him] in my body.
14 I praise you because you made [him] in an amazing and wonderful way.
       What you have done is wonderful.
       I know this very well.
15 You saw [his] bones being formed
       as [he] took shape in my [ ] body.
    When [he] was put together there,
16 you saw [his] body as it was formed.
    All the days planned for [him]
       were written in your book
       before [he] was one day old.

Portions of the Obstetrical Ultrasound Report read "Fetal abnormalities that were noted during today's exam were: right sided talipes, bowing of the right femur and tibia, hands appeared clinched with overlapping of the digits.  The anatomy of the fetal brain is completely disrupted, with none of the usual landmarks or CNS structures having a normal appearance.  Specifically, we note an enlarged cisterna magna; dysgenesis of the cerebellar vermis ("Dandy Walker Complex").  The cerebral hemispheres are displaced laterally and inferiorly, with concomitant lateral and posterior displacement of the choroid plexus', multiple large cystic vascular flow above the circle of Willis.  These findings may be attributable to a destructive process, such as a major vascular occlusion in vessel supplying the CNS, or, less likely, due to a neoplasm such as an intracranial teratoma.  The combination of the CNS findings with the other abnormalities also suggests more generalized disorders such as aneuploidy, or other genetic syndromes."

Below are two of the ultrasound images that illustrate the written report.  The dark areas are the fluid filled cysts:

Looking down from top of head
Looking at profile
That night on September 8, 2010, I cried.  I mourned my expectations of a normal baby.  Throughout the night, I gave the baby to God, the Creator of the baby - the One who forms in the womb.  I asked Jesus to hold my baby in His arms; to comfort and protect him.  I confessed my guilt and fears - guilt over considering aborting, guilt over wanting God to take the baby if he was going to struggle to live on earth, and fears of the baby dying.  I asked for love and strength to take care of a disabled child who might not be able to return the love.  And then I prayed for a miracle.

I had swallowed my pride earlier that evening and asked my husband if I could ask for prayer on Facebook.  My husband had already called the church for prayer earlier too.  Beginning that night, after crying and praying, I began to feel peace.  I felt it had to be the Body of Christ praying for us.  I had never truly felt that before - the peace that passes understanding.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (New International Version [me]):
9 ...“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power [strength, blessing] is made perfect in weakness.”...

Unfortunately, my husband struggled at first, and said he felt God's hand of blessing had been taken away.  I said I felt the opposite.  I began telling my husband and others about the new found blessings found in the midst of yuckiness.  I saw my kid's "faith of a child" brought forth in amazing ways.  My friends and family offered support without questioning our decision to keep the baby.  I felt that weird peace when peace should not have existed.  And everything I read on the internet of other people's experiences after deciding not to abort after being given crappy news from an ultrasound was positive and encouraging whether they lost the child or not.

Isaiah 40:31 (NIV [me]):
31 but those who hope [wait on expectantly] in the LORD
   will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
   they will run and not grow weary,
   they will walk and not be faint.

I felt I could get up every morning because of the prayers - the wings of eagles - offered by the Body of Christ.

I had family call and say they were trying to figure out why this happened, why we were going through this, what we were supposed to learn from this, etc.  But I was not feeling directed to ask "why" - that the answer to "why" will come in the future, in retrospect.  I felt my job right now is to work on my response to the situation.  Was I going to get angry at God again, or was I going to be quiet and receive whatever blessings God may have for me?  Was I going to be fearless in the face of the scary unknown?

I know what I want to do, but I also know that it will not come from me (in my weakness), but from God (in His strength).
Lord Jesus, let me recognize and receive your blessings as they come my way.  Amen

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Migraine

3:30 am - Her eyes pop open. She briefly wonders why until it hit her, the pain seering behind her eyes and across her forehead, as if a cold steel knife is separating her skin from her skull. Blinding, yet so strong, it hurt to close her eyes.

She knew better than to just lay there. She turned on the light, an evil bulb of yellow brightness. And through sheer will power, she eased out of bed, trying not to jostle her head. The dogs on the floor beneath her both jump up thinking it is time to go out.

She makes her way to the kitchen, turning on yet another set of torturous lights. Squinting, she finds the medication she needs, chokes it down, and makes her way back to bed.

Upon lying down, she realizes her mistake. She needs an ice pack to distract herself from the pain and the nausea from the medication. So again, she stumbles to the kitchen, not bothering with lights this time. But even the tiny bulb in the freezer sends her hand flying to her face in an effort to block it out. Frustratingly, she shoves frozen meats around until she finally finds an ice pack.

Back in bed the coolness brings swift relief as she maneuvers it around her face, head and neck, never leaving it too long in one spot lest numbness sets in and distraction from the pain lessens.

5:00 am - She glances at the clock.  The medication has finally kicked in and the pain is diminishing.  Sleep returns.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Musings on Christianity

Right now I'm reading the second volume of "The Story of Christianity" by Justo L. Gonzalez, a historical theologian…not sure what denomination, schooled at the United Seminary in Cuba and at Yale.  Anyway, I read the first volume this past November and December.  It’s at least giving me what I think is the big picture of how the Christian church has come about since the time of Christ.  (I have desired to figure that out for a while now, trying to understand why there are different denominations, why Catholic and Protestant, etc. in the first place).  I think it seems fairly unbiased in the way it presents both the Catholic and later the Protestant evolutions (however, whether everything is accurate from the perspectives of both C’ and P’s, I don't know).

I have learned that from the very beginning (well, even by studying Acts I saw this) that there have always been disagreements and divisions.  It certainly has been a bit overwhelming to realize how much people, especially since the time of Constantine, have used the state to force Christianity (whether C or P) on others, or how people have used Christianity as a means of prestige and power in the state…and how many wars, persecution, hatred and death have come from all that…when Jesus’ primary commands were to love God and love others.  It breaks my heart to start to understand this.  I just never realized what a violent history Christians have, and yet we try to preach love and forgiveness, mercy and respect.  No wonder it can be confusing to anyone who considers themselves intellectuals or have an understanding of this history to not see Christianity as hypocrytical.

I was never interested in history in school, and when I did have to study history, it never seemed to be in the context of Christianity – which I would have been interested in.  With that said, I am rather overwhelmed that Christianity in any form or denomination has actually survived to still be around today.  I can only attribute that to the fact that the power of the Holy Spirit is greater than whatever power man thinks he has over things…and that the Holy Spirit living in me affirms that Jesus is the truth.