Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Asa update 2/11/2014

We got up bright and early this morning for an appointment at Children's Mercy at eight am. I had just risen from a full night of sleep (amazingly, with only one midnight trip to relieve my extremely squished bladder), and I was feeling good. During breakfast Steven prayed for our meal and thanked God that baby Asa is doing so well and that he is still here with us. I then realized that I hadn't felt him move for the 30 minutes we had been awake, but I knew I had felt him during the night so I wasn't too worried. I jostled my belly around a little to wake him up and see if he would move. He didn't. I tried again a few minutes later and he still didn't move. At this point I was getting nervous because he normally responds to some jiggling. We left for the hospital to go to our scheduled appointment, and during the entire walk up to fetal health and during my short time in the waiting room, he still hadn't moved or responded to my jiggling. I was feeling very nervous. Rapid heart rate, dry mouth... the whole nine yards. When I finally got into the dimly lit room, the sonographer was aware of my worries and we listened to his heartbeat right away. It was beating at 135 beats per minute, and it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard! Praise the Lord!

My worries that Asa was not alive had disappeared now, but I was not completely at rest. He was sound asleep and would not wake up! I rolled on my side and he eventually gave us a few little movements and the sonographer noted his practice breathing that they require for him to pass his little test. Feeling a little better I rolled onto my back again and he finally gave me a few good "Asa" kicks. But I wanted to be more assured. I wasn't at rest yet. When we went to look at his face with the 3D imaging, I said a little prayer that God would give me more assurance of his well-being by seeing his face. God, in His kindness, definitely answered my whispered prayer!

Normally when we go to look at Asa's face he is covering it with his hands or feet, or his umbilical cord is in the way. Not today! We could see our sweet baby's face as clearly as if he were outside of the womb! We saw his tiny nose and his chubby cheeks. He was even sucking on his big toe! (Which is quite a feat if you ask me.) It was such a sweet, connecting time with Asa as we got to peak in on his life inside my womb. Seeing his little face move and watching him suck and move his lips around was, needless to say, the reassurance I was hoping for after that big scare.

Here he is:

This is him sucking on his big toe  :)

He definitely looks a little squished, and I admit, you probably have to be mommy or daddy to fully appreciate the cuteness in these pictures. I'm just so pleased that we got such clear shots of his face! He has the little Sweat boy nose!

They estimated his weight at 6 lbs. 12 oz. today!

Before I heard his heartbeat this morning, all I could think about was getting him out - right then! Now staring down this long week before induction feels incredibly overwhelming with these feelings of fear fresh on my heart. Please pray that as we wait out this last week, Asa continues to move and give us lots of assurance that he is healthy and well.

I do feel a sense of accomplishment having made it through and out of 37 weeks! I turned 38 weeks yesterday! Praise the Lord, He carried me through that. Please continue to pray he carries me through this last week. I think I feel more nervous than ever about another placental abruption happening. I don't know if a doctor told me this at some point, but I think the more the baby weighs, the higher the risk that they could pull on the placenta with their weight and tear it. Contractions, if they are strong enough, can also affect or loosen the placenta. I have no idea if the contractions I've been having are strong enough to loosen the placenta, but you can bet I pray that placenta will be strong through every contraction. Please, pray specifically for the placenta in this last week and ask our Lord to keep it place with his mighty hand. 

I am feeling ready for labor now, I think. But I'm feeling very anxious about it also. I know that there is nothing on this earth that I deserve, but I'm hoping that God, in His kindness, would give me a break this time and bless me with a successful, uncomplicated, and relatively quick labor and delivery. Levi's labor lasted a few days and I pushed for almost three hours. Finally, he was delivered with forceps while I was on an oxygen mask. Ezra's labor, as most of you know, had the most tragic ending and was also life-threatening to my health. I would be so thankful to have a labor and delivery that was not a traumatic event. Perhaps I could even look back on the day of labor with fondness. 

We have also been spending some time contemplating the virtue of trusting God and what that really means. Really knowing what it means to trust God is so crucial for us right now. I had a realization earlier this week that, while I have been praying faithfully for Asa, I have often been praying out of a heart that is desperate for control. My prayers have often been my attempt to control and I can feel the desperation in my heart when I am praying, because I am not really resting and trusting that God's plan is the best. It's hard to rest in God's plan when it has brought so much pain into my life, but we do still see the beauty that has come from the ashes. We still have our Ezra in heaven. He is still our son and a member of our family, and no amount of pain can take that away from us. When we fix our eyes upon Jesus and our life in heaven to come, we know that by His grace, we can trust that His plan really will be the best, no matter what. 

This short, and beautiful song has been our theme;

Fix your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.

We strongly desire to live each day recognizing God as the creator and the giver of life, being thankful to Him for the life that we have in each moment of our day. It's so simple, but we so often fail to see God as more than a being that we pray to and seek comfort from in times of need. It is the times of joy that are filled with thankfulness that will carry us through the times of need. It is the practice of praising God in the ordinary that will train our hearts to trust Him when we are desperate with anxiety or laden with pain. We forget Him so often, so easily. We forget Him and seek other pleasures far more than we even realize. We can only pray that He will grant us the ability to live in the knowledge that every good and perfect gift has been from Him. No other hand, but His.

Sometimes my mind is blown away by how simple following Him really is. He says "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest," (Mathew 11:28)  "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Mathew 6:33) "Whoever wants to be my disciple, must take up your cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)

It's simple. We are just asked to follow Him and He will give us the strength to do everything else that is required of us. This doesn't mean that it won't feel like work and discipline, but the ability to work and be disciplined in tempting moments are gifts from Him. Sometimes I feel frustrated with how "confusing" trusting God feels, as I hold on tightly to my own desires. In reality, trusting God is not confusing or complicated at all. I simply need to let go. Feel the gentle calm of release, realizing that I will never be in control. I never could be truly in control. This is not my world. This is my Father's world, and when I fill myself with the truths of His wisdom and love, I can let go. I can trust him. I can be safe in His sovereign and grace-filled control.

While these things may not be complicated or confusing when we zoom out and look at the big picture, they are certainly not easy. Our emotions are very real, and they pull and tug our hearts in a million different directions, leaving us exhausted. Thankfully our God is a God who draws us to himself, even when we have gone astray over and over again. In the book of Hosea, the Lord talks of Israel leaving Him to pursue her lovers over and over. And then He says this; "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope." (Hosea 2:14-15) He still draws us in, and He speaks to us tenderly as a father, and He offers us hope, though we have gone astray. He welcomes us with open arms as the Father of the prodigal son. Our great Shepherd holds us, and carries us close to His heart as He brings us back from our wanderings. 

I can trust a shepherd so gentle. 

I can trust a father so tender. 

Yes, I can trust my God. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

A poem for peace

As I have approached 37 weeks, I have moments of fear and panic. Disbelief that we can make it further than this, and that it could really all result in a baby. I wish it wasn't so hard to believe. I wish it was easier for my mind to get to a place where it lets me imagine that life with a baby in just a few weeks could be real. But it continues to be a challenge. I have to teach myself truths each day to help me get past the mental block that is trying to protect my heart.

A few days ago I was having one of those moments, and as I was writing down the truths I needed to hear they began to take on a rhythm and became poetry. I have no good ideas for a title, except what it is....

A poem for peace

You, my Father, are holding my baby
You've created this place for him in my womb 
he knows nothing but your love and the warmth of his mother
he gives you praise with his every move
Before You formed him, You knew him
You love him more deeply than the ocean is blue
You chose this little one to be my baby
his life only exists because you desired it to 
bring him safely to our longing and loving arms
bring more mercy
more grace
as we wait upon you 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Asa Update 2/1/214

Hey everyone! I apologize for the extreme lack of updates. As things have gotten crazier I have mostly just been doing quick updates on Facebook. I put so much emotion into my writing on the blog, and lately I have been so emotionally exhausted that I have postponed writing here. When I write here, I like for it to be of a certain quality, and that has kept me from just simply typing out a quick update. But no more! Standards are being thrown out the window because things are about to get really crazy, but I want to continue to have a place where people can come and be updated on how Asa is doing.

The most significant thing that has occurred since my last update here is that I experienced some bleeding, accompanied with lots of contractions on New Years Eve night. I laid down for bed around one in the morning and after 20 minutes of laying there I could no longer ignore the fact that I was feeling menstrual like cramps, and they were coming frequently. I started timing them and the contractions were about 5 to 7 minutes apart. When I went to the bathroom to discover blood tinged mucus, my heart went into panic. Minutes later we were on our way to the hospital. All I could pray was "please Jesus, don't let this happen again." (Seeing blood is a sign of placental abruption, which is what we experienced when we lost Ezra).

When we got to Lawrence Memorial Hospital, we saw the doctor and she quickly decided that we needed to go to Children's Mercy in Kansas City which is where we plan on Asa being born. So we rode in an ambulance to Children's Mercy. It was a very surreal experience.

We felt such a peace when we arrived at Children's Mercy, knowing that we were where we needed to be if Asa made his appearance early. The Children's Mercy staff was quick to assure us that they could handle a TGA baby that was born this early. They had done it before and they could do it again.

During all of this our sweet little Asa was still moving around like the crazy little man that he is, which gave me so much peace My bleeding eventually slowed down, but my contractions were still frequent and painful for the next few days. We ended up having a seven day stay in the hospital and I left with instructions for modified bed rest, or restricted activity.

We had a follow up appointment just a few days after being discharged from the hospital, and we learned at that appointment that the bleeding I had been experiencing had been coming from the placenta. My placenta separated from my uterus just enough to cause some bleeding. It's what the doctors called a zero grade version of what I experienced with Ezra.

I was in an emotionless shock for the next few hours. Many questions swirling around in my head. What did this mean for our future children? Will I always have placenta problems? Is this a genetic thing? Unfortunately, the doctors do not have a good answer for these questions. When it comes to the placenta, they really don't know much and they certainly cannot predict much.

Based on our one hour drive to Children's Mercy from Lawrence and my new problems with placental function combined with my history of placental abruption, the doctors decided that relocating us to Kansas City at 36 weeks was the best possible thing we could do for our baby. When a person suffers from an acute abruption like we experienced with Ezra, you only have a small (maybe 5-10 minutes) window in which you can try and save the baby if the abruption has already started.

So now we are at the Ronald McDonald house in Kansas City waiting for our little Asa to be born. The house is located right across the street from Children's Mercy, which is incredible for our peace of mind. We have been here since Monday, January 27th, and we have already made so many wonderful and encouraging connections with other families. We even had the chance to connect with a family who just had a baby with Asa's very same condition. Their child had just came out of the open heart surgery a few days earlier and was doing very well. They seemed excited to be able to tell us that everything was going to be okay and that the doctors do such a wonderful job taking care of these babies. We truly felt God's hand orchestrating that connection and we felt so encouraged after talking to them.

We are seeing the Doctor twice a week now and we have a sonogram each time. Our last few appointments have been very encouraging. They are able to look at the problem area of my placenta and so far it has been healing just as it should be, and at the last appointment it had healed to the point that they couldn't even see it anymore. Praise God! Asa continues to do very well! At our last appointment his head was nice and low and ready to go. We also scheduled an induction for Feburary 17th! It is all getting very real!

Another praise I have to share with you is that Asa no longer appears to be at risk for a lung condition! We had all of Asa's information sent to Boston Children's Hospital for a second opinion, and while we were in the hospital with the bleeding and contractions we heard back from them. The doctor we spoke with told us that he got several other opinions from his colleagues and they all agreed that the blood flow they were seeing in Asa's PDA didn't indicate a lung condition, but it actually made him lower risk for a lung condition. It was such wonderful news to receive while we were still in the hospital! At our appointment with cardiology this week they saw that the blood flow through Asa's PDA was normal and flowing in the right direction. Praise God!
God has answered so many of our prayers in this journey! He has taught us much about it's power. Please join us in praying for these specific requests;

-Pray for my placenta. Please pray that God places his strong hands over it and gives it all the strength it needs to sustain Asa until he is born.

-Please continue to pray that Asa will be stable enough at birth for us to have time to hold him and bond with him, before he is taken away to receive the intensive care he will need.

-Please pray for his open heart surgery. Pray that God would give his surgeons skillful hands on the day, and grant great wisdom to the nurses who will be assisting them.

- Please pray that God would bless Asa's ability to nurse. My desire to nurse Ezra was fierce and unfulfilled. Now I feel as if I have waited a century to have the chance to nurse again and I am absolutely determined that with the Lord's help I will get to enjoy that beautiful connection with my Asa.

- Pray that God would give Asa strength beyond his baby years.

-Steven's leave time is going to run out while we will most likely still be in the hospital. Will you pray that God grants his request with KU for shared leave or that the Lord blesses us with an early discharge from the hospital?

- Please pray that God grants me with a supernatural peace in these last weeks of pregnancy. Already my brain is on hyper alert. Wondering at every strange feeling, and counting every contraction. My emotions wear very thin, and at times I have found myself sitting in stillness wondering if I can really make it through all of this when it feels like the journey has only just begun. I need peace, I need wisdom, I need to be in tune with my body, and I need to physically remain calm and not let anxiety get the best of me. All of this I know can only be accomplished with the Lord's gracious mercy. So please pray more mercy over me.

- Pray that God blesses us with Asa's life. We feel like we have been given of vision of our son. As he grows and lives life, he will be a constant reminder to us of God's love and mercy and grace. This vision just cuts our hearts to the core. Whenever we get a glimpse of that thin scare that will run down his chest, we will only see mercy. That deep, gut conviction you feel when you truly understand how undeserving you are of anything, and yet Christ has given us everything. Mercy. Everything we need for life and godliness. This vision of our own son being such a powerful reminder of those truths has struck us, but knowing that is a God who gives and takes away, we pray that vision will come to pass. We pray that God will bless us with the humbling reminder of His mercy in our son. If we can even lift our faces from the dust, we pray that this vision could be part of the purpose for Asa's congenital heart defect and the trail that we are in the midst of now.

- Praise God for all of the people he has appointed to pray for us and for Asa! He is bringing himself much glory as we demonstrate our trust in him through prayer. Praise God for all of the prayers he has answered! He enlarged on of Asa's openings in his heart which will help him be more stable at birth and up until surgery, He stopped my bleeding, He slowed my contractions, and He gave us great hope that Asa's lungs will be perfect and normal! And those are just the big ones that I can remember clearly right now! He is good and He is listening!

From the depths of me, thank you all for your prayers! I know they have strengthened me when i have had no strength left in my body. You all lift me up.

I will continue to keep you all updated as best I can!