Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A New Life

It still makes me smile to think about how my Sister told me that she was pregnant. I got engaged on April 1, 2012. Shortly after, we started talking about concepts for bridesmaids dresses. When I finally picked one, I told her where to go to try it out and she went with our aunt Liz. I was texting her while she was trying it on, "What do you think??" I had to know she would approve, and feel comfortable.

She liked it a lot, she told me. The style would perfectly accommodate her 5 months pregnant belly at the time of the September wedding. Excuse me?!

I can still remember where I was standing when she told me that. I was completely surprised and utterly delighted. 

Some of you know that my Sister and bro-in-law make the sweetest, most beautiful babies. My nephews are the crowning jewels of life. They're a constant topic of thought and conversation. They are sweet, beloved, and adorable. To think there would be a third?? I was ecstatic (possibly more so than my Sister!).

With her second birth, my Sister had endured a lot of complications physically. It had really taken it's toll in some frightening "close call" episodes in the days after she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Those of us closest to her wouldn't soon forget. There were a lot of permanent issues she had to deal with, but outwardly the greatest blessing was her adorable baby boy. 

And she does look lovely at 5 months in that bridesmaid dress, don't you think??

When I knew my Sister would have another baby, I knew it wasn't going to be an easy birth, but I believed strongly that the outcome would be worthwhile.

What I didn't expect was a difficult pregnancy. Her pregnancies have always run fairly smoothly. This time has been different. 

I don't remember exactly when, although Sister could tell you, but sometime shortly after my late September wedding, my Sister started making regular unplanned visits to the doctor for strong contractions. Every time they said everything looked good, she was fine, baby was fine. They would give her medicine to help her out with the contractions and send her home to rest and drink water. 

She drank a huge amount of water and rested as much as humanly possible for the mom of a 4-year-old and 1.5-year-old. Still the contractions would flare up frequently. Frequent trips to the hospital kept needing to happen, with the same result. She had a stomach virus at Thanksgiving and landed in the ER again. The weekend after Christmas, we visited friends in Pennsylvania and she made a trip to the ER there, due to vision disturbance. They sent her home.

Less than a week later, just after the New Year, January 3 at 11:05 am, I received a message from my Sister that she was back in the hospital with contractions that had been quite painful. When they found she was 3 cm dilated, it became a more serious issue. She was in pre-term labor, officially, at "32 6/7" weeks. She might be having the baby today... or they might send her home 4 hours later!

Around 1 pm she updated me with the first inkling of a problem with the baby, and the first inkling of how life would soon be changed:

We were both nervous, but trying to keep it light. They had found on a sonogram that there was fluid around the baby's head and abdomen, but they didn't know the cause. They wanted to slow the labor another 48 hours to have time to give him another steroid shot for his lungs, if possible.

About an hour later, she let me know they couldn't stop her labor. Baby would be born January 3, 2013, and before 5pm. 

I told my supervisor and the owners what was happening, called my husband, and we drove to Annapolis from Arlington as fast as we could safely manage. 

C-section was scheduled for 4pm. 

By 5pm, I was sitting in the waiting room, and she was texting me to ask where I was. Not until 5:45 did my brother-in-law come down to  see us. Something was obviously wrong the second we saw him.

My mom, his mom, and I went to him. Tears began to flow. He told us that the surgery had gone smoothly, and my Sister was doing well, but that there were several complications. Many attempts were made to resuscitate the baby after he was delivered. There was something visibly wrong with the baby, even when they successfully resuscitated him. He is extremely swollen in face and body. Ideas of viruses and genetics syndromes were floated, with no sure diagnoses, only the message that the lives of this baby's family would be permanently altered.

After he was stabilized, they brought him next to my sister's bed in his incubator and took the side down so she could see him. She reached out her hand to him and he grasped her finger in his hand like he knew she was always his line to life. She spoke to him and he opened his eyes at the sound of her voice.

Then the baby was immediately taken to the NICU and put on oxygen. They needed to give him blood transfusions immediately, which took several tries. While this was happening, we were allowed to go in and see my Sister.

By God's great mercy, Sister was doing very well physically, and has continued to recover rapidly and very well. I cannot say thanks enough for this blessing.

As I write this story from my memory of those early hours, I am reminded of our devastation again. Tears flow again for the pain of the truth that "this is not how things should be." But who writes our "shoulds"? It's not what we thought, but apparently it is what was planned.

We as a family have experienced so much mercy, as my Sister is alive and well. The baby has remained stable since the night of his birth.

Over and over during my Sister's pregnancy, I have had to turn over to God real, almost tangible fear for her life. After what happened last time, and how many difficulties she experienced throughout this pregnancy, I didn't know what to expect around the time of her scheduled birth, February 18th. I was girding myself up for that time. Little did I know, I had 7 weeks fewer to prepare than I had thought.

In truth, there is no way to prepare for good hopes and dreams to be wrenched from your grasp unexpectedly. You have to consistently stay with God, and learn His character, and know that He moves in mysterious ways, and hang on for dear life to see the goodness of His plan unfold. We will say thanks in the end for deepest blessings that were just as unexpected and surely more manifold than our sorrows. 

God has provided so much encouragement, so much prayer, and so much love. We are buoyed by this. Every day it hurts. It hurts desperately to think of the stabbing in the hearts of my Sister and her husband in that moment when they heard that everything was not okay. It hurts to see the baby in critical condition. He cannot be held. It hurts to be uncertain of what is wrong or if or when it will be made better. It hurts not knowing how much better he can get. 

But my Sister and I have talked, and we are both sure, God loves this baby boy more than we do. This is no mere platitude. God LOVES him and adores him and looks on his beauty and suffering with utter compassion. We believe that God is with him even now, ministering unseen comfort in ways his baby soul can receive. We know that God knows how to love him perfectly, and He will do what is best. 

For the continuing story of Joseph's life, click to read: Making a Move.


Tami said...

I pray that a miraculous recovery will be made by that precious baby. Bethany is blessed to have you to support, love and pray with her and all involved.

Julie Coleman said...

Sydney, thanks for this. We can and will trust in the goodness of God. No matter what happens, that fact will not change.

elizabeth melanie said...

Um, sobbing at work.

I am so grateful to be going through this with you. Sydney, you have been a constant source of encouragement and sunshine and perspective. Every time I see you, I am so thankful, especially when I get to watch your relationship with Bethany what it was always meant to- sustain you both through the God you can see intimately in each other.

bwsmith said...

Thanks for sharing a painful abut precious journey -- praying for you and your family.