Thursday, December 16, 2010
When we brought Brooklyn home the other day, the first thing Emma did was kiss the stitches on her head. She didn't grimace like I did; she wasn't scared. She just gave her sister a little love because, well, that's what big sisters do... especially when they haven't seen their little sister in a few days.
When Kendall saw the shunt for the first time, she said, "That's so cool" and giggled. She gave her "Brookie" a quick hug and skipped off to play.
I know they don't totally get it, but in many ways, they get it so much more than I do.
They teach me so much, these little ones.
Love. Acceptance. Peace.
This isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be complicated.
I am learning that life isn't always about totally "getting it" because let's face it, sometimes "it" just doesn't make sense at all. And many times, "it" just isn't fair.
"It" is about finding the love, the joy, the giggle.
And then trusting that in time, the understanding will come.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Sunday, December 12, 2010
We are home. Thank you, God!
At first I was a little nervous about going home so quickly, but the neurosurgeons convinced me that because Brooklyn was doing so great that it was actually better for her to recover in her home environment -- it's more comfortable and it's healthier. So just 24 hours after her surgery, we were on our way home. We even got home in time to tuck the girls in bed. What a blessing.
Brooklyn is doing really well and doesn't seem to mind the shunt. Jeff and I are still getting used to seeing it. We expected it to be smaller and unnoticeable, but it is actually quite large and sticks out of the back of her head. As she gets hair, you won't be able to see it, but for now, it does take us back a little. You can also feel the tube as it travels down her body to her stomach, which is a little strange. It all still makes my knees a bit weak.
BUT it is helping her. Her head size has already come down, and the veins in her head aren't nearly as large and dark as they were. Her soft spot is truly soft and she seems to be the same old Brooklyn. I tell you that nothing brought more joy to our hearts than seeing her smile yesterday morning...her way of telling us that all is truly well.
There is a bit more to worry about now that she has a shunt, but assuming things continue on the path they are on now, Brooklyn should have a BETTER quality of life moving forward.
I do have a lot more to share, but I really want to enjoy my family today, so that will all have to wait a little while. I just wanted to let you all know that we are home and say THANK YOU so very, very, very (very!) much for all of your prayers. You have no idea what a comfort it was sending our daughter off to surgery knowing we had an ARMY of warriors praying for her. Your many prayers not only covered and protected Brooklyn, they covered and filled Jeff and I as well.
We are humbled, blessed, and forever grateful to all of you. May He bless you as you have all blessed us!
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Basically, brain and spinal fluid is slowly collecting in her head, which is causing it to grow at an increasing rate. The good news is that she has never exhibited any negative symptoms due to the slow build-up, but if we don't stop it at some point, there could be complications for her down the road. It is also a good thing that we waited as long as we did because her body is now older and stronger, which decreases the chance for infection.
So the decision was made late yesterday to have the surgery this coming Friday. A shunt will be placed in the top of Brooklyn's head that will drain all the way into her stomach. Jeff and I feel confident that this the right thing to do, and trust that God will protect Brooklyn throughout this major surgery. What a peace to know that He is in control!
So far, it looks like the surgery will be at 3pm on Friday. We ask that you pray for complete success during and after the surgery and that there is no infection or adverse reactions to the shunt. Sometimes, the brain can go into "shock" after the surgery, which could cause seizures, so please pray that this does not happen. We also ask that you pray for Emma and Kendall, as Jeff and I will be at the hospital for about 2 days.
We also found out yesterday that Brooklyn's foot surgery wasn't completely successful, so she will have to have another larger surgery right before her 1st birthday, which means more casting. This was a little discouraging, but our orthopedic surgeon said the serial casting we've already done was completely successful in correcting her knees and her hips. Her feet also look sooo much better, so this is (hopefully) the final step in making them ready for walking! :)
Please know that even though the end result is not what we prayed for, Jeff and I feel God's hands in this, and we know He is still guiding our journey. In fact, God slowly prepared my heart for this news in the last few days, and Jeff is actually feeling relief. Please pray that His peace continues to fill our hearts. We never thought we'd be taking our baby in for brain surgery, but we also feel so grateful to live in a day and age where they have so many ways to heal and help our Brooklyn.
Also be encouraged that our little rock star is thriving and doing all of her baby jobs very well! She is growing like a weed and is smiling all the time. Jeff has even gotten her to giggle a few times! Her personality is really starting shine through, and we are loving every minute of it! :) Through Brooklyn, God has shown us what a precious miracle children truly are, and we feel so blessed to have a renewed perspective on life.
As always, thank you for your prayers!!! We will keep you posted on Friday's surgery.
Friday, December 03, 2010
Anyway, I thought I'd let you all be the judges. Here are all three of my little ladies in my all-time favorite jammies. Granted, Emma is only 6 weeks old, so it's not quite a fair comparison, but you get the point.
Have a great weekend everyone! Hope you get to hang out in your favorite jammies!
Brooklyn, 3.5 months old
Kendall, 3 months old
Emma, 1.5 months old
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Good morning, everyone. Happy Thanksgiving!
Today, I feel God called me to tell you about something very important in my life that has filled my heart with more Thanksgiving than I knew possible.
Yep, today I am thankful for socks. Actually, white socks with hot pink ruffles, green polka dots, and the embroidered letter “B.”
A year ago, I may have thought these socks were cute, but I never would have imagined the overwhelming sense of gratitude I would feel when I finally got to put them on my 3-month- old baby.
Such a small thing, socks. But as I have learned these past 8 months, God often reveals himself in the small things just as much as He reveals Himself in the big things—if you are paying attention, that is.
You see, 8 months ago my husband and I experienced what I guess most would say is a “big thing.” During a routine ultrasound, we learned that our third child, Brooklyn, had Spina Bifida. For those of you that don’t know, it’s a neural tube defect that affects the central nervous system. Basically, when our baby was forming, her spinal cord failed to close properly, leaving an open defect in her back that exposed her spinal cord and caused an irregular flow of brain and spinal fluid.
The news, of course, was a huge surprise. We had two very healthy, active little girls at home already. We barely knew what Spina Bifida even was, but we quickly learned more than we ever wanted to know: Our baby may never go to the bathroom on her own. A build-up of fluid in her brain could cause cognitive challenges. She may never walk.
Big, big things we never thought would happen to us. But they did, and I can honestly stand here and tell you that I have never been mad at God about that.
From the beginning, I have felt this overwhelming peace that this is part of God’s plan—or, better yet, that He was going to use it for His glory.
Even that first night, when I lay in bed, sobbing for hours and hours, I felt God was right there with me—crying. It was the worst night of my life, yet knowing that God was in control, that He knew this was going to happen, made me cling to Him and His promises like never before. My heart was broken, yes, but when the morning came, God picked me up and, as I like to say—our journey began.
What I experienced the next 5 months of my pregnancy was nothing short of awesome. Prayer after prayer answered. Brooklyn’s legs, which at one point, were not moving, started to kick in my womb. We found physicians and specialists that were among the best in their fields. I had nurses PRAYING with me at doctor’s appointments. Hundreds of family members, friends, and strangers were sending notes of encouragement exactly when we needed them. Prayers of healing were being sent up, and my faith grew like never before. God was guiding me through every day—the good and the bad. He provided my heart with constant encouragement and gave me wonderful images of Hope that will forever be imprinted in my heart. He gave me strength to share our story, but more importantly, used my weakest moments to help me understand.
It was His plan.
And then she was born. Brooklyn Hope Bonnema. I had been so anxious to meet her, to hold her in my arms. But, of course, I couldn’t at first. In fact, I wouldn’t hold her in my arms for 6 whole days. The longest days of my life.
But in those 6 days – and every day since then—I have learned to be thankful for the little things.
Like the first time I got to feed her a bottle. Yes, she was hooked up to several machines, and was lying on a portable sleeping table, but she didn’t need an IV and she was swallowing on her own. I was thankful.
Or the first time a nurse allowed me to hold her. Yes, she was carefully positioned on a foam bed that separated her from my lap, but I was able to kiss her and feel the weight of her body on mine. I was thankful.
Or the first time I got to burp her. Yes, she had to be propped up sideways because her left leg was deformed and her back was still healing from her surgery, but I could kiss her warm head and take in her sweet smell. I was thankful.
The first time we brought her home. 18 days after she was born. We were all under one roof. Finally. I was thankful.
The first time I got to wash the upper part of her left leg after her casts corrected its position. I was thankful.
The first time I saw her beautiful smile. A smile that told me the fluid in her brain was not causing major damage. I was thankful.
The first time I held her after she came out of her second surgery, remembering I was 20 miles away during her first surgery. I was thankful.
And the first time I got to put those ruffle socks on her little feet, which were reformed and finally free of plaster casts. I was thankful.
On January 5, Brooklyn will go in for an MRI to evaluate whether or not her anatomy is conducive to a brain surgery we are now considering for her. I can tell you now, that on that day, I will be thankful.
I will be thankful for the medical professionals that will be taking care of my baby. I will be thankful for the family that will ensure my other two children are enjoying their day like any other day. I will be thankful for a God who knows the outcome of that test and every other minute of my Brooklyn’s life here on earth.
Yes, I will be thankful.
Not because I am that faithful -- but because God is that faithful.
No, I have no idea what the future holds for my Brooklyn, but I will forever be thankful that some day, the God who carried her throughout her life and mine, will lovingly embrace her as she runs into His arms.
Friday, November 12, 2010
The warm, soft cheeks. The sweet smell. The closed eyelashes that personify peace...perfect peace.
You mamas know what I am talking about. Those stolen moments when they fall asleep and fit just so on your chest. The warmth of their body against yours and the overwhelming realization that this piece of Heaven is yours. All yours.
Tonight, as the glow of the TV screen danced in the background, I breathed her in. I tried to breathe in the peace of her slumber, but instead I was left with a confusing mix of love and sadness.
I can't possibly express to you just how much I love my Brooklyn, but I can tell you that I love her so much, it truly hurts.
And if I am being honest, sometimes I wonder if I will ever love her without hurting a little. Not because I wish something else for me, but because the more I get to know her, her personality, the more I wish something else for her.
I thought this whole acceptance thing would be easier once she got here, but in many ways, it is harder.
As most of you know, Brooklyn got her casts off this week. I was so excited -- we all were. We decorated her casts the night before -- the girls had a ball! -- and we celebrated with brownies and ice cream and a bath when they were officially off.
Now we have bare legs and toes, and for that I am truly grateful. But she also has to wear AFO braces that hide those piggy toes during the day and a full body cast that we have to squeeze her into every time she sleeps.
And, well, that stinks.
I want to be selfish and just have her legs and toes all the time. I want her to feel me tickling her feet. I want her to be able to do one of her most important baby jobs comfortably and not in a plastic mold that leaves her totally immobile on her backside.
I want SO MUCH for her. So much, that it hurts. A lot. And this is only the beginning of our journey.
As I reflected on my emotions tonight, I realized that maybe all that hurt is a sign that I'm looking at this wrong. That I NEED to get lost in her face and not get distracted with wishing away the plastic.
After all, the plastic is of this world. But her face, her legs, her toes -- those are of God.
I need to rejoice in His creation.
The hurt is of this world -- and it is temporary. But my unconditional love for her is of God -- and it is eternal.
I need to rejoice in His promise.
Yes, I wish a lot for my baby. But I can't wish away God's plans. Nor should I. He has big plans for my sweet Brooklyn, and I want to be a part of that.
I will love, and I will hurt. But I will strive to do a little less wishing and a lot more rejoicing, for some day my child will have more than I could ever wish for her. Forever.
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Friday, November 05, 2010
However, I must admit that I totally jumped on costume idea #107 as soon as I heard it...no princess?!!!! Whoo-hoo! Cheerleader costume ordering began 5 minutes later..before costume idea #108 surfaced.
Besides, the Bears could use all the extra cheerleaders they can get! ;)
So here they are: My three little cheerleaders. Orange and navy never looked so good if you ask me! :)
**P.S. We are soooo in trouble with this one...
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month, and we SB moms have on our minds, more than anything, the precious unborn babies who are so often terminated before they even have a chance to prove their lives have meaning and value to the world. To say that 50% of all Spina Bifida affected pregnancies are terminated is a conservative estimate. But we SB moms know there is no reason to terminate a baby because of SB. Our children are beautiful and intelligent gifts from God who have every opportunity to live full, productive, and totally normal yet extraordinary lives.
So we proclaim Wednesday, October 20 as the Spina Bifida Kids Worldwide Day of Prayer. We believe in the power of prayer, and we are excited at the prospect of many people praying at the same time for these unborn babies. We moms can make a difference individually and collectively, but that is nothing compared to the change that can come if we have God on our side.
We will begin at noon EST. Pray for as long as you feel led. Pray individually or with another person or group. On your knees, at your desk, while driving your car … the logistics do not matter.
Here are a few things you can pray about specifically:
1. There is one woman in particular who is on our hearts. God knows who she is. She is expecting a child with Spina Bifida, and she is afraid and considering termination. Today (Wednesday) is her appointment with a pediatric neurosurgeon to find out the severity of her baby’s case and to learn more about the diagnosis. Please pray that she will go to this appointment with an open heart and mind, that the doctor will give her a prognosis that is realistic and hopeful (we believe these adjectives are not mutually exclusive when talking about SB), and that most of all, God will give this woman a peace beyond understanding and a clear indication that she should keep her baby or give it up for adoption. There are many mothers willing to adopt this baby.
2. Obstetricians are usually the doctors who first diagnose Spina Bifida based on a prenatal ultrasound. Unfortunately, most know very little about SB except for what to look for on the ultrasound. Many of us were told by our OBs very scary and inaccurate information, such as “Your baby will likely not survive,” “She will be a vegetable,” “Terminating is the most loving thing you can do for this baby.” If this is the first time you’ve really even heard of SB, and a doctor you trust tells you this, you’re probably going to believe it. Please pray that these doctors will be educated about the SB prognosis so that they can give the diagnosis accurately and compassionately.
3. We SB moms will always remember the day we received the diagnosis as one of the most terrifying days of our lives. An initial grief response is denial, which often presents as “Please make this problem go away.” Termination is offered quickly. Please pray for these mothers and fathers, that they will first and foremost trust God to get them through this scary and uncertain time instead of letting fear guide their decisions. That God will draw near to them and make His presence known, as He did for so many of us. That these parents will be so filled with His peace about the future and love for their child that they will consider carrying the baby to term the easiest choice.
4. These precious babies are absolutely innocent and helpless. They are being thrown away because they are not “perfect.” Not one of us is perfect. Please pray for the lives of these babies to be spared. That each movement and kick will remind the mother that God knit that baby in her womb exactly as he or she should be. That their lives will bring glory to our Father.
5. Many of us SB parents cite the support of our family members and friends as the biggest comfort during the time right after receiving the diagnosis. But there are also families and friends who are unsupportive and even encouraging of termination. Please pray for these family members and friends, that God will use them to minister healing to the parents’ breaking hearts. That they will be wholly supportive, not hurtful, and they will lift up and help these parents as their raise their child.
Feel free to add other suggestions for what we should pray. And please pass this on to friends, family, church prayer groups, prayer warriors, pastors, and strangers.
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Matthew 18:19-20 (NIV)
Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Surgery went well today, but I can't quite say I enjoyed one minute of it. Waking my baby out of a deep cozy sleep at 4:30am, withholding food when she was hungry, and watching a stranger walk off with her...not a fan.
BUT she was her usual rock-star self and only let us know every once in a while that she was not pleased with the situation. The surgery was nice and fast, and she didn't get sick from the anesthesia. She was pretty out of it when I first saw her, but after a little snooze and some nursing, she was back to normal...just a bit sleepier. And I really can't complain about that since it just means extra cuddles for Mommy today. :)
So another success for our little Brooklyn! Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers. We are very blessed to have them.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
As I have mentioned, she has been in casts for the last 6 weeks, and we are now nearing the end of the process. During tomorrow's surgery, they will cut her Achilles tendon to stretch it out and bring her feet up a little. She will then go back into casts for 3 weeks straight (up until now they've been changed every week), then she will be fitted for her braces. Once her braces are ready, the casts come off for good! That means we get to rub those piggy toes again and watch those miracle legs kick. We can't wait!!!
Tomorrow's surgery should be a minor outpatient procedure, but it does require anesthesia, so we ask for your prayers that all goes well. Also, the casting process only has about a 50% total success rate in children with Spina Bifida, so we ask that you pray that we are in the positive 50% (otherwise, there are more surgeries in our future).
We are a little anxious about our baby having her second surgery in just 2 months, but we are thankful that this one is minor and will hopefully get those feet ready for some future walking!
We will keep you posted tomorrow, and as always, thank you for your prayers!
Friday, October 08, 2010
She hates laying on her back and usually screams when you change her diaper.
She loves sleeping on her side and gives me a nice 7-hour stretch at night.
She eats like a champ, but spits up. A LOT.
She is fussy for a good hour after she eats, but as long as you keep her upright, she chills out.
She loves noise and sleeps right through the chaos of two very busy sisters.
She smiles and coos, but usually only when looking at ceiling fans and right before she spits up.
She wakes up VERY hungry and has the most adorable complaining cry. (I admit, I often wait to feed her for a few seconds just so I can hear it. ;)
She loves her sisters and tolerates all of their rough lovin' very well.
She actually enjoys tummy time and has been known to take a little snooze while on her stomach (gasp!)...
She likes it when you rub her head, hold her hands, and sing softly in her ear.
She has the softest, warmest cheeks that are beyond kissable.
She is Brooklyn. And we love her just the way God made her.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
It felt good. Celebrating summer for all of its warmth, fun and sunshine. A final goodbye if you will. The leaves are falling and starting to change, but we needed a family send-off...all five of us.
It felt good. To remember. To move on.
Brooklyn got a new binkie today...a big-girl Nuk and not the NIC-U soothies she's been using for the last 2 months. She liked her new binkie just fine and didn't really seem to notice a difference. But I did.
It felt good to throw away the old binkies. It felt REALLY good.
...embracing change while remembering the seasons that got us to where we are now. And being thankful for today. For right now.
It feels good.
**Photo by the lovely Brookelyn***
Sunday, September 26, 2010
I am grateful, but I want to be honest. This is hard.
If I haven't mentioned it yet, Brooklyn is wearing casts on both of her legs. They cover her entire legs -- from the waist down -- and they are true casts...like the ones you or I would wear. Heavy, heavy casts that add about a pound to my little baby. They clink together when I pick her up, and they scratch my belly when I try to burp her. There are no cute toes to tickle, and baths involve plastic Jewel bags and a wash cloth.
I miss her legs, her soft legs. I miss rubbing her piggy toes, praying that she could feel my touch. I miss the excitement of watching her legs kick and bend...grateful for every single movement. They weren't perfect legs, but they were warm and they were hers.
I thought that getting her started on the casting would be exciting. That we were getting her body ready for all the walking she'll be doing some day. But every week, when I watch a man take a saw to my baby's legs and then reapply heaps of plaster like some sort of art project, it all just feels so unnatural. A baby shouldn't have to go through this. A Mama shouldn't have to look at little swollen and bruised feet and the occasional open sore. She shouldn't have to feel both grateful and sad that her baby is not feeling any pain. It is hard, and it is unfair.
But you know what? It is working. Every time those casts come off, I see swelling, but I also see her little legs starting to take shape. Little creases are appearing on the backsides of her legs, and knees are forming before my very eyes. And better yet, THEY ARE BENDING!!! About a month ago, when we started the casting process, Brooklyn's left knee could not bend at all. In fact, it was hyper-extended, so we started at less than 0% "flexion." Now? Well, we can bend that knee a whopping 70%, and we are only half way done. How awesome is that?!
The weight of the casts have also put her hips in place, and her feet are slowly starting to move into position. Both feet were severely clubbed, but she developed pressure sores after the first few castings, so we have to take it slow. But we are seeing progress. There is a 50% chance that this casting process will not "stick" and that Brooklyn will still require surgery for her clubbed fee, but with the way our prayers are working, I'm hopeful we will see total success.
So how is all of this an answered prayer? Well, for those of you who have been following our journey since the beginning, you know that our first few ultrasounds showed no movement in the legs. It wasn't until our fourth ultrasound -- and lots of prayer! -- that a technician verified some movement. And then when Brooklyn was born, she was kicking away and even bending her right knee all by herself.
We know that she has hip flexors and quadriceps muscles, but it has been questionable whether or not she has "glutes" and it was pretty well agreed that she didn't have hamstring muscles.
Last week when they were getting ready to put on the new casts, the orthopedic surgeon and I were discussing our next steps and she agreed that Brooklyn probably didn't have hamstring muscles. I hated hearing it, but I wasn't shocked. However, when they began applying the new cast, Brooklyn started to kick and fuss and I saw a smile come across our surgeon's face. "I don't want to get you excited, but I actually think I may be feeling a little hamstring here," she said.
What?! Wooooooo-whooooo! Of course, we have no idea if there is any strength in that muscle, but right now, I don't even care. Hope is what my heart has been surviving on this whole time, so I am taking that bit of news and rejoicing for all that it could mean for my baby. She is not going through this for nothing. As our ortho surgeon has told us, "She will be a walker."
And thanks to your prayers, I truly think she will be. While we were once told our child may be paralyzed from the waist down, we have now seen kicking legs, bending knees, and now maybe even working hamstring muscles. I mean, seriously, who knows what the future holds for our little peanut. NOTHING is impossible with our God.
I hold tight to these hopeful bits of news, but I am human and I admit that I still ask God for more. I don't want to get angry, so I ask for understanding. He often answers by revealing parallels that keep me humble and assure me we are not alone.
While odds are most of you are not waking up at 5am to get to the orthopedic surgeon, you are being "casted" as well. We are all are going through some sort of hardship, and if you allow Him to, God can use those hardships to mold you into the person He intended all along. There may be swelling and bruising along the way, but in the end, when the cast is removed, lives can be changed and God can be glorified. You just have to allow Him to do His work.
Do I hate those casts? Yes I do. Do I hate that there has to be sores and swelling and bruises to get to the end result? Yes I do. Will I miss them? Not at all. But these casts are giving our baby a fighting chance of beating all the odds. A chance to walk in faith, dance with praise, and stand in awe of a God who can heal us all.
Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8 NIV
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
So I decided to write this little "series" on answered prayers for several reasons. First, I want to finally update all of you on Brooklyn's condition without it getting too overwhelming and complicated (for you and for me). Second, I want you to see that God can and does heal (and is very creative in doing so). And finally, I want you to know that YOUR PRAYERS ARE WORKING!
The first major answer to prayer is that Brooklyn still does not have or need a shunt (a tube that drains any spinal fluid that builds up in the brain). This is a HUGE plus. As I've stated in the past, shunts can definitely save lives if they are needed, but they can also cause death if there is a malfunction that goes undetected. In fact, the mortality rate of children with Spina Bifida is 25% -- which is pretty high -- and the majority of those deaths have been attributed to undetected shunt malfunctions/infections.
In the past, children born with excess fluid in their brains were instantly shunted. However, as I've explained in previous posts, our neurosurgeon and her team believe that if given a little time, some children's bodies can find a way to deal with the excess fluid...and that is EXACTLY what Brooklyn is doing.
The reason this may be surprising is that Brooklyn's ventricles were quite large in my womb already (in the "severe" category), meaning that there was already quite a bit of fluid build-up in her brain. However, in my womb, she was also leaking some fluid out of the hole in her back (where her defect was). That means that post-surgery -- when they closed up that hole -- odds were that her ventricles and the fluid build-up in her brain were only going to increase since there was no leakage point to help "deal" with the fluid. All of those factors considered, the chances of Brooklyn needing a shunt were very, very high.
But God is so good. Get this: Brooklyn's ventricles have not changed AT ALL since her surgery. They have literally not budged in size. This is not typical. The neurosurgeon expected at least some increase, but instead, Brooklyn's ultrasounds have been "stone-cold stable." The look of subtle surprise on our neurosurgeon's face told me all I needed to know: Our prayers were being answered.
Now, there is a chance that Brooklyn may still need a shunt down the road. But every day she goes without one is a very good thing. The older and stronger she gets, the chances a malfunction or infection decreases. Some kids end up with hundreds (yes, hundreds) of shunt revisions because of infections and malfunctions, and we certainly don't want that. So every day Brooklyn goes without a shunt is a blessing.
Although we know what the future could hold, we remain hopeful. Our peanut's head is pretty large (95th percentile), but as long as it stays within the growth curve and she doesn't start to exhibit any symptoms that there is pressure in her brain, we are in the clear. The goal is to get through the first year of Brooklyn's life without a shunt. If we can do that, then odds are she will never need one. Wouldn't that be awesome?!
Our neurosurgeon has told us that if we don't shunt Brooklyn, she will most likely have a larger head (called macrocephaly), but that is not the end of the world. She's gaining weight like a champ, so she's "growing into it" quickly. :) And, quite honestly, we think she is cute as a button just as she is!
So there you have it. Your prayers are being answered!
And although you have all certainly done your part here, I can't help but ask for more prayer. I mean, they are working people!
So...we humbly ask that you continue to pray that Brooklyn won't need a shunt and that the fluid that is in her brain now does not cause any major cognitive challenges for her.
I can tell you with all of my heart that I will never ever again underestimate the power of prayer, and I hope Brooklyn's story encourages you to never underestimate our God. He hears and, yes, He answers.
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
John 14: 13-14
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
As most of you know, we are home!! As in, all 5 of us are now under one roof. I apologize for not posting the last several weeks, but, honestly, we have been busy being a family. :)
I also admit that these last several weeks have left me with a lot of raw emotion I am still working through. When I decided to start writing about Brooklyn and our journey, I made a promise to myself and to God that I would only write when I felt lead to do so. I didn't want this to be contrived or sugar-coated. I didn't want to put on a show or write what I thought people wanted to hear. I wanted to be honest and share what God wanted me to share when He wanted me to share it. (Got all that?!)
So I haven't written. But that is about to change. God revealed a lot to me today, and I am encouraged to share again.
Because it has been a few weeks, there is a lot to tell, so I think I'm going to do a little "mini series" on how God has answered our prayers. Brooklyn is truly a testament to His power.
So stay tuned the next few days for updates on our little rock star and all that God has done because of YOUR prayers.
So good to be home again!
Thursday, August 05, 2010
I am so sorry it has been so long since we have posted an update. It has been a little crazy as we adjust to our “new reality” of jumping between hospital and home. I wish I could say that it has been easier than I thought it would be, but in all honesty, it’s been harder. I think I’ll need to vent about that at some point, but for now, I’ll just give you the scoop on our little Brooklyn.
Overall, she is doing great! She has been out of the NICU since last weekend and has been hanging out on the neurology floor. Since her vitals were so good, they actually wanted to move her out of the NICU even sooner, but there were no beds available on the neuro floor. Now that we are finally here, we love it! The nurses on this floor are absolutely amazing. They all make a big fuss over our pretty little Brooklyn and take great care of her (and us too!). I am convinced now more than ever that nurses have a special place waiting for them in heaven. They make such a difference.
The best news is that so far, Brooklyn doesn’t need a shunt (a tube to drain the fluid from her brain). This means that although she was born with fluid in her brain and larger than normal ventricles, her head has remained relatively stable since her surgery. To check this, they are measuring her head daily and then sending her for ultrasounds a few times a week. Although it looks good so far, our neurosurgeon isn’t quite convinced that we are in the clear, so we are waiting it out until we get some hard evidence one way or the other. And, unfortunately, even if we do go home without a shunt, that doesn’t mean she might not need one down the road. With Spina Bifida, you literally need to take it day by day. We can celebrate meeting our milestones, but sometimes there are setbacks down the road. It’s a waiting game. But as my wise Grandma has said: When we get good news, we will praise God, and when we get not-so-good news, we will say, “He is in control.”
Brooklyn is eating extremely well and gaining weight. She is nursing when I am in the hospital with her and drinking bottles of breast milk when I can’t be there. Pumping has become a full-time job, but I am determined that Brooklyn will get the same benefits as her sisters did, even if she can’t get it directly from me all the time. So far, we are finding a way to make it happen, which makes this Mama very happy. She will have a swallow study with a speech therapist tomorrow, but that is more of a precautionary measure. Brooklyn has shown absolutely no problems sucking or swallowing. She latched on right away and barely spits up – even without being able to get burped!
Her urological tests have come back okay, but she does need to have a catheter four times day. She can go to the bathroom on her own, but some of her tests have shown that she’s not getting rid of it all, so we need to help her out so that she doesn’t get backed up. She doesn’t seem to mind it though and usually sleeps through the whole ordeal. That is, at least for now… ;)
Physical therapy and orthopedics keep trying to sneak in to see Brooklyn, but our neurosurgeon keeps pushing them off so we can focus on her back and her head. Jeff is anxious to get going on her therapy and casting, but until Brooklyn’s back is totally healed and they decide if/when she needs a shunt, we’ll just have to be patient.
Right now, they are categorizing Brooklyn at as an “L3” or “Lumbar 3,” which means she has some leg movement and above-average quadriceps and hip-flexor strength. She might be an “L4” (which is even better), but we aren’t sure if she has hamstring strength. Because her quads are much more developed than other babies her age, it’s hard to tell if the hamstrings are functioning or not. The same thing with her glutes, although our therapist thinks it looks like Brooklyn has a booty. ;) Only therapy and time will tell exactly what Brooklyn is capable of and what her muscles can do. Again…we have to wait and wait some more.
Our sweetheart’s legs and feet are little “twisty, twisty” as we like to say, but our therapist seems to think most of that will be corrected by casting (as opposed to surgery). We’ll have to wait until our neurosurgeon says “go” before we get specifics on this aspect of her care. Until then, we are just rubbing those piggy toes and praying over those legs every chance we get.
I wish I knew when they expect our peanut to come home, but we have no idea. One nurse speculated early next week, but we will wait to see. I admit, I’m guarding my heart on that one…unless I hear it from the neurosurgeon directly and she has discharge papers in hand, I am not going there. I just can’t take the possible heartbreak.
We are, however, working toward that goal. Jeff and I are taking a mandatory infant CPR class tonight, and I have been learning a lot from the nurses to prepare me for when we get home. I’ve learned how to feel for her soft spots (to make sure they are not bulging or filling up with fluid), how to measure her head (to check her ventricle size), how to change her diaper (her legs and surgery site make this an art form!), and how to catheterize her (yep, I did it...twice!).
Before she goes home, Jeff and I will have to stay overnight and care for her without the nurses’ help, and Brooklyn will have to pass a “car seat challenge.” This means she’ll have to be able to handle sitting in her car seat for the time it takes to drive to and from the hospital.
So that’s about it for now. We will be sure to update you if there are any new or big developments, but right now we are just waiting it out. Please continue to pray that Brooklyn’s head won’t swell and that her legs will have as much movement as possible. We also ask you to pray for our family as we try to adjust to lots of time apart. The girls are hanging in there, but it hasn’t been easy on them. Jeff and I are also emotionally and physically exhausted. Please pray for our strength!
Thank you all for your support these last 9 days. Jeff and I feel so blessed that our baby girl has such a loving community surrounding her. Much love to you all!
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Just a real quick update to let you know that Brooklyn's surgery was a total success, and she is doing great! The neurosurgeon said she lost very little blood and that the surgery went about as smoothly as it could go. Praise God!
She slept peacefully last night, and today they will finally get to feed her some of my milk. Because she was having surgery, they were only able to give her sugar water and IVs. Now comes the good stuff!!! I'm not sure when I'll be able to nurse her myself, but I am pumping as much as I can in the meantime. Of course, the most important thing is that she is getting my milk, but I do pray that I get to nurse her soon. My heart is aching for that bond so very much.
My OB is supposed to come in first thing this morning to authroize discharge, and I CAN'T WAIT!!! I am so excited to get to Children's and see my little trooper. God (and your prayers!) got me through yesterday's separation, but I am MORE than ready to move on from that and get to lovin' on my girl!
I do have to say it's been really cool to see Jeff form such a strong bond with Brooklyn. I can hear it in his voice...he is totally and completely in love and is just soaking in all this Daddy time. He told me yesterday how she likes to be soothed, and I could just feel the pride oozing through the phone. Boy do I love that man...
Our next milestone is seeing how Brooklyn's body responds to the surgery. There was a small tear in the membrane surroudning her defect, which means fluid had been leaking out when she was in my womb. Now that we've closed that tear, as well as the open defect itself, there is nowhere for the fluid to escape. It will build up as her body tries to find a way to absorb it, and depending on how that goes, a shunt may or may not be needed.
However, because Brooklyn's ventricles were already measuring big (which means she already had fluid build-up in her head before the surgery), a shunt is looking like a very real possibility. This is not shocking news, but we are still hopeful God will find a way to absorb the fluid. Pray, pray, pray!
Jeff did meet with an orthopedic surgeron for a little while yesterday, and we got some AWESOME news that I just have to share. When Brooklyn was born, one of her legs was completely straight with no bend at the knee. This wasn't a total surprise since several of our ultrasound photos showed this; however, inititally they thought that this meant her bones were actually fused together, which would mean she would never have bending in her one leg. Of course, this was hard to hear and challenged the possibility of her walking successfully in the future.
BUT...after the orthopedic surgeon evaluated her yesterday, he was able to reposition her legs and massage the area and HER KNEE BENT! Testing also showed that she has "good muscle tone" and strong blood flow in BOTH of her legs. Can I get an AMEN?!!!! :) Needless to say, we are all elated and beyond thankful. God is so awesome!
She will still need xrays of her legs to give us more information, but right now, the focus is on her back and her head. Any casting or orthopedic surgery will most likley happen after she is home with us. They think she'll be able to come home in 2-3 weeks -- which is way too long for this mama -- but is what we had expected all along. Just pray that she heals quickly so that we don't have to add to that timeframe!
So that's it for now. So much for my "quick" update. ;) I'll post some more photos soon, but if you can excuse me...I AM GOING TO SEE MY GIRL!!!!
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Miss Brooklyn is finally here! She was born via C-section yesterday at 4:49pm. She is a little peanut at 6 lbs 1 oz, and oh my goodness is she cute! I may be a little biased, but she has the sweetest little face. Oh how I wished I could have kissed it yesterday, but Jeff promises me he gave her plenty of “cuppy” kisses last night.
Although her diagnosis (at least for now) appears to be the same as we were told early on, God is still performing lots of little miracles for our baby. First of all, she is extremely stable. She is breathing on her own and her oxygen levels have been 100%, which is awesome (88% or higher is considered “good”). She was able to be transported very quickly to Children’s and is charming everyone she meets! They are even performing surgery less than 24 hours after her birth, which means that even at such a small weight, they think she is more than strong enough to handle it. Such a tough little cookie!
Her hydrocephalus (fluid in her brain) has not caused her head to swell at all, and she does have movement in her legs. Her feet are still clubbed and her legs are not positioned correctly, but we are waiting to see what the orthopedic specialists and the x-rays show. But somehow she is managing to move her legs, so we are still very hopeful!
So far today, they have performed three tests—a renal exam, an ultrasound of her head, and an echocardiogram. They all came back fine, and they are common tests they run before she heads into surgery. Her blood tests show her electrolytes are good, and Jeff says she is very active. Her eyes are wide open, and she is sucking and grabbing onto anything you put near her face. And this may be surprising to all of you…she is very vocal. I know, shocking, right?! ;)
Right now, the main focus is keeping her open defect moist and protected until they can close it up later today. They have been positioning her on her side and stomach, and Jeff says she seems comfortable. Her surgery is scheduled for around 4pm or 5pm today, but as we all know, things don’t always happen on time in a hospital environment. We are just pleased that the surgery is happening today. Because she was born so late in the day, there was a chance of switching the surgery to Thursday or Friday, which would have meant we would have had a different neurosurgeon. But, praise God, we are still able to have it today, and our original neurosurgeon is definitely performing the surgery.
The other miracle has been my recovery. I am feeling extremely good and the c-section went very smoothly. I will spare you the details, but let’s just say my body is healing well and the nurses and OB are willing to possibly let me out today! That’s a mere 24 hours after surgery, which is amazing. Jeff and I have –ahem – differing opinions about what is best for me, but I am ready to get out of here as soon as they say go. BUT I know I need to be conscious of my healing so that I don’t end up back in the hospital. We’ll see how I feel after the 24 hours has officially passed and go from there. I just miss her so much!
Well, I think that’s about if for now. We appreciate your prayers for today’s surgery, and we’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes. Sorry there was a delay in getting you this update, but now that my computer is all set up, I should be able to update much more often.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you all for literally showering our daughter with prayers yesterday. We felt them, and the peace Jeff and I have is unbelievable. These last 2 days, I have felt nothing but comfort and acceptance and encouragement. The negative hasn’t found its way into my heart yet, which I know is because of all the love and support I received from so many of you.
God has truly provided me with more strength than I thought possible, and He is doing the same for our little Brooklyn. She is proving to be as spunky as we had hoped. :) To God be the Glory…great things hath done!
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I close my eyes.
I see Him. His hands. He stretches them out to me and hands me my baby.
"Here, she is, child. It is now your turn to take care of her. She is special. You may not understand the decisions I have made, but I trust you. Her strength will be her spirit. Guide it, nurture it...for it will bless many."
I nod my head. I look in her eyes, and I know He has created beauty beyond my comprehension. Heavenly beauty that I get to share with the world. I am proud, and I am happy.
This day, she is mine. But, more importantly, she is still His. Together, we will show the world that His plan is always perfect. Always good.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Tomorrow we get to finally meet you, and we couldn't be more excited. There is so much to tell you, but for now, we just want you to know how much we love you. So very, very much.
Mommy, Daddy, Emma, and Kendall
Photo by the lovely Brookelyn
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
So far, it's looking like Miss Brooklyn is going to hold on until this Tuesday. Earlier this week, I was having some contractions, but nothing really since Tuesday night. I think those were more of a result of our fun-filled (but hot!) day at the zoo on Monday.
I also had my last loooong day of doctor's appointments on Tuesday (non-stress test, ultrasound, and OB visit). I didn't realize how much I wanted those to be over until I was sitting in the ultrasound room. Jeff was with me, and we got the latest numbers on Brooklyn ventricles (brain fluid estimations), and I lost it. The numbers were much higher than I expected -- 33 mm and 27 mm -- and before I knew it, the tears were streaming and I could not get them to stop. It was at the moment that I knew I wanted this to be over.
It's not that I wanted the pregnancy to be over; I was just done with all the stinking appointments. Done with the long days, the drama, the worry, the head games I had to play with myself every time...building myself up for what I might see, trying to stay strong for what I did see, then trying to convince myself that what I actually saw meant nothing. Totally and emotionally exhausting. Let's just say I would rather not see an ultrasound machine for a very, very long time.
The good news is that my OB wasn't concerned with the ventricle size at all and said it's all proportionate to her growth. (So, yes, I totally overreacted.) And speaking of growth, our "little peanut" is now up to the 56th percentile in weight!!! That was such awesome news -- we really want her to be as strong as possible if she does in fact require surgery.
She is still breech, but this girl is trying her hardest to move. Not sure she'll make it there, but I'm still praying that she will. The c-section is all set up, but in all honestly, my heart's desire is to deliver her naturally. Of course, I have no control, so whatever is meant to be will be.
I truly, truly believe that. I am at total peace right now with whatever happens. Now, I admit that last week was a totally different story. I wasn't ready. But after having some contractions and then the emotional release of Tuesday's appointment, my heart faced it all head on, and I honestly feel ready for anything. If she comes this weekend, great! We get to meet her sooner. If she waits until Tuesday, fine. Then all of our "plans" are in place, and we know what to expect (kinda).
The last few days have been wonderful as I get everything "in order" and do some last-minute fun things with the girls. I've even been able to have some really good talks with Emma.
Overall, I am totally motivated and feeling really good -- both physically and emotionally. Our plans are in place in terms of babysitters and emotional support for Brooklyn's birth and the days following, and I am so very excited to meet our little angel.
We'll keep you all posted, and as always, thank you so much for your prayers. She's almost here!
Friday, July 16, 2010
Before I begin, let me tell you that I am completely aware of the potential "realities" of Brooklyn's condition:
I am aware that she may be born with much more than just Spina Bifida.
I am aware that she may need 2 major surgeries within the first few weeks of her life and could have up to 30+ surgeries by the time she is 20 years old.
I am aware that she may have a shunt in her brain that can save her life, but can also take her life away if it becomes infected because I simply mistake it for the flu.
I am aware that she may never be able to go to the bathroom on her own.
And, yes, I am aware that she may not be able to wear any of the baby/toddler shoes that sit here waiting for her.
(Very) early puberty, seizures, vision difficulties, potential cognitive challenges...the list goes on and on and on.
These potential "realities"...trust me, I know of them. On "bad days," I have allowed myself to test each one out to see if I could in fact handle them. But for now, they are filed tightly away until I actually have to deal with them. They have been noted, but they are sitting on a little shelf some might label "denial." And I am okay with that. One. day. at. a. time.
With that said, on to "power" experience #2...
Right after my prayer shower, I was on a high. That night, Jeff and I had an absolutely wonderful time of sharing that our marriage and our hearts truly needed. The next day, I told my OB nurse all about the shower, and she was moved to tears. She prayed for Brooklyn right there in the middle of my non-stress test. I was strong, fulfilled, and encouraged.
But then Monday afternoon hit, and I started to get dragged down. Hard. As the days and hours passed, the doubts, the insecurities, the everyday challenges started to take over. I was tired, angry, impatient. I got sick. The girls were at their worst. By Thursday, I literally had the worst Mommy day of my life. I screamed and said things to my girls I never would have imagined I would say. At one point, my little 4-year-old Emma looked at me and said, "Mom, you are letting the Devil work through you."
And, you know what, she was right.
I truly believe that Satan was attacking me. No, I don't think I was "possessed" or that some demon was taking over my body, but I do believe that the power of what happened at that prayer shower ticked him off. Something was happening, and he didn't like it. I might as well have had a big target sitting on my belly.
So he attacked and attacked and attacked. And it wasn't just because of the prayer shower. It was because on Thursday night, we had another prayer "meeting" scheduled with the healing prayer team at our church. Satan literally did everything he could to keep us away from that meeting. My body so wanted to stay home; my heart didn't want to deal with one more emotion. The excuses were easy...I was literally sick (I need my rest), I was too tired (I AM pregnant after all), I had no babysitter lined up (I'd hate to ask one more person to watch our kids), the girls needed their Mommy to put them to bed (I leave them enough)...
But when the excuses kept coming and Jeff actually suggested we stay home, I knew we needed to go. My Mom even voiced my thoughts out loud, saying that I knew who was trying to keep us away (Satan). So we went, and God totally won that battle.
At the "meeting," this team didn't focus on praying for our peace or even for God's will (although we know that is the ultimate deciding factor). They prayed for healing. Complete and total healing. Healing of Brooklyn's back, her nervous system, her legs, her clubbed feet, the fluid around her brain. As one man prayed, we BOLDLY asked God to heal our baby because yes, it is bold to ask God to do something so completely selfish. But it is our job to ask. We leave the answering up to Him.
Do I believe that God can heal our baby? Yes I absolutely do. He did it in the Bible, and I know He can do it now. Within a nanosecond, He could take this all away.
The question then becomes, will He? Or rather, do Jeff and I have enough faith to actually believe that HE WILL. In the Bible, He healed people simply because they believed He could. But did they also ever doubt that He would?
To be completely honest, I don't know the answer to those questions. I want to believe 100% that God WILL heal our baby. But I am human. As much as I want to throw those "potential realities" so very far, far away, I am afraid to. It's not that I don't think He has the power to do it, I'm just afraid that is not His plan.
The night of our first ultrasound was one of the worst nights of my life. I literally laid in bed and cried ALL NIGHT LONG. I sobbed and grieved for hours and hours and hours. Every once in a while, I'd wake Jeff up to hold me when the pain became too much to bear, but for most of the night, it was just God and me. I truly believe God cried right along with me that night, allowed me to just feel. But then in the morning, He started to pick me up. And the journey began.
Believing 100% that He will take all of this away might mean re-living that night all over again, if in fact His plan is to not heal her. And that is so very, very scary. So far, I have not been angry with God (more on that later...), and I don't want to be.
But that is what faith is. It is believing so much that you put His power before your own weaknesses, even if it might hurt a little. That even if His plan wasn't what we asked for, that He would protect our hearts and get us through it. Again.
So that has been mine and Jeff's prayer... to erase all the doubt. To wholeheartedly trust in His power. To trust that He WILL heal our baby. To do more than hope. To BELIEVE.
As Brooklyn's birthday gets closer, I admit that it is getting harder to do as we attempt to prepare. But we are trying our hardest and fighting against Satan and all of the doubts he pours in. Ignoring the hurtful dreams, the financial stresses, the marriage struggles, the hormones, the exhaustion of raising two toddlers, and all of the challenges that want so badly to take over this home. To ignore the dozens of hurtful ultrasound images that flash through my head and just focus on that adorable, beautiful little face. To see His face in hers. To believe in His image.
We will accept His plan, but for now, please pray with us. Pray that He will heal our baby. That she be restored 100%. We have to ask for her sake. And because we know He has the power to do it.
"...Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children..."
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
My last two doctor appointments went well. The one I had 2 weeks ago turned into an ultrasound because my belly was measuring small (about 2 weeks behind), but the ultrasound showed Miss Brooklyn is growing -- she was up to 5 lbs, 9 oz -- which is still within the 25th percentile. I had a feeling that she was going through a growth spurt after that appointment, and sure enough, this week my belly was only measuring a 1/2 week behind, so she is getting stronger and stronger every day!
She is still breech, so we are scheduled for a C-section on July 27. However, both my girls were early (Emma was 10 days, Kendall about 5 days), so we'll see what happens. Miss Brooklyn certainly likes to keep life interesting, so I'm not planning on anything going the way I think it will. ;)
My OB did talk to us about doing a "version," which is where they manually try to turn the baby in utero so that she is in position for a natural birth. But, there are risks associated with that, and Jeff and I both feel it isn't worth it at this point. They say I am a "good candidate" because my other two deliveries went so well (nice and fast!), but I feel really confident that Brooklyn will be in the position she is supposed to be in when the time comes. Whether that means she does a flip on her own or wants to stay put, I am game. We have gotten this far, and I certainly don't want to induce an emergency C-section if we don't have to. We want to give Brooklyn the safest delivery possible.
(But... if you could say a prayer or two that she does flip, I'd appreciate it. I'd really like to recover from delivery as fast as possible so I can be with Brooklyn and the girls as fast as possible. I have accepted that this might not happen, but I am still hoping!)
So that's the scoop. My last doctor's appointment and ultrasound are on Tuesday, and then we wait until the 27th. Holy cow, that's less than 2 weeks away. Can you believe it? Let the countdown begin!
Monday, July 12, 2010
Lately, I am finding joy in the every day, especially as I look at these two little girls grow more and more in love with each other. They are truly best friends, and their relationship is something they created on their own. Somehow, their relationship makes me more complete, and it makes every hard day worth it.
The three of us -- "the girls" as Jeff calls us -- we are a package deal. And I love that. They drive me crazy, yes, but they also amaze me and inspire me and love me for all that I am (and all I am not).
When I look at them -- at us -- I am happy. Often frustrated, always exhausted, and sometimes overwhelmed...but happy. And to think we get to add another girl to our "package" makes me happier. I know it makes them happier too.
Friday, July 09, 2010
Let me be honest for a minute. If you would have asked me a year ago about the "power of prayer," you would have gotten some luke-warm response from me. Yes, I KNOW it's important. I know God tells us to do it. And of course I have done it many, many, many times for those I love and those I barely know because, well, that's what you do when something bad happens. You pray for someone. (Or you at least offer to pray.)
For me, prayer had always been one of those "I need to do more" things, and like most people, it was often a clear reflection my relationship with God. It definitely needed some help. I meant to pray more -- to actually follow through on my promises to people -- but sometimes I just plain forgot, got too busy...or fell asleep.
And even when I did pray, did I truly believe my prayers were making a difference? I mean God is God, and He is going to do what He is going to do. Was I just getting another jewel in my crown because I remembered to do it, or was I actually having some sort of impact on the lives I was praying for? I honestly don't know what I thought. In fact, I never really thought that much about it all.
Now, however, I will boldly tell you that there is absolute power in prayer. I know it because I have felt it pulse through my heart. I have felt it zap away tears and energize a broken spirit. I have seen it literally move legs and ignite hope like never before. Trust me, there is power in prayer.
Ever since we found out about Brooklyn's condition, I have been amazed at the amount of prayer and support we've received. I'll never forget an email Jeff got from a woman we didn't even know after I sent out our first prayer request email. Not only did this complete stranger offer us love and encouragement (and prayer), a simple scroll down showed that she had received our email after 3 forwards. Jeff and I were in total awe.
The cards, the letters, the emails, the blog and FB comments...each one has meant more than you know. And when you say you are praying for our baby, I believe you and I am truly and eternally grateful. Prayer is literally all we can offer our baby right now, so we have no problem asking for it. Pride has no place in your life when your child's health is concerned. We will do whatever it takes for her.
Soooooo...this is all leading up to two absolutely amazing prayer experiences I had in the last 2 weeks. Today I'll tell you about the first one.
Two Sundays ago, my sister-in-law and mother-in-law threw me a prayer shower. The invite list only included close family and a few church friends. I honestly had no idea what a "prayer shower" was and although I was so very thankful for the gesture, I was a little nervous about being the center of attention. I mean it's one thing when people are coming to rub your belly and say congrats, but it's completely different when people are coming to rub your belly with tears in their eyes and have no idea what to say. But it wasn't like that at all. It was A M A Z I N G.
After a beautiful lunch, my sister-in-law asked everyone to sit in a circle of chairs. She had everyone bring words of encouragement (bible verses, sayings, prayers, etc.) they prepared on a card that she put in a keepsake book. She invited people to read their card, to pray out loud if they felt led, or to just share their heart. There was no pressure and we didn't go around the circle. People just prayed and shared if they felt comfortable, and I have never been so touched in my entire life. There were tears, yes, but not because we were sad. It was just emotional and touching and
P O W E R F U L.
There is no doubt that God was in that room with us, and I felt absolutely blessed that I got to be the Mommy of such a little angel. A precious life that had managed to bring all of these people together to talk to God before she was even born. Bring all of us closer to Him...and to each other. One little life, so many prayers. SO MUCH POWER.
After we were finished, I stood in the center of the room, and everyone laid hands on my belly or just stood around me. My sister-in-law asked everyone to pray one very specific silent prayer in their hearts for Brooklyn, for me, or for our family. It didn't take long before those prayers were no longer silent and we were once again praising and asking and trusting. My heart was lifted, my love tank "filled," and my doubts and fears eased. Total and complete peace washed over me. Again and again and again.
Did I deserve all of this? No. But I will take it. All of it. For my baby and for His glory.
This was no ordinary shower. There was no registry, no pictures, no Baby Bingo, no pink safety pins to steal from your neighbor. There was no huge guest list (although we had enough dessert to feed hundreds!) and no obligatory "I have to go." I truly believe that those who were meant to be there were there, and God used them in a very powerful way. Everyone should have one of these. Seriously.
There were a few small thoughtful gifts, but most were opened after I got home. Nothing about this shower was superficial or worldly. This was about all about God.
I will forever treasure this experience, the keepsake book that will surely get me through the toughest of days, and every word that was spoken for my daughter, my family, and for me. And for those words that were unspoken, I will trust those to God. I know He will use them in an amazing way.
There is power in prayer. Not only because of how absolutely empowered I was after this experience, but because what happened in the days following. And it wasn't what you think.
Not that I'm trying to keep you hanging, but I realize that this post is getting long enough, and I have even more to say about experience #2. I will tell you that Brooklyn's condition appears to be the same, but I will also tell you that there a lot more hope around here lately. Keep praying.