Thank you for visiting my blog! If you are visiting because you have experienced a pregnancy or infant loss, let me say that I am so very sorry. I started this blog shortly after our Baby Grady was stillborn on November 12, 2008. Please visit the sidebar below called "Labels" to find the topic in which you are interested, or just read as your heart desires.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I'm Not Alone

I feel like I've been away for so long! I have so many things that I want to post about and share with you, but they are going to be long posts and take so much emotional energy that I just don't feel like I've had lately.

I want to share with you what happened to me yesterday. It was so freeing for me. I've said several times that I LOVE the church that we've been going to since January. All of the speakers have been wonderful, but Andy Stanley is by far my favorite. He just has such a way of teaching the Bible in a way that is fun (YES I said FUN!), easy to understand and apply to your life. We also went to his church about 15 years ago, so it's nice to be back.

I was hoping yesterday's message would speak to me. The title of the sermon grabbed my attention - "Boulevard of Broken Dreams". Boy, is that for me or what? As usual, I was not disappointed.

The sermon was about David, found in 1 Samuel 21. A short synopsis was that David thought everything was going well for him and that God was on his side. He was revelling in God's goodness for him, when all of a sudden his life took a turn in the other direction. His plans weren't going as he hoped and wanted, so he fled, turning his back on God and taking matters into his own hands. Turns out that his way didn't work out so well for him.

This was only part 1 of the sermon. If you'd like to hear or watch this sermon click here. I'm looking forward to next week when we learn how God was with David all the time. David realizes this and starts leaning on Him again.

This sermon was so important to me because I realized that I wasn't alone in my anger with God. I realized that it was okay that I was angry. I wasn't alone in feeling like God had turned his back on me when Grady died. I wasn't alone in taking matters into my own hands, handling my grief on my own. Because after all, what kind of God who loves me so much would take my precious unborn baby boy from me? My life was going well. I had such big dreams of having a little boy. I had such hopes for the joy Grady would bring to our family. I could taste what it would feel like to hold him in my arms. I wanted him so much! And then, boom, in an instant it was all gone. Grady was gone. My dreams were shattered. I didn't know what to do or where my life was going, but I knew for sure I didn't want anything to do with God. But at the same time....He was all I had.

But the truth is, God was there all along. Being patient with me. Waiting for me to come back to Him with His arms open wide. Waiting to comfort me in ways that only He could.

I was writing last night in my prayer journal. Here's part of what I wrote:

"Thank you for taking that anger from me and turning it into something less destructive - confusion, something so hard to understand that it's just not humanly possible".

That's mostly what I feel now. Confusion. I don't know why we don't get to have and love Grady here on this earth. And it's not something that I can grasp. It's just something I have to live with and learn how to live with each day. I am so thankful, though, to have a heavenly Father who loves me, weeps with me, rejoices with me, and carries me through even the hardest times.

I don't know what, if anything, you're struggling with right now. I don't know where you are spiritually. I don't know if you have faith at all. But one thing I know for sure is this... No matter what you're going through. No matter what your circumstances. No matter what your struggle is...

God is right there with you. He is in control. He has a plan for you.

"....plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" Jeremiah 29:11.

Love,
Tonya

Thursday, March 26, 2009

3 - 2 - 1 BLASTOFF!

That’s how I feel my life has been this week. Taking off VERY fast. Taking off in directions that I wasn’t expecting. At least not so soon. Let’s hit the brakes and back up…

In the first few weeks after Grady died, I was searching incessantly for a support group to attend. I read lots of stories online, but I so badly needed to be face-to-face with other moms who had lost their babies. Most of the groups were general grief groups or groups where people experience the loss of a child at any age. This just wasn’t what I was looking for. In my anger, it came to my mind that I should start a group. That I needed to be the agent of change for moms like me.

I feel that I need to give you a tiny bit of background about me. Because after all, what would qualify me to lead such a group?

First of all, I’ve personally experienced a lot of loss in my life. I think I explored this in previous posts, but if you missed it, I’ll tell you again. My dad died when I was 13. My grandparents died one by one between 1996-2003. We almost lost Emma Grace in 2003. I had a miscarriage in 2005. My mom died in 2007. Grady died in 2008.

Professionally, if you don’t know, I am a registered nurse. I have not worked in the hospital since 1998 and even then, I have only a short time of experience in the adult ICU. When Jessica was one, I became a Certified Childbirth Educator. For the past nine years, I have taught childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant safety/cpr classes. I also led a support group for new moms called Motherlore. I loved it. I was very sad to leave, but I just can't talk and teach about babies all the time now.

Now back to the present. The thought of starting a group remained in the back of my head. In January, as I drove across town to the only support group I could find that suited my needs, I met a wonderful woman who runs that group. I was talking to her and shared my desires and interest in starting a group. She agreed that there was a huge need in our area for an infant loss group. To make a very long story short, after emailing back and forth, her organization sponsored me to take an RTS Bereavement Training Course (hence my trip out of town last week). One point of important clarification: I did not ask for this training. She offered it. It literally fell in my lap. I knew it was from God and an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I know it is very soon after Grady’s death, but it was the only training this year that was in driving distance, and I didn’t want to wait until next year.

RTS is a very credible and reputable organization in hospital-based bereavement programs. Dr. Joe (my OB) agrees that there needs to be some kind of group at the hospital to serve moms/families like us. Not just a stillbirth, but any perinatal loss – miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, death from prematurity, stillbirth, and death shortly after birth. This works in my favor as he is the Chief of OB! Can I just tell you once again what a wonderful person he is! He, too, is one of those God-sends in my life!

****Here’s where I feel like the space ship is taking off, and I’m standing in the trail of smoke left behind saying, “Wait for me!”

I had my yearly appointment with Dr. Joe on Monday. We talked some in his office and over lunch, and he feels it would be important and valuable if I would speak at an upcoming Performance Improvement meeting to present my ideas. Immediately my anxiety rose to levels far beyond the roof! I don’t like speaking in front of a bunch of people, especially a bunch of doctors. Don’t get me wrong. I want to do it! I’m just very anxious and nervous, and the meeting isn’t until April 15th!

Tuesday morning I emailed two of my friends at the hospital to ask some questions. I received a text that morning AND a call from Dr. Joe’s office telling me that there was a bereavement meeting that day at 2pm. Was I available? After scrambling for childcare, I WAS able to go. I was immediately put at ease as I saw some familiar faces from our 4 months in the NICU with Emma Grace. I thought I was just going to observe, listen and learn at this meeting. Nope. I am now a part of this committee and have been assigned to a sub-committee. This bereavement committee has been in place for the NICU for a very short time with some very big and much-needed goals. They are trying to expand it to reach Labor and Delivery at the hospital because that is where most fetal deaths occur. I really hope that I can be a voice for other moms who lose their babies!

Don’t ask God to use you if you’re not really ready for Him to! On my way to the training I asked the Lord to help me be attentive and learn as much as I could to reach out and help grieved families. On the way home, I prayed for Him to use me in such a way that would help people and bring Him glory. I’m seeing answers to these prayers already. It’s powerful but overwhelming!

This is MY NEW MISSION that I’ve referred to in previous posts. I KNOW that God has called me to this particular ministry. There is NO doubt in my mind. I rest in that. I have peace with that. However, I’m having a very hard time with how fast things are moving. BUT, I know God doesn’t make mistakes. I just didn’t expect to see Him working so soon and opening so many doors at once. I’m going to have to be careful with what I take on as I am still very much grieving my Baby Grady.

Speaking of him, I found out today one year ago that I was pregnant with him. It’s been a hard day.

I have had a hard time lately anyway. I feel myself starting to struggle much more emotionally than I was before. I was never OK. A better way to describe me was that I was better. But, I’m more sad and maybe even a little depressed. I think I’m entitled to that, though, don’t you think?

I think it’s a combination of the training and the mix of emotions in this new mission of mine. I have read that 4-6 months is particularly hard because the shock is wearing off and reality is setting in. Unfortunately, I’m finding this to be true.

I am SO excited about the opportunities in front of me. But the life I REALLY want is a life that I just can’t have. My new reality IS becoming evident and it becomes more and more real every day. I want my new reality and my new normal to be as I had imagined before that life-changing, awful, earth-shattering day of November 12th, 2008.

I really just want my Baby Grady here in my arms.

Love,
Tonya

Monday, March 23, 2009

Blindfolding My Children

Well friends, I'm very tired tonight but wanted to say a quick hello. Things are going well here. I haven't quite caught up from my trip and this week seems like it's getting away from me already...and it's only Monday!

I wanted to share a funny thing I did with my children last night. I don't know what made me do this, but it was great! I got my point across....

I get an organic produce box every other Monday. We never know what we're going to get in the box, and it's awfully fun to be creative with what you have. My friend, Amy Ellen, has helped me with this task. She's the one who introduced me to the box in the first place - thank you my friend!

In reading her blog, she made a quiche with some of her produce. Me, being the copy-cat that I am, followed suit. I tweaked her recipe just a little but it was delicious! It had kale, mushrooms, and onions, but instead of the parmesan cheese, I used marble cheddar. (I have not liked parmesan cheese since I was pregnant with Grady but loved it before - strange!)

Aanywhoo, I knew once my girls saw all of that green in the quiche they were going to have no part of it. They do pretty good with greens. They will both tear up a salad and love steamed broccoli, but other greens (except for green beans) they're not so sure about. I was frantically brainstorming how I was going to get them to eat this because I knew it was going to be yummy! Then it came to me....

Blindfold them!

So I did!

They were excited about our new "game". Gib brought in two of his t-shirts and wrapped them around their heads. We made them take a bite and both of them said, "Oooh, this is good!" Once Jessica saw all the green, she wasn't so sure anymore. Go figure! But she still ate most of her serving. However, Emma Grace didn't miss a beat! She tore that quiche up, had seconds, and asked for it again for dinner tonight. She was out of luck. Gib took the leftovers for lunch today, but I promised her I'd make another one later in the week.

I think I'll start blindfolding them more often just to introduce a new food/dish, at least those that I think they would like but don't like the looks. I want them to learn that looks don't always dictate taste. If this is how I'm going to have success, by blindfolding them, then so be it!

One more thing, if you feel so led, please pray for Baby Stellan.
This is a baby who was not supposed to survive outside the womb but he was born a perfectly healthy baby. He became very ill over the weekend and he's in the hospital with serious heart problems. His momma, known as MckMama, is one of the most famous bloggers of all time. Prayer is exactly what they need right now. Thanks in advance!

Love,
Tonya

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Randomness

I’m back! My trip was better than I expected. A BIG thank you to those of you who prayed for me. The second day was harder emotionally than the first, but all of it was great. The speakers were wonderful, and I met so many amazing people. I learned so much and have so many ideas and plans that I hope to see come to fruition in the future, both near and far. I am excited to see where God is going to lead me and how He is going to use me as a result of Grady’s short life and sudden death. I said before that I would much rather have him here. We all know that’s not possible. If I can’t have him, I might as well make the best of the situation.

I didn’t have quite as much down time on this trip as I thought. Like I said, I met some wonderful people and went to dinner with a few of them Thursday night. My family missed me a bunch. It’s so nice to know you’re loved and needed! I missed them too, and it was good to get home.

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We had Emma Grace’s birthday party today. The fun started with a carousel ride and Chick-fil-A in the mall.


After lunch we pulled apart the monkey cupcake cake and opened presents.




We then headed upstairs to Build-A-Bear.

Here's the birthday girl rubbing the hearts under her hands on her cheeks so that her monkey could smile.


Her bear getting stuffed.


She and Jessica giving their monkeys a bath.


The finished product.


It was low-key, not very big and not very stressful. I think the girls had a great time. There were four other friends there besides my girls. I didn't post their pictures 'cuz I don't know if their mommas want them posted here :)

We stopped to get gas on the way home, and the Humane Society had dogs for adoption at the adjoining grocery store. We did NOT come home with one, but Jessica and Emma Grace fell in love with one named Jordan. He sat right down in Jessica’s lap and stole her heart. It was hard to pull them away, but we managed.

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I have to share something that I’m very excited about. In case you don’t already know this, we live in a very small world. I was visiting a blog and came across someone else who had also experienced a stillbirth. I visited that blog and turns out that we live very close to one another. We’re hoping to meet in person this coming week. I think she’s a God-send and an answer to prayer. You know who you are.....I can’t wait to meet you!!!

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Speaking of the blog world. I need help from fellow bloggers. Is there any easy way to get pictures to load exactly where you want them or do they always load at the top of your post? The pictures take me SO long to load and get exactly where I want them. Any suggestions to make this easier?????

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I’m not sure what the rest of the weekend will hold for us. I know that I have some catching up to do around the house, but the weather is beautiful again. The girls are outside kicking around the soccer ball. They went to a soccer game Thursday night with a friend and now they’re both talking about wanting to play. Jessica played when she was five, but she wasn’t very good. Not because she couldn’t kick the ball. No....it was because she wouldn’t take the ball from anyone and kicked the ball to the other team! She was too nice. There's no telling what they'll be into come fall.

That's about all for now. I hope you have a wonderful weekend with your family and friends!

Love,
Tonya

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Prayer Please...

Yes, it is Wednesday but there's no Wednesday's Walk for me this week. I am getting ready to leave town for a couple of days, and I didn't feel like I had time today to give it the attention that it would need.

I am extremely sore from the gym yesterday. I bailed on it this morning to get some last minute things done and to give my poor aching legs a rest. I don't have much time so this will be short and sweet.

I am going for some training to help me pursue my new mission in life (more to come...). I will be away from my family for only two nights, but it already feels like an eternity. This is not something that happens frequently in our home, and no one likes Mommy being away. Daddy will do a fine job taking care of the girls, and I have a couple of friends that will take good care of them, too. But still...

I do have to admit that I'm looking forward to being alone in my hotel room. Reading. Journaling. Watching tv. Whatever I want to do. That will be nice. But knowing me, I'm sure I'll be thinking about home and wishing I was here.

Please pray for me though. While I am very excited about the opportunity before me and its potential, I am also struggling more with losing Grady. I would much rather just have him here with me. If he were here, I wouldn't be going for training. I could just be his Mommy. Well, I am his Mommy, but you know what I mean... It's very bittersweet for me.

I hear the training is emotionally intense. Please pray that I will be able to get through it. Please pray for Gib and the girls while I'm gone that things will go well for them. Please pray for my safe travel. Please pray that God will use this training and Grady's short life for His glory. That's really what all of this is about...

I will not have a computer with me, so I'll be back with another post over the weekend! Thanks for the prayers! We'll "chat" again soon...

Love,
Tonya

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy 6th Birthday to our "Emmazing Grace" (and the rest of her story!)




Happy 6th Birthday Emma Grace!

She had two celebrations today. The first one was at school, and the second was at home tonight after Mexican for dinner!

As promised, here is the rest of her “Emmazing” story. It turned out to be kind of long, so you've been warned! Click here to read the first part of her story.

After being on bedrest for 12 days, God decided it was time for us to meet Emma Grace. She was born on a Sunday morning, but let me back up two days to Friday morning.

They had given me a urinary cathether a couple of days after I was admitted to the hospital. Every time I would try to use the bedpan I couldn’t fully empty my bladder and felt like I was losing every little bit of amniotic fluid I had every time I tried. (By the way, I lost amniotic fluid every time I moved, but why move if you don’t have to? AND every time they did an ultrasound they couldn’t find any pockets of fluid, so I was literally leaking all that I was making. This is extremely not good for a developing baby's lungs) The perinatologist (high-risk doctor) came in to check on me that Friday morning. I told him that the catheter was starting to bother me. He asked how long I’d had it. I told him and he said (direct quote), “Well, we might as well take it out. The baby probably won’t make it anyway”. I was so hurt, shocked and angry that he just came out and said that. How insensitive? We had been praying so diligently for this baby and all we had was hope. I felt like he had just shattered everything I had been holding onto. (Another side note, when I was pregnant with Grady, I made darn sure that I did NOT see that man!). The catheter was also a potential source for infection, so it was taken out, and I was given a bedside commode.

Now that was an experience. Have you ever been in bed, off of your feet for any significant length of time? It had been 10 days for me. I was not prepared for what it would feel like to be up again. When I sat up for the first time, I felt like my head was falling backwards. It was hard for me to hold it up. When my feet touched the floor for the first time, it felt like I had prickles all over them. You know the feeling when your foot has been asleep and it’s “waking up”? Weird, I tell ya!

I had been monitored very closely for infection. I didn’t have any other signs other than my slowly increasing white blood cell (WBC) count. A new doctor, Dr. D, from my former practice came on call that Friday morning. He came in and talked with me. I had been on a heart medication called Procardia – not for heart problems. This medication has been shown to relax the uterine muscle and calm contractions. I had been on it as a preventative measure. With my WBC count rising, he said he wanted to see what my body was trying to do on its own. He didn’t want the medication to mask or prevent labor if infection was indeed starting.

That Saturday was a great day. Gib brought Jessica to the hospital. Since I had been there for a long time I had a nice high-risk room. It had a mini-fridge, microwave, nice tv, and dvd/vcr player. Jessica snuggled in the bed with me. We shared popcorn and a coke and watched 101 Dalmations. It was just what I needed – I had missed her so much. Short visits just weren’t the same as holding and cuddling her in my arms. She fell asleep, and I loved hearing and feeling her breathe next to me.

Sigh….

After she and Gib left the hospital, I started having mild cramps. I lost my mucous plug later that evening. I knew that wasn’t a good sign. I was able to sleep that night, but the cramping was getting stronger.

By 7:30 that Sunday morning, I was really feeling the contractions and suggested to my nurse that she put me on the monitor. My breakfast tray came, she put me on the monitor, elevated my head some and left the room. I ate part of a muffin, some cereal and some orange juice (this is important). Not long after, my nurse came back and said, “Your contractions are too strong. I have to take your tray and put you flat again. Do you feel like you need to empty your bladder?” I told her I would try because sometimes a full bladder can make contractions worse. This may be too much detail, but I’m giving it to you anyway… When I went to wipe, I felt something squishy. I knew immediately that something wasn’t right. I quickly got back into my bed and was about to push the call light for her to come back when she opened the door. I told her what happened and when she checked, her face fell and she said “I don’t like what I see”. “What is it?”, I asked. She said, “It’s your cord”.

This is NOT good, friends. I knew this from being a nurse and teaching childbirth classes. A prolapsed cord is where the cord has slipped through the birth canal before the baby. My cord was coming out. The reason this is so dangerous is because the baby can compress the cord and cut off his/her oxygen supply.

She pushed the call light and said, “We need Dr. D in the OR stat. We have a prolapsed cord and I need a sterile glove!”. Within seconds there were, no lie, ten nurses in my room. They let me quickly call Gib to tell him to get to the hospital, ASAP! My nurse was on top of me – literally! – pushing the cord back up while the other nurses ran me – literally! – down the hall and elevator to the OR.

I was amazingly calm. My nurse was wonderful. She was pushing the cord back up to keep the pressure of Emma Grace off of it. She was so reassuring – she kept looking at me saying, “I feel it pulsating”. That was what I needed to hear – Emma Grace was still getting oxygen. (Although we still didn’t know if she was a boy or girl at that time.)

Once in the OR, I began to get scared. There was total chaos and mahem around me. That’s when it hit me – I was going to have general anesthesia. When I asked that question, there was a unanimous “YES”. The anesthesiologist was slapping my wrist trying to find a vein for an IV. He said, very hateful, “So you ate breakfast?” I hesitated, but I told him what I had eaten. He shook his head and said, “You ate a full breakfast”. I understood his concern and the risk of me aspirating with general anesthesia if I were to vomit, but geez...I didn’t know this was going to happen! I looked around and asked if anyone in there prayed. One nurse looked at me and said, “Honey, we’re already praying.”

The last thing I remember is being told to take some deep breaths but feeling like I had 500 pounds of weight on my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I was waving my hand to try to tell them, but nothing was happening. They were in such a rush that my lungs were paralyzed before I was under anesthesia. Scary feeling!

Things happened so quickly! I found the cord about 8:05, and she was born at 8:17! They didn't mess around!

When I woke up, I was being wheeled to the recovery room. I asked how my baby was doing. The nurse said, “You have a little girl and she looks like you”. I couldn't believe she could tell already.

Remember, I was only 25 weeks and 2 days. I remember them wheeling me into the NICU before I was taken to my postpartum room. She was so tiny! Her head was a little bigger than a tangerine, my wedding ring would have fit on her arm, and her eyes were still fused shut. She only weighed 1 lb. 13 oz. and was 13 inches long. But, she was big for her gestation. Dr. S, one of the neonatologists, kept questioning me about my dates to see if they were accurate. I knew they were. She was four days old here...



This is a picture of her preemie diaper.




I grabbed one of Grady's newborn size diapers and put it next to it for comparison. Also, my three fingers almost completely cover the diaper. Just hold up your three fingers and that's how small the diaper was - and it was too big on her!

She breathed on her own with some supplemental oxygen that first day – it’s called the “honeymoon phase” with preemies. Then she pooped out and had to be put on the ventilator. She stayed on the ventilator for 6 weeks!

I got to hold her when she was one week and one day old. I was SO scared! They taped her tubes to me, and she felt like a little bird against my skin. I had tried not to bond with her because I was afraid she was going to die. But, that’s just a bunch of nonsense. We are bonded with our babies during pregnancy, and I was certainly attached after holding her. It was a defense mechanism to try to protect myself. This was my first time holding my little miracle...



After a couple of weeks on the regular ventilator, she maxed out the settings. Dr. L suggested that we should put her on the high-frequency oscillator. I am forever grateful to him for this decision. This vent delivered oxygen into her lungs at a very fast pace – to the tune of 600-700 breaths per minute, kind of like a dog panting. This decreased the pressure on her lungs, and I’m convinced that between God’s mercy and this vent, she doesn’t have long-term lung damage today. Scar tissue, yes. Damage, no.



This is a picture of her at 6 weeks of age. She looks big but she was swollen from fluid. That is my hand on top of her. She stayed in this exact position for 5 days. They changed her diapers backwards and everything. They even had to move a larger crying baby away from her isolette one night because her oxygen levels would drop with the crying. She was then named “Princess Emma Grace” and even had a small tiara placed on top of her bed. (I wish I had a picture of that!)

Those things around her are sandbags that they would place on and around her to give her comfort because the ventilator would make her vibrate. Amazing!

It was a rocky road. Her lungs were VERY sick but amazingly she NEVER got an infection. She never had to be transferred to a different hospital and never had to have any surgeries. She developed retinopathy of prematurity and we thought she was going to have to have eye surgery. Literally from one week to the next, her vessels started straightening out and the eye specialist was amazed. I was blessed to have an abundant supply of breast milk to give her, and she never had anything else. I know that contributed to her growth and recovery as well.

GOD IS GOOD!

Fast forward 111 days (yes, almost 4 months!), and it was time to come home. She weighed a healthy 6 pounds and we were ready! I was a nervous wreck, but we had waited so long and weren’t sure if that day would ever come.

This picture was taken about a month before we were discharged.



She was born March 16th. She wasn’t due until June 27th. She came home July 3rd.

I know the nurses probably thought I was crazy but every time I visited I prayed over her before I left. Literally. I would cross my arms and lay my head down on the top of her isolette and pray over every body system. I would pray specific details. But I always said, “These are the desires of my heart, Lord, but let Your will be done”.

I would have to say that after all of that, it was His will that she live and be a part of our family. Thank you Lord!



This was the vellum on her birth announcement. Yes, you read it correctly. Those were her REAL footprints!!! Tiny, small, and perfect in every way!

Thanks for hanging in there with me again for another long post. I’m a very detail-oriented person and didn’t want to leave anything out. Although I did leave lots of things out, you get a good idea of what she/we went through.

And this is her today!




Six years old. Happy. Loving. Full of life. Spunky. Funny. Healthy. Beautiful. Smart. And an absolute ham for the camera! (Posing with a gift she received and the hair net from her field trip to Kroger today where they announced her birthday over the entire store - how fun!)

Did I mention that God is good? We are truly blessed!

Love,
Tonya

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Leapin' Lizard and a Chicken Child

I hate lizards! It's not just lizards, but anything that's not supposed to be a pet, ie. cat or dog. I don't like any kind of bug, spider, snake, rodent... Did I mention that I hate lizards?

When I was a child, I was away at summer camp. I might have been 10 or 11. I was extremely homesick and wanted nothing more than for my mom and dad to come get me. Well I got my wish, but not before I had an unexpected and unwanted bunk mate. Let me explain.

This was your typical summer camp. (I guess - it was the only one I went to!) We were sleeping on metal frame bunk beds with just a mattress and our sleeping bag on top. There were huge gray blocks that made the walls around us and at some point the blocks stopped and screen took over. I can't remember exactly, but I do remember that there were no solid walls, and I was as close to nature as I wanted to be!

I will never forget one night it was 'lights out', and I snuggled down into my sleeping bag.

(I have the heebie-jeebies already just thinking about it...)

I was NOT alone!

Something was crawling around my legs at a very rapid speed. In the midst of kicking and screaming, I could not get out of that sleeping bag fast enough!

And I was on the top bunk!

It was no longer lights out. It was screaming and chaos by the other girls, too, because they didn't know what was going on.

I had a lizard in my sleeping bag with me. He wasn't big. No, no. He was tiny. Kind of like this one.



Guess where this one was?

Yep! In our house!

Last night, after our nice family movie time on the sleeper sofa with a fire (Emma Grace couldn't stay awake, so she missed the excitement), Jessica and Gib were walking down the hall to her bedroom when Jessica stopped cold in her tracks. It was dark, with a little light from our bedroom, but she saw something. We turned the light on, and there it was.

YUCK!

Jessica was freaking out! ( Gib and I weren't jumping with excitement either!) She started crying that she was scared and promptly jumped, standing, onto the middle of our bed. This is a child who plays in the woods all the time, has held a lizard before and loves to catch crickets. I think she was so afraid because it was in our house.

We've never had a lizard in our house before, so Gib and I didn't quite know what to do. We had different ideas as to how to get it out. He shows up with a Target plastic bag and the mini dust pan and sweeper. He was going to try to 'sweep' the lizard into the Target bag and close it to dump him outside. His thinking was that he could close the bag and the lizard couldn't get out.

I didn't think that was going to work, and I sure as heck didn't want that thing loose in my house! I convinced him to get the mop bucket. Fortunately we live in a ranch house. He covered the lizard with the bucket and slowly scooted him toward the front door. I was armed with the dust pan to shoo the thing out the door if it tried to run back in. (Jessica was still standing on the bed!) The lizard's tail kept getting caught in the bucket. I felt a little bad, but not really. I just wanted him out!

We get to the front door, and Gib tries to scoop and throw it out the door. It landed back in the entryway, and I promptly took over with my mini dust pan. Turned out to be a good weapon! The lizard wasn't moving, but I was adamant to get it out!! I didn't whack it, just tried to scoop it up and throw it out. It took a couple of times, but it was finally outside.

WHEW!

We were sure it was dead because it didn't move. This morning when we showed Emma Grace before church, it was still there. I was going to try to get a better picture of it when we got home, but it was gone! I don't know if a cat came along and got it, or if maybe it was just in shock after what we put it through and the shock had finally worn off! I don't know, but that lizard disappeared somehow.

Good riddance!
_____________

I'm about to start working on the rest of Emma Grace's story for tomorrow. I can't believe she will be six! I have a really busy day tomorrow, so I might not get it posted until tomorrow night, but do check back! She is truly a miracle!!

Love,
Tonya

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Kylie!

Happy 2nd Birthday Kylie!!!



Kylie is our niece/cousin who lives far from us. Today is her second birthday, and since we can’t be with her to celebrate, I thought we’d send her birthday wishes via the internet/blog world.


Unfortunately, we’ve only gotten to see her once at the Atlanta Airport. Here are a few pictures of her cute little self.





We love you Kylie and hope you had a great birthday today!!!

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Today has been a lazy day for us. The weather here is cold and rainy – much different from last weekend! We cleaned out the girls’ drawers as they were full of clothes they don’t wear or have outgrown. Tonight, Gib has built a fire for us.



We’re about to pull out the sleeper sofa and watch a movie. The girls want to sleep in the family room all night, but I love my bed too much! We’ll see………

Love,
Tonya

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jessica's Persuasive Paper

Jessica and Emma Grace have always been afraid of dogs. Fortunately, they have never been chased or bitten. We have always been puzzled as to where this fear came from. Jessica has gotten better, but Emma Grace is still very afraid. She’s not just afraid of dogs. She’s afraid of anything with fur and four legs that can move faster than her.

Jessica has been begging us for a dog. I don’t think she really cares what kind of dog. She just wants a dog.

Emma Grace puts on a brave smile, but her fear shines through. She’s still not so sure...

I’ve been hesitant to get a dog because I feel that I’ll be the one who assumes most of the responsibility. I also don’t want my house to smell like a dog lives here. I can’t stand that!

Gib is the one who has been adamantly against a dog. I’m not really sure why. We had a wonderful dog named Thumper. She unfortunately got hit and killed by a car, but he loved that dog! She was a cocker/lab mix – the size of a cocker with lab fur. Black with white markings. Beautiful!

Jessica decided to write a persuasive paper last night to me and her daddy as to why we should get a dog. I want to share it with you – exactly the way she wrote it.

“Dear Mom and Dad,
Roff, Roff in case you don’t know the sound of that. That is the sound of a dog barking. They are as cute and cuddley as you guys are.
Here are some responsibilates that I would do to get a dog (cute). I would brush it’s fur when it needed it. I would feed it in the morning and night. Here is another responsibility I would walk it. And how could you let a little cute face turn you down. We would start picking up our toys more. This dog (cutey) would be as cute as Thumper.
Chig-Chig [supposed to be cha-ching for $$], I know that fences cost a lot but what if we put our heads together you will see that it won’t cost a lot. We will put all of our money in for a fence. Don’t worry I will pay for the fence too. I would stop playing in the woods. When we get a fence. Put it this way we would be safer if we got a fence.”

This is where she stopped. She said she needed one more paragraph but couldn’t come up with one. How cute is this? I’m not sure where she thinks the money is going to magically come from for a fence or a dog, but she is so hopeful. After she read her paper to us, she added, “And we need to get a dog while I’m young so I can enjoy it”.

I have tried to tell her that if we get a dog, we need to wait until after our summer vacation, if we get to take one. We are hoping to get enough from our tax return to take a relaxing trip to the beach this summer. Lord knows we need it! I would hate to get a dog and have to board him/her soon after.

We saw a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Tuesday night at the baseball field at Gib’s school. I loved her little face! And they don't get very big! I’m scared to research and see how much they cost! I tried to put a link to a picture but it didn't work. You'll just have to google this kind of dog if you want to see for yourself.

I’ve also always wanted a Golden Retriever. We all know what they look like.

I’ll keep you posted on what happens with this hot family topic!

Here are a couple of pictures that I took recently of Jessica relaxing before bed in her reading chair - I just love her!





Love,
Tonya

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Revelation

I started this post on February 27th. I got a bit overwhelmed and saved it as a draft. I decided to try to finish it today. There are so many things pertaining to Grady that I want to write about. After all, he was the inspiration for me starting this blog. By the way, he would be four months old today...

A few weeks after Grady died, I was reading SO much on the internet, trying to find some answers as to how and why this happened. I was searching for stories of others who had experienced similar losses. I felt so alone.

I was reading a WONDERFUL book called "The Good Grief Club, by Monica Novak. The first few chapters described me so well. I emailed this author by chapter 7 and told her that she had described me perfectly. Aside from the fact that she's a great writer and a REAL person, she experienced a stillbirth herself. No one can understand another's perspective unless you've walked in similar shoes. But to my great surprise, she emailed me back!!! I was shocked! It wasn't just a short email, it was a heart-felt email that took some time for her to write and meant so much to me!

I bring her book up because she said something in her book that I had never thought about before. It said something like this: When a husband/wife loses his/her spouse, they are called a widow. When a child loses his/her parents, they're called an orphan. When a parent loses a child, there is no name given to their status. Those words jumped off the pages at me. It is so unnatural to lose a child, there isn't a name for those parents.

In an odd way, those words brought me comfort.

Whether you lose a child to stillbirth, cancer, an accident of some sort, whatever it may be, that's just NOT the way it's supposed to be. Parents should NOT outlive their children! I really hope there is never a 'name' assigned to a parent who loses a child because, to me, it would then somehow make it okay.

Fast forward a few more weeks. I had been on several other blogs who had "Bring The Rain" as a blog they follow. My curiosity got the best of me and I clicked. My, I had no idea what I was in for.

I've mentioned Angie Smith in previous posts. She is the wife of one of the singers in the Christian group Selah. They found out at 20 weeks that their 4th daughter had at least two conditions that were incompatible with life. They basically needed to start planning her death. When the doctor asked her what she was thinking, the first thing out of her mouth was something like, "I think my Jesus is the same now as when I walked into this room". WOW!!!

I spent three hours Saturday, January 10th, reading her blog. I was so inspired by her faith, and at the same time, so convicted that mine had wavered.

Did I know that God loved me? Yes.

Did I think He could have prevented Grady's death? Yes.

Was I mad at Him? Yes.

Did I believe that He works all things together for our good? No, not at that moment, at least. Because how in the world would it be for my good that I had to live without my baby???

I kept reading through her blog. I just couldn't stop. I came to a video that had pictures of her beautiful family put to a song that she and her husband wrote for their precious Angel Audrey. The song is called "I Will Carry You" and it changed my whole perspective on losing Grady.

If you'd like to see this beautiful family and hear the song that changed my life, click here. This will take you to her blog where the lyrics are printed for you.(First, scroll to the bottom of this page and mute my music. Once you are on her site, scroll to the bottom of her page and mute her music before pressing play on the video)

God used that song and this wonderful woman of strength and faith to help me have "my revelation". It may not seem like anything big to you, but at the time, it was (and still is) very powerful to me.

Here goes...

God chose me to carry Grady. God thought so highly of me that He chose me to be able to endure the strength and heartache of loving a baby and letting him go before I even got to hold him in my arms. God knew that even though I didn't think I could bear this pain, I could. There is a quote by Alan Redpath found in David Jeremiah's book called "A Bend In The Road" that says, "There is nothing, no circumstance, no trouble, no testing that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has come past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose." This pain and experience of losing Grady does have a purpose in my life.

God chose ME to help HIM fulfill His purpose for Grady's short life. And I'm here to tell you that Grady did have a purpose. I'm seeing it revealed in my life already. I wish that God had chosen a different way to steer me in this new direction. But I know that I wouldn't have the passion that I do had I not lost him. (I'll post more on that later!).

God knew Grady would never take a breath outside my womb. It was never God's plan for Grady to live on earth as part of my family, other than the time he lived inside of me. God had Grady's days numbered before he ever came to be. Psalm 139:13-16 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in that secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be".

Even though Grady isn't here with me physically, I will always carry him in my heart all the days of my life. AND, God will carry me all the days of my life.

God can love Grady like no one else can. Even though I love him with all of my heart...

Even though I felt like God had turned His back on me, I realized that He had been there all along, crying with me. Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit".

One of the only things that has brought me comfort in losing Grady is that he never has to experience any of the hurt and pain and sin of this world. He went from being safe in my womb straight into the safe and loving arms of Jesus. Mark 10:14, "...let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these".

Through all of that, I realized that I am privileged, lucky and it is an honor to be Grady's Mommy. Even though this has been hard and painful beyond words, I am so fortunate and blessed to have been part of his short life. Because at least I got to know him, which is better than not knowing him at all. And I can honestly say, knowing the outcome, if I was asked if I would do it all again? My answer would be an absolute YES!

Love,
Tonya

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Clouds On The Lake



Today’s memory is from my little Emma Grace. Since I’ve previously posted about something cute that Jessica said, I thought it appropriate to post about something Emma Grace said, too.

It was her first trip to the beach, June 2007. She was four years old. It was one of those trips where she repeatedly asked, “Are we there yet?”. You know what I’m talking about, right?

We have a DVD player in our van, but do you think she watched it? NO! It was LONG trip, as she loves to talk (just like her Mama!).

Since she had never been to the beach before, I was sure she didn’t really know what to expect. She had just seen our excitement and was happy to be on a trip. A new adventure…..one that included her bathing suit, her Dora arm floaties, sunglasses, and beach toys. If it included those things, then it must be p-r-e-t-t-y fun!

Once we checked into our room, she and Jessica immediately ran to the glass sliding door. (This was not Jessica’s first trip to the beach, but I think she was too young to remember our previous trips very well, so it was kind of like a first for her again, too).

They both were in awe. There was a lot of “Wow!”, “Cool!”, “Look at that!”

I was aware of what was going on at the door, but I was busy trying to get some groceries unpacked and cold things in the refrigerator when Emma Grace ran up to me. Her eyes were as wide as saucers, bursting with excitement, she said,

“Mommy, there are clouds wolling on the lake!”

I wasn’t sure what she meant.

“What?”

Same thing, but with much more emphasis, like “Duh, Mom!” She said again,

“There are clouds wolling on the lake!”

It took me a minute, and then it dawned on me. She had never seen the ocean before. She saw the waves as clouds and the ocean as a lake. Hence, "the clouds rolling on the lake".

I scooped her up, laughing and loving her SO much, and explained what she was really seeing.

That was the only time she has been to the beach, but she is not letting us forget that we are going back this summer!

Here are some pictures from that trip for you to enjoy!







Love,
Tonya

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Getting To Know You

Hi friends!

One of my favorite blogs belongs to Lynnette Kraft. She is the one who came up with Wednesday's Walk. Now she's doing something new and different, called "Getting To Know You".


I've chosen to participate to get my blog seen by some more people. I never expect to be big and famous like Angie Smith or MckMama, but I would like to increase my number of followers and find some new/interesting blogs in the process.

The weather continues to be beautiful! The girls played outside yesterday from the time the bus came until dinner time. They even did their homework outside!

They have their second cooking class tonight. Tonight's theme is "Sleepover". Wonder what kind of foods they'll make for a sleepover? I smell one coming......

Love,
Tonya

Monday, March 9, 2009

Happy-n-Hikin'



Well, we made it hiking yesterday! It couldn’t have been a more perfect day! The weather was great(sunny, 70 degrees & a slight breeze), and I was with my three most favorite people in the world!



We went to the Elachee Nature Center. My sweet friend, Amy Ellen, suggested it to me on Saturday, and I’m so glad she did!



We started the day with a .75 mile loop called the Dodd Trail. Well, there are no bathrooms open on the weekend right where we were, and of course, after about seven minutes of being in the woods, Emma Grace announced that she had to go "tee tee". I felt bad but told her she was going to have to wait.

There was an overlook area, so we tested out Jessica’s photography abilities. Not so bad for an almost 10 year old!



Once we finished that loop, we piled back in the van to drive over to the bike trails. It wasn’t a real restroom – more like a glorified outhouse - but it served the purpose!

We drove back to the nature trails because we weren’t ready to leave. I had packed some food, and the girls chose to picnic in the back of the van instead of at the picnic area.



We started a second trail called the Mathis Trail. This one was a little longer, at one mile. As we were walking along, Emma Grace started talking about Baby Grady and how much he would like our hiking, too. Right after that, Emma Grace started a collection of pine cones. Then Jessica joined in. I had my eyes open to finding small ones because I think they’re so cute. I found a small one, and either Jessica or Emma Grace said, “That could be Baby Grady’s pinecone”. I love how they think of him in everything we do!

As I was walking, I stumbled upon this:



This may mean nothing to you, but there are three small pine cones on a small stick. When I saw it, I immediately snatched it up because to me, they represent my three children. They’re held together in a cluster, just like siblings should stick together, and they’re attached to a stick, just like they are a permanently fixated to my heart.

The hike was going well, until Jessica fell in the creek.



She was so distraught about getting her pants and shoes dirty. She was kind of stuck and it was tricky getting her back onto the side of the bank. As Gib was helping her jump across, Emma Grace fell with a pine cone in her hand. OUCH! She cried for a minute but was a trooper. She has many small little cuts in the palm of her hand from the prickles on the pine cone.

As we were trying to get this hike done, as it was starting to go downhill, Gib saw another place where he could get to the creek to try to wash Jessica’s dirtiest shoe off.



Jessica waited patiently on a log...



Emma Grace tried to sit on the log with her sister but fell backwards on her bottom. That girl!!!



Now, they were both curious as to where Daddy went to clean the shoe, so off they went trodding to the creek again…



Needless to say, at the end of the hike, we were all pooped! Time to head home.

Well, the fun didn’t stop there. Jessica decided she’d stick her head out the window for the 30 minute drive home. (She was buckled in!)



Emma Grace was buckled in her booster so that she couldn’t move very well, but she settled for her hands.



I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to spend with my family!!! When we got home, Gib asked Jessica if she’d like to go hiking again. Her answer, “Yeah, but not next Saturday!”. Everyone slept well last night!

Love,
Tonya

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring Fever

The weather here is BEAUTIFUL! I am SOOO ready for spring to come and stay! Amazing how it was snowing a week ago, and it's going to be in the 70's here today. I've had our windows open the last few afternoons. This concerns Emma Grace greatly! She gets so worried that someone will break in. It was late last night before I closed them, and she must have asked me 10 times, NO JOKE, why I hadn't closed the windows yet. She was so relieved when I finally did.

I'm hoping to get my family outside and go hiking this afternoon. We've never gone hiking as a family, and I'm not sure how Emma Grace will hold up. There's a first time for everything! Wish us luck!

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I want to share a picture with you. Too cute for words in my opinion...




She was invited to a Barbie ballet party yesterday. She really wanted to go, but she said, "I don't want to ballet". And she didn't! She sat on the sidelines and watched, walked when they skipped, but enjoyed the cake as much as anyone!

NO, I didn't tell her to tilt her head and strike a pose - she did it all herself! She knows she's cute!

Have a great day with your family! Stay tuned, my big revelation is coming soon......

Love,
Tonya

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy

I'm not sure where this post is heading, but I feel compelled to write about this topic. I am not a gifted writer. I only try to express what my heart feels. So, here goes....

I was on the phone the other day with one of my many sweet friends that God has blessed me with, Robin. We were talking about life, and she shared these words with me.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

I want you to take a minute to ponder those words. What do they mean to you? How do they apply to your life?

Those words have played over and over in my head for days. Do you compare yourself to others? The things they have that you don't, but wish you did? The house they live in; the car they drive; the job, money and success they've achieved; the spouse they've chosen; the clothes/shoes they wear that you can't afford; the 'extra' things they have, ie. boat, nice television, latest entertainment/game gadget, blackberry, expensive purse, etc.; their health; the number of children they have; the success of their children in academic & extracurricular activities..... This list could go on forever.

I believe that we should always strive for better in our lives. Not to just 'settle' where we are, if in fact, we want more. But, the Bible warns us of jealousy and advises us to avoid it. If you don't already know, it is one of the ten commandments. Exodus 20:17 says, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

BUT, we're human, and we often fall short. Hard as we try, jealousy often creeps into different parts of our lives. That is why God's grace, mercy and forgiveness are such a gift and are so very important!!

One of my other best, and dearest friends, Mary Beth, moved to Florida. She had lived here in GA all of her life, just like me. I was visiting her in October of 2007. We were talking about life and how we never know where it will take us and what will be next on our journey. I was sharing with her that I just didn't think we would have anymore children (at the time we just had Jessica and Emma Grace). I was really struggling with this as I wanted another but was so fearful, as I've said before. Gib and I weren't on the same page, either. He was very content with our family just the way it was. I, however, have always wanted four children. Interesting, I really do have four - two here on earth and two in heaven (I had an early miscarriage in July, 2005). I asked her to pray with and for me that I would be content with my life, just the way it was.

I woke up the next morning and as we were having coffee, she wrote down a verse and gave it to me.

Philippians 4:11-13 says, "....I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

I have kept that verse on my refrigerator and read it often. I feel like I've come full-circle again. I am praying to be content with my situation. I love my husband and my two beautiful girls. BUT, I also love and long for my sweet baby Grady who isn't here with me. I am trying very hard not to compare myself to others, especially those who have babies. The only thing that comparing does for me is take away the joy of what I do have. This is VERY hard for me, but it is something I'm working on. It is much easier said than done. I welcome your prayers that I will get to a point where I'm not comparing myself to others. That I will get to a point where it doesn't tear my heart out when I see a newborn. It is so hard for me to see newborns because that was the only time I had my baby. That is the only memory I have of him.

The jealousy and comparison that I have in my life doesn't just pertain to newborn babies. No, no my friend. If I'm honest, there are plenty of times that I envy the hair (because I'm completely white-headed!), career/success, physical fitness, house, clothes, and financial excess of others. I bet if you're honest, you can provide a list of what your envious of, too.

So, my prayer for myself and for you, is that we will cling to that verse in Philippians and strive to be content with our life just the way it is, while working to make changes and improvements if that's what we desire. This is the life that God has chosen for us. He wants good for us. He wants us to be happy. It is the life that we are blessed with, whether we feel blessed or not. Every day is a gift. If we compare ourselves to others, it robs us of the joy that our own life can bring. When we become so focused on others, we miss what's right in front of us. This is daily work for me......

Love,
Tonya

Friday, March 6, 2009

My First Breakthrough

I've mentioned in previous posts that I was very angry with God when Grady died. I felt like He was playing some sort of cruel joke on me.

Before I was pregnant with him, every time I would think of having another baby, the words, "Ye of little faith" would pop into my head. I was so scared of having another preemie and the outcome not being so good. So, when we discovered I was pregnant with Grady, SURPRISE, I felt like he was meant to be, and God was saying, "Now you really have to trust me and put your faith in me". I had no other choice but to do just that, and that I did.

I started having contractions right around 17 weeks when we found out he was boy. I started taking weekly injections of a progesterone called 17P. These shots have been shown to significantly decrease the incidence of another premature birth in someone who has already experienced one. Even though I didn't actually go into labor right away with Emma Grace, the high-risk doctors felt it was a good idea to start them with Grady. I know myself, and if I hadn't tried them and he had been born early, I would have berated myself for not taking them.

So, I started the injections and several weeks into them started having a severe, hive-like reaction on my hiney. I'm talking huge whelps, uncontrollable itching, itching until bleeding, and bruising was occurring. Not good. After the high-risk doctors consulted my case, they were afraid that I would have a systemic allergic reaction and advised me to stop them. That wasn't an option in my mind. After further discussion, they suggested that since it was a compounded medication, maybe I was having an allergic reaction to impurities in the medication. We found a local hospital who made the same medication on-site with very strict guidelines for cleanliness and sterility in mixing meds. I drove 70 miles one way and paid $150 for one vial of this medication. Granted, the vial gave me five shots, that still was a big chunk of change to fork out. BUT, he was worth it! Those shots worked, and I continued to go to my OB's office once a week. I ordered a second vial and continued them until my 35th week of pregnancy.

Dr. Joe did every test he could to make sure things were okay with Grady. I had blood work, ultrasounds every two weeks to check my cervix, fetal-fibronectin tests (a test that can give with 80% accuracy if you're going to go into labor in the next two weeks), non-stress tests, and big ultrasounds at 14, 17, 21, 28 and 32 weeks to make sure he was growing well. Everything checked out fine.

At one point I continued having contractions, mainly the false ones called Braxton-Hicks, and they reached a frequency that was concerning to me and Dr. Joe. He prescribed me two medications to take on an as-needed basis to calm my uterus. They seemed to work.

I went to see him exactly one week before Grady was born still. Again, everything checked out great, and I got my last 17P shot. We were all excited that there were only 9 more days until Grady should be born. I just knew we were out of the woods, and we were going to have our baby boy and bring him home.

The next week, when I found out he had died, (you can read about that day here), I just couldn't grasp what went wrong. I had done everything I could - taken shots, rested every day, watched my diet - didn't eat lunch meat, organic foods as much as possible, took my vitamins, didn't stand in front of the microwave, etc. I was so angry because there are so many people who don't take care of themselves and don't want their babies, but many times they are allowed to keep them, and I couldn't keep my sweet boy.

After the initial shock wore off, I was really mad. I thought God should take a tally of the loss in my life and pick on someone else. Basically, I was having a big pity party for myself. I think I've mentioned this before, but my dad died when I was 13, all of my grandparents have passed, we almost lost Emma Grace, I had a miscarriage in 2005, my mom died in 2007, and now I had lost my full-term, perfectly beautiful baby boy.

Gees, God, how much more do you think I can take?!?!

There were several people who were shocked and angry with me that I was angry at God. But God already knew I was mad. I'm human after all, and He knows our thoughts before we speak them. The sweetest chaplain at the hospital, Sandy, got in my face (nicely) and said to me, "It's okay to be angry with God. You just need to tell him how angry you are". I can't tell you how freeing that was for me.

I continued to be angry for some time and wouldn't even talk to God.

Now, all of that to finally get to the title of this post. Thanks for being patient with me!

My first breakthrough came when we went to a service at our old church. My husband's family had a small get-together the Sunday before Christmas. Our old church, that we love and miss, was not far. We found out that they had added an evening service and decided that we would go there after our visit with family.

The sermon that night was about Jesus' birth in Bethlehem and how the songs many times glorify this event. When in reality, it wasn't such a pretty picture. Mary and Joseph could find no place to stay but a barn/stable. He painted the picture that this wasn't a special barn, it was like any other typical barn, smelly from the animals and their by-products. Mary was alone in labor without her mother or a nurse holding her hand. This was labor just like any normal woman experiences. It was cold. And when Jesus was born, the King of the world, there were no baby blankets and no place to lay him. He was wrapped in cloths that they gathered, and the only place for him was a trough that had probably recently been slopped in/on by the animals. This is not exactly the environment that we would expect our Savior to be born into. But it was.

God speaks to me in strange ways and many times when I least expect it. When Buddy (the pastor) was teaching, God spoke to me. He made it clear to me that BECAUSE of Jesus and his lowly birth, Grady had a direct entrance into Heaven. Our Savior was born into conditions that many of us would see as appalling or unfit, but my baby could live a beautiful, eternal life in the most wonderful place because of the gift of His birth.

Of course, I broke down in tears and cried for a long time. I just thanked God for loving us. I thanked God for sending His son for us. I thanked Him for showing me that He was still there, even though I had shut Him out. I thanked Him for reaching out to me in that moment. Even though Grady's death and stillbirth was NOT what we wanted, I was thankful for the promise, made possible through Jesus' birth and death, that I would see my precious boy alive one day and get to hold him in Heaven.

I don't believe in coincidences. I believe God sent us to church that night, so He could speak to my heart. Thank you God!

This was my first breakthrough. I was still angry, but my heart was beginning to soften. I wasn't too far from having 'my big revelation'........

Love,
Tonya

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Emmazing Grace



I'm late in posting today, but this week's memory happened exactly 6 years ago today. I was pregnant with my second child, gender unknown by choice, and a healthy baby and pregnancy. I was 23 weeks, 4 days pregnant, and an ultrasound just two weeks earlier showed no problems at all.

The night before, I was teaching a childbirth class and just didn't feel well. Couldn't put my finger on anything specific, just not feeling 'right'. I didn't call the doctor, nor do I regret that decision now, because I knew they would just tell me to increase my fluids and get off my feet. I promptly went home and did just that after the class.

I slept well until 5:30 the next morning. It was a Tuesday, and my then three year old, Jessica, woke up. Groggily, I stumble out of bed and go to her. She tells me she can't sleep and that she's hungry. Begrudgingly, I trek down the stairs to get some milk and a banana and proceed to rock her (yes, the rocker was still in her room and we used it happily every night before bed!). It was such a sweet time that I later realized was a gift from God. I had been away from home the night before and didn't get to spend much time with her. I also had never spent the night away from her. Little did I know how much I would treasure those moments with her in the days to come....

After she finished with her early morning snack, we snuggled and rocked some more, and I decided it was time to go back to sleep, or at least try. When we laid down in her bed, I noticed a slight wetness, but thought, "I didn't cough or sneeze" (as sometimes happens to pregnant women).

Strange.

Took care of that issue and decided that maybe if we got in my bed she would go to sleep faster. So, we get all snuggled in Mommy's bed and off to sleep she goes. I turn over and another 'wetness' episode.

Not so good.

When I got up to go to the bathroom, the flood gates opened. I knew immediately what it was.

My water had broken.

I remember saying, begging, pleading,

"No Lord. No. It's not time for this. It's too early".

I called the doctor. (Not Dr. P - who by the way wants to be called Dr. Joe - I was with a different doctor) The midwife was trying to be hopeful and tell me that maybe it was urine I was leaking. I am a nurse, and I knew, in fact, it most certainly was NOT urine, it was amniotic fluid. Once I strongly stated my point, I was told to come straight to the hospital.

I now have a precious, sleeping three year old to wake up again and get dressed. But I was told to stay off my feet until I got to the hospital.

OK.

Sounds great in theory. But it's just not realistic with what had to be done.

So, I trek back up the stairs and get my make-up. Might as well look good, right?

Inside I'm freaking out, but trying to remain calm. For who? Who knows! I was the only one home besides my sleeping Jessica.

I settle in on the sofa to make some phone calls. I tried calling my husband who I couldn't get in touch with. He was going to school/work very early and lifting weights and running on the track. It was too early for the front office to be open, and he didn't have his cell phone with him. This happened between 6:30-7am, and I didn't get in touch with him until almost 9:00. Talk about frustrated!!! That was an understatement!

So, I called my aunt to ask her to pray. I called Gib's sweet Aunt Barbara who lived fairly close by. Keep in mind, it's only 7am, so I'm feeling TERRIBLE about waking people up. But, without one bit of hesitation, Aunt Barbara is getting dressed and on her way. I keep trying my husband, to no avail.

In between phone calls, I'm most certainly trying to get my face put on the best I can - using a powder mirror in a supine position, and don't forget the towel between my legs...... (only women will appreciate this!)

I stayed there as long as I thought I could before waking Jessica up. She was even more of a precious angel in the way she got up and listened so well. I think kids just know when they need to be good and cooperate. This was definitely one of those times, and I was so thankful that she 'got it'.

I grab a bagel and force myself to eat it on the way to the hospital because I have no idea what my day will bring and when I might see real food again. The hospital was only about 20 minutes away. The whole way there I was sad beyond belief, scared to the core because everything I taught in my classes and everything I had read said that once your water breaks, the baby must to be delivered because of the risk of infection. I was terrified, and all I could think was, "I'm going to have a dead baby".

BUT, God was GOOD!

After confirming that my water had definitely broken, the midwife said, "Well, you will be on bed rest until you go into labor or until an infection begins".

What? Excuse me?

It was explained to me that being how early I was in the pregnancy, it was the lesser of the two evils. If she had been born that day, her chances of survival were slim to none. And if she did survive, she would be faced with huge health hurdles. So it was better to be aware and monitor for signs of infection and try to hold off labor as long as possible. (We didn't know the gender and preemie white boys DO NOT do so well. They're actually termed, 'wimpy white boys')

Interesting thing - I was having no contractions and my cervix was long and closed when I got there. The only speculation as to why my water broke so early is that I tested positive for Group B Strep when I was admitted. That infection is very common in pregnant women. It usually doesn't cause a problem because moms who test positive are treated with prophylactic antibiotics to protect the baby.

I was given steroid shots to help mature her lungs, pumped full of several IV antibiotics and put on strict bed rest. FLAT! (except at meal times I could elevate my head a little). Couldn't even get up to the bathroom or to shower. I got a stomach bug while in the hospital (remember, I can't get up!). Had my hair washed twice in the bed and wonderful bed baths every day.

FUN! FUN!

I was willing to do whatever I needed to do to keep her inside of me as long as possible!

They were really hoping, and we were really praying, that I would make it 5 weeks to reach the 28-week mark.

That didn't happen.

God gave me and her 12 days.

Every time they came in to do an ultrasound, there was no fluid around her. The fact that she survived that is a miracle. I always worried about infection and her lung development with no fluid, but God put blinders on me. Never once did I think about her having a cord accident, ie. laying on her cord, since there was nothing to help her 'float'.

The neonatologist, Dr. Leigh, who we LOVE, came in to tell us everything that could possibly be wrong with our premature baby, short and long-term. The list was long and scary, including, but not limited to, cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding on the brain), infection, necrotizing enterocolitis, retinopathy of prematurity, PDA (hole in the heart that many times requires surgery), pneumonia, long-lasting lung problems/damage, etc.

You get the picture.

They have to prepare you for the worst, but as a parent, you hope for the best.

Keep in mind, again, that we did not know the sex of the baby at that time. We had already picked a name. Grady Thomas if it was a boy, and Emma Grace if it was a girl.

One night as Gib was leaving the hospital with Jessica, I remember him saying, with tears in his eyes, "I kind of hope it's a girl. If she lives and does okay, we can call her our Emmazing Grace".

She IS our Emmazing Grace!

We hoped for more time, but I'm so very thankful for the 12 days we were given. I truly believe that little bit of extra time helped make a huge difference in her outcome, even between life and death. God is still in the business of doing miracles, and we have one that we are proud to call our little girl.

That was my day, six years ago today.

To know how and why she was delivered so emergently on March 16th, you'll have to wait and check back this March 16th. She will be six, and I'll share the rest of her story then......

Love,
Tonya