Tuesday, August 12, 2014

choosing joy

Honesty hurts, but it's cathartic and releases healing. 

Yesterday I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and PTSD. No big surprises there, considering what has happened to me and my family in these past weeks. It's not easy in this culture to come out as someone with a mental disease, but I have seen the support and love that I have access to and believe that I will be able to make it through this with the help of those who love me and whom I love.

I spent some time journaling yesterday, and I asked the Lord why this happened to me. Why did I have to go through this? Why was my heart chosen to bear the pain?

He showed me my open hands, filling up with small rocks.  

"That's the pain," he said. I clenched my hands around the rocks and cried.

"Why did you give me these?" I wept. He then showed my hands releasing the rocks, but remaining in their wide-stretched position. He filled them with the softest flowers, and said,  

"There's room for the joy now. Give me your pain and I'll give you joy."

"How do I give you my pain, God?" I asked. Growing up Christian, this was a concept that I had heard for years but never quite understood how to practically execute.

"Look at your hands. Is there room for both the rocks and the flowers?"

"No," I answered.

"Choose to pick up the flowers and I will take the rocks that fall. Take the joy I offer and I will take your pain."

I immediately started listing joys, in the same way that Ann Voskamp lists her thanks. I felt my heart lift off the ground where it has been for days. I looked at my daughter, my sweet Everly Joy, and began to list the joys of the brief time we've known each other.

- wrinkly knobby knees
- long toes curling
- thick red hair
- squeaky little sounds

I woke up this morning after a night full of growth-spurt feedings with a smile on my face and direction in my heart. I'm not fully healed yet, but this is a great first step towards the promises he has for me.


(second photo provided by Ben Roberts)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

the depths

I have never felt so close to the Lord as I have these past two weeks. I have seen him in my nurses, in my family, in my community.

I have felt the Spirit with me in such a real way that I could name his fruit in my situation. Cracking jokes when I could barely fit a smile onto my swollen cheeks: joy. Peace and patience in the NICU. Love in the eyes of my precious husband as he held my head through labor, stayed bedside through my seizure, and held his baby girl like he had an addiction to her smell.

As I was riding in the ambulance on my way to Asheville, I heard the words "the depth of the pain will equal the depth of the joy." I had no idea how much I would hang on to that phrase as my life was changed unrecognizably.

I went into the darkest places I have ever reached, and encountered despair and exhaustion like I had never known.

Even so.

I held my baby girl with arms so swollen they could barely bend.

I held my baby girl.

I had to fight hard to leave the ICU to get upstairs to the NICU to see her smile and feed her.

Her smile could melt any heart.

In my stay here at the hospital, I moved around to 7 different rooms. I have gotten the opportunity to love and be loved on by so many amazing nurses and staff. Dorothy and Raina (pronounced Renee, which drove me crazy) were my favorite dynamic duo, and we had so many laughs about the underwear and the late night drugged conversations.

I found so much joy in my stay here that I am almost overwhelmed with happiness when I leave the grounds. A Chick Fil A sandwich is a gourmet experience. Finding a good parking spot sends me over the edge.

The depth of joy is unmatched.

Monday, August 4, 2014

made for this

I've been pretty quiet about what's been going on this week because I just wanted to celebrate every success. We have felt all the prayers and support, and have never felt more loved. I feel, however, that those of you who have been praying deserve to know what has really happened since I was admitted last Wednesday.

I was diagnosed with preeclampsia on July 22nd. Click here to find out more about this mysterious disease. I have been told since then that this is the main reason that healthy women need prenatal care; because it can only be detected by lab tests.

July 23:
I had a headache that would not go away with normal means. I decided to bite the bullet and got Everett to take me to the hospital. When we got there, my midwife met me in my room and said that she had been about to call me in to be admitted. One of the best tests to detect preeclampsia is a 24 hour urine test to see the levels of protein that are leaking from the kidneys. The criteria for admission is 300 (300 what I'm not sure); I had 4,000. The hospital I was admitted to started me on a magnesium drip, which helps to prevent the most dangerous thing about preeclampsia: seizures (also known as eclampsia. It's what killed Lady Sybil on Downton Abbey.) The worst part of magnesium is that it gives you the symptoms of the flu: achiness, fever, etc. They then gave me a shot of steroids to help Everly's lungs mature. At 34 weeks, babies lack the chemical in the lungs that tells them to take in a breath. Steroids help her little body skip a few steps. My midwife then notified me that I was going to be driven to Asheville for more intensive care. The hospital I had planned to deliver at in Boone did not have the capabilities to care for my condition. I rode in a 4WD ambulance on mountain roads from Boone to Asheville in the middle of the night, and Everett followed in our car.

July 24:
We arrived at the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, about 15 minutes before a 3 hour computer shutdown. I honestly don't remember a ton from that night. In the morning, I was told that after the second course of steroids, we would need to evaluate my need to be induced. Imagine two sloping lines on a graph: one going downwards and one going upwards. The one going down was my health and safety, and the line going up was the benefit of keeping my daughter in the womb for as long as possible. There was no way to really tell where the two intersected, so the doctors were watching to try and make their best guess.

The next few days were a balancing act of keeping my symptoms managed and trying to keep her in my womb as long as we could.

July 26:
After a long day of being moved around departments, we were told that the doctors believed I should be induced the next day. My health was declining, and her lungs had been given plenty of time for the steroids to work.

July 27:
I was started on a pitocin drip at 9:30 in the morning, but they had me on a half dose all day to protect her heart rate. I spent 12 hours in labor. I got an epidural in the afternoon because I had not eaten anything but Jello and broth for days and my energy levels were totally depleted. I had originally planned to have a totally natural birth, but with all of the complications I found grace for myself and realized that I needed the assistance to bring my daughter into the world. I had the best team of doctors and felt completely supported in every decision. I had about an hour of really intense labor, and about 20 minutes of pushing before Everly Joy Hardin was welcomed into the world at 11:17  pm. She did not breathe right away, but part of her lethargy was from the magnesium that I had been on for so long. She was whisked away and Everett followed her to the NICU where she has been ever since. She needed little to no intervention, and in a lot of ways measured two weeks ahead of her gestational age. She weighed 3 lbs 11 oz at birth.

July 28:
I woke up exhausted and with a headache after sleeping for 2 or so hours, and the last thing I remember is eating breakfast. At 10 am, I suffered a seizure. This was a freak occurrence, as most cases of preeclampsia are resolved upon delivery. Mine had developed into eclampsia. My blood pressure had reached a point where my brain could not handle it. I do not remember waking up, but I have blurry memories of that evening.

I was then sent to the ICU where I spent a few days on monitors and IVs. Because of my swelling, the doctors had so much trouble finding my veins that they put an arterial line to allow them access to my blood at any time. However, I swelled up to a point where the line no longer gave blood. I have been poked by probably 50 needles in the past week.

I left the ICU after I had stabilized, and returned to Maternal Medicine where I spent several more days having my blood pressure monitored. That period of time was a waiting game to see if my blood pressure would stabilize on its own or if my medication would need to be increased.

Yesterday morning, a doctor came to speak with me and proposed a theory that my blood pressures were not decreasing because of the stress of not being allowed to move around and being kept away from my baby. She went ahead and released me, and my blood pressures decreased 10 points on both sides (a major improvement for me).

Last night, my husband and I went on our first date as parents and truly felt like the Lord took us out to dinner. There was a parking spot directly in front of the downtown restaurant we chose, the meters were free, the person in front of us was given an hour wait and we were seated immediately, and the waiter forgot our appetizer and gave it to us for free.

Everly Joy is doing amazing things in the NICU. Her major hurdle right now is learning to regulate her own body temperature. She can hold her own, but has to be bundled up in several layers. She is eating well and gaining some weight, but we have been given a range of 3 days to a week until we are able to take her home. We are on the top of the list for a transition room, which is where we will have 24/7 nursing assistance but will be trained in her care and given a chance to get used to having each other around.

This hospital has been such a huge blessing, and the staff is unbelievable. I will not miss being here but I will miss the new friends I've made.

In my quiet time with the Lord today, I was pouring out my heart of exhaustion. I heard these words that gave my heart a little breath of air: "Being made for something doesn't mean it will be easy." I have had no problems with my milk coming in, but I am so over filled that I ache almost constantly and need ice packs throughout the day. My baby will not go hungry, but I will not be comfortable until we are together and on the same feeding schedule. I am made for the joys of motherhood, but I am also made for the depths. 

I will be writing more this week as I am here waiting on my baby to grow, but for now, thank you for all of your prayers, contact and support. We have felt it all and have never been more aware of the loving community that we have.


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