Saturday, April 9, 2016

Turning 3

April 10th- a day filled with joy laced with bitter memories and twinges of overwhelming anxiety held by Gods grace. Its a day we celebrate life and remember. Remember all that happened. The remembering starts for me in November. It was a Tuesday, 11 weeks pregnant with our fourth baby, I was standing in line with our oldest daughter, who was at the 5 at the time, trying to teach her about the democratic process and voting. I can see my spot in line when i felt the gush of blood and realized i was in trouble. Trying not to panic I proceeded to vote and then rushed home. Once there- the call was made to my midwife and then to my mom to come watch the girls. It was a deep sadness that clothed our announcement to our girls that God had sent us a new baby to love but that we might not get to meet this baby until we get to heaven. As Aaron and I left for the ER a song came to mind. " I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind- the God of Angel Armies is always by my side." I had just heard that song on my way home from work. Oddly enough I can remember really hearing the words flood my car as a I drove down the cobblestone street in front of the Hopkins Hospital Dome. Little Signs of Gods faithfulness woven through all the memories unbeknownst to us at the time. 
    The next five months would lead us down a tumultuous path of unanswered questions and scary moments. We learned about unresolved subchorionic hemorrhages, placental previas, and lots of bleeding. We lived day to day with the threat  of "hemorrhaging to death"- a thought that with 3 little girls running around underfoot I never really let my mind linger on.  We were an extremely rare case we were told. We found out we were carrying our fourth girl, and we tried not to dwell on the fact we might never get to see her grow up.  And so the days went woven together by the normalcy of 3 girls under 5 and accompanied by a steady string of visits to the specialist. Every visit concluded with the same words "your placenta is falling apart but the baby looks surprisingly healthy".  
   Early on a March morning I was awoken to the now normal sensation of blood pooling around me only this time it wasn't blood but rather an abundance of clear fluid. The sinking feeling flooded over me and for the first time I wished that it was blood. Grace flooded that moment too, as a nurse i realize now that God let me briefly and only that time see that the fluid was clear or I might not have realized my water had broken at 30 weeks. I kissed my girls goodbye and left for the hospital not knowing if we would return with our unborn baby and I certainly had no thought to the fact it would be almost the 3 months before I would walk into my home again. 
  For the next 4 weeks I would remain on bedrest in the hospital. Those days on one hand were a tapestry of extreme physical and mental pain, fighting for my body to hold onto that sweet little baby just a "few more days", intermingled with Aaron grasping to keep our family together as much as possible. On the other hand woven into the days were a plethora of friends and family lifting us up, carrying the burden of our children and our lives on their backs. The steady stream of visitors to my hospital bed wasn't unnoticed by the nurses who would comment that they hadn't seen anyone with so much support as we had. The body of Christ became so real to us. Tangible hands and feet moving us along with visible aid and invisible prayers. The sound that serenaded those 4 weeks was the beeping of a little heartbeat on the monitor and the constant encouragement from the medical staff that somehow in spite of her surroundings falling apart our little girl continued to look "perfect" on the monitor. 
   Naming a fourth daughter was something of a challenge. We had sent ourselves down a perplexing path when we chose to name our first baby after a little girl I had cared for as a nurse in the hospital who I was honored to know and love. She had died at the age of 5 from cancer. Her name Odelia, is Hebrew and it means I give praise to God. Our second daughter Aviela's name means my Father is God, and our third little girl Zara's name means Gods princess. We clearly needed a Hebrew name that ended in an a "a".  I fretted over the fact she could be born under the banner "baby girl Mayhew" and we would have nothing to add to that title. We prayed and both clearly knew God wanted her to be named Chasia, which means protected by the Lord. The verse that went with her name was Ps. 57:1-2 "Be merciful unto me O God, be merciful unto me, for my soul trusteth in thee, in the shadow of thy wings I will make my refuge until these calamities be overpast". 
        33 weeks arrived and Chasia was breech. A c-section was planned for April the 8th. The 7th arrived and Aaron was stuck at home very sick along with our girls. After too much worrying the doctors let me know, at what I considered to be the very last minute, that they would move the surgery date to April 10th. The NICU team came to reassure me that babies at 34 weeks do very well. Looking back though Aaron and I both concurred that we had a horrible uneasiness that we couldn't shake leading up to that morning. 
  It was a Wednesday morning my nurse came in and asked if I would be ok with a student nurse observing my c-section. I did notice that the nurse was Jewish and I allowed her to join our team. I was extremely weak and could literally barely walk from being in bed in mostly one position for 4 weeks. I remember being absolutely terrified of the c-section. I was wheeled into the operating room and within minutes Chasia was pulled out. After having experienced the joy of 3 healthy deliveries I eagerly awaited her  cries and there was silence. The NICU team rushed in and Aaron went on to witness the beginning of a nightmare that would make what we had already been through pale in comparison. They struggled to put a tube into her throat as it quickly became apparent that she was in serious trouble. I was alone on the operating table and could hear the doctors commenting on how bad the placenta was. Chasia was wheeled quickly past me before I was even sewn up in a rush to get her to the NICU. 
   I was taken to the recovery unit where I was reeling trying to grasp what was going on. At my side the poor nursing student stood trying to help me, she inquired as to what we were naming the baby? When I told her Chasia, she recognized it as  being a Hebrew name and wanted to now why we had chosen it? I told her about Odelia and the little girl she was named after. The student began to cry. That little girl was my neighbor she said. The student went onto to talk about Odelia's family and how she's good friends with them! God's grace woven into my nightmare. When I later would have doubts about  Chasias birthday and all the "what if's?" I remember that student and know that for some reason God choose her to be with me right then, linked together by a supernatural arrangement. 
  I was returned to my room alone where my friends and family soon began to gather. News from the NICU began to trickle in. Our baby just needed some extra support was the initial news. My wound hemorrhaged and the pain I was in physically was unmatched with the thought that my baby was in peril. I was taken to see her. Wheeled to her bedside I knew instantly as a Pediatric Nurse that she was in very serious condition. The Medical staff tried to assure us that her 5lb.2 oz body was going to be fine and that she just needed to stabilize. Aaron and I prayed for wisdom and guidance. Moments later a friend arrived who  worked at the NICU Chasia was in. Our friend quickly assessed the situation and wasted no time telling us that we needed to have Chasia transferred immediately. Within the hour a team arrived from Johns Hopkins NICU. To me they were angels of hope. 
   Chasia was taken in one ambulance and I in another around midnight on April 10th. Having worked for 11 years at Kennedy Krieger, which is attached to Hopkins, it was very surreal to be wheeled through the halls and admitted in one section of the Hospital while my brand new baby was admitted into the Childrens Center.  I didn't get to see her that night as the NICU team worked to stabilize her. Aaron appeared to be in complete shock as he rotated between my bedside and hers. Friends and family came, prayers were going up as the day progressed and Chasia continued to deteriorate. Our hearts felt like they were wrapped around that little person and we along with her were having trouble breathing as we watched the best team of people fight to save our baby. That afternoon a NICU Doctor came to get me from my room. She rushed me to Chasia's bedside and parked my wheelchair in the corner where Aaron was.The scene in front of us was from the medical shows I loved to watch only it was horrifically real. Chasia was crashing in front of us, she was in septic shock- her heart and lungs weren't working. Scriptures that had been sown into my heart over the years were the only things I heard in those moments. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil- rang over and over in my head. The Doctor knelt in front of me and asked me when was the last time I had touched my baby? She supported me out of my wheelchair and walked Aaron over to Chasia's side. We held our baby's hands and Aaron gave her to God. I couldn't breath and if God took her I wasn't sure if I would ever breath again. 
    The doctors wanted to try one last thing, they didn't know if it would work but they transferred her to the PICU to try putting her on ECHMO, the heart/lung bypass machine. She made it to the PICU and we were given the consents for ECHMO. I couldn't sign the papers knowing what was about to happen. Aaron signed them and we left that room with our precious new baby in Gods hands. The Doctors assured us they would call my hospital room if there were any changes. I remember Aaron crawling into my hospital bed and clinging to each other in the dark as I played what I now considered to be Chasia's song:
You hear me when I call
You are my morning song
Though darkness fills the night
It cannot hide the light

Whom shall I fear

You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still

Whom shall I fear

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

My strength is in Your name
For You alone can save
You will deliver me
Yours is the victory

          Later we would hear person after person testify to the fact that God kept them up all night praying for Chasia...4 am came... I awoke with a startle and tried to call the PICU. Somehow my number was wrong so I rang for my nurse. She came in and looked happy. She told us some of the best news I have ever heard...before the ECHMO was started the team decided to try 1 last thing and it was working!!! As soon as we were allowed to we returned to the PICU. Chasia was in a coma, her little body which weighed 5lbs at birth now weighed 8lbs with extra fluids. In the doctors rounds they reported that last night when she was admitted to the PICU 43% of her body was not getting oxygen and that "somehow" her lungs were starting to work on their own. I jumped in and told them that God was healing her, and we had alot of people praying. 
   We faced a lot of ups and downs in the weeks before Chasia went home on May 4th. She is truly a miracle baby. I know that its a gift from God that we are allowed to spend more time with her. I am acutely reminded every weekend at work that many families don't receive the gift of more time with their child. She is totally healthy. There are no words to describe the joy that she brings to our lives. When you come so close to loosing someone you love you cherish them in a deep indescribable way. Recently I asked her if she has ever seen God? She told me that she had seen God when He came to pick her up in His car, but she didn't go. My prayer is that whenever He comes to pick up my girls in His car they will be ready and until the day comes we will be found loving each other and serving Him. Happy Birthday my sweet sweet SiSi.                          

Monday, April 15, 2013

Into The Valley...

  If God had come to me last Monday and asked me if I would like to take a trip through the Valley of the Shadow of Death carrying my 5lb 2oz baby last week I know that I would have never said "yes." But, what if He had asked me if I would like to take His hand through an amazing journey, that would glorify Him in the utmost, build countless people's faith, and promised me that we would be okay? What would I have said then? Thankfully God never consulted me about His plans for last week.  He simply took my hand and led the way....
  Last Tuesday, as many in our family expressed growing excitement about the birth of our baby the following day, I was experiencing more and more apprehension. My two major concerns were the c-section and would the baby be okay? The previous weekend I had awoken in a panic after a nightmare that my baby was in distress and I couldn't get to her. Doctors and nurses reassured me that all would be well. The baby should do great! Everything pointed to that fact. By the following morning, April 10th, I was very jittery and had spent most of the night trying to pray away my fears. I talked to my baby, prayed over her and just enjoyed having her with me. After some pricks and sticks, the c-section got underway. In less then 3 minutes I felt the doctor push on my ribs and then the baby was free, but the joyous cries of a newborn were replaced with silence. As Aaron left my side to see our daughter I lay in wonder, praying. The surgery seemed to fade into a place of non-consequence as I desperately waited to hear something. And then we heard the joyous wail, but alas it was to become a precious sound tucked away in our memories. My sweet baby was wheeled quickly past me as they escorted her to the NICU(Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).
  4 weeks earlier as it became evident that we would be meeting our daughter sooner than anticipated Aaron and I prayed earnestly for her name. God led us to Chasia due to the meaning "The Lord Protects me." The day of her birth, as Chasia began her life journey and it became evident that her lungs were not working, we clung to that meaning. A wonderful friend came and advised us to have our baby transported immediately to Johns Hopkins for better care; in spite of the fact the hospital reassured us they could care for our daughter. We prayed and went with our friend's advice. The decision was agonizing as it meant that I would be separated from her, but we never wanted to wonder "what if we had sent her to Hopkins?" As the transport was arranged Chasia got worse and a small miracle occurred; Hopkins arranged to transfer me as well!
   We arrived at Hopkins and it became increasingly evident that the Valley of Death was growing darker and closing in around us. Chasia's heart was not working properly due to the pulmonary hypertension affecting her lungs. The best doctors and nurses in the world tweaked and probed and tried every available treatment to stabilize our baby, but to no avail. God's hand holding us became increasingly vital as we clung to His WORD to sustain us. Time stood still and seemed to stretch into eternity as minutes marched by and Chasia spiraled away from us and drew closer to heaven. We began to hear about a last ditch effort called ECMO, essentially a heart lung bypass machine, that might not work because of Chasia's tiny frame. We cried out to God from the depths of our souls pleading for a miracle asking HIM to protect her... By the afternoon Chasia was into the darkest caverns of the Valley. I was lying in my bed unable to breathe in the worst physical, and mental pain unimaginable when a NICU doctor came to take me to see my baby. They were out of options and she was being transferred to the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) in preparation for the ECMO treatment. As we entered her room I saw past the numerous Medical staff to my baby, pale and lifeless in her bed. Everything looked like a nightmare as Aaron and I cowered in the corner clinging to each other watching them fight for her life; Scriptures stored deep within us poured out interceding for our baby. The attending doctor came and knelt beside us and asked us when was last time we had touched our baby, "have you touched her in the past hour?" "No," we had not. The sea of staff parted as we crept to the bed to somehow give back to God what had been ours for too short a time. We knew that God was merciful and we knew that children die. We knew that we were undeserved and no different from anyone else, but how do you let your precious miracle go? Scriptures: the Lord is my Strength and my Salvation, the Lord is the stronghold of my life; Out of the depths I cried out to the Lord and He answered me, he set my feet upon a rock; poured out. As we left the room, a battle cry went up. People in droves began to unitedly, from countless places, stop and cry out to God for a miracle.
   We hung suspended on the precipice of life and death for hours; groaning in agony to the Lord to hear our cry. Later that evening we were led into the PICU to see our daughter. Her little bed was surrounded by giant machines. The doctors reported that they were working hard to avoid ECMO, but needed us to sign the consents. We listened as they described the gruesome details and numbly signed the paperwork. Pouring out prayers we said goodnight to our baby desperately hoping morning would come. In our room we cried out to the Lord as the words from Chasias's theme song filled the air... "the God of angel armies is always by my side, He rules and reigns forever, He is a friend of mine..." I knew she was God's friend, and as HE held us both I fell asleep, believing joy would come in the morning. At 4 am the nurse came to us with the phone, "The PICU is on the line," she said as my heart stopped. "And they have good news!" The doctors had been able to stabilize her without ECMO. We wept for joy, praising GOD!
   The following morning we hurried to Chasia's side. The doctors were amazed. ECMO treatment normally gets started when a person's oxygen index is at 40. Chasia's was at 50 when she got to the PICU. Miraculously, overnight it had dropped to 6! JOY had come in the morning, our miracle had arrived. Friends began to contact us telling us how the Holy Spirit would not let them sleep all night. They instead spent the time on their knees and faces interceding for God to spare our baby. They rejoiced with us as they heard how God had answered our cries for help.
   She is continuing to battle and we continue to pray and weep (intermittent tears of pain and joy).  I KNOW NOW that God's hand is big enough to have sustained us if HE had ordained us to stay in Valley of Death. HE, by undeserved mercy, has led us out with shouts of JOY and VICTORY. We are still greatly in need of healing and continued prayers for Chasia and our family. We eagerly await each morning to see how God will move, but we, along with the Psalmist can say,  Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I WILL FEAR no evil, for YOU are with me, you comfort me you guide me and our hope and trust is in YOU alone, for you alone can save.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Not in My Storybook...

 If we were the author of our storybook, I'm quite certain there are some chapters we would never even consider writing. On November 6th, 2012 such a chapter commenced in our lives. I was standing in line with Odelia explaining to her about voting and Presidents when I felt a sensation no pregnant women wants to feel... convinced I was having a miscarriage at 11 weeks I rushed home. After praying we went to the ER where Aaron and I were quite surprised to learn that our baby still had a heartbeat! The following week found us at a specialist's office learning all about subchorrionic hemorrhages. The Doctor was very encouraging telling us that the baby looked great and the blood clot should resolve itself in a few weeks. A week of bleeding came and went. We were hopeful that we had finished that chapter of scariness and could now move onto the joys of happy pregnancy part! However...
   18 weeks pregnant found us in the Labor and Delivery Unit after a large amount of bleeding. What an awful feeling arriving at the place where previously you've delivered 3 healthy girls knowing that this visit was way too soon! Convinced yet again that we were loosing our precious little one we were happy to learn that she still had heartbeat. That began our myriad of trips to the specialist, learning that the hemorrhage had not resolved at all, but had in fact gotten bigger. We talked about fear inducing words like placenta abruption, rare condition, and preterm labor. Months of bleeding and ultrasounds produced reports that our baby, a girl, was totally undisturbed by the fact that her cozy habitat was falling apart. At 29 weeks we had a good report- things were looking better, perhaps that chapter was finally ending and the long overdue happy pregnancy part was now ready to begin...
    In the wee hours of March 13th I jumped out of bed convinced that the bleeding was back and was totally shocked to discover lots of clear fluid instead of red. I got back in bed and decided that was a fluke and tried to convince myself that if it happened again then I would call someone. It did came again and I cried as I called the Doctor.  In what seemed like very short order this chapter of our lives went from looking up to spiraling down. I cried more as we arrived at the Labor and Delivery Unit, early yet again, and then more tears when the Doctor announced that I (without any bags packed or plans made) would not be leaving until our baby was delivered. My life came to a screeching halt. Shots, needles, monitors, and IV's marched into my life as did a nurse from the NICU all prepping us for the arrival of a preemie. My due date in May suddenly slid to March. I am glad that I was unable to read this part of the chapter ahead of time or I would have probably had a panic attack. Long nights, hostage days and 2 near rushes to the Operating Room, now find us in April still living in this crazy chapter.
   One underlying thing sustains me. The day this chapter of my life began I was studying Noah. I remember the distinct lesson that God allowed the overwhelming waters of the flood to only come up so high on that boat. Noah was in there a LONG time and I am sure he faced some crazy storms and waves, but God allowed the waters to not overtake that boat. And God knows how high the water around me in this chapter may rise, but I know that they will not overwhelm me. There is a song that is on auto play for the this chapter too... I hear it in the dark scary times and it plays while others speak fearful words...( I pray that whatever wacky chapter of life you find yourself in today that may not have been in your storybook you can trust that God is writing it and find peace in that place.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Here We Go ...

And so after 14 days trapped in this bed I have decided to embark on blogging...
 Everyone continues to ask the same question... Is this one a girl too?? We smile and happily reply "Yes". Quite simply we live in a princess world. And I must say that we are very happy in it.  Tea parties materialize in an instant, fairy mice are regularly seen dancing with small blond headed moppets, and best all boys are yucky, unless you are Prince Charming or Daddy!! 
   We have been on a very interesting journey these last two weeks... but my little princesses have been doing so well. Today they told me the best part of the day is coming to see me. I've gotten smothered in hugs and kisses. Zara tries to wash all my iv sites with wipes and make them go away. They say continually that I'm the best mommy ever and they promise to show me the way out of this hospital just as soon as the Doctor lets me get out of bed!! Odelia's best doll has been spending every night here with me in the baby warmer.  And Aviela sends one of her imaginary mice friends here to keep me company each evening... Penelope is here tonight. Only the girl mice will come because Jaque and Gus Gus DO NOT like the hospital!!!! When Aaron strolls the girls out each day I choke back tears and realize how very much I love my family. This time away from the daily dishes, constant requests, laundry and pretty much everything has made me ever grateful for all of those things. I love being their mommy and Aaron's wife. I am eagerly awaiting the day when the newest Princess and I get to escape from here. Until then prayers sustain me.