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.                          

1 comment:

  1. God is amazing....all of the time. Although I know Chasia's story well, as a mama, my eyes fill with each time I hear it. We witnessed your family's heartbreak followed by sheer joy. Thank you for trusting in Jesus and thank you for your honest transparency. I have no doubt that God will use her story to encourage others.