Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Birthday Girls

Wow, it's the end of August! I've managed to go pretty much most of the summer without a blog post. I've got a lot of catching up to do! There is so much to blog about...we sold our house, we're living with my parents, bought a house, the girls birthdays. I will post about all those things and I did start a post about it all but I've kinda been in a writing funk lately. But, today I'm feeling the flow and have some thoughts I want to get out. I'm in one of my reflective, serious moods so watch out. :) You know how I get sometimes. It's all hitting me this month as it always does since both Eva and Ella both celebrate birthdays. Eva turned 5 on August 2nd and Ella turns 3 tomorrow, August 31st!!

Wow, I can't believe it. God has given us more than we could've dreamed, asked or imagined when He gave us Eva and Ella. I want to share some thoughts on both of the girls and I want to start with Eva because that is really where this journey began for our family. Many people know Eva's story but many don't and I don't think that I have shared it here before although I have alluded to it several times. I thank God numerous times for what He has done in the lives of both of my daughters but especially on their birthdays I am more reminded of His faithfulness, healing power, hope and life that He has given us. So I share this with you because I need to be reminded daily that He is faithful, He loves us dearly, He offers hope and healing and He can be trusted. I hope that by reading about what the Lord has done in Eva and Ella you will be encouraged and reminded of these things as well.

In January of 2006 we went to the doctor for our first ultrasound. We were very excited but our excitement quickly turned into our worst nightmare when we heard the doctor say that something was wrong with this precious life growing inside me. We learned that Eva had a life-threatening birth defect called a cystic hygroma. A cystic hygroma is a malformation of the lymphatic system which causes excess fluid to build up in the body until eventually it causes the heart to stop beating and the baby dies. On our ultrasound you could see Eva's sweet little body and a large fluid filled sac that started at the back of her head and went all the way down her back. Typically cystic hygromas are located in the neck region but hers was very large and went the length of her body. It looked like a big bubble attached to her body. After seeing my doctor, technicians and a specialist it was confirmed again and again that it was a cystic hygroma and they told us that 95-100% of these cases end in fetal demise or miscarriage. So at best, we were looking at maybe a 5% chance of survival and IF she survived the outcome was terrifying to hear what kinds of health problems she would face. The doctor patted my leg, handed me a tissue and said she was sorry. They told us they didn't know how long I would carry the baby, it could be a few days or a few months but the outcome was not good. We were told to come back in 2 weeks so they could monitor any changes so we left the doctor's office devastated, very sad and without hope.

I spent the next several days on my couch or in my bed crying, praying and really I wasn't even sure what to pray. During that time some of my very dear friends came over to visit, to comfort, to pray with me and to just walk with me through this. Rick also had talked with some of his very dear friends and our friends began praying for healing for Eva. To be honest at the time I had never thought to pray for healing. It pains me to say that because my relationship with God has changed so much since then and I can't believe how much I underestimated Him and left Him out. I don't know why, I guess because healing wasn't something that was talked about much in the circles I was a part of, I had never seen it happen (even though it happens all around us) and this situation with Eva seemed so hopeless. Hopeless by the world's definition, not hopeless for God. I didn't even give God a chance to speak a different way, I just believed what I had been told which was that this baby was not going to live.

After visiting with friends and praying Rick and I both started praying for healing for Eva. There was new hope for the first time since we found out the news of her cystic hygroma. We prayed daily for healing and our friends also joined us in that prayer. I remember one afternoon several days before we were to return for a check up I was sitting in my living room talking to God, listening to Him and writing in my journal. I was just pouring out my heart to Him and in a moment of silence as I was listening He told me clearly that afternoon that He had healed my baby! The God who dwells in unapproachable light spoke to me and He healed my child. How do you respond except with thankfulness and a desire to give Him all glory and praise!! I believed His words to be true and thanked Him for healing her and knew without a doubt that in that moment she was healed. I remember the moment as clear today as it was five years ago. I remember where I was sitting, how I was sitting, the moment He spoke her healed and how my body and heart felt. I waited in anticipation for our upcoming doctor's appointment because I knew that God was about to show himself in a big way when all would see a perfectly healthy baby on the ultrasound. The night before our appointment friends gathered around us and covered us in prayer. I walked into the doctor's office the next day with confidence, peace and no doubt about what the Lord had done with Eva. The technician and our specialist examined the ultrasound carefully and found no evidence of the cystic hygroma, it was completely gone! Our doctor exclaimed, "There is a God and He is good!" when she saw the ultrasound. We all cried tears of joy in thanks and praise to God for the miracle He performed in Eva. Rick and I left her office in tears but this time they were not tears of sadness but tears of overwhelming joy and amazement at the love of our God.

Little did I know that this journey with Eva of learning more about who God is and that there is nothing that is too hard for him was just the beginning of a refining and strengthening process in my faith walk. Everything with Eva set the stage in a sense for what was to come with Ella even though I didn't know it. I remember when we went in for our first ultrasound when I was pregnant with Ella. I was 8 weeks pregnant and very nervous because of what happened to Eva but everything looked normal so we sort-of breathed a sigh of relief. Deep down though I was still anxious and when we went back to the doctor at 4 weeks later I asked to have another sonogram. My doctor assured me that everything was fine and we didn't need to do one but to make me feel better she would do another ultrasound just for my peace of mind. Well, it was like reliving the nightmare with Eva all over again. It was the same room, same doctor, same dreaded words again that something was wrong. This time I was so hurt, disappointed and angry. I couldn't believe that this was all happening again and that God would let it happen. I really had no words I was just angry, hurt and sad.

After we got over the initial shock of the news that Ella had an omphalocele we obviously prayed daily even up until the end of my pregnancy that God would heal Ella. His answer to that was no and even though I don't understand why He chooses to heal some and not others I do know that He is trustworthy no matter what. As I think back to the night Ella was born 3 years ago I am overwhelmed by what the Lord has done in our life. My words are just not good enough to describe my thankfulness for how much He loves us and for what He has brought us through and given us. The night of Ella's birth was not the sweet, beautiful, perfect, special time that every mother hopes for when they give birth. The night she was born was the scariest, hardest, emotional and most traumatic time Rick and I have had in our marriage so far.

On August 31, 2008 I went to the hospital because I had been having severe headaches and upper abdominal pain for two days. It was three weeks before my due date and we had no idea that this would be the day that Ella would come into the world. After running some tests it showed that my blood pressure was sky high and my doctor told me we were going to do a c-section that night. They took me down and starting prepping me for surgery when I had a suffered a seizure due to eclampsia. This is very rare and I got sick so fast that none of us saw this coming even though I was being heavily monitored by doctors. After the seizure I remembered nothing from that night except what Rick has told me. I was completely out of it and he remembers talking to me as they were rushing me down the hall for an emergency c-section and he says that I was unresponsive and lifeless, my eyes were glazed over. He had no idea what was happening or if Ella and I were even going to survive. It makes my heart hurt to think of all he went through that night! I, of course, do not remember any of this and it took a long time after Ella was born for Rick to even talk to me about it. I would ask questions about that night but it was just too hard for him to relive it all so it took time before we could really talk about it. That night at 7:30 pm Ella Hope was born. Rick was not able to be in the delivery room due to the severity of the situation and I of course was put under so I in a sense was not there either. Rick caught a glimpse of Ella when they wheeled her out in her isolette on the way to the NICU. He saw for the first time her beautiful face and then the reality of what we had been trying to prepare for for months. There it was, her sweet little face then the rest of her body wrapped in a plastic bag and through it you could see a dark mass covering her abdomen which was the the sac holding her liver, intestines and stomach.

That night was the start of this seemingly very long and hard journey that we have been on with Ella for the past 3 years. So as I think about her being 3 years old and all that has happened in her short life I am just overwhelmed with the faithfulness and love of our Lord. My mind wanders to and relives those moments that I can remember from her birth and the days that followed in the hospital and I hardly have words for it. But more than that my heart just goes straight to God and wants His Glory to be made known for how he has brought us through some very dark valleys and only by His grace, mercy and love are we who we are today. He gives us life and light through his Son Jesus and I am blown away at his everlasting, unending love. When I look at Eva and Ella I see two little pieces of heaven here on earth and wonder why I am so blessed that He entrusted them to me. Through our joys and struggles with both of them I have learned more about God and what this life is really all about. Our hard days with Ella have given me perspective and I'm glad for it because I see the world different now than I did before August 31, 2008. We have all been changed through the gifts he has given our family in Eva and Ella.

Eva's name means "Life" and Ella's name means "A bright light." So fitting aren't they? I think so. :) So, on this night I thank God again for life, for my daughter's two precious lives and for His light that shines in the darkness and is NEVER overcome by it. Thank you Lord!!