Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas complications... and Hope!

The holidays* can be a time of mixed emotions for many.  This year is no exception for us. I’m a very sentimental person at heart and love holiday traditions. I enjoy the decorations, the special services at church, family get-togethers, the cookies… J. I love memories and symbolism attached to our various ornaments, and though sometimes stressful on the wallet, I enjoy finding gifts for my loved ones. I don’t always enjoy however the business, our cultures over-commercialization and materialism, missing loved ones who’ve passed away, kids whining that they didn’t get as many presents as someone else, and the sometimes awkward family moments. This is not foreign to most of you, the tug on your emotions, and the battle for your time and attention between so many activities and opportunities that are all good – but we just can’t do it all. Many experience loneliness, others regret… The holidays and our emotions can be much like the weather in Ohio – ever changing and never sure what to expect!

This year we’ve added a small stocking with a B on it for our Brody. We also want to get an ornament for him each year. This is his first Christmas… and only. We will enjoy feeling him move – Jeremiah can feel his kicks all the time now. J I think of how he is safe and warm, free from the stresses of this time of year, unconcerned with these mixed emotions.  He is often quite active between 4 and 6 am. Sometimes I’ll get up and “rock” him. I hug my belly and sway and find myself thankful to be awake with him… and I love my sleep and am quite protective of it even! He’s still responding to music – especially when I sing and play at church. This Sunday I sang with my praise team girls a song from Mary’s perspective, “Hallelujah, Light has Come”, and it was almost hard to concentrate as he kicked along with the music. I’m still teaching Zumba thanks to my awesome teaching partner! Brody man often becomes quite active on my drive home from the studio.  I’m thankful to be feeling quite healthy at 33 weeks. I have plenty of aches and pains, especially in my back, ribs, and I get ligament pulls around my belly during Zumba, but my Dr. said everything looks great and the fact that I can still Zumba is wonderful (seriously a life-saver for me!). J  There is just so much to thank God for!  You, my family and friends, have been amazing.  I completely understand that it’s hard to know what to say… or whether to say anything… but Jeremiah and I both have been so blessed by your love, prayers, cards, gifts, and words of encouragement.

This Christmas as I hear messages about Mary, and songs that make you think about her part in the story, I feel a strange and different sort of connection. I’ve heard several times “giving birth to a baby destined to die”… and other similar phrases… and I know we’re talking about the Hope of a baby born to give us life through His death… but I feel a twinge of pain at the commonalities. We too are waiting to give birth to a baby destined to die. I know ultimately we all are… and of course I’m not trying to equate Brody to Jesus… but yet, there are some similarities that bring me joy and hope. Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection were all for the glory of God. He chose out of His love to provide us a way to salvation. Only He could do it, and He should receive all the glory for His perfect will and plan. We know Brody is no exception to God’s perfect plan, and that ultimately his life will bring glory to God. My brother has been sending us devotionals He is writing. He pointed out in one that we as parents often place our hope in our children. We are all sinners however and eventually disappoint. He wrote of Adam and Eve, “Adam and Eve quickly picked up on the promise implied in Genesis 3:15. There would be a “seed” or offspring from the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. Eve rightly gives credit to where credit is due. “God helped me give birth to a man.”(Gen.4:1). There was rightly lots of hope placed on their firstborn son. But, their hopes in their son are quickly dashed as he murders his younger brother. He is not the son who restored their life-bringing relationship with God.”  He later explains, “We too are given glimmers of hope, and we are right to have hope in the birth of our children… to a degree. The birth that we ought to truly put our hope in is a birth that has already happened. For in that birth Hope came to the world. A younger brother has already been born, the Son who is murdered by his brothers. But His blood speaks a better message than Abel’s does (Hebrews 12:24). Our Hope has already been born.”

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this year, let us remember the cost, remember that we are sinners who would otherwise be hopeless, remember that this is the most important birth we could ever celebrate. Our hope is born in a helpless baby; a promise is given that this life is not all there is. Our pains, our loss, our mixed emotions during the holidays, are nothing compared to the peace and hope given by God through the gift of His Son. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” II Corinthians 4:16-18

*No, I’m not being politically correct, I say ‘holidays’ meaning Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years… I’m definitely a “Merry Christmas” person. J


This was also written a few weeks ago... I so hesitated posting as I feel very vulnerable... and I also fear being miss-understood, or upsetting anyone who may have commented on praying for a miracle for us. We certainly appreciate all prayers and understand all comments are well-meant. This is just a glimpse into the struggle and pain for us and also the work God has done in our hearts...

I feel the need to explain how God has worked in our hearts in regards to miracles and whether we believe God still does miracles today and whether or not He will perform a miracle with Brody.
We’ve had many well-meaning people say things like, “Remember, God still does miracles today… I’m believing in a miracle for you… Have you felt him kick? Well see!... etc.” And we’ve even received suggestions to see alternative doctors or try other natural methods.

What hurts is the idea that I have done something wrong. That something is out of line in my body which caused this. That maybe we don’t have enough faith, or need to be corrected for not believing in God’s power. Clearly some just don't totally understand the diagnosis and that it can't just be healed before he's born... apart from a true miracle of God. But here's my thought on that subject. 
I DO believe God still does miracles today. I DON'T believe that He NEEDS US to do anything. He doesn't need us to believe enough, or pray hard enough, or go to certain specialists. If He wants to heal Brody, He can in an instant, all on His own.

I DON'T however believe He will - which is different from whether I believe He CAN or not. When we went to the hospital to have another ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis the tech sent me to the bathroom before trying vaginally. In that moment I prayed fervently, "God, I know if his head isn't there that you can make it be there in an instant, so if it’s your will - let it happen! And let them see it clearly." Well, He didn't, and we got our answer, and it’s ok. 

Us being able to conceive Brody is a miracle in and of itself, and during this pregnancy as we've shared our story with so many we've seen many more miracles as lives have been touched and changed for the better.
Of course I would welcome the miracle of Brody suddenly being fine and able to live past birth... but at this point, knowing that he gets to go back to Jesus and be free from the trials and suffering of this world, all while impacting so many lives... I'm not sure I would change anything. As heart-wrenchingly painful as that is for me his mama to say.

I hope this doesn’t come across as cynical or fatalistic. I just want you the reader to understand how God has worked in our hearts. While it is painful, He has given us peace. We know He is in control and all-powerful. We trust His plan. That is what He has called us to – not to pray hard enough and believe hard enough in a miracle – but to just TRUST HIM, no matter what. We know that all life is a miracle, and that Brody is no exception, no matter how short his life may be. 

Vivid dream

Wrote this several weeks ago after a dream I had. Hasn't been my only Brody dream... but was the most detailed and vivid!

I had the most vivid dream last night. I woke up in the hospital and Jeremiah handed me our baby. I knew it was Brody, but didn’t know how we got there. He said we had an emergency c-section and I couldn’t remember a thing. But there we were with our Brody Micah. I held him and felt nothing but joy! I searched his face and began talking to him and touching his nose and cheeks. He behaved more like a 3 or 4 month old as he smiled and looked around, made noises and reacted to my voice. He was perfect! I was in love. Again, this was a dream, but I didn’t know it yet. It felt completely real. Our family came in and everyone was happy and celebrating and admiring our beautiful baby Brody. Then, it suddenly occurred to me. “Jeremiah! He has a skull! He has hair!” It was short and very straight, almost spikey, and a soft brown. I ran my fingers from his forehead to the back of his neck. It was so perfectly round. “I don’t understand… it’s all there, what does this mean?!” Jeremiah looked confounded and just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. More family was coming in and I had to go to the bathroom. It was more like a large public bathroom with various patients, nurses, visitors, and doctors alike using it. I was in a fog of shock and pure hope. I washed my hands and saw one of my nurses next to me. I asked her, “is he fine?!” She didn’t seem to understand what I was asking. “Brody, he was diagnosed with anencephaly, but his skull is there! Is he going to live?!” She looked surprised. “He was? Anencephaly? They saw that on the ultrasound? That has to be a mistake, he’s perfectly normal as far as I can tell. I fell on the bathroom floor and wept. People were moving all around me trying not to stare. She laughed and helped me to my feet. “It’s ok! He’s going to be fine!” I couldn’t stop crying (in my dream still!) and I asked her if she could send in the Dr. and could he do any tests like measure brain waves? I needed him to say officially to me and all our family that either the diagnosis was wrong or a miracle had happened. She laughed again and said sure! I went on to explain how they sent us to the hospital for another ultrasound and had a specialist confirm the diagnosis. She just kept looking astonished as though surely they had it wrong all along. Perhaps she couldn’t believe in a miracle. I returned to our hospital room, bustling with family and scooped Brody up into my arms. No one else seemed to realize what I did. I couldn’t speak but then I smelled puke. IN MY DREAM I vividly remember smelling it first and then looking down and seeing he had spit up a little. I smiled and wiped his chin, then kept caressing his perfect head. I can still hear the conversation around me as I was completely focused on Brody. I can see his face and his spikey soft hair. I can nearly feel him in my arms. The Dr. came in and, like the nurse, acted very surprised that we had that diagnosis and half chuckled saying he was just fine!
I think it was at that moment that I suddenly woke up. I lied there unable to move. I didn’t’ open my eyes or move but I was quite clearly awake. Slowly, I realized I had been asleep, and it was all a dream. It was so incredibly real and I was surprised that I didn’t feel a shock of sorrow when realizing it was a dream. It just sunk in very slowly and I didn’t move or open my eyes for fear of forgetting one detail. I willed my mind to hone in on the image of his face, the feel of his soft hair, the sounds he made, how I felt when discovering he would go home with us. I remember in the dream when I fell on the floor crying that one of the first things I told the nurse was that we didn’t even bring a car seat to the hospital! I was afraid to open my eyes cause then I might have lost the image and it would become all the more – just a dream. I was trying to hang on and make it reality. I think I dozed back off because I was startled when my alarm went off; declaring the reality of morning, though I don’t think it was more than a few minutes later. I grabbed it and turned it off and still didn’t move. I was in a strange state of shock. I don’t have time to fall back asleep in the morning as the Walton boys come all of 15 minutes after my alarm so I normally jump out of bed to avoid missing their knock on the door. But I just lied there. I realized I dropped off to sleep again when the real baby Brody woke me up with a kick. I smiled and said “thank you Brody!” I got up and went about my morning routine. The boys came, I got the older two to the bus, came back and had breakfast with Caeson, and then grabbed my computer to save every detail I could remember. I keep replaying it all in my head for fear of the image fading and disappearing from my mind. I can’t decide what to make of it all. I don’t know if I should feel horribly grieved that I had this dream that is likely only to be a tease… a false reality… a dream that will never come true. Or maybe I should feel joy remembering how happy I was in the dream and the chance I had to hold and talk to “Brody”. Should I feel confused? Why would I have this dream? Is God telling me something? Is it just a projection of my deepest hope? Is it the ice cream I had around 9pm the night before?

So here I am, still a little shocked by my dream, still quite tired, unsure what to think or what else to write. I guess all I can do is hang on to the happy memory and image and not focus on the conflicting reality. This coming Wednesday we are having another ultrasound so we can get some more pictures and just have the chance to see him again. I fear going into it with too much hope that we’ll see a miracle. That may sound strange. Perhaps you think there’s nothing wrong in hoping for a miracle. My fear though is that when/if I see that nothing has changed, I’ll be devastated. I’ll feel like I went back in time to that day when we first got our diagnosis. I can’t go back there. I can’t relive the complexity of emotion that overflowed that day. I just have to keep praying and trusting that God will help us through the ultrasound and will give me strength should I feel disappointed when I see the image of his head. The missing profile shot that is typically what people use when posting pics of their baby on Facebook.

Clinging to joy and the positive things is so hard. It’s like trying to recall a dream that has faded into obscurity. Jeremiah has been so good at reminding me and pointing to the many good things God has done through it all. I have to replay conversations that were encouraging, much like I keep replaying my dream. I know, deep in my heart, once I get past all the vacillating emotions that can be like a pile of clutter, I find the treasure of truth. I come to that simple statement as a song says, “It’s gonna be worth it.”

I don't understand Your ways
Oh but I will give You my song
Give You all of my praise
You hold on to all my pain
With it You are pulling me closer
And pulling me into Your ways
Now around every corner
And up every mountain
I'm not looking for crowns
Or the water from fountains
I'm desperate in seeking, frantic believing
That the sight of Your face
Is all that I need
I will say to You
It's gonna be worth it
It's gonna be worth it
It's gonna be worth it all
I believe this
It's gonna be worth it
It's gonna be worth it
It's gonna be worth it all
I believe this
You're gonna be worth it
You're gonna be worth it
You're gonna be worth it all
I believe this
You're gonna be worth it
You're gonna be worth it
You're gonna be worth it all
I believe this

“Worth it All” by Rita Springer