A Grand Design

It’s funny how God prepares you for things. It isn’t always pleasant, and it isn’t ever in the way you would expect. There’s hardly ever a checklist to follow or an explanation for why things are the way that they are. Honestly, most of the time when God is preparing you for something, you don’t even know that He’s doing it. 

I wrote a song almost ten years ago now that has a lyric that especially relates to this idea. The song was originally written about my physical scars, but took on deeper meaning as time went on. The line in the song that comes to mind often is, “ …and though I can’t see beyond right now, I know you’re working through my pain somehow.”

I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe in a beautiful tapestry that is being woven and spun. It is my life, your life, every person’s life being knit together in crazy intricate ways. From afar, you can’t really tell that each thread is contributing to something big and wonderful, and up close you can’t see the big picture. But there are these rare moments in time when everything comes into focus. Everything makes sense in the most extraordinary way. And it is in those moments that you get a glimpse into the sovereignty of God. You can, for the most brief moment in time, make sense of all the mess. 

In June of 2015, I got a phoenix tattooed on my right shoulder blade. It was something that I’d been thinking of doing for years to symbolize my painful, but triumphant journey with cancer…rising from the ashes to live life anew. It held such great meaning for me.

Then in February of 2016 I got a wishing well tattooed on my lower right leg, with four 1s visible in the wooden roof. It was a symbol of my friendship with my best friend. We always seemed to be texting each other or talking and would glance at the clock and it would be 11:11. At 11:11, you’re supposed to make a wish. So we would each make our wishes. Almost every 11:11 wish that I made was to become a mom.

On January 24th, 2018, I found out that I was a mommy to a baby boy born in Arizona the day prior. 

Phoenix, Arizona. 

I almost had to laugh at the beauty of it. Not only did the phoenix already have such great meaning to me, but Phoenix is also where my dad’s mom lives. We haven’t lived near each other since I was 2 years old, and I have seen her only a handful of times since then. What are the odds of the baby we were matched with being born in the same city where my grandma lives? Of all the places in the United States?

Really, what are the odds? 

God knew long before he was born that Oliver would need us. He also knew that I would need the support of my grandma during the 4 month long stay in the NICU. God gave us the opportunity to get to know each other, an opportunity I almost certainly wouldn’t have otherwise. He also allowed me to form a relationship with my aunt and her children. I had never even met my cousins before this trip to AZ!

Oliver’s name was no coincidence either, but I’ve already dedicated a whole post to that. You can read it HERE.

When I arrived in Phoenix, I picked up my rental car at the airport, and plugged the name of the hospital into my GPS. Then I drove to meet my baby. I didn’t notice the actual address of the hospital until almost a full month later, but when I did my heart leapt in my chest, and I almost broke down crying. 

My 11:11 wishes were for a baby, and the address to the hospital – the place my wish came true – is 1111 East McDowell Rd, Phoenix, AZ.

So I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe in a grand design. I believe that God has been planting little “Easter eggs” in my time of waiting. He has been proving Himself faithful, even when I felt that things were hopeless. He took my already meaningful tattoo ideas and used them for an even bigger and better purpose, giving them double meanings. He literally wrote out on my skin the promise of the place that a child would become mine.

God used every bit of my past to make me ready for my now. I am continually amazed at how all things work together. My faith has been tested, but it has grown and grown and grown. The story of how He brought our son into our lives is an epic one, and I cannot wait to tell it to Oliver one day.

 

 

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100 days

Today you are 100 days old.

99 days ago, Daddy and I heard you were ours.

97 days ago I saw you for the first time.

94 days ago it was Daddy’s turn to see you too.

So many days have passed since then, each bringing with it new joys and new challenges.

It has been 100 days. You have come so far. You still have so far to go.

You were supposed to be inside of your tummy mommy for 9 more days.

You were supposed to be born in May, not January.

You were supposed to be born full term, wailing with a healthy set of lungs.

You were supposed to be these things…but you were not meant to be these things.

You see, little one, you were meant to be born tiny so that my faith would grow deep and wide.

You were meant to be born early so that the world could watch a miracle unfold.

You were meant to be born early so that my dream could come true sooner.

You were meant to be be born early so that I could know you longer.

You were meant to be born early so that I could love you longer.

Happy 100 Days, Oliver Zane.

Day 71

71 days.
71.
That’s how long I’ve been in Phoenix.

It took me about 50 days to realize there was a separate set of elevators that are usually faster and are closer to the hospital entrance. Most people don’t use these because they are for the “ancillary building” and only go to the third floor. (And the helipad!) But the NICU is in the ancillary building, so by taking the other patient tower elevators, I was going out of my way! Not that I couldn’t use the exercise…but that’s beside the point.

Anyway, this newfound set of elevators is used mostly by staff members, though occasionally I will ride up with a fellow NICU parent.

A few days ago I was in a hurry and “running late”. (Late to what? I don’t know). I had a coffee in one hand, my phone in the other and my oversized weekender bag slung over my shoulder. (With one strap threatening to slide off.)

I had been at the hospital until 2am the night before, because I haven’t been able to sleep at night and figured I might as well spend that time with my baby. I had my alarm set to get up at 7:45, because I usually like to be there for his first cares at 9.

I desperately needed a shower. It had been days. My short, curly hair is unforgiving when not washed. And I recently stopped using antiperspirant because I don’t want breast cancer. 🤷 My new deodorant just isn’t doing the trick in this 85-95 degree weather.

When my alarm sounded, I heard my neighbors at the Ronald McDonald House entering the bathroom that we share. Two showers and lots of yelling at their child later, it was definitely too late for me to take a shower if I wanted to be at the hospital by 9. I was already struggling to hold my bladder, so I just threw on the only clean clothes in my room (the rest were in my laundry basket in the trunk of my rental car). I put on leggings and a baggy tunic, touseled my hair around, and brushed my teeth. Then I grabbed my bag, put my lanyard with my room key card around my neck, and headed out.

Basically, I was a hot mess.

So as I stepped into the elevator with a man who was wearing scrubs, I was surprised when he asked, “So what do you do here?”

It took me a second to realize what he was asking. He thought I worked here?! I laughed and said, “Oh, I have a baby in the NICU.” He apologized, we laughed together, and then I got off the elevator.

As I walked down the hallway to the unit, I couldn’t stop laughing. I was almost in tears laughing by the time I got to the front desk.

Maybe it was delirium from lack of sleep. Or maybe it was because I hadn’t showered in three days, had no makeup on, and was not wearing “work appropriate” attire. (Leggings are not pants! It’s something I try to live by.)

I have been here long enough to know the guys who valet park my car. They still ask my name for the ticket, even though I’m pretty sure they already know it. I’ve been here long enough to know which cook in the cafeteria makes the best grilled cheese. I’ve also apparently been here long enough to be mistaken for an employee.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this story. I don’t know if there’s a moral or even a point, other than that I’m bored to death.

I guess the moral is, even if you think you’re a mess, someone might think you look professional enough to work at the hospital – in your leggings and flip flops.

Sir Oliver the Impervious

It has taken me far too long to write another post! I can’t find the right words to describe anything right now, but I will try.

When David and I first got the email containing information about a baby born in Arizona at 24 weeks gestation, I was unsure of whether to say yes or no. David sent a text asking if I had seen the new case. He thought we should yes. I opened my email, read over it, and called him.

“You do know that 24 weeks is 16 weeks early, right?!” I asked.
“Oh. I didn’t see that part,” he replied.

I remember feeling very conflicted. Just a few weeks prior, I’d told David that I felt we needed to be open to saying “yes” in situations that might not be ideal. We had originally said we wouldn’t accept cases where the baby was premature, the mom had extensive drug use, or the fees were in excess of the amount we had agreed upon. But after some prayer and after receiving many emails detailing different cases, my heart started to change. I was feeling a little discouraged that we hadn’t been chosen yet after saying “yes” to something like 25 cases, but more than that, God was softening my heart and whispering peace into all of my fear-filled reasons for not accepting a more “challenging” case.

Of course I prayed for a perfect baby. What parent doesn’t?! But more than anything I prayed that God would bring me the child that He had chosen for us. So after some short deliberation, we agreed to say yes. (I didn’t think we would be chosen anyway, so I wasn’t taking that much of a risk!)

On my drive to church that night, I felt the overwhelming urge to pray for that baby and mama. It was nothing new or unusual for me to pray for the cases that were sent to us. I tried to pray a specific prayer for even the cases we said “no” to. But this felt different. 24 weeks is so small! I didn’t have all the details, but I prayed hard.

We went about the night. David taught the youth group. I helped lead my small group. We went home. We were hungry so I put corn dogs in the oven. (For some reason the corn dogs always make it into the telling of this story.) Just as we were settling in to catch up on the last few episodes of This Is Us, my phone rang. It was 9:30 at night and my phone was ringing. I looked down at it and mumbled “Courtney is calling me.”
“Who?” David asked.
I jumped up off the couch as I answered. “Hello?!”
Then I heard the words I had been waiting for, for so many months – years really.

“Are you ready to be a mama?”

“ARE YOU SERIOUS!” I gasped into the phone.
David was on the couch staring at me, completely clueless. “Who is it?” he asked again.

I put her on speaker phone and she asked him if he was ready to be a daddy, to which he replied, ” I hope so!”

With the oven timer beeping loudly in the background, Courtney began to tell us more information about our baby. I was trying really hard to listen while I ran to the kitchen to keep our corn dogs from catching on fire.
I was so excited, I almost forgot that a baby is supposed to weigh more than 700 grams at birth. I almost forgot that the baby we said “yes” to, the baby that was now ours, was extremely premature.

It wasn’t until several hours later, after I booked my flight to Arizona and after David had fallen asleep that I fully realized the situation we had agreed to.
I spent a few hours googling “24 weekers” and reading statistics. I didn’t like anything I was seeing. But Courtney had said on the phone that the baby was doing fantastic. She said he was amazing the doctors already, so I tried to not dwell on the statistics too much.

The next day, David and I agreed that we wouldn’t announce that we had been matched until we were together as a family. He couldn’t fly out to Arizona until Monday, so I would have the weekend alone with our new baby. We planned to tell everyone once David was able to meet the baby.

The thing I think neither of us was saying – and one of the big reasons we didn’t want to announce it – is that we weren’t 100% sure this baby was going to make it. We didn’t say it out loud. We haven’t actually talked about it, but I think in those first days neither of us was certain we would be bringing a baby home at all.
As we raced around town on Thursday, getting papers notarized, copied and faxed, it was hard to contain the news. By the afternoon, we decided that no matter what, we needed to tell certain people in the church so that they could be praying. Then we decided to tell our parents and my sister as well.

I know everyone was extremely excited for us. I saw it on their faces when they heard the news. But I also knew they were thinking the same things I was. How could they not? But no one said it. No one asked about the statistics. We all just prayed and hoped. Which is exactly what we should have done.

When I boarded my plane to Phoenix, I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept in over 48 hours, because my mind wouldn’t turn off. But instead of trying to nap during the flight, I took out my notebook and began to write.

I almost always write my prayers, because writing is how I best express myself. And I like to be able to look back and see how God has answered. I poured out my heart to God in my notebook. There were paragraphs and paragraphs of praise of thanksgiving, because I had waited so long to be a mom. I had wished and prayed and hoped and cried and yelled for so many years. And now everything I’d ever wanted was mine.

But also there were paragraphs and paragraphs of statements like:

“I don’t know what you have in mind.”
“I’m not sure why this is the path you’ve chosen for us.”
“I just want everything to work out.”

You see, I know that God knows best. My whole life is one long story moving from one “I’m not sure why you have chosen this path for me.” to another. But at the end of each chapter, I have always seen that God’s plan is best. Even the darkest and most painful days of my life have been redeemed by the loving plan of the Father. There has never been a moment that He has not used for a greater purpose.

So on that plane, as I wrote down each fear and worry, I also told God that I trusted Him. And as the plane touched down in the desert, I felt amazing peace wash over me.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I maybe have written about it before, but it’s worth talking about again. After refusing to bow and worship king Nebuchadnezzar and his gods, they were about to be thrown into the the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar gives them one last chance, explaining that they will be burned up in an instant if they didn’t agree to stop worshiping God. They stood firm, claiming that God could rescue them if He chose to. But that NO MATTER WHAT they wouldn’t stoop and worship a false god.

They made the statement that life itself was less valuable to them than the praise due to God Almighty. There was nothing – NOTHING – that could change their minds about the goodness of God. Even if they weren’t rescued, God was worthy of praise.

I’ve tried to live my life that way. I’ve remembered this story from my childhood, and I’ve clung to the idea that someone could have faith this strong. A faith that stands firm when the road is crumbling beneath your feet. And I decided long ago to strive for that kind of faith.

When I walked into the NICU to see my son for the first time, I wasn’t thinking of all of the statistics I’d read or all of the things that could go wrong. I was thinking of the future; of bottles and diapers and spit up and birthdays and first days of school and girlfriends.

But if not, You are still worthy.

It’s been two months since the day I first saw our son.

I joined a group on Facebook for moms of micropreemies, which is what they call babies born this early and this small. I joined purely out of curiosity. Early on, the things other moms posted about only added to my list of things I could be concerned about. But now I am amazed almost daily, because according to the things other moms post, Oliver hasn’t had any of the issues that babies born even at 26 or 27 weeks gestation have had.

I knew that Oliver was special. I knew that God was pouring out his healing and protection on Him. But the other day, I had the best affirming visit from one of the doctors.

Dr. Phillips was the doctor I met on my first day here. He was honest and kind and funny and very optimistic. He told me that I could ask anything and he would answer honestly. I had a lot of questions, but I chose not to ask them for fear of him giving me the honest answer. But anyways… Dr. Phillips stopped by the other day and assessed Oliver. He said, ” You know every time I come in here I find something new to complement him on! He is just doing awesome. It’s like…he is impervious to the laws of prematurity.”

He went on to say that there are things that all premature babies struggle with. There are problems that are just universal to all babies born this early. But Oliver doesn’t seem to have any of them! And every problem he does encounter, he conquers like a champ.

“He should be knighted or something!” Dr. Phillips exclaimed. “Sir Oliver, the Impervious.”

My mom told the doctor that we had lots of people praying and he replied, ” Well those prayers are certainly being answered.”

I didn’t know what to expect when we got the call late that Wednesday night. I still don’t know what to expect in the future. But Sir Oliver is more brave and strong than I could have ever hoped for.

I pray over Oliver every time he is in my arms. I pray that Oliver grows big and strong. I pray that his life is a testiment to the goodness of God. I pray that He does great things for the kingdom of God.

And I believe that God will continue to protect my baby boy. I fully expect to bring him home in a few months. I believe he will live a long, healthy and “normal” life.

But if not, God is still worthy. If not, God is still good.

Day 32

The days all meld together, each one hardly distinguishable from the day before.

I spend a lot of time quietly sitting on the couch in Oliver’s NICU room, in the cafeteria eating, outside with the pigeons, in my rental car, or on the bed at the Ronald McDonald House. It’s a lot of quiet time, even for a recluse like me who enjoys the quiet.

Today I had an interesting encounter with the hospital chaplain. We have spoken several times in the month that I’ve been here, but never for longer than a few minutes. Today, as we passed each other in the hall for the fourth or fifth time this week, I commented that we are always passing by each other. He stopped and began walking with me then, replying that there are a lot of patients now and some of them require a lot more of his attention. I laughed and said I understood. He went on to tell me that he knew I was “very religious” and that I was always smiling. He said I was coping very well.

I told him that I have learned that God’s plans are best. Even though I didn’t plan to parent a child born so small and fragile, even though I don’t know what the future holds, I have seen it time and time again : God knows what He is doing. Through the hardest and most painful times of my life, I have felt God draw near. I have seen how all things work for the good of those who love Him.

My short sermon ended, and the chaplain stared at me for a few seconds before remarking with a simple, “Wow”. We continued our conversation for a few minutes before he went on his way, headed to help other families coping not quite as well as I.

There is nothing special about me, except what God has done for me. My ability to cope and to smile through the darkness is something I learned long ago. God has long been preparing me for this moment, and so I am well equipped to face these obstacles.

As I hold my baby boy, I look down at my chest and see a miracle asleep between two scars. Two of many scars that remind me every day that God is sovereign over all.

And I am staring at a promise fulfilled.

Day 15

Yesterday Oliver turned 2 weeks old! I’m learning all the terminology around here and he is considered 26 weeks 3 days gestational age. I’ve joined some preemie mom’s FB pages and have enjoyed reading other people’s stories. Of course every journey is different, but it gives me some idea what to expect.

When I got to the hospital yesterday, the nurse asked me if I would like to hold Oliver. I jumped at the opportunity of course! It took me way too long to figure out how to put on the hospital gown to do skin-to-skin. You’d think someone who had spent the better part of 5 years in and out of a hospital could figure out a simple gown! But these newfangled buttoned sleeved gowns really gave me a run for my money. I finally figured it out though, and the nurse and respiratory therapist got Oliver ready to be moved.

It’s quite the ordeal to move such a tiny baby. All of the tubes and monitors had to be moved carefully. They are pros at this, and had him on my chest and situated in a matter of minutes. After making sure all the monitors were working correctly and taping down any tubes that might pull, they left me alone to bond with my son.

It was a surreal experience. Up until that moment, he was just a little baby in a big box. But as soon as I felt his body against mine, it was real. I cupped his entire body in one hand, and whispered random thoughts to him. I wanted to sing him a song, but I could not recall one single song. Out of all the songs in the universe, the only one that popped into my mind was “You’re a mean one, Mr Grinch.” I wish I was kidding. Needless to say, I chose not to sing it to him.

As the minutes passed, I soaked in the feeling of my baby on my chest. I prayed over him and thanked God for him. After almost two hours, the machines in the room were beeping and driving us crazy. Oliver was getting restless, so we decided to move him back to his isolette.

As soon as they took him from my arms, I knew I was addicted. I felt such an intense longing to just scoop him right back up. So today, I woke up and headed over to the hospital, excited to hold him again. I got to hold him, but only for about 35 minutes or so, because they came to do some tests on him. I did have enough time to tell him the story of how God brought him to his daddy and me. It’s a good story. I think he enjoyed it.

A few updates:

  1. Oliver’s vent had a “leak”, meaning that the air going down into his lungs was leaking around the tube and back up. He was still satting fine for the most part, but the ventilator machine was in a constant state of distress, beeping and throwing a fit because it was sure that he wasn’t getting any oxygen. So last night they decided to extubate him and test his blood gases. His CO2 was still high, so they reintubated and this time the leak doesn’t seem to be as bad.
  2. They want him to be on a weight gaining trend before they will consider extubating again. For a baby, the extra effort it takes to breathe can cost a lot of calories, so they want to make sure he can handle it. They increased his calories in his feeds from 24 cal to 26 cal, so hopefully that will help him beef up a little. Unfortunately the change in feeds can cause constipation, so pray that he keeps pooping!
  3. They re-did the head/brain ultrasound yesterday morning and it was mostly the same. The small hematoma on the left was resolved and the blip on the right was still there. The doctor said it was probably nothing, or something that happened in utero, but nothing that we would be concerned about at this time. Bigger fish to fry.
  4. And that bigger fish is called a PDA. Oliver has a heart murmur, which is not uncommon for preemies. Something I never knew (my anatomy class didn’t cover this!) is that when babies are inside of their mommies, they have an extra vessel in the heart that connects the pulmonary artery to the descending aorta, allowing blood to bypass the lungs. Which makes sense…since babies don’t really use their lungs until after they are born. Well, in many preemies, that extra vessel hasn’t closed yet, and that allows blood to still bypass the lungs, keeps the lungs from functioning well and developing further. The good news is that it is fairly easy to fix. Most of the time, PDAs will close with a few doses of medication. The doctor said the medication used is a special kind of ibuprofen. He will receive 3 doses and then they will check to see how things are progressing.

So that’s the news!

How to pray:

Pray for Oliver’s PDA to close, so that his lungs can start to grow and work the way God intended!

Pray for him to GROW!

Pray for me and David, as we are already missing each other. I miss his hugs the most.

Day 11

Oliver is 11 days old today, which means that I’ve been in Phoenix now for 8 days. I was able to spend my first few nights at my Granny’s house, which I really enjoyed. David arrived on Monday and we came straight to the hospital for him to meet his son.
Neither of us had the joyous, tearful reaction that I was hoping for when we first met Oliver. Honestly, I could hardly feel any emotion other than shock for the first five days or so. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy! But the shock of being matched, and then immediately picking up my life and moving to Phoenix for an unknown amount of time…that’s enough to put anyone into a state of shock, I think.

For David, I think Oliver’s tiny size and all of the medical machines probably distracted from the first father/son moment. But within a day, he had a meaningful moment when Oliver latched on to the tip of his finger and wouldn’t let go. I was so happy to capture that image with my phone.

In all of the adoption resources we were required to read, it was emphasized that bonding with the baby is imperative. The baby is used to sound of his birth mother’s heartbeat and voice. One book even described it as a trauma for the baby to not be with birth mom after birth, because he is taken away from everything that is familiar. Adoptive parents, then, should try to do as much skin to skin contact and talking to baby as possible. Get him used to you and familiar with your voice, touch and smell. Limit the number of other people you allow to hold him in the first several weeks of his life.
Well all of those plans went out the window. Haha. We haven’t been able to hold Oliver yet, and I’m not 100% sure when that will happen. A small part of me is a little afraid that we won’t bond as much as we would have had he been full term, but the majority of my mind says that is nonsense. I will have tons of time to bond with him, even here in the NICU.

David and I checked into the Ronald McDonald House on Monday night and have really enjoyed being close to the hospital. I’m not sure how long we will be able to stay, but I am very thankful for any time I have there.

I just dropped David off at the airport a little while ago. We decided it would be best for him to go back home and back to work for a while until Oliver is bigger and can be held. There’s not much David can do here other than keep me company, and while I’m really going to miss him, I know that this is only for a time. Soon we will all three be together at home.

As I mentioned before, the doctors expect that Oliver will be here until about his due date. Late April or early May is a good estimate. Of course there are always variables that can shorten or lengthen our stay.

Medically, Oliver is doing as expected for a baby born at 24 weeks. The first day of life is critical for preemies, and he soared through that. He was on an oscillator for about a week, but got a little feisty and extubated himself on Tuesday. The doctor was planning to switch him over to a regular ventilator that day, but decided since the tube was out, to give him a chance using a machine that is similar to a CPAP. We were warned that it was a 50-50 chance that he would end up back on the vent, but that either way, there was no harm done. Oliver seemed to be doing well off the vent, and his bilirubin level was bobbing around the normal range, so they took him off of photo-therapy lights. On Thursday his blood gases weren’t quite what they wanted, so they decided to reintubate. Also, his bilirubin was up a tad, so they put him back on the lights. None of this is uncommon.

After losing almost 3 ounces after birth, Oliver bounced around from 1 lb.6 to 1lb.7 oz. The doctor said he wanted to see him back up to birth weight by day 14. Last night he weighed 1lb 9oz. They gradually increased his feeds from 1ml last Friday, and he is now up to full feeds at 14mls. He receives fortified donor breast milk every three hours via an orogastric feeding tube. He is tolerating his feeds well so far and our hope is that he continues to gain weight!

On day 7 of life (Tuesday), they performed a brain ultrasound to check for bleeding or swelling of any kind. This is normal procedure for any premature baby. The doctor said that the results were mostly good. There was a small hematoma on the left side of his brain that should resolve on its own without complication. The radiologist saw something that he said could have been shadow or blip of the machine on the right side of his brain, so they are redoing the ultrasound sometime this week just to check and see.
We take all of this as good news. Every doctor we have spoken to has informed us of the risks involved, but has also given no indication that Oliver will not survive and thrive. We have a long road ahead of us, full of bumps and twists and turns, but this is the path that God chose for our family. God writes the best stories and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us.

I will try to keep everyone updated as much as I can, but the day to day will probably stay mostly the same. We are celebrating every tiny victory and milestone.

We covet your prayers during this time as I adjust to life at a hospital again. I thank God that I am so comfortable in this type of environment, because it take a little of the stress off of me. I am used to all of the whirring and beeping of machines and I am familiar with the comings and goings of nursing staff and teams of doctors.

Also keep David in your prayers as he returns home to a quiet, empty house. He is fairly self-sufficient, but I still hate that we can’t be together.

Trust God in the Process

It’s 6:30 Thursday morning, January 25th. Late last night we got the call. We are parents! I haven’t slept a wink. I can barely talk my heart down below 100bpm. I’m getting on a plane in less than 24 hours to come meet you.

The butterfly wings in my belly must have stirred up all my stomach acid because it keeps threatening to come up.

I can’t believe it. Just two days ago I was crying, second guessing our profile, wondering who would choose us based on all the things I had shared.

But yesterday afternoon, Courtney sent an email telling us you were born. So early. So tiny. But so, so strong already. Fighting and winning. And although I was nervous, although I was sure your tummy mommy wouldn’t choose us, we said yes.

A few hours later, my phone rang. It was Courtney. I couldn’t process what she was saying to me. We are matched…I’m a mom now!

We are shocked. We are thrilled. We didn’t plan for this! But God’s plans are best. He knows what He is doing.

Your daddy won’t be able to come see you until Monday, because he has other kids at church who need him. But don’t you worry, he will be thinking of only you the whole time.

They asked us what we wanted to name you, so that they could start calling you by name. We hadn’t decided yet. So we spent and hour trying to find a suitable name from a list I had already compiled.

We wanted your name to mean something, but in the end we decided on a name that mommy has loved for years. Oliver. Your name is Oliver. And even though it doesn’t mean anything other than Olive tree, it IS the name of a pretty awesome superhero called The Green Arrow, so that’s something.

Courtney said you are 1.5 lbs. I can’t even fathom that. She also said you are amazing the doctors and nurses already with how well you are doing. You are defying the odds little Oliver.

——————–

The above is what I wrote the morning after we found out about baby Oliver. It seems like forever ago! I have been running on adrenaline since then.

I got to Phoenix around 1pm Friday, then rented a car and went straight to the hospital. I met the adoption case worker at the hospital and she took me up to meet our little baby.

Oliver was born early, at 24 weeks gestation. He weighed 700grams at birth, which calculates to roughly 1lb and 8oz, but he lost a few grams in his first few days of life. So when I first saw Oliver he weighed only 1lb 6oz. The nurses were doing his cares at that time, so he was not under the blue photo therapy light at the time. I stood over his isolette excited, but mostly relieved. I hadn’t even seen a picture of him yet. So my imagination had pulled from my limited knowledge of premature babies and had formed an idea in my head of what he’d look like. But the relief came from seeing that in actuality, he was perfect. Just a teeny, tiny human being. Ten fingers, ten toes. A nose, a mouth and two little eyes that both opened briefly for the very first time while I stood there.

He was bigger than my imagination had construed, but not by much. The tubes and lines and monitors attached to his body would be overwhelming for someone who didn’t know what most of them were for. Thankfully I have a medical background and recognized most of the things.

Oliver is on an oscillator, which is a specific type of ventilator meant to give small continuous puffs of air instead of the traditional inflate/deflate of a vent. This is ideal to keep from injuring his already underdeveloped lungs. He is doing fabulous and they are working on weaning him off of the oscillator.

He also has a PICC line for fluids, meds and nutrition, in addition to a feeding tube. He has been taking very small amounts of donor breast milk via the tube. On Friday when I met him, he was only getting 1ml. They have been increasing as tolerated, and yesterday he was up to 5mls.

He had an umbilical line in that was continuously monitoring his blood pressure, but after five days of a perfect BP, they didn’t feel need for that anymore. So now, they check his BP with the tiniest cuff I have ever seen.

David got here yesterday and was able to meet our son. In a matter of minutes, Oliver grasped David’s finger and didn’t let go. It was so sweet to see how tightly he was holding on.

Oliver will probably have to be here until about his due date (early May). He is one week old today! We are taking things one day at a time and thanking God for everything.

Let me just share something absolutely amazing about God’s plan. Some people might say it’s only coincidence, but I know better.

Phoenix, Arizona is the place that our son was born. Not only does the mythical phoenix have a special, personal meaning to me, but it also is where my Granny Val (dad’s mom) lives. Out of all the places in the United States, this is where God chose. And because Oliver was born so early and will need to be here for several months, I will get to spend more time with my grandma than I ever have in my life.

David will be traveling back and forth between here and home for the duration of Oliver’s stay in the NICU. We have a room at the Ronald McDonald House for the time being, and if need be, I can stay with Granny. She lives a little further from the hospital than I’d like, so we are very grateful for the RMH.

Many of you have asked how you can help. Obviously, prayers are huge! Prayers especially for Oliver’s lungs as they continue to develop. We won’t get to hold him until he can be weaned off the oscillator. Pray also for David and I. Honestly, the hardest part of this is probably going to be the amount of time we will spend apart.

As far as physical ways you can help: many have asked about sending care packages. We welcome care packages, but please be aware that eventually we will be traveling back home via airplane (and with an infant!), so we don’t need a whole lot of extra things to carry. Some ideas for care packages:

1. Gift cards for toiletries and food (Walgreens, Target, McDonald’s, Sonic all nearby)

2. Parking money/vending machine money (there is a free parking lot across the street, but the deck charges. Leaving the hospital at night in the dark by myself, I’d rather be parked in the deck instead of a lot across the street)

3. A good book. Or Amazon gift card for my Kindle. (Lots of free time on my hands!)

4. Comfy socks.

5. Pens/notebooks/coloring books/colored pencils/ Bible journaling supplies.

6. Emergen-c or Airborne. ( I can’t afford to get sick!)

7. Gum. (I’m a nervous chewer and I have already started biting the inside of my cheeks again.)

8. A private jet so David can come whenever he wants! (I kid!)

Honestly, we would just enjoy getting mail of any kind! Thanks in advance for your prayers. We already feel the outpour of love!

A Tree in the Desert

For years I have had the name “Oliver” on my baby name list. I have always loved the sound of it. It was just sweet and charming to me somehow. But I have always wanted my children to have names that meant something special. I wanted my son’s name to represent the journey we have been on to find him or to be a proclamation of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

To my dismay, my favorite boy name didn’t really live up to those expectations. But on Wednesday, after hearing the news that we were parents, David and I decided on “Oliver” because it just seemed right. And we vowed to find a middle name with the criteria that was so important to me.

On Friday when I was traveling to meet our son, I was still struggling through our name decision, when I heard the voice of God whisper: Amber, there’s a reason you’ve always loved that name.

So I decided to do some digging.

Oliver means “olive tree”. So I googled “facts about olive trees” and was not disappointed. I came across this article, and was moved to tears by the things I read. Of course, I am the one who thinks in metaphors, so put on your metaphor filter before going any further:

I’ve always known that olive branches are offerings of peace. The dove brought Noah the olive branch after the Flood, and ever since they have been seen as a symbol of hope for a peaceful future.

But did you know that olive trees can live for thousands of years? And not only do they live that long, they still produce olives! The olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane are over two thousand years old and still bear fruit.

Did you know that olives trees THRIVE in poor soil and drought. They have long roots that penetrate deep to overcome the harshest of environments.

Did you know that one olive tree can produce up to 20 gallons of olive oil per year. But it’s a very laborious process.

Did you know that the doors of the ancient temple in Jerusalem were made of olive wood?

And did you know that the Jewish tradition of menorahs during Hanukkah recalls the miracle of the olive oil, when one small flask of oil, enough to burn for only one day, burned for eight.

I sat overwhelmed after reading the article, amazed at the promises I was reading from God based on a name that I mistakenly felt held no real meaning.

The quiet promises of God are at work in my heart, and I am at peace. Though it was a laborious process to get to this place and though we have a long road ahead, I know that little Oliver will thrive in this Arizona desert. And I know that his life and his story will produce much fruit, maybe even a legacy lasting thousands of years.

Oh, and Zane means Gift from God.

I know everyone is itching for more information on how we got here/what the plans are, and I promise as soon as we get settled in, I will be doing a lot more updates, so stay tuned!

References:

http://www.aish.com/jw/s/17-Amazing-Facts-about-Olives.html

Snowy Christmas

It’s Christmas morning; the house is quiet. There’s a freshly fallen layer of snow outside, undisturbed by plow or footprint. Everything is still. No lights in the neighbor’s windows, no cars inching along our slippery street. Even the squirrels and birds are absent and quiet. I can hear every pop and crack as my 70 year old house complains about the weather. 

I’ve been awake since 5, and tried my best to go back to sleep, but I don’t sleep much these days. My brain is always on the move, not wanting to rest. I dream wild, vivid, nonsensical dreams in which I am married to Jim Gaffigan or running to catch my shuttle into space. The Jim Gaffigan dream is now a recurring nightmare. I am not really sure about what goes on in my head while I’m sleeping. 

I don’t know why sleep eludes me recently. I’d like to think that it’s some sort of conditioning: like training for a marathon. God easing me in to sleepless nights, preparing me for things to come with a newborn. In reality, it’s probably just stress. 

I pride myself on being a patient person. If there’s anything my life has taught me, it’s patience. I’ve had to wait for a lot of things in my life, and though I haven’t always waited well, I’ve learned a lot along the way. 

At any given time, we are waiting to hear back from our agency on 1 – 5 cases. Waiting for a call that she has picked us. Waiting for the email that says she hasn’t. It’s an exciting time. It’s a wonderful, expectant, joyous time. It’s a heart pounding, breathtaking, tear-jerking rollercoaster. And just like after riding a rollercoaster, my body is protesting.

Every night as we wind down and get ready for bed, I realize how tense I am. My shoulders are just clusters of knots and tension. I almost constantly have a nagging stress headeache. 

In the past week I’ve had at least 5 people ask me if I was okay. The answer is no — and yes. I’m tired. I’m tense. I’m achey and on edge. Between the adoption wait, the recent water damage in our basement and the basic wear and tear of every day life, my mind and body are wearing down. But I am renewed day by day with the tender love of my Savior, my Comfort, my Friend. I am loved beyond measure by the Creator of this beautiful planet. He is breathing life into my lungs again this morning and smoothing back my crazy bed-head curls, opening my eyes to the beauty of a quiet, snowy Christmas morn’.