Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lessons learned in the NICU

The first time I saw Samuel in the NICU with all the wires and tubes and the IV I felt crushed inside.

  Every time I came to see him I fought the tears and most of the time I lost the battle.  Those first few days I cried, a lot.  I cried when I was with him, I cried when I held him, I cried when I left him to go home, I cried at home, I cried when I talked to the nurses, I cried when I talked to the doctor, I cried when I was told it was shift change and I had to leave, I cried when I was told he was going to have to be born.  My greatest desire as a mother is to protect my children from pain.  It is an instinct that is incredibly strong.  So every time I saw Samuel, every time I saw his vulnerability, every time I saw him laying alone in the hospital, every time I touched him but couldn't hold him, every time I saw that IV in his foot or in his hand and I thought about how painful it is to be inserted, my heart ached with an ache it has never felt before.

None of this was my plan.  Just before I began to have the episodes of bleeding I was considering a change of midwife practices so I could deliver at a different hospital.  Here is why:  When my babies are born, they are very big, 9 and 10 pounds.  So they have to have their blood sugar checked every few hours while we are in the hospital.  The hospital I was planning to deliver at, Athens Regional, I had just found out would not do these blood sugar checks in my hospital room.  They would want to take my baby to the nursery.  Well, I didn't want my baby to go the nursery.  Not at all.  My birth plan included the baby being born and staying on my chest for at least 1 to 2 hours, and boy, I was willing to fight for it.  Their assessment could wait!  I wanted all their procedures to be done in my room.  I didn't want my baby to go the nursery at all, ever.  Hospital nurseries and hospital nurses were not for my babies.

"Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD.  By the sins they committed they stirred up  his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done.  They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree." 
 1 Kings 14:22

Little did I know.  I didn't realize that in my heart I had made my baby and my delivery all about me and what I wanted.

One morning I sat holding Samuel in the NICU, I think he was 2 days old, and as I held him I prayed for him.  I prayed fervently that God would mature his lungs and help him and strengthen him.  I prayed for no complications and that he would get better and better.  I sang every hymn I could remember to him.  Surely, I thought, he will certainly get better and better.  I've prayed for him.  A lot.  After this time of prayer I went to lunch.

An hour later I arrived back in the NICU and saw an x-ray machine with an x-ray of an entire baby on the screen.  I thought, "how strange, the baby next to Samuel must have had to have an x-ray".  As I approached Samuel's bed his nurse came over to me and with great big eyes she said, "You wouldn't believe it!  Samuel had a terrible episode of grunting and we had to have his lungs x-rayed and increase the flow on his nasal canula!  He was grunting so loudly that you could hear him in the next nursery!"  (grunting meant he was struggling to breath and according to the x-ray his lungs had filled up with fluid)

The tears started flowing freely and heavily.  I thought to myself, "What!!!???  I was JUST praying over him.  I was just singing hymns to God as I rocked him."  And I felt angry and abandoned by God.

That evening my friend Daphne came to visit.  We talked and as I shared with her the irony of all my birth "plans" that I had been making right before everything turned upside down she said, "yes, we do sometimes build up high places in our lives that we put before God".  When she said the words high places I knew instantly that I had indeed built many high places in regards to Samuel.  My prayers for him were a high place.  I was expecting what I wanted to happen.  I was demanding what I wanted to happen.  My birth ideals were expectations, rather than desires surrendered to God.

This reality flooded my heart with sweet peace.

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..."  Isaiah 30:15

As the time came for me to leave I asked Daphne to come and pray with me for Samuel.  As I prayed and cried, I truly surrendered Samuel to the Lord for the first time.  I said to my God, "I want Samuel to get stronger and stronger and to get better quickly and not to have to stay here long.  But Lord, he is yours, and I surrender him to you.  I want you to be glorified in this situation and so I let go of all my expectations.  Let your will be done."  It was painful to say in my heart that I was willing to watch Samuel go through more difficulties, potentially more painful experiences, but at the same time, it felt so peaceful to surrender my heart and Samuel to God.  Because ultimately I know and I knew that He is a good God and I could trust him.

One of Andrew's memory verses from church is such a beautiful description of how good God is:

"...As he passed in front of Moses, he called out.  He said, "I am the Lord, the Lord.  I am a God who is tender and kind.  I am gracious.  I am slow to get angry.  I am faithful and full of love."  Exodus 34:6

I left the NICU that night, still hurting, not wanting to leave Samuel, but with a newfound trust, whatever the future might hold.

When I arrived at the NICU the next morning I was surprised to see that Samuel didn't have the nasal canula in his nose anymore.  How strange I thought.  He had just had that terrible grunting episode and they had increased the flow.  Why did he now not have it at all?  I asked the nurse about it and she said it had been removed at 2 am.  Samuel was doing just fine without it!  In fact, he never had to have it again!  And might I add, he got BETTER and BETTER without anymore setbacks.  The next day he was moved to another part of the NICU for babies that are nearly ready to go home.  And by Wednesday there was already talk of him coming home.  On Thursday his nurse told me they had put Samuel on the "fast track" to coming home.  It all seemed to happen so quickly and before I knew it, we were home!

"Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them."  Psalm 111:2

Samuel has been home now for 13 days, but I am still pondering in my heart all that God has done!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Abby. You articulate so well what the NICU experience is like. I went through much of the same feelings with my NICU babies too!

I have been reading through 1 & 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles and thinking a lot about high places and what areas in my life are likened to a "high place". When Josiah was born, I had hopes for a great experience (as best as you can have with a c-section) and he too ended up going to the NICU. It was a huge disappointment to me after having gone through what I did with Hope. God transformed it into a beautiful experience though and taught me much through it, just as He has through all of my NICU experiences!

So, this is somewhat related....but part of the reason I feel compelled (spirit led, rather) to go to Africa this summer is not because I have high hopes for a great time, but because I'm feeling called to lay down my life (my family) at His feet. I can only imagine how difficult it will be to leave my children, who have only spent a couple of days away from me at most, for 17 days while I am on the other side of the Atlantic. I know that it will be hard, but I also believe that God will use my time there not only in the lives of the Ghanians, but also as a way to build my faith and draw me closer to Him.

We should get together soon! I hope you are doing well and that little Samuel is giving you some rest. Oh, by the way, the first king to come along and tear down the high places (since David) was Hezekiah! There were a few good kings that came out of Judah before Hezekiah (like Asa, for example), but even though some of these kings followed the Lord wholeheartedly and tore down the Asherah poles, it wasn't until Hezekiah's reign that the high places were removed. And Israel followed his example! If I ever bring home a little guy from Ghana (or anywhere in Africa), I may just have to name him Hezekiah. :)

Anonymous said...

God built into mothers the desire to protect children from pain. Thus Jesus spoke from the cross:

25(AH) but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and(AI) the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, (AJ) "Woman, behold, your son!" 27Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to(AK) his own home.