The NICU seemed like an eternity though it was only two weeks. I have since learned that this is a fairly short stay and for that I am extremely grateful. This is our fifth baby and it gutted me every time we left and David wasn’t in my arms. He is supposed to be with me AT ALL TIMES. When I have a baby my emotions go CRAZY mama bear, and the baby is my drug of choice. I CANNOT handle even really sharing them to hold. I realized I might have a problem when I had my third baby. Our sweet girl Jessie was a few hours [literally, maybe two or three] old when my grandparents, the sweetest in the world [Jessie was named after my grandmother] came to visit. I DIDN’T WANT TO SHARE! It was unnerving me. I had to go through a mantra to stay calm. In my head – “Sarah. Stay calm. You want them here. You called them. They are invited. YOU NAMED THE BABY AFTER HER. They will leave soon. You will get the baby back. Breathe. Breathe. You will get the baby back.” This inner dialogue went on for a while, probably until they left. I am sure this is not every mom, but fairly common to many mothers. This is how I am hard wired. DRUG. OF. CHOICE. GIVE ME THAT BABY!!!! Mind you, it doesn’t last. Somewhere around when they learn how to sit up, I begin to calm down. All this to say, leaving him every day at the hospital was not okay with me. I was gutted every time. GUTTED. Meltdowns happened every day, sometimes several times a day. It surely doesn’t help that I was postpartum, and I knew that. That is why the meltdown wasn’t all day every day, I did manage a measure of self control.
During this time I cannot begin to describe how the Lord God Himself buoyed me in every way. First and foremost Aaron my husband is practically like the magical unicorn of husbands.
He supported me at every possible turn, and went beyond himself as he has since we met. Since this story is about the birth and not Aaron I will try to rein this in a bit… Suffice it to say Aaron literally lived to serve [still does]. I’ve never observed a more perfect example of Christ and Ephesians 5:25. “Ephesians 5:25 New Living Translation 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.” Our NFW campus pastor, Pastor Marcus Brecheen, said it perfectly when talking about his own marriage. He said he was his wife’s favorite freedom minister. [A ministry at Gateway, called Freedom Ministry is a process fulfilling Jesus’ mission as described in Luke 4:18-19]. Aaron is my favorite freedom minister, my own personal freedom minister. I realize this may sound a bit odd, but when God does a work of freedom in your life it is the most precious ever, and such a beautifully perfect position for your spouse. He was fully 100% present for me. He helped with taking me back and forth from the NICU, we had lunch dates nearly every day [it is not possible that he just happened to have that time during the work day, he carved it out for me], he was kind, patient, loving, giving, forbearing, supportive, strong, and really every wonderful attribute that could be named. He remained strongly who he has always been, and these circumstances made him shine all the more. There might have been some conflict and stress in there somewhere, but I surely cannot remember it.
I am both excited and somewhat terrified in this ^ moment. He is only a few hours old.
I have mentioned my family and friends, and am deeply touched to be able to say their love, support, and prayers continued during this time. I know God gave Aaron and I the gift of faith during this time, and we were carried by our loved ones prayers. I will never take this for granted [I am reminded in my heart every time I pray for the needs of another] and am forever grateful and thankful. Thank you to everyone, I know the bowls in heaven [Revelation 5:8 New Living Translation 8 And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.] were filled to overflowing with your prayers. We needed every single one, and I thank you.
My parents continued to help in every way possible during David’s NICU stay, so much so that I worried they were wearing themselves out. They drove me back and forth to the hospital, fed us nearly constantly, held sweet David, endured my craziness [I was all over the emotional map during this time] and never ceased in prayer. These are the kind of parents that I’m sure every one in the world wishes for, and they are mine. My Mom is the Proverbs 31 woman, and we, her children really do call her blessed. My Dad is the reason I was so enabled to find a man like Aaron. My Dad is a relentlessly humble servant.
The next on the list of angelic souls that carried us through this time are all the NICU nurses at Harris Methodist Southwest. All were loved and we even left with some new friends. None are above another to the best of my knowledge, but for us, we adored Juli who was one of his day nurses and Rhonda who was almost always his night nurse. I am completely convinced the nurses in the NICU are angels on earth. This matters to me because as I had those daily meltdowns while having to leave my David I needed to know what kind of person was watching over him. These women are paid, granted, but no amount of money can produce the loving behavior I witnessed from them. They did their job tirelessly, strongly, consistently, and lovingly. You know, it can’t be the easiest job when you have stressed parents watching your every move day in and day out. But they have help, because my God has a heart for the defenseless.
Psalm 121 New Living Translation
1 I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there? 2 My help comes from the Lord,who made heaven and earth!
3 He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
5 The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. 6 The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
7 The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
One day as I was leaving and having a particularly hard time the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart that David was not alone. Not only did he have the best medical care with his nurses, but that he was surrounded by his own guardian angels ministering to him day and night. My heart instantly wondered about the other sweet babies and He whispered the same about them. The Lord is near to the broken hearted and easily touched by the feelings of our infirmities. He understands. He ever lives to make intercession for us.
during the precious hours that I got to be there, two songs kept my spirit bolstered. They were my theme songs during this entire journey. They are Sun and Shield by Gateway Worship and Faithful God by Zach Neese. I kept my ipod or phone with me and played these over and over and over and over, and sang or hummed them if I was without. Faithful God you hold my life secure, all my days are yours…. These lyrics make me feel held and loved. They carried me. Sun and Shield grounds me in who He is, the lyrics literally speak of it. You are my sun and shield, beyond what I can feel, I put my trust in who You are. In my weak moments I did that a million times over. Over and over I put my trust in who He is. It was a minute by minute walk frequently. From moment to moment I had extreme highs and extreme lows at times. I would know we were having great success and not much later I would feel like nothing would ever change and we would be there forever. I imagine that many NICU journeys feel like this, even more so for babies with much greater challenges.
While we were there our sweet church reached out to us. Pastor Jon Paul Dennis from Gateway Relational Care and visited me in the NICU. That experience was so precious, even more so because he drove from Grand Prarie. We were also sent a beautiful bouquet from their baby registry, part of their relational care department.
During this time I had a scary personal postpartum episode in the evening. Without t.m.i., I will just say it put me into a total panic attack and I almost had Aaron take me to the E.R. I looked it up on the internet and called the Labor & Delivery nurses and they confirmed that I was okay. Aaron helped talk with me and pray and I began to calm down. A few days later I found out that God had laid us on Pastor Steve Melson’s heart. He was praying for us during that time! Our heavenly Father is so very loving and kind.
Meanwhile, David was making steady and sure progress. I was constantly reassured by the nurses and doctors as they watched him grow and progress. They patiently explained the process to me with as much detail and care that could be expressed. One nurse in particular loved on me. Very near the beginning of our NICU journey she opened up and shared her faith in God with us. I was so touched because I wanted David to have the best care possible and feared that if I was open about my faith it might somehow reflect negatively on him and his care level. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I should have known that since my thought pattern was fear based, but live and learn. Juli was open about her love for the Lord and her love for our David, and that just broke my heart wide open for the entire rest of our time in the NICU. God is so loving and kind, and showed Himself again that way through David’s nurse Juli. He had Rhonda nearly every single night, and the care that she showed toward him and toward us will never be forgotten. She also loves the Lord. I really feel like I should stop being surprised when the Lord shows how deeply He cares for us, but having Rhonda looking after David at night blessed my heart so deeply. I will never forget. All of David’s nurses were truly wonderful.
We are so blessed that David’s stay was so short by NICU standards. He had no health issues and only needed time to grow and mature. His job in life was to learn to breathe and eat on his own. As he graduated from one stage to the next my heart soared. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself the day we came in and he was in a baby bassinet like any other normal baby!
Little David really disliked his nose tube and ripped it out on a very regular basis. Finally when the time was almost right they left it out to see if he could “fly.”
This means breathe on his own! AND HE DID!!!!!!!!! What a glorious day. We knew once he could eat on his own and regulate his breathing and temperature for 24 hours without alarms and pass the carseat test we were home free! Exactly on the two week mark he passed all of his tests and so we then got to have our overnight stay. For anyone who’s ever had the special privilege of this unique form of torture, I tip my hat to you. What could possibly be more fun than staying in an awful [and I truly mean that, the floor with a mattress on it would have been better] full size hospital bed with no blankets, and no fitted sheets? The mattress is just wrapped in flat sheets and then you have a flat sheet to cover yourself with. The room is fairly cold as all hospitals are, and because he is graduating from the NICU you have the fun of waking every two hours, by alarm if necessary, and changing a diaper and feeding him. This is actually not the hard part. The hard part was also waking up enough to document it on a written chart AND call it in to the NICU night nurse. EVERY. TWO. HOURS. I also learned they call you if you are even a few minutes late. We survived it, and being as it was the last high hurdle before going home in the morning, it was almost a celebratory type torture night. It was a bit weird that we left with him all tucked in the car seat. I am so used to leaving the day after giving birth, and getting the privilege of riding in a wheel chair [even though they are almost always scary rickety] while holding my sweet sweet newborn.
while I hobbled along behind [still recovering, only two weeks postpartum] and the nurse walked with us helping us out. Either way, I celebrated on the inside! We are going home AND our son IS COMING WITH US!!!!!!!!!!! We are finally leaving the right way!!!!!!!!!!!! God is good.
For anyone who has had a preemie, you are all too aware that the journey is not over when you take the baby home. We are extremely blessed that David’s struggle was never with health, as is the case with a huge percentage of preemies. It has taken him nearly a year and a half to sleep through the night with about a million obstacles we have overcome little by little by little. I can finally say with confidence that we are on the ‘other’ side of the sleep journey now. He still wakes frequently and has restless nights, but that is a far far FAR cry from nursing every two hours like a newborn, which he was doing until a few months ago. When we brought him home, he slept on either my chest or Aaron’s for several months. I realize this is medically inadvisable, but I’m betting if we could peek inside many homes we would see how survival frequently takes precedence over many issues. We have watched David grow and thrive and to this day he is a determined and hilarious little fellow. We are richly blessed.
Find kid #5…