Friday, January 23, 2015

Asher's Story

Hi, I'm back!

That was a lot longer break than I intended! I'm doing well, but things have been crazily busy these past few months. You see, I've completed my huge, secret project, which was . . . moving to a new house! Then we've also started home school kindergarten, so between school, moving, unpacking, potty training, continuing house projects and all the regular housework-and-meals stuff, blogging has taken backseat recently. Then we hit the holidays! Need I say more? :-)

I'm really missing the blog, and ready to get back. We are thrilled to be in our new home, and I'm looking forward to sharing some of our fun projects. But first I need to pick up where I left off, with Asher's story. I didn't share his name in the last few posts, since I hadn't really talked with my Hubby about it. We've decided to keep our kid's pictures and real names off this blog for now, but we decided to make Asher an exception. So be prepared for cuteness!

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In the weeks leading up to Asher's arrival, we had a lot of good conversations with the other three kids about death, Jesus, heaven and all the questions that pop into their little minds. One that especially stands out happened on the way home from the grocery store.  Snickerdoodle, our three year old, piped up from his car seat.

“Mom,” he said, “Why do babies die sometimes?”

I am SO thankful for God's word and the answers it gives us! I said “Well sweetie, when God first made the world, it was perfect, and people and animals didn't die. But when sin came into the world, it messed everything up, and now we have death and sickness, and babies die sometimes and bad things happen. But that's not the way God wanted it to be, and someday Jesus is going to come back and fix things and make them good again.”

“When is Jesus coming back?” he asked.

“Well sweetie,” I said, “We don't know - it's a secret! Only God the Father knows, and he just tells us to be ready.”

“Well, how do we get ready?” was his next, very logical question.

“By believing that Jesus took the punishment for our sins and giving our lives to him.”

Snickerdoodle got really excited. “Mom, I believe in Jesus, so I'm ready to go to heaven!” He said. Then he announced (in that booming voice that only a three year old boy in a car can achieve) “God, I'm ready for Jesus to come back and for me to go to heaven!” :-)

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We had a number of concerns about the timing of Asher's birth, since my labors are usually short and we're an hour from the hospital. But God took care of all those things. Around 1am on Sunday morning, April 6th and still a month before our due date, I woke up with contractions. After a while, I woke Kyle up and he packed up our things, just in case. We were about to call someone to come stay with the kids, when the contractions stopped. I didn't have one for half an hour. The next one came an hour after that, so after reading scripture together for a while, Kyle and I went back to sleep.

The contractions started up again at seven that morning, and we decided to drop the kids off with friends at church, and head to the hospital, just in case. By the time we were all ready to leave the house, labor had progressed enough that we knew this was it. God gave us such a peace all through this time. We both knew what was ahead, but the Lord really gave us the ability just to focus on what had to be done in the moment.

When we got to the hospital, our OB doctor wasn't on duty, but she had left a note to call her whenever we came in. She was there in about thirty minutes, and it wasn't any too soon! Kyle and I always chuckle about surprising our doctors; we're both so calm and my labors are so quick that they're always caught off guard, and Asher was typical for us. When the doctor arrived, she started asking us questions about between contractions about how we wanted to handle this or that care issue. “I think we're getting pretty close.” Kyle told her. “You might want to check our progress.” So she checked me out, and immediately got in a big hurry! Kyle and I couldn't help but chuckle a little inside.

Asher's labor and birth were really easy, probably partly because he was born so early and was so small. I remember the moment he was born, Kyle saying: “It's a boy, it's Asher!

Now this might sound strange, but after we learned about his condition, my greatest fear was that I would cry for his entire lifetime. Based on what we knew, we really didn't expect him to live long, perhaps only a matter of minutes. I really wanted to enjoy him and love on him while he was here; I wanted to talk to him and sing to him, but every time I even thought about holding him, I would start crying. I really hoped we would get to take a few pictures of him while he was alive, so the other kids could get to see him. But I just did not know what to expect. Oftentimes, our fears are far worse than what really happens. I suppose that's part of why God tells us so often not to be afraid. I never, in my greatest hopes, imagined anything as sweet and as good as the time God gave us with him.

“It's a boy, it's Asher!” Kyle said. Immediately Asher started to cry, and I know my face lit up! I hadn't expected him to have enough lung capacity to make any noise. I felt that same wave of overwhelming joy that I have had with each one of our children. I knew that our time would be short and that he wasn't here to stay. But I just loved him so much, and I was so glad that he was born alive and that he was here, that I was happy anyway.

A crew from the NICU was in the room, to assess him. In our birth plan we had spelled out what we wanted, and we didn't plan on doing much intervention. Nine times out of ten there isn't anything you can do for Potter's babies anyway. With a total lack of amniotic fluid, so crucial to lung development, none of us expected that he would respond to oxygen. But he did.

After just a minute or two, the head of the NICU came back to the bed and told us that with the help of some oxygen, he was actually holding his own fairly well. He recommended that we wheel him over to the NICU.  I got to hold him, for about a minute, before we all headed out.

Kyle got some video while the nurses hooked him up to a sipap (oxygen tube) and I held his hand and admired him. He was so perfect! Dark, curly hair, sturdy little shoulders, perfectly chubby cheeks, he was just so cute! They got him all situated in my arms and pinned his tube to the pillow we were using, to keep it in place.

We held him, we gave him lots of kisses, got some video for the brothers and sister, and told him the things our parent's hearts wanted to say. After a few hours, they took his blood/oxygen levels, and it was clear that even with the additional oxygen, he wasn't going to be around much longer

We decided to pick a time to take off his sipap. We didn't want to drag things out and make it harder for him by leaving it on, and we knew that we couldn't leave it for whenever we felt ready. When does one ever feel ready for something like that? My mom and sister were on the road, and we wanted them to have a chance to meet and visit with him. So we decided to take it off in the evening, well after they left. I didn't cry much during the afternoon. I was in Mom mode; I felt like I was there for him, to give him all the comfort and help that my familiar voice and loving touch could give.

Kyle took the sipap off at 7pm. The doctor had told us that after the sipap was removed, we would probably have an hour with him, maybe two. So everyone cleared the room, and we told him the things we wanted to say. Then the most unexpected thing happened. He opened his eyes.

From the moment he was born, he had never once had his eyes open. I suppose with all the straps and tubes around his face he might not have been able to. But as I was holding him, I put my hand up to shade his face, and his dark little eyes just popped open, and he started to look around. Kyle dimmed the lights and came over to see him. It was totally unexpected, and such a wonderful gift, one of those cherished moments that we treasure up in our hearts.

Contrary to what we all expected, our strong little boy was with us until around 2am the next day, a little over six more hours. It was strange, because during the day, if the sipap got misaligned or was taken off for cleaning, Asher would start to loose his color. But after we took it off that evening, he looked just fine for a long time. As I look back, I cannot help but think that this time was a gift from our kind Father. We held him and talked to him. We sang hymns to him for about an hour. Eventually we decided to take him back to the delivery room, where it was more comfortable and private. Kyle read scriptures to him, some of the most wonderful, beautiful passages. And he was in our arms and loved through every moment.

The next morning I woke up in the delivery room thinking about his name. Asher means “Happy” and David means “Beloved”. We had picked his name, because we wanted him to be reminded that we loved him and we were happy that he had been given to us. But that morning I felt like the Lord told me that his name is a reminder for us as well. A reminder, as we wait to see him, that he is happy and he is beloved.

The Lord was so kind, and it felt like He stayed so close to us that morning. We still had financial details to work out, but a kind lady at the hospital did all the negotiating for us which was a huge burden off my shoulders. Handling medical bill is stressful for me, but that morning I didn't have to do a thing. We were honestly amazed when she told us what she had worked out for us. It was simply anther kind gift from the Lord.

As to how we're doing now, we're doing well. We miss Asher of course, we always will. And I think we've come to grips with the fact that missing him is a part of our lives now.  Many days feel absolutely normal, other days are hard. Grief catches you by surprise sometimes, in the middle of daily life. It's a process, and that's okay.

There is certainly much more I could share, but this is already long. It has been hard, but it's been worth it. Worth getting to have our little guy, and worth digging a little deeper into God's abundant supply for our every need. Worth finding, once again, that Jesus is more than enough.