Today, July 7, 2015, is both a day to be celebrated and the final reminder of my inefficiencies. Piper’s due date has now arrived making her 10 weeks old, zero days adjusted. It has been a long road in which Cody and I have remained hopeful and joyful about Piper and her progress, but now seems to be a good time to express some of the effects the last months have had on me and some observations I’ve made along the way. Starting at the beginning seems prudent, so that’s where we’ll begin.
Cody and I have never struggled with fertility issues so when the discussion of having a third child began we approached it from more of a “when” than “if” standpoint. We considered it all. Where would we put a baby in our apartment? When was a good time in Cody’s music schedule? When was a good time considering my legal career? Truth be told, we had arrived at the answer to that question as “December 2014.” As most of you recognize…we did not have a baby in December of 2014.
In April 2014 we suffered a very early miscarriage and from then on the discussion of having a third child was a lot more tension filled than before. In the months between that time and when we found out we were having Piper God revealed a lot of blessings to us that made the miscarriage more understandable but I still approached the idea from a point of fear. I wondered if by asking God for the other blessings in my life if I had somehow prayed my way out of the blessing of a third child. Think “the magic genie who always finds a way to never give you what you wish for.” I know that’s not my God, but as the numerous blessings began to roll in I was still stuck in the one that hadn’t or couldn’t. Eventually we reevaluated and decided that July 2015 seemed like a good time to have a child. There were and still are a lot of reasons why July 2015 would have been a great time for us to have a child, but again, our plans were quickly changed on us.
In January 2015 (13 weeks pregnant) the boys and I were involved in a head on collision when a gentleman crossed over the center line. We all walked away with virtually no injury, but on March 22 (24 weeks+ 5 days pregnant) Cody had to tap on the car breaks to avoid someone who appeared to be failing to stop at an intersection. The result of my seatbelt tightening caused my water to break prematurely. We are told that the bag of waters was injured in the initial head on collision and that the seatbelt tightening caused just enough pressure to cause the bag to leak. Thus began a long hospital stay.
The day following the “seatbelt incident” I secretly went to the doctor to confirm what I already suspected; that my water had broken. Between Cody and I we have a sort of inside joke that I am a really nervous pregnant person and I didn’t want to admit to him that I was again being paranoid and costing our family a co-pay unnecessarily so I didn’t mention it to him before I made a quick stop at the doctor’s office on my way to Notre Dame. The doctor’s test confirmed what we all now know and seems barely worth mentioning other than to point out that in that very instant in the doctor’s office I began to feel terribly and horribly alone.
The first couple of hours and days after that seem to have happened in slow motion. I was admitted and it was explained that there was a high likelihood that Piper would be born with-in the first 48 hours. We had an ultrasound, met the high risk obstetricians and were paid a visit by Dr. White who explained to us the likelihood of complications and successes for a 24 week 6 day old baby. At the time, Piper weighed in at 1 pound 7 ounces and was showing several “soft markers” of Downs Syndrome. Honestly, the first few days were terrifying, absolutely and completely terrifying, and I once again began to feel alone and like my body had failed us.
After those first 48 hours time seems to be a blur. Cody and the boys visited every day. There was Charlie’s 5th birthday party which we held in a hospital meeting room, Easter, Cody did a couple of shows, I completed a semester of law school and wrote a giant paper, my friends threw me a baby shower in my room, and from time to time we spent our evenings with concerned family and friends. For the most part however, I spent those days alone and Piper kept growing like we prayed she would.
Going into labor is a funny thing. At some point that you could never quite identify you suddenly start thinking “Hmmm I wonder if this could be labor?” and then at some other point further down in your day it hits you like a sudden epiphany “I’m in labor and this is happening.” With Charlie and Henry there was no denying it, which was met with a mix of slight fear of the unknown and excitement for the future. With Piper there was also no denying it…just a terrifying “Dear God, please let me be wrong about this.”
I have never been a person who takes particular interest in other women’s birth choices. Epidural, natural, cesarean, in a tub, alone, with a room full of people. The possibilities are endless and the decisions are unique to everyone. When we were told that we would have to have a cesarean if Piper remained breach I didn’t think much of it. I don’t care for anesthesia, but my focus was only on having a healthy baby and I wasn’t going to dwell on the point unnecessarily. Piper’s cesarean seemed to be the perfect storm of all of my fears however. Again, it was terrifying. In an hour’s time we went from wondering whether we were really in labor to an emergency C-section. For those of you who have never had one I can personally attest that it is ten times scarier than you expect and it does legitimately scar you. In psychology we call certain life events that don’t go as planned “the loss of a dream.” This was that. We already have two children. We know what a miraculous thing it is to labor and then to triumphantly have your newborn laid on your chest in their first seconds of life. That didn’t happen and I still can’t help but feel a little robbed.
When we first entered the hospital we were encouraged to visit the NICU since there was no question as to whether Piper would be required to stay. In the five weeks of my hospital stay before her birth however, we failed to visit. Admittedly because we were too afraid of what could be found behind the doors. Once I was able to visit I was wheeled down in my recovery bed to hold Piper for the first time. It was hard and although I felt a sense of joy all I could think to do was apologize to this little life.
By the nature of what it is, the NICU is a very scary place. You cannot help but bear the burden with other parents and their children. It is noisy with alarms. You are constantly reminded of how frail your child is. Every success is met with apprehensive celebration while every setback feels like an unceasing blow. There is no privacy. There is guilt about what you are sacrificing in the outside world to be on the inside of the NICU. At some point the idea of thriving somehow escapes you and your thought is for the hope of the future. One day your child will be well and this ordeal will all be over. Having a child in the NICU is not something you “do”, it is something that you endure, and in all of it you feel a crushing sense of being alone. As a mom you can’t help but feel responsible and in that fear of failure it is easy to feel alone and guilty.
Several weeks before I entered the hospital my brother died. When he died he was by himself. As our family came together and processed the events of his passing my sister and I repeated a common fear. We hoped that in the moment of his passing that he was never afraid, was never aware that he was dying, and never felt alone. As I sat with Piper in the hospital and struggled with my own thoughts and inefficiencies I clung to the message of the sermon at his funeral. The pastor said…”Of this was can be sure, Michael was never alone. In the moments he was drawing his final breaths God was there meeting him where he was.” Romans 8:35-39 says “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more the conquerors through Him who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In the times of the deepest trials of my life I was not alone. All the fear, guilt, loneliness and insufficiency that I have felt since Piper’s birth ten weeks ago have given way to the victories of life. She is home. We are happy and we are thriving. We continue to rest in His promises and relish in the promises of His unfailing presence in our lives. Piper is here and we are blessed.