February 10, 2016
I wrote the following piece for my MOPS group this month, not realizing that February was heart month or that the month holds the anniversary of Clayton’s surgery (today is the exact day, seven years ago).
If you’re like me, there was only one thing on your mind as you anticipated your baby’s 20 week ultrasound: is it a girl or a boy? When it was time for that appointment for my first child, I laid on the examining table as my husband and I watched the technician check for organs and take measurements. She was going down her checklist, saving the best for last. The searching was going on and on, though, and eventually we realized she was stuck. She was looking and not finding. We asked if there was something wrong, but she wasn’t able to give an answer. By the time she finally revealed that our baby was a boy, concern had dampened our excitement.
That afternoon, the doctor called with an explanation: the ultrasound had revealed several abnormalities. First, the umbilical cord had only two blood vessels, not the normal three. Second, our baby had only one kidney. Later we learned the two were related, and together they indicated that something else could be wrong.
A few weeks later, a specialist found it in our baby’s heart – a large hole between his ventricles. We were told he was fine while he was in my womb, but would struggle after being born and that he would probably need surgery to repair it in his first few months of life.
The doctors said the survival rate for the surgery was good, so I held on to their confidence and to my faith. “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” took on a new meaning for me. Ultrasounds became routine, and we got to know our baby well, watching him grow and, on one occasion, even witnessed him relieving himself in utero.
When he was born, he stayed in the NICU for a few days, and then we were sent home with three meds to syringe-feed him several times a day and with instructions to record every feeding and diaper change. The hole in our baby’s heart meant that it was sending oxygenated blood back to his lungs, and that his heart was becoming overworked and enlarged. He nursed every hour to an hour and a half because he would tire out, sometimes needing to stop a feeding after just a few minutes.
We had hoped that the hole might close on its own, but the chances were small. Eventually, our son could not maintain his weight. At one doctor’s appointment, his weight did not increase. The next time I went in, he had lost half a pound. The cardiologist asked that he be weighed again on a different scale. When the doctor came into our room and said, “Okay, I have a plan,” I knew it was time for surgery. By then, my husband and I were ready for it, ready for our baby to get better.
At 12 weeks old, our son went in for open-heart surgery. They broke his sternum and put him on a bypass machine while the surgeon attached a fabric patch over the hole in his heart.
“Give thanks in all circumstances,” says I Thessalonians 5:18.
The type of surgery that our son had was pioneered only 20 years before he was born. The man who figured it out was the same surgeon that patched our son’s heart. When our little one was born my husband was in the military, giving us full medical coverage. At the time, my husband was stationed in a large city with an excellent children’s hospital, something that is not always a given in the Marine Corps. And somehow, through the surgery, I was able to keep nursing our baby.
Two months after his heart was patched it had gone back to a normal size and his body’s natural tissue had grown over the patch on that was sewed on his heart. When our son turned one, his cardiologist took one more look at his heart and then told us that we were done seeing cardiologists.
When I look back, I sometimes wonder why we had to go through it. Sometimes I wonder why it wasn’t worse. Our son has a scar, but he won’t remember it. Was it for us? For me? But then I read this, from Isaiah 45:
“Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker…Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making’?”
So I choose to trust. The God who wove this story together is the One who made me and who made my son. Long before my husband and I knew about his heart, we wanted to give him a name that would remind us that God is the potter and we are the clay, and so we named him Clayton. It reminds me to lean not on my own understanding, and instead trust that He is shaping each of us into the people He wants us to be.
January 9, 2015
The following is a devotional I wrote for my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group.
If you’ve been around church for a while, you’ve probably heard someone say that it’s good to start your day with Bible study and prayer. I’ve heard it a lot. My husband used to be in the military, so we’ve moved around, and we’ve been in many churches. I think that when you hear something like that repeated so much, you begin to think you’re doing something wrong if you can’t make it happen. And mothers of young children would have a hard time making that happen.
A few years ago, I was making my way through a book on devotionals. At the time, I had a three year old and a baby. In the book, the author wrote an entire chapter on the importance of meeting with God first thing in the morning. She had Scripture to support it, and she emphasized that it was crucial to spend time in Bible study and prayer before speaking with anyone. As I read the book, my heart started beating faster, I could feel my face getting hot, and the book nearly went through my window. The author – a well-known Christian writer – was insistent, and left no room for exceptions. The author is a woman, she doesn’t have any children, and it is also quite possible that she’s never left her house.
So a few weeks ago I was reading in the book of Isaiah and came across a verse in chapter 40 that stood out to me. In the Bible, God is referred to as our Shepherd, and we are his sheep, as it is here in verse 11. It says,
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
And carries them close to his heart;
He gently leads those that have young. (NIV)
It was the first time I remember reading those words, and they touched my heart. It told me that the God of the Bible is not a god who looks at the clock when we sit down to meet with him. He wants to be first in our lives, but for a mom, first cannot always be the first thing when we wake up. Whether it is during morning naptime or if it is the last thing we do before we lay down for bed, God wants to meet with us.
At the time I was reading the devotional book, I was still getting up with my little one in the night, and my three year old was up around 6 each morning. But there was a sweet spot in the afternoon when both kids were down. It was in that quiet time that I made an effort to sit down, read God’s word, and pray.
It is tough to be consistent with devotions when you have young children. It is tough to be consistent with going to church. However, when we choose to meet with him – no matter what time of day – God honors us. And He uses His word in our lives.
January 23, 2013
Aunt Shelly was here for a visit recently and we took the boys for a walk on the Monticello Trail, a 2-mile path that has a gentle grade leading up the mountain to Thomas Jefferson’s estate. It was a cool foggy day but the the low clouds made for some nice photos.
November 23, 2012
My baby is one! Born on November 19th, 2011…we love you Knox.
November 13, 2012
For Clayton’s birthday, my sister Jenny flew in for a long weekend. She loves the outdoors and wanted to take Clayton out of the city and into a national park. So one afternoon the three of us drove west to the Shenandoah Mountains, hiked a trail and stopped a few times to admire the scenery.
When Sandy blew through Virginia, she dropped some snow on the mountains, and that was one of the first things we saw on the trail.
Here plant, have some snow.
Clayton and Jenny on the trail.
Reach for the clouds!
Next we found a hill of large rocks and somehow I convinced Clayton to climb them with us. I’m still surprised he agreed to it — he is not the fearless type! But he did really well and gained some confidence as we scrambled up and down the rocks, even if he did have a meltdown at the peak. Way to go, Clayton!
They bonded through the experience.
3,000 feet on the Appalachain Trail.
A few spectacular views.
It was so beautiful and still up there — I could have stayed all day! Thanks for getting me out of the house, Jenny!
November 10, 2012
Clayton is four years old today, and we threw him a little party at a local park. Clayton is very excited to be four, and he’ll tell you that “after that I’ll be five!”
November 5, 2012
Halloween was a fun time for our family this year. Clayton had a little better grasp of what it was and Knox had lots of people admiring the cuteness of his beaver costume.
October 25, 2012
We met some friends at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello this morning. We took a walk and enjoyed the beautiful fall colors and then played in their kids’ Discovery Center for a while.
October 24, 2012
We went apple picking with Clayton’s preschool
Spent a lot of time at our neighborhood park (photo by Clayton)
Enjoyed a visit from Aunt Shelly (and spent some more time at the neighborhood park)
Bought a pumpkin
And set some records for getting into mischief and eating cabinet paint, leaves, plastic grocery bags and stickers.
“This sweet face?” you ask. “Cause trouble?” Mmm-hmm.
Knox is 11 months old, a speedy crawler and cruising along furniture and walls. He says “dada” and makes a few animal sounds, including “cack, cack” (quack), “baa” and “ooo, ooo” (moo) when we read his Noisy Farm book. His appetite continues to grow, although he’s still mostly on purees and cereals due to his genetic gag reflex.
Clayton loves his preschool, going to parks, playing with his neighborhood pals, wrestling with Daddy and Knox, doing puzzles, watching Caillou, cooking with Mommy, walking on railroad tracks, and building airport control towers with Legos.