February 10, 2016

A heart made stronger

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:28 pm by mynewbyline

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 sat on the examining table as my husband and I watched the technician check for organs and take measurements. She was going down her checklist, naming organs and pointing out fuzzy body parts. After a while, though, she became quiet as she searched for something. It became apparent she was looking and not finding. We asked if there was something wrong, but she wasn’t able to give us an answer. By the time she finally revealed that our baby was a boy, concern had dampened our excitement.

ultrasound head

Later that day, the doctor called with an explanation: the ultrasound had revealed several abnormalities. The umbilical cord had only two blood vessels, not the normal three. And our baby had only one kidney. Later we learned the two were related, and that together they indicated that something else could be wrong.

A few weeks later, a specialist found it in our baby’s heart – a hole between his ventricles. We were told he was fine while he was in my womb, but would struggle after being born and probably would need surgery to repair it in the first few months of his 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. Hospital visits and 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 intensive care for a few days, and then we were sent home with three medicines 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 oxygenated blood was being sent back to his lungs instead of out to the body, and that his heart was becoming overworked and enlarged. He needed to eat frequently because he would tire out, sometimes needing to stop a feeding after just a few minutes.

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Baby EKG

We had hoped that the hole might close on its own, but were told the chances were small. Eventually, our son could not maintain his weight. At one doctor’s appointment, his weight did not increase from the previous visit. The next time I went in, he had lost half a pound. The cardiologist asked that he be weighed again on a different scale just to be sure. 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.

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In cardiac intensive care following the surgery

“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. And 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.

Two months after his operation, his heart had returned to a normal size and his body’s natural tissue had grown over the patch on that was sewed on his heart. His recovery was not without a few road bumps, but overall the surgery was a success. When our son turned one, his cardiologist took one more look at his heart and then told us that we were done seeing cardiologists.

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EKG at one year old

When I look back, I sometimes wonder why we had to go through it. I wonder why his heart condition wasn’t worse. Our son has a scar, but he won’t remember the surgery. 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 and be thankful. 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.

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{This article was originally published in the February 2016 edition of the newsletter for the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group in Dunwoody, Georgia.}

January 9, 2015

He gently leads those that have young

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:39 pm by mynewbyline

 

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.

{This article was originally published in the January 2015 edition of the newsletter for the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group in Dunwoody, Georgia.}