February 10, 2016

A heart made stronger

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:28 pm by mynewbyline

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

For many mothers, there is one main piece of news at the 20 week ultrasound for your expecting baby: is it a girl or a boy? When it was my turn for this appointment, my husband and I watched the screen as the technician checked for organs and took measurements.

She located his beating heart and identified fuzzy shapes on the screen, one after another. Then she became quiet and more focused, and it seemed she was searching 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.

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 together they indicated something else could be wrong.

A few weeks later, a specialist found it in our baby’s heart – a hole between the ventricles in his heart. We were told he was fine while he was in my womb, but would struggle after being born and likely 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.

When he was born, he stayed in intensive care for several days, and then the doctors sent our family home with three medicines to syringe-feed our son several times a day. 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 going to be overworked and enlarged. He needed to eat frequently because he would tire out quickly, sometimes stopping after just a few minutes of eating.

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Baby EKG

At two months old, our son could not maintain his weight. At one doctor’s appointment, his weight didn’t increase from the previous visit. The next time I brought him 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 had open-heart surgery. They broke his sternum and put him on a bypass machine while the surgeon sewed a fabric patch over the hole in his heart.

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” says I Thessalonians 5:18.

The type of surgery our son had was pioneered only 20 years before he was born. The man who figured it out was the same surgeon that repaired our son’s heart. When our baby was born my husband was in the military, which provided full medical coverage. And at the time, my husband was stationed in a large metro area with an excellent children’s hospital, something that is not true of every Marine Corps base.

Two months after our son’s operation, his heart had returned to a normal size and his heart’s natural tissue had grown over the patch 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 45:9

“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. 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 molding us into the people He wants us to be.

January 9, 2015

He gently leads those that have young

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:39 pm by mynewbyline

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

If you’ve been around church for a while, you’ve probably been advised to start your day with Bible study and prayer. I’ve heard it from many churches, from the pulpit to small groups, and the Bible itself cites examples of God’s people seeking Him in the morning. So when you hear something like that repeated, 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.

Several years ago, I was making my way through a book about spending time with the Lord. In the book, the author wrote an entire chapter on the importance of meeting with God first thing in the morning. She used 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 sat reading the book, my heart rate climbed up, my face was getting hot, and the book was about to hit the wall. 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 quite possible that she’s never left her house.

At the time I had a three year old and a baby. I was still getting up with my little one in the night, and my three year old woke up around 6 each morning. While I was overwhelmed with bottle feedings and diapers and three-year-old curiosities, every day there was a sweet spot in the afternoon when both kids were napping. It was in that quiet time that a few days each week I made an effort to sit down, read God’s word, and pray.

Recently 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)

Those words touched my heart. They told me that the God of the Bible is not a god who checks his watch 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 nap time or if it is the last thing we do before we lay down for bed, God wants to meet with us.

Reading the verse cooled my feelings toward the author. The truth of where I stood with God was in grace, not judgment. I was loved by my Father and cared for by my Shepherd — especially as I cared for my own children.