Monday, August 30, 2010

Joy Filled Days

I never knew I could feel such joy for my family until now! I used to pray that God would give me an overwhelming amount of joy in what I do. My prayers have been answered above and beyond what I've ever asked for or dreamed of.

Olivia still asks me each night, "Mommy, who is staying the night tonight?" She used to ask me this same question every single night before I would tuck her in while Natalie was in the NICU. She knew that once she went to bed mommy and daddy would leave for the hospital and someone would be here to watch her and Grant while we were gone. I can now happily tell her that her mommy and daddy are! She sweetly replies, "Thank you mommy!" We don't realize just how hard this journey is for our children. I prayed every single day that God would give them resilience as we took one day at a time not knowing how long this road would be. We asked a lot of them over 3 1/2 months and they were amazingly strong and patient. I'm thankful we are all under one roof at last.

We often walk into our bedroom to see Grant and Olivia just sitting by Natalie's bed starring at her, not touching or talking, just looking at her.

They love helping with feeding her, making sure she has her pacifier, throwing away her diapers and covering her with hugs and kisses.

Leaving the NICU was hard and wonderful. How do you say goodbye to people who have become your family and who have saved your child's life? To a staff that was strong when we were weak and to friends that we looked forward to seeing every single day? Thank goodness for visits! The NICU experience was the best thing that has ever happened to our family because it taught us how lucky we are and gave us a glimpse at how big God is and how mighty His hands are. We were able to see and continue to see miracles every day. Life is sweet and precious and this has given us a whole new attitude about changing diapers (even dirty ones), waking up in the middle of night, seeing life sprinkled around every inch of our house just after I've spent the day cleaning, being exhausted often and realizing that it's been five days since I've taken a shower! :) We can do all of this with smiles on our faces and hearts filled with joy. I wasn't always able to say this, I'm thankful that God has opened my eyes and heart to how wonderful this is. They say don't ever pray for patience... I have been praying for patience for several years and God has shown me how to have patience in His plan and that I really don't control anything. If I can just take a deep breath, remember His truth (His plan is perfect) I will find that life is sweet even in the darkest hour and when you don't know what tomorrow looks like I can have faith in knowing that as long as I trust in God I will find comfort, strength, peace and joy. I laugh as I look over these past five years and think I must be pretty dang stubborn because God continues to test my faith and I'm thankful because through each test I am humbled.

Nurse Cheryl getting Natalie ready for her car seat study.

Saying good bye to some of the day nurses. Wish that they were all there!

Saying good bye to Yvette, the director of the NICU.

Sweet Melanie was our discharge nurse! The first time she was Natalie's nurse was on our discharge day!

Exiting the NICU for the last time!!

Saying goodbye to Brittanie.

Getting my hospital tag removed.

Saying goodbye to Dr. Wong! We wish that we were able to say goodbye to all of them.

All buckled up and ready to go home, it's a little bright outside.

Since being home we have seen two of the three specialists for Natalie so far, there is no concern with her vision, her blood pressure is still under control and we will see the cardiologist on 9/24. She's an amazing eater both by bottle and with nursing, she's a good sleeper (can sleep through anything, thank you NICU), loves to be held, loves to smile and rolled over for the first time last week. Grant has his first day of Kindergarten and Olivia her first day of Pre-K last week. Watching them both go off to school was hard. While holding tiny Natalie I was thinking about when they were born and it's amazing how fast this time has gone by.

Grant lost his first tooth. 8/26/10.

Olivia's First Day of Preschool!

Grant's First Day of Kindergarten!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Buckle up friends, it's going to be a long ride...

Just when you think that you have everything figured out you start to go a little crazy. When Natalie was born we would hear the term "NICU Roller Coaster" often, we're going to be on a roller coaster of emotions for a while. That couldn't be more true.

Today is Natalie's 100th day in the NICU which I am overwhelmingly grateful for, she has lived one hundred strong and healthy days. It has also been one hundred long, hard days, each day filled with a deep longing of wanting to bring her home. It's hard tucking your baby into bed each night somewhere other than your home. It's hard leaving her lying awake in her bed and even when she's sleeping you know that eventually she will be awake and you wonder if she's lonely. I pray that she will always feel the loving, strong and warm hands of God and that she does not wonder where I am.

Today, driving to the hospital I started day dreaming, what if when I get to her bed there is a sign hanging on the wall that says, "I get to come home today." I mean she's gained weight two days in a row and her blood pressure is down so she should come home!! Makes sense to me. :) Her blood pressure isn't as low as they would like it to be and she's having trouble digesting her food. Seems like every doctor is working their best to make sure that she's comfortable.

Today I was reading The Power of a Praying Wife mostly focusing on Mike and how to pray for him, hence the title. :) Well, God had different plans for what I would take from todays reading. I am in chapter 13 which is titled, His Trials. There I read the following (this is long, sorry):

Whether it feels like it or not, when we serve God, His love attends every moment of our lives-even the toughest, loneliest, most painful and desperate. He is always there in our midst, working things out for good when we pray and look to Him to do so.... His purpose for our trials is often to bring us humbly before Him to experience a breaking in our inner, independent, self-sufficient selves, and grow us up into compassionate, patient, spiritually strong, God-glorifying people. He uses these situations to teach us how to trust that He loves and cares for us enough to get us through the tough times..... Prayer, Lord, You alone know the depth of the burden we carry. God, You are the refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). You have invited us to "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). I come before Your throne and ask for grace. Strengthen our hearts for this battle and give us patience to wait on You (Psalm 27:1-4). Build us up so that no matter what happens we will be able to stand strong through it. Help us to always be "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer" (Romans 12:12) Give us endurance to run the race and not give up.... I pray that we will look to You to be our "refuge until these calamities have passed by" (Psalm 57:1). May we learn to wait on You because "those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31). I pray that we will find our strength in You and as we cry out to You, You will hear us and save us out of our troubles (Psalm 34:6).

"Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." Psalm 55:22

During this time we've been able to meet other parents that are going through this experience and hear about their baby's good and bad days. Right now there are two families that are heavy on my heart, these families are faced with uncertainty and it breaks my heart that they're having to go through this. It's hard to sit and write about things that are troubling my days when I know that there are situations far more troubling than my own. Praying that God will provide these families with peace, strength, hope and comfort.

Happy 100 Days Natalie Grace!! You are a miracle and we are so proud of you baby girl. Amazing Grace!