Motherhood has been incredible. It is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. It is everything everyone said it would be x 100 on the joy factor. But it did not start off that way for us. Starting this shop and owning this blog has given me an outlet to be real and honest and this post is going to do that mission justice.
My son Crew was born at 33 weeks - 7 weeks early. The events that took place leading to his arrival are for whole other blog post, but for now I think there is a great testimony I feel called to address. Since we welcomed Crew into the world, for the first three months of his life, I was in a dark valley with my faith. I am sure we all have moments in our lives where our hearts get dark and tho was a big one for me. I was on the brink of abandoning my beliefs, expressing anger towards God and even doubting that he was listening to my cries. To previously have what I felt was a deep rooting in my faith and even build a business around sharing it with the world, I didn't see it coming- The anger, frustration, hurt and resentment toward God. It hit me out of no where and at times it feels like I've reached the other side, but there have been moments where I get a sense of familiarity (a sound, a smell, or a picture) from that time and I realize that I am still trying to heal.
Although Crew was very healthy for his gestational age (33 weeks) his birth and the first month of his life was nothing short of traumatic for me and my husband. He was a good size when he was born (5 lbs 11 oz / 18in) and didn't have ANY major medical issues, which is a gift from God that does not go unnoticed, but my heart was struggling from the moment they said "we're taking this baby today." Because of my medical state pre-delivery, I was on all sorts of medicines causing his birth and the hours following to be very foggy. I remember being prepped for the c-section and feeling absolutely frightened. Would my baby be ok? Would I be ok? I could not let go of the fear that had such a tight grip on me. The word fear just didn't seem to do my feelings justice. The absolute worst thoughts crossed my mind. As they began with the surgery, it felt like no time before I heard him cry. It was the greatest sound in the world and I immediately burst into tears. They began to clean him up while my husband took some pictures and they rolled him past me to take him straight to the NICU. I was sad I couldn't see his face, and his amazing hair they kept raving about on the other end of the sheet, but in that single moment I felt like every thing was going to be ok.
That night we got settled into our room and had our parents drop in to say congrats. At this point I was relieved and so grateful that we were all ok that I wasn't too upset that I hadn't held him or really even seen him yet. Not because I didn't want to, but because I knew that it would happen the next day and he technically was still supposed to be in my belly. God was watching over him and the NICU team of nurses and doctors were nothing short of amazing. I found a lot of peace in that. The next day (still on foggy meds) I finally got to see my little boy. I was so excited and incredibly nervous. All I had seen of him was photos that my husband took in his visits to see him. Would we feel like strangers? Would he know I was his mama? He has seen so many people before he saw my face. I didn't know how to feel, but I did know that I couldn't wait to meet him.
My trip to see him was short and incredibly emotional. No one can prepare you for the amount of love, joy and concern you feel for that tiny human that you created. Seeing him hooked up to a CPAP (breathing machine) and being so small (even though he was big for 33 weeks), I had a hard time seeing him that way. And to make it worse I couldn't hold him. He had a special IV that had to be sterile and stay untouched. I remember feeling so much love for him but feeling so helpless. I knew God was in control and since he was doing well I had hope that we might be about to put all of this behind us really soon and enjoy our new life. I thought "soon this will all be a memory and I can hold him as much as I want."
Days went by and we came to a point where I was being released. Leaving the hospital after having a baby, and not leaving with your baby is incredibly strange and heartbreaking. I knew that healing in my own home and getting some rest would be good for my body, but I also knew I would have to walk through the door and some what resume life without him close. I tried to keep it together. I tried really hard.
More days pass and before I know it, it's been two weeks of the back and forth to the hospital. We had a lot of "2 steps forward 1 step back" moments, but things were starting to look up. He was then breathing on his own great, had been gaining weight, holding his temp and taking a bottle like a champ with no feeding tubes (even pulling them out lol). I had mixed emotions about his progress. On one hand, I thought "YES... we can go home soon!!!"But on the other, I no longer felt like the NiCU team could do more for him then I could. I finally felt like he was well enough for me to be his caretaker. I was so ready for that. We were so excited about all of his accomplishments that we felt like the moment of bringing him home was going to be soon. Really soon. But it was much further than we thought.
He had one more obstacle to overcome which was bradycardia, where his heart rate drops. Very typical with premature babies and his spells were all self resolved and never got dangerously low, but it was enough to keep us there. He had to make it 72 hours with no spells and then we could bring him home. He made it close to the 70 hour range twice, and then had a spell. To explain how I felt in those moments the only word I can think of is broken.
At this point, I knew that he was going to be ok- praise Jesus- but having to leave him everyday, and only getting to see him once or twice a day was brutal. The way that I saw it was that I carried this baby in my body for several months. I talk to him, I could feel him, I knew him and he knew me. But I wasn't allowed to be his mom yet. I couldn't care for him around the clock or even have the moments of "ok what do I do know" or discovering how to clean up massive poopy diapers.... I didn't have that. All I had was 2-4 hour visits where I was hovered over by a nurse. I couldn't fully experience all of those moments you get to experience as a new mom because of him being in the NICU. And I was angry about it. As if my own health journey wasn't challenging enough, I had to deal with all of it while being separated from my child. Every hormone and every emotion. I felt it.
I blamed God, oh did I blame him. I wept every time we left that hospital. And it wasn't just because I missed him, but also because our situation was so far removed from what I had imagined our story would be like that I felt a devastation. By no means was I ungrateful for the blessing of a mostly healthy child, but I just could not get past the pain of not getting to mother my child for a full month after his birth. You may think, "well your still his mother..." And that's true, but just hearing it wasn't enough for me. I needed to hold him as long as I wanted, and kiss him as much as I wanted and I needed to learn his needs and cries and likes and dislikes. I needed to get to know him because he was a part of my being for so long, and then so abruptly taken from me. I felt like a huge part of my heart was missing throughout that time, and I could not see past the pain to see the true value of our story.
Not until recently, I began to think, "I bet that's how God feels about me. When my faith isn't as strong (or non existant) and I leave his side, all he can do is love me until I come back home." Perspective changes everything.
Crew stayed in the NICU for a full month. Instead of waiting out the bradycardia, we chose to come home on a heart monitor. We knew he would most likely grow out of the bradycardia, and his doctors felt very confident that he would be just fine. He came home on his one month birthday and I will forever celebrate that day as if it were the one of his birth. It was the first day that the three of us could be a family, finally. Riding down the elevator and walking out of the doors of the hospital, I felt like I could breathe for the first time in a while. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget the incredible feeling of joy that each step brought. I cried the whole way home, just staring at my beautiful boy and I couldn't help but feel a sense of guilt. Guilt because there were still so many parents there that needed (and I do mean NEED) that very moment we were experiencing like you need breath, and guilt that I had been so angry with the very God that gave me this perfect boy, a gracious husband, and this joyous moment that I had been waiting for, for my whole life it seemed.
There were so many nights in that same car that I had cried many tears saying, "why us", "I can't take much can more of this", "I'm so angry at God for keeping us from our baby", "I need him to come home, why isn't God giving me what I need"
Now, Looking at the state of my heart back then, I feel embarrassed. I was so blindsided that my vision wasn't my reality that I couldn't even see past my own feelings to trust God. I feel like I was acting childish and selfish. To be a woman of faith who not only owns a business around the very concept of prayer and living a faithful life, I was completely off the path of everything I had worked so hard to achieve in my walk with God and in my heart. I am still healing from this experience, but there was a turning point for me recently.
The biggest struggle I had was jumping back into a business that revolved around my faith. I was still so angry and confused and my heart was NOT in a good place. My husband encouraged me to keep moving forward with it even when I couldn't even picture anything past my tearful breakdowns. I had triggers that would put me back in that angry state. He prayed with me and for me when I refused to let God in. He was Jesus to me during that time, and the strength that he showed for the both of us when I just couldn't keep it together still amazes me. I got to a point where I felt like I was healing, and then something else triggered me reminding me how I was not properly letting God in my life to put me back together. I prayed for God to "renew my heart and renew my spirit for myself, for my husband, and for my son." As I did that, I started to feel peace. I found a book called Anchored around that time. It's a wonderful read that I would highly recommend and it helps explain the feelings one goes through when your child is in the hospital. It helped me understand my self and all that I was feeling, and it also put things into perspective for me. Perspective is everything is situations like this.
I share it all with you because of this: I am a woman who is sometimes selfish, who doubts herself and our Lord (more times that I'd like to admit), who feels very raw emotions and displays them in childish ways sometimes BUT who is still loved and pursued by our amazing savior DESPITE ALL OF THOSE THINGS. Can you believe that? What a gift. I am still learning and growing in my faith as I go here. I didn't create this business and these products to be upity about my faith, like "look at me, I've got it all together! Buy my products and you can have it altogether too!" That couldn't be farther than the truth. I do this and share my journey with you because I have a first class ticket on the hot-mess express, and God still loves me. If you're there too and you need to be told that you are loved no matter what trial you go through or how angry/frustrated/hurt you are? Then I hope you find that here. God is and always will be there working in the background in our best interest. Even if you can't accept your story/circumstances just yet. Im still learning that everyday.
Crew is home, healthy and happy as a clam. We are LOVING life as a family of four (because the Dog was our first child- obviously) and completely in love with this gift of life we were blessed with. He is 5 months old now (today actually!!) and on the brink of 17 lbs (chunker!). I am starting to uncover why we went through this trial, and more importantly I'm beginning to embrace and own our story. But it's still taking time, and the pain still feels very fresh at times. At follow up appointments the smell of the hand sanitizer and the familiar treks across the parking garage are just a couple things that bring back such strong painful memories. We saw one of Crew's NICU doctors the other day (all the doctors and nurses were amazing and felt like family before we left) and she immediately remembered Crew and asked how he was doing. I was thrilled to show off our healthy chunker of a boy, but also had a pit in my stomach the whole time talking to her. I don't know if that will ever go away, but maybe it shouldn't. I am happy to feel because feeling let's you heal. And I am grateful to be on a journey of healing.
I want to take a moment to thank everyone who called, messaged, text, prayed, brought meals, took care of our dog, took care of the shop/offered to take care of orders, shared experiences and encouragement, gave us gifts, etc... You all are amazing and your gift of love and kindness does not go unnoticed. To us you are angels in human form and we are forever grateful. We hope to pay it forward in all of those wonderful ways we were blessed.
I realize that my husband and I are very blessed with a healthy baby who is now home, and that some people aren't as fortunate. Our hearts and so many prayers go out to those who are still making the back a forth trips to the NICU, who have a sick child or have experienced a great loss. I know our situation may not seem like the worst (and it's wasn't) but this is my testimony and my very honest view of our story, how messy life can get, and how God is always there to pick up the pieces of our hearts.