Monthly Archives: January 2018

Great Expectations and Grace: A Birth Story Part 2

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They laid her atop my chest immediately following the final push, and the midwife ceremoniously handed the scissors to my husband so he could sever the cord that had bound her to me. “Hello Lily,” I whispered. She cried feebly, and I cradled her close, kissing the top of her head and reveling in the raw and beautiful glory of the moment. The perfection of divine creation lay in my arms, and my heart soared at the incredibly sanctity of it all … this tangible nearness of heaven wrapped in the form of our newborn baby girl.

Within minutes though, these soaring emotions gave way to a difficult reality. Her skin was tinged blue, and she didn’t seem to be transitioning to life outside the womb as quickly as she should. Though she was crying, her cries were weak. The nurses took her from me and began rubbing her vigorously. My husband stood by her side … watching, praying. Please yell, I silently pleaded. Her cries strengthened, and her skin tinged pink as oxygen surged through her tiny body. The midwife tended me, and my husband wore a path between our daughter and my side.

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Lily continued to slowly improve, but her pulse ox was low, indicating some respiratory distress. The nurses called NICU and my heart sunk. We’d been through this before; two of our daughters had been sent to the NICU after birth for brief observation due to respiratory issues, but I’d hoped and prayed we might avoid it this time. It was beginning to look like that wouldn’t be the case.

The NICU nurses arrived and began monitoring Lily’s vitals. My husband walked over, his face drawn. “They’re going to take her to NICU,” he said. I was heartsick; I wanted her cradled in my arms, not wheeled down the hall. “We’ve been through this before,” he reminded me. “She’ll be ok.” His words rung true, but logic doesn’t register with the longing of a mother’s heart.

“Go with her,” I urged him. “I’m fine here.” He walked off, following the tiny bassinet as it carried our little girl who had only moments before been tucked tightly inside. With the nurse keeping me company, I awaited his return and relaxed when I heard his footsteps echo outside the door. “How is she?” I asked. His face was solemn. “They’re admitting her,” he said. I don’t remember if I cried at his words; what I do know is I felt the caverns of a yawning emptiness grow.

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Lily was still showing signs of respiratory distress, and the NICU nurses weren’t sure why. Although two of our daughters had shown similar respiratory issues after birth, theirs had remedied within a few hours on their own. This, however, was different. After the nurse finished with me, they transferred me to postpartum, and my husband quickly wheeled me to the NICU unit. He informed me that Lily was on oxygen and had a feeding tube, since it would be difficult for her to nurse. He navigated the maze-like hallways and then pushed me into her room; though it pulsed with light and the incessant rhythm of beeping monitors, it was hushed and sacred.

Lily slept soundly in her bassinet, supported by oxygen and a tiny feeding tube. At 9 pounds, 9 ounces, she was the biggest baby in the room. Her attending nurse came over to introduce herself and then gently told me that I couldn’t hold her just yet because they didn’t want to disturb her tubes. My heart lurched. This was not how I had envisioned this birth, but God had been so faithful; I would trust Him in this too. We stayed by her bassinet for more than an hour before we decided to try to get some rest. At this point it was nearing dawn. We returned to our room and fitfully tried to sleep for a few hours before waking and going straight back to NICU. This pattern of NICU – postparturm – NICU was one we would come to know well.

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Later that morning, the hospital pediatrician made his rounds. He stopped by our room to introduce himself and talk about Lily. It was during that visit we learned that an X-ray had revealed that Lily had a small puncture in one of her lungs that was making it difficult to for her to breathe. As his gentle, patient words poured forth, I worked to catch my own breath and a number of worst-case scenarios and panicked questions passed through my mind. Would she need surgery? How long would she need to stay here? What does this mean for her future?

Her pediatrician graciously explained that the condition, officially called a pneumothorax, is when a bit of air escapes from the lung and gets trapped between the chest wall and the outer tissue of the lungs. Typically the condition heals on its own within a matter of days, and the body reabsorbs the air. Occasionally, babies may need to have the air released by needle aspiration. I was simultaneously shattered and relieved. The diagnosis was frightening, but her pediatrician seemed confidant that Lily’s lung would likely heal on it’s own. Only time could tell.

We returned to the NICU, this time getting to hold Lily, and my heart folded around her as my arms enclosed her. I could have never anticipated this turn of events, but I trusted God would heal her.

My mom arrived a bit later, bringing our younger preschool-aged girls. Having to explain to them that Lily wasn’t in our room shattered my heart again. Our two-year-old wasn’t allowed in the NICU, but my husband brought our four-year-old in to meet her. Shortly after we returned to our room, I pulled the two-year-old into my bed and wrapped my arms around her. Physically and emotionally spent, she and I both fell asleep.

Little by little, Lily seemed to be improving. Later that day, my mom brought all four kids to the hospital, and our oldest two walked reverently into the NICU and met their baby sister for the first time.

The hours passed slowly, and my husband and I made ourselves a permanent fixture by Lily’s bassinet. On Tuesday (just over 24 hours after her birth but what felt like days), the midwife gave me the option of being discharged or staying another day. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Lily, and I was feeling confident that she would be released to go home with me on Wednesday, so I requested to stay one more day.

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Later that afternoon, Lily’s pediatrician stopped to inform us that she was progressing slowly, but well. My heart soared. He then asked if we were being discharged on Wednesday. When I replied yes, he very gently said, “I don’t think she’ll be going home with you.”

In that moment, I literally crumbled, and every facade of strength fell away. I couldn’t go home and leave my baby here. Though Lily was right where she needed to be at the time, the thought of walking out of that hospital with empty arms was agonizing. 

To get Lily home, we had to get her off oxygen and the feeding tube, so that became the goal and our prayer. We’d shared Lily’s situation with close friends and family, and we felt buoyed by their prayers. The first time I nursed her, she had a difficult time, but the second time she latched immediately. It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Meanwhile, we had to figure out a plan of action if I happened to be discharged before Lily. I needed to be available around the clock to nurse her, so going home wasn’t feasible. Thankfully, our NICU nurse suggested a room-in option that is reserved for low-risk NICU patients who are nearing discharge. Availability wasn’t guaranteed, but she assured me she would look into it.

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As Wednesday dawned, I felt hopeful. If Lily had a bit longer to stay, there was a good chance we’d be staying with her. That same day, Lily stretched and yanked out her feeding tube. Since she was nursing well, the nurse agreed to leave it out. I was ecstatic; we were making progress! That afternoon, Lily’s NICU nurse confirmed that she was progressing well and they would indeed be moving her to Special Care. It was news worthy of a celebration! We wouldn’t be going home just yet, but we would be allowed to room-in with her!

I was officially discharged that evening, and my husband immediately moved us into Lily’s Special Care wing. They brought Lily up, still hooked up to a heart rate, pulse-ox, and respirations monitor but completely free of both the feeding and oxygen tubes. I could hardly wait to pull her out of her bassinet and sit and rock her in the privacy of our own room for the first time.

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Pleased with Lily’s progress, the pediatrician discharged her on Thursday. The feeling of the warm sun on my face as we exited the hospital, with Lily wrapped snug in my arms is forever etched in my mind. We called ahead to let my mom know we were coming home but asked her not to tell the kids. It was a sweet surprise indeed when we opened the door and finally come home as a family of 7.

To see a video of Lily’s homecoming, click here.
To read part 1 of her birth story, click here.

A FEW NOTES: Three months later, Lily is thriving, and her pediatrician has assured us that although a pneumothoraxrax can reoccur, the chance of that happening is exceptionally low. I pray that her experience of it is nothing more than part of her birth story.  According to my research and conversations with pediatricians, no one really knows why a spontaneous infant pneumothorax occurs in an otherwise healthy infant. In fast deliveries like Lily’s, it is believed that the force of the initial breath causes an air sac to burst. If you have questions or you’d like more information about our experience, feel free to leave a comment.

Looking back, I realize Lily’s NICU stay was short and hers was a relatively low-risk condition (especially compared to other high-risk babies), but it was extremely difficult while we were in the midst of it. The experience gave me a new sense of respect and empathy for anyone who has ever had a child in the NICU, and it made me ever grateful for the tender work that NICU staff employees do day in and day out.

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Like what you see here? Then you’ll love my first-ever children’s book, Bruce the Brave. Available on Amazon! For more content like this, connect with me on Facebook or Instagram! To receive more encouraging posts AND get a free printable, enter your e mail in the box to the sidebar at the right. Then just click “I want to Follow F&C!” Be sure to check your inbox for the confirmation and the link to your free printable. You can also follow F&C on BlogLovin’

All content is ©Faith&Composition by Shalene Roberts, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. If you like F&C content, I’d be tickled pink if you would share. Just please include a link to the original post. Thank you!

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Great Expectations: A Birth Story Part 1

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It’s been three months since the birth of our fifth child, and much longer since I last made an appearance on this space. But a new year has dawned, and I long to return to this blog with a bit of regularity. Of course, that is largely dependent upon the fact that I have five kiddos, so I won’t make any promises regarding frequency. Nonetheless, I am here now (joined as I write by a sleeping baby and slumbering two-year-old nestled beside me), and it only seems fitting that I mark my return with the birth story of our fifth babe.

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Sunday morning, October 1 dawned clear and bright. October in Texas offers little respite from the strangling heat of summer, so it was hot. I was exactly one week past my September 24 due date, and though I’d had signs of impending labor for a few weeks, we still waited.

My mom had trekked 500 Miles south to visit us for the weekend, hoping that the baby might arrive while she was here so she could tend our other children and meet our newest arrival. Since my last two labors had been remarkably quick, we were terribly nervous about having time to secure care for our four other kids when labor commenced. My mom’s presence thus seemed to be an answer to prayer, but her time to return was looming, and still no baby.

Although I had woken with a chronic dull ache in my lower back and frequent but inconsistent contractions, I knew labor could still be days away. So we attended church, then reluctantly and tearfully bid my mom goodbye. My belly still swollen as ever, and knowledge of our daughter’s arrival still unknown.

Shortly after she departed, I rested with the the two-year-old. But despite my efforts to nap, I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that perhaps my mom should have stayed. I hated to ask her to change course and turn around, since she was needed in her classroom on Monday, but the feeling persisted. I knew labor was inching closer, but there was no way to foretell the day or the hour, and I hated to have her return only to possibly end up waiting days.

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I anxiously shot up a prayer, in essence saying: “I won’t ask her to turn around, Lord, but if she asks me if I want her to return, I’ll say yes.” I fell into the restless, uncomfortable nap that accompanies 41 weeks of pregnancy until I was awakened by my phone a bit later. My mom had driven just one hour north and was sitting in a Starbucks parking lot tearfully considering whether or not she should turn around. “Do you want me to come back?” She asked. I replied with a simple, but resolute “yes.”

As she retraced the path she’d driven, my husband’s family arrived, and we spent some time with his parents, an aunt, and his grandmother. All along, the ache in my back persisted and traveled to my pelvis. I was restless and uncomfortable. With this being my fifth baby, I knew from experience that I wasn’t in active labor, but I also knew things were intensifying. My mom returned, vowing not to leave until this little one finally arrived, and we made plans for her to take the oldest two to school in the morning, just in case. I crawled into bed at 9:15; the ache lessened a bit and contractions stalled. I fell asleep around 10.

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Shortly after midnight I awoke to find my water had broken, though only a trickle. Since I still wasn’t experiencing consistent, productive contractions, I laid back down and tried to rest. Shortly after 1 AM a contraction woke me. It was sharp and painful enough to jolt me wide awake. This one was different; this was what I’d been waiting for. Labor in earnest was beginning.

I immediately woke my husband who shot out of bed. Since we live 30 minutes from the hospital and my natural labors tend to be quick, time was of the essence. He helped me to the kitchen, grabbed our bags and woke my mom to tell her we were leaving while I breathed through a few more contractions that were now coming at consistent intervals and intensifying. Looking back, God’s gracious timing and the goodness of His urging my mom to return is so very apparent. There simply wouldn’t have been time to rouse a neighbor from her sleep and wait for her to arrive to watch our kids so we could head to the hospital. God answered our prayers in so many ways!

By 1:19 AM we were in the car headed to the hospital. Because of the time, the normally congested interstate was sparse, another answered prayer in itself. We arrived at 1:52 AM, and contractions were getting intense. My husband frantically searched for a wheelchair, but I insisted on walking. At this point I had to stop and breathe through each contraction just to make it to our room.

Although I’d planned on a water birth like my previous two births, the midwife insisted on drawing labs first. I may or may not have uttered a few choice words when they told me I couldn’t yet get into the tub. I opted for the birthing ball until the pain got too intense, at which point I crawled into the bed.

Without the calming aid of immersion in a tub of warm water, I had a difficult time focusing my mind on the wave of each contraction, the peaks and troughs. I felt myself mentally succumbing to the pain, and it terrified me. The intensity was excruciating, and there was little relief between contractions. I felt myself slipping into fear, giving into the anguish. I fought hard to regain mental control and found myself endlessly repeating: You are my strength and my shield, an ever present help in times of trouble.

Although I’d given birth naturally before, each labor and delivery is unique, and this was no exception. As the pain began to reach its peak, I cried out for an epidural. It was a futile cry, however. Before the anesthesiologist could prepare my relief, I was overcome by the undeniable urge to push.

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At 2:52 AM on October 2, exactly one hour after arriving at the hospital, Lillian Elizabeth, our fifth child, was born. She weighed 9 pounds, 9 ounces and measured 18.5 inches long (although she measured 21.5 inches at discharge, so that initial length was wrong). The midwife immediately placed her fresh-from-the-womb body on my chest, and I found myself praying “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.” Thank you labor is over. Thank you we made it through. Thank you she’s here!

What I didn’t know then was that a heavy host of prayers and countless more thank-yous would be uttered before we finally went home.

Click here for Part 2 of Lily’s birth story!

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Like what you see here? Then you’ll love my first-ever children’s book, Bruce the Brave. Available on Amazon! For more content like this, connect with me on Facebook or Instagram! To receive more encouraging posts AND get a free printable, enter your e mail in the box to the sidebar at the right. Then just click “I want to Follow F&C!” Be sure to check your inbox for the confirmation and the link to your free printable. You can also follow F&C on BlogLovin’

All photos shown here here by Bree Linne. All content is ©Faith&Composition by Shalene Roberts, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. If you like F&C content, I’d be tickled pink if you would share. Just please include a link to the original post. Thank you!