Saturday, February 21, 2015

Holding on to Truth


When I came to, I was in recovery in what felt like a dark basement. A doctor was putting in an arterial line in so they could measure my blood pressure in real-time (rather than by intermittent measurement). I was really groggy, and I just wanted to see my baby.  I needed to see him and know he was okay. I have to admit that is part of my story I don't remember. I relied on what my nurse Linda ( now a dear friend) and Josh recalled of this time. It is still very hard for me to not be able to remember Ezra's birth (because I wasn't awake!) or even the first time I saw him. These are moments I treasure with each of my children, and hold them dear to my heart.  I am so thankful for a husband and Linda who have helped me peace the story together.
While I was coming to in the recovery room, Josh was with our tiny little boy. 
Our little boy came out crying! This is something that is a miracle in itself. He took his first breath! I am so thankful God protected his tiny lungs, and gave wisdom to my doctor to know to give the steroid shots to me to help mature his lungs. The shots worked. My boy could breathe! 
Josh cut the cord. "What's his name?" they asked.
We had not come up with a name yet. We still had nine weeks, or so we thought.  Josh knew how important it was to me that he had a name before he left the hospital, and he knew which names I liked, so he named him. Our little tiny life was now Ezra Henry.  Ezra means help. We needed help if we were going to get through this. Very fitting indeed. Henry means strong leader in the home. From the moment he was born he started taking the lead, directing our lives in ways we never imagined. Turns out, Ezra Henry is the perfect name for him.
They brought Ezra to me right before they left on the ambulance.  I couldn't really see him. He was in a little traveling box (Josh called the pizza oven. ha ha) and I couldn't sit up yet after the surgery.  My eyesight was poor.  Everything was so blurry. I reached in and touched a foot. At least I think I did. I don't remember.
They were off, and I was moved to the ICU. 
Linda had taken pictures of Ezra and printed them out for me. She taped them up along my bed rails, and this was a huge source of strength for me in the days ahead. She may never know how much that meant to me.  
The time spent in the ICU was the hardest in my life. I felt so sick and alone. I was still on magnesium sulfate, as well as hefty doses of hydralazine and labetelol. It was like time was going in slow motion. I felt like the whole hospital was vibrating, and there was a constant pounding in my ears. I couldn't see well at all, and was attached to so many things.  I had pressure cuffs on both my legs so I wouldn't get blood clots, a blood pressure cuff on my arm going off every five minutes, and a breast pump attached to me every few hours (I could not hold it on my own) so my milk would come in.
I remember begging God to heal me so I could see my son, and to keep him safe. 
As I was lying in the bed all alone, my uterus empty, my arms empty, feeling so utterly betrayed by my own body, my faith was being tested. 
All these questions kept coming, and then the answers. It was like a battle in my mind to hold onto the truth I knew.
How could God allow this to happen?
Why wouldn't He just heal my body so I could see my baby?
Didn't we go through enough with Josie?

I love you, Tamara. I am so much bigger than this. You just can't see it.
Do I owe you an explanation for what I allow and don't allow?
Don't you know Me at all yet?

Then I just felt shame.

I thought of a very dear friend of mine who just lost her baby. How dare I take the gift of Ezra's life with anything but gratitude. Haven't I learned anything from the four we lost?
I thought of Job in the Bible, and remembered how God in chapter 38 where He says "Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them." I always imagined God yelling at Job in sort of a "How DARE you!" sort of way. It was not like that for me. It was more of a gentle reminder. 
I am so thankful for His Word, and His faithfulness to speak to me through it. Being reminded of my loving Heavenly Father is the only thing that got me through these dark days. 
I had an amazing nurse in the ICU.  Honestly, all my nurses were wonderful. I felt at times as though angels were ministering to me, as they helped bathe me, and give me little sponges of water to suck on. Debbie was a nurse who stayed with me at all times. I was her only patient and anytime I was awake, she was right there next to me. She read to me the cards my children made me (I couldn't get my eyes to focus enough to read) and she would help hold my phone so I could talk to Josh who was with Ezra. Of course I probably made no sense at all! Debbie hugged me as I sobbed and would tell me how the weather was outside, and if I had any visitors. She was amazing, and made my days bearable. I was sad to leave her when I transferred to the mother and newborn unit a few days later, but I was happy to be getting better!
Josh has shared his journey through this time on our ministry blog here. I encourage you to check out the posts (I think there are 7!), as he had the more exciting part of the story: Ezra! 
Very soon (but not soon enough!) I would get to be with my son!



Ezra is born! This is his first picture. He cried for everyone. Had to show off those working lungs!


This is the first time I saw his face, in this picture. I am so thankful Linda took these! I thought he looked like a tiny kitten or a baby squirrel.


Ezra was intubated, but not for long!


The doctors and nurses took great care of our baby as they prepared him for his first road trip!



Ezra was SO tiny. Look at the size of Josh's hand next to him. Our little miracle!



This is the first time I "saw" him. Ezra is in the "pizza oven" and I am reaching in to touch him. A few things come to mind when I see this picture. First, I am sad that this was the only time I touched him for five days. Second, I wish I could remember this more. Third, look how very swollen my hand and arm was! Severe swelling is another symptom of pre-eclampsia.


Ezra in his new "home" at the NICU of St. Joseph Mercy in Ypsilanti, MI. Daddy is learning how to care for his tiny little guy while mommy gets better.









Monday, December 29, 2014

Drowning in the Storm

  Throughout my weekend of bed rest in the hospital, I got progressively worse. My blood pressure continued to climb. They now wouldn't even let me move from my left side at all. I still was doing the urine test to check my protein levels, but was forced to use a bedpan now. 
My doctor made a very wise decision at this moment that I feel was one of the factors in saving Ezra's life. He gave me a shot of steroids to help develop baby's lungs "just in case". I got one on Friday, and 24 hours later a second one. He wasn't on call this weekend, and I would miss him. He has delivered three of my other four kiddos, and knows me and my case well. 
The weekend was a very long one for myself. I missed Emma and Addie's soccer games. There was a game night we planned at our house that we had to cancel. I was still not seeing the seriousness of it all, and was irritated that my schedule had to keep changing. 
Sunday morning Josh sent me a text as they were getting ready to go to church of cute little Isaac all dressed up. I made some joke to him about keeping his phone on in case I needed him. I didn't actually think I would. 
Not long after I was talking with Josh the doctor came in. 
"We have the results of your urine test. You have 600 grams of protein in your urine, and your blood pressure is not responding to medications. We need to transfer you to a hospital that is equipped to deliver this baby."
Wait, what??? I am only 31 weeks and 3 days along? That is TOO early! I need to stay pregnant! I need my husband!
I called Josh but the phone just rang and rang. I left a voicemail. I texted him to call me ASAP. I called again and again. The nurses are now asking me what hospital I wanted to be transferred to, and I couldn't even get a hold of Josh. I learned later that it was praise and worship music at church that was too loud he couldn't hear his phone ring. 
I texted four people at church and asked them to find Josh and tell him to call me. When the song was over, Josh looked down from his phone and saw he had six missed calls from me!
He finally called back. 
"Honey, get here now! They want to transfer me!"
I am a little unclear on the details, but I know that Josh was able to get the kids and come to the hospital. He made arrangements with our dear friend Esther to watch the kids so he could come to Ann Arbor with me. 
I know that my church family stopped the service to pray for me and my unborn son. We surely needed it!
My blood pressure was 226/146! The doctors in Ann Arbor needed it to get lower before I traveled. They put me of magnesium sulfate and apresoline because my blood pressure had to be down to 160 before I could travel. They got it down to 153/80, and they started to load me onto the ambulance. This is when I started having pulmonary edema. I was literally drowning in my own fluid! I don't know if it was from the very high blood pressure or from the magnesium sulfate but my pulse ox went down to 84%! My lungs were filling with fluid! They now declared me too unstable to travel and wheeled me back in the hospital to have an emergency C-section. 
The nurse had to call Josh who was already on his way to Ann Arbor, and he turned around as fast as he could. 
They gave me Lasix and a breathing treatment. I put out 2400cc of fluid before the c-section and another 800 as well on the operating table.
They quickly prepped me for surgery. The doctor said a spinal would be fine, which meant that Josh could be there for the birth of our son. As the anesthesiologist put the needle in my back, I tried to remain calm. Something didn't seem right. This was my fifth c-section and I always had to have someone help me scoot back on the table but this time I could do it on my own. I I lay down and was strapped down and the doctor started. 
"I can feel you!" I said. 
They reassured me that I would feel lots of pressure. 
"It's not pressure, I feel you cutting into me!" I said, with a little more panic in my voice. 
"We have to get this baby out now!" the doctor said. 
The last thing I remember was screaming "It hurts!!!" through the mask and hearing Josh say "Oh no, Tamara. Oh no, honey!" Then I was asleep. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Storm's A Comin!

On a Wednesday night back in early October I had a headache. Dinner was just on the table, and the girls were extra chatty as they are every Wednesday evening, excited to go to AWANA that night. I took some Tylenol and was out the door, chauffeuring them and having a coffee date with my friend Mindy. Once everyone was home and tucked in bed, I noticed my head was still throbbing. I was hoping a good night sleep would help. 
I woke up Thursday morning with my headache still there, but significantly better, so I took some more Tylenol and was off to the office. I was feeling a little behind in my work with all the time I missed with Josie out of school because of her burn, so I dove right in. After staring at a computer screen for a few hours, my headache was much worse. I decided I would call the doctor to be on the safe side. The office was closed for lunch and so I decided I would eat some lunch too. The dining hall was probably not the best option (with all the noise) so I had a quick lunch and went home to put Isaac down for a nap. 
I told Josh at lunch that I was going to call the doctor again after I put Ike down, and to be on alert that I may need to go in for an appointment, so he should try and keep his schedule a little loose. He was heading into a meeting at that time, and told me to just let him know. 
When I got ahold of the doctor, they told me to go into labor and delivery to get checked out. I felt so foolish. It was just a headache. It wasn't horrible. It didn't effect my vision, and I wasn't having contractions or anything. I called Josh to let him know he would have to cut the meeting short. He came home to be with Isaac and I walked out the door. "I'm sure it's nothing honey. I just want to be careful. I will be back before dinner."
I walked into the triage room on the fourth floor. They asked me why I was there as they took my vitals. I told them of my headache that wouldn't go away. That no, I wasn't seeing spots, and no, I didn't have any abnormal swelling. The cuff stops squeezing my arm. "Um, you aren't going anywhere until we get this BP down." My blood pressure when I checked in was 227/127. Yikes!
They hooked me up to a monitor for the baby's heartrate, one to measure contractions (I wasn't having any), and a blood pressure cuff that was going off every 30 minutes. One nurse had me lie on my side, another said it was more accurate to have me sitting up. Nothing was actually bringing it down though. 
"We are going to have to admit you. We will run some blood tests and a urine test and see how you are doing."
I snapped a picture of my belly all hooked up to monitors and sent it to Josh. "I may be here a while. Can you get dinner going and get Emma a ride home from soccer?"
During this whole time, I really am pretty clueless as to how bad things were. I knew they said my blood pressure was high, but I didn't realize that it was dangerously high. I heard of preeclampsia before, but didn't really know much about it. Anyways, I felt fine everywhere except this headache. 
They place me in a room with a nice bed directly across from the nurses station. Even though this is baby number 5, I had them all by csection. I had never been in a labor room. My bed had these big blue pads being strapped to the rails. Was this standard? I didn't know they were putting the pads on my bed to protect me if I had a seizure. 
I really don't know why I was so unaware of how serious this was. Maybe the nurses were trying to protect me by not letting me stress and worry. Maybe my brain wasn't working at full capacity because of how sick I was. I just know that as I was lying there in bed, I was worried they may put me on bedrest. I don't know how we would handle bedrest! We still have burn clinic appointments every other day for Josie, plus two girls in soccer, and a toddler! Little did I know that bedrest is something I would look back at and long for. I had no idea what lied ahead. 


This is the picture I texted Josh, and incidentally the last picture I have of me pregnant. 





Saturday, October 25, 2014

Welcome Ezra Henry

I have been trying for a while now to write a post on the birth of my newest son, Ezra. I just haven't been able to put it into words yet. It was pretty traumatic for me, and I am still processing some of it.
In the meantime though, I want to shout to the world that he is here!
Arriving at 31 weeks and 3 days, little Ezra Henry Mathew was born on October 12th, weighing 3lbs 8oz and 16 inches long.
He has a long road to go before he can come home, but he is a fighter!


Here is the moment when I first got to hold my sweet, tiny little boy, five days after his birth.

I am so thankful for God's protection for my life, and the life of my son. Praise be to God!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

Today was a day we have been looking forward to for so long!!! Josie went back to school!
She had her morning burn clinic appointment and after she got bandaged, we headed over to her school. She actually squealed when we pulled into the parking lot! So adorable.
It's no wonder why she missed school so much. When we went to drop her off in class, kids were shouting her name in the hallway, and greeted her with lots of cheers (and a charging group of hugs her awesome teacher intercepted, and I was very grateful for!).
The class filled the board with sweet words, and fun drawings. Josie was really feeling the love!
Jo wanted to bring something for the class to let them know how much their care and concern meant to her these past weeks, so we brought in muffins. She was glad to be able to give something back, even though it was little.
I don't know if it was pregnancy hormones, or what, but I teared up as I said goodbye to my sweet girl. I know she is in good hands though, with a class that is excited for her to be back, and a teacher who cares for her like she is one of her own.
I can't thank everyone enough for your prayers for Josie. These past weeks have been quite a trial. We are grateful for a God who brought us through.
She will still have to see the burn clinic every other day until her burn is healed up, but this was a HUGE milestone!

Josie in front of her special board full of messages.






Josie and Miss Campbell. Josie told me today she was going to knock her over with the biggest hug. I'm glad she didn't actually knock her over, but she probably could have!



Monday, October 6, 2014

We Have Good News

We had a very eventful weekend in our home. Thankfully we all pulled through!
Sunday evening I went for a stroll with Isaac to just get out of the house and see some fall colors that I have only been able to enjoy through the window, or from people's Facebook pictures.
I only made it around the block and I had a horrible sharp pain on my side. It lingered for much longer than I was comfortable with, and I had to call Josh to come walk me home! So much for my stroll!
Anyhow, as I was walking I felt what can only be described as a pop on my upper right side of my abdomen, and then a warm sensation across my stomach, and relief from the pain. So weird, and slightly scary knowing that I had a bad gallbladder that I need removed after the baby comes.
I called the nurse hot line. I didn't want to go to the ER, since I was no longer in pain, but I was nervous because of the baby. I wasn't sure what to do. The nurse hot line told me to go to Labor and Delivery.
Meanwhile, Josh just called and learned he was to report for jury duty the next morning at 8am, and we had a burn clinic appointment for Josie at 8:45 am, and he is not sure what is going on with his wife. I think to say that it was a stressful evening for Josh would be an understatement. He may have an extra gray hair or two in his beard this morning. 
I felt silly being in Labor and Delivery for not really being in pain, no contractions, or other distressing pregnancy related things, just this weird side pain and popping. When I got there though, my BP was ridiculously high! They decided they did not care about the side pain and popping, but my blood pressure was going to keep me there for a while!
Long story short, my BP went down a sufficient amount, baby boy's kicks and heart rate were excellent, and I got home a little after midnight with a clean bill of health, and no idea what the weird pain was. I guess no news in this case was good news.
Now, onto our exciting news. I took Josie to the appointment this morning. She WALKED in (no crutches) FULLY CLOTHED (granted it was sweat pants, but that is fine with me!) and left with a note from her doctor saying that after her Wednesday appointment, she was okay to GO TO SCHOOL!!! What awesome answers to prayer from a God who sees the details! 
Tonight, Josie is sleeping upstairs in her room for the first time in weeks. She is excited at the idea of going back to school Wednesday, and we are too. She misses her teacher and friends so much!
I know that she is quickly on the way to full recovery, but I am going to miss hanging out with my Josie girl. She is a neat kid, and I have cherished the extra time I have had with her, and I know Josh has too! If only it was under happier circumstances!
Thank you all for praying for her! She still has a bit to go, but has made HUGE strides!



Josie spending some quality time with Isaac this morning. I love their special relationship!


Friday, October 3, 2014

Time Slowly Whizzes By

That is what this last week has felt like. The days are long, but the weeks go fast.
There hasn't really been much to report on the home front with Josie's healing it seems, but then we have a day like today that makes us realize how far she has come!
She has been going to her daily appointments at the burn clinic. There is continually new growth of skin. We are so thankful for that! Sometimes I think I am expecting more progress, and there isn't, and then I think there won't be much, and that day a whole bunch of new skin growth will have taken place!
Today, after they dressed the wound, we talked about the high possibility of Josie returning to school next week sometime! That blew me out of the water!
There are a few things that need to be able to happen for her to go to school, the first being able to wear specific items of clothing! I had to order a few uniform dresses for her to wear to school. She generally wears pants, but they aren't really a viable option at this time. She needs to be able to wear underclothes as well, but due to the location of the burn, we have not been successful in that yet.
She needs to be able to shower. She has had old maid's baths, and we have washed her hair, but she hasn't been able to get into the shower yet and that is necessary!
She needs to be off her pain meds completely. At least, I think this is the case. For sure she needs to be off narcotics completely (which she is almost there), but as far as Tylenol and Ibuprophen,  I am thinking she will have to be off of those too, as that is something she would have to get from me. I will be checking into that soon though.
Something this momma is worried about is her being emotionally ready. She has suffered a trauma, and sometimes she is in tears over it. I am afraid of her getting overwhelmed at school. I am also afraid a classmate may bump her accidentally and her be in a lot of pain! It really still hurts to touch.
I would also like to see her off the crutches soon. I think she is able to do this, but too nervous to try.
If you could please be praying for these things, we would really appreciate it.
I wanted to thank you all for praying for me, specifically my back. It is feeling much, much better, which is such a blessing because I can now help Josie (and the family) out more.





Time passing as the balloons start sagging. So thankful for how far we've come!