Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Celebrating life!

When the phone rang in my hospital room, I grabbed the receiver. Laying flat on your back for weeks on end was a little lonely. As much as I prefer face-to-face conversations, I was desperate to talk to anyone, and the phone was ringing!

"Carol, I am calling to make sure you are filled with the spirit of the resurrection Sunday today," the distinctly Egyptian voice of my obstetrician was on the other end of the receiver.

His wonderfully soothing voice, his calm manner were playing a huge role in keeping me sane as doctors, nurses, residents and fellows worked around the clock to keep our babies from arriving too too early.

When he left me on Good Friday, things were looking a bit bleak. My body could not be convinced that I was not full-term. But my babies needed more time. They desperately needed more time.

Waking up on Easter Sunday still pregnant was a miracle. And my doctor was celebrating with me even as we celebrated the holiest miracle of all -- Jesus' resurrection!

We had shared our faith, my amazing doctor and I. The day he sat down with Wade and I to discuss "options" for improving the odds of this pregnancy:

"I have to tell you that the number of babies can still be reduced," he said. "But I will have nothing to do with that. You will need to see one of my partners."

It took me a minute. I had assumed he meant the possibility of miscarriage was still high. We had discussed that before. When I realized he was referring to aborting one of my three, I burst into tears. 

"No. No." I said. "How in the world would we do that? These babies are our's. These three babies are our's."

And through my tears I told him my story:

When my original obstetrician read the first ultrasound -- the ultrasound she only ordered because I was having some issues that made us fear I was having a miscarriage -- she told Wade and I to go home and come back the next week. With a shocked voice, she told us there were four sacs. Four. But, she said, there only appeared to be life in two. Two. Twins. She was 99 percent certain we were having twins. Go home, she said, and we will do a follow-up ultrasound next week.

I prayed all week. "Oh Lord, four babies? Can I really handle four babies?? Or were there four and we have lost two little lives? That makes me so sad."

And so I stayed on my knees all week asking -- begging really -- God for a peace that when we had the ultrasound the following week that we would see the children He intended for us to have. That if there were four I would rest in the peace that He would provide the skills to care for four babies at once; and if there were two that He would provide the peace that those were our intended. That I would rest in that knowledge.

I was completely unprepared for the doctor holding up THREE fingers. THREE had not been an option. She said four or two. Four or two.

But there were three. And I smiled. Ok, God, I trust you. I trust you.

God intended for us to have three babies. I trusted God with my body, with their lives and with the selection of this Godly obstetrician who affirmed his belief in the sanctity of life. I would not reduce my pregnancy.

Oh, my three were still born incredibly early. But I was in full labor at 19 weeks. Their arrival at almost 29 weeks was an absolute miracle. Their life from the first breath is an absolute testimony to the power of God.

At my six week postpartum visit, my dear doctor told me I was his miracle story. I smiled, but told him we both knew God worked the miracle. He patted my hand and said, "Carol, when you went into labor at 19 weeks, my partners thought I should let you deliver, grieve and start over next year trying to have a baby."

I was shocked.

He continued, "I told them they had not met you. They had not heard your story of your incredible faith -- of how you asked God to show you on that ultrasound the children He wanted you to have. I told them I would do everything in my medical power to help you fight for these babies."

Wade with two babies, me with one as Dr. Ray Pritchard leads our Baby Dedication Ceremony.

I know that some reading this will say, yes, Carol but your boys suffer with Cerebral Palsy. You could have prevented that by reducing your pregnancy -- or delivering at 19 weeks. And I say, oh friend, have you met my children??

Benjamin rolls into a room and changes it for the better with his smile, his wit, and his creative mind. His life has great value. He makes the world a better place. And dear ones, because of where he was located in the womb, he would have been the one aborted. I can not imagine a world without this young man. I look at him and give thanks that in our stubbornness we chose LIFE for him. Life.

Then I look at Mason and Claire and try to imagine a world without them. Let me tell you that the world would not smile or laugh as often without Mason -- his laugh is contagious. But he is not just funny, he is smart and I know he is going to do amazing things with his life. His life.

And my beautiful Claire -- my girl that I insisted had to be in there when the docs pulled out two boys first -- restores my belief in people. She has such a passion for the marginalized -- orphans, special needs, impoverished. She works tirelessly to advocate for children that the world has forgotten; she works to learn/improve her sign language skills so she can take the Word to those who can not hear it. I pray to be her when I grow up. And I know that her life makes the world a better place!

Do they have obstacles? Absolutely. But, we chose life. We trusted God with my body. We trusted God with the plans He made for our children before He knit them together in my womb. We trusted God.

I give thanks every single day. But especially -- oh so especially -- this week. Friday is Benjamin, Mason and Claire's 17th birthday. SEVENTEEN!

Seventeen years. It has been 17 years since that beautiful phone call. It has been 17 years since I was flat on my back for ten weeks praying, hoping, praying that I would be a mommy to three beautiful babies in God's time.

Happy birthday, Benjamin, Mason and Claire! You have blessed me, your Dad, and all who come in to contact with you for 17 years! This next year is full of big changes, big decisions and amazing discoveries. I am so thankful that God allows me to be on the front row of your cheering section -- I will always be on the front row -- watching how He uses you and your beautiful, amazing lives!!

So, my friends, I have to ask: Are you filled today with the spirit of the resurrection Sunday?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Let's build some ramps.

The room was lined with people. There were doctors and nurses everywhere just taking care of me. Then lining the wall beside me were more doctors and nurses waiting to take care of the dear little babies about to be delivered. My mother was outside the operating room and said the staff was going up and down the hall notifying everyone that, "The triplets are coming. The triplets are coming."

Honestly, the faces are a blur in my memory. I was scared to death. So very scared.

The days following their delivery are in much better focus. I remember the sights and even the smells of visiting my babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit the day after their birth. I was overwhelmed by the constant beeping of the machines, the myriad of wires coming out of these teeny tiny babies, and the fact that the bustling busy nurses seemed way more confident in taking care of my three then I thought I would ever be.

And I remember the sweet voice of the nurse taking care of Claire. She called me Mom, identifying my rightful place beside the bed of this tiny beautiful little girl. She explained what the machines were doing. And then she asked if I wanted to hold my daughter.

"Is it ok?" I asked, so worried, and yet so eager to have this baby in my arms.

"Of course. She needs you to," precious nurse explained.

And with the gentlest of handling, she pulled my little pink bundle out of the isolette and handed her to me, arranging the wires and tubes so that I could have as "normal" a moment holding my daughter as possible.

If I had never seen Nurse Laura again, I would have still been grateful to her for the rest of my life. If I had never seen her again, my memories of her gentle care of Claire -- and often of Benjamin and Mason and always of Mommy -- would have stayed with me for ever. If I had never seen her again, I would still thank God for her life and the work she does.

But God is so gracious, and though once-upon-a-time our contact was only through Christmas cards, we stayed in touch. I would eagerly rip into her card every year, eager to see her growing family, eager to see the eyes of this dear lady who brought so much comfort to me in the hardest days of my mommyhood. Then the blessing of Facebook happened and has allowed us to be closely connected for the last six or seven years!

Laura and her family came to visit us a couple of years ago. And last week, when we visited a colleges in the Midwest, they met us for dinner one night and invited us to their home for dinner the second night.

I kind of get weepy thinking about it. See, inviting us over for dinner can not be off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment. You have to think it through, consider how you will get us into your home -- any stairs are a challenge -- and if Benjamin can get around in your house. We know it is a challenge. We have friends in town who we have never seen the inside of their homes. It just doesn't work to invite us in.

But Laura and her husband, Jay, did. They invited us over. To their house.

And Jay and his son built a ramp. A big, complicated, amazing ramp. They built a ramp so that we could come to dinner for the ONE night we were traveling through.

They rearranged furniture and moved throw rugs. They welcomed us with their arms, their actions and their hearts. When we circled their beautiful table and broke bread with them, we experienced true fellowship. It was a balm.

One of our discussions centered around the fruits of the spirit, the evidence that Christ is alive and active in you:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

And I love the Message translation here:

"But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard -- things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely."

Even as I sat in the midst of this discussion, I was struck by the raisins in my own life -- fruit that once grew but now lies drying in the sun, pruny and useless. The basic holiness that permeated Laura and Jay's home convicted me that while I have been working to rip down walls, I have neglected so much.

But no more. I want to be a fruit-bearer. Fellowship requires more than just tearing down walls to allow others access to your heart. Oh dear ones, sometimes, sometimes you have to build a ramp. Sometimes, we meet those who just can't access the fellowship. Perhaps their needs are not physical, maybe there are emotional barriers, or spiritual barriers.

How often does our need to share our opinions on every single subject hinder someone's growth rather than help it? How often?

How often do our personal struggles put obstacles of accessibility all around us? All the way around us? How often do we fail to see the pain in our neighbor's eyes because we have made ourselves so out of reach to everyone near?

I want to be a ramp-builder. It is not enough to give lip-service to the fruits of the spirit -- to say I want to be compassionate, patient and kind. No, I want to actively build bridges to serve others, to help others, to encourage others to grow.

Thank you, Jay and Laura. You and your beautiful family have been teaching us for years -- your ramp-building was simply another wonderful lesson on how Christ wants us to love. I pray I am just like you when I grow up!

Friday, March 28, 2014

My Mason.

 *March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. I am sharing a series of posts about my amazing children, in the hope that by hearing our story, you'll be more aware of the stories around you!*

As I wrap up this month of celebrating the thing that makes our family most unique, I need to tell you about Mason.

First, you must know that he is named after my precious Daddy and he gives me joy that the name is so fitting. So very extremely seriously fitting! (Oh Benjamin looks like and loves like my precious Dad....but this boy....well, wait to see!)

1. Mason loves people. The triplets were only one when Claire climbed in his lap on the little rocking toy. I pulled her off, explaining that it was Mason's turn. She climbed back on. I pulled her off. She climbed back on (Because beautiful triplet who DOES not have Cerebral Palsy is fiercely stubborn.), and as I reached to pull her off, Mason wrapped his arms around her waist and smiled at me as if to say, "I want her here!!" I left them alone to play!

He still loves to have people around him, loves to be where his friends are and loves his family!

2. Mason is the most determined individual I have ever met. At three, we had one of those playhouse/swingset fixtures in our backyard (It came with the house.) We had friends over and they were in the "fort" which was up a ladder. I was watching from the patio as he tried to climb the ladder. His little legs were so tight from his CP that he could not. He sat on his knees on the ground and pondered the situation for several minutes. I was on the verge of intervening when he crawled over to the slide and climbed UP it. Genius.

He approaches every single mountain in his life that exact same way.

3. He loves math, science and all manner of difficult things! He and his Dad get up twice a week before  the sun thinks about coming up to do Physics together. Such diligence!

4. He rocks at Archery!! Placed second nationally his first season to compete!!!!

5. His laugh is contagious! He was still in his crib the first time we recognized that when this guy laughs you have to laugh with him! It is a completely compelling laugh and brings hours of joy....and perhaps equal amounts frustration when I am teaching and he gets tickled at something!! But his laugh is so like my Dad's that I can not stay frustrated long!!

6. He is a wicked role-play game master! (Oh, I do hope I worded that correctly!) He loves creating stories for his friends!!

7. He loves food and has the most discerning taste buds. We all wait for him to order then just get whatever he is getting. He usually ends the meal with everyone's plate in front of him because he polishes off our leftovers!! (Just like his Grandaddy always did!!)

8. He joined theater with the intent of working back stage and walked out of his first audition as Charlie Brown and has not quit!!

9. He is fiercely loyal -- to friends, family and the Mississippi State Bulldogs!!

10. He really really likes his side burns.

I am so grateful to be this young man's mom. He is going to do great things for God with his life and I am thrilled to be on the front row of his cheering section!!