Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Powerful Peace in Birth and Death


Philippians 4:7 (ESV)

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Today I was scrapbooking some pictures from the day Clive was born, I was reminded of this peace that settled in with me in those days, and on his birth day in particular. At first, looking at the pictures from the first day sort of raised an anxiety in me.  Bad feelings and bad memories.  Pictures of a very sick looking babe.  And then I let my thoughts go back to that day and re-ran it in my head.  As I did so, I allowed the truth to shine past the clouded memories.  I remembered the peace that surrounded that day.  It wasn't filled with bad feelings or bad memories.  It wasn't filled with a scary looking baby.  It was filled with peace, and joy, and the beginnings of parenthood.

Some might say it was the drugs, but let me tell you that it was peace from God.  I won't let anything else (including me!) take His credit.  I want to continue to let "much of Him" be made in this story. 

A few days before Clive was born, there was some glitches with the constant fetal heart monitoring.  Remember, we'd been watching this thing for days and weeks on end, so we knew it pretty well.  Clive's heart rate was so fast that it wasn't able to track it and would sometimes half it (220 would be 110, etc)... add the arrhythmia in there and the skipped beats would make his heart rate seem all over the place. On this day, I was speaking with a NICU doctor about what would come next, and Sam was on the phone, while my nurse came in and was very concerned about the numbers dropping and jumping around on his heart monitor.  Next thing I know, they have an ultrasound on me, briefly take a look at Clive, pop an oxygen mask on my face (this is when Sam hangs up the phone) and then my hospital bed is pushed into the OR.  Miraculously, I felt so calm.  I felt that Clive was okay and that the machines weren't catching it.  We asked them to check again in the OR on the ultrasound and things looked more steady.  We waited for the doctor to arrive and determine what would happen, and the anesthesiologist asked me questions about if I'd ever been under general anesthesia.  I still felt calm and peace that this wasn't the time yet.  And it wasn't.  I was grateful for the very quick response of the whole team, and the carefulness of everyone.  And I was grateful that it wasn't going to be an emergency cesarean that day.

Skip ahead a couple days.  I had been getting ultrasounds and fetal ECHOs at least daily, and they continued to see fluid build up on Clive's body.  They wanted to wait as long as possible for lung development, but also take him out before the hydrops (fluid) got too bad.  On April 28 they told us it was time.  They scheduled the c-section at 4 pm.  By noon that day, they let us know that they actually wanted it to be the next morning since they'd need such a huge medical team there and wanted everyone well rested.  So Clive's birth was scheduled for 10 am the next day.  

During our hospital stay, it had become increasingly clear that a c-section was going to be the way he would be born.  He was too sick to stay in until 40 weeks, and also too sick to endure a long, hard labor.  I'd taken an intensive natural childbirth classes and prepared for a natural birth, but things looked like they'd be different.  My heart was completely at peace about it.  I knew the doctors were doing what was right, and I just wanted him to be as safe as possible.

Waiting for surgery
As we awaited the surgery in the morning of April 29, there was a peacefulness.  God was so with us.  His spirit gave us strength.  Our parents and pastor and his wife were with us as we waited for my turn in the OR.  An emergency c-section, pushed us back an hour or so, and it was finally our turn.  One of my favorite L&D nurses came in on her day off to hold my hands during the spinal tap.  Sam was allowed in the operating room after the anesthesia was in, and he stayed by my side as they slowly began the procedure.  We peacefully waited--well, actually, I vomited a lot, from the medicine--but our spirits were filled with peace as we waited for them to bring Clive into the world (behind the curtain covering my belly).  

It takes longer than you'd think, and finally I felt some huge tugs and we heard a cry.  We were amazed! A cry!  A cry meant he wasn't as sick as possible.  A cry meant breath in his lungs.  They paused very briefly as they headed out the door and I saw my son for the first time. They brought Clive to a room and did lots of things to him immediately. Oxygen, feeding tube, blood samples, cleaned him up.  They wheeled him back in the room and showed him to me (in his little isolette) as they prepared to move him to the NICU with Sam by his side.  I lay there as they stitched me up (it takes forever) and then moved me to various rooms for the stages of recovery.  




As I think back on this, I marvel at the lack of hysteria. The calmness of mind, soul, and spirit. I didn't even get to touch or hold my child.  I got a couple glances at him.  God's peace was surely with me that day.  It was truly a peace that surpasses understanding.  Even thinking back on these moments, I marvel at the way God gave such peace to us.  Trust and contentment and hope.


I know Sam's experience from the point onward was very different.  He witnessed his newborn son and all the tests, tubes, monitors, and interventions done on him in the first hours.  It was chaotic, and I'm sure very stressful.  Clive was much more sick than we even understood at the time.  Stabilizing him that day was a remarkable feat.  

I look back on pictures and see how incredibly sick his body was from the hydrops (fluid buildup).  Thankfully, God protected us from this.  We saw our beautiful boy and we were in love.  What now look like pictures of a very sick baby were the first images I had of my darling boy.  I thought he was just pudgier than I expected! 

I got to visit him later that day, when I was wheeled in my hospital bed down to the NICU.  I still wasn't able to get up and get into a wheelchair, so I could hardly get close to see him well. I don't remember touching him at all that day. 

I lay in a bedroom alone that night and looked at this picture Sam sent me on his phone.  I was filled with awe, and wonder, and pride.  My little boy with deep blue eyes. 

The next day, and in the days that followed, I spent longer and longer visits over in the NICU.  I was able to be pushed in a wheelchair and sit near Clive.  I got to touch his little hands and kiss them.  My pain and recovery from surgery was so unimportant in light of the fact that our son was brought into this world.  I'm thankful for his (big) little life. 

God's peace was with us as Clive entered the world.  It sustained us through all hard turns, the emergency surgery, and almost losing him countless times.  And His peace was so evident in the last days, especially Clive's final day.  We were surrounded by the same family and friends who came to await his birth.  We sang over him, we read stories, and we prayed.  God's peace and presence was very clear as we held him for his last moments. 

I share this to encourage those of you who are or will face hysterical situations. Situations of pain, sorrow, unrest, fear.  Allow the Prince of Peace to enter in your mind, your heart, your soul, your room.  His peace surpasses understanding. We may have it even in the moments that seem they would be that darkest or most scary.  We may let  the Spirit enter in and allow peace to reside even when our mind tries to turn things to unrest.  

John 14:26-27 
 But the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.


Also (perhaps part of the reason my mind has been on peace) Kurt had a great sermon on PEACE this week. Check it out here: http://danvilleconnexion.org/#/sermons.  


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