Sunday, December 29, 2013

#2 - Journal Entry from December 19, 2010

An officer came in from the front.  At first glance I recognized him.  He had been in our home before for dinner with his girlfriend who was a friend of ours.  She had also brought him with her to help us tear out old sheet rock when we remodeled our master bedroom.  Because he was familiar with our family I felt a connection to him that he could help.  I expected him to take over with CPR, but he assessed the situation and soon after more people arrived.  Who they were was a blur.  I remember one of them asking for a screwdriver to open a black box, maybe for oxygen.  I didn’t want to leave Bryer’s side.  I felt torn as I went to Jason’s toolbox to find one, but couldn’t.  They struggled to find a way to open it and I don't remember them ever being successful. 

A neighbor opened the door and asked if I needed any help.  I told her to go get Jason from the church.  I remember another neighbor coming in and asking what she could do.  Walker was upstairs looking down from the balcony without a diaper on still, so I asked Piper to get a diaper for me and handed it to the neighbor to put it on him.  I talked to Piper and let her know that the people here were to help Bryer, that it would be okay.  As a 4 year old I was concerned that she would be worried about all the strange people making a fuss about her baby sister.  I was uneasy about Bryer, but remained calm as I thought it was probably just a seizure like Sawyr had when he was little (now nearing 7).  Jason walked through the door about that time and tried to understand what was happening.  I tried to fill him in as I quickly gathered a few things to take with me in the ambulance with Bryer.  We swapped cell phones so he could put mine on the charger in the car while he followed us.  

I hurried into the ambulance out onto the snowy roads, expecting to drive to the spot that life flight would pick us up.  The weather was too much for it to land so we headed down the highway toward the nearest hospital, about 50 miles away.  Jason gathered up kids and found a neighbor for them to stay with until we could get back home to them. 

For the first time I felt irritated.  They seemed to move at such a relaxed pace as the paramedics finally put an oxygen mask on Bryer.  As one gave the other instructions how to turn it on, I kept reassuring myself, “They are trained and they know what they are doing.”  I talked to Bryer, rubbed her fuzzy head, and tried to wake her as she struggled with a labored cry every few minutes.  It was then that one of the paramedics mentioned three little spots on the top of Bryer’s head.  She suggested they looked like three little fingerprints.  Although they were much lighter than her purple ear, the spots on the top of her head were apparent.  I also noticed that her other ear had some discoloration, none of which was consistent with the seizures that Sawyr had when he was little.  I continued to root Bryer on as she cried weakly, telling her what a strong girl she was. 
I reached into my pocket for Jason’s cell phone and saw several missed calls, not realizing it was still on silent from his church meetings earlier.  I heard annoyance in his voice as he worried about where we were.  He had been driving back and forth between landing spots for life flight, not knowing that the plan had changed and we were driving to the hospital instead.
Looking back on this journal entry, I have no doubt that my baby girl made a valiant decision that day.  She had to choose whether her short, earthly life would be over or if she would fight to stay with us longer.  I believe that before each of us came to earth, our spirits lived with God.  Jeremiah 1:5 says, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee."  He knew us each very personally, as a father would know his own children.  I wonder if He talked with her before she was ready to be born, and if so, what did He say?  Did He tell her of the great plan that He had for her life?  Did he tell her of the sacrifice it would take to receive the blessings?  More importantly – Still being so new and fresh from His presence, could Bryer remember His words on this day when she would make the decision whether she would continue on this earth or not? 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

#1 - Journal Entry from December 19, 2010

We got home from church about 1:00.  I got to teach the 3 and 4 year olds about Jesus's birthday and act out the story with the nativity pieces.  Bryer was fussy, but not anymore than the rest of the weekend.  I realized yesterday that the coffee cake I've been snacking on the last two days has milk in it.  It doesn't seem to matter how far down on the ingredient list it is, Bryer's tummy will always let me know when I've had milk products that get into my milk and upset her.  I try to be careful about what I eat, but this slipped by me. 

Our two older boys walked the two blocks home with their friend and were already changing into snow clothes by the time I drove home with the little kids.  The older ones let me know that the snow was more important than lunch right then.  I got the kids unloaded and started making sandwiches for lunch.  I carried Bryer around with me while I tried to make lunch.  I was having a hard time spreading peanut butter on the bread one handed, so I laid her down in the crook of the couch for a just a minute.  She did not like being out of my arms and wailed until I got the sandwiches made and went back to get her.  As I finished up lunch she fell asleep flopped in my arms.  I gave Piper and Walker their lunch and went upstairs to lay Bryer down.

I pulled the blankets back to expose the sheet on our bed.  Then I laid a fleece baby blanket down one-handed so the cold sheet wouldn't startle her warm cheek when I put her down on her tummy.  Piper (4 years old) and Bryer (2 1/2 months old) share a room, but Bryer usually takes naps on our bed so Piper can still play in her room and not wake up Bryer.

I went back downstairs to check on the other kids.  The older boys' friend came in and needed to use the bathroom.  I asked him to leave his snowy boots at the door.  He quickly used the bathroom and went back out to play.  I ate lunch and talked with Piper and Walker as they ate.  Walker started taking his diaper off - a sure sign our 'potty-training-in-limbo' 2 year old needed to use the bathroom, so I took him upstairs and put him on the toilet.  I went back downstairs and took Jason's lunch out to the older boys and asked them to take it down to the church for him, as he would be at the church for another few hours in meetings.

I cleaned up lunch while Piper played in the toy room balcony upstairs.  I heard Walker playing too so I went up to put a diaper back on him.  Once at the top of the stairs, I decided to check on Bryer first.  It was typical for her to wake up shortly after being laid down.  At 2 1/2 months old, her transition from constant womb movement had not settled in yet, and the tummy ache fussiness was not helping her sleep schedule.  She liked to be carried best of all - sleeping or not.  I stepped through the cracked door to peek on her.  As I checked on her from a distance I thought, "That little stinker.  She rolled over onto her back like she did the other day."  She was still quietly asleep though so I crept back out.  As I stepped away from the door, something did not feel right.  Call it a gut feeling; call it the Holy Ghost; call it mother's intuition; whatever that initial feeling was, I began to reason that if she had rolled over, she would have been awake to do it and would not have gone back to sleep.  I walked back in to get a closer look.  Her arms were flopped out and so relaxed, unusual for her since she only slept on her tummy.  As I got closer I noticed her ear was a purple color.  She was not breathing.  Another of our kids has had seizures and I thought maybe that was the case, so I rolled her onto her side to keep her airway clear and did a mouth sweep.  Her body just flopped over as I rolled her on her side, no muscle tone, no rousing wakeful baby. 

I scooped her up in my arms and took her downstairs to find my cell phone, which was almost dead.  I called 911 and laid her down in the living room on our area rug to start CPR.  She made a gasping sound about that time.  I tried to find a pulse in the bend of her tiny neck, but couldn't.  I remember being conflicted - if she had gasped, wouldn't her heart be beating?  My thoughts were interrupted with Piper asking about Bryer.  I asked her to go outside and tell the older boys to run to the church and get Jason.  I proceeded to do chest compressions.  I was CPR certified just 6 months prior in preparation for our church's Girls Camp.  Having to use my training on my own child had never crossed my mind, but my knowledge took over.  Piper came in to tell me that the boys weren't out there.  I instructed her to go wait out in the front of the house and wave her arms around when a policeman or ambulance came.  Time was of the essence as my baby girl gasped for air while I anticipated help to arrive. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Only The Beginning...

3 years ago today I woke up to a normal day.  By that night my world was crashing down as I found myself in a hospital room with my 2 1/2 month old baby girl clinging to life and the doctors looking at me for answers.  It is never an experience I would have wished on anyone, nor would I have volunteered for it if I had the chance, but the lessons I have learned are invaluable.  This blog is a healing process for me to continue to sort through the last 3 years.  I invite you to join me through this journey as I release my journal entries.  I have overcome many things with God's help and feel blessed to be able to share my story publicly, especially with those that have been such a huge support to me.  If it reaches even one person that is in need of hope then it has served its purpose.  Although I am not writing this blog for feedback (I have come to know that God is the only one whose opinion matters), if you feel inspired to leave a comment to a post it may also be an inspiration to someone else and I would encourage you to share.  I plan to post a journal entry each Sunday. 
I chose The Briar Effect for a couple reasons. 
A briar is considered a thorny plant that grows in a thicket.  You can imagine how you might feel getting caught up in one.  The more you fight to get free, the more you get tangled and scratched up.  In my story, there have been plenty of briars.  I have learned that the best way not to get tangled and caught up in them is to remain calm and look for the good in the situation. 
Let me tell you about the first, and most important briar in my story.  Her name is actually spelled Bryer.  She made her debut with a quick delivery and the only of our 5 kids not to be caught by my husband as a result.  She came out banged up and black and blue from a quick ride into this world and low initial Apgar scores to show for it.  I remember the nurses saying, "Just watch her tongue.  If her tongue is pink then she's getting enough oxygen."  They wrapped a hand-written identification tag around her ankle, as the staff didn't even have time to computer-generate one. She was the sweetest little thing and I was instantly smitten.  I used to wonder how large families could have enough love to go around, but as we welcomed our 5th my heart grew in size immediately.  I remember feeling a different connection to her, even in the hospital, then I did to my other kids.  I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, but I would soon find out that she would be a key factor in the person I would become. 
I prepared myself for our transition to a family of 7 with freezer meals, chore charts, and stocking up on groceries.  I had lots of help from family, church members, and friends so I could enjoy the first precious weeks (and nurse a lot).  Most of my babies have been colicky so I plan with each of them to sit on the couch and nurse for what seems like three months straight.  Bryer was no exception.  Not too long after she was born, I laid in bed next to my husband one night and made the comment,
"I guess I thought life with five kids was going to be harder than this." 
Sometimes I catch myself going back to that comment.  I wonder what God thought when He heard me say that.  I wondered if He flinched at my pride or if He frowned at my smugness.  What I believe now is that He smiled down on us, rubbed His hands together firmly and thought, "They have been prepared and are ready for a challenge."