Beauty from the Ashes

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Want some inspiration and HOPE over the next 10 days?

My friend and fellow Christian author, Ginny Priz, is hosting an interview series called “Beauty from Ashes” on her website.  She is interviewing 10 amazing women about how God helped them find HOPE in spite of their bad circumstances.  And guess what??  I am one of them!  I will be sharing about how God helped strengthen me through my battle with Infertility on Thursday, August 25th.

Please take a few and hop on over to Ginny’s website, sign up for the series, and be inspired!

 

My Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day PIc“Watch out for that first step it is a doozy!!”  – Ned Reyerson.

That is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies when I was little. Why don’t they make movies like that anymore? Bill Murray plays Phil, who must relive the same day over and over. There are several times in my life where I felt like I was smack dab in the middle of “Groundhog Day.” In fact, when I was reading back through my book, Full Heart Empty Womb, I had to take that analogy out because I used it more than once!

My most meaningful Groundhog Day experience was when I was in the hospital on bed rest pregnant with my twins. I had been through a rough couple of years prior trying to conceive. When I finally was able to conceive through IVF, I had a high-risk pregnancy. I went into pre-term labor that landed me in the hospital on bed rest at only 22 weeks.

For 11 weeks, I felt like I was relieving the same day. I would wake up. Order my breakfast from the cafeteria (blueberry muffin, cheerios, sweet acidophilis milk – which we affectionately called my sweet ass milk ;). Pee. Lay and wait for my breakfast while I watched The Today Show. Pray. Sit Up. HOORAY!! Eat. Lay back down. Wait for my morning nurse to give meds. Drink water. Pee. Nurse comes gives me meds in my IV. Shift to my other side. Drink water. Pee. Finally the doctor comes to round on me. Tells me the same thing as the day before. “Every day we keep them in you, is four days less in the NICU!!” Pray. Then the best 10 minutes of my day – SHOWER!!! Lay. Drink Water. Watch Talk of the Town. Order lunch. Pee. Drink. Shift positions. Sit Up. Hooray!!! Eat. Lay back down. Crap. Gotta pee again. Get hooked up for my daily monitoring. Shift and try to get comfortable with all the cords. Stare at the contraction monitor and wonder why I can’t feel a single contraction. Pray. Shift. Count the flowers on the wallpaper. Drift off to sleep. Wake up when the nurse comes to turn off the monitor. Pee. Drink Water. Pray. Watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” in Spanish because I am that desperate for entertainment. Drink water. Shift. Stare at the clock. Eric is here with supper!!!! Pee. Sit up!! Eat yummy take-out. Lay down. Pee. Choke down chalky Mylanta for heartburn.  Watch TV with Eric. Shift. Pray. Watch Eric make his fold out bed next to me like he does every night. Drink water. Pray.  Take my Ambien. Pee. And fall into a peaceful sleep.

Southern Lady-7

It was a treat when Eric would bring our dog, Majors, to visit me in the hospital!

Thankfully I was blessed to be able to do that for 11 weeks….or 77 days….or 1,848 hours…or 110,880 minutes. And because I was able to relive that same day over and over and over, my babies not only survived, they thrived.

Count your blessing on your Groundhog Days.

How Michael Myers Helped Me Through a Hard Time

How Michael Myers Helped Me Through a Tough TimeNothing like a good old Halloween marathon to make me nostalgic for my days with newborn babies.

Wait. What? How does Michael Myyers make you think fondly of sweet babies??

You see when I was younger I loved me a good horror movie. The scarier, the better in my opinion. I watched that majority of it through my hands or a blanket up to my face, but I still loved it. I loved to scream at the idiot, half dressed girl, “Don’t go in there!!!” I loved to jump and scream even if I knew it was coming. I laughed and laughed at myself for being so scared. And I always liked being surprised when there was a twist in the story.  “I did NOT see that coming!!”

Eventually, I grew out of my scary movie phase. Maybe it was because I had an Ethan, Ella, and Matthew to keep me up at night. I certainly didn’t need a Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, or Leatherface to keep me up at night too. Or maybe it was just that I saw Saw. Ha ha ha ha. Saw Saw. But seriously, Saw is the scariest movie I have ever seen. Now I can’t even watch a commercial for Annabelle without losing sleep.

But I digress.

I will always get a smile on my face anytime I see a Halloween marathon on TV. You see back in October of 2006, I had 2 sweet babies that I had to leave behind in the NICU. Unlike most new mamas, I couldn’t rock my sweet babies in the middle of the night. I had to leave my heart in the NICU 20 miles away.

But there was one thing I could do. I would set my alarm for every 2 – 3 hours, and I would pump breast milk that would help my very frail babies grow strong. As you could imagine, it was exhausting to pump so often around the clock. I would wake up, call the NICU to check on the babies, then I would hook myself up to the pump like a cow. In order to keep myself awake and entertain myself, I would turn on the TV. Since it was late October, I could always count on AMC to have an all night Halloween marathon to watch. At my midnight pumping, I would watch Halloween. My next one I would catch the end of Halloween II. As the sun was starting to rise, I would catch part of Halloween IV. (It worked out well that I missed Halloween III because everyone knows that is the worst!!)

My poor husband, Eric, begged me after one night of Halloween marathon to please, please not watch Halloween at night anymore. He had nightmares and heard the theme all night in his sleep. Do do do do do do do do. After getting very little sleep myself, I only felt a little bad 😉

Thinking back, that was one of the hardest times of my life. I was exhausted. Between getting my strength back from being in the hospital for three months, to delivering twins, living in a NICU all day, and pumping around the clock; I was beaten down physically. Not to mention the emotional toll of everything! Being separated from my babies was agony.

But God. God helped me through the very difficult time. He helped me find humor in the midst of it. He healed my heart so when I think back to a time filled with Halloween and tears, I would only reminisce with a smile.

Maybe you are going through a Halloween time. Have faith and cling to God. Some day you will be able look back, hopefully, with a smile.

John’s Legacy – Guest Post by Clair

John's Legacy

If you missed Clair’s first post, get caught up here.

October 2015

It’s been over a year since we lost our sweet John in the last moments of his delivery. I was told early on that he probably couldn’t survive without being fully reliant on me.  That scenario proved to be exactly what happened. We will always cherish the hours we got to spend with him after he was born, and the pictures provided to us by a Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer.

God truly blessed our family, and we were able to keep moving and looking ahead. On August 10th of this year, our sweet Lucy Cate was born, an 8 lb. 11 oz. healthy baby girl. As I write this blog, she is snuggled up against me sleeping.

So where am I these days with the loss of our sweet boy? What has God shown me? FAITH

The first time I went to see my grandmother after we received John’s diagnosis and prognosis, she gave me some advice that changed my way of thinking. You see, my sweet grandmother had a healthy baby girl. Later she experienced two miscarriages and the loss of her daughter who was born prematurely due to a fall. I can’t imagine what a difficult time that was in her life. Yet until this point, I had never even thought about her grief. She ended up with four healthy children, twelve grandchildren, and to date, eighteen great grandchildren. What a lucky woman, right? What a charmed life. But when she was not so far from my own age, she was relying on faith to get her through a difficult time.

So back to the advice. My sweet grandmother looked at me and said, “Sometimes we think things are going to go a certain way, and they don’t, and it’s hard. But it’s just like it is.” What some might consider harsh words changed the rest of my pregnancy. It was hard, but it was part of my story. My faith would get me through just like hers did.

I began to look at the many women in my life who had weathered hard times in different ways.  Their faith was something they all had in common. They never stopped believing; they just kept moving. I think we so often want to dwell on what’s happening right now and say, “Woe is me.  My life is so hard!” But have faith. God truly has a plan for you. Look at your parents, your grandparents, and you will see where faith played a role. When you feel stuck in a difficult time, look at the difficult times that others have pushed through and the blessings they found on the other side.

I will look back at this time in my life, and hopefully, be able to bless others with the fact that I had faith. I kept going. When my other children are old enough to truly understand John’s story, I want them to see that their parents trusted in God. I want to pass down this legacy of faith. God has a plan for me. God has my sweet John with him. God is good.

Clair and her husband Rob’s faith through such a heartbreaking time has been such an inspiration to me and everyone surrounding them.  Their faith gave them God’s peace and strength in the midst of a tumultuous situation.  Clair’s grandmother was very wise.  We are not guaranteed a smooth road on our journey; however, through our faith, God can help us not only keep going, but find His peace.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:7

Two Hospitals in Three Hours – EEEKKS!!

Today we visited two hospitals in less than three hours.  EEEKKS!!

One visit was planned.  The other was…not.  Lemme explain.

Last weekend we had a combined birthday party for our three children.  They are all October babies, so we thought having a costume party would be a blast.  We decided that instead of asking for presents, we would ask for donations.  We asked the children to bring donations for the Centennial Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  We did this for several reasons:

1.  The Centennial NICU has a very special place in our hearts.  My twins were preemies and spent their first 5 weeks and 1 day of their life there.

2.  We thought it was important to teach our children the importance of charitable giving.

3.  We didn’t want any of the guests to feel like they needed to buy a present for all three of my kids.

4. We spoil them enough; my kids don’t need one more thing in their room!!

Today we loaded up 48 receiving blankets,12 bibs,12 onesies, 2, sleepers, 6 of the tiniest most precious pants, and over $100 in donations for the Centennial NICU.  The nurses were over the moon excited about the donations.  We even saw a nurse that was in the unit when Ethan and Ella was there, and she remembered them!

Southern Lady Mama - nicu donations

We had such a good conversation on the way home about how God wants us to show His love and help take care of His people.  They also had a lot of questions about my time in the hospital.  Ella asked me if I was scared.  I answered, “I was but God blessed me with such a peace that just isn’t possible without Him.  We had hundreds of people praying for me and you!”  It is amazing to me that God used this situation to not only strengthen my faith, but also as a way to teach my children about His love and faithfulness. They have a very real example about how your faith can give you peace in the worst of times.

We were home from the hospital for about ten minutes when my youngest, Matthew, hit his chin with his handlebars on his Razor scooter.  Hospital #2.  3 stitches.  It was a rather uneventful visit with the inevitable long doctor wait for the stitches.  After he had enough of the waiting, he started counting (quite loudly) “1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi,” then sighed loudly and exclaimed, “Oh for Pete’s Sake!  This is ridiculous!!  1 Texas, 2 Texas, 3 Texas….”all the way up to 100 Texas 🙂

I feel so blessed that God gave me these three babies to raise to love Him, care for His people, and for Pete’s Sake – laugh.  Like A lot.

Miracles Born – Book Excerpt from “Full Heart Empty Womb”

In case you missed the letters leading up to this, you can find them here,here, and here 🙂

Book Excerpt from “Full Heart Empty Womb”

October 17 – Welcome to the World

The next morning they had me attached to the fetal monitors for awhile. I was borderline delirious because I hadn’t had any real sleep in almost 48 hours. I was also still in an enormous amount of pain. Lying on my side for the monitoring was excruciating. They were starting to talk about delivering again because the babies were not responsive. There was a constant stream of tears running down my face. They still had a strong heartbeat but they were lethargic….much like their mommy.

My OB came in to visit me. She was immediately alarmed when she looked at me. I told her about the pain. She asked me if I minded if she checked me for dilation. She checked me and I was four centimeters dilated. It was finally time to have my babies. My tears of pain and agony turned to tears of relief and happiness.

We sprung into action again. The phone tree was activated. My dad had just gotten on a plane to Chicago so he boarded a plane home as soon as he landed. My sister, Amy, made plane reservations to fly down later that week. Everyone else hopped in the car to drive to Nashville.

Within no time at all, the anesthesiologist came to administer my spinal tap. I remember he kept trying to get me to hunch over a little more so he could get it in the right spot. I am pretty sure I had a smart aleck reply about not being able to hunch over much more with my huge belly!

I lay back in bed and waited for them to whisk me away to the operating room. Eric still paced the room with a crazy look in his eyes. He had been through the emotional and physical ringer the last couple of days too. He didn’t get much more sleep than me. I also cannot imagine how difficult it would be to watch someone you love go through so much pain and not be able to do anything about it.

I was wheeled into the operating room with happy tears running down the sides of my face. I had made it. Praise the Lord for giving me the strength to get through the last eleven weeks.

There was a crowd of about 20 people in there. There was my OB and her nurses. The NICU staff was there with an incubator ready to transport the babies to the NICU after delivery. I had also consented to have some nursing students come in to observe the delivery. I guess I was a good learning case for them!

At 11:07am Ethan Brent Greer was born weighing a hefty four pounds four ounces. One minute later Ella Bailey Greer was born weighing four pounds. I didn’t get to hold or kiss either of them. I got a quick look at them in the incubator. They each had a nurse who had them bagged and was helping them breathe. And just like that they were gone to the NICU. And I immediately passed out. My work was done.

Final Thoughts

People may hear about my difficulty getting pregnant with Ethan and Ella and think I was pushing fate when we decided to go through fertility treatments. Maybe God just didn’t want us to have babies. After hearing about my struggles to just stay pregnant, they may think that we were still pushing something that just wasn’t meant to be. Maybe we just weren’t meant to be parents. It was a very bumpy road getting to here. Aren’t most of the roads worth traveling anything but smooth?

Today Ethan and Ella are healthy, normal eight year olds. They just started second grade. They have already been a blessing to our lives and to so many others’ lives. I can look at them today and see the potential that they have. Ethan is a little math genius like his Daddy and that makes me so proud. But it is his caring heart that brings me to my knees. Every night he prays from his heart for several people. I listen to his heartfelt prayers and know that he is straight from God. He tells me he wants to be a doctor or go into the military. How many lives will my baby save because we were brave enough to fight for his?

Ella has a love for reading like her Mama. She is always asking for five more minutes with her book before bed. But it is her nurturing heart that brings tears to my eyes. Since she has been in preschool she has always had at least one special needs child in her class. Ella always gravitates to them. She never looks at them as different. She just wants to be their friend and help them. She tells me that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. I can see her being a special education teacher like her Aunt Sharon. How many lives will she touch because we didn’t give up on hers? I also know without a doubt that she will be a wonderful mother. How many more generations of children will come from us because we didnt give up on our family?

Ethan and Ella then and now

God was at work in our very bumpy road. He never guaranteed us or anyone a smooth road to parenthood or anything else for that matter. This bumpy road taught me so many lessons that made me a better mom, wife, and daughter in Christ that I would never take for granted.

It is hard for me to read this and think this all happened nine years ago.  The memories are still so fresh.  Now the tears are happy.  Little did I know that this was just the start of my journey.  With my 20/20 rearview mirror vision, I am thankful for my very bumpy road and the ability it has given me to relate and encourage women.  If you know someone that is dealing with infertility or has in the past, please share “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility … Twice” with them.  It may be just the encouragement that they need on their very bumpy road.

“Today Should Be Your Birthday” Letters to Ethan & Ella – October 16th

In case you miss the first two letters, you can find them here and here.

October 16, 2006

Let Me OUTTA HEREDear Ethan and Ella,

I am trying so hard to stay strong for you. I didn’t sleep a wink last night because I was in so much pain. My nurse told me that it was her goal this shift to get me in the delivery room. I feel so conflicted. I am excited to finally meet you, but I know that you still need more time to develop and grow. But I am just in so much pain.  I am praying for strength.

I have a whole team of doctors that take care of me. They have one mission – keep me pregnant for as long as they can so that you can grow. They have hammered it into my head that every day that I stay pregnant is four less days that you will be in the NICU. The last eleven days I have been on an IV of a drug called Magnesium Sulfate to help slow the contractions. All the other drugs have lost their effectiveness. I thought I was on the highest dose. When the doctor came to see me this morning he increased my dose once again. I will not get to meet you today, and I am so sad.

I have never cried or complained to any of my doctors or nurses the whole time I have been here. Today I cried. I cried because I was disappointed. I cried because I was in so much pain. I cried because I was exhausted. I cried because I felt guilty. How selfish of me to want you to be born any sooner? I begged the doctor to at least give me something to settle my stomach and help me sleep.

Daddy didn’t even go to work today. He didn’t want to leave my side. I am so glad he stayed. Unfortunately the sleep meds didn’t work on me. Instead of making me sleep they just made me delirious. I would nod off for a minute then jolt up and feel like I had to go to the bathroom. By the afternoon I couldn’t even walk to the restroom without his help.

Four less days in the NICU…..Four less days in the NICU…..Four less days in the NICU….

Can’t wait to see you,

Mommy

Stay tuned tomorrow for an excerpt from “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility … Twice” when Ethan and Ella were born 🙂