As we begin a new year, I have taken some time to reflect on the past year. Bear with me as I do some reminiscing… At the start of January 2007, Mike and I thought we had our year planned out. He was about to begin his last semester of seminary. We were going to apply to the International Mission Board in May and by December we would leave for a 2-3 year assignment abroad. Little did we know that God had something else in store for us.
On 1/31, we found out that I was pregnant. After 3 ½ years trying to conceive, we had just about given up. Needless to say, it took a few days for the shock to wear off for both of us. We thanked God for the way that He would knit this child together in my womb. And we quickly began dreaming about who he/she would be. Who would he/she resemble? Would this child be smart, funny, athletic and more importantly would they grow to know and love God? Would we be good parents? We trusted that God knew what kind of life he/she would lead and that He would equip us to be the parents that we needed to be.
Well, the pregnancy had very few complications (unless you count the first trimester when I spent much of my time hugging the bowl or my misery during the HOTTEST summer ever in Kentucky history - at least it felt that way to me!). When we thought about how each part of our child was being formed in the womb, we could not help but praise God, the Creator of all things. God is so incredible! He designs each one of us personally as if we are clay in His hands. He cares about each and every one of us right down to the number of hairs on our heads. I am not sure why he cares how much hair is on my head, but I am thankful that He cares enough about me to consider every last detail. As my belly grew, we anxiously awaited the day that we would get to meet our daughter (we didn’t know what we were having, but Mike and I suspected all along that it would be a girl).
Along the way, we certainly had our share of fears. We both were terrified at the thought of parenthood. We knew it would be the toughest job that would ever come our way. And the idea of actually giving birth would keep me up at night (OK it really was the huge stomach and the inability to find a comfortable position, but still it was a scary prospect). We clung to the promise that God would not give us more than we could handle. And we knew that no matter what happened, He would be with us.
I can still remember waking Mike at midnight to tell him "it was time". He stared at me as if I was trying to be funny and doing a terrible job. I woke up at 11 wondering if my water had broken & had already talked to the doctor. So I convinced him that I was serious and we really did need to go to the hospital. Thus began the 21 hour wait for Emily's arrival. I will admit that when she finally arrived, I was a bit dazed and definitely exhausted. When they told us that she was not breathing, I think I stopped breathing too. It felt like an eternity had passed before they got her breathing and put her in my arms. I only got to hold her for about 5 minutes before they took her to the nursery to keep an eye on her. At that point, I was given some heavy duty drugs and the rest of that night was a blur.
The next morning, the nurse came to take me to the nursery to see my baby girl. I was excited and I remember chatting with the nurse and Mike as I tried to make my way to the wheel chair. The next thing I remember I woke up in bed with a lot of people staring at me. Apparently I had fainted! So Mike went by himself to see her while I rested and had some breakfast (just about the first thing I had eaten in 36 hours!). Not long after Mike came back from visiting her in the nursery, we were told that Emily was going to be taken to a children's hospital. She had some seizures overnight and wanted to get her to a hospital that was better equipped to handle anything else that might come up. On her way out, they took her by my room. So I got to spend about 5 more minutes with her before she was taken across town.
This began a six week journey in the NICU. This was certainly not the experience I had expected for the birth of our first child. When I had fears about labor I worried about the pain I would experience and the possibility of a c-section, but never imagined that my little girl would have such problems. But this was the journey that God had chosen for us long before I ever got pregnant. He was not surprised when Emily was not breathing at birth. He knew that she would spend 6 weeks in the NICU and that she would be diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He also knows exactly what she will turn out to be.
As we have adjusted to parenthood and Emily's diagnosis, our dreams for her have changed a bit. It is not that we don't expect great things for her, because we certainly do. The thing that has changed for us is that we will more thankful for everything that she will be able to do. We now dream of feeding her without pain and discomfort and then one day feeding her by mouth so she can let us know what tastes are her favorites. We dream of hearing her talk and one day saying “Mom” or “Dad” or “I love you”. And we dream of seeing her walk. We are not sure if she will ever be able to do these things; so if/when they happen, we will be especially thankful!
Every day we thank God for blessing us with a beautiful little girl; for counting us worthy to be her parents; and for giving us strength to get through each challenge. He certainly did not give us an easy road to travel (not that parenthood is EVER an easy road), but He has been with us through so many trials in the past and we know that He will be with us for every challenge in our future. We are excited to see what He has planned for Emily’s life. We are anxious to see what kinds of challenges she will overcome and the lives that she will touch.
This year we have gotten some mixed reviews from doctors. Our meeting with the neonatologist made us feel like she would not accomplish very much in her life. They evaluated her skills in the following areas: cognitive, communication, motor, social-emotional and adaptive development and rated her below average in every one. We met with a therapist who works with visually impaired children and she was very impressed with Emily. She said that she did not expect much based on the report that she read (written by the neonatologist’s office). Then we met with a neurologist and he told us about how her brain can “re-wire” to compensate for the damage that has been done. So he is optimistic about what she will be able to do. The bottom line is the doctors CANNOT predict the future. They have no idea what she will or will not do. God has already determined what Emily’s future will hold and we trust in Him not the “words of wisdom” from well-meaning doctors. Luckily Emily has no idea that some have set limits on her already. As she grows and develops, Mike and I will encourage her to work hard and push herself to reach her highest potential. We will teach her about God, who loves her and created her in His image. We will let her know that with Him there are no limits to what she can achieve.
So this year we have been blessed beyond measure. We have a beautiful baby girl who brings us joy each and every day. We have loving families who have offered support in so many ways. We have great friends who have prayed for us, cried with us and laughed with us. And we have an incredible church family that has shown us love in countless ways. The year did not turn out the way we planned - it was so much better! We cannot wait to see what God has planned for us in 2008.
In HIS Strength,
PS - Enjoy a couple photos of Emily. We have been trying to catch some of her funny faces on film!