Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dear Isaac

Dear Isaac,

Wow. When I think about your early entry into this world and everything surrounding it my mind goes blank. It is not because I have nothing to say about. It is because I have so much to say and their are so many emotions wrapped up in that day and the following weeks and really years of your life. So, let me say what I can here and when you read this when you are older we can talk about it all you want. You are 4 now and I know it will be a while until you will understand this letter. I hope you never fully understand it because I hope and pray that when you have children, prematurity is a thing of the past.

When we found out that mom was pregnant, we were so excited. We hadn't necessarily been trying to have a baby, but our life together was in the perfect spot to bring another person into our family. We were building a house, which we moved into a few months before you were born and we both had steady jobs. We knew that we could provide for you and we also knew that we would love you so much, which we did instantly from the day we knew you were coming.

When you came almost 10 weeks early, your mom was very sick. It wasn't your fault, but you had to be born so that she could start getting better. It was very scary. I did not know what to expect, but when I heard you cry as they delivered you it was the most amazing thing I had ever heard. Along with your cry I heard Jesus tell me, "Everything is going to be alright. He is strong."

And you were strong. From the moment you went to the NICU you carried on as if you were a full sized baby. All the nurses loved you because you had some attitude and were always trying to get out of the little wrap they had you swaddled in. Your mom and I visited you every day and prayed with you, talked to you and sang to you. When we finally got to hold you it was one of the greatest days of my life.

One of the other greatest days (though it was a little scary) was when we got to bring you home after 5 weeks. You were so tiny, somewhere around 5 pounds, but you grew quickly at home. You went from a tiny baby who I was scared I would break to a chubby, smiley little man who brought us so much joy. Your smile has always been big and infectious. Perhaps that is why even at 3 you claimed as many as 3 or 4 girlfriends at once. Anyway, we will talk about girls later. For now there are a few things I want you to know.

Never put all your trust in a person, not even me or your mom. Put your trust in God. Jesus is the only one who will never let you down. We trusted Him alone for your health and for the health of your sister Anna.

Never forget how you started out and always be willing to help those who are weak, small, sick or otherwise in need. So many people helped us and helped you when you were born and continue to help us. Live your life loving and helping others and you will find that you will be blessed beyond anything any of us deserve.

Be nice to your sister. She was a preemie too, so you guys share a bond that many siblings don't. You were in the same hospital, had the same doctor and of course you have the same parents! If you treat her right, she will be the closest friend you will have here on Earth. If you treat her wrong then you better watch out because she is a red head and is likely to be meaner than you.

Last but certainly not least. I love you. I have loved you from the moment your mom told me we were going to have a baby. You will always be my son and I want you to know that from the first day of your life you beat the odds and have always been a fighter. Use that for God. Do great things for Him and when you are my age, you will not look back at your life so far and wonder if you have done anything meaningful. You will know that you have and you will know that I will be proud.

Be strong in the Lord,
Your dad



Finding Comfort, Giving Comfort

I am a dad to 2 preemies. In 2008, when our first was born I was serving as an assistant pastor at the small country church that I grew up in. Naturally, when the emergency arose that brought my son Isaac to us at 30 weeks, we turned to the scriptures for comfort and reassurance about exactly Who was holding our family's future. Faith in God has always been a part of my family's life. My wife and I were both saved at a young age and have been following Jesus and studying scripture for years. We do our best to live by Jesus's teachings every day. We found comfort in His Word and in His people during our son's (and our daughter's) NICU stay, both family, friends and strangers.

Our families were by our side, of course, but we also experienced comfort from our church family and from a group of people who have dedicated their lives to providing comfort to NICU families and other extended-stay patients' families at Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa. The Hospitality House of Tulsa has hosted us twice along with hundreds, maybe thousands of other NICU families. They provide extremely low cost (donation based) apartments, prayer support, meals and comfort to people whose family members are in a medical crisis. From the moment we set foot in HHT, they became family and have remained so. My wife and I found comfort and support there and God spurred us toward staying in touch with HHT and helping in any way that we could to see that other preemie families experience the same comfort. There is a scripture found in 2nd Corinthians 1:3&4 that best describes what I believe is a biblical principle that Christians are supposed to live by. It says: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

Comfort, much like love is to be shared. Now that we have experienced the comfort of God through others in our time of distress, our lives are forever changed. We must give it away. God has placed a call on the life of my family to be there for other preemie families. Whether its a visit to the NICU, a prayer whispered for a tiny baby or any material support we can give, comforting preemie families will forever be a part of our lives because of the comfort we received.

Find out more about The Hospitality House of Tulsa and what you can do to help them in their mission at http://www.tulsahospitalityhouse.org/



Having a Preemie is Traumatic. Don't Be Afraid to get Help

When our first son, Isaac was born we had no idea how traumatic this experience could be. Of course we had acquaintances who had preemies, and we heard about the long hospital stays. But of course it would never happen to us, right? Well, we soon found out that the trauma of our first preemie's entry into the world would change our world in many ways.

Once he was home (he was in the hospital for 5 weeks) we both found ourselves stretched thin in the area of patience. We fought...a lot and over little things. We talked with our doctors separately and they both had the same conclusion: we were both suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). We both got on medication and things seemed to get better. We still argued of course, but not nearly as often and not over the petty things we had been arguing about.

Our preemie experience was mild compared to some, but being thrust into this new world had literally effected our brains. There are lots of good things about being a preemie parent, but if you are suffering from PTSD, those good things don't always lift you up out of the darkness that comes along with having a child early and the issues that go along with that.

I want to encourage each and every one of you who may be suffering mental anguish, broken relationship and depression since having a preemie to seek help. It may not be medication. It may just be talking about it, letting it out. Whatever avenue you seek to get help, do it. You owe it to your spouse, your kids, your family and friends, and most of all yourself. PTSD can be crippling to your relationships and your life. It is a very real thing. I know because I have been there.



Three in a Row

I am getting ready to put up three blog posts right in a row. I actually wrote these a couple weeks a part. There is an interesting story behind why I am only posting them now. A few months ago I signed on to be a blogger for a group of preemie dads that was starting up called Papas of Preemies. The organizer and founder had some conversations with me about several things regarding faith and my strong outspokeness against abortion. I agreed with him that I would leave the prolife message out of any blogs I sent in as he seemed uneasy about it possibly offending someone who approved of the practice of abortion. I outlined to him my beliefs and how having a preemie strengthened these beliefs and led me to become an prolife activist and an abolitionist. Well, I gave him 3 posts which he used and said that they were great! I then got an email Friday from him that he had become uncomfortable with my sharing of the Gospel and my abolitionizing on my personal facebook page. He said he was removing my content from Papas of Preemies and that I was no longer going to be a part of the group of bloggers. He released my original posts to me to use in any way I wanted since they were going to be taken off the blog he was running. SO, that is how they came to be here. He had asked for original content (something I hadn't ever posted and wouldn't post anywhere else) and I abided by that as well as abiding by all his requests through my short relationship with the blog. So now this original content is going to be posted here on the NEOPOP blog. Needless to say I will probably do all my blogging here from now on. I am thankful that it got me writing again, but I cannot and will not hold back anything in my blogs or my personal postings that takes away glory that is due to God or Truth that needs to be spoken. Thanks for your support for NEOPOP here and on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Katie's Story

This is a guest post by one of our preemie parents, Jennifer. Thanks Jennifer for sharing your preemie's story!

I had just hit the 26 week mark in my second pregnancy and my blood pressure was starting to shoot up for an unknown reason. I didn’t have any complications the first go round and I wasn’t prepared for the events that were about to take place. I had spent two days in the hospital during Thanksgiving week and received both doses of the steroid shot which later would greatly impact our little Katie Jo. On Monday November 28th I left work around 3:15pm to go to a scheduled appointment and my blood pressure was 182/118. This is when the whirlwind started.

I was put through a battery of test and started on many IV medications because of fears that I would start seizing since they couldn’t get my blood pressure down. This continued until around 7:30pm when the Dr. told me I was going to be shipped to Tulsa and that I would probably have a baby within the next 24-48 hours. My heart sank. All I could think of was that she was too small and way too early.

Upon arriving at St. John’s in Tulsa, more tests were done. We were told depending on the results they would determine where to go from there. The last set of test results came back around 12:15am and we were informed that I would be going in for an emergency C-section. By 12:55am Katie Jo made her entry into this world, at 2lbs 1oz. 14”. From there on out it was a continuous rollercoaster with too many ups, downs, and curves, to count. She was in the NICU for 74 days, underwent Heart Surgery at 6 days old, was on and off the ventilator numerous times, and battled all kinds of infections and “preemie things”. I was so tired of hearing that as answer for when new things would come about I could’ve screamed. We were told there was only about a 40-50% chance she would make it and if she did there was a very high likelihood she would have to live with many different types of complications due to the prematurity, like blindness, asthma, mental handicaps, and others.

Katie had to fight for her life and that she did. I didn’t get to hold her until New Year’s Eve and that was the best way to start a new year! She was just too small and couldn’t handle the stress prior to then. Although Katie was fighting her daily battles, I too had many emotional ones to over come. My husband and I found strength within each other and God. Through many tears, prayers, and unwavering family support, we were able to get through it all. There were many days I felt guilty that it was my fault, or something I had done, or that I was neglecting one child to be with the other. My oldest daughter at the time was 2 yrs. old. But with Gods help we made it! To this day you would never know all the trials Katie Jo has already lived through and won. She is the most beautiful, perfectly healthy daughter a parent could ask for.

Monday, February 6, 2012

This time around...

It has been a long while (too long) since I updated the blog. For the past 9 months we have been focused in on making sure we do everything we could to see our daughter born healthy and on time. Since her due date was February 19th and I am making a post 3 weeks after her birth then you can deduce that she was, in fact, born early. So we have a second preemie. Not as early as our first but early nonetheless. Anna Lynlee was born January 16 at 35 weeks and weighed 4 pounds 12 ounces. We are so happy she is here, but even though she was fairly healthy this time was in its own way tougher than last time.
 
Anna came by c-section in Tulsa and was whisked away to the same NICU where our son Isaac spent 5 weeks. Ashley was developing another case of severe preeclampsia and they were concerned that Anna would be small for her gestational age. They would not deliver her here in town because they were afraid she was a little under 4 pounds. So, we once again made the trip to Tulsa, Ashley by ambulance and me with my brother driving me in our car. Things moved more quickly this time than last. The doctors soon told us they were definitely delivering Anna today because of the way Ashley's preeclampsia was progressing and because if they waited Anna would not necessarily grow very much more. So, they prepped her for surgery and started. Ashley's c-section with Isaac was pretty traumatic. She felt the incision (not the pain but the pressure) which caused her heart rate and blood pressure to rise. Because of this, the anesthesiologist knocked her completely out. She did not remember the next couple days except for bits and pieces. This time she was awake and aware. She talked to me through the whole surgery and was awake when they quickly brought Anna around to show us her pretty face for the first time. As they closed Ashley back up I made the familiar first trip to the NICU through the passages only the doctors and nurses are allowed to use. They got her all checked out. She definitely looked bigger than Isaac. Still, she was there. In that place we never hoped to see again. We soon would find out that she needed to be there. She came later, but she actually had an issue that we didn't face with Isaac.
 
While Isaac's weight and growth was the major concern, Anna's was her lungs. Over the first day after she was born she developed a problem that preemies and sometimes even term babies face. As she cried and coughed to get rid of the amniotic fluid in her lungs, some of the small air sacs in her lungs burst. This caused small pockets of air on either lung called "pneumothoraces." I wouldn't say this is common but it does happen and her doctor (Dr. Anderson who was also Isaac's doctor) was prepared for it. He first made sure the nurses did everything they could to keep her comfortable so that she would not cry and strain her lungs anymore. They monitored by taking x-rays every 12 hours or so. When just rest did not clear them up he had the nurses and breathing specialists do a nitrogen washout. This is where they turned up the oxygen concentration she was getting to as near pure oxygen as was safe, then over a period of six hours work back to room air (21%). This pushed the nitrogen out of her system and seemed to do the trick. After the washout there was just a trace of one of the air pockets left and they began to focus on getting her to grow and hold her temperature so she could go home. She did come home after 2 weeks in the NICU.
 
The rest of her stay was pretty uneventful. It was all about waiting and holding and making sure that things were ready for her to come home. While our situation was a little different with Anna, many things were the same. The most important thing was that God was there. Our first preemie and NICU experience was traumatic. It was new terms, new issues to learn about and it was learning how to take care of a preemie. The hurt and the fears sort of crept in slowly after the initial shock was over. God was there to comfort us in many ways. With our family and church family, with the welcome place to rest (Hospitality House of Tulsa) and with His Word and prayer. This time the fear was immediate and the hurt seemed sharper. How did we end up here again? What else could we have done? Did we make the right decisions? All of these questions and more crowded our minds before, during and after Anna's arrival. Again though, our family, our church and the wonderful people of the Hospitality House were there for us along with new friends. The outpouring of prayer and support was amazing and it held us up even when we were exhausted and worrisome. Our eyes were more open this time to the other families around us. We knew now what they were feeling. Our first time in the NICU was so new I don't think we realized alot of what went on with the other babies around us until very far into Isaac's stay. This time we heard terms we recognized and saw things we had come to understand over the last 4 years.
 
Having a preemie is so different from having a term baby and this time we were well aware of that. It comes with a set of struggles and emotions all its own and to be in the middle of it again was at once devastating and familiar. It broke us down and built us back up stronger by God's grace and His provision for our family. We got to minister and be ministered to by a special family we had already been supporting with prayer since before Anna was born. I got to share God's love and his mission for our lives to a family who had been sleeping in the waiting room of the NICU for 2 days. We got to share the preemie experience with church family and friends we didn't have when Isaac was born. We thought we knew alot about having a preemie but we learned so much more this time. Best of all we brought our little girl home whole and healthy. We are well aware that this doesn't happen for all preemie families. That is why we are here. That is why God has given our family and hopefully your family the charge found in the verse this group was founded upon. We are to give to others the comfort that God gives to us in times of trial. We are to love with a love that is sacrificial. Whether that means a prayer, a hug, a warm meal or a place to stay. As I heard my pastor say yesterday, God does not give us His love to hold on to. He gives it to us so that we can share it with others. And, unlike material things, the more we give of His love the more we have in us. If there is one thing we have come to know, it is that God's love will sustain us and we are to share it so that others can experience the comfort it brings.