It sure has been an exciting week! A lot has happened since last Tuesday morning when I sat at my kitchen table before sunrise typing out my favorite quotes. Amazing what just one week of living can do.
Tuesday morning started as usual. Had my quiet time, blogged, showered, milked the goats and fed the chickens all before most of the children were up. Breakfast, schoolwork, all was going along as usual. I sat on the floor to read a few books to the littles for maybe 30 minutes. Stood up, felt a rush of energy to the inside of my right thigh, and immediately fell down because the pain was so great. Now I've had varicose veins since the first time I was pregnant 12 years ago, and they tend to get a lot more intense during pregnancy, so I was used to a little pain and pressure in my legs anyway. But this, this was more intense than anything I had felt with regular varicose vein stuff. On a scale of 1-10, I would put this pain level at a 12. And I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. So I got my leg propped up on the couch and decided to rest awhile, thinking it would go away. I stayed propped up for an hour or so, then of course there was much to be done, so I got up again. Only this time, I really couldn't walk without wincing in pain. Luckily Allie had a friend here who was familiar with milking goats, so I had them do the afternoon milking and farm chores while I did my best getting clothes and shoes on everyone else. Tuesday nights are our busy nights, with private violin lessons and orchestra practice back to back. We usually meet up with Brian at some point and eat dinner together. I was feeling so bad though, that I called and asked Brian to meet up with me to take the kids to orchestra and let me go home and get in the bed. When I climbed out of the car, put all my weight on him, and started crying uncontrollably, he said, "Babe, this is bad. Like worse than varicose vein bad. Go rest." I did rest until everyone got home that night. I had tried to get up to go to the bathroom a few times, but honestly I couldn't. When he finally got home, I had to have him basically carry me to the toilet and back to the bed. I was so hoping that by Wednesday morning, all would be well. Unfortunately, it seemed even worse. I got up to go to the bathroom and just laid back down on the bed and cried. Brian told me to please call the doctor.
I called my friend Linda, who had given me the name of a regular family doctor awhile back and I had seen once but didn't have her name or number stored in my phone. Linda strongly suggested that I call Dr. Kakani, the OB/GYN who had delivered my first five babies and had all my pregnancy history. Now let me just tell you, I absolutely love and adore Dr. Kakani, but I had only seen her once at the very beginning of this pregnancy because I really wanted to use a midwife this time. Since about 6 weeks I had been seeing a wonderful midwife in TN instead of Dr. Kakani. I was a little hesitant to call and ask her to see me at 32 weeks. And honestly, the nurse on the phone was a little huffy with me and told me that Dr. Kakani may or may not want to take me on as a patient this late in the pregnancy. I understood, but cried and asked if she would PLEASE get me in today. I knew I couldn't wait another day. I needed to be seen by her, or I would have to go to the ER. Luckily, they took pity on me and gave me an appointment for 3 p.m. that afternoon. I called my parents, who came immediately to help out and watch the kids during my appointment. Brian came home from work to drive me to the doctor. At this point I honestly thought they would give me a shot of something for the pain and send me home, and we would be home that evening and all would be well. :) Anyway, Brian helped me limp my way in to Dr. Kakani's office. We waited only about 10 minutes, and then a nurse who had seen me for several years met me at the door and hugged me and told me how much she had missed me. From that moment all I received from anyone in her office was compassion and understanding. No one scolded me for seeing a midwife or held it against me at all for not having used Dr. Kakani until now. They took me into her private office and put my feet up for me and took very, very good care of me. I thought I would cry when I saw Dr. Kakani's face. I was like, "I'm so sorry, would you take me on as a patient?" She said she would, but I would have to decide between her and the midwife. Legally in Alabama she can't oversee a birth with a midwife in Tennessee. I said, "I'll go with you! Just help me please!" She looked at my leg and guessed it was a deep vein thrombosis, but that the only way to tell for sure was to go to the hospital and get radiology to do an ultrasound of my legs. They gave us a wheelchair to get me to the hospital in and sent us on our way. Radiology could see right away that it was a deep vein thrombosis (basically, a blood clot deep in the veins), and that I needed to be hospitalized and put on blood thinners. When they said they were going to admit me to the hospital, I cried. It was the night before Penelope's 4th birthday! And Valentine's Day! And I would miss spending it with my sweet babies!! Brian reassured me that all would be well, that my momma could handle making birthdays and valentine days special for the kids. :) My parents loaded up the kids and took them to their house indefinitely, and I was admitted to the antepartum unit for intravenous blood thinning therapy. They started me on a heparin drip around 9 p.m. that night with the news that every few hours for the next 48 hours they would be drawing blood to see how the therapy was working. Yay. You have to understand, I. Hate. Needles. With. A. Passion. Honestly I would rather endure just about anything other than a needle in my skin. The next few hours kinda stunk for someone like me. BAM! IV stuck in your arm. BAM! All kinds of blood drawn for various tests. BAM! You're going to receive injections twice a day for the next 6 months. BAM! The only way to get through this is to endure stick after stick in all manner of places all over your body. BAM! Again, yay. The next few days weren't exactly fun. But they had to monitor me pretty constantly because apparently the thing that makes deep vein thrombosis so threatening is that it is the kind of blood clot that can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, or travel to the brain and cause an aneurysm, or travel to the heart and cause a heart attack. The first 48 hours after administering blood thinners are the most dangerous as far as likelihood of the clot traveling. After that apparently the clot has matured enough not to be as threatening to the body. After 48 hours on the heparin, my blood finally got where they wanted it to be, and I wasn't dead so they took me off the drip and started me on the Lovenox injections. You want to talk about not fun. Not only did I have to have a needle in my skin, I had to do it to myself. My palms were sweaty and I just knew I would screw it up, although they said it was nearly impossible to screw up. (Immediately I remembered the time my mother in law gave me a fern for my porch that was "impossible to kill", and I killed it.) Supposedly I did it perfectly though, so after watching me on the Lovenox for a few more hours, they announced that I could go home. I was home for a few hours last night when I had to wake myself up in the night to give myself the second injection, at which point I won't lie, I threw myself a giant pity party. I'm going to have to give myself another one in a few minutes and I'm already dreading it. I really wish there was someone standing there cheering me on every time, who afterwards would hand me a trophy or blue ribbon or gold medal or something. Geez. This stinks.
Okay so there's the basic story of what happened, now for the lessons learned. God has a funny way of using terrible awful stuff like this to teach me invaluable life lessons. I think I'm pretty teachable, but every now and then He has to blow a big horn and send up a blaring red flag to stop me in order to say what He needs to say. I'm stubborn like that.
Lesson One: Be open to the Spirit's leading to change course when He tells you to, even if what you had envisioned was so wonderful and beautiful. What He has in store is always better.
Like I said, I had been seeing a midwife in TN for this entire pregnancy. And I loved her. I loved the thought of this natural water birth without any medical intervention, giving birth the way women have been giving birth since the beginning of time. Not having doctors all around trying to poke and prod and get in the way of the natural bonding that should occur right away between mother and child. I wanted that. So bad I could taste it. And up until this point, I was the perfect candidate for an out-of-hospital birth. I had had low-risk pregnancies and textbook births. I was so looking forward to this experience. But the very first lesson I felt God tell me was, that's not the birth for you this time around. When Allie saw me in so much pain, my very mature, insightful, wise child looked at me and said, "Momma, I think God is trying to tell you something. Take some time alone and ask Him what He wants to teach you through this." It was with that thought in mind on Wednesday morning that I opened my Bible to the part of the daily reading God had me in- Exodus 33-34. It's where Moses goes up on Mt. Sinai for 40 days with God, and while He is gone the people decide to make themselves a golden calf. Moses comes back down and is so furious at their idolatry that he breaks the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments in half. God wants to destroy the people, but Moses intercedes for them and reminds God of His covenant. God relents, but tells the people to go on ahead out of the wilderness into the land flowing with milk and honey without Him, "lest I consume you along the way." Moses again comes to God and says, "We will not move from here unless Your presence goes with us. Show us your glory." Moses didn't even want to leave the dry, desert wilderness to go to a land flowing with milk and honey if God was not in it. He only wanted to see God's glory and have His presence made manifest. My heart should be the same. Not satisfied with golden calves or fertile lands that seem so wonderful, only satisfied with what He wants for me. It's about HIS glory, not mine. I realized that I thought I would be such an awesome person to have a birth like that and would get so much fulfillment from having endured. God was saying, I'm not sharing My glory with you. This is about ME, not you. I want to show you MY glory. And ever since I surrendered my hopes and desires to His leading, I have had tremendous peace about it. God is protecting me. He is giving me the best, greenest pastures. I hope to still have an unmedicated birth like I did with Sam, but it will be in the hospital setting where Bethany and I are protected and doctors are available if anything should go wrong. I am at peace with that. I wouldn't have been at peace with that a week ago. Again, I'm stubborn. "The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord" -Proverbs 16:1 and "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs His steps" -Proverbs 16:9.
Lesson Two: The Lord is my Shepherd. . . Wherever I go. . . in the ER. . . in the Hospital. . . in the Delivery Room. . .
When the ultrasound tech was doing the ultrasound of the blood clot, I was in so much pain. Just the pressure of the ultrasound was too much. Brian just held me as I cried. I kept hearing a voice in my head reciting Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures. . . " The Lord was my Shepherd as much right there in that room as He was when I was asleep at night, or giving birth to my previous babies, or milking the goats in the morning, or falling down in pain at home. His presence was real, almost palpable. He let me know that He had this. Nothing surprised Him or caught Him off guard. When my parents showed up on Wednesday, my daddy just said, "Everything is happening just as it should. . . God has this under control. . . He is orchestrating all of this." It was so comforting. And I knew it was true. There was a deep peace in the midst of the turmoil that only His presence could bring. Sometimes the Shepherd maketh me lie down. And there is always a purpose in it. My daily Bible reading while I was in the hospital was in Mark 2, where the paralytic was lowered through the roof, hoping to be physically healed. Jesus looked at him and said, "Son, your sins are forgiven you." Jesus looked past the obvious outward ailments into what the man needed most, a healing of the heart. He is always after my heart. Sometimes He uses physical ailments to do it, but the purpose isn't really the ailment, it's my heart.
Lesson Three: Life is ALL about RELATIONSHIPS.
I had been pondering over the last few weeks about the fact that if I needed to teach my children one thing, it was how to relate to God and other people. Knowledge is good. Skill is good. An education is good. All of that is good. But if I don't give them the skills they need to relate to God and to others around them, their education won't get them very far. You may get a job because of your degree, but you will only keep a job if you know how to communicate and relate well to other people. And long after you have retired or changed jobs, you will still be dealing with relationships daily until you die. It's a fact of life. We are all in relationships all of our days. It is crucial that they learn how to do relationships.
When I called my parents, they came right over and started doing everything they could to help. They took care of Penelope's birthday, making sure she had a cake and a celebration. When I found out I was going to be hospitalized, I texted some friends and immediately I had a couple very dear ones drop what they were doing and bring dinner to the hospital for Brian and me. The next day when I made public my complaint about hospital coffee :), I had a dear lady from church show up with Starbucks coffee, and three others show up throughout the day with either coffee or gift certificates for coffee. The one dear friend who brought Starbucks, also brought homemade muffins and treats and prayed with me and held my hand while I was having blood drawn. Even when I was resting and there was a "No Visitors" sign on the door of my room, I had people leave homemade treats, coffee, and notes of encouragement. Two friends came by on Valentine's Day with their children and had them sing to me and give me candy and crafts. One precious little girl had made a heart wreath for the door. Still another friend brought me heart-shaped cookies, and another brought some daffodils she had picked from her yard to brighten up the room. It was overwhelming the acts of kindness shown to me over those three days. The prayers sent up on my behalf. I knew that each one of the busy people in my life had sacrificed some portion of their day to love on me. Humbly I asked the Lord to make me more like that. How many times have I heard of a need and just sent a quick text, said a quick prayer and moved on because I was "too busy" to do more? I don't know how in the world I have so many amazing friends, but I do. One mother of seven who came to pray with me on Friday night volunteered to make dinner for us on Saturday night. I didn't think I would be home, but she planned to do it for Brian and the children anyway. She showed up last night with TONS of delicious food. While dealing with SEVEN children, she had made a huge pan of homemade granola bars, another huge pan of lasagna (with extra blood-thinning garlic :)), bread and salad. She brought two of her older girls with her, and they both put on aprons and served my family. They set it out, helped the kids eat, cleaned up the dishes afterwards, put away laundry, cleaned up the living room, and got all the kids in bed before they left. I thought how wonderful it was that she brought her girls along with her to train them to serve and love others in need. It was such a beautiful picture of the Gospel. Here I literally could't do anything, and they did everything just to show love and compassion to me and my family. God said, "THIS is Me. THIS is where I shine brightest. . . in your weakness." Oh dear Father, make me a woman of love and service and compassion toward others.
God gave me some precious opportunities with the nurses at the hospital. Having not much else to do, I was able to get out my Bible and read it a lot. Invariably when a nurse would see it, they would open up about their lives and I had opportunity after opportunity to talk about the Lord. One sweet girl is awaiting approval to adopt a baby, and she said, "It's frustrating because it's in some man's hands." I reminded her that it was all in GOD's hands and that He would give her a baby at the perfect time. Another sweet girl was sharing with me about her life, and I was sharing with her about mine. She said, "You have encouraged me to have more babies and turn off the TV!" :) Who knew? I had no idea God would put those people in my path who needed the encouragement. He was able to use even my "useless" self who was confined to a bed and had to get help just to go to the bathroom. Indeed, life is all about relationships.
Lesson Four: Following Him doesn't mean it will be a life of ease and flowers and rainbows. In fact, it pretty much guarantees hardship.
When all of this came up, I had some very well-meaning people suggest that "Maybe 6 kids is enough. This is getting hard, maybe it would be smart just to stop at 6, you know?" And I will admit that I had a few similar thoughts flowing through my head in the last days as this has been painful and difficult.
However. :) A few years ago, God told Brian and me IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that what He wanted from us was complete surrender in the area of our family size. He asked us to lay that at His feet and trust Him with it. We gave it to Him then and have received confirmation from Him again and again and again that He still wants that surrender, no matter what. We are committed to leaving our fertility up to Him. No, I do not have a specific "number of children" in mind that I am striving to attain. No, I am not attempting to "collect children". No, I do not think that more children makes you more holy. I have no idea if this is our last child or if we will have four more. Absolutely no idea what He has in store for us. But I do know that I am leaving it up to Him. He asked me to. I will tell you that each pregnancy, each birth, each child, has changed me in some way that He wanted me changed. Jesus said in Mark 1:17, "Follow Me, and I will make you BECOME. . . " With each pregnancy, He has made me become something that I wasn't before. He has chiseled out of my life something that didn't need to be there. He also has created each child with such a distinct purpose that I can't see when I first get the positive pregnancy test, or can't even still fully see today. But He shows me glimpses every day of why this child is here, and why this one was added to our family, etc. Psalm 33:16 says that He fashions their hearts individually. I can tell you that is true.
As for the difficulty that goes with pregnancy, way back in Genesis 3:16 God told Eve, "IN PAIN you shall bring forth children." Yet He still commanded her to be fruitful and multiply despite the pain. In fact, when I looked up "pain" in my concordance, over half the references to pain in the Bible refer to the pain of bringing forth children. It's not meant to be an easy process. God's not just after our comfort. Read the Psalms. David, the man after God's own heart, had enemies and dealt with depression and anxiety and discomfort. Yet he didn't try to make his life easier or change his circumstances to avoid the pain. Instead He trusted in the Lord and found His delight and comfort in Him. Jeremiah 17:7-9 says, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose hope is in the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes. But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" This is a picture of total dependence on the LORD and what He has commanded, not even on our hearts or thoughts or insecurities. Did you notice that the tree still endures heat and drought? Yet it still bears fruit. I believe this tells me that following Him will most definitely entail periods of heat and drought, but I am to keep on bearing fruit in accordance with His will. To try to find a shady spot that is more comfortable would be to uproot myself from His will. There will still be heat and drought no matter where I plant myself. May as well plant myself right where He told me to be. Right?
We have been studying the book of Matthew in Sunday school, and one of my favorite passages we've studied so far is about the Straight and Narrow Path in Matthew 7:13-14. Few people walk on it. It's not popular. And my translation calls it the "difficult" path. But it is the path that leads to LIFE.