Surrendering in the NICU

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As many of you know, Oliver’s birth was very challenging. Summed up, after a 20 hour hard hard hard labor, Oliver wasn’t breathing when he was born and transferred to a hospital and eventually was diagnosed to have had congenital pneumonia and pulmonary hemorrhaging. Big long term problems were thrown out like hearing loss, permanent brain damage and the like.

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For a long time I didn’t want to admit that it was awful or hard, that it was just how it had to be which was such coping mechanism at the time. Not to say it’s not how it was supposed to be. We experienced that suffering and it has helped better under Christ’s suffering. There’s no denying that not being able to hold your baby for a few days is horrible. Or that there isn’t any emotional damage done with leaving your sick newborn baby overnight with a stranger while you go home and try to sleep and heal and recover from just birthing a baby.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I handled that huge event in my life and it feels like such a distant memory, which at the time was all I hoped for. I didn’t want these wounds to ever feel fresh. I didn’t want this to be part of our story.

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At the time Daniel and I weren’t actively involved in any church. We were transplants in Denver with only a small, new circle of friends. I didn’t really have an active prayer life nor did I have much of an awareness of what an active prayer life looked like. I prayed for strength while in labor, but I don’t remember turning to God for guidance or support during the hospital stay which I think is why it took so long to move forward with how big of a deal it was.

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Our midwife with Atlas offers a few therapy sessions with all her clients to help cope and work through the emotions and fears that come with having a child. The first session was so incredibly moving. Daniel and I both got to openly speak about our individual experience with having Oliver’s birth not go as planned and having to hand over our newborn baby into the care of someone else. We had never really talked about it together and wanted to just move forward with it and push these huge feelings and issues away. All of it was out of our control, which is not something that comes easy for us. Some people don’t mind stepping back and letting others take the lead, but both of us were the people in class who would end up doing all the work in a group project or delegating all the work so we would have control over the whole situation.

Birth makes you step back and hand over the control to the Lord. There’s only so much you can control, which is really really hard to surrender to, but once you surrender, you find peace and acceptance.

(Which has influenced our birth plan for baby 3 which I’ll save for another post).

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The same applies to Natural Family Planning. It’s hard to take that leap and surrender to God’s will. Once you wholeheartedly open that aspect of your marriage to life, so much pressure is relieved from you. It’s not completely up to you anymore and that’s so liberating.

After that therapy session, Daniel and I were able to release so much baggage that we were carrying individually and fully support and love each other and understand how much that situation changed us. It’s so easy to isolate ourselves in trying situations. It’s hard to see how anyone else can possibly experience the same trauma that we experienced which is so unhealthy and unfair on ourselves. We need to be open and work through these feelings and share the burden with others, especially our spouses.

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Now at this point in my life with a closer relationship with Daniel, some experience with the being a mom, and now being a Catholic with a huge, loving and supportive community, I am so much better equipped to handle that kind of situation, but there’s a reason God chose for me to experience it when I did. When I was a new mom, still kind of a newlywed, miles away from a support network, and not too strong in my Christian faith. It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of work, but I really am grateful for having a NICU baby.

I mean, it makes for a great “look how far he’s come” diptic photo if nothing else.

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Here’s the video I made about a week after Oliver was released from the hospital.

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One of the night’s when Daniel and I were driving back to the hospital to see him, Daniel thought of this song and we both started crying and knew we had to use it to remember the pain we were feeling, but also how joyous we were to have our sweet boy.

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On a much lighter note, I can’t wait to write out my gushy gush post tomorrow on his birthday about how amazing he is and how he’s the best (I’m sure you can’t wait to read it, too.)

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