"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
This is a favorite scripture of many, myself included. A year ago I tried to cling to this promise, but it was so hard. I felt like I had experienced harm. My heart had been harmed, my family had been harmed, my body had been harmed, my son had been harmed. I never felt like the harm came from God, but struggled to understand why he allowed that harm to happen. Truth be told, I still do, and always will. But some things we will never understand while we reside on this earth.
In the darkness I prayed for hope and a future. After we were told that there was no reason to not try again last July I worked on choosing a name for a baby that didn't even exist yet. I needed that hope to have a name, a name I could pray for. The meanings of names are important to us. Our Hackett Cannon was named after two dear friends who served our country on oversea tours during my pregnancy. Brave, selfless, courageous men. Men that we love, admire, and are so thankful for. It is an honor for our oldest to be named after them and what they represent. Koen Wayne. My sweet Koen's name means bold, courageous, honest counselor. He was so courageous as he faced death in my womb. He has made his mommy bold about her faith. My little honest counselor touches my heart every day and has taught me more about life and love than I ever knew possible. And now my Tobin Victor. Who was named in hope as a promise. My God is good champion has already lived up to his name and he hasn't even arrived yet.
The past few days I have been reflecting on what we have had to overcome to make it to this point. If you have followed our journey, you know the many obstacles we have faced. Too many to list again here. God has moved mountains to bring Tobin to 35 weeks. Tears run down my cheeks as I type because I am in awe. We are so close to his safe arrival. We learned yesterday that E. coli is no longer present in my bladder and I pray this is the last mountain that God needed to move. God has big plans, huge plans for our Tobin. Tobin who was conceived on our very first try. Tobin who has remained safe against all odds. Tobin who would not be here if not for our loss of Koen. I see now that God has made beauty from ashes. God had big plans for my angel too. I know He has big plans for my Hackett too and love watching it unfold. Our Lord has big plans for us all, even if they don't line up with what our plans are. He has a purpose for us. He has a hope and a future, even when we don't feel like there is any way that could possibly be true. He's got us. I am trusting that He's got us and that our hope and future will safely arrive in 11 days or less.
I am in awe. We have made it to the lofty goal that was given and seemed so unattainable at 24 weeks. We have made it to 35 weeks. In theory, Tobin "should" have the ability to breathe on his own at this point. The last 11 weeks have been a battle, a rollercoaster, a true test of strength, but we have made it.
I feel the battle of the last 11 weeks, the last 8 months, the last year and a half; and my body does too. I am spent. My blood pressure continues to be an issue and the meds I am on to treat it often give me headaches and just make me feel tired and yucky. I went in yesterday for another urine test and am anxious about learning if E. Coli continues to be present. I am hyper vigilant of Tobin's movements, as I no longer fear his arrival, but what may happen to him while he is in my body.
My truth is that I take responsibility for my body's shortcomings. My body failed Koen. I am thankful that Tobin and I have both had the fight in us, but I wish we didn't have to. I wish he didn't have to. I wish my long list of ailments didn't visibly scare the brand new resident at the hospital. I wish my file wasn't two inches thick at my doctors office. I wish my list of medicines wasn't so long. I wish I could move from my bed in the living room and be a wife and mother. I wish my cervix had remained strong and in tact. I wish I didn't have gestational diabetes - I can deal with the six finger pokes and five shots of insulin a day - but the increase risk to Tobin hurts my heart. I wish the fear of my blood pressure continuing to rise didn't threaten his safety. I wish I didn't have to battle urine infections. I wish I didn't intimately know how life in the womb can so quickly and quietly be taken. I am thankful that I don't dwell on these wishes for too long. Sometimes and somedays they weigh heavier than others, but my overwhelming gratitude for how far Tobin has made it trumps all. With Jesus holding me I have taken these blows one at a time, and have been able to mentally overcome them. Tobin has also taken these blows and fought through them. I am so proud of my fighter, battling through things that Mommy never intended him to.
Because I have gestational diabetes we run the risk of Tobin's lungs not being fully developed at this point, and possibly even at 37 weeks. It leaves us with big decisions to make. Hard decisions. Decisions that hurt my heart. We have had to decide to take Tobin at 37 weeks, a decision that my doctor and specialist fully support. My body has proven to not be a safe place. The concern is his lung development and we could do an amnio test to check on this status prior to delivery. There is risk involved in this, the scariest being infection. We have been debating this and have decided to trust. Trust that at 37 weeks our little fighter will be safe, trust that with the help of steroids he has been able to overcome the negative effects of my gestational diabetes, trust that we are making the right choice. I have a strong desire to have Tobin with my doctor performing the surgery, at the same hospital where Koen was born. I feel safe there, I trust them, I don't feel like another number. They know me, my history, and desire the happy ending for us. The downside is while they will be able to care for Tobin, if he has bigger issues they don't have the NICU support and he will need to be transported to Saginaw. In our hearts, Kevin and I feel like he is ready, that he is safe, that he will be okay. We have decided to not let the fear and what ifs scare us. We are trusting. I pray that on July 8th we will be holding our healthy little fighter - our little God is good champion in our arms!
How fitting that today in my Jesus Calling devotional it spoke of trust and holding God's hand. I will be holding onto the promise of this scripture:
You're my servant, serving on my side. I've picked you. I haven't dropped you. Don't panic. I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I'm your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
Isaiah 41:9-10 (MSG)
Jesus I pray that you continue to hold us, steady us, and keep your firm grip on us!!! I praise you for doing this for 35 weeks!!!
In the last 10 days I have had the privilege of seeing the two nurses who literally held me the day of Koen's birth. What an impact each of their 12-hour shifts had on my life. I saw them that day and then they were gone. While getting my NST today, Torrey walked into my triage room and said "remember me?". I had forgotten her face, but will never forget her. Her job that day involved telling me that they were having difficulty finding Koen's heartbeat, tears falling from her eyes when an ultrasound confirmed his death, walking us through the many decisions we were forced to make that day, and attending to my every need. When Koen hadn't arrived and I knew her shift was ending, I was so anxious and didn't want her to go. In such a short time she had become so important to me. She assured me she would get me the best and she did. She brought the next angel in, Cindy, at shift change, and they both stood there with tears in their eyes. Their genuine emotions meant more than I can explain in words. Cindy was there for the unthinkable. She held my hand and encouraged me through the hour and a half of pushing that was required to deliver my lifeless Koen. She is the one who put Koen in my arms and then took him from me after I gave him one last kiss. She came in during the night when I couldn't sleep and needed to cry. She even left the hospital to get me a slurpee. She hugged and kissed me that morning and then left after being present for the most intimate and raw moments of my life.
I thought about those two amazing ladies so much the weeks after Koen's birth. Hackett and I went to the hospital last summer and took them a little gift and card, but neither were there. They did not know anything about our journey until these past few days. Cindy amazed me this past Tuesday, remembering Kevin's name, and many other details from that night. She was concerned as I was sent on via ambulance and asked that I keep her posted, that she would have no way of knowing what would occur in Saginaw because of privacy laws. I called and left a message for her last week. I learned today that she shared what she had learned about me with Torrey, so when Torrey saw my name up for the NST, she made a point to find us and hug me with all her might today. She said the hair on her arms stood up when she learned we were back, pregnant, and facing challenges. I shed tears again with her today, so thankful for that moment.
I have had quite a bit of hospital experience this last year. I have had some nurses that were beyond amazing, one in Saginaw who brightened my spirit with her presence, and others who I am sure were burnt out or should have chosen a different profession. My appreciation for these two angels has only grown. God put them there that day for me. I am so thankful. I have been reflecting on the fact that in most professions you get to see the fruits of your labor, but I imagine so often in nursing that is not the case. People come into their lives, they pour out compassion and care, and then those people leave. I am looking forward to them seeing a healthy Tobin in a few weeks and giving them that "paycheck" for being such a blessing in our lives. I plan to take Tobin to Saginaw to see my special nurses there too, for that exact reason. I am grateful beyond words for these special women who have entered my life this past year.
Tobin did great at my NST today, but my blood pressure was up. Not surprising being in the same room as I was last week during my emergency, reminiscing about Koen's delivery, and worrying about Tobin's safety with infection still present in my body. I am getting more anxious by the week. My doctor today said he would be surprised if I wasn't. So today I will start a new medicine to help lower my blood pressure, and I will monitor it to make sure it doesn't drop too low. I have been pregnant since December 2012, with a 6 month break in between. My body is done, and emotionally so am I. What a battle, what a journey, but the finish line is in sight and I praise God for that!
My amazement continues. Our little Tobin is a fighter. Just when we think he's had enough, he settles back in. It has been 10 weeks since I was admitted to the hospital, 10 weeks since we learned he only had a 50 percent survival rate of being born at 24 weeks. Our little miracle.
It will be difficult to breathe easy until Tobin is safely nestled in our arms. This last week has been a difficult one, not only the hospitalization, but also because it is very reminiscent of the week before Koen's birth. I am dealing with the exact same infections and issues. It is scary, especially knowing that I am dilated, which would make it easier for the same infection to get to Tobin. I no longer fear Tobin's arrival, I know with the help of an outstanding NICU he will survive. I now fear the same silent killer that stole Koen from us. The infection that took him before my body responded. I am hyper vigilant about monitoring his movements. Yesterday, I woke up crying, struggling to shake my nervousness, until after my NST. My blood pressure was directly affected yesterday, too. By the grace of God, I have remained positive these past 10 weeks, but I am still human. I am a mommy concerned about the safety and health of my baby. I know firsthand how fragile life and pregnancy is, not having that innocence weighs heavy on both Kevin and I.
I have to remind myself that Tobin has made it farther than Koen, he is big and obviously strong, at my NSTs his heart rates look amazing and healthy, my infections are being combatted with medicine, my doctor (and his partner) know me and my history very well without having to open a file and are monitoring me closely, I am more vigilant, and God has carried us this far. I will continue to be thankful and trust that, if needed, God will have Tobin make his arrival before infection touches his body. 34 weeks has by far exceeded my expectations and I praise God for that!
What a year we have endured, as a family, as a couple, and individually. A year that could have left us shattered, angry, lonely, and broken - but it did not. Kevin held my hand during Koen's delivery and hasn't let go since. He is my knight in shining armor, and has been for the last 17 years, but this year more than ever. I feel like I have been out of commission these last 13 months. Recovering from the birth of Koen, crying every evening for months and escaping to grieve, starting a new job, the physical and emotional highs and lows during yet another pregnancy, being put on limited activity - taking me off work and all mom jobs, hospitalized for three weeks, bed rest at home, countless doctor appointments and anxious phone calls where I needed reassurance. Through it all Kevin has been my rock.
We have grieved Koen differently, and have found our own ways to cope and deal, but he has never left my side. Never complained. With each new road block he quietly finds a way to get our family around it. He is now the cooking, cleaning, lunch packing, shopping, laundry doing master. Somehow juggling these new roles at home in addition to his new job role at work, and doing it all with ease, laughter, and love. I have joked for years that Kevin was the "Father of the Year", but this year it is more true than ever. Some have kindly complimented me on my strength this year, but my strength comes from The Lord and the amazing gift He has given me in Kevin. I know exactly why God has given us boys, what an amazing man they have as a role model, father, and friend. What an honor God has bestowed on me to be the queen of this castle and I thank Him every day. I love you more than you will ever know, Kev.
A lot has occurred in the last 24 hours. Around 7pm last night I felt a contraction, by the time I hit four in 45 minutes we made our way to Midland hospital, as advised by our OB. Once there the contractions continued, my blood pressure raised, and after a very gruesome pelvic exam (my narrow pelvis makes everything a challenge) it was determined that I had dialated to a 2. I could have been dialated for weeks at a 2, but given my history there was no messing around.
I needed to be hooked up to an IV to start meds to slow contractions and also to treat the high blood pressure, just in case. The nurse that came in to do my IV was the one who held my hand, loved on me, and whispered how beautiful Koen was in my ear the night of his birth. I saw her and lost it. She remembered every detail of that night and held me for a long time last night as I cried. She remembered my IV issues and called in for back up right away so I wouldn't be tortured like I was last year. An ambulance was called and at one point there were more than seven hospital workers in my tiny triage space all tending to me to get me to Saginaw as fast as they could. I went on my first ambulance ride last night, while Kevin followed us. Quite the experience, not comfortable at all. When we arrived the sweet paramedic said, "So, how was it? Pretty "crappy" - huh?"
By the time we arrived in Saginaw I was emotionally and physically exhausted. The residents came into see me, devised a plan, and I continued to be poke and prodded most of the night. At noon my specialist came in to see us to do an ultrasound. Good news is Tobin is big, my fluid looks good, his movements are good, and my contractions have decreased. My BP has also lowered. The E. coli is still a concern, but making a decision based in fear is not advised. Taking Tobin today on our own accord could result in issues, issues that we may kick ourselves over. If he decides he wants to arrive then that is a different situation. Lung development is an concern, even more so because of my gestational diabetes. We will be monitored here until contractions have subsided. If they don't subside then Tobin has made the decision for us. My specialist is double checking the antibiotic for my urinary infection and my urine will be tested before I leave here too. I trust this man, who wishes he could offer up a month of his life for Tobin, but he is thrilled that we have made it this far. So we will be monitored even more closely, trust, and pray. On Monday, I prayed every time I woke up that Tobin would stay put if he was safe and if he wasn't that he would bust out. That is still my prayer. Also praying I get moved out if this hot uncomfortable room without a shower, where I can hear someone getting sick on the other side of the wall, to my other "home" here at the hospital.
So thankful that tomorrow we are at 33 weeks and that my blood pressure is back in the normal healthy range, but I would like some prayers of protection for Tobin. My urinary infection is lingering, it is still minor, and still typically wouldn't be treated. Over two weeks ago my numbers detected 60,000 units of E. coli, for a "normal" person they wouldn't treat unless the number was over 100,000. Given my history with Koen, treatment is necessary for me. At the time of Koen's death my numbers were only 60,000 - also very minor and I had no symptoms, no fever, no indication. I have been on antibiotics for over two weeks, yet my latest urine sample shows a level of 40,000. That number should be zero. It's "okay", but concerning. I am now on a new round of antibiotics, and my doctor literally said his fingers were crossed in hopes of this new drug working. My sample could be impacted by outside contaminates, but the only way to know that is to take a sample via catheter and a catheter can cause a UTI! So we don't know, we can only trust and pray. Our doctor says that because Tobin is farther along than Koen, he is more resilient, and he believes if an infection would start in my uterus that I would go into labor before Tobin's life would be threatened. We don't know anything for certain, I am a unique case, that seems to get more challenging by the week. I am fine with having the infection and taking the drugs needed, what I want is Tobin to stay safe. Please pray for protection for our Big T. Given what we went through last year, this makes my mama heart nervous.
I have been reflecting this week as I have been on bed rest for eight weeks straight, three at the hospital and five at home. I was thinking of all of the little things I haven't been able to do in the last eight weeks, things that I typically take for granted. I am regulated to our main floor, except to shower every other day. I take simply moving around in my house and doing small tasks by myself for granted. I have had to sit while showering for eight weeks; standing in the shower and taking one every day is something I take for granted. Sleeping in my own bed next to Kevin is something I take for granted. Laying next to Hackett and tucking him in with bedtime snuggles is something I take for granted. While I was in the hospital I just missed the noises of home and the presence of my family; something I take for granted. Koen shifted my perspective on so many things in life and made me more thankful. Tobin has taught me to be thankful for the littlest of things. He has taught me to be patient. He has taught me how to slow down and stare out the window. When will I have the chance to do that again? I hope I take the time to slow down even after he arrives. I am thankful. I am thankful that Tobin has stayed put for eight weeks and that today I am 32 weeks pregnant.
About a week after Koen died, Hackett curled up on my lap and fell asleep. Not something that happens often anymore and I was thankful for that moment. Kevin took a picture and I noticed later that my milk was leaking, my body was aching for Koen, but I was thankful for my Hackett. Yesterday, Hackett fell asleep in my hospital bed. I had some music playing that we used to listen to when he was a baby and I was watching the rain fall. There I was laying with my biggest boy while my littlest was wiggling in belly. I laid there soaking in the moment. Thankful.
Hackett was feeling thankful yesterday too. He hasn't completed first grade - yet - but was already thinking about second grade. He asked me who would take him shopping for school supplies. I told him I would and that we only had about five weeks until Tobin's arrival. He seemed releived and excited, and finished getting ready for school. As he came down the stairs he said, "You know what mom? I am glad I didn't die like Koen did." I told him I thank God for that very same thing every morning, that he is my gift. He then told me, "I have been thinking the last few weeks about why I am on this earth and what God's plan is for me." My profound little man, who has been impacted by death at such a young age. It does make you pause, give you perspective. To be seven years old, grateful for your life and pondering life's purpose. God has big plans for my Hackett.
I shared with Hackett that God has a purpose for all of us. He wanted to know what my purpose is. I told him that right now my purpose is to be a good mommy, but that God often has different purposes for us that change throughout our lives. I told him that Koen's life had a purpose. Koen has helped mommy share Jesus with people. Hackett has me thinking about my purpose, when he arrived in my life it became complete. I was meant to be a mom. I still believe with all my heart that being a mom will be my biggest and most important role in this earth, but I believe God has more in store for me too. When we lived in California I spoke a few times at our MOPS group about some information I had learned on parenting, some based on experience, but much of it through reading. I have a heart for kids, and what greater way to help them than helping their parents? I felt God use me in that capacity, and I was blessed. I now feel The Lord urging me to write out my testimony, which has multiplied this year, and use my story to touch parents hearts and share Jesus. I am not sure where it will all lead, but I will trust. Like Hackett I will keep being thankful and look to fulfill my purpose in this life that I have so graciously been given.
I am Jackie.