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..."Women don't die of childbirth in the united states anymore"

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior" This is the song I was listening to hours before I went into labor with our first son. Little did I know what was ahead of me, and what I was being prepared for.

Three years ago today in room seven at St. Mary's Hospital, I gave birth to the sweetest little boy. He arrived at 8:15am and he was a big, “little” boy. They weighed him three times because nobody believed how big he was! I'll always remember the nurse saying "8 lbs 12 oz? there's no way!” They kept weighing him until we accepted the 8 lbs and 11 oz. He came out exploring the world right from the start. "Look at that! Is he ever going to drop his head" she said with excitement in her voice.

Then they put him right on my chest and it was love. Love like I've never known it to be.

[This was taken a few hours before he was born, before we knew what was to come. I love this picture, because it shows the last few moments before my life changed forever, before I would never be the same, before my life changed for so many reasons...I just had no idea.]

It was an hour or so later when things started to change, when joy was replaced with fear. My doctor was standing to the right of my head when I looked up at him, trying not to cry and said "am I going to die"? He was looking at the monitor and typing something when he stopped and looked right at me. "Women don't die of childbirth in the United States anymore". You could tell he was caught off guard by my direct question, but his answer was clear and firm. So, I thought to myself, “ok then”. Last I checked, I just gave birth, and I'm in the united states...I'm good to go! Even though his answer gave me just what I needed to feel strong and confident in that moment, little did we know what was to come. The room around me began to spin. Lots of doctors, lots of nurses, and lots of prayers. I began singing the lyrics of the song Angel Armies to myself.- "I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind, The God of angel armies is always by my side". It calmed my heart and brought me so much peace. It wasn't until weeks later that I remembered a text I got from my Dad. He had sent it hours before I went into labor and it resembled those lyrics. Looking back now, I couldn't be more grateful for a parent who covers their kids in prayer, who covered me in prayer that day!

I will spare you of the many details of that day, but after 2 emergency surgeries, and multiple blood transfusions, it was time to wait. My family, along with my newborn son, were awaiting news in room 320 of the mother-baby unit. The doctors walked in, along with the Chaplin. My mom being a nurse and my dad being a pastor, they knew right away that combo was not a good sign. "I am so sorry, but we are at a critical point. We are running out of options for her". It was right then when my dad had everyone grab hands, drop to their knees and start praying. The Chaplin came to visit me a few days later to tell me she had never seen a family come together quite like that before. With tears in her eyes, she told me it was inspiring and moving to witness. I can't help but take pride in the fact that the Chaplin, the very person who is supposed to come into a situation like that and try to bring some sort of comfort to the family, she was the one who ended up being ministered to by my family. There was one more surgery they wanted to try, (which gave my family a little glimpse of hope). They needed to call an outsider in to try this. "That guy" (who I still have no idea who he was) came on board and told Kent, along with the rest of my family, "I think I can fix this".

They took me back for a third surgery...and again for my family this meant waiting and praying, my Dad was pacing my ICU room when they read my lab results aloud. He had no idea what the numbers meant, but when the whole ICU unit started shouting and applauding, he knew it was good news ...that I really was going to live to tell my story, that God had answered their pleading prayers.

I woke up for the first time that next morning to a room full of family and friends, I knew right then, things had to have gotten pretty rough.. But, I also knew that I was ok. I knew that I had always been ok.

It's hard to explain, but it felt like playing hide and go seek. You know? When someone can't find you, and they have no idea where you are, But you know exactly where you are, where you've been the whole time. Somehow I knew in those moments, I was always going to be ok. I was never going to die. It was that feeling, that perfect peace, that can only point to Jesus.

My family however, struggled to have the same peace. They had to witness and see everything as it happened. I had a breathing tube down my throat and I was hooked up to so many monitors and cords. It was only as I began to communicate that they began to feel more at ease.

I remember wanting to talk so bad and getting quite frustrated that I wasn't able to- because you better believe I had questions! Ha! They finally got the hint and I started trying to write, in hopes to communicate before they had to put me back under. (I still have those notes.) My handwriting was rough and my spelling even worse, but we made it work. Everyone seemed very on edge, especially my mom. But things quickly started to progress in the right direction.

My labor and delivery nurse, Erin worked her tail off to have Smith come visit me in the ICU. They put him in one of the preemie beds that are enclosed to keep out germs, and they wheeled him right up to the top floor of the hospital where I was. He couldn't stay long, but those moments I will never forget! They had the idea to let me FaceTime him, so I could see him more while I recovered. Plus his nursery nurses made me a fun sign with his name and birth weight on it. They printed out pictures of him and taped them to my bed. They were AMAZING! If you live in Richmond and don't have your baby at St. Mary's, you're missing out on the best staff ever!

As I recovered, I became more and more fond of my nurses. I still remember the late night pumping chats we had up in the ICU. They were so special and supportive in a time that was so difficult.

After what felt like sooo long.. I got to the point where I could visit Smith down on the mother baby unit. I did two visits with him before I was able to leave the ICU and stay with him for good. You may assume that I was super ready for that big transition, but I was so very scared. I felt safe in the ICU, I felt protected, and Smith was protected...I was fearful to leave, fearful for what was to come, fearful if everything would be ok.

There had been talk of me returning to Labor and delivery to continue to regain my strength. They would be able to provide better one on one attention. Even though I never told anyone, I was praying hard for that. If I had to leave the ICU, I at least wanted to go back to L&D so I could have my favorite nurse, Erin! She had gone through it all with me and if I had to leave the ICU then I wanted to go there, to have the security of someone who knew my whole story and worked tirelessly to fight for me. Turns out though, I was making so much progress that I didn't need to. The Doctors at the time were confident that I was ready and I was going to be ok. Even though I responded with, "oh really? That's Great!" I’m sure I looked as if I was freaking out, which I was!

But, I'll never forget what it felt like to turn the corner into that room, room 320, where Smith and Kent were waiting for me. I remember noticing so quickly how they had bonded, on a level that was just captivating. That's when I realized it... That I needed to be there, that I wanted to be there, that God had me right where he always had planned for me to be. I wanted in on what they had developed. Watching the two of them together was so special, and I have no doubt that it played a big part in my quick recovery. I had some catching up to do, but there was no greater joy in that moment then being faced with such a challenge.

It was the morning of Monday April 13th That I went home with my two boys. It was the morning when I felt the most like myself, the me who God had been preparing me to be my whole life, and certainly through this chapter.

I still had a lot of questions, but I knew I was not quite ready to hear the answers. At that point all I knew, is that something serious had happened and I needed some extra help from the ICU. Honestly, social media knew more of the story than I did, so it took me awhile to read all the amazing posts and messages. But for all of you who are reading this and reached out please know that to this day I have every single message and comment saved (screenshots for the win! :-)) Thank you! From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

For the next while everyone around me wanted to talk about what a miracle I was, people from all over the hospital were coming to say hello and chat about how this affected them. I knew this whole thing had blown up and people all across the world had been praying for me. There were so many messages of "hey you have no idea who I am, we have never meant but I have been praying for you all night long". Talk about blowing my mind. It was a lot to take in and swallow. It all felt so surreal, but I was quick to brush it off. I just felt like it psyched me out, took me out of my zone, if that makes sense. It clouded my vision and started to overwhelm me. The next few weeks I felt as if I was living someone else's life and I just wanted to know why. It was an overwhelming feeling of thank you God, mixed with why me? Why did this happen? And why was my life spared? What does all this mean? What am I supposed to do from here? I had so many questions I wrestled with for a long time, and if I'm honest I still do at times... It was almost 6 months later though, when I heard our pastor say "God takes us places we never intended to go. To produce in us something we can never produce on our own. This is grace. Uncomfortable grace, but grace". I go back to this often and I’m so thankful for such a real picture of God’s grace on me.

We may of had a rough start but, to say I am grateful for the past 3 years with my sweet little guy is quite the understatement. I am deeply humbled and overwhelmed with emotion as we celebrate the last three years together. Three wonderful years of getting to be Smith’s Mama!

I just came down the stairs from putting him down for bed and singing happy third birthday one last time. As I was laying with him and singing, his eyes started to get heavy as he rubbed my face and patted my back. Tears began to run down my cheeks, I couldn't help but think how grateful I am to tuck him in on the night of his 3rd birthday. And I couldn't help but wonder what he was doing 3 years ago at that moment. Who was holding him? Who was singing him to sleep and comforting him when he cried. What was he like on the night he was born. I may not have all the answers to those questions, but I do know i'll spend the rest of my days making up for those first few hours missed. And I will continue to enjoy and soak up all I can. I wish I could say I don’t take a moment for granted, but that would be a lie. Life happens and I'm not perfect, but when it hits me square in the face and I'm reminded of how we started our journey together, I stop and catch my breath and take every bit of it in.

One of the things I am most grateful for, is the relationships and stories that have come out of this crazy experience. On the day I came home from the hospital, I decided Smith and I would pray for a handful of our nurses and doctors, by name, each night.. And for the last three years we have done just that. Because, we are just so thankful for each of them! I have kept in contact with my L&D nurse, Erin, who I now consider a good friend. I keep in contact with several nurses through social media and try and say hi when and if I stop by. Furthermore, When I gave birth to our second son (Fisher) 2 years later I did so with Erin, the doctor who delivered Smith, and my doctor by my side. This time it was pure joy, a sort of redemptive reunion. I’ll cherish that for the rest of my life.

Here’s to 3 years with my big boy! And even though I could go on and on with amazing stories that have unfolded since that day 3 years ago, I have a feeling this is just the beginning of the story God is writing.. My biggest prayer now, is that he will take me on the rest of the journey. That I will get to see His ripple effect. Selfishly, I don't want to miss it, not one little piece. But whatever happens moving forward, I can trust in his faithfulness. As much as I like to reminisce about the past, I am more excited about the future than ever before. The same song lyrics still ring true in my head as they did hours before we went into the hospital, only now they take on a whole new meaning..

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior"

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