Friday, October 7, 2011

The year that was: A child is born.

Thank you so much for reading along as I've told my story.  Believe it or not, it's almost done.  This installment is lengthy, but I was determined to finish telling it.  You know that I have struggled to do so, but it has been such an important exercise for me.  There is healing in the retelling, in the sharing, in the honesty.  I am also "putting each part to bed for the long night," if you will.  It's recorded for my family, and I won't have to search my mind for how things were.  It's been examined, at length, and I can leave it alone and grow from here.  There's so much of who I am now, who we are as a family now, that comes from this time.  It reframed us, humbled us, built us.  Just so you know, this part below is long.  I wasn't about to split it into two parts, however, and make it seem even longer.

Thank you for being patient and for being willing to live in the tension with me as I've told this story, to see where I'm going with this.  Wait, I tell you, and see what the Lord has done and what good He has worked in our lives.  He is worthy of all of our worship.  Better to have gone through the hard times and to emerge hopeful and knowing Him better, than to have lived with easy, peaceful times all of our days - scarcely knowing Him at all.

Part 1 - Staph infections/sepsis/hospitalizations
Part 2  - Staph infections/sepsis/hospitalizations - part 2
Part 3 - Staph infections/sepsis/hospitalizations - part 3
Part 4 - Staph infections/sepsis/hospitalizations - part 4
Part 5 - Provision
Part 6  - A second staph infection
Part 7 - Third hospitalization
Part 8 - Getting ready for my parents' surgeries
Part 9  - My father's surgery - part 1
Part 10  - My father's surgery - part 2
Part 11  - My father's surgery - part 3
Part 12 - Help arrives!

One year ago today, I woke up very early for me.  I left the kids instructions for the day, left chicken simmering in the crockpot for supper, and climbed into my car at 5:30 a.m for the 45 minute drive to pick up my parents.  They both had early morning appointments with their surgeon.

Our baby was due in three weeks, but I was nervous.  I was about to embark on a lengthy and exhausting day, one where I would be away from home with two people with recent joint replacements.  My father was newly released from a rehabilitation center.

My brother and sister had returned to their homes and work hundreds of miles away.  We were back to just mom and dad and great-with-child me.

I was nervous about getting my dad down the 15 or so steps and into their car.   He still used a walker and wheelchair.  We did okay, though.  I pulled the car to the bottom of the steps and put a belt around his waist.  I held on tight to him as he descended.  He was unable to bear weight on his broken hip, but we made it.  Mom followed behind. 

We turned the car and retraced my miles, driving back an hour and a half into the city to the doctor's office.  It was October 6, and we admired the newly harvested fields all along the way.  It was a great harvest year, grain bins were overflowing.  The fields were beautifully golden in the morning light.

When we arrived at the doctor's office, I parked at the door, went in and got a wheelchair from the front desk.  I unloaded my dad, got him seated and feet adjusted, helped mom get out and got her started on the long walk to the office.  I got mom's purse, my purse, double checked for their medical cards, got the walker from the trunk, and began pushing dad's wheelchair into the building.  Just like traveling with kids, we had to make bathroom stops.  That presents a problem, right there.  How do you take two parents who need help?  How do you take your father into the men's restroom in a public building?  How can you possibly leave him alone with a newly repaired hip to dress and undress himself?  What if your water breaks while you are helping him and you are known to have short labors?  Would you take your parents with you to the hospital if you do go into labor?  Could you actually get them loaded back up in time and should you drive them yourself?  (I spent a lot of time thinking these things through and came to the point of laughing hysterically with the craziness of the situation.  I thought it would make a great movie scene - comedy of course.)

I am glad to say that I did not go into labor at that point.  :)  We made it through bathroom breaks, x-rays for both (which involved clothing changes), surgeon consultations, more bathroom breaks, carrying and loading everything back into the car, then pill time and lunch in the car.  (Taking elderly people places always involves remembering to take medications on schedules.  If they take lasix it also involves frequent bathroom breaks.)

Whew.  We made it this far.  My father's hip still had not healed, so he was instructed that he could not touch his foot to the floor for another 4 weeks.  He was discouraged.  He had hoped to find that he had improved.

My mother was still having troubles with pain medications.  They made her violently ill, but without medication she could not stand the pain.  The doctor prescribed different medication.

We stopped to take care of some errands on the way home.  My parents had been out of commission for several weeks, so they had many things they needed to tend to.  We stopped at the bank, at Dollar General, Wal-Mart, the pharmacy, another grocery store.  We needed to  make sure they were stocked up on easy to cook meals in the event the baby came soon and I was not able to come to their house for a time.  Load and unload.  Keep pressing forward.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

We got to their home, did everything in reverse.  Belt on, up the stairs.  Both parents settled in and groceries unloaded.  Everything sorted out just so.  Bedding and towels changed, support stockings changed and washed, laundry done (washer and dryer in the basement,)  a quick supper made, last bits of tomatoes and lima beans picked from the garden, a bowl of pecans picked up from under the backyard tree, pills sorted into boxes, mail gathered....farewells and then one more stop.  I visited the post office to try to convince them to deliver my parents' mail to their door instead of at their mailbox at the bottom of their sloping driveway.  I did not want my parents to ruin their surgeries with a fall.  The lady at the post office told me that they could not deliver to the door, it was the law.  (???) 

I needed to stop to get supplies for my own family - in case the baby came soon.  But I was simply Too.  Tired.  My back hurt so bad.  I didn't feel well.  I drove the same road for the forth time that day.  I arrived home twelve hours after I left.

We fed the children crockpot chicken (so thankful I had prepared it ahead,) did laundry (perpetually) cleaned up and got everyone to bed. 

We crawled into bed ourselves.  What an exhausting day!  I was so thankful it was over, so thankful that I had been able to get my parents in to their appointments and back home without going into labor.  The bed felt sooooo good, I fell asleep right away, around midnight.

Suddenly, around 2:00 a.m., a soft *pop."

I woke with a start.  Was that my water breaking?  I'd never experienced that before, as everyone of my babies have almost been delivered before the water broke.  I tried to convince myself that it was nothing.  More sleep....please. 

Within a few minutes I was talking to myself.  "Okay.  That's crazy.  If that was your water breaking, you know you have fast labors - like, you may only have an hour or so.  Get up.  Get ready."

I got up, and knew for sure that labor was getting serious.  I was so tired that I was not making good decisions at first.  I doubted everything.  I almost let Jeff sleep, thinking, "I know he must be tired.  I'll just wait a little longer."

I have to smile in retrospect as I watch myself in in last years' rearview mirror.  Everything was in slow-mo.  I figuratively smacked myself (again,) and said "You are in labor.  He needs to get ready.  Get him up."

So I did.  He may have been with me thru 8 previous labors, but he'd never been awakened by a sudden "we need to go to the hospital NOW" message in the wee hours of the morning.  (Guess we just needed something "new" to keep it interesting?)  I always wondered how he'd respond to that - it was very satisfying.  He jumped up, bewildered, began scurrying around but not knowing what to do first or what to take.  It WAS still three weeks early.

As for me, I didn't have a bag packed, either.  I was primarily concerned about giving birth on the way to the hospital - it was thirty minutes away.  I put towels and blankets into a laundry basket.  You never know, you know?  Don't mess around with a woman who has given birth 8 times before.  I was sure we could do it at home, but given my anti-E and anti-c isoimmunization the baby would really need to be assessed during delivery.  I needed to be at a hospital.  Jeff knew how fast I give birth....he was sorta nervous.  :)

So, we woke our oldest son and told him we were leaving.  We had him sleep downstairs on the couch in the event that any little ones awoke and needed anything.

We threw things into bags and grabbed a camera and keys.  I noticed that the crockpot was still on, and there was still a lot of chicken in it.  Ever a practical mom, I just *had* to take the time to put the chicken away.  In my defense, I knew the kids would need something to eat over the next few days.  :)  It is funny to me what we choose to do when we are trying to prepare (in the middle of the night) for a big event like this.  Yes, we are experienced parents - but you would have thought this was our first time having a baby.  We were the classic picture of new parents, running around in a panic.  In the end, we forgot my entire bag of bathroom supplies and the battery died on the camera after a few pictures.

We hit every bump and every red light.  I was still "miffed" at God but found myself praying as we drove.  Sure, I *could* give birth in a car, but oh, I did not want to.

We arrived just fine, and I experienced the fun of telling the desk attendants that I was in labor with my ninth child.  (You should see people MOVE when you say that.)  My sense of humor returned when I realized I would *not* be having this baby while under the supervision of some rookie police officer at the side of the road.  That is one of my worst nightmares.

I was whisked into a gown faster than you can say "Duggars on Discovery Channel" and we were ready for a baby.

Labor was short and sweet.  Within a very short time, I was holding and loving and then feeding our new little boy, Gabriel Joseph Johnson.  He was a much bigger baby than anyone of us anticipated.  I had only gained 11 pounds, and Gabriel weighed 8 lbs., 12 ounces of that.  I couldn't imagine how big he would have been if he had gone to forty weeks.

Gabe had low blood sugar at birth (I had gestational diabetes during the last couple of months.)  It took several hours to stabilize, but otherwise, he was remarkably perfect.  My health was good.  His health was good.  What a blessing.

When Gabriel was placed in my arms one year ago, the numbness began to recede and the healing began.  I started to feel again, began to hope again, to trust again,  to believe that things might not always be bad - that they might, in fact, get better. 

Peace - Shalom.  God works all things well.

If you want to read ahead a little bit and see some of our reflections on the lessons learned - here are a couple of posts from the past:


  1. Beautiful! All of it: You, him, and this:

    "He is worthy of all of our worship."

    And again, so thankful to you for writing all of this out right *now* - such a needful thing for me at just this very moment!

    And happy birthday, Gabriel!

  2. Wonderful post. I'll have to back and read the other parts now. I have nine children as well...and will probably be the one to care for my parents when the time comes. What a blessing you are to them. :)

    How on earth do you only gain 11 lbs? Wow! Tell me your secret! :)