Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Mother's Day Miracle

This past Sunday was my first Mother's Day as a mother of four.  It was my first Mother's Day with 3 kids in public school - and all the fun crafts that brings with it.  And it was my first Mother's Day where I was truly humbled by the gifts God has given me in these incredible children, and how this day could have turned out so very differently.  After the loss my family has worked through this past year, I have a whole new respect for people who miss their mothers on Mother's Day, and for mothers who miss their babies - whether they never got to hold them, only held them for a short time, or held them for a lifetime that was just too short.  It was an emotional day, and I am so grateful to have shared it with my nuclear family, my extended family, and my church family.

I got my first cards on Friday, and one in the mail on Saturday, but on Sunday, I got the mother (get it?) lode!  When you have 4 kids and a loving husband, that's a lot of Hallmark greetings!  And I loved every single one of them!  My precious girls even put a one dollar bill in each of the ones they gave me - seeing as how they like to get dollars in their cards, I guess they thought I would, too! (I gave them back - they were grateful!)  Jake had lots of fun gifts from school, and the girls wrote me a song and made me a video.  Finn drooled.  And spit up on me.  But, he also got to experience a very memorable moment at church Sunday morning as it was Child Dedication day at LifeChurch.tv Stillwater.  We were one of over 30 families dedicating a child this weekend - one of 12 at the 10:00 service alone!  The picture at the opening of this post is from a week ago and 7 month old Finn is looking towards a photo of him at just a few hours old.  The picture was my husband's idea, and we love the way it turned out.  It was used for the slideshow presented at church of all the babies being dedicated, and it looked great -- it really captures our journey.  We were lucky enough to share this amazing experience with some sweet friends, too.  Each family is prayed over by a staff member, and we hit the jackpot! As you (may or may not) know, Britt and I volunteer in various capacities 3-4 weekends a month with the Host Team at our church.  We were blessed to be prayed over by the Host Team coordinator from our staff.  She is AMAZING!  We have grown very close to her and her family over the past couple of years, and it really showed during this special prayer.  She had warned us as we all walked up on stage that she might cry during it.  I don't think she made it through the "Dear God," before she was bawling - and Britt and I were close on her heels with the tears flowing.  After the group prayer, Finn was loved on by our entire congregation as our Campus Pastor took Finn up on the platform for some "stage time."  He talked about how Finn has come from a 1 pound 14 ounce miracle to the 13 pound blessing he is today.  He said there was probably not a happier mother in the room that day than Finn's.  He was so right.  Happy.  Honored.  Humbled.

After church we had a fabulous lunch out with my Mom and Dad, and I got to surprise her with a memorable Mother's Day present, as well.  Using Blog2Print, I made a hardbound book of all the posts related to my brother's death, funeral, and the recovery we went through.  I was very happy with the final product, and happy to be able to present that to her this weekend. I have another Pinterest project in the  works for her, but I am waiting on something to arrive in my mailbox before I can complete it.  I hope to be able to share that soon!

For Mother's Day after Jake was born, I got a James Avery chain with a gorgeous butterfly charm attached.  The butterfly is composed of 2 hearts, and the body is the intersection of the two.  Britt told me at the time the hearts represented each of us, and the union was Jake.  I have treasured that necklace for the past 5 years, and worn it almost everyday!  This year, I think he topped even that.  If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you know that I won a raffle a week or so ago for the jewelry shop at Peek-a-boo ICU.  My amazing husband asked if he could use the gift code I received to make me a journey bracelet commemorating our time with Finn in the NICU at Mercy.  I was a bit reluctant at first - really just loving to shop and wanting to pick our my own beads - but based on my experiences with him, I knew he would do an EXCELLENT job, and I knew it would mean a lot to him to be able to do this for me.  So, I gave him the code and he set to shopping.  He had to pick out the beads that each have a special meaning about the obstacles, hurdles, triumphs, and setbacks we endured as a family.  He was pleasantly surprised when the package arrived before this weekend, and he was so excited about it, he gave it to me on Friday night!  It is PERFECT!

Each bead has a special meaning, and Britt chose perfect ones!  There are many more in each category - some that apply to us and some that don't - but he picked ones he knew we would both appreciate, and ones that applied specifically to Finn.  We made a similar "Journey Bracelet" with the March of Dimes while we were in the NICU, but it was much more elementary - on a black string using plastic beads.  While I cherish that token, this is a true work of art!

Starting with the purple dangling heart and moving counter-clockwise:

  • The Preemie Purple Pendant is in  honor of the million babies born too soon this year and the 12 million more struggling to survive
  • Imprints on the Heart- Preemie Footprint: Preemie Power Peekaboo Orange  “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.” ~Albert Einstein 
  •  Micro-Preemie Miracle Bead: Turquoise with sparkling copper swirl 925 murano bead represents the micro-preemie. The term micro-preemie usually refers to a premature baby who is less than 800 grams or 26 weeks at birth. This bead is square in shape with each side symbolizing an aspect of awareness and inspiration; angelic, diabolic, human, and divine.
    Our awareness can be that point bouncing between these aspects housed within each side of our experiences- dark moments coupled with those of light, the ups and downs in the micro-preemie journey, and the physical and spiritual aspects of this journey.
    These kinds of attributes cause the square symbol to be an anchor; Keeping us focused and grounded. The square shape represents balance, stability, dependability and direction.
    Turquoise is one of the oldest protection amulets. It represents strength, protection from harm, psychic sensitivity and connection to the spirit world. Turquoise is known for its healing properties. When paired with copper the power of turquoise increases and there is an enhanced energy field.
    Copper is considered a solar emblem with radiant features of the sun. The symbolic meaning of copper deals with bright ideas, fresh perspectives, and incorporating these new thoughts with our existing framework.  By combining the old with the new we find our lives expanded and new directions to our path.
  • The Elephant: Strength - The elephant is a symbol of strength, honor, stability, and patience. The protective, nurturing, and general nature of the elephant represents energy and power.  The elephant has long been regarded as a symbol of divine wisdom. The ability of elephants to aid in battle led to their additional symbolic meaning of triumph and victory.
  • Blood Transfusion -  (Red with white circles) Premature infants often are anemic, which means they don't have enough red blood cells. Normally, the baby stores iron during the later months of pregnancy and uses it late in pregnancy and after birth to make red blood cells. Infants born too soon may not have had enough time to store iron. Preemies may also become anemic from blood loss before or during delivery, a mismatch of the baby’s and mother’s blood types, the need to take frequent blood samples to preform necessary laboratory tests, or an inability to make enough red blood cells to keep up with the preemie baby’s rapid growth rate. This bead represents the struggles with anemia, the constant and sometimes continues blood draws and the need for blood transfusions.
  • Infinite Courage - “Sometimes the biggest act of courage is a small one.”
  • Holiday Bead - (Red with white swirls) Spending the holidays in the NICU can be very difficult both emotionally and physically. This bead represents the time spent with your preemie as you celebrate Christmas together for the very first time.
  • Heart-Mother's Love - ~Nobody will ever know the strength of my love for you. After all, you are the only one who knows what my heart sounds like from the inside~
  • BPD and Oxygen bead - (Royal blue with white swirls) Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a chronic lung condition caused by airway inflammation. It affects infants who were on a ventilator for long periods of time, and can cause difficulty breathing and low blood oxygen levels. BPD affects as many as 62% of babies born before 26 weeks, but only 3% of those born between 30 and 32 weeks. Infants with BPD may need extra oxygen until the condition subsides. This bead is to help raise awareness of chronic lung disease in preemies and the struggle to overcome and persevere
  • The Kangaroo: Bonding - The kangaroo is a symbol of intuitive action and human connections. The kangaroo represents the importance of parent-child bonding in the earliest stages of life.
  • Preemie Power Charm: (orange) Orange is our Preemie Power color! Orange represents strength, and determination. Orange is a powerful color. It is one of the healing colors. Orange means vitality and endurance. Curiosity is a driving characteristic of orange and with it comes exploration of new things. Orange can bring about the willingness to embrace new ideas and knowledge while exploring paths not taken.  Orange is used to promote personal power and is used to boost self-esteem in those who feel overwhelmed in unfamiliar and new situations. Wearing orange during times of stress or shock can help to balance emotions and bring a sense of personal peace and a sense of empowerment. The emotions orange spark seem to really relate to the journey a preemie parent must take when forced to start parenthood in the NICU.  
  • Home Sweet Home - "Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be." ~ Karen Ravn
  • Hugs and Kisses - (this is separated by the clasp on mine)  These two charms come as a pair! The silver hugs charm is highlighted with a preemie purple stone and accented with gold tones. The silver kisses charm also has highlights of gold and represents the everlasting love of a preemie.  ~A preemie is a tiny soul that speaks with its eyes, kisses with a gaze, and hugs your heart tighter than you ever thought possible~
  • Baby Boy
  • 26 Weeker - (Tiffany Blue) ~Twenty Six Weeks~ Approximately 80% of babies born in the 26th week of pregnancy will survive. Babies born at this gestation typically weigh less than 800 grams and are termed micro-preemies. At 26 weeks, the eyelids are now open, the eyebrows and eyelashes are fully formed, along with fingernails and toenails. The footprints and fingerprints have begun to develop but their tiny feet will often be smooth to touch with very little creases.  Although the 26 weeker can hear your voice, loud noises are often too much for their underdeveloped neurological system and they will startle at loud noises. The lungs have started to develop alveoli, the air sacs that allow gas exchange (breathing!)  and their lung walls have begun to secret surfactant; a surface-activated fat on their lungs necessary for breathing – however, the lungs of the baby born at 26 weeks remain underdeveloped making them susceptible to injury and may be dependent on respiratory support in order to survive. A long and sometimes complicated NICU stay awaits the preemie born at 26 weeks gestation.
  •  The Lion: Courage - It takes a lot of courage to be a NICU baby and being brave is what they do best! Having royal power, regal strength and noble courage. 
  • Jaundice Bead - (yellow) Up to 90% of newborns will develop some degree of jaundice within the first week of life, and almost all premature babies will begin to show signs during the first few days. Bilirubin is the by-product of the body’s recycling of red blood cells. As the excess red blood in the infant’s circulation begin to breakdown in the first few days after birth, they release what is called bilirubin, which causes the yellowish coloring of the skin and eyes. Bilirubin is normally processed by the liver and excreted in the stool. The most common treatment for jaundice is light therapy, also known as phototherapy, and often referred to as “bili lights.”  During phototherapy the baby is exposed to special lights that often look blue/green/white. Bilirubin is very sensitive to the light and it will begin to breakdown and be excreted in the baby’s stool.  This bead represents the time spent under the lights in the fight against the potential dangerous effects of jaundice.
  • The Turtle: Slow and Steady - The turtle is a symbol of patience, and protective energy.  The turtle takes its wisdom one day at a time- not reacting, simply accepting and moving on in its natural method.  Turtles are believed to be guardian angels that watch over, guide, and protect growing children.  Patience and perseverance are needed when traveling the NICU journey and the turtle can teach us that slow and steady wins the race.
  • Respiratory Support - (navy w/white spots) Respiratory distress affects as many as 43% of premature babies born between 30 and 32 weeks, and almost all babies born before that time. Full-term babies make surfactant, a soapy like substance that helps keep the lungs inflated. Without enough surfactant, premature babies’ lungs don’t inflate well. Preemies may need artificial surfactant, or may need help breathing while their lungs mature. The bead design represents the air exchange within the lungs with the light blue circles representing aveoli that are expanded as the air moves in. This bead represents respiratory support needs while in the NICU.
  • The Owl: Wisdom - The owl represents transition, protection, intuition, and wisdom. Owls are incredibly perceptive and have the ability to navigate even through the darkest of night. The owl is a symbol of inner knowing and draws wisdom from their inner soul- both spiritual and intellectual.
I will cherish this bracelet just as I cherish the journey.  Britt also presented me with an orange necklace cord and the starter bead for it (which is the imprinted feed bead, but this one is not painted orange), and two more beads to get it started - The Bee (Enduring Charm) and The Snake (Patience Charm).  I hope to build on those in the months and years to come.  Thank you, Britt, for this amazing gift - and for ALL that it stands for.  I love you so much -- you never cease to amaze me.

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