Finding Joy in the NICU

This week’s blog post was originally going to focus on our little Hannah and her journey so far, and then I realized that today they have reached the milestone of 40 weeks corrected which means they are full term babies. This coming Wednesday, February 17, 2016 they will be 3 months actual which means we have spent nearly 90 days in the NICU, so I thought I would share the top 5 things I have learned so far.

 

  1. I learned how to breathe. Breathing is the most natural reflex in the human body. Most of us don’t have to think about breathing, our bodies just make it happen. In Naomi and Hannah’s case, they were born before breathing became a natural thing their bodies did. They didn’t get to practice like full term babies do in the womb, they had to teach themselves. I don’t know how many of you have had to watch your child struggle for each breath they take,, but it’s not something I would wish on anyone. There were many times when I would be standing there watching them struggle to get oxygen into their bodies and find myself trying to breathe for them. I would hold them and find myself taking deep, slow breaths trying to get them to catch on and breathe with me. I wished that they could just rely on me to be their source of oxygen, and it got me thinking about how God must feel towards us when we go through hard things in life and it feels like the wind is knocked out of us and we can’t breathe. I wondered how much more He longs to be the source of our breath.The Bible tells us that God is source of everything (Gen 1:1), and that we live and move and have our being in Him (Acts 17:28). There is a song by a Christian artist named Johnny Diaz, called Breathe and the chorus goes: “Breathe, just breathe. Come and rest at My feet. And be, just be. Chaos calls but all you really need is to just breathe.” God has become my source, the place I turn to when I feel like I cannot breathe and He gives me rest and He just holds me and reminds me of His love for me and pretty soon I can breathe again.
  2. I learned to appreciate the small steps. When we arrived in the NICU there were so many things the girls needed to learn and overcome and it seemed like it would take forever for them to reach these milestones. My husband and I were very overwhelmed and it seemed impossible that they would ever go home. On my second day in the NICU one of the nurses told me, “You can’t look at the big picture, you have to take things, not even a day at a time, but moment by moment. You will drive yourself crazy otherwise.” At first that seemed counterintuitive, like I would get caught in the weeds if I just focused on every single moment. But then I realized that what she meant was that if we keep the end goal in mind then every time it seemed like the girls were taking a step back, it was more devastating. Once I learned how to just focus on how they were doing in the moment, knowing the next moment could be completely different, things got easier to cope with. And we found ourselves celebrating things we never thought we would, like the first time they had a poopy diaper or getting to wear clothes. It was amazing when we got to hold them for the first time, they were 17 days old. We have taken so many small steps but we have been so focused on those that we didn’t realize we had finally arrived at the place we never thought we would make it to, and I appreciate our journey so much more. The other day I overheard that same nurse telling a new admit a similar piece of advice as I was sitting in the rocking chair feeding Hannah, from a bottle. I missed so much before just trying to accomplish things. Now I can enjoy the process,  the small steps are what is important and worth celebrating, the end result is just that, the end.
  3. The importance of community. I have read the book of Genesis many times, so I knew that God created us to be in relationship with others but I never fully grasped the importance of community on a personal level. During my pregnancy I was put on bed rest and being the one who primarily took care of the house and cooked the meals, it put us in a difficult spot when I could no longer do those things. Without hesitation several friends and a few people from church that we didn’t know well volunteered to bring meals and even just visit with me so that I didn’t go completely crazy being confined to the house. Since the girls have been born and in the hospital we have had people continuing to help us out with meals or projects that need to be done around the house and giving us items that the girls will need. And there are several hundred people praying for us and our family.  Having all these people surround us has helped us to get through the tougher times. When in crises it helps to know that we aren’t alone.
  4. The power of prayer. God has answered so many prayers in the past 90 days, it’s almost impossible to put into words. Naomi and Hannah themselves are an answer to prayer. I prayed for them for many years and they were prayed for by so many  others before they were even conceived. Prayers have been answered every step of the way as they have continued to improve, despite doctors telling us otherwise in some cases (see “Finding Joy in Naomi”, for more about that). We have also prayed for things and  not yet seen them come about, like complete healing of Naomi’s lungs, but we keep praying and trusting and God keeps showing up.
  5. How to find Joy in the midst of circumstance. Our dear friend Sal gave a talk at church around Christmas time about the power of Joy that comes from the Lord, and it was during that sermon that I realized that even though there was some really heavy and scary stuff going on in my life I felt joy. That talk was actually part of the inspiration for this blog. Sal talked about the difference between how the world views joy (feeling of great pleasure/happiness) and how God designed joy (Knowing without a doubt that God is in control of everything and trusting that no matter what everything is going to turn out for our good, and we can choose to praise Him in every circumstance). It would be impossible for even the most positive person to feel nothing but happiness or pleasure as they watch their children fight for their lives day after day, but because of Christ living in me, I can praise God through everything we are dealing with and trust in His plans. I have no doubt that everything is going to turn out for our good. In so many ways, it already has.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

John 15:11

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