Journey to Parenthood

I want to be purposeful about journaling during this time in our lives as we watch our miracle micro preemie, Asher, continue to grow and thrive. I began this blog during my month of bed rest at the hospital while I was pregnant with Asher and his brother Titus. We continue to hope and trust the Lord for Asher's future. This blog begins with the story of how both of our boys came to be. They came about after many tears, many prayers, and many months of crushed hopes. On February 2, 2012, our boys Titus Bauer and Asher Mark were born at just 23 weeks and 2 days gestation. My water around Titus broke at 19 weeks, so his lungs were very underdeveloped. Titus lived 45 minutes and is now living a perfect life in heaven as he watches over his little brother Asher. Two and a half years later God redeemed our story of hurt with a precious full term baby brother for Asher. We are humbled by how the Lord has loved on us in our journey through parenthood.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

This is Big Boy Stuff - an Update

Asher is doing BIG things these days! First, he is just ONE ounce away from being 15 lbs! So, let's just say he's 15! That's great for him. He's struggled a bit with putting on weight fast enough, he gains pretty consistently, but still has a ways to go in percentile world. He's in the 2nd percentile for his corrected age (7mo). So, operation weight gain is in full effect. We just added more calories to his milk, so hopefully that helps. He's working on sitting, a sippy cup, teething biscuits, and using a mesh thing to explore food/flavors, AND he's been sleeping in HIS crib upstairs! AND he lays FLAT for his naps and at night after we do our late feeding. That is a BIG deal. We thought he could never sleep flat because of all the throwing up he was doing. Asher is moving so much more too! He never wants to stop moving, grabbing, reaching, or jumping. It's so fun! So, exciting things are happening here. He's currently on a little bit of a food strike, so that is why we are trying the sippy cup, and those other things so we can continue to engage him orally while he's getting a tube feeding. It is frustrating to see him struggle with understanding/liking eating and to do great with it for a while, then not, then do good again, then not. We also often wonder, in the back of our mind, if the stricture he had in his esophagus is tightening up again. That's frustrating too trying to figure that out and decide whether we need to do an esophogram or not (x-ray- not a pleasant process with strapping him down and putting an ng down his throat). Our GI doc says "we'll know" if it's becoming an issue and if we need to do that. That's another story. So, the roller coaster we got on when he was born has not stopped just looks a little different. So, some days that is challenging for not get my joy or feel a day was a "success" based on what Asher does. I've been having to remind myself my joy should only come from the Lord. Easy to say, hard to do some days. And then I get a giggle or squeal of him and I forget all about, for the moment, our eating challenges.

He is such a happy boy most of the time, and pretty easy going. He's good with playing by himself or entertaining himself, and he's a pretty good sleeper, which is awesome! Sometimes when I put him down for a nap, he's so ready to nap he just turns away from me, and starts sucking on his lovey blanket. He doesn't need to be rocked or comforted much, he has learned to self soothe even though he doesn't suck on a paci or his thumb.  He sucks on his little blanket or on his arm. It's really cute. I'm pretty darn thankful for his sleeping skills too. I just love watching him learn about the world and things around him. I love watching him focus on something and then look at it like he's really thinking hard about it.

Speaking of looking and focusing...Asher had an eye exam last week and it went so well! The dr said he looks like "any 11 mo old" and "this is really a blessing" since he was born so early and had so much oxygen. So, we go back in a year and most likely his vision now is just up to genetics. That was SO amazing to hear. Another prayer answered. Thank you for following his progress and continuing to pray. We'd love prayers for protection over his health in this crazy flu/rsv season (it's scary and sickness would be devastating to his health) and also for his eating/esophagus...that he'd slowly understand eating, and would want to do it, and that we would ultimately just trust the Lord on that and what to do to help him. We need wisdom on when to move, and when to just sit still and let time do it's thing.  Thanks so much :)

Love this smile and that tooth!! 

Sitting and sippy cup practice 

Exploring new things in the mouth...sleeping in the crib...sleeping other places too. :) 

Smiles in the high chair are good! 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dear 2012, You Will and Will Not Be Missed.

Dear 2012, you will and will not be missed. I can say that statement, and really mean both sides of it. 2012 was, hands down, the most challenging year for Bryan and I. Prior to that, we thought 2011 would have been that year for us- the year we had two miscarriages. While those were both so heartbreaking...we had no idea how well we would understand what it feels like to be heartbroken. Or what it means when we say something is bittersweet. I think I used those words before, but I never had a face to face experience with them until this year.  So, I have mixed emotions saying goodbye to 2012. I mean, I'm very happy to say goodbye to it and look ahead. I am very happy to be out of some of the agonizing, stressful situations we were in. But, I also have learned the value in holding on to and remembering how God has stretched, shaped, and enriched my heart in what's been tragic, hard and sad.

In a sermon from the spring of 2011, I wrote in my notes what the pastor was emphasizing. It was the phrase,  "remembering rightly redeems rejoicing".  As I was reflecting on the year, my mind began to wander, especially at night when I was going to bed. I would replay events of the last year. The traumatic ones. The day my water broke. The night of the boys' birth. The awful night after that when the nurses told us in the middle of night if we wanted to say goodbye to Asher, we needed to come to the NICU "right now". And so I found myself saying "I don't want to remember all of this." Then, this phrase from that sermon popped in my mind. I flipped through my journal, found it, reread it and thought about what it means. I think it means, when I remember God's goodness in something, I can rejoice. I can rejoice because even if it was terrible and hard- that terrible and hard can be redeemed. Redeemed means to restore, or exchange. So, the terrible, the traumatic, and the hard memories can be restored, or exchanged. Exchanged for what you might wonder? Those memories can be exchanged for ones with a hint of Light in them. What was hard doesn't change. But, now I can see that there is goodness in them. And remembering that- the Goodness, and the Light that can be found in those memories, that exchanges sadness and bitterness with thankfulness and a deep joy.  That joy is not always marked by excitement or a smile, and it's not interchangeable with the word "happy." It's a joy that sits deep in your heart. Sometimes it makes you cry, sometimes it makes you smile, and sometimes it just allows you sit in peace.

Here are my top 10 memories of 2012 that have been redeemed. Ones that I can look back on and be thankful for. There are large parts of these memories I can now rejoice in.  It's not easy to look back on all of them. But God calls us to "Remember the wondrous works He has done, His miracles." 
(Psalm 105:5) And so I will. Thanks for remembering with me.

These are not really in a particular order of importance...but counting down is fun isn't it?? 

Number 10.

Feeling kicks and punches from Asher and Titus at week 20-21 of pregnancy while I was in the hospital. I remember being thankful that I had NO distractions ( I could only lay in bed), and so I felt every one of them, and I could just sit and focus on that. It was special time I had with just my boys. And it was something I had waited to feel for a long time. Titus was lower so I felt his flutters very low, usually at night. Asher was right in the middle of my tummy and he was very active! He would punch a lot, especially when the nurse would put the toco on my belly to monitor contractions. He was like,!! I started to see their movements too. That was really neat. Every so often, Asher would change positions and I would have a lump on one side of my belly sticking up. This is the last picture I took of my pregnant belly. I planned to take one at 24 weeks. I wanted to make it special and wait for that milestone. Lesson learned. I will take weekly pictures if I get to have another child.

21 1/2 weeks pregnant

Number 9.

Prayer. Right after my water broke, an amazing couple from church started organizing prayer meetings for us at the hospital. It was so humbling to be a part of that. I listened to it over the phone from my hospital bed because I couldn't be exposed to everyone. Later, Bryan showed me the video he took of it. It was overwhelming to see. And then we had some prayer meetings after the boys were born. Those are sweet moments I will not forget. God was so near and tender- and he used the people around us to show us that. Those meetings were a blessing that still brings tears to my eyes to think back on. It also blessed us immensely to have our church family praying. When our pastor asked for prayers at the beginning of the sermon the week the boys were born, it had an amazing ripple effect. Asher was MORE than covered in prayer. People from around the country and around the world sent us messages saying they were praying for Asher. And then there were whole churches in our area and farther away in Texas that we heard were praying for him as well. Many of those prayers came from family member's churches too. My uncle, a music minister, always says "I don't know another baby whose been covered in so much prayer." There was also a 24 hour prayer circle started at our church as well. People were praying every hour of the day until Asher came home. Just overwhelming. Again, thank you, just doesn't seem to cover it. 

Number 8.

Having pictures of our family and friends holding and praying over Titus. This is a hard, hard thing to look back on. But again, there is goodness in it. I cried looking at these pictures, and those were tears of sadness, but also just of thankfulness for the love in that room surrounding Titus. I am especially thankful for that because I couldn't be there with him. Thank you Amy, again, for blessing us with these pictures. This is one of those events you question if it was really real, and did it really happen? The pictures remind us, that yes, it did. Titus was our baby for a short time. God had decided he would go directly to Jesus' lap, and that his life on Earth would be short. What awesome hands to be held first by. I'm thankful for all the other hands that held him and loved on him as well. 

Number 7.

Titus' funeral. It was so beautiful. The message was perfect, the music was healing and we couldn't have asked for more. God spoke sweetly to us both that day. He confirmed to me, that He knew what He was doing, and there was purpose in this. There are many parts of that day that are sad to remember, but they don't stand out as much as some sweet memories I have.  A necklace given to me with meaning I will never forget, a nurse praying and watching over Asher while we were at the service, seeing family members and sweet friends who traveled from far away to be with us are just a few that stand out. We were so humbled and blessed by everyone who was a part of that day. 

Number 6.

Gifts, cards, meals, and messages. We were OVERWHELMED with all we received. Here is just a few of those things, it would be impossible to have a picture of it all! I got so many sweet, meaningful pieces of jewelry that will always be so dear to me. They each have story and person behind them that is so precious to me. Some from best friends, others from new friends, a nurse of ours, and even one from someone I have never met but she is a former preemie, a surviving triplet. Asher got so many special gifts in the mail as well--the box in the picture is full of cards, letters, and verses from people. I know "things" do not take the place of losing a baby or having a healthy baby, but they, along with all the messages we received, delicious homemade meals left on our doorstep, and endless prayers prayed on our behalf each served as a little salve that we could put on our hearts that day. A little blessing to make that day a little better or nicer. We can never say thank you enough to all the people who have showed us and continue to show us God's love through this journey. 

Number 5. 

Holding Asher for the first time- at 5 weeks old and 1lb 10 oz. When we moved to Children's, we did so because Asher needed heart surgery.  The doctor who was on duty that day asked about holding him, and we told him we hadn't yet. He felt that was very important that we do it right away. So, he made it happen. It was a sweet surprise. It took a lot of people and untangling of cords to get him over to me and settled. It was special, but pretty nerve-wracking as well. We had to constantly watch his "tolerance" of it. Meaning, if he had a heart rate drop, or a drop in I can't say it was everything I dreamed for the first time to hold my child, but it was one of our firsts, no matter how it looked. And that's what made it special. It was a sweet day. 

His whole bottom and back fit in my hand! 

Number 4. 

Meeting great nurses, doctors, and therapists. This is a big one. We saw these people more than our family and friends for about 5 months. They became part of our family and part of Asher's. We are SO thankful for everyone who took care of Asher and went above and beyond to take care of us too. That's what we always said had to be hard about working in the NICU. The baby is your patient...but you have to take care of mom and dad just as much! I wish I had more pictures of all of them! 

Nurse Lindsay- one of Asher's favorites at Children's! This was right before he went home.

Asher getting an eye exam with his nurse and child life specialist holding his hands. 
He was just 2lbs here! 

Number 3. 

Family and Friends. New and Old. We have SO many new friends we would not have met if we had had 2 healthy full term boys. We have been blessed immensely by all of them. Some we have not met in person, and others we talk to often and see from time to time.  Many are preemie parents as well. It's so encouraging to talk to other moms going through similar struggles or concerns that come with raising a micro preemie. It was incredibly humbling to see people serve and love on us, and our families and friends only because they felt God was leading them to do that. They may have not known us at all, and some knew us a little, and they just felt "they were supposed to reach out." Seeing that example grew me in my faith and has convicted me to do the same for someone else. And then, there are our best friends and our family who have walked with us every step of the way. They cried with us, laughed with us, were anxious with us...every emotion we have had, they have also had. They brought food to us for a solid month in the hospital. They took down our Christmas decorations and packed them away. They did our laundry. They went shopping for us and brought things to the hospital. Our best friends and our family really meshed together as one unit during this time. We could not have gone through this without them. 

New friends- Nicu/preemie moms group 

New Friends- Keri and Amy- you both blessed us immensely with your support!

Bryan's family

My parents

Home group, our other "family!" These ladies are like my sisters. 

The husbands, an amazing group of men. 

Number 2

Watching Asher heal and grow. This has truly been an act of God! I don't think we realized how sick he looked until we started to see him grow and get better and better. Looking back at these pictures now, it just gives us a sense of awe. This baby, according to the medical world and their statistics was probably going to die- he had a 3% chance of survival being born in a community hospital. He was significantly at risk for blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, and numerous other developmental disorders. In some hospitals it is very controversial whether doctors should even try to save a baby like him  (23 weeker) because all the treatments, ventilators, iv's, wires, surgeries, lights, sounds, people..all of that is traumatic to a baby who's not supposed to experience any of the world for 4 more months. Many hospitals don't revive/treat the baby if they aren't at least 24 weeks. Some people think it's not ethical to put a tiny baby through that. I can honestly say I can see their point somewhat. The life saving measures needed are really hard on their fragile bodies. Titus is an example. The doctor said after trying for 45 minutes to save him, "Even if I could save him, he wouldn't have any quality of life." (This was due to very immature lung development since he had no fluid from weeks 19-23.) And that's hard to think about. As much as I want him here, I wouldn't want him suffering. It's hard enough to watch Asher struggle with throwing up and understanding/enjoying eating.  Of course, I am VERY thankful that Asher was given a chance. I'm thankful he was given those treatments. I'm thankful for technology and advancements in the medical world in treating micro preemies. He can see very well, he can hear very well, and so far, he is doing very well developmentally. He struggles with eating, but as another preemie mom (whose child is also tube fed) reminded me this week, if that's all we have to deal with considering what could have happened- we'll take it. He can now give hope to others who might have a 23 weeker. It doesn't always turn out as the statistics say. Thank you Lord!!! 

This picture makes me smile because he never wanted his legs to be tucked in the snuggie. He was always kicking his tiny legs out right after a nurse would tuck them in. He still does that! He likes his legs to be free. 

After heart surgery.

Starting to get some fat!! 

First onesie! 

Fitting into newborn size clothes!

Right after g-button surgery. 

Much bigger than a water bottle now! 

Number 1

Being totally, helplessly dependent on God's mercy. And, learning a depth in my heart and faith I had not known before. When I started remembering and thinking through the last year, and I got a little overwhelmed and I said to myself "I don't want to remember all of this, what is the point? It hurts,"  God put some things in my mind I had heard somewhere.  One, was words from that sermon I mentioned at the top about remembering. And as I was looking at that, I came upon another quote and note from another sermon on the opposite page:

And there it is....getting everything you want without ever knowing Him versus being wounded and knowing Him well.  I think, on selfish days, we would say yes to everything we want. I know I would- some days.  It's not pretty to admit that, but it's true. That's the big lie--- that anything we can buy, get, be given, or achieve on Earth can be better than knowing Jesus and His Father. It's such an easy lie to get sucked into. I am so thankful for this reminder. As much as I fight that sometimes and try to be tough and strong and do things myself, I need Him. I need His grace, His saving grace, over and over again. 

And then God reminded me of these verses, that to me, answer the "Why did this happen?" question and the "Why remember this, it hurts?" question. 

In John 9:3, the disciples as Jesus why a man is blind. They are wondering if he sinned, or his parents sinned and if that is the reason for his blindness. Jesus responds,  "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in Him." 

Psalm 73:28 (NASB) says " But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works." 

I'm thankful for His nearness in the past year, and that He chose to display his splendor, power, and might through our son. We will tell of His works. We will share His glory with the next generation- our sweet baby Asher. And we pray Asher will know the Lord well. 

Happy New Year! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

11 Months Old!

I love this boy more and more each day! He's getting so crazy! He is not still EVER. Holding him is like a wrestling sport now unless you walk around, then he's entertained. But sitting or standing still- NOT FUN to this 11 mo (7mo) old! I love it though. I remember wondering when he would be that way. So, I love seeing his personality and craziness come out.

Dear Asher, 
  Happy 11 months and 7 months!! You are SO crazy now! You NEVER want to be still. Except when you are sleeping. You move all the time and grab anything that comes near your hands. I LOVE it! I love seeing your personality. You will often get busy playing..and then look up and around for me and then just stare at me until I talk to you. Then you smile and squeal or giggle. It's SO cute! You do it to your daddy too when he comes home. You LOVE it when he talks to you! We found your ticklish spot this month too. It's so fun to make you giggle. You got ANOTHER tooth and you have a 3rd one peeking through too. You have one top tooth and now 2 on the bottom. You have now eaten apples, pears, peaches, bananas, prunes, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, and carrots! You are a little unsure about eating very much these last 2 weeks or so, but we will keep working on that. You just have to learn why we eat, and I know it will all make sense one day because you are such a smart boy! You had your first Christmas and New Year's this month. It was so special!! You even helped unwrap some presents. You are getting stronger everyday. You roll all around now....but not too much on your tummy. You still don't like that. I wonder if it's your button that bothers you. You are working on sitting up, and enjoying playing on your tummy. You have gotten many new toys this month and you love them all. You are also learning how to pick up small objects and you are doing so well at that! We practice that when you are done eating but you are still in the high chair. I put some puffs on the tray, and you play and try to grab them. You are getting so big and smart, we are so proud of you. You always have such a good attitude and we can make you laugh even if you are upset. We love you so much. We can't wait to celebrate your FIRST birthday in just one month!! 

Mommy and Daddy