Asha’s Birth Story

In those final days before Asha made her arrival, I watched several videos and listened to quite a few podcasts by a doula named Kierra Blazer who encourages women to listen to the Lord and invite Him into their childbirth process. I loved it. It was like food for my soul to hear stories of women who experienced the presence of God in different unique ways throughout their journey of bringing life into the world.

In one of the videos I watched, she encouraged her audience to bring two things with them into their labor experience – faith and hope. Bringing faith looks like believing God for super specific things whether that be a supernatural pain-free birth, no tearing, or for another particular thing to occur. But when and if birth takes an unexpected curve and the things we have faith for don’t happen like we expect, we need hope so that disappointment doesn’t blind us and steal our joy in the process. Bill Johnson explains hope as the confident expectation of good. The truth is that God is always good and we can always expect him to follow us around with His goodness (Psalm 23:6) no matter what circumstances lay before us. In short, hope expects God to be good. He never disappoints.

I am so thankful that I listened to that beautiful piece of wisdom from Kierra before Asha’s birth. For months and months, I had prayed and declared and gotten other people to agree with me that I would go into labor spontaneously before her February 11th due date. I have such a high value for having a natural birth with no interventions, but I also wanted the baby to come early since I had gone past my due date with Opal and I just didn’t want to face the emotional challenges that might arise if I went past my due date. Needless to say, I had incredible faith for a spontaneous labor that would happen before the due date.

I even had faith that she would come on a specific day – February 5th. We made an appointment to be induced on the 6th just in case things didn’t get moving by then, but I just knew she would come before then. Everything about it sounded perfect to me. Five is a number that represents grace and redemption for me. How perfect is that? That was also the day of the Superbowl and I just knew that the Falcons were going to win, and that our daughter’s birth would be a sign and a wonder of victory and “rising up” above loss as champions. But as we all know, the Falcons didn’t win, and Asha stayed cozy inside of me that whole day. My beautiful plan was not working out so well.

That’s when I really had to face my disappointment. Not only was it disappointing because my grand plan didn’t work out, but I then had to deal with the fact that induction was more likely to happen than a spontaneous labor at that point. And it felt like I had failed. Why didn’t my body just work the way it needed to so that I could experience what it felt like to go into labor spontaneously? Why did I need medication to help me birth my baby? I went back and forth about whether or not I could go through with the induction, which scared Kyle because he just didn’t think he could emotionally handle much more time without a baby in our arms. To say we were on an emotional roller coaster is an understatement. After talking with my doula and a dear friend, I knew that like a GPS, I could emotionally re-route and go through with the induction though it still felt disappointing.

So induce, we did. We went in on Monday night, February 6, to get the process started. We got some people to be praying and entered into the hospital ready to meet our girl. Would it even be later that night? Early the next morning? To say that we were eager is an understatement.

Little did we know that that was the beginning of quite the waiting game. The hospital somehow had not registered us in the system as a scheduled induction, so there wasn’t a room ready for us. Three hours later, we were admitted. Three days later, I went into labor. And four days later, I was holding our beautiful baby on my chest.

Though I had carried faith throughout my pregnancy for labor to look a bit differently than it did, I saw how the goodness of the Lord followed us around the whole time.

First of all, my doula. Praise the Lord. I could go on and on about her kindness towards us. She was such a strong and supportive presence for us through Opal’s birth experience, and she was the same for Asha’s. Though she had changed professions, and gone back to teaching this past year, she decided to take off of work to support us! What kind of a friend uses her last two days of PTO to walk the halls of the hospital with this laboring mother? Not only did she take off of work, but she also pulled some strings to let us get out of our hospital room on day 3 of our stay there to take a walk outside, debrief, and talk through some decisions we needed to make regarding the induction process.

We all thought for sure that I would have the baby within the two-day period that she had off of work, but when that didn’t happen, and she needed to go back to work, God kept following us with his goodness.

Enter doula number two! Our good friend Erin, a labor doula, had just moved an hour and a half away with her family, so we really didn’t know if she would be able to come with such last minute notice, but on Thursday afternoon, the fourth day of our hospital adventure, she came and joined team Francis. She even had a dream a few nights before about us having our baby and knew that she was supposed to be there with us. It was perfect. She had me doing the Miles Circuit while using her clary sage in the essential oil diffuser. Anybody familiar with birth out there knows that she meant business. We were gonna have this baby soon.

We aggressively upped the Pitocin over the course of that Thursday afternoon, and by evening, I was having strong and steady contractions. Though I was afraid it would just stall again like it had earlier in the week, labor was truly underway at last!

That’s when our good friend Jenn entered the scene. She had been present for the birth of Asha’s big sister, so it just wouldn’t have been the same without her there. She brought so much encouragement and supernatural joy along for the journey, as well as the new Brian and Jenn Johnson album that we played on repeat that night. She was quite the DJ and quite the intercessor. When I was in too much pain to notice what was going on around me, I could hear Jenn praying. And every now and then, I’d hear her say, “You’re doing so great.” What a beautiful friend.

When I tell people that the induction process lasted 4 days, many sympathetically ask if I was in pain that whole time. Let’s just take a moment to praise the Lord that I wasn’t! Whew. It was an emotional and tiring 4 days for sure, but there were only about 6-8 hours where I was seriously having to cope with labor pain. I won’t go into details about that, but I will just say that being on Pitocin (which makes contractions stronger), combined with the ginormous size of our baby made for quite the experience.

I am not ashamed to say that I begged for an epidural after they told me I was only 6-7cm dilated. I didn’t know how I was supposed to do 3-4 more centimeters and push a baby out without some sort of relief! Well as soon as they ordered the epidural, I started pushing, and it was then too late for an epidural. It all happened so quickly!

That’s when my midwife got called to assist another mom a few doors down who was also pushing. Can you imagine being the midwife in that situation? How do you choose which mom to assist? Thankfully, she called our OB who quickly came to the rescue. So the midwife went in the other room, and our Doctor arrived moments later to be present for Asha’s birth. It was perfect. He was the one who delivered Opal and had walked with us through our pregnancy journey with Asha, so we had grown pretty fond of him. It was just a sweet kiss from the Lord. Oh how He loves us!

At 3:42AM on February 10, our Asha Elizabeth was born and placed directly on my chest. It was glorious. I had dreamed of that moment for months and months, and it was sweeter than I had imagined.

When I had prayed all of those specific faith-filled prayers about what I would have loved labor to look like, I always ended up just coming back to my core desire – to have a living, breathing baby on my chest when it was all said and done. That was really all I wanted.

And in that holy moment, with my living, breathing gift on my chest, I know Heaven was having a party. They had been eagerly waiting for this moment, just like I had. And Opal – she was the happiest of them all! All of her favorite people had just met for the first time – her Mommy, her Daddy and her Asha. I know she was (and probably still is) proudly wearing her “Big Sister” shirt, dancing with the angels, excited about the grace and redemption her family was getting to experience. Oh, how sweet our Jesus is.

In those first few moments, all Kyle could say was, “She looks just like you!” (But now she looks just like Kyle!) And all I could say was, “I just birthed a three-month-old!” I couldn’t get over how big she was. After a couple hours of family bonding, they finally weighed her – 11lb. 3oz.!! That was EXACTLY what I weighed at birth. I now had a whole new appreciation for my mother.

Whew! I did it. I birthed a huge baby while on Pitocin with no epidural. It was hard. But it was good. And throughout it all, my hope in the Lord did not disappoint. “Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)

Oh, and her name! When I was in India back in 2008, I spent time at a couple different orphanages – one was named “Asha House,” and the other was “Asha Mission,” and there was even a little girl at one of them named Asha. In Sanskrit, Asha means, “hope.” I remember thinking how much I loved that name, and so I put it in my pocket for later.

Well, “later” came along and we just knew that it was the perfect name for our girl. Hope, strength and restoration is what grew inside of me as she grew in my womb, and it is what we experienced throughout her birth. It is who she is and it is what she carries.

I was talking to an Indian friend of mine who also lost a full-term baby, and she told me that this is the second “rainbow baby” she knows of with the name, Asha. A rainbow baby is one that is born after experiencing infant loss. Our Asha came just like the rainbow comes after a dreary rain as a promise from God that we will not be flooded and consumed by the storms of life.

And if that wasn’t perfect enough, the name, Elizabeth, means “promise of God.” This family name was a perfect seal for our rainbow baby. My mom is Elizabeth and goes by “Beth.” And I am Mary Elizabeth, and I go by “Maribeth.” And now we have our Asha Elizabeth.

Life with Asha has been absolutely delightful. Kyle and I both feel like we are living the dream. Even when things feel overwhelming, as they tend to with a newborn, our hearts are filled with gratitude and praise to our God. We are thankful to have the privilege of raising this girl, and seeing how she lives out the hope, strength and restoration within.

 

francis095

*Photo Credit: Sarah Joy Smith (sarahjoyphoto.org)

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Happy Birthday Opal!

(Written throughout the first week and a half of November)

 

Monday was a hard day. My memory banks were flooded with what was happening just one year prior. On that October 31st evening we had gone out to eat at Maggiano’s, and I ordered Eggplant Parmesan in hopes that the rumors were true about it helping to start labor. After all, Opal’s due date was November 1, and we wanted so badly to meet our girl!

 

So on Monday, my thoughts about all of the hope and anticipation I felt just 12 months ago brought with them a heavy load of grief, the really deep excruciating kind that I haven’t felt in quite a while. The kind that made me unable to breathe through my nose, and caused me to choke on my own saliva when I took a deep breath in between sobs, and it even made the dog scared with all of my coughing and crying. He didn’t know what to make of all the sounds and experiences happening around him, so he just left the room. Poor guy.

 

There’s a whirlwind of emotions that comes along with thinking about the purity of my hope and eagerness to meet my daughter at this time just one year ago. There was not an ounce of grief in me on this very day just one year ago. Just confident expectation.

 

Just days later, however, we were absolutely slammed by the impossible news that she had already gone to Heaven. There was nothing that could have prepared me for the drastic shift from hope to devastation that our hearts felt. Just days earlier, there was no reason for me to be feeling anything other than pure hope and joy at the thought of meeting her and letting her tiny little life transform mine and teach me a thousand things about God’s heart that I never imagined learning from something so tiny and wonderful. At that point, I knew that any day now, my life would be forever changed by this girl, by my Opal Joy.

 

Sometimes I see parents post beautiful, sentimental things on Facebook when their child turns ONE about everything that child has taught them throughout that baby’s first year of life, and their first year of parenthood. Although Opal’s first birthday is not how I imagined it would be, I still have so much to celebrate about her and about how she has made me a better Mommy, and a better person all around.

 

I have been forever marked and completely changed by that 8lb 11.5oz bundle of wonderful. All she did was grow. She didn’t earn any of the love I feel so deeply for her. She didn’t make good grades or perform really well at a recital or behave really well. She just grew in my womb. And that’s all it took for me to fall head over heels in love with everything about her. I will never be the same because she is the one who made me a Mommy, and she is the one who awakened my heart to the immense love that only a daughter can awaken.

 

Because of Opal, my life has been forever changed.

 

Because of Opal, I have decided to dive into living holistically. She’s inspired me to pursue health so that her brothers and sisters and their children will not have to face the challenges that I have, and overcome what I’m in the process of overcoming. Because Opal is my daughter and I am her Mommy, I now care deeply about eating real whole foods, preferably organic, making my own beauty and cleaning products, reducing toxins in my diet and my environment, organic gardening (though I have a LOT of room to grow in this area), reducing stress in my life, and researching practically everything and knowing what I’m getting myself and my family into before making decisions. My girl is my motivation. She has taught me how my choices today affect my children and their inheritance.

 

Because of Opal, I have decided to become a doula and serve other Mommies through the most beautiful life-changing experience that childbirth is for women. I want babies to have the best possible beginning to their lives. I want to love and support mommies, believe in them, and bring peace and hope to the delivery room, so that they can look back on their birth experiences fondly, like I do of my experience bringing Opal into the world. My doula helped make it a beautiful thing. She believed in me and in Opal. She mothered me as Opal’s mother. I want to do the same for other women. My doula and my daughter are my motivation. I am now fascinated with childbirth, and the strength and power within a woman because Opal called out that strength in me. I feel like I could do anything because of her.

 

Because of Opal, my faith is deeper, wider, richer. Faith has become more than just jumping at the sound of God’s voice, and knowing He will be the Author of the unknown adventure ahead. It’s more than just what it takes to bring the sick into wholeness, and the dead into life again. It is all of those things, but it’s more. I now can say with full confidence that in all things, God is so very good and so wonderfully faithful. No matter what happens in my life, I know this to be true because I’ve experienced it. It’s not some theological truth that I’m trying to cognitively understand. His goodness, His nearness, and His comfort are things that I’ve touched and felt deeply in the depths of my sorrow. I’ve seen the tears He cries with His hurting Bride, His beloved daughter who lost her firstborn treasure. And I’ve seen the way He collects my own tears. Not a one will be wasted – not a one. Opal has been so richly a part of the deepening of my faith. She is wrapped up in the testimony of God being near to my broken heart, and in the way I’ve experienced His nearness as my good. (Psalm 34:18 and Psalm 73:28)

 

Because of Opal, my own destiny has become fuller and more complete. I now carry the seeds of who she is – seeds of JOY, friendship, dancing, laughter, and life – within myself as a gift to the world. And our Opal Joy truly is a gift to the world. Even now and forever, the gift of her life will keep giving and giving and giving. She has marked her daddy and me, and I know her siblings will be marked, as well. We will all carry the gift of who she is everywhere we go. As she cheers us on in the great cloud of witnesses, we are also cheering for her, honored to be a part of her story.

 

So Happy Birthday sweet girl! I know you are getting the best party a girl could ask for, a forever long party with our forever Champion, Jesus! Can’t wait to join you!

 

Mommy loves you!

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXXOXOXOXOXOXOX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redeemer

I’m not mad at You, you know. You’ve been the most beautiful Friend to me through this. So near, so sweet. How could I be bitter towards the One taking care of my baby and interceding for me as I grieve her absence? Am I mad at all? Yes, but not at You. I’m mad that we fought and believed for Opal’s life, for resurrection, yet my arms are still empty. But I know that You, too, grieve at the injustice of this loss. You didn’t plan it. In fact, it was Your plan to take on my sorrow, not cause it. I know I can come to You and find a resting place for this pain; I will not be consumed. How could my very source of comfort be the source of my pain, as well? Didn’t my Jesus say that it is the enemy – that thief – who comes to steal, kill, and destroy? My Opal was stolen by a thief, not by the author of life, not by the One who dreamed of her long before she was a dream in my own heart. And because You are, at the core of Your nature, so very good, I believe that even in this great act of robbery, somehow beauty will emerge. As our great Redeemer, You can take even the worst plans of the enemy, and turn them into something good. Just as a seed enters into the darkness of the ground and dies, life bursts forth as a result. Death truly is swallowed up in victory. My Opal lives – forever free!

Still My Heart Will Praise You

There’s a set of Scriptures that I just keep coming back to again and again throughout this journey of grief. Daniel 3 tells the familiar story of when King Nebuchadnezzar gathers everyone together to bow down to the huge golden statue he made. But there were three guys whose integrity as worshippers of the one true living God shone through as the music queued everyone to bow down, and they simply didn’t. Verse 8 says, “But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews.” That seems to be the hilariously formal way of saying that they tattle-taled. Ha!

So the king flew into a rage over what they just “informed on,” and brought the three guys in. Even in his anger, he decided to give the guys one more chance to bow down to the man-made object he was so proud of. Then he reminded them of the consequence if they refused – the blazing furnace. And he tauntingly asked, “And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

That phrase, “But even if he doesn’t…” has really stuck out to me. This is where we get to see the wildness of their devotion to their true King. Their belief wasn’t in whether or not God would do the miraculous on their behalf. They knew that God had done amazing miracles before, and they were convinced He would do it again for them. But even if He didn’t, they simply wouldn’t waiver. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to put their lives on the line declaring the goodness of God.

This is even more powerful to me because of what these guys had been through before this point in their lives. If you remember, they had been taken from their own countries as slaves to serve this king. They, of all people, knew what pain and loss felt like. And still, with great courage, they chose to believe in the goodness of God.

And in the end, the goodness of God is what this angry king experienced as he watched them stand in the heat of the fire and not even be singed by it. In fact, the only things that were burned were the ropes that bound these men. When the heat of the fire had been turned up seven times, God’s goodness entered the fire with them. He never left them alone amidst the blazing flames. He was so moved by their faith, and responded with His nearness.

These guys are some of my greatest heroes. I am really looking forward to meeting them one day. And because I’ve been reminded of them so much recently, I can’t help but wonder if they are among the great cloud of witnesses surrounding me right now. I can imagine them sitting on the edge of their seats wondering how I’m going to respond to this tragedy, and cheering me on as I choose to trust God in the middle of my pain. I hope they think I’m as radical as they are.

And I wonder if they’ve brought Opal into their laps as they eat their popcorn and watch the story of her mommy’s life unfold. Will this mommy be like her heroes who did not give in to the threats of the raging fire? Will her faith remain steadfast in a God who raises the dead though that miracle didn’t happen for her own? Will this mommy’s devotion to her King be as wild as the champions of faith who have gone before her?

To the One who walks with me through this fire of grief, my heart sings its most courageous, “Yes!”

“As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds, each affirming faith’s reality. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.

We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because His heart was filled with the joy of knowing that you would be His, He endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!”

Hebrews 12:1-2 (The Passion Translation)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTHFR

A few weeks ago, we found out what went wrong with our girl. Upon hearing the news, there was a relief that washed over me and a weight that was lifted that I didn’t even know was there. But just like almost everything else that comes along with the journey of grief, I was experiencing so many different emotions. That feeling of relief got mixed together with an almost opposite feeling of anger – anger that I was just now finding out about this condition.

I had a ton of blood work done early on in pregnancy – why couldn’t they have gone ahead and tested for MTHFR? Why isn’t that a normal part of all the testing they do? Women who have it have an 80-90% chance of miscarriage or stillbirth. And most practices don’t test for it until there have been 3 miscarriages! Why must women have to go through losing 3 children before knowing about this treatable thing that’s causing it all? At least my practice tests for it after one, but still, that one was my Opal.

No one should have to experience this “symptom” of MTHFR to find out that they have it. If about half of the population (men, women and children) has some form of MTHFR, and if it brings along with it such devastating symptoms, why isn’t it talked about more? Why isn’t testing more accessible? And why am I just now finding out – after losing a child?

From my understanding, the reason MTHFR isn’t talked about or tested for more is a public health issue at large, not an issue with my particular doctor or my particular insurance. And when it comes down to it, I believe it has a lot to do with money. It would cost a lot to raise awareness and to make testing easier and cheaper for people. So I’m hoping my tiny blog post will have some sort of impact in making people aware.

So what is this MTHFR business anyways? This is where I get to be quite honest about how I’m just a regular person who has done a little bit of research. I’m by no means a doctor or nutritionist, and I don’t understand all of the complexities of this issue. I will share a little about what I think I understand, and will point you to the resources of where I learned most of it.

MTHFR is genetic, and it’s short for Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase. Kind of a mouthful, right? We are supposed to get one copy of a gene from our mom and one from our dad, but when one or both copies is missing, the result is an MTHFR mutation. The two most serious gene mutations are c677t and a1298c. I am missing both copies of the a1298c gene.

When we are missing one or both copies of either of these genes, it complicates the way our body produces the MTHFR enzyme, and as a result our body doesn’t do a good job of turning folic acid (which is totally synthetic, and is in most processed foods and prenatal vitamins) into its correct form, methylated folate (which you will find in real food like raw leafy greens). It also has a hard time breaking down and eliminating toxins like heavy metals.

So because those with the MTHFR mutation aren’t processing these things very well, there can be a build-up and cause our homocysteine levels to go up, which can cause some cardiovascular hardships, among other things. The reason having MTHFR is risky for pregnant women is because it can cause blood clots in the placenta.

The blood work I had done showed extremely high homocysteine levels, and it also showed that I am missing both copies of the a1298c gene, which pointed to a placental blood clot being the reason why Opal’s heart stopped beating in my belly. The autopsy results confirmed this to be true, as well.

And though I wish with everything inside of me that I knew about this a year ago, I am so thankful to know about it at all. (Here I go with the mixed emotions again …) I didn’t know how relieved I would be to just have some understanding about what happened. And here’s the thing. Now that I know, I can make changes accordingly so that it doesn’t have to be so devastating in the future. It is actually very empowering to know that I have this mutation because now I can do something about it.

Taking a blood thinner during pregnancy takes me from an 80-90% chance of miscarriage down to 10%. Boom. Guess who’s gonna be on Lovenox for her next pregnancies? This girl! Never been more excited about taking a blood thinner in my life.

Also, the more I learn about MTHFR, the more I am realizing how important diet is. For example, if my body doesn’t process folic acid very well, then guess what? I’m gonna avoid it. No more processed food for me! And if what I really need is found in leafy greens, then guess what I’m going to be eating every day? Leafy greens. (to read more about the difference between folic acid and folate, check out this article) And that’s just the beginning of the changes I am making right now with my diet. Did I mention that I’ve kissed refined sugar goodbye? If I can do it, anybody can do it. Seriously. Here’s a super informative podcast on sugar.

I’m also getting rid of a lot of chemicals and toxins in my home by making a few of my own cleaning products, beauty products and other things. I know I can’t avoid all chemicals, but I can control what I choose to bring into my home. And I will make that choice if it will enhance the health and quality of life for my children. Don’t mess with my children.

Speaking of future generations and diet … Has anyone out there heard of the study about Pottenger’s Cats? Basically (very basically), he studied two groups of cats. One group was fed only raw food, and the other was fed a less nutrient-rich diet. The group that was fed only raw food was super energetic and very fertile, etc. The group that was fed the other diet was infertile by the 3rd generation, and there was no 4th generation. Now, I understand that cats and humans are very different beings, but still, it’s worth noticing how a nutrient-rich diet can affect so many things.

Have you ever wondered why there’s so much infertility these days? And why there’s been a significant increase in allergies, autism, ADHD, cancer, diabetes, and … I could go on and on. Think about your grandparents and great-grandparents. Most of them were eating non-genetically modified food from their gardens, got more exercise than we do everyday, had less stress in their lives and were taking in less chemicals than we do (I heard somewhere that the amount of chemicals that our grandparents were around in a whole lifetime is the same amount that we’re around in 30 days. 30 days!!!).

And now 3-4 generations later, we are eating our fast food while sitting in busy traffic, and wondering why we are facing so many problems that they didn’t. I’m not saying I have all the answers … I’m just sayin that diet plays a big role in our own health, and the quality of life we are providing for future generations. For too long, we have ignorantly made choices that are causing more and more and more harm. And I don’t want to live under the influence of ignorance anymore. It’s too costly.

With that being said, I have no intention of living under the pressure of eating and living perfectly. I just can’t. And you can’t. It’s just too overwhelming to try and do this thing perfectly. I think there are too many pregnant women who spend most of their pregnancies worrying and blaming themselves for any little thing that could possibly go wrong. Please, if you fit this description, just go ahead and fire yourself from that job (our counselor has told me to fire myself from different jobs like this before … thanks, Justin!). Putting all that pressure on yourself won’t lead you anywhere nice.

Here’s what I can do. With thankfulness, I can steward this gift of life and the gift of children, and pursue health and wholeness for my family – body, soul and spirit. And I can trust the Lord no matter what.

He reminded me the other day of how He provided manna for His people. My assumption is that there were pregnant women among them who lived on manna. And that’s it. They didn’t have all these raw leafy greens and supplements. They lived on what God provided. It really took the pressure off of me to realize how the Lord has provided for His kids in the past.

He hasn’t asked me to be perfect. He’s only asked me to trust Him.

5 “Trust in the Lord completely, and not your own opinions, but with all your heart rely on Him to guide you, and He will lead you in all the decisions you make. 6 Become intimate with Him in whatever you do, and He’ll lead you wherever you go. And don’t think for a moment that you know it all, 7 For wisdom comes when you adore Him with awe and wonder, and avoid everything that’s wrong – 8 For then you’ll find the healing refreshment your body and spirit longs for.”

Proverbs 3:5-8 (The Passion Translation)

 

Here are a few of my favorite resources. Happy researching!!

  • Katie, the Wellness Mama (http://wellnessmama.com), has become my favorite resource for homemade cleaning and beauty products, natural remedies, and recipes for healthy living. I could get lost on her blog because I so enjoy everything I get to learn. When I started learning all of this stuff, it was a bit overwhelming, so I have to slow down and take things one at a time.
  • Beni Johnson, our senior pastor’s wife, has a wonderful blog that addresses health holistically. (http://grandmaswithmuscles.com). She is wise and has great perspective. I’m so thankful for her!
  • Dr. Ben Lynch is one of the leading researchers of MTHFR and founded www.mthfr.net among other things. If you have MTHFR, or are a doctor, I would recommend subscribing to his emails. It includes a wealth of helpful information. And here is a podcast I enjoyed where Katie, the Wellness Mama, interviewed Dr. Lynch about MTHFR.
  • And lastly, a friend of mine shared this blog with me and I found it easy to read and easy to relate to. It is written by a woman who has MTHFR, and lost her first son at 9 months gestation. She also includes a link to a 4-part YouTube video of Dr. Neil Rawlins sharing on MTHFR. I found the videos very informative and fascinating.

 

 

Opal’s Birth Story

My first child, Opal Joy, was due to be born early November and on November 12, we found out that her heart had stopped beating in my belly. Because we were so shocked and devastated, it was hard for us to believe the Lord for a miracle, for Opal’s life, so we decided to get our community to be praying and believing for nothing less than resurrection. We quickly learned just how amazing our community is. We had friends staying up all night praying for us, believing. It gave us strength to believe as well.

Our dear friends and pastors from Bethel Church Atlanta, Justin and Jenn, even drove all the way from Tyrone late that Thursday night just to be with us and bring along some major hope. Seriously, the atmosphere changed when they walked in the room. My heart grew more and more expectant because of the hope they carried. We sang and prayed and cried and prayed some more, and then we decided to go home and get some rest before we began the induction process.

The next morning after not resting very well at all, we got to talk to two of our best friends, Michael and Jennifer, who were at missions school in Mozambique and had hardly had any wifi at all the past several weeks. But somehow, they were able to get wifi to call us and they, along with another friend, Erin, prayed for us and ministered to us for almost 2 hours. And again, our hope was stirred. They even got one of their teachers, Will Hart, who has ministered to thousands of people and seen the Lord love people in miraculous ways, to pray for our girl.

That afternoon at the hospital, they gave me Cervadil to soften my cervix, and then it was a waiting game. Our pastors, Steve and Lindy came by and prayed for us, and deposited a big dose of hope. After having dinner with our parents, we were able to sleep through the night. The next morning after 12 hours of the Cervadil, we found out that I had gone from 1 ½ cm dilated to 2 whole centimeters!! Ha! Even though it wasn’t very much progress, we decided to go ahead and get an epidural and receive some Pitocin and hope things got moving from there. My doula was present with us throughout the whole experience and she offered a wealth of support to us as we made decisions, and has continued to be so amazingly encouraging to us.

That epidural really was something! I was able to sit around with family and friends and talk as though I were not in labor, but rather sitting around a campfire. I even got to take a nap during labor! All the while, friends were texting scripture, their prayers and their encouragement. A couple of my aunts and a cousin came to visit and encourage us, and a mentor of mine, Jeaunett, came and prayed for us. She and Justin walked the halls of the hospital praying, and then she stayed to minister to my mother while I was in labor. How do I ever find a way to thank those who loved us so well?

I woke up after napping a couple of hours because the epidural started to ware off a bit, so they gave me a little more. Well, 45 minutes later, I was +3 cm. Wow. I was about to have a baby! I had been so focused on fighting for her life, that I had forgotten all about the fact that I was about to go through labor. They took me off the medicine so that I could feel to push, and it took a couple of hours to ware off. We worshipped continuously, and as it came closer to time, Kyle declared Scripture that I had prepared weeks earlier for Opal’s birthday. At 6pm, with my doula on one side and Jenn and Kyle on the other, I started pushing. My doctor, midwife, doula and nurses were phenomenal, but Kyle was my hero. He fought for me, strengthened me, all the while believing God for a miracle through the toughest battle of our lives. I’ve never been more in love with him. My best friend and my champion.

Our girl made her grand entrance that Saturday evening at 7 o’clock at 8lb 11.5oz, and 21 ½ inches long, and with a head full of beautiful dark brown hair (like her mama’s). As they placed her on my chest, I started telling her that it was time to wake up. She was by far the most beautiful and perfect baby I had ever laid eyes on. The warmth of her body on mine was the most eternally joyous feeling, and I wanted so badly to watch her come to life and start crying on my chest. We prayed and worshipped. Our theme song seemed to be “Lily’s Song” by Kristine DiMarco. Over and over again, we sang, “Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and let all that’s within me praise His name! … For I will not die, I will live, and I’ll tell of the works of the Lord, and sing of His wonders … Oh, nothing’s gonna take your praise out of my mouth as long as I shall live, as long as I shall live, for you’re a great God!” What holy moments. I will never forget.

Justin came in and prayed, and we all fought and believed together. Our nurse and midwife even joined in as we sang “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.” Our parents came in and cried as they marveled at the beauty of their granddaughter. Then our brothers came and cried as they held their niece. We mourned together. I remember seeing Jesus in the room, weeping with us, interceding for us. He truly is so very near to the brokenhearted.

Our nurse, Blessing, lived up to her name and blessed us tremendously. Her shift ended at 7pm, but she didn’t leave our sides until midnight. She saw us to our new room and sat and cried with us for a while. She even came back the next day and took pictures of our sweet girl. What an honor.

The next day, we spent our last moments with her. It was excruciating. We made some of the most difficult decisions that no parent should ever have to make for their child. Autopsy or no autopsy? Burial or cremation? Which funeral home? It was exhausting and so very painful. Over the years, I have seen injustice of all kinds, but this … this is the greatest injustice of all. No one should ever have to lose a child.

When the moment finally came to leave and say goodbye, there was peace. I can’t explain it. At home, we were met by our sweet friends, Christina and Paula. Christina knows us so well. She made me an elaborate salad and her husband made sure that Kyle had some chicken fingers and fries. Food for the soul. From that point on, there has been a steady flow of kind words and acts of love from friends and family alike. We have been overwhelmed by it all. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Even though Opal’s spirit never returned to her body, and I am grieving over her loss, I am so thankful for how near Jesus has been through it all, and it has been an honor to praise him and let all that is within me (including every single emotion and all the pain) praise his name. “Lily’s Song” will always have a special place in my heart and remind me of one of my most treasured memories – my daughter’s birth story.

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