Raising my Ebenezer: The Birth of Lukas

Hello!  Welcome to another Ebenezer story!  The point of me sharing these stories in general, is the same as examples we see of Ebenezer raising in the Bible.  After an Israelite victory, that Samuel prayed for and God granted, we read that... “Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’ ” (1 Samuel 7:12).

There's another example of where Joshua, as instructed, sent twelve men ahead and instructed them to "Go into the Jordan ahead of the Covenant Box of the Lord your God. Each one of you take a stone on your shoulder, one for each of the tribes of Israel.  These stones will remind the people of what the Lord has done."  

The point of Raising my Ebenezer is to say "Lord, don't let me forget the great things you have done for me!"  They are here for me (and you if needed) to come back and reference, when I feel like God is not moving or active in my life.  These are my reminder to not lose hope!

I am sharing this story specifically (with Shelly's permission) to encourage mothers of preemies and women afflicted with HELLP syndrome.  HELLP is a rare, but life-threatening medical condition that occurs in 0.2% to 0.6% of pregnancies.  The mortality rate of HELLP syndrome has been reported to be as high as 25%.  Watching my friend Shelly suffer through something so scary was life changing to me.  The point of sharing is not to scare you (especially if you happen to have HELLP) but to show you that no matter how far gone you may be to the doctors, in Shelly's case many doctors told her she was the worst case she had ever seen, you are not too far gone for God to step in and rescue you!  He is alive and active and constantly hearing and responding to our prayers!

Since Shelly had such a rough time I knew she wouldn't remember much of Lukas' birth, I could see it in her face if not just knowing from what was going on.  So in the days after he was born I spent a few hours writing down everything I could remember and composed a letter to Lukas.  I added some photos and made a hardcover book for her to keep and read forever.  So grab some coffee and some tissues and enjoy seeing a small peek of how God is still active in the lives of those who speak to Him! :)

Dear Lukas,

I’m writing you this note for a couple of reasons.  One, is that so you can trace back the finger of God on your life, waaaaaay back to before you were even born and know that He has ALWAYS had a plan for you.  Two, is to help your mom remember the day you entered the world.  She had a pretty tough time during the days before and after you were born and I want to make sure she is able to read all about those days and hopefully my memories will transpose themselves into hers.  

You seemed to be a miracle from day one, unexpectedly blessing your mom and dad with your conception.  Your pending arrival was announced to a small group of family and friends at your big sister Ava’s birthday party.  Your grandma and papa yelled the loudest with JOY!  Everyone was so excited.  The pregnancy was tough on your mom, though she was always thankful for you! 

Fast forward to the Friday before you were born.  Your mom got pretty sick.  She thought she had come down with the flu so she and your dad headed to the hospital to get her some medication.  When they arrived they learned that she was much sicker than they had thought.  Her blood pressure and platelet (what your body needs to clot blood) levels were not quite what they should be and the doctors were concerned.  They decided that the place for you and your mom to be was the hospital in Roanoke, so they transferred you guys there.  It was your mom’s first time in an ambulance.  :) You were just 29 weeks that Friday.  That night, your grandma stayed up all night praying for you!  She felt God gave her the scripture “The son of righteousness shall come with healing in his wings” Malachi 4:2, she saw God covering you both with His love, healing and protection.  We would see all of that come to fruition in the days to come.  

The next day, Saturday, while your mom was still not doing great, she seemed to be doing a little better.  They had diagnosed her with something called HELLP syndrome and pre-eclampsia.  Both of these conditions can be very dangerous for a pregnant lady and her baby.  The doctors and nurses were doing everything they could to get her symptoms under control and by the end of the day, she seemed to be stable.  The number one goal for the weekend was to keep you in your mom’s belly until Monday, when you would have had the full steroid treatment to develop your lungs as much as possible. 

Mrs. Kim and I sat at the hospital with your mom, dad, grandma and papa and took turns doing anything needed, praying for you guys and just trying to be there.  We managed to play cards a little, talk and make jokes.  By the end of the day the doctor came in and told your mom she could finally eat (along with other news, I’m sure)and we all CHEERED!  Your mom was tired and starving because they hadn’t let her eat in case you were going to make an emergency entrance via surgery!  Your dad went to the cafeteria and got her something just as meal services brought her a tray!  She ate a bit of both, including two kinds of pie! :)  Mrs. Kim and I left the hospital that day feeling much better than we had when we arrived.  Things were going to be OK, or so it seemed. 

The next morning, Sunday, I woke up early to a text from your mom.  She said she was feeling horrible.  The doctors and nurses had been in and out of her room all night and your mom hadn’t gotten much sleep.  Your dad had gone home to Radford to try to get some sleep (the hospital bed was teeny) and your mom was alone.  She sounded scared to me so I insisted on coming up to keep her company and rally her spirits!  Your mom had a lot going on.  Just in the times that I had been there to hear the doctors I was overwhelmed with all they were saying to her about you, the life you would have the first few weeks, her condition, etc, so I could just imagine how much more overwhelmed she must have been on top of being tired. While I was there that Sunday morning, your mom finally got to take a shower.  It was kind of fun to be there for that.  I could literally hear the stress and worry melt away from her.  While I waited in her room I could your mom verbally enjoying her shower....”ahhhhhhhhhhh”....”
that’s nice”....”ohhhhhhhh”.  It went on for quite some time. :)

Once again, your mom seemed to stabilize that day.  Her blood pressure had been under control (with medication) and there was talk of taking her off of the IV, magnesium, blood pressure cuff, baby monitors, etc, that they had her hooked up to.  This was HUGE because the magnesium made your mom feel worse!  She had a pretty bad headache, blurry vision and was dizzy when she stood, all side effects of the mag.  So hearing she could come off of that was a big deal.  Not to mention the fact that if she had to go to the bathroom, all those wires made it quite an adventure to get her there!   I spent that morning sending some emails for your mom, ordering some things she needed and keeping her company.  We also regularly prayed that YOU would be the talk of the hospital with the way you defied the odds!  When I left that day, your mom was OK.  Waiting to be unhooked from all her stuff, have dinner and then get a sleeping pill so she could get a good night’s rest.

Around 5:30 that evening your mom was taken off the IV, magnesium and monitors.  She was thrilled about that!  Then three hours later, a shift change for the nurses and they had to put her back on the monitors.  We were less than thrilled about that, but at least your mom got a good nap in first! The good news there was that at least the side effects of the mag were starting to wear off. 

At this point I planned to help your mom settle in for a long stay at the hospital.  They had put her on strict bed rest.  It seemed feasible that you could stay in your mom’s tummy for a few more weeks!  The doctors were pleased with how well she had stabilized and how well she seemed to be doing.  On Tuesday, your mom posted on her Facebook (is that still a thing or does that make me sound old?) about how well she was doing, that she was stable and the doctors were amazed!!  I sent your mom a text message of celebration!  So happy that things had turned around a bit.  Dealing with bedrest seemed a lot less scary than dealing with a 29 week old baby!  In response to my text to your mom, I got a response from your dad that said “BP had gone high again, but still answered prayers”.  They were giving her some emergency medication to get it down. 

The miracle here?  YOU WERE NOW HEAD DOWN!!!!  Amazing!  Just the day before you were transverse (sideways) and a cesarian section was the only way you would be able to be born.  Now that was not our only option! A huge answer to prayer since neither your mom or your dad wanted to deal with a c-section on top of everything else.  At 4:20pm on Tuesday your dad sent me a text saying your mom’s blood pressure was still rising.  Your dad told me to be ready to come take photos! 

I was equal parts excited and terrified.  What your mom and dad don’t know is that I spent every trip alone to and from the hospital in tears.  Crying and praying and pleading for His mercy to fall on you and your mom.  I was desperate in prayer.  I also wanted to get ALL of my emotion out in those 45 minute trips so that I could just be calm for your mom and do whatever she or your dad needed.  In other words, I tried to get my hot mess out in the car. :)

Your dad and I continued to text back and forth and finally he said to me “Come! The medication is not working”. 

As soon as Mr. Doug got home from golfing I jumped in the car and made my way to the hospital.  My job was to take photos of your arrival and the hours afterwards. This was important because 1) your mom was on a lot of medication and in a lot of pain.  Her chances of being able to remember anything were slim.  It was important for her to have photos to help her remember.  and 2) we were told that your mom would not get to even see you for at least an hour or more after you were born!  That’s a long time to a new mom.  I wanted to be sure she at least had photos to look at to see you right away! 

I was so nervous on the way there!  I listened to worship music LOUDLY and just prayed and sang all the way there.  I hit a traffic standstill and completely lost it.  I was so scared I would miss your arrival and I don’t know how I would be able to face your mom if I did!  So I just prayed some more.  Thankfully, I arrived in plenty of time to wait about sixteen hours for you to arrive.  :)

When I got to your mom’s room that Tuesday evening they were working on moving her.  I think it had been decided that it was just too dangerous to wait any longer for you to come.  The risk to both your mom and you was just too great!  I believe that it was hoped that your delivery would help your mom recover from the illnesses that she was suffering from and that known risks of having a preemie were far less than the risks of the unknown (they don’t really know a lot about HELLP syndrome).  I worked on getting your mom’s room packed up and ready to go to a delivery room.  Soon after she was moved there.  One of the first things I remember saying to your mom when I got there was “God says, with Him we can do all things, not just the easy ones”.  I had no idea at the time, but at that very moment your grandma and papa felt compelled to declare in prayer “That with God, nothing was impossible”, Mark 10:27.  God was watching out for you.   

About that time your grandma and papa arrived at the hospital.  They were scared just like we were but I was (hopefully) able to give them some comfort with the latest reports.  They spent that evening in the hospital cafeteria and every so often your dad or I would send them an update.  I know they spent a lot of time praying.  Your grandma told me that when your mom was born, God gave your papa a scripture for her “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow Rachelle all the days of her life and she will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”, Psalm 23:6, so they prayed that over and over again all night.  In fact, people all over the country and the world were praying for you! :)  

Once we got to your mom’s new room, the waiting began.  Another miracle laced within your story is that YOU were a champ.  You were almost never a concern or worry at this point because all of your vitals remained great.  It was almost like God put you in a little bubble and didn’t let anything your mom was dealing with to have the least little effect on you.  It was quite amazing to witness.  Often when a child is sick, you would hear a mom say something like “I would be sick in his place if I could”.  In some way, I believe God knew your mom would volunteer for that opportunity in a heartbeat and granted her that wish.  You were perfect the whole time. 

Your mom on the other hand? I can’t recall many times (if ever) I remember anyone being so sick.  From the time I got there (around 6:30pm) until the time you were born, I counted 14 different medications they gave your mom.  Her blood pressure was bouncing all over, a couple of medications for that.  The top of her tummy was causing her SEVERE pain, a medication on the hour for that.  They thought maybe that pain was heartburn, a couple of medications for that.  She was nauseous, a medication for that.  She had a bad headache, a couple of medications for that.  Her labor pains, an epidural for that.  IVs in both arms, magnesium, etc, a line for giving her platelets, etc.  She threw up a lot.  She moaned in pain a lot, a lot.  She was miserable.  Plus someone coming in every few hours to poke her and draw more blood for lab work.  Her platelet count kept going down. 

Your dad and I stayed up all night.  Your dad by her bedside almost every moment.  It was a miracle itself to witness your dad serve your mom so selflessly.  Though I am certain he must have been scared for your life and your mom’s life and all of the unknown, he never once showed it.  And I am sure you know this by now, your dad is a crier.  :) So for him not to be in tears all night was a testament to his devotion to your mom and his desire to be strong for her.  I watched him hold her hand all night.  Pray over her.  Serve her.  Rub her legs or back.  Be utterly devoted to her.  It was a precious scene to witness.  I’m pretty sure we prayed over each blood pressure check, each poke, each check to see how close you were to coming. 

I tried mostly to stay in the background.  Ready to jump in where needed, for food, or coffee or to sit by your mom those few times where your dad left the room.  I tried to encourage her and just be there for her.  It was hard to watch a friend go through so much but never once did we feel like God was not there with us.

The doctors started the process of inducing your birth around 8:30 pm and told us they would check the progress of that around 12:30 am.  So we waited.  And your mom’s blood pressure continued to bounce around.  She continued to have severe pain above her tummy and we could tell when it was time for her to have more pain medication.  She would get that pain medication and literally be snoring within five minutes, eventually she would shift to more restless sleep and then would start moaning again, right around the time she would be due for some more pain medication.  It didn’t help that the doctors didn’t seem to have any idea what was causing that pain.  Her platelet count continued to drop.

The good news here?  Once again, YOU were a champ.  Her induction progressed smoothly.  It was like there was nothing else going on when it came to that part of all of this.  Every time they checked your mom, they were pleased with her progress.  Her contractions were fairly regular and progressing nicely.  We went through the night with nurses and doctors in and out all the time.  I would guess that the longest span of time we didn‘t see a professional in the room was maybe ten minutes?  The good news here?  At some point in the night your mom’s severe tummy pain stopped!  She able to be a lot more comfortable, but still quite miserable overall.   

They started your mom on pitocin (a drug that helps contractions get started) around 5:20 am on Wednesday.  Around 6:40am that morning your mom was checked again.  She was 3-4cm dialated but her labs were slowly getting worse.  The doctor informed us that at the change of shifts at 7am they would discuss giving your mom a cesarian section or not.  At that meeting they decided to give your mom a c-section.  While disappointing, if it was the best thing, we readied ourselves for that.  Plus, the idea of your mom getting some relief was very appealing.  The previous night had been very, very difficult for her and I think we were all hopeful that your birth would bring a turn around of symptoms.  So a nurse, a doctor and a surgeon came in separately to tell your parents to get ready for the c-section.  Internally I thought about how different the photos I would be able to get would be now, since I would not be allowed in the room for the surgery.  I was ready to just wait outside the door and start taking photos when I could. 

The surgeon came in again and told us that they were trying to decide to take your mom in first, or another lady and once they decided they would let us know.  We waited a bit and let your grandparents and Aunt Joanna (all waiting in the waiting room nearby) know what was going on.  The surgeon came back in again and said he was sorry, but they were going to have to take the other lady back for surgery first.  Within a minute or two of him leaving the room, the doctor who was now on duty came in and said “We aren’t going to do a c-section yet”.  Miracle!  She basically told us that the doctors in charge of the different shifts had very different opinions.  And the doctor on duty NOW thought your mom should have the chance to deliver you naturally!  They saw no real reason that she couldn’t.  They broke her water and increased her pitocin level. 

And then we waited some more.  At some point the nurse in charge (who seemed like a real veteran!) and I, basically made your dad lay down to sleep.  While he did protest, he was also snoring within five minutes. :)  Meanwhile, your mom’s contractions were regular and seemed be getting stronger.  At 9:57am she was checked again and was at 6cm and 100% effaced!  You would be coming soon!  From what I could see, it would be any minute!  Your mom was beginning to feel the pressure that was telling her you were coming!  At 10:43 the nurse checked her again and said “It’s time!”. 

Within a couple of minutes the room was full of people.  Nurses and doctors for both you and your mom.  There wasn’t a ton of talking, but a lot of action.  Everyone was getting ready for YOU!  And they wouldn’t have to wait long!  Two to three pushes was all it took and you were here!  Your mom, as sick as she was, mustered every bit of energy she could and brought you into this world! And the miracle here?  You cried!  It was by far the sweetest sound I had ever heard!  You cried and cried and the nurses swooped you over to the isolette and started their jobs!  You seemed to be in pretty great shape for a guy so little.  They cleaned you up, and did some trick to get you to start breathing on your own, but you were doing it!

The next miracle?  You were 3 lbs 1oz! We had been praying that you would be at least 3 pounds!  You were also 14 inches long.  Your dad couldn’t believe how long your legs were!  It’s true, you were much bigger than we imagined, yet still SO tiny!

One more miracle before you were whisked away to the NICU...your mom got to see you and touch you before you left!  She had been told that it would be at least an hour or more before she could even SEE you!  Yet, there you were, parked right beside her bed in your little incubator, saying hello to your mom for the very first time.  It was a beautiful thing to see, God’s graciousness on us right there in that moment.

After you greeted your mom they took you to the NICU.  I was able to sneak in and get a few photos of you to show your mom (another little miracle because I am pretty sure that I was not supposed to be allowed in there!).  The nurses went to work getting you settled into your first home and overall you seemed to be a pretty typical 29 week old preemie.  Over your first couple of days you had some issues with your oxygen levels, and at a particular time of distress, as your Aunt Joanna was driving home from seeing you she felt compelled to pray that God would fill the space in your bed and bring you comfort.  She had no way of knowing that you needed that comfort at that moment, but God did!  

The biggest miracle was yet to come.  The day after you were born your mom got very sick.  Sicker than she had been yet.  Her blood pressure soared and her platelet level plummeted.  At one point it was as low as 14!!  They were preparing to transfer to the ICU.  I was preparing mentally for the worst.  I prayed with everything I had.  Literally pleading with God for your mom’s life!  It was such a scary morning until FINALLY they got her stabilized!  After she was kind of out the woods the doctors told her it was one of the worst cases of HELLP they had ever seen go so bad and so quickly!  Later that day your papa sent me some photos of you and your dad and I was so relieved that I sobbed uncontrollably!  Thanking God for saving your mom! That evening your dad sent me a photo of your mom holding you for the first time and it was the best photo EVER!

Lukas, I don’t know what the rest of your life will look like, but I know for sure that God has an amazing plan for you.  The details He wove into the first few hours of your life and the days leading up to and after your birth shows how deeply He cares for you!  My prayer is that you will be able to read this one day, on good days or doubting ones and that the events surrounding your birth will bring you to your knees in front of Him.  That you will always know beyond the shadow of a doubt how deeply He loves and cares for you!  Let these first miracles in your life become woven into the man you will become and wash away any doubts you have about your purpose in life!  God loves you, your parents love you, your grandparents love you, your family loves you and I love you!  I will forever be grateful to your parents for allowing me to witness such miracles firsthand and to God for orchestrating them all! 

                                                        With much love, Crystal

1 comment:

Jenny Plumb said...

Beautiful Ebenezer story! My daughter was diagnosed with a large tumor at 18 weeks gestation. We didn't know if she would live and what her surgery would be like immediately after birth. God worked it out for us as well, through much drama that could have been so much worse, and she today is a healthy four year old with only a large scar to prove that God touched her life miraculously. We named her Tessa which means harvester. We hope that her whole life story points to God and His love and this "Ebenezer" in her life brings (harvests) other people into God's love as well.

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