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Welcome HomeOUR FAMILY'S JOURNEY TO EXTREME JOY
By Kimberley Woodhouse
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Kimberley Woodhouse
All right reserved.
Chapter One"If Something's Going to Happen, It's Going to Happen to Kim"
When my husband, Jeremy, and I decided we were ready to start our family, I had no idea what lay ahead on the road we were about to travel. Most young couples dream of the happily-ever-after, smooth-and-straight, follow-your-dreams road. Had I known then about all the bumps on the road, I might have quit and run away. But thankfully, I am not in charge, and I had to take it all one step at a time.
The first step toward parenthood took a year. After I had several miscarriages, the doctor decided to correct a minor problem through surgery. He thought this procedure would increase y chances of being able to carry a baby full term.
I was sitting on the table, ready to be put under for the surgery. The doctor told me he would be "right back." He and the nurse rushed out of the room. The whole situation had already been an emotional roller coaster for me, so I didn't handle those words with patience, or logic, for that matter. I sat there in a paper dress and thought, I'm going to die. They found something and don't know how to break it to me. I bet I have cancer. Or maybe I'll never have children.
I knewthey were discussing whatever they just discovered, and rather than holding on to my faith, I created all sorts of horrendous diagnoses in my brain. That's one of the downfalls of being a creative person. We can't turn off the wheels in our brains, and we can imagine just about anything and be quite dramatic about the whole process.
While I contemplated how I would break the devastating news to my husband, the doctor returned, smiling. "You're not having surgery today, Kim."
"I'm not?" Oh, boy. Here it comes. He's trying to soften the blow.
"No. You're not. You're pregnant."
My mind ignored him as my thoughts continued their depressing track and ping-ponged around in my head. I knew it. I need to ask how much time I have left. I need to be strong ...
Wait a minute ... Did he just say pregnant?
The shock must have registered on my face because he repeated the news.
Instead of feeling excitement, I cried.
I knew I only had a 50-50 chance of carrying that child without the surgery, and so I was afraid. Afraid to get excited. Afraid I would lose another baby. Afraid to live my life with God's pure joy.
That fear almost swallowed me whole-until the nurse put her hand on my shoulder. And I saw tears in my doctor's eyes. They had been through the trenches of grief with me several times. They knew the risks. They knew the statistics. But they also knew Who was in control. They wanted to share the blessing of life with me.
In that brief moment, the first seed of hope began to take root. The doctor looked at me with kindness and reminded me where my treasures needed to be stored. The root system grew deeper, and I could feel optimism blossoming inside me.
"One day at a time," he said.
I nodded and smiled through my tears. Yes. We were going to take it one day at a time. I realized I had been holding on to my burdens, the loss of those other children. And doing that had almost drowned me in a pit of despair. So I released the grief and handed the sadness over to the Lord.
After that moment, the visit rushed by. The doctor and nurse inundated me with instructions and information. I was high risk. I would have to come back every other day to give blood. They warned me not to do much of anything active.
I got dressed and prepared to leave. With a stack of paperwork in hand, I thanked the staff and started out the door to meet Jeremy. There was a tug on my arm, and I turned to see the nurse. With tears in her eyes, she hugged me and slipped a small piece of paper into my hand. Once I had greeted Jeremy and settled in the car, I opened the note. A Bible verse: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4). The words were familiar but had never touched me like they did that day.
And the journey to joy began.
"Morning" Sickness and Dr. Pepper
During the time we were taking our first steps to becoming parents, Jeremy was taking steps in his career and had taken a new job. Just days before I found out I was pregnant, he had packed all of our belongings into a moving truck and had driven it eight hours across three states from Birmingham, Alabama, to Moss Bluff, Louisiana. He unloaded the truck into our little one-bedroom rental house and drove back to Birmingham to get me.
Six weeks later, I had lost 24 pounds. My arms were black and blue from having my blood drawn. And I definitely did not have the "pregnant glow."
I longed for someone-anyone-to say, "Oh, don't you just glow!" instead of, "Wow, are you okay? You don't look so good."
Whoever gave it the name "morning" sickness needed to hang out with me for a while. It was morning, afternoon, evening, all night, 24-hour-a-day sickness. Green was my new color.
My dear Jeremy didn't know how to help me. I hid in the bathroom with a towel over my face so he could eat and I wouldn't have to smell anything. He routinely asked me if there was anything he could do, but I was still sick. All the time.
We went on the best we could. He worried about me, and I tried not to look like death warmed over. My poor little piano and voice students knew that if I jumped up quickly, they'd better clear a path in case I didn't make it to the toilet in time. They would play easy songs like "Old Macdonald," "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," or "Just as I Am" as fast and as loud as they could, because I wasn't there to correct their sloppy mistakes.
That was in some small way refreshingly comical. But my first visit to my new doctor was nothing to laugh about. He told me either the baby or I would not survive. He suggested terminating the pregnancy and even asked me whether my life was worth risking for a "fetus."
I was ticked.
He tried to convince me that my odds weren't good. But I wouldn't hear it.
"Life is not mine to give or take," I spoke through clenched teeth. "And it's not for you to decide either. That's God's job, and I'm completely offended that you would even suggest such a thing." I opened the door to leave the conference room, but I had something else to say. Looking over my shoulder at him, I spoke calmly, "And just so you understand, it's a baby-with a heartbeat and arms and legs, and everything else you showed me in the pictures-it's a b-a-b-y."
Then I walked out of his office.
I had no idea how to find another doctor, especially when we had no insurance. Jeremy's new job had started just days after I found out I was pregnant. The old job had great medical benefits. New job plus preexisting pregnancy equals no insurance. Oh, boy.
Jeremy didn't make a whole lot of money teaching Bible at a Christian high school, so I knew it was time to look for help. Soon after, I found a wonderful doctor-Dr. Chesterton-through a friend at church. He helped us apply for Medicaid and for a national health-assistance program for women, infants, and children called WIC. And he never once suggested taking the life of our baby. He knew the risks, he knew the statistics, and he knew where Jeremy and I stood on that issue. Because he stood in the same place.
On our second visit, Dr. Chesterton asked me how much food I had kept down. When I informed him I couldn't eat anything at all without getting sick, that wonderful man sent Jeremy to the store to buy every kind of carbonated beverage that existed. He told Jeremy there had to be something I could keep down that didn't have too much caffeine. Jeremy went off to search for something to help.
Dr. Pepper won the prize.
It's always been my favorite, although we never kept it in the house because it was reserved for special occasions. But when I discovered I could drink Dr. Pepper and not get sick, it became a staple. My students would bring me get-well notes and cases of soda. Forget the pickles, ice cream, nachos, and whatever else pregnant women crave. Our pantry was filled with cans of DP.
Even though I could now keep something down, I was still ill. The doctor was concerned I would deliver a premature baby, so we had to be prepared for delivery from week 20 on. Each visit the doctor would say, "Okay, let's try to make it another week." This stress seemed to make the last four months stretch into years. I swelled up like a balloon, "tossed my cookies" dozens of times a day, but I kept thinking, One more day, one more week. Let's give this baby every chance we can.
Jeremy taught Bible and coached basketball and baseball at the high school. He'd leave home at 6:30 in the morning, teach all day, and coach all afternoon, sometimes into the night. Traveling to out-of-district games took up even more of his time, and there were nights the team would return after midnight. My hardworking husband would call me after the last kid was picked up, and then he would head home. Despite his long work hours and resulting lack of sleep, he helped me prepare for the coming of our child. We cleaned, assembled various baby equipment "essentials," and laughed together. The bags were packed for my hospital visit, and everything was in place. And we waited.
I had begun to think Josh would never be born, and I would forever be the size of the Goodyear Blimp. (Even though I couldn't eat much at all, I was bloated by water weight.) But wouldn't you know? Josh surprised us all-my first miracle baby-and he was almost right on schedule, making his appearance March 29, 1995.
Josh was the healthiest baby ever. (Well, of course we were biased, and the pediatrician was a little biased as well.) Roly-poly, happy, never-met-a-stranger, smiling Josh. Everywhere we went I heard, "Aww, he's soooo cute!" "You should sign him up to be a baby model!" "Look at that cute smile ..."
Life was good. I had my wonderful (and incredibly cute) husband, my bouncing baby boy, and my fun music students. It was easy to be joyful.
And then when Josh was 15 months old, a joy-challenging trial came that would be the first of many: my grandfather collapsed in his home. We spent a lot of time on the road that summer visiting Granddaddy. It was on one of those trips that I began to feel nauseous and then sick. Really sick. Jeremy took one look at me and joked, "I've seen that face before; you must be pregnant." I didn't find it funny when I was losing my lunch, but my sweet husband was correct. I took a pregnancy test the next day, and it immediately registered positive.
The joy of a new life growing within me was, for a short time, overshadowed by grief. A few weeks later Granddaddy passed away to be with the Lord. My grandparents had been married almost 70 years. The memories and emptiness in my soul overwhelmed and devastated me.
Because of the surgery that didn't happen, I was in another high-risk pregnancy situation. Not long after Granddaddy's funeral, I was so drained from the pregnancy-induced illness that I couldn't even stand up. I would lie in the middle of the floor so I could at least "play" with Josh. In other words, I could still watch him as he toddled around and built things on top of me. With each passing day I became weaker. One afternoon Jeremy came home from work and found me passed out on the bathroom floor. Josh was safely napping, and we were thankful for that. But it scared us to think of what could have happened.
As Jeremy drove me to the doctor, we prayed for the tiny life inside of me and also for Josh. He didn't understand why Mommy was so sad and sick.
In the exam room Dr. Chesterton, who was grinning like a jack-o'- lantern, delivered the news that I was going to be admitted to the hospital. Jeremy squeezed my hand for reassurance. I asked the obstetrician why he was smiling as he dished out news I didn't want to hear-I was feisty and didn't want to be confined. My pride told me I would do fine on my own, thank you very much.
He laughed at me and said, "Kim, you're not superwoman."
While I definitely understood I was not superwoman and most assuredly would not fit into the costume required for that job, I still didn't want to be told I needed to stay in the hospital. It simply wasn't part of my plan. And for some strange reason, I was thinking only of my own plan, not God's. It was a lesson I would have to learn the hard way.
The Hospital Disaster
So, hospital stay number one: Doctors pumped me full of fluids and medication via intravenous drip (IV). I went home. Became even sicker.
Hospital stay number two: Doctors pumped me full of fluids and medication via IV. I went home. Became even sicker.
Hospital stay number three: Doctors pumped me full of fluids and medication via IV. They made me eat red Jell-O. I told the nurse I didn't feel well. She didn't believe me. I threw up on her.
I have never been more embarrassed or upset-but she listened to me after that. I went home. Became even sicker. Though "sicker" doesn't quite seem to cover it.
Hospital stay number four: Doctors pumped me full of fluids and medication via IV. (Is anyone seeing a pattern here?) They did not give me red Jell-O. Instead, a stomach-settling drink they called "nausea malt" was on their list, along with some new medicine they were certain would work. Several nurses came by to see how I was doing. But the poor nurse who had to change clothes because of our prior meeting stood in the doorway, hesitant to enter. She was watching. Waiting. Worried I wouldn't make it past the first few sips.
"It's good," I told her. "I mean, it actually tastes good!"
Applause echoed all around me. I kept something down! And there was much rejoicing.
Excitement reigned in the halls that night as they put in a new IV with the miraculous medication that kept me from throwing up. I was resting comfortably, looking forward to a night without "the bucket."
Around midnight, groggy and in pain, I pressed the call button to summon the night nurse. Our conversation on the intercom went something like this:
Nurse: Yes? Me: My arm hurts. Nurse: Yes, ma'am. Me (confused):My arm really hurts. Nurse: IVs hurt, ma'am. Me (feeling neglected):Um, I've had lots of IVs, and it's never felt like this. Nurse: I suggest you go back to sleep, ma'am. IVs often hurt. Click. End of conversation.
Enter Kim's temper. It's not a pretty thing, and I'm ashamed to say I was too tired to think straight. I was weak, had three IVs in me, and my arm hurt. I hit the call button again.
Nurse (in an agitated voice): Yes, ma'am.
Me: My arm really hurts. I can't move it. I can't bend my fingers. It's dark in here, so I can't see what's wrong with it.
Nurse: IVs often hurt.
Me: I understood you the first time you told me. But I'm trying to tell you it's hurting in an unusual way, and I need help. If you won't come look at it, would you at least send someone to turn the light on for me?
Nurse (audible huff):We change shifts in 15 minutes. You'll have to wait until the new nurse comes in.
Click. End of conversation.
At that moment I realized this poor woman considered me a pain. I didn't know what things were going on in her life to make tending her patients so distasteful, but a dehydrated pregnant woman complaining of a hurting arm did not rank high on her priority list. I felt really sorry for her and decided to pray for her.
Before I knew it, a new nurse came bouncing in. How anyone could be so energetic in the middle of the night was beyond me, but she was wonderful.
Nurse No. 2: Do you need anything, Mrs. Woodhouse?
Me: My arm hurts. I called the other nurse, but she told me IVs often hurt.
Nurse No. 2: Oh, my, let me turn the lights on. Is that all right?
Me: It's actually hurting worse. I'm a little worried.
Nurse No. 2: (Gasp!) Oh no! (She hits a button on the wall that sends people flying into my room.)
Me: (Looking down, I see that my hand looks like a surgical glove blown up into a balloon. And my forearm is about three times the normal size.) Wow. No wonder it hurts.
Nurse No. 2: Oh, hon, I'm so sorry we didn't take care of this earlier.
Me (giggling): It's okay. At least I'm not throwing up on anybody.
Laughter, glorious laughter was all I heard from the other nurses as they worked on my arm.
Excerpted from Welcome Home by Kimberley Woodhouse Copyright © 2009 by Kimberley Woodhouse. Excerpted by permission.
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