Monday, February 28, 2011

Projectile Poop!

It had been a really emotional day. Shawn was visiting us in Tulsa for the weekend and would have to return home in the morning. We were still unsure of how long Benjamin would be in the NICU, and the stress of not being able to be together as a family was taking its toll. There had been many tears that day, and we were dreading the morning when we would have to say goodbye again. For Shawn it was especially difficult, as he had to be separated from me and Benjamin.
While spending time in the NICU that evening, Shawn took his turn at diaper duty. Now, for anyone who has ever had to change a diaper for a baby in the NICU, you know that it takes some extra skill and patience, especially if you’re not used to changing diapers to begin with! First, you have a limited space to work in. The NICU crib was akin to a small plastic tub with padding on the bottom. Next, take into account the multiple tubes and wires, some of which are attached to the baby’s feet. If you couple those things with the natural wiggles of a newborn, you have a potential recipe for a big mess!
On this particular evening, Shawn forgot the nurse’s advice to change the diaper from the side of the crib and decided to stand at the foot of the crib, placing himself directly in the line of fire. He was already frazzled from the emotional stress of the day, the complications of the diaper change and the cries of a discontented baby, when Benjamin decided it was time to unleash a powerful bowel movement. When I say powerful, I mean it had air time! The yellow and watery stool of a breastfed infant exploded from our small son, spraying the foot of the crib, splattering all over Daddy’s shirt and even hitting Mommy’s diaper bag on the floor! In complete shock and disgust, Shawn leaped back with a cry. For him, this was the last straw for his already raw nerves. Not trying to conceal his irritation, he announced that he was going to change and would return shortly. As I took over diaper duty, the tears flowed freely, though these were the tears brought on by uncontrollable laughter—wonderfully refreshing after the previous tears of the day.
I don’t remember much of what happened during the rest of that evening. Shawn returned with fresh clothes, feeling a little bit calmer. I probably continued to giggle throughout the evening, each time I remembered the expression on Shawn’s face at the moment of impact! I think Benjamin knew Mommy needed to laugh that day. (Shawn can laugh about the incident now too.) I do know that Benjamin has never again graced us with the impressive “projectile poop” as we have come to call it. However, his favorite opportunity to release a bowel movement continues to be in the middle of a diaper change!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

First Glimpse

My first glimpse of him was so surreal. After the numbness of the spinal finally wore off, and I’d had some more time to rest, our kind nurse helped me into a wheelchair and took Shawn and me down to the NICU of Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, OK. The pain at my C-section incision site was very real, but the pain in my heart was greater. I could take medicine to help numb the pain in my abdomen, but my heart was torn and bleeding with no apparent remedy.  I tried to take in all the surroundings. We had our own little corner of the NICU with a curtain that could be drawn for privacy. Intimidating medical equipment and monitors were all around, the constant beeping putting my nerves even more on edge. I was grateful, though, for the individual sign that had already been made for Benjamin and taped to the front of his small bed. His name was attached with white foam letters on a blue background, decorated with a foam basketball and soccer ball, and stamped with his tiny footprints right in the center. It gave a small sense of warmth to an otherwise sterile environment.  Was this really my baby? His still, ashy body was hooked up to so many tubes and wires-the only sign of life was the gentle rising and falling of his chest, but the ventilator was doing most of the work for him. I gingerly reached out and touched his little hand. I don’t remember what I said to him, but I know I tried to speak peace and love amid all the shock and fear swirling inside of me. At one point (either that visit or a later one) I asked the nurse if it would be ok to kiss Benjamin’s hand. She seemed surprised and told me “Of course.” Though it hurt to bend down, I touched his tiny hand to my lips, longing for some sort of connection with my son. It felt as though the visit was over as soon as it started, and it was time to be wheeled back up to the hospital room.
In the days following, the scene was much the same, though as my body began to recover, I walked more and rode in the wheelchair less. My arms ached to hold my son, but I was given no definite time frame of when I could. He had to be weaned off the ventilator, which felt like such a slow process-two steps forward, one step back. He had to have the delicate IVs attached directly into his belly button removed and a pick line inserted. This was no easy task. The many failed attempts were evident as little red dots all over his arms and legs. My only consolation was that in his sedated state, Benjamin probably didn’t feel the pokes. I knew he was my baby, but he didn’t feel like my baby. A bond had not yet been formed. I missed the feeling of him inside my womb. I felt connected then; I felt like he knew who I was then. I hoped he could recognize my voice and know that Mommy was near.
The anticipated day finally arrived, May 30, 2009. It had been nine days since Benjamin’s delivery, but it felt like a short life-time already, as our whole world had been turned upside down.  I had already been discharged from the hospital and was staying with my mom at the Ronald McDonald house about 15 minutes away. My mother-in-law Cyndi had been with us for a few days but had to return to MN.  Shawn already had to return home for work and was making the hour long drive to see us as much as he could. Later, mom and I would move to the Hospitality House only two blocks away from the hospital. My 27th birthday had been a few days before. It was the hardest birthday of my life. All I wanted was to hold my son, but my request could not yet be granted. Benjamin’s gift to me that day however, was to open his eyes so I could see them for the first time. Now the moment had finally arrived. I sat in the rocking chair eagerly waiting as the nurse swaddled Benjamin and tried not to tangle his tubes and wires too much. My first experience of having him in my arms was heavenly. This really was my baby. Shortly thereafter we tried our first attempt at “kangaroo care,” the important skin to skin contact that a newborn baby needs. The first attempt was disappointing. Benjamin was in an unfamiliar position and spent most of the time wiggling around, trying to make sense of everything.  The second time was sweet, as he relaxed into my body and we rocked.
I could never hold him long enough. All too soon it would be time to put him back in his NICU crib and say our goodbyes. Every parting was painful, even if it was only for a few hours. I would kiss and kiss and kiss his face, wanting to savor every moment with my son. Shawn and I would read scripture over him, pray over him, and I would sing over him the simple song the Lord gave me during my pregnancy--Mighty warrior, child of God, Mighty warrior, child of God, Mighty warrior, child of God, Benjamin Lee. Beautiful baby, Benjamin Lee, Beloved of the Lord, Benjamin Lee, Son of my right hand, Benjamin Lee, Benjamin Lee. There was so little we could do for his physical care at that point, but we could make sure Benjamin knew he was loved.  The thought of being able to hold him without tubes and wires away from the sterile environment of the NICU seemed glorious and almost too good to be true. This was the only world my son knew at this point, and I so wanted him to see the beauty of the outdoors, the comfort of our home and especially his nursery, lovingly prepared just for him…
Now fast forward several months. Benjamin did get to come home on June 17, 2009, 27 days after he was born. Though there were more hospital stays in time, life really did fall into a rhythm as we settled into our new life with our son. All during my pregnancy we prayed for a cuddly baby. God answered our prayer! At the time I write this Benjamin is fast approaching his 2nd birthday, and he is a Momma’s boy! When I hold him facing me, his face lights up in a huge smile, and he often lets out a squeal.  We make faces back and forth to each other. One of his favorite games is for me to kiss all over his neck, while he holds his head back and erupts into delighted giggles. In a desire to return my kisses, he will lick me across the face. He is such a cuddly guy, that it is often difficult to get things done. He holds out his arms to me and fusses, “mamamamama” until I pick him up. Sometimes in exasperation I find myself saying “Mommy doesn’t have to hold you all the time!” Sometimes I am caught by the irony of my own comments. I remember the days where I longed to hold my son and wasn’t able to or the days when I would hold him in the NICU rocker but it was never long enough. Even as I’ve tried to write my thoughts today, we’ve had to take some “cuddle breaks,” and I can hear the discontentment beginning to rise again. In these moments I must remind myself what a privilege it is to hold Benjamin in my arms, what a privilege it is to have him safe at home with me, what a privilege it is to be his Mommy.

Grandma Jan's Journal--Baby's First Week

Thanks to her early retirement, my mom was able to spend the first 5 weeks of Benjamin's life with us. I don't know how we would have got by without her! In the midst of my emotional and physical exhaustion during Benjamin's NICU stay, I never attempted to keep a record of events. Thankfully my mom, who is an avid writer, kept a journal during that time period. (BTW, you can visit her personal blog at! I want to share an excerpt from her journal, which she lovingly compiled for Shawn and me after Benjamin came home. It gives a detailed summary of our son's first week of life. Thanks, Mom!

"May 29 e-mail: The First Week

Dear Friends,

We have so much to be grateful for. I'd like to recap highlights of the past week for you. Because fetal monitoring showed Benjamin to be in some distress, Dana's labor was induced last Thursday in her 35th week of pregnancy. The decision for a c-section was made early Friday morning. Benjamin Lee Hemminger arrived at 5:39 a.m. on May 22, weighing in at 7.64 pounds and 19 inches long. (Yes, he's a chunk!) Immediately after birth he showed signs of respiratory distress and was whisked off to NICU.

Shawn got to see him get cleaned up and take a few initial pictures. Dana waited four very long hours before she got to see him. (It was supposed to be twelve hours, but the nurses bent the rules for her.)

I saw Benjamin for the first time less than 24 hours after he was born. By then, of course, he was hooked up to multiple monitors, tubes, and the ventilator. God's grace was there for me because none of that bothered me. I was (and am) simply so grateful to see my beautiful new grandson and be here for Dana and Shawn. It was an added blessing when Shawn's mother, Cyndi, arrived the next day. Cyndi and I make a very good grandma team!

There were a few rough days in which everything seemed to be going wrong for Benjamin. His oxygen had to be increased, his belly began to bloat, and he had to be catheterized. The medicine given him for his heart caused his kidneys to start to shut down. He had to have an echocardiogram to diagnose his heart problems (which may require surgery in a couple years), and for a brief time it was thought he might need abdominal surgery.

Things started to turn around by Monday, and he has made major improvement since then. He is our little fighter! Yesterday he was taken off the ventilator and is now on a CPAP machine. His bloating is subsiding, and he peed the catheter out yesterday. He is being fed Dana's breast milk through his gastric tube--3/4 ounce this morning!

After several unsuccessful attempts yesterday by other nurses, today's nurse, "the queen of pick lines" managed to get one in his foot (his chubby little arms didn't cooperate) which will mean that Dana and Shawn will finally get to hold him, I hope tomorrow. After he is introduced to a bottle, Dana can start breastfeeding him. In the meantime, she is faithfully pumping every three hours. The lactation specialists are very knowledgeable and helpful.

Benjamin is more precious than I can say. With the ventilator out, he can finally cry. I got to hear him cry when Shawn changed his diaper today. I can say with full assurance that Dana and Shawn will be (and already are) extra special parents for their extra special baby. Benjamin has Down syndrome, confirmed by genetic testing last week. We love him so much, right down to his 47th chromosome.

Please keep Benjamin, Shawn, and Dana in your prayers. There will be challenges ahead, I am sure, but I am also sure of God's tender love for all of us. I know that I am totally smitten with my grandson.

Grandma Jan"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Dream

The dream was so vivid. It had been less than a month since we found out I was pregnant (November 23, 2008 to be exact) when it came to me during the night…
I was lying on a hospital bed getting ready to have an ultrasound with Shawn by my side. I looked expectantly up at the screen, eager to catch a glimpse of my baby. Instead the blank screen suddenly took the form of ancient parchment paper, and I witnessed the hand of God begin to write things concerning my unborn son. He began by saying “This is Benjamin.” I couldn’t remember what specific things He wrote about Benjamin’s life, but the message was clear. “He will be ok, and I have good plans for him.” Shawn and I were thrilled! Just as suddenly as the parchment appeared on the screen, it vanished, and a small boy who we did not know appeared in the room and began to taunt us by saying of our son “His name is Saul! His name is Saul!” A righteous indignation rose within me, and I looked at him square in the eye. With authority in my voice I addressed the boy, “His name is Benjamin, and you will call him Benjamin!” The boy fell silent and I looked back at to the ultrasound screen where my baby now came into view. I saw an almost full-term infant, writhing inside my womb in obvious distress. Before I had time to respond I awoke.
Not knowing what to make of this dream, I jotted it down in my journal with the brief comment “We wonder if God is preparing our hearts that there may be complications, but everything will turn out all right.” Such a simple statement, but little did I know the weight of truth it held! This dream gave us such comfort through so many days of uncertainty after Benjamin was born, as we sat next to his bed in the NICU, looking on helplessly at his little sedated body hooked up to so many tubes and wires. It gave us hope when things became apparent that our son had Down syndrome. It gave us hope when we were told our son had three holes in his heart and would require surgery down the road. It gave us hope during the open heart surgery that came all too quickly when Benjamin was only two months old. It has given us hope to fight against every discouraging and accusing thought that Satan brings our way in regards to our son and his life. It has given us hope through the many ups and downs we have experienced in our journey thus far. For what God has said of Benjamin will ultimately prevail. He knows our son; He formed him in my womb, and He will bring about His good plans in Benjamin’s life. Everything will be ok…

Unexpected Arrival

I waddle down the long hallway, IV lines in tow as though I’m floating through a dream. Shawn walks beside me, holding my hand until the inevitable parting outside the surgery room, a separation that happens all too quickly. He is directed to the recovery area where he must stay put while the pre-operation preparations are completed.  Everything inside me is screaming for him to come with me, but I remain silent. I feel so scared, so alone. My body is already shaking from the 13 hours of Pitocin that failed to induce labor quickly enough.  The young, brunette nurse gently leads me into the operating room where I’m seemingly transported into another world. Everything is stark white, the lights are so bright I wish I had a pair of sunglasses, and it’s cold, unbelievably cold. I’m told to sit on the operating table, so close to the edge I’m sure I’ll fall off any moment, and slouch down low, as my spine is exposed through the back of the hospital gown. The shaking increases. Is this from the effects of the medicine, the cold, or the fear? Perhaps it’s all three, but hard as I try, I cannot stop shaking. Horrible thoughts race through my mind. What if the shaking causes the spinal to go wrong? What if I’m paralyzed? Oh, Lord, please help me to stop shaking. I wish Shawn was here. 
The brunette nurse puts her arms firmly but gently on my shoulders and lets me lean into her as they rub sterilizing solution over my back.  She’s younger than me, but right now she feels like a mother. Right now she is my only tangible form of comfort, of stability. The anesthesiologist tells me I will feel a poke that may hurt, but it will not last long. I brace myself, feeling all the while like a frightened little girl. I just want to run away, reverse the clock even 24 hours when I still had the hopes of a close to full-term pregnancy and a natural labor and delivery. It’s all happening too fast, too soon.  I feel the jab, and it’s painful.  An apology, I’ll have to be poked again. This time it hurts more, and always, the constant shaking. Within moments a warm, tingling sensation surges through my legs, and I am relieved to have some respite from the extreme cold. The next thing I know I’m being picked up and placed flat on my back, but I feel nothing from the waist down.  I’m aware that my hospital gown is being lifted up above my waist—full exposure in a room of men and women, all wearing blue scrubs and face masks. I’m tempted to feel embarrassed, but all the other emotions quickly push down any concern for modesty or dignity—exhaustion, shock, fear, anticipation. I’ll see my baby soon. Just a few more hours, I tell myself, and Benjamin will be in arms.  Meanwhile the oxygen mask is being fitted on, and the huge blue sheet is hung up in front of me. My husband appears by my head now, and relief washes over me. He tells me he loves me; I’m doing a good job, and everything will be ok. We’re having our baby! He even snaps a picture.
The shaking has intensified as the spinal fully sets in. My arms seem to have a complete mind of their own, and move constantly on both sides of me, causing my voice to shake when I speak. Now a new fear sets in. Will the spinal be fully effective? What if I feel the cut? I brace myself, wondering when it will come. The next thing I know I feel a pulling and pushing on my stomach (no pain), and my son’s first cry cuts through the cold, sterile air. My son, my baby I’ve been anticipating for so long; that was his cry. He’s actually arrived! I try to contain my excitement as I wait for him to be cleaned up and brought over so I can see him. Shawn watches them pull him out of my stomach and exclaims “He’s so long!” He excuses himself from me for a minute to go snap pictures while Benjamin is being cleaned. I hear my newborn’s cries becoming more and more distant. Meanwhile, I feel a slight pulling while my stomach is stapled shut. How thankful I am for the blue sheet that shields my eyes from the gruesome process. In our childbirth classes we watched a video of a C-section. In the car on the way home I cried and told Shawn “I don’t want to have a C-section.”
“Why would you have to have a C-section?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I reply, “but I don’t want to have one.”
My impatience is starting to grow. Why is it taking so long for them to clean my baby? I want to see him. I start asking if they are going to bring him to me soon, but no one is answering me. Shawn reappears, his face full of concern. My head is swimming as he tells me that Benjamin is having some breathing problems. They’re taking him down to the NICU to hook him up to a ventilator and do some more monitoring. I’m trying to process what he just said, but my mind is so fuzzy from all of the medicine, and my body is exhausted. I’m still shaking. I’m lifted from the operation table and placed on a hospital bed, then wheeled into the recovery area.  Shawn is given a chair next to my bed. I waste no time in asking him to show me the pictures he took of Benjamin. A picture is better than nothing, and I’m dying to see what my baby looks like. From the first picture I know. I know but I don’t want to admit to myself that I know.  I hear myself ask Shawn, “What’s wrong with his neck?” It’s so thick, almost like a head set on top of a pair of shoulders with a thick crease of skin in the back. I ask again “What’s wrong with his neck?” Shawn just looks at me and says nothing. He knows it too. He saw it as they were cleaning our son. Neither of us can bring ourselves to say the words that are hanging so heavy in the air, suffocating us. Benjamin looks like he has Down syndrome. I look at the pictures again and again, as though they might change if I keep studying them long enough. This can’t be my baby. This isn’t what I imagined he’d look like. There must be some mistake. I long for some words of comfort, some reassurance that this is all a bad dream from which I will wake at any moment. The effects of the medicine are too much for my exhausted system and I drift in and out of a fitful sleep. Shawn leans his head against the wall and does the same. All we can do is wait.
Dr. Jackson is by my bedside. She’s a professional African American woman with short cut hair and beautiful but serious eyes. In a clear and steady voice she tells us that Benjamin is having significant trouble breathing and is hooked up to a ventilator, which is doing most of his breathing for him. She also tells us that she has ordered a genetic test as Benjamin has some physical characteristics of Down syndrome. There, the dreaded words have been spoken. Our hopes that it was just us, that we were somehow mistaken by what we saw, are dashed to pieces. She has more to say, but I can’t take it in right now. My world is spinning out of control, even as my body has been for the last few hours, shaking, shaking, shaking. I ask again when I can see my baby, but I’m given no definite answers. Everything is out of control.
It’s been over an hour and still I have no feeling from the waist down. The anesthesiologist said that the effects of the spinal usually begin to wear off in an hour. What if my fears are coming true? What if I’m paralyzed? After the shock and trauma of the doctor’s news, this almost seems inevitable. Everything is already going to horribly wrong.  A nurse comes and pinches my toes and pokes my legs. “Any feeling?” she asks.
“Nothing,” I reply
“Can you try to move your toes?”
I muster up all the strength I have into focusing on moving just one toe, but it seems useless. I can’t feel a thing. The fear is mounting. My upper body is still shaking.
“Keep trying,” she coaxes me.
I try with all my might, thinking once again that nothing is happening, but she says, “There! It moved a little.”
“Really, I still don’t feel anything.”
“It may take a little longer. I checked with the anesthesiologist, and he said sometimes it can take up to two hours for feeling to return.”
I am slightly relieved. At least I know my toe is starting to work again. The nurses start to discuss moving me up to my room. There are more surgeries taking place, and they need the recovery area cleared out for new patients. “When can I see my baby?” I ask again. I have to see him. I have to have some sense that a baby really was born.  It all feels so surreal. They discuss wheeling my bed down to the NICU for a minute on the way to my room but decide against it. The morning is busy, and they all have much to do. I want to scream, “I don’t care how busy you are! Just let me see my baby!”
We reach my room on the third floor, and are left alone for a moment. Shawn’s and my eyes are wide with fear and uncertainty. We’re like two wounded animals trapped in a cage, wanting desperately to be set free. A heavy-set nurse with a kind face enters and introduces herself, giving us information and instruction, but I don’t really hear her.
I begin crying and ask, “When can I see my baby?”
She looks at me with compassion and says, “Well, you’re supposed to be on bed rest for a full 12 hours post surgery, but after you regain full feeling in your legs, I’ll get you in a wheel chair and take you down to the NICU. You’ll only be able to stay for 10-15 minutes, though, and then we have to get you back into bed. I’ll take you down one more time later this afternoon as well. “
I’m so thankful for her.  Finally, someone is giving me an answer. I pray the spinal wears off quickly. The nurse leaves us alone, and the weight of what has just happened begins to press down on us. Shawn and I look at each other, and the tears begin to flow freely. Our entire world has been turned upside down.
Soon after Major Cheryl arrives. She walks into the room, eyes full of concern. I look at her and try to speak, but all that comes out is racking sobs. My body is still shaking. I still feel numb in my legs. I’ve never felt so completely out of control in my entire life.  She begins crying as well, telling us she loves us and everything is going to be ok. I appreciate her presence and her tears of compassion, but her words feel so hollow. How can everything possibly be ok?

Company's Coming!

There are two lines. Two pink lines. I stand in the tiny bathroom in stunned silence. Two lines—there have never been two lines. How many times have I rehearsed this moment in my mind during the last two years? I’ve lost count.  I’ve pictured my reaction over and over. Will I scream? Jump up and down? Laugh? Cry? Instead, I stand in silence, studying the little strip again and again to make sure my eyes aren’t playing tricks on me. After all the tears, all the disappointments, all the prayers, is the moment really here? I walk out of the bathroom in a daze where Shawn is anxiously waiting in the living room.
“There are two lines.”
“What does that mean?”
“There have never been two lines.”
The beautiful reality begins to sink in, and he pulls me into a delighted embrace. The reality suddenly hits me like a wave as well, and the tears pour down. Deep, happy sobs erupt from the core of my being. We’re going to have a baby!
I try to collect myself and call my mom, the only other person who knew I would be taking the test. She answers the phone to hear my sobs, and at first her heart sinks. Then through my tears I manage to blurt out. “Mom, we’re going to have a baby! (sob) I’m really happy!”
It all began two years prior near the end of our first year of marriage. We were not trying to conceive—were even taking preventative measures—but my cycle was so late in coming. We finally decided to purchase a home pregnancy test. We tried to be discreet in the store. We didn’t want stories cycling before anything was confirmed. Yet the more we thought about the possibility, the more excited we became. We held hands in the living room and prayed before I made my way back to the bathroom. My stomach was tied in knots of anticipation. I opened the test, read and re-read the instructions just to make sure. I never used it. My cycle had just started. I cried all evening.
After that experience the birth control went out the window, and we were confident it wouldn’t be long until I really did conceive. Yet the weeks turned into months, and the months began slipping into years and still no baby. Meanwhile, other young couples were getting pregnant, the wives aglow with bright smiles and beautiful rounded bellies. I wanted to be happy for them. I wanted to celebrate with them. I hated what I was feeling inside-jealousy, resentment, fear. God, when will it be my turn?
There were more false alarms. There were more tests actually taken only to show one line; one lousy, pink line. I’d finally written off pregnancy tests. I wanted to throw them against the wall whenever I took one, only to be disappointed again. I promised myself I wouldn’t consider another test until I was really, really sure.
It’s October 31, 2008. I sit with Shawn in the living room, sipping coffee before work. I log onto the laptop, open the internet and Google early pregnancy symptoms. As I read I realize I can check off almost every one.  
“My cycle still hasn’t started…I think it might be time to take a test again.”
“Do you really think you might be pregnant this time?”
“I’m not sure what to think. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I have most of the early symptoms listed here. I’m so tired. I don’t feel good. I have to pee constantly. My stomach’s been cramping.  And, my breasts are tender. They’ve never been tender before.”
“Ok, we’ll pick one up tomorrow.”
I have tried so hard to find excuses for what I’ve been experiencing. I’ve been under stress. We’ve been busy at work. My immune system is just down right now. The tiredness is affecting my emotions. I’ve always had a fairly weak bladder. The cramps must mean my cycle will start any day now.  I can’t explain the tender breasts, though. This is a new experience.
The Salvation Army is hosting a Fall Festival tonight to provide a safe and fun environment for families in the community. Shawn and I have also arranged to have a prayer room open for 12 hours from noon to midnight, believing that prayer is definitely needed on a night that holds so much darkness. No one has signed up to pray and we are needed to work at the Festival as it is a large undertaking. I’m tired, emotional, and I don’t feel well. To make matters worse, I seem to encounter babies and pregnant women all evening. I’m still so afraid to hope that I might really be pregnant this time. I don’t feel like my heart can handle more disappointment. One woman sitting next to new born even hollers out to me, “When are you having one, Dana? We’re all waiting for you!” Outwardly I smile and say, “Whenever God decides to bless me.” Inwardly I want to throw something at her (not my usual personality!) My nerves are raw. I just want to run away and have a good, long cry.
The hotdogs I ate feel like rocks in my stomach. I don’t ever want to see or smell a hotdog again. I’m so tired. Clean-up has finally begun. I pass Shawn in the gym. He’s directing the workers and volunteers. I want to pour out my heart to him. I want him to hold me and tell me he loves me and that it’s all going to be ok. Instead he distractedly hands me a push broom and asks me to sweep the gym floor. I should know better than to try to talk to him when he’s focused on work.  As I begin to clean I turn my heart to the Lord.
“God, my heart is hurting so much right now. I’m so afraid of being disappointed again.”
I haven’t forgotten you. 
The phrase runs so clearly through my mind, and I am comforted. He sees me. He knows. He counts every tear. He is charting my journey, even when I feel unsure of the way.
Finally, it is time to go home. We will have about an hour to rest before returning to finish out the last two hours of the 12 hours of prayer—quite probably the only two hour slot that was filled. I share some of my thoughts and feelings with Shawn in the car.
“Honey, if you’re too tired you can stay home. Get some rest. I’ll go and pray.”
I consider this before answering, “No, I want to come with you. I need to pray.”
An hour later we step into the church sanctuary, which several hours before I had lovingly set up with specific pray stations to encourage devotion and to give direction. Bibles and journals are laid out. Huge sheets of paper hang on the walls with markers close by with which prayers can be written.  Candles are waiting to be lit as a representation of each life prayed over.  Water colors sit next to clear glasses of water, brushes ready to create colorful strokes and transform stark white paper into worshipful works of art.  Silk flowers and greenery are delicately arranged; satin cloths cover the tables. Everything is so still; everything looks completely untouched. Feeling a new wave of discouragement hit me, I make my way to my personal favorite station—the quiet corner. An attractive whicker divider, silk trees and plants enclose a far corner of the chapel. On the floor is a welcoming blanket. A lamp shines softly on a white pillar. I want to be alone with God right now, secluded from everything else, including my husband.
I sink to my knees and the tears begin to fall. Tonight was almost more than I could take. I’m anxious for tomorrow’s pregnancy test, wondering if I can take another disappointment if it turns out negative.
“Father, I need to hear from You. Please speak to my heart.” I begin to write my thoughts and prayers in my journal.
Read Psalm 68
I flip open my Bible and turn the thin pages to the Psalms. The 68th Psalm is rather long; 35 verses to be exact. The heading reads, “The Glory of God and His Goodness to Israel.” I begin reading, wondering if I was hearing Him right. I resolve in my heart to read through the entire Psalm, though I’m beginning to doubt I was really hearing from God. I reach verse 27, and the words leap off the page “There is little Benjamin, their leader…” I re-read it again, amazed. Shawn and I have known all along that we would name our first born son Benjamin. We’ve also had a sense all along that our first child would be a boy. This verse seems so specific, yet I’m still afraid to hope too much. I write in my journal:
Thank You for reminding me tonight that You haven’t forgotten me. Thank You that You understand all the emotions I’m experiencing even when it feels like nobody else does. Father, I ask that if I’m not pregnant that You would touch my body and cause my period to start tonight or in the morning. If I am pregnant, please let it be confirmed by the pregnancy test. Please cover my heart and Shawn’s heart and prepare us for whatever the answer is right now. Thank You that Your timing is perfect and that You carefully direct our steps. I give this back to You, Abba, and I thank You that You always know best.
Now, I’m sitting next to my husband on the couch, snuggled close as we make calls to family and a few close friends. The happy tears have given way to a peaceful calm, though it all still feels surreal in a joyful way.  After calling my mom, the next call is made to Shawn’s dad and older brother, Corey. Then we call his mom and step-dad. She lets out a delighted scream at the news. The first grandbaby is coming. She’s been saving a crib and changing station for 10 years since her youngest son, Shawn’s half-brother Chase, outgrew them. I smile thinking of my mother-in-law as a grandma. In her youthful appearance she’s been mistaken as a girlfriend to her grown sons a time or two; a fact that appalls them both.   Now it’s time to call our grandparents. To our slight irritation, one set of grandparents has already received the news of my pregnancy. Corey texted them right away upon hearing the word himself. We make a mental note that in the future we will tell Corey last when we have exciting news to share! : ) However, nothing can truly dampen our spirits at this point. A few more calls are made, and we decide to share in person with the rest of our local friends.
To celebrate we go back to the store and purchase the cute baby outfit I had my eye on earlier. It’s a white and blue striped onesie with matching blue pants and a picture of a tan lion on the front.  The lettering reads “L is for Lion who is loveable in every way.” I’ve been planning for a long time to decorate Benjamin’s nursery in lions.  We also purchase two large pieces of fleece so I can make a baby blanket. The pattern I select has pictures of jungle animal babies, including lions. I pick a solid light green for the backing, and we happily head for check-out. As we make our purchase we see our friend Katie. I can’t help myself; I have to tell her. She is thrilled and gives me a huge hug. I want to announce the good news to the entire store. I want to shout it from the rooftops. We’re going to have a baby!

Welcome to My Blog--Why "Holland?"

Welcome to my blog! Thank you for taking the time to visit. I want to begin by explaining the name, “Reflections from Holland.” Years ago a woman by the name of Emily Perl Kingsley, who has a son with Down syndrome, wrote a beautiful essay entitled “Welcome to Holland” to express the unique experience of raising a child with a disability. She does a fantastic job of giving language to something that is often so difficult to articulate. She describes pregnancy as planning a wonderful trip to Italy. You make tons of plans and learn as much as you can while eagerly awaiting the big day. When it finally arrives you board the plane and touch down hours later only to hear the stewardess say “Welcome to Holland!” Amid the onslaught of shock and emotions you soon realize that your flight plan has been changed, and there is nothing you can do about it. Your dream of going to Italy is gone, while most of your friends continue to happily travel to Italy themselves. You realize that you must now learn a new language and culture for which you were not prepared. However, as you begin to get your bearings, you are able to realize that Holland has a beauty and grace all its own; and though there is pain that you did not make it to Italy, you are able to appreciate and enjoy your experiences in Holland. Her original essay is printed with permission at the bottom of this blog.
On May 22, 2009 we began our journey into Holland with the arrival of Benjamin Lee Hemminger. In our journey thus far we have experienced the greatest pain and the greatest joy we have ever known. Part of the healing process for me has been to write bits of our story. Over the months they have been recorded in no particular order, and there is still much more to write. However, I feel that it is now time to begin sharing these reflections, and though not written chronologically, I will try to post things in a linear order as best as I can. Early in my pregnancy, the Lord encouraged me with Psalm 71, and this passage was such and anchor for us during some of the darkest days. “From birth I have relied on You; You brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise You...But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more. My mouth will tell of Your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure,” (vs. 6, 14-15). It is my hope and prayer that my faithful God, Who has shown His goodness to us time and time again, will receive all the glory through the writing posted here. Thanks for reading…