Recently I noticed on the calendar that it was the one year anniversary of me being put on bed rest which was the start of a really difficult journey for our family. That combined with the fact that the babies are turning one soon has me reflecting and thinking back to a year ago and there are several things that I had really wanted to blog about but had lacked the time to do so. I figured better late than never! Be warned this is a long blog and probably not interesting to many but it was important to me to write to remember.
Before being on bed rest I remember thinking "maybe the doctor will let me go on bed rest for a day or two each week". I mean what pregnant mom with two kids would not like to be told to go to bed and watch tv for a day??? In reality bed rest was much much different. The toll it takes on you physically is intense. One of my doctors told me I should expect for it to take a week for every day that I was on bed rest to recover physically, so over 6 months of recovery in my case. That was mind boggling to me but after a month of literally laying down doing absolutely nothing I believed it. I quickly lost muscle tone and energy and my recovery from going from total bed rest to an emergency c-section to spending hours a day at the NICU was not easy. Even more than the physical effect the emotional effect of bed rest is hard to describe. Isolation. No going to the store, no walking outside to breathe fresh air. No encounters out and about with friends or even strangers for small talk. After the month of bed rest I then had another type of isolation, 10 weeks of spending hours each day at hospitals with little interaction with people and then additional months of isolation at the house as we waited for flu and rsv season to be over. I found myself overwhelmed when I was with crowds of people because I was not used to it whereas in the past I thrived on being around lots of friends and family.
For me personally hands down what made bed rest so hard was watching the effect it had on my family. I am a stay at home mom; my life revolves around my kids. It's who I am, a major part of my identity. To have that role taken away from me was devastating and it was so hard on James and Harrison. Seeing them cry because someone else had to do their bath, take them to school, fix their breakfast, etc. tore my nerves and emotions to pieces. Hearing them ask me to go play outside and having to tell them no broke my heart, how do you explain that to a five and two year old? Listening to them make memories with other people and knowing that the memory should be with you, not someone else- I was so worried they would resent the babies because they were the reason that mommy couldn't be mommy. The cruelest part of home bed rest is that you have to witness it, you have to see it with your own eyes. I remember thinking some days that I felt like I was watching my family fall apart and I had a front row seat to view it but wasn't allowed to step in and help. It was awful.
However one beautiful thing that started during my time on bed rest and continued throughout the next year was seeing the community that we live in step in to help us. It is hard to put into words how it made me feel but the first two that come to mind are humbled and grateful. During my time in Shreveport I had become fiercely independent, almost to a fault. I was used to doing things on my own, we rarely had help, Ryan worked all the time. Being put on bed rest and then the aftermath from the babies' early birth made me dependent on people in a way I have never been before. It made me learn to say "yes" when someone offered to help. It made me admit that I couldn't do it all and it gave me many chances to teach my kids and myself that mommy can't do and be everything for everyone. For a long time I have wanted to write down some of the ways people, many of them strangers, had come to our aid so that I would never forget how generous people were to us.
First and foremost people helped us with prayers and words of encouragement. People had surrounded this pregnancy with prayer from the very beginning but prayers really started spreading the day the babies were born. People from all over were praying for them and I cannot begin to describe the peace it gave me. Within minutes of finding out they were going to be born a chain reaction started that had tons of people praying for their health. The Sunday after their birth the pastor from the church we were visiting texted us that the whole church had prayed specifically for our family. That meant to much to us. That pastor, a pastor from our childhood church as well as one of the hospital chaplains here in New Bern all made the trek to Vidant to pray over our children. We also received beautiful prayer blankets from our childhood church for the babies.
Words of encouragement. My love language is words so encouragement means so much to me. Texts, phone calls, cards in the mail, Facebook messages- I felt surrounded with encouragement by people, some of whom I hadn't heard from in years, some of whom I had never even met but that reached out to me. My friends would call and leave me the sweetest messages (I rarely answered because of being in the hospital and life being so crazy). They always reiterated that I didn't need to call them back but they wanted to know they were thinking of me. Sweet messages from members of my MOPS group telling me they had all prayed for us and were thinking of us, messages from people who had also had or knew people with premature babies, friends from high school, from Louisiana, each of these meant so much to me.
Food! Wow, we got some food. I actually gained weight during the babies' 10 week hospital stay because we had so much good food brought to us. Delicious lasagna, homemade chicken and pastry, chocolate pecan pie, I could go on and on! From the time I went on bed rest in August until almost Christmas we had dinner brought about three times a week. A neighbor and friend offered to set up a meal train and I told her "that is so sweet but I really only have about two friends in this town so I don't know anyone to tell you to ask to be on it." I will never forget her response "Oh don't you worry I will take care of that." Weeks and weeks of meals brought by people, the overwhelming majority of whom I had never even met. It made me fall even more in love with the community that we live in. I had a couple of friends here who brought me meals multiple times, they both have young children of their own. I loved how they wouldn't ask if I wanted dinner, they would just text me and say "I have dinner for you. You can eat it or freeze it but I'm coming and putting it in your fridge". One of my friends from far away ordered us pizza, it was on the day that Andrew was really having a tough day. He had been sent to have an MRI and my nerves were shot. Her text came to me at the hospital that she was ordering us pizza and what time did it need to be delivered and it was such a blessing on what was a very stressful and scary day for our family. Ryan's OR nurse took her day off and showed up with multiple meals for the freezer as well as basic groceries (milk, fruit) and also some cookies for the boys. Many people didn't just bring dinner, they sent things for breakfast, a gallon of milk, something for the next day, an extra lasagna to freeze. Several people also made a real effort to bring "kid friendly" foods. Sometimes they would actually send something for the adults and then add an additional meal like mac and cheese with chicken strips for the boys. One of our neighbors even made the cutest Halloween desserts for the boys. A friend that lives out of town made multiple freezer meals that she sent via my mom to stock our freezer. While at Vidant I had people bringing me lunch on the days that I was there. Not only was it a wonderful break from the hospital food it gave me a chance to have a much needed break emotionally from being surrounded by our situation, just sitting in the hospital for hours. Having the meals brought to me at home meant that after being gone the entire day at the hospital I could just sit with my family and soak up as much precious time with James and Harrison as possible.
A few other ways people helped us:
A friend sent me a huge container of paper plates, napkins, etc. when on bed rest so we wouldn't have to do dishes. That helped take the load off of Ryan who was having to pick up the slack in so many areas.
Two of my good friends in Greenville took many many of their lunch breaks from work to make the trek to the hospital to see me and offer me some company and encouragement. Theses two friends were also on the permanent list at the hospital (meaning they could come visit the babies whenever they wanted without me being there) and they came so many times when I could not be there to check on the babies, spend time with them, send me pictures. I can never describe what that meant to me.
My friend that is a photographer drove back and forth from out of town to take the most precious pictures of our babies that I will treasure forever.
One day we came home from the hospital and our neighbor had cut our grass.
A friend in town multiple times came and swooped up Harrison and took him to play for the day with her two boys.
Our moms- how would we have made it this year without them?! They both helped so much while I was on bed rest and then throughout the year. I could never even begin to list all that they have done, everything from changing diapers to doing our laundry to taking the big boys out for a fun dinner. We will never be able to repay them!
Our pediatrician's office. I tell everyone that if I had to list my top favorite things about this town this office would be on it. I have a unique situation in that I know these doctors, nurses, and staff very well, probably much better than the average parent. During the five weeks that Andrew was in the hospital here we talked at least once a day, sometimes more. I cannot say enough about how they have helped us this year but here are a few examples. I got phone calls every day and sometimes at night to update me on Andrew's progress. When the babies finally got home they allowed me to come in during their lunch break so the babies wouldn't be around any other children. During the rest of RSV season when I got there I immediately went into a private waiting room to minimize exposure to germs. One of the nurses knitted them adorable winter hats. Even this past week I called when both were under the weather, they were completely booked, yet they saw us anyway. And last but certainly not least the day that Andrew was discharged our primary pediatrician gave me her personal cell phone number. As the wife of a doctor I know what a big deal that is and it gave me such peace and reassurance to know that I could call her or text her at any moment and she would be there.
Presents- oh we were so blessed with presents for these babies. Part of me felt so guilty even accepting them because they were our third and fourth children but I loved it. So many cute things! Clothes, hats, toys, stuffed animals, practical things they needed, strollers, etc. We were grateful and thankful for all.
My college roommate and one of my mom's good friends both sent me flowers in the hospital the day after the babies were born. I don't know if I can even communicate what this meant to me but the best I can do is that sending those flowers with the congratulatory cards reminded me that this birth, even in not so great circumstances, was still something to be celebrated. There was no excitement and happiness the day Andrew and Kate were born for Ryan and I and those flowers were so special in reminding me that this was still a joyous time.
Our preschool- several families made us meals, teachers brought the boys home for me when I couldn't get there to pick up, and one of James's sweet teachers met me in the parking lot every single morning rain or shine to get both boys and walk them to their classes so the babies wouldn't be around the other kids and germs.
A friend from out of town sent me money to help pay for things like hospital parking, food at the cafeteria, coffee when I needed a pick me up. Her family had recently experienced a long hospital stay and she knew first hand what it was like to be visiting a hospital each day and what things would be needed.
Why did I write all of this? Partly because I know if it isn't written down then there is no chance I will remember it; I have a terrible memory. Also so I can one day tell the kids about how people helping us and supporting us was one of the few good things that came out of a bad situation. It was a reminder to me that there are still a lot of really good people out there, a reminder of what the church can look like when members help others. Most of all I wrote it so we can pay it forward. This experience has changed the way I help people; it's shown me how to be intentional and purposeful and practical in how I help people. My heart is more tender, more compassionate towards others.
We recently were talking about the story of the Good Samaritan in Sunday School and I realized that while I had had opportunities in life to practice being the Samaritan, this past year we had been in the position of the hurt man and people were able to reach out to us, to come to our aid. It is so humbling to be on the receiving end of people's kindness and my hope and prayer is that our family can use what we learned and experienced to help others. So if anyone ever reads this that said a prayer for our family, dropped off a meal, took time to open the door for me when I walked through with the double stroller, or did any of the other numerous acts of kindness our family experienced this past year- thank you. You will never know what it meant to us!
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