To say that our lives have been the epitome of a simple roller coaster ride might be an understatement. Needless to say, I would compare it to the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Walt Disney World– we are jammin’ out to Aerosmith and everything y’all! So, I took advantage of the cold weather yesterday and went into hibernation. It may have only been for a day, but oh it was so glorious! I actually cooked something!! It may have only been lactation cookies (all the while listening to the sermon from this past Sunday), but hey– the KitchenAid mixer got some mileage after being on hiatus for three months, and Mike Lee brought the Word right there to me in my kitchen! Also, I may or may not have still been in my pajamas when Andrew walked through the door. But, what can I say? The nursery is complete, and so I was only imagining what it would be like with the girls home. Because let’s face it– I will probably stay in my pajamas or yoga pants 99.9% of the time. I CAN NOT WAIT.
Through this roller coaster ride of our NICU journey, I discovered an online community called Hand to Hold that supports the parents and families of premature babies. It has provided strength as I have had the opportunity to learn alongside other mother’s experiences, and it has also been a helpful resource in understanding the importance in realizing how fragile our babies truly are. About a month ago, one mother shared her story and the life lessons that her twins had taught her in the short span of their life. When Andrew and I discovered that we were expecting mono-amniotic twins, I knew in my heart that there was a reason God had called Andrew and I to be parents. With every test that God bestows before us, there is always a lesson to be learned that will strengthen our testimony. When I read this mother’s ‘ten lessons’, it filled my soul because I knew these were the lessons God was also calling me to learn from HIS children that he blessed Andrew and I with here on earth.
1. Community. Andrew and I both have been absolutely blown away with how many people have reached out to us in this journey. The sense of community that has surrounded us has been so encouraging and it renews our strength. From our NICU community to the community of prayer warriors extended across the United States, the sense of generosity, prayers, and words of encouragement has been the most tremendous blessing. I will forever remember the kindness and selfless acts that people have extended towards us during this journey. One day I will return the blessing to other families in need, because a community of believers is so special to have.
2. Patience. In the NICU, we have heard the term “wait and see” more times than we can count on our fingers and toes combined! As an anxious new parent, “wait and see” is not always an easy answer to accept. We want answers now. I want to know when I can take my girls home. I want to know when they will stop having apnea episodes. I want to know when I can let others meet them. I want to know when it is safe to take them outside. I want to know when the VSD in their tiny hearts will close. And in life, sometimes “wait and see” is all we can do. BUT my friends, the good news is that in this period of waiting, God hears every cry and every plea. The Lord has given us this period of waiting for a reason that is beyond our own understanding. Therefore, we must use it to glorify Him and seek His purpose in His ever-unfolding plan.
3. Perseverance. If you have ever seen a premature baby learn to breathe on their own, you know the meaning of perseverance. Preemies don’t know the words “I can’t”; they just keep on trying. On days that I feel weak, I look to my girls and I am amazed at their strength. My sweet babies were 2 lbs. 13 oz. and 3 lbs. 3 oz. when they first entered this world. They have been through more medically than some endure in an entire lifetime, and they are still fighting. It’s a beautiful thing.
4. Trust. You learn to trust your doctors, nurses, and yourself. Most importantly, you learn to solely trust in God alone. I am so particular and like things a certain way (just ask Andrew)– and I am sure you see it coming like a freight train: I like to have control. Welp! I most definitely got a rude awakening!! Try to control a premature baby on your agenda with an all-inclusive impeccable plan. NOT HAPPENING. In a book I read the other day, the author shared something she heard in a sermon. “When we loosen our grip, He tightens His.” WOW. I know I’ve made mistakes, and I know I will make more, but He doesn’t make mistakes. He loves unconditionally. His plans and purposes are perfect. So trust.
5. Hope. When you are given impossible statistics yet still believe it is possible, you have learned what it means to hope. Hope is the guiding light that has traveled to and from Chapel Hill with me everyday. Every day I leave my girls and drive home, I hold onto the hope that one day they will be traveling the road to home with me. What a blessing!
6. Resilience. The surgeries, the tests, the tubes, the scars – it is absolutely amazing what these premature babies overcome. After witnessing my daughter at 3 lbs. overcome heart surgery, she definitely taught me to not be so dramatic about a simple paper cut that is for sure! These precious preemies have taught me to be resilient.
7. Gratitude. I never understood the depth of gratitude one could have until I gave birth to Amelia and Leah. In the NICU, we have been grateful for every ounce the girls have gained, each breath that they breathe on their own, every day we pass without an apnea spell, and every milliliter of milk they drink. And y’all… I never thought I would see the day I would even be thankful for a dirty diaper, but I am. It’s the little things in life! My girls have taught me to be thankful for every single thing.
8. Strength. The spirit and fight that babies born prematurely have is absolutely remarkable. Andrew and I were given the statistic that only 50% of mono-amniotic twins make it to viability, and the type of twins we were carrying was extremely rare. One percent amongst all twin pregnancies to be exact! Born at 29 weeks and 3 days, Amelia and Leah are two of the strongest baby girls I know. By God’s will, they are here and continuing to fight for a life that is to bring glory to Jesus’s name!
9. Empathy. While everyone’s journey in life is different, I now can relate to the feelings of fear, hope, and joy on a different level prior to having Amelia and Leah. I empathize with other mothers of premature babies as we are bound with an experience so many can not begin to relate. Along with my experience, I empathize with other parents who have to endure a period of waiting before they can bring their child home. Overall, our journey in NICU has brought me to my final lesson: perspective.
10. Perspective. The biggest lesson of all. At 22 years of age, I am a young mother to two twin girls. A year ago my only focus was lace or satin, keyhole back or strapless, and prioritizing when to do my homework to catch Sean’s premiere on the Bachelor. You see, I had this “plan”… And, in this plan consisted of the ideal dream wedding and the perfect, sweet entrance to motherhood that would be far from complicated and messy. Well, I thank The Lord everyday that He woke me up and made a special delivery of a different perspective to this lifetime at my front door. You see, perfect doesn’t exist in our world. It’s all an illusion. I can’t give Andrew, Amelia, and Leah perfection, because I am fresh out (no control over here!). I can give them love and laughter, and in the grand scheme of it all that is what it is all about.
So, with each passing day, I know there are more lessons to be learned in the wonderful journey of motherhood. I can’t wait to bring these girls home to capture all of the love, laughter, trial-and-error, and sleepless nights. Stay tuned… because it is bound to get interesting up in the White household.
Rock ‘n’ Rollin’ with lots of Love and Laughter,
Oh, and by the way…those cookies…don’t worry, they are labeled. I would be afraid Andrew would never eat my cooking again if he tried one of those! Lesson #11: The Things You Do For Your Children. — another blog post for another day! I have cookies to eat!