Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A story about Miracles

Meet my good friends Katy, Micah and their two beautiful children (Madison and Graysen).Katy was my neighbor for a short while (too short if you ask me) and we became dear friends... and then they moved to Texas for work. Sad, sad day for me. Katy has the most tender, sweet, sweet soul. The light of Christ radiates through her. I wish all of you could know her. 
She is a remarkable woman. 
The following story of Katy and the birth story of her little boy Graysen is very, very moving. I can't believe the things she went through... and still has to go through... but her faith in her savior Jesus Christ and the love of her husband and family is what pulls her through. She is amazing. 
Go grab a tissue or two and keep reading: 

The Story.

This is a very happy story.
This is also a sad story.
But mostly, this is a story about miracles. 

It all started late Saturday night when I went into labor.  Just like that, after two weeks of non-eventful bed rest and only days before our scheduled delivery, I started contracting regularly every few minutes.  I couldn't feel a thing, but my nurse saw the contractions on my monitor and came in to check on me.  "Trust me, it won't be very long before you start to feel it, Sweetie," she said. "Time to call your husband!"  By the time Micah arrived 20 minutes later, I was feeling every single one of those contractions, a minute and a half apart.  I was moved to a labor and delivery room, and there I cried and breathed and squeezed the feeling out of Micah's hand until 1 a.m., when I was wheeled into an operating room down the hall and rolled onto a steel bed. The anesthesiologist gave me a spinal to numb me from the chest down, my arms were stretched out to either side of me, and a curtain went up. Micah came in, dressed in a white paper jumpsuit and blue cap, and he sat down by my head and held my hand and started making jokes because he knew I was scared to death.

Twenty minutes later, our baby boy was born (I will spare you all the gory details of what it feels like to be fully cognizant while you are cut into, muscles are torn apart, and organs are moved around...).  Because I couldn't see anything past the big blue curtain at my chest, all I could do was listen.  As soon as I heard my baby's lusty little cry, I immediately felt overwhelming relief-- at least I knew his lungs were strong. I caught a glimpse of him as he was carried to a table to be cleaned-- so tiny!-- and in a few minutes a nurse brought him over and held him close to me, all bundled up with bright pink skin and squinty little eyes.  I was able to reach up and touch the back of his head for a few seconds before he was whisked away to the NICU for testing.

And then things got scary.

Dr. Jacobs leaned over the blue curtain and before she said a word I knew something was wrong.  She said, "Kathryn, I need to talk to you about your surgery."  She proceeded to tell us that during the course of the pregnancy, the placenta had become deeply embedded in my uterus (a condition called Placenta Accreta)-- so much so that to try to remove it would cause severe damage to the uterus and possibly other organs, and potentially cause life threatening hemorrhaging.  The only option, for my safety-- and Dr. Jacobs made it clear that I didn't have a choice in the matter-- was to remove my uterus along with the placenta.  It took a few seconds for the implications of this to sink in, and when it did, I started to cry.  And then Micah started to cry, which made me cry harder because in the eleven years I've known him, I've only seen him cry once.  Then they sent him out of the operating room.  At that point I was given a sedative and quickly fell asleep, but Micah told me later that he had been taken back to my labor and delivery room and left alone for the remainder of the surgery.  For the next 45 minutes, he told me, he was left to wonder how everything was going and even tried to prepare himself in case I didn't make it through the operation.  Looking back on the whole experience, that's by far one of the hardest parts of it all-- knowing he had to go through that.

But the operation was successful, and when I came to I was back in my room with Micah right by my bed.  A nurse started to explain what had taken place and what was left of my anatomy and what to expect.  Dr. Jacobs had been able to leave my ovaries intact, so I would still have hormone regulation and monthly ovulation.  However, no more periods, and no need for birth control.  She told me she could go get my uterus if I wanted to see it (Really?! Ew.).  As she talked, though, all I could think was, I can't have any more kids.  And then I would start to cry again.

Even with all the shock and hurting, when Micah was finally able to visit the NICU and bring back pictures of our perfect little boy-- healthy and whole despite being early and so small-- I honestly couldn't feel anything but overwhelming joy and gratitude.  Because he is a little miracle, in every sense of the word.  Thinking back on the entire pregnancy, and every event leading up to delivery, we realize now how everything happened for a specific reason.  We can't help but see so many tender mercies of the Lord in the whole experience.

From the very beginning, I had an unexplainable feeling that I needed to opt for a repeat C-section, rather than attempt a VBAC delivery.  I kept telling my doctor that I wasn't sure why, only that I wanted to deliver this baby in the safest way possible, even though the risks of problems with a VBAC are usually minuscule.  So all along, I prepared myself for a C-section.  And it's a darn good thing, because had we attempted a vaginal delivery with the placenta attached to the uterus, things could have been really nasty.  The doctors also told us that had the pregnancy progressed any further, the placenta most likely would have grown into other organs besides the uterus, and even onto the baby, causing much much scarier problems.  How lucky I was to have delivered as early as I did.  Coincidence that my water broke eight weeks early?  We're pretty sure it wasn't.  Coincidence that I was able to be in the hospital for two weeks prior to delivery, where I could get the antibiotics and steroids our baby needed to finish developing early? Nope.  Coincidence that we were able to have two beautiful children- a daughter and a son- before an emergency hysterectomy? Not a chance.  Some of my friends and family members have asked if we feel upset or angry at the way things happened.  Absolutely not.
We feel blessed beyond words. 

Any disappointment we've experienced is far, far outweighed by feelings of complete gratitude and indebtedness to the Lord.  He has taken our little family in the palm of His hand and given us more than we can ever understand.  He has blessed us with two beautiful little miracle babies, and protected my life as well (Madison's delivery was nearly as scary and complicated).  Apparently my body just isn't cut out for any more pregnancies.  We know that we want more kids, and we know the Lord will provide other ways for us to welcome more of His children into our family.  We are very excited about the prospect of adoption, or foster care, etc.  Who knows what He has in the works for us?  We just know that we can trust Him completely.  He's definitely proved that to us.

Meanwhile. I am home and healing, slowly but surely. Graysen is doing well in the NICU and making remarkable progress every day.  He doesn't need any oxygen support, he's finally off antibiotics and IV fluids, and is no longer under phototherapy lights for jaundice.  We're not sure when we'll be able to bring him home, but hope it will be sooner than later!

To read more from Katy's blog click HERE

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finding HOPE

"Amid the horrors of a civil war, I found hope in a book and a plastic bag."
A note from The Gallery of Goodness:
My mom attended "Time Out for Women" a few years ago and had the opportunity to meet a unique woman named Mariama Kallon. My mom was in the crowd when Mariama shared her moving story with the audience. My mom was deeply touched by this woman's courage and hope after ALL she'd been through ( read more of her story below).

My mom is in the Stake Young Women's presidency back at home in Texas and she was able to get ahold of Mariama to fly down to Texas to attend youth conference to speak. My family was pleased to have Mariama stay with them in their home for a few days. My mom said they have become "sisters for life" and she will be forever touched by Mariama and her amazing testimony. They will be forever friends. This woman who faced death and watched her family's lives being taken right in front of her lives her life sharing her testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ with others and the HOPE others can have through HIM.

Read her story below:

Sierra Leone was a sad place during my teenage years, but it was my home. For much of my life, my small West African country was torn by a civil war. The war affected everything. My family and I were constantly on the run, trying to escape the rebel soldiers. It was terrifying every time the rebels came through a city. Someone would see their torches approaching in the night, warn the others, and we would all run for the bush, grabbing whatever we could along the way.
About seven years after the war began, the rebels came to our city. My whole family was running to escape, but my parents, who were just a few steps behind me, were shot and killed. I was so sad to lose them, but I had to keep moving.
My brother, sister, and I moved to a safer place, and for a short while we were all right, but the rebels eventually hit that town, too. This time we didn’t have time to run away. My brother was taken and later killed. My sister and I were lined up outside with all the other women. The rebel soldiers were chopping limbs off of all the women in the line. We were all so frightened. Everyone was crying and praying—even people who had never believed in God before. I was not a member of the Church at the time, but I believed in God and prayed that His will would be done and hoped that He would find a way to save me.
My dear sister, who was several places ahead of me in line, had both of her legs cut off. But as the rebels reached the woman in front of me, our army came rushing in and the rebels ran away. I know that I was not better than the people who were in front of me or behind me, but I thanked God that I had been spared and prayed that I might understand His plan for me.
I moved to another village to live with a friend. As I was telling my story to my friend and some of her neighbors, one neighbor said, “Mariama, we don’t have anything to offer you except an invitation to church tomorrow. That’s where we find safety. That’s where we find hope.” I loved God already and needed comfort in my life, so I decided to go.
My first Sunday in that LDS branch is a day I will never forget. I learned of hope. You could just see that there was hope in those people, and I was drawn to them. I was given the Book of Mormon and started reading right away. I remember hearing in church about how families could be together again after death and then reading in Alma 11 where Alma teaches about how our bodies will be made perfect again in theResurrection. I felt the Spirit so strong as I thought of my family. I knew that the Church was true and that we could be together forever—each of us well and whole.
There were no missionaries in Sierra Leone at that time, so I took the lessons from my branch president and was baptized soon after. We were blessed in our town, because the Church sent food and humanitarian kits for the members of the Church and others. The food kept us all alive. Everyone was so grateful even to receive a small bag of rice or beans. I received a blanket and a hygiene kit that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, a comb, and a washcloth.
Not long after, the rebels hit again. They burned down the house I was living in, and as I was running to escape the flames, I took time to save only two things—my scriptures and my hygiene kit. We had to live on the run for a while after that, and I used my hygiene kit to help those around me. I would squeeze out one pinch of toothpaste for each person, or we would go to the river and carefully pass my bar of soap from person to person. The kit was so precious to us. The blanket, too, was invaluable. It sheltered us for many days until I used it to wrap an old woman who had died and had nothing to be buried in.
Eventually, I went back to my town and my branch. It was then that I decided I wanted to serve a mission. This was a difficult decision for me, because I had nothing and would be leaving behind people I loved. As I was trying to decide, I read D&C 84:81 and 88, which say, “Therefore, take ye no thought for the morrow, for what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed … for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” I knew the Lord would care for me, so I turned in my mission papers and was called to the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission.
I arrived in Utah with practically nothing, but I insisted on bringing my hygiene kit, because it meant so much to me. One day, my companion and I were taking a tour of the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake, and I recognized a blanket that had the Relief Society logo embroidered on it, just like the one I’d had in Sierra Leone. I looked around and saw hygiene kits like mine and familiar bags of beans and rice, and I began cry.
“This is where they came from!” I thought to myself. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I remembered what these things sitting in stacks in the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake meant to my friends and to me in Sierra Leone. I was so grateful to the Lord for preserving me, for bringing the gospel into my life, and for allowing me to serve a mission. I knew that His angels truly had been round about me, to bear me up."

Click HERE to find out more about the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.