Monday, August 30, 2010

Stepping in to These Days

A year ago today was the last full day we spent with Samuel.  It was a hard day.  I remember how awful it was to wake up every morning to our alarm at 5:45am after a fitful night's sleep at best.  We'd be clinging to each other on a twin cot, too sad and heartbroken to sleep in separate beds, and we'd be immediately flooded with our reality and the fears of what the last 5 and a half hours had brought for Samuel.  Silently, we would rise, dress, pop a piece of gum in our mouths, hug each other for a long minute, and begin the long, interminable walk downs the halls to Samuel's pod.  Each step was filled with the weight of fear, grief, longing, exhaustion, and pain.  They were the longest walks of my life -- those 2 minutes every morning from our sleep pod to Samuel's side.  I dreaded what news we might hear, how much more swollen he would look in our six hours away, and what our first glimpse of his stats on the monitors would reveal.  I woke every morning with my stomach in the soles of my feet and my heart in my throat, and I wonder if that's why I've started every day the last week with my stomach in knots and feeling anxious.

August 30th is the day we signed a DNR for Samuel.  We weren't at a place where we wanted to remove his support, though we wondered if that day would come, but we did know we didn't want a "Code Blue" called when his heart stopped.  We didn't want doctors rushing in to revive him so he could keep on with his living death.  We wouldn't be reviving him to any sort of real life -- just to machines and another heart stop around the corner.  And if doctors did try to revive him, we wouldn't be holding him as he died.  So with great confidence we signed the "Do Not Resuscitate."  It felt so strange to do something so morbid, but we were completely peaceful in that decision.  As it turns out, we didn't need it, but it gave us some peace of mind those last 24 hours to know noone would be pushing us aside when the time came for Samuel to go home to Jesus.

It's been a hard week for me in different ways than I expected.  Under normal circumstances, I am someone who does not like to be busy.  I love being at home, having a clear calendar, and just being able to live each day with my boys.  Life has been full for us lately, and I prefer the opposite.  This past week has been especially full because of unexpected car shopping.  Bryan and I have spent countless hours doing online research, making phone calls, driving to used car dealerships and to meet private sellers.  Our search has stolen my hours of quiet, of reflection, of intentional grieving, and I find myself really resenting that.  I have felt rushed through this process of finding a new car -- because it's complicated to be a one car family when Caleb has school in the opposite direction of Bryan's work (and his day ends way before Bryan's day ends).  Bryan and I have both felt rushed to buy a car, and last night as we sat over his birthday dinner (Happy 33rd Birthday, my love), we both admitted that we don't feel peaceful about it.  Something in us feels uneasy, so we've decided to slow down and be more patient.

I realized that I also have felt rushed through this last week of August as a result of the car -- like I've been robbed of the chance to really be in this week, to take time to grieve and pay attention to my soul.  At 11:30 on Saturday night, after a day of car shopping and going to our church's Group Link to form a new Just Married small group we will be leading and preparing for Bryan's birthday, I still had not had a moment to sit down and read our blog entry from last year and all the comments on it.  I hadn't had a chance to enter into our story and grief -- things I really wanted to do and felt like I needed to do for my own sake.  I was on the verge of tears from frustration and thought back over the week.  Numerous times this frustration has bubbled up in me unexpectedly and burst out of me from nowhere.  One day at lunch with the boys, Joel asked me something for the eighth time (something he's a pro at -- that child is persistent!), and I growled -- seriously.  I stopped for a second and said, "Mommy is feeling...something.  I just need a minute.  Can you be patient and quiet for a few minutes, please?"  Joel, in typical fashion, went to ask again, and Caleb -- bless his heart -- whispered across the table, "Shhh, Joel.  Mommy is feeling something."  It made me smile even in the midst of the inner turmoil and raging emotions.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is pent up grief forcing its way out because I have not given it ample time to come out in healthy ways.  So I am glad Bryan and I have decided to take our time a little more in this car search, and I am really, really thankful that my friend Libby emailed this morning and said she was coming over to watch the boys and would let me drive her car to Starbucks for a couple of hours -- where I am now, spending some time in our story.  I'm taking deep breaths, feeling still for these moments, and actually able to be in today.  Thank you, Libs.

Throughout this month, I have also gone back and read my journal from last August.  Here is some of my entry from August 28, 2009:

"This is a hard life.  I'm weary and exhausted, and everything that's ahead seems more exhausting and overwhelming.  I don't know how we'll make it through this.  I don't know how we'll ever get over this pain.  Our little Samuel is so precious to us, and I want to bring him home and have him play in the backyard and have him wake me up at midnight and 3am to eat.  I want to hold him and take care of him.  But this is not what we've been given.

"Dr. Cuadrado and Dr. Warshaw both expressed the inevitability of Samuel's ultimate outcome.  Dr. Cuadrado actually said it's 'inevitable,' and Dr. Warshaw, the nefrologist, said the best we could hope for from dialysis is for Samuel to die less puffy.

"Bryan and I have not left the hospital in six days.  We are tired, and we both hate waking up and facing the reality of our situation again and another day of this life.  Once I get in by Samuel, I tend to settle down again and find some peace and even joy in being with him. 

"Dr. Cuadrado told us to consider a DNR or even taking Samuel off of support.  What I know is this: I want to usher Samuel into God's arms.  I want to be holding him, singing to him, and praying over him.  I don't want to be shoved aside while doctors violently try to bring him back to life.  I want to be with him, holding him, soothing him, and gently handing him over to Jesus.  And I think I would always regret not holding Samuel.  As much as holding him would increase my pain at losing him, I think I would have a forever ache of not having done it if he's not in my arms while he's still alive.

"I obviously don't know how it will work or how it will happen, but I want to do everything possible to make it as gentle for Samuel as possible.  I hate the thought of him being in pain and of him suffering.  Oh, Lord, give my little baby boy comfort.  May he not be fearful or anxious or in pain.  May he be resting easy, and may he know he's loved and treasured and that we're with him.

"God give us the strength we need to face what's ahead -- and what's right now.  I obviously can't do this without You.  If ever I needed You, it's now.  Be my Strength, Comfort, Hope, and Joy.  Oh, how I need You.  I need courage, peace, faith, and strength.  And how I'm going to need Your healing.

"I don't know how I will parent Caleb and Joel as they need after this.  Will I ever get my joy back?  Will I be able to fully engage with them and enjoy them, or will this tugging sorrow always be in my heart and throat?  Will I ever be able to hold a baby again?...

"...And then there's a funeral and people coming and staying and giving hugs....Oh, God, how I need You.  Give me strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.  Carry us through each horrible, painful step of this process, and make it beautiful somehow.  Redeem it, transform it, make it into something beautiful.  Help me to trust Your perfect ways.  Help me to rest in the shelter of Your wings.  Give me peace moment-by-moment.  And keep my love for You steadfast and my faith in You rooted deep in Your truth, love, and goodness.  Hold me up, Jesus."

I look back on my entries from last year and feel thankful for how God answered my pleas.  He did grant us strength and peace and faith and the many things we beseeched Him for.  He was gracious.  And when I think of Samuel's life, I think of how beautiful it was and continues to be. His life shines brightly in my life and in my heart.  Every second of Samuel's life was sacred and holy, and I can't say that about anyone else I know.  God was completely faithful to us over Samuel's life and has continued to be in the year since he died.  I am eternally thankful for my third son and his month with us.  And I am thankful for the people who have served us once again this month -- for the Elliotts who babysat, the Tisdales who let us stay in their condo, the Windhams who helped with the condo and made us the gift basket, my mom who kept the boys for a whole week and gave us envelopes for something special every day this month, the Thiels who hosted Samuel's party, the Carrolls who gave me a necklace, the Russells and Hansons who babysat last night so Bryan and I could celebrate his birthday, Libby who is with the boys now, my wives group who gave us a bush that blooms in August to plant in our yard, the McCraws who babsysat for all our grief counseling sessions this year and who printed all the pages of our blog, and the many people who have sent cards, prayed, given us a Starbucks gift card, commented on the blog, or sent flowers.  I am thankful beyond my ability to express.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  We love you guys and feel so tremendously blessed to be the recipients of such love, kindness, and service.  Our lives are forever marked by your generosity and encouragement.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Family of Five -- Still

This morning I woke up with knots in my stomach.  I think it was two-fold.  A college friend of mine, Erica, has a 6 month old daughter, Savannah, who is having open heart surgery today to repair a VSD (hole in her ventricle).  I woke up probably five times last night, praying for their family and thinking about them.  It's such a heartrending road to walk -- having a child in the ICU, not being able to fix the little one you love, facing fears you never wanted to even acknowledge.  And I hurt for them that they're having to endure this.  At the same time, I hope from my depths that they get to experience the supernatural peace, grace, and love of God that we felt last year.  It's a life-altering experience to know God so intimately and personally, to feel His care in tangible ways, to be absolutely carried through a nightmare, and for the nightmare to feel like a path of pure grace and goodness.  I pray that they get to have that wonderful assurance of His faithfulness and presence.  It's something I would never trade.

I think I was also anxious when I woke up because a year ago today held two unforgettable and significant memories.  August 26 was the first time our family of five got to be all together.  It's when the hospital relaxed their rules because Samuel was dying, and as a result Joel met Samuel for the first time.  Cami, an wonderful photographer who volunteered her time for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, took pictures of our family together that I look at every day around our house.  I remember waking up last year a ball of knots.  I was so nervous about how the morning would go.  I was terrified that I would bawl through the whole thing and frighten Caleb and Joel.  I didn't know how I would be able to enter into that precious 30 minute window, fully present and yet mostly dry-eyed.  We so desperately wanted our time together to be a great memory for Caleb and Joel, but we didn't know if we could do it.  I vividly remember getting ready in the shower room and thinking, "All month I've been parenting Samuel.  This morning I am going to parent Caleb and Joel.  I am going to walk them through this day gently, lovingly, and present for their needs and questions and fears and sorrows and joys.  This morning, I am Caleb and Joel's Momma first and foremost."  And God was gracious.  I did just that, and it was an amazing time the five of us.  I was dry-eyed except for a few silent tears that trickled out while huddled together as a family of five.  Later that morning we told Caleb and Joel that the doctors didn't think Samuel would get to come home.  It was a heartbreaking conversation, and the grief of that morning has been with me today.

The other significant event from August 26 was Samuel's downturn from which he never recovered.  After our scare a few days before, his stats had rallied a bit, and that afternoon we even got a word of hope from our most pessimistic of doctors.  But while we were kicked out for shift-change and eating dinner in the cafeteria, Samuel turned far south, and he never gained back any ground.  From that point forward, I was certain Samuel was going to die.  It was a matter of time.  For me, it was a turning point.  Though I had assumed the worst was in our future, before that night I had a glimmer of hope that things might change.  It was miniscule, but it was there -- and it had been kindled a bit that day.  However after seeing him that night, I knew death was imminent.  Honestly, it enabled me to just enjoy my moments with him and not worry about his stats trending south.  They were going to go south; we knew that.  This was precious, blessed time together, and I soaked up every second I could and had more peace and calm than I'd had before.  In some ways knowing how it was going to end -- that it was going to end -- freed me up to just love Samuel and not worry about the future.  This was my time with him.  And I made the most of it. 

Last night when I came home from hanging out with the wives in my women's group, I noticed a lone gardenia blossom on our bush.  I stopped and took a deep breath.  So it was our bush that produced the two blossoms Mom and the boys sent us at the hospital last year, that assured me life was still beautiful and good.  I drank deeply of their scent then -- so different from the smells around Samuel -- either sterile or death-like, and I drew in their breath last night, too, holding it in and thanking God for His goodness and eternal nature.

The boys haven't talked about Samuel very much lately, but he does still come up from time to time.  Yesterday Joel was looking at a long basket on our table and saying, "Moses' basket."  Then he smiled and said, "Samuel's basket."  I saw him furrow his brow, and then he said, "Who hasn't died?  Who has a baby who hasn't died?....June's basket!"  It was heartbreaking to watch him realize it couldn't be Samuel's basket and then to hear him articulate his thoughts -- thinking about his dead baby brother and wanting instead to think about a live baby.  It made me sad.

Caleb mentioned Samuel to his teacher on his first day of kindergarten a couple of weeks ago.  I hadn't had a chance to tell her about Samuel yet, so when he brought it up, she didn't know what to think.  Apparently they were talking about the months of year and how this is August, and he said that he had a baby brother who was born and died in August.  It makes me wonder if Caleb feels the way I do -- that meeting new people is hard when they don't know about Samuel.  I feel weird until I am sure they know about Samuel's existence.  I'm not sure what it is, but it feels really wrong for someone to meet me and think that my family of four is complete, that this is all of us.  I feel like it dishonors Samuel, and it always makes me uneasy inside until I can mention that there is a third son who is no longer with us.  This summer the boys took swimming lessons, and we saw their swim teacher probably ten times.  It was always uncomfortable for me to think that in her mind I only had two sons.  On our last lesson I found a way to tell her naturally, and I felt a lot better that I did -- even though I'll probably never see her again.  I can't help but think Caleb might feel similarly. 

This week my mind has been pretty constantly on Samuel and what we endured last year this time.  I am so thankful for a record of his life.  And I am thankful that we had a month with our third son, for how he changed us forever, for how the unimportant things in life don't rattle me as much (like our car dying on our way home from Florida last weekend and being a one car family until we can buy a new one).  Samuel has enriched me so much, and I thank God every day for him.  But, I am really looking forward to September and being out of this month of August.  I'm glad it's almost here!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Remembering a Turning Point for Samuel

A year ago today was the beginning of the end of Samuel's life.  At least it's when it became very clear to us that Samuel was dying.  Strangely, August 23 is also the anniversary of when we found out we were pregnant with Joel.  Four years ago today, we found out about new life and were filled with joy and wonder; one year ago we found out about impending death and were filled with sorrow and fear.

Yesterday marked a year since we last saw Samuel's eyes open and saw him move.  It was also the last night we spent sleeping at home in Samuel's life.  From August 23 - August 31, we never left the hospital.

Here is what I wrote in my journal at 1:35pm on August 24, 2009:

"We are waiting to get back to see Samuel.  We've only seen him for 20 minutes today.  I feel like we've been waiting forever.  Another baby on the pod passed away around noon.  Thinking about it turns my insides upside down.  I feel ill.  And I know that may very well be us in the near future.  The thought is so nauseating. 

"Yesterday was a pretty horrible day.  Samuel had had a bad night, so we scrapped our plans for church and headed to the hospital.  Around noon his NIRS started to decline quite rapidly. (NIRS measures oxygen to the brain.)  They were normally in the 40's-50's and sometimes even in the 60's and 70's.  Once they drop below 35, they start to flash and turn red.  Samuel's plummeted to the teens and stayed down for about 90 minutes.  We had previously been told that if a baby is going to go south, the NIRS will register it first. 

"Dr. Das came up to us and told us, 'Samuel is critically ill.  I cannot over-emphasize how ill he is.  Anything could happen at anytime.'  Bryan and I both understood and spent the next hour and half praying and singing to Samuel.  My mom came (she had already been on her way b/c of the bad night report), and the three of us spent the rest of the afternoon/early evening with Samuel.  I was weak-kneed and exhausted, but I truly did feel a peace.  In those 90 minutes, I truly thought Samuel was going to die then.  Mostly I wanted to comfort him.

"Now he is more stable, but he is still critically ill.  I think the 'anything could happen at any time' statement is still true, but his stats are not currently drifting south.  He's back on the oscillator and therefore the paralytic.  This is sad to me, but I am so relieved our son is still alive that I haven't grieved the return of the paralytic much.

"I know God can heal our little guy, and am beseeching Him to do so.  Oh, Lord, heal Samuel and get all the glory for it!  Please, please grant us this son to love and to raise.  Reach down and heal his kidneys, his lungs, his heart, and his liver.  Oh, Jesus, please.

"And hold us close.  Help us to trust You more.  Give us 'strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.'  Help us, Lord, for we cannot do this without You.  Be our all and our portion.  Be all that we need.  Help us to glorify You in this.  Help us to bring You honor.  Draw others to You through Samuel's life and story, and be magnified in him and in us.  Amen."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Celebrating our 10th Anniversary at the Beach

For the last week, Bryan and I have been in Panama City, FL celebrating our upcoming 10th anniversary.  (Our actual anniversary isn't until October 21.)  For the past six months, I have been hesitant about taking this trip in August, but it's when my mom, who teaches at a university, could watch Caleb and Joel.  I was hoping that a week away smack dab in the middle of August would be a little grief reprieve, but I worried that it would just be a sad week and not really celebratory. 

Before we came, we talked to Judy, our grief counselor, about our time away, and she suggested that the very first night we arrived, we do some sort of ceremony for Samuel -- do something intentional to grieve him.  She said doing so would make room in our hearts to experience other emotions while away.  I immmediately thought what a great idea it was and how much it could help me.  That's so often how I feel about blogging.  All the grief piles up and grows and grows, and I have to do something to let it out; after I blog I feel the swelling of emotion calm down, and the tide of grief is on its way back out for awhile.  A few days or a week pass, and then I have to write again to make room for the other emotions in life.  Blogging releases a lot of the grief in me that gets pent up, and I could see how intentionally grieving Samuel once we got to the beach would be pivotal for me to be able to enjoy our time on vacation in the midst of a hard month. 

When we left home on Saturday, I felt extraordinarily sad.  I cried pulling out of the driveway, saying good bye to Caleb and Joel.  I probably cried for the first 10-15 minutes of our drive.  And then I cried probably five more times on our drive -- especially after I found out at our first stop that once again I'm not pregnant.  Once we got here (which was a bit of an adventure complete with car troubles) and got settled in to our beautiful condo, we set out for the beach with a candle and matches and heavy hearts.  We lit the candle and wrote Samuel's name in the sand and spent about 15 minutes grieving together in silence.  I cried alot and then cried some more.  After the wind blew out the candle, we spent some time praying and thanking God for Samuel, for this trip together, for the kind and generous people who enabled us to come here, and for nearly ten years of marriage together.  It was a sacred time for me and really did open up room in my heart to enjoy this time with Bryan -- even in August.

Most of this week has truly been a grief reprieve.  In fact, until today I didn't even really have any waves of grief come crashing down on me.  Bryan told me a little while ago, "I'm sorry you're having a hard time today, Babe" and I said, "It's ok.  Honestly, I'm just really amazed it took this long for me to have a hard time."  God has been gracious in granting us this week to rest, enjoy each other's company, sit on the beach and read, swim, go to a movie every day, and eat out for dinner every night.  I feel so, so spoiled by this time just the two of us.  And I feel more grateful for my amazing husband than I could ever put into words.  He is the man I hoped for, the one my heart will always love, and the joy of my days.  And ten years with him have been richly blessed.  Though I wouldn't have written our story the way it's played out, I would never want to walk this life with anyone else.  He is one of God's greatest and kindest gifts to me.

Another really wonderful thing about this week has been how we ended up here.  Last year after Samuel died, three people offered to let us stay at their beach getaways.  We just accepted the first one that was offered, assuming the other offers were a one time thing.  But in May we got to enjoy another one of the places with our boys, and then the third offer was renewed for us to come here whenever we wanted.  Bryan works with small group leaders at North Point Community Church, and every group leader ideally has a couple who they're preparing for group leadership in the future: an apprentice couple.  Well, the Tisdales are apprentices of one of Bryan's friends, and they followed Samuel's life last year.  They own this gorgeous condo right on the beach, and they generously let us come here for free this week.  I've never met them (except to get the key from Neal last week at church).  To top it all off, Michelle and Lori (the apprentice and group leader wives) made us this fantastic goody basket to bring with us, and I have gotten such joy out of all the wonderful things in it.  My lunches every day have come from the delectibles, and the snacks are....well, let's just say I might be shopping at Trader Joe's from now on.  :)  I feel so undeservedly blessed.  And so, so grateful.

We really have had a great week together.  One day we even rented a jet ski and rode out to an island and had dolphins swimming a few feet away from us.  Bryan loved every second on the jet ski, but I did spend about five minutes of it thinking we were going to die.  :)  Once we got past a really choppy part, I had a ball too.  Since it's just the two of us, basically all the pictures are self-portraits (or of only one of us), but here are a few of them even though it's basically the same picture over and over in different clothes.

Thank you, Tisdales and Windhams, for your kind generosity and for enabling us to have a truly wonderful, healing, joyful, celebratory week at the beach!  We are so thankful!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Samuel on August 11, 2009

From My Journal Aug. 11, 2009

The last few days have marked the year anniversary of a series of bad news.  August 10-12 Bryan and I got repeated discouraging news that really changed the direction of our expectations for Samuel.  It was a year ago today that the doctors first told us they didn't think surgery would be an option, and Samuel ended up on the oscillator and a paralytic for the first time.  I just found a 10 second video from when Samuel was on the oscillator, and I'd forgotten how incredibly loud it was.  They were extremely hard days for us -- a time when our upbeat hope really started to turn into a continually gnawing fear.  We still had indescribable peace much of the time, but underneath it all there was the very real possibility that Samuel would die.  And I guess peace wouldn't be true peace if we were only peaceful because we thought God would do just what we wanted instead of trusting Him to be God and good no matter what.

Here is what I wrote in my journal on August 11, 2009:

"Samuel is still in the CICU at Egleston, and doctors still don't really know what's going on.  Yesterday was a very discouraging day.  Dr. Kirshbom and Dr. Videlefsky came to see us after the Cath Conference (14 doctors, 3 surgeons), and their news was disheartening.  They don't understand why Samuel is a as sick as he is.  Everything doesn't add up.  His lungs should be better than they are, and they are concerned about his liver.  Plus the heart issues he has don't seem to add up to the trouble he's having.  Dr. Kirshbom doesn't want to do surgery if he's not sure it will help Samuel -- and he's not sure it will.  He feels confident he can close the PDA which is shrinking (but slowly), and he thinks he can take care of the large fistula.  However, there are several small fistulae going to the left side of Samuel's heart, and he doesn't think he can do anything about those.  Mostly he's not convinced surgery will truly help Samuel.  This is heartbreaking news to me.  In the last 18 hours, I've come face-to-face with the reality that I very well may lose Samuel.  He may never get to come home, I may never get to feed him, he may never know his brothers, I may never have all 3 of my boys together.  It's been a dark time for me and terrifying.  I love little Samuel so much, and I don't know how I'll go forward if I lose him.  I know I won't have to walk that path alone, but it's a horrifying path I can hardly stand to ponder.

Last night I shut myself in our dark bathroom, sat on the side of the tub, and just bawled.  I wonder how we can survive this.  I know in my mind that God will carry us through whatever is ahead, and that whatever He asks, His grace will provide, but my heart feels so broken, and my hope is so thin and brittle.  Last night's info was hardly the final word, but it felt crushing.   

Grant me faith, Lord, trust and hope.  Grant me an utter dependence on You.  Help me cling to You, and help me honor You in this process.  Help my life to bring You glory.  Give me feet that are firm on Your foundation and a heart that sings Your praise in the darkness as well as the light.  Buoy me up on Your truth, goodness, faithfulness, and kindness.  Sustain me.  And do the same for Bryan.  Carry Caleb and Joel through these days.  Fill in our gaps.  Where we can't be enough for any of our sons, I know You can.  Grant them joy, peace, and security.  And encourage my mom.  Give her places to be broken and hurt.  Give her energy to keep the boys.  Help Bryan and I be able to love Caleb and Joel as they need it in this time.

And heal Samuel, Jesus.  Touch his heart and heal it.  Close the PDA, prevent a coarc from forming.  Fix the fistulae.  Heal his lungs and liver.  If there's something the doctors are missing, help them to find and see it.  Keep Samuel safe in the Cath. lab.  Grant Samuel a long and healthy life, and help us to trust him into Your care.  Carry us day by day.

I trust You, Lord, and I love You.  Help me to submit to You in all of this.  Amen."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Caleb's First Day of Kindergarten

Today our Caleb-bear started kindergarten.  Last night we went out for frozen yogurt to celebrate, and this morning the four of us went to McDonald's for pancakes before heading to school.  When we walked in the classroom, Caleb (who is shy and introverted and takes a long while to feel at ease somewhere) immediately grew reserved and quiet, and I could tell he was uneasy.  But he was brave, and he gave us all goodbye hugs with a smile.  I barely made it out the door of his room before I burst into tears.  Joel was utterly baffled by my crying and couldn't for the world figure out why I would be sad.  Thankfully Bryan was there to reassure Joel as I couldn't get any words out. 

All day long I thought about Caleb and prayed for his day.  I could hardly wait to pick him up.  But as soon as he started walking to the car at the pick-up line, I could tell he wasn't doing well.  He was on the brink of tears.  When I got him in the car, he wouldn't say a word about his day, and I could tell his tears were growing closer to the surface with every question I asked.  So I told him to close his eyes and rest, and I sat quietly the rest of the drive home.  Once we got home, he crumpled on the floor upstairs and said he couldn't move.  He also said he was freezing, and today it was 96 out, and our upstairs was 81 degrees -- so I knew something was off.  Turns out he had a fever (which was actually a relief to me because it explained his sorrow.  I was afraid he had hated his first day) and a bad headache.  I tucked him in to bed to rest, and he was asleep in no time.  He woke up with more perk and was willing to tell me a little about his day, and it was a pretty good day until the headache set in. 

He told me that his table buddy, Will, thought Caleb's snack looked yummy, so Caleb gave him three pieces.  When Will proclaimed how much he liked the snack, Caleb gave him more.  As Caleb was telling me the story, I thought, "That's my Caleb!  Generous to his core."  He has such a naturally kind and good heart.  I don't know where he got that generosity from as it certainly isn't me.  My gut reaction as a child (and I'm ashamed to admit it, but even as an adult!) would have been to pull my bag of popcorn closer to myself and to shield it from my neighbor's hungry eyes.  Caleb puts me to shame and teaches me so much.  I love that about him!

Tomorrow we will do our first day of homeschool.  We chose to send Caleb to a school that is a homeschool hybrid.  He goes to class two days a week, and I homeschool him the other three days with curriculum provided by the school.  I'm excited about it, and Bryan and I are both convinced we made the best decision for Caleb.  I shudder when I think about what this week would have been for him if he was going five days a week for 8 hours a day! 

A year ago, we were sending Caleb off for his first day of preschool.  Bryan and I worked our day around taking Caleb to McDonald's for pancakes and then to preschool ourselves.  Afterwards we headed to Egleston to spend the rest of the day with Samuel.  I remember after dropping Caleb off, we came back to the car, and I bawled my eyes out.  I couldn't stop crying.  Mostly I was sobbing about Samuel, but I was also crying about saying goodbye to another of my children.  With the drain of a nightly goodbye to Samuel (the worst part of everyday), it was excruciating to say goodbye to Caleb too.  I can't explain it, but that cry session in the car stands out to me as one of the biggest cries I had while Samuel was alive. 

Here are some pictures of this year's rite of passage as well as last year's:
At Yogli Mogli's celebrating Caleb's start of school the next day
Giggling boys at Yogli Mogli
Caleb, the very-almost kindergartener  
(Caleb said he wasn't a kindergartener until he walked in his classroom.)
Getting ready to go to McDonald's for pancakes
First morning of school pancake breakfast
Bryan and Caleb at Caleb's desk -- an official kindergartener now!
Caleb with his teachers
He said of his lead teacher, "I liked her right from when I very first saw her."  :)
Me and Caleb last year before heading to preschool and the hospital
I see in this picture how much Caleb wanted me near him -- how hard it was that B and I had been gone for the majority of the last 11 days
Again last year before starting preschool

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Video of Open-eyed Samuel

After trying to upload this video to blogger for two days, I have finally relented and uploaded it to YouTube instead.  It's from August 7, 2009.  In some ways, August 6-9 were the most joyful days we had with Samuel.  He was awake and open-eyed some of the time, we were in the rhythm of hospital life, and we hadn't yet gotten any terrible news about the future.  We expected to some day bring home a healthy Samuel, and we felt hopeful about his condition and the doctors' abilities to help him.  They are days I am so glad we had.

The First Week of August 2010

 This past week has continued to be gentler than I anticipated -- at least for me.  It's been a difficult start to August for Bryan, though.  My brother and his family decided last minute to drive out and spend a few days with us, so their presence certainly helped lighten the burden of this first week.  The five cousins had a grand time together: playing, swimming, going to the Aquarium, wrestling, and having their first ever cousin sleepover.  Joel and Colin are both three, and they slept on a pallet one night at the Thiels' house while the 4 parents went out to dinner.  When we got home after 11:00pm, they were still chatting away -- about Silly Bandz, Star Wars characters, and silly pizza toppings.  It was hilarious and adorable.  The grown-ups meanwhile went to Veni Vidi Vici, an upscale Italian restaurant in Atlanta.  Bryan knows the head chef, Jamie, through his job at our church, and Jamie took away our menus and prepared us an amazing 8 course meal of food just for us.  It was incredible!  And a really wonderful evening with Matthew and Ashley.

Bryan and I both loved seeing our niece June, who Bryan called "our June."  She is a day younger than Samuel, and seeing what she was up to was precious and in some ways shocking.  She is so big now and crawling all over, climbing the stairs, saying "hi June," and generally being the most content baby ever.  Bryan and I both feel so deeply endeared to her, and it did us both good to cuddle her and kiss her and carry her around a little.  I am so glad she's a friendly soul and was perfectly happy for us to hold and smooch on her.  We can hardly believe Samuel would be that big.  I am so thankful that June is in all of our lives and can be a joyful picture of what might be in Heaven.  She is one cute one year old!

People have been continually gracious and kind to us.  Four times today I teared up over the kindness and thoughtfulness of others.  The teachers in Joel's Sunday school class gave us a card with a donation to Children's Health Care of Atlanta in it, and I didn't even know that they knew about Samuel.  I started crying in the middle of a room full of people when I opened it because it took me by such surprise and was so thoughtful.  A few minutes later a woman I barely know told me that last year when Samuel was alive she didn't know about him and what was going on, but she was praying for us.  Why in the world we would even have been on her mind is baffling to me as she was a teacher in Caleb's Sunday school class a several of years ago, but Bryan and I didn't know her personally.  It reminded me that the way God cares for us is so personal, so much bigger than we can fathom, and so miraculous.  And this evening our friend, Laura (who has served us in absolutely AMAZING ways over the last year -- too numerous to count), brought over printed pages of our blog -- just in case.  :)  Over the course of this past week, people have sent cards, flowers, a necklace, a meal, a pie, a plant that blooms in August, donations in Samuel's memory, a Starbucks gift card, and free babysitting.  I feel so cared for and so blessed.  Thank you, friends, for loving us through this past year and for continuing to love and encourage us, and most especially thank you for praying.  We feel it!

And here are pictures from the cards Caleb and Joel made for Samuel:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Remembering Samuel's First Few Days

August 3, 2009 -- Samuel being transported to Egleston with Bryan in the passenger's seat
Aug. 4 -- Samuel under the bilirubin lights and Bryan basking in their glow
Aug. 5 -- Samuel's first real open eyes.  We LOVED this time with our baby boy looking at us.

In this month of August (2010), I've decided to go back every day and read our blog entry from that day a year ago.  We didn't start the blog until Aug. 6 -- a year ago today, so the past few days I've hunted our email records for emails we sent out and looked through iphoto for pictures from those days.  Above are some of the pictures I found from August 3-August 5, 2009.  I sure miss that little fellow, but I am so incredibly thankful for the 31 days we had him with us.  

The first week of August was definitely the most hopeful time for us, and in some ways it's hard to look back and read about and see the hope we felt.  But again I am grateful for time with Samuel that wasn't weighed down by the probability of death.  I remember looking around the hospital at other parents and feeling almost guilty that our situation seemed so hopeful, and someday hospital life would be behind us, and we'd have a totally healthy Samuel.  Later I looked at parents and prayed they weren't in our shoes and facing the future that loomed ahead of us -- a future without our dear son.

Here are some excerpts from emails Bryan and I wrote in those first days:

"We had some time w/ our pediatric cardiologist today, and the diagnosis was different yet again.  He thinks that this time he discovered a right coronary fistula that could be confirmed and potentially fixed with a heart catheterization.  He also thought that he saw as many as 7 other potential issues.  Some related and others not.  His hope for the catheterization is that it would either confirm or rule out most of the other 7 issues.  As a result of this, he wanted to expedite Samuel's transfer to Egleston.  We made the transfer at about noon today, and I rode in the transport vehicle with Samuel, a paramedic, a nurse, and a respiratory therapist.  What an undertaking!  Kathryn was discharged and her mom arrived in town all at about the same time.  

"After having lunch at Egleston w/ our boys and K's mom and aunt (who have graciously taken over kid duty), K and I were able to see Samuel (about an hour after he arrived).  When we arrived to see Samuel there were several doctors huddled around an echocardiogram machine taking yet another look at his heart.  We went away for about 20 minutes w/ a social services worker and when we came back there were 7 doctors including our pediatric cardiologist examining and discussing.  There was little conclusive from all of their conversations, but they are holding off on the catheterization for now...

"...We will be talking to our pediatric cardiologist again tonight after he and 14 other doctors and 3 surgeons have their "conference" in which they review all of the cases.  We are hoping that Samuel's will be reviewed, but it was a late entry and we are not sure.  In short, our pediatric cardiologist said that the results of the discussion were favorable to us, but it is hard when you have had six different diagnoses and when so many questions remain unanswered to have confidence in the most recent conclusions.  Our little Samuel's heart remains a mystery.  Our pediatric cardiologist told us before Samuel was born that the echo that he received after he was born would give us 100% confidence in the diagnosis.  Especially with that in mind, it has been so interesting to see a gathering of experts be so confounded."  (email Bryan wrote on Aug. 3)

"We would sure appreciate your prayers over the coming days and weeks.  We don't know what is ahead of us, and we know that the outcomes for which we pray are not guaranteed.  That said, we do know that God is with us.  We know that He is good, gracious, and kind, that He loves and cares for us and Samuel, and that He never fails.  Thanks for your prayers and support along the way.  They are greatly appreciated." (email Bryan wrote on Aug. 4)

"We are doing alright.  Samuel is in the CICU at Egleston and has been here since Monday.  The doctors (I think we've seen 12 of them so far) are scratching their chins over Samuel's heart and don't really know exactly what's going on.  We learn a little each day, but there are still some things that elude them.  Most likely surgery is on the horizon next week, but they're not sure.  We have had many diagnoses.  He is also having trouble with his lungs and is on a ventilator -- one doc said they look like a baby born at 27 weeks.  Good thing Samuel didn't come at 35 weeks like we feared he might!  I feel like it's been 2 weeks since Samuel was born; it's hard to believe he's not even 4 days old yet.  Thanks for checking in.  We are hanging in there and have plenty of laughs in our days sitting by Samuel's bedside.  Again, we are thankful for a God who knows our son's heart even when doctors don't and for His peace and faithfulness." (email I wrote to my OB on Aug. 5)

"We're at the hospital now, sitting with our Samuel.   Today we found out a bit more.   We spoke with the surgeon, and he said, 'Samuel's case has proven to be more complicated than we expected.   Lots of doctors are scratching their heads about him.   His case is very unusual, so I can't give you any specific course of action or outcome, but we want to be cautious and "check twice and cut once" so we're going to continue waiting a bit longer.'   We appreciate his approach.   Their best guess is that Samuel will need surgery in the middle to end of next week.   It looks like he will probably have a coarctation (narrowing of the aorta) which will have to be surgically repaired before he can come home.   We are praying this does not happen.   And he has a fistula which is very rare in newborns that probably needs fixing.   In all likelihood, it would be one surgery but two places to enter -- in the side for the coarctation and from the front for the fistula.   And they still don't know about the VSD (hole in the ventricle of his heart).   His breathing is a bit better today.  Part of his lung is collapsed, but it seems to be improving.  Tomorrow they plan to take the lines out of his belly button and put them in his arm.   This will allow them to start giving him breastmilk through a feeding tube instead of the mountain dew looking stuff he's on now.  

"I am praying that he gets off the ventilator soon, that no coarctation develops, that there is no VSD, and that the fistula doesn't need surgery.   In short, I am praying that he doesn't need surgery and that he can come home SOON!   I am dying to hold him.   When I think of another baby -- June (Matthew and Ashley's baby girl born on Aug. 2) or my friend's baby who is 2 weeks old, I start to cry when I imagine seeing their parents holding them.   How I wish I could hold my son.   In time, in time.   I trust God, and most moments, I am peaceful and calm-hearted and even-keeled.   THANK YOU for praying.   There is no greater thing you could be doing. " (email I wrote to my friend Kristen on Aug. 5)

Looking back is a bit surreal, but everyday I am grateful for a record of Samuel's life, for something tangible to keep, and a way to remember.  Though there were times I wanted to curse this blog, I am so glad we have it.  I am thankful for remembering.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Samuel's First Birthday

Sunday was a pretty huge day for us, marking what would have been Samuel's first birthday.  Over the last 11 months, I worried a good deal about August 1st, 2010 and how it would go, how we would feel, and if I would have any dry-eyed moments.  I have to say, I was rather surprised by how the day passed in reality.  I knew what the day would look like as far as events were concerned, but I couldn't predict the emotions that would accompany the day, and that part made me downright nervous.  I feared a day of unstoppable tears and gut-wrenching churning in my stomach, the constant gnawing of grief in my insides.  But that's not really how I felt at all.  The day was bathed in peace, had many moments of joy, and included quite a few tears.  It was a blessed day, a quietly peaceful day where I could celebrate the birth of our Samuel and thank God for bringing him into our lives albeit it briefly. 

The night before we decided to skip church on Samuel's birthday morning.  We went back on forth on whether we should go, but in the end we thought it would make the day easier to stay home.  I'm glad we made that choice.  It enabled me to start my day peacefully, laying in bed and praying God's grace over the day, thinking about what the day would hold, remembering the start of August 1, 2009, and simply thanking God for our Samuel and asking Him to carry us through the day ahead.  If we'd been going to church, my day would have started with a flurry -- scampering out of bed to get in the shower before Bryan, so we could get the boys up, dressed, breakfasted, and out the door by 8:20.  I would have had to start my day by steeling myself for the gauntlet of sympathy and compassion, "I'm sorry's," and looks of pity.  Don't get me wrong, I so, so appreciate the love and support we get from our friends and acquaintances.  I wouldn't trade it for the world.  But it's hard to remain composed through all the hugs and sympathy, and I was so afraid that once I started crying, I wouldn't be able to stop.  Instead, Bryan went out and got us bagels for breakfast, a rare treat -- and the first gift from my mom's envelopes.  And we had a calm and quiet start to our day. 

At 11:15 we headed to my aunt and uncle's house for Samuel's little party they were throwing.  We walked in their door to hugs and smiles and joy.  They had planned a pirate party for Caleb and Joel, hoping to make the day a fun and happy one for Samuel's brothers.  They had costumes waiting for the boys and a treasure hunt all set up with burnt-edged clues and all.  It was precious, and the boys loved it, of course.   We played "pin the treasure chest on the island" and found hidden treasure. 

After lunch, we had Samuel's birthday cake that I baked and Bryan decorated.  Bryan chose to do a Pooh scene because we put a Pooh in the coffin with Samuel's body.  We didn't sing or blow out candles, but we ate Samuel's cake with smiles and joy.

Colleen had bought helium balloons and had sharpies out for us to each decorate a balloon to send to Samuel in Heaven.  It was a great idea.  We each had a balloon and either drew pictures or wrote a letter to our sweet boy.  Once we were all finished with our messages, we went outside and released them.  We watched them float up in the sky until the dots became so tiny our eyes hurt from straining so.  Somehow it was a comforting thing to do -- letting those balloons go.  I can't explain it and didn't expect it, but I think it was calming and soothing to all of us.  The Thiels were so kind to plan the party for us and to work so hard to make sure Caleb and Joel had a joyous time celebrating their little brother.  Bryan and I felt tremendously blessed by their effort and care.

We came home for the boys' naps, and I spent the next two hours reading my journal from last year, journaling about the day, and copying Samuel's birth story on to here.  It was good to spend that time remembering and thinking.

Once the boys woke up, we opened the presents my wives' group brought for them -- labeled "To Samuel's brother, Caleb" and "To Samuel's brother, Joel."  They loved doing that.  And then as a family we sat down at the computer and picked which World Vision projects to give Samuel's birthday money to.  Joel immediately wanted to give his portion of the money to help the children in Haiti, and Caleb chose to give his to help the vulnerable children in India.  I didn't lead them to either of those choices, but those are the two countries continually on my heart and in my prayers.  A friend with whom I used to teach sent us some money to add to Samuel's birthday funds, so we got to give even more to places we feel God has laid on our hearts.  The boys have loved giving Samuel's birthday and Christmas money to help those in need, and I love their enthusiasm and joy in doing it.

Then we ordered in pizza (part two of the day's envelope activity from my mom), and we spent a quiet evening at home.  When I tucked Caleb in, I asked him about his day, and he said, "It was good, Momma.  I had a good day."  The night before when I had tucked him in, I had started to cry and had said, "Caleb, I think tomorrow is going to be a hard day."  He worked so hard to comfort me.  He held me tight and rubbed and rubbed my arm, patting my cheek occasionally, doing everything he knew to soothe my heart and calm my tears.  When I pulled myself together and sat up, he burst into tears and sobbed and sobbed for a long time.  I scooped him up and did everything for him that he'd just done for me.  He told me how sad he was about Samuel and how much he missed him, and I just held him close.  I went and got one of Samuel's stuffed animals from his month in the hospital and gave it to Caleb to cuddle, and I moved his picture of him and Samuel on to his bedside table so he could see it easily.  He brightened up immediately to have those two tangible things by him.  So it was kind of a big deal that Caleb's assessment of the day was joyful and good.  In the end, it was my assessment too.

By the time I went to bed, I felt so thankful for a day that held mostly joy and a lot of peace.  The day was far gentler than I had expected, and it was very blessed.  Of course it was sad and had hard moments and many tears, but it was also genuinely joyful.  It was easy to celebrate Samuel's birth, for I am so glad he was born.  I am so thankful for how he has blessed and changed us, drawn us closer to God, deepened our hearts and our faith, and given us an appreciation for the simple blessings of life.  And I am so thankful for the month I had by his side.  Though the month was heartbreaking, it was also full of miracles and God's abundant presence, grace, faithfulness, and peace.  It was a holy month, and I would never trade even a moment of it for something else.  And so far this August I have felt buoyed up by the prayers of many -- just as I felt last August.  So...thank you, prayer warriors, and thank you, Jesus.

Some Favorite Pictures of Samuel's First Days of Life

About an hour after Samuel was born
When we finally got to see Samuel around 4am on August 2 in the NICU
August 2nd at Northside Hospital
August 2nd -- Caleb meeting Samuel for the first time
My favorite picture of Samuel -- August 2nd
August 3rd -- Just before being transported to Egleston in the CHOA ambulance

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Samuel's Birth Story -- as taken (and edited :) ) from my journal

On Friday, July 31, three and half weeks before my due date, Bryan, the boys, and very pregnant me headed to Lake Hartwell in Anderson, SC to spend 26 hours with our husbands and wives group.  We deliberated and deliberated about going and were super undecided.  We just could not figure out what was best and finally decided, based on Dr. Siegel's thumbs up, to go ahead and go.  But when I woke up Friday am, I was leaking some fluid.  So we were back to indecision.  But a phone call to Dr. Siegel gave us the go-ahead, and we headed north with some mild-to-moderate misgivings.

We had a great time at the lake.  I went on a slow and gentle boat ride with Caleb, and he even got to drive the boat -- adorable.  That night the adults had a great time laughing and telling stories.  I laughed so hard numerous people told me, jokingly, that they thought I'd go into labor.

In the middle of the night, I had to go to the bathroom like always, and I discovered I was still leaking something -- and in significant amounts.  I got pretty frightened, considering how far away we were from the hospital.  I called the OB office, and Dr. Lambert was on-call.  He said it sounded like I had lost my mucus plug (I know that's a gross phrase -- sorry), but the concerning factor was that I'd been leaking it for nearly 24 hours.  Since I wasn't having contractions, he told me to sit tight an hour and see what happened.

I started to have contractions in my back -- radiating pain -- definitely not Braxton-Hicks, and I was pretty uneasy.  But when I went to the bathroom an hour later, I wasn't leaking anymore (which suggested it was not amniotic fluid -- phew!), and soon my contractions died down.  I told Bryan that as soon as it was a reasonable hour, we were going home!  He agreed.

In the morning, we got up, breakfasted, said our goodbyes, and headed home just to be safe.  We got home around 12:30/1:00, and after lunch (Sonic, as I recall), we all laid down for naps.  I was thoroughly exhausted from a terrible night's sleep, and Bryan wasn't much better off.  I had called Dr. Lambert around 2:00 to tell him I was leaking fluid again and that we were back in town.  He said it sounded like I was definitely threatening labor, and I should lay down, put my feet up, and take it easy.

Once we got up, I told Samuel to go ahead and come because I wanted an August 1st birthday.  I had prayed for August 1.  So I decided to vaccuum up the little spider webs that were driving me crazy, and I remember patting my belly and saying, "You can come anytime you like now, Samuel."  I figured if I didn't start labor by 7:00 pm, I was in trouble because it would be an even birthday.  :)

Around 6:00 pm, I was feeling a little yucky.  My tummy was unhappy.  When we went to put the boys to bed, I had a strong contraction that made me take slow breaths.  I decided to lay down while Bry put the boys to bed.  Caleb wanted to stay with me, but he went to get ready for bed after much coaxing from Bryan.

I started timing contractions at 7:43 pm, and they were six minutes apart.  I got up to smooch the boys goodnight and to tell them Samuel might be coming.  At 8:15 Bryan called Colleen to see if she was home.  He said he'd call her back in 20 minutes to let her know if she should come, and she said, "That's ridiculous!  I'm coming now!"  We pulled our stuff together and called Dr. Siegel -- who happened to be filling in for Dr. Lambert for a few hours because Dr. Lambert had a wedding to go to.  Dr. Siegel said I should go on in just to be safe, and if it was a false alarm, all my complications warranted it.

So, despite being a bit unsure if I was truly in labor, we decided to head to Northside Hospital.  Matthew happened to call to say that he and Ashley were being induced in the morning, and Bryan said, "We think Kathryn might be in labor, so let's call it a race."

Bryan and I hopped in the car aound 8:45 or so.  The gas light came on, and we stopped for a few gallons at my request.  Contractions continued to be six minutes apart, but they were getting stronger, and I was pretty convinced it was labor.  Bryan walked me to admissions at the hospital around 9:15, and he parked the car and came in.  At 9:35, we were in a room, and our nurse, Katie, got the run down: he has a heart defect, I have fast labors, I have too much amniotic fluid so I need a sonogram to see if he's head down, and I have Group B Strep.  She got straight to work and called Dr. Siegel who said he was 20 minutes away.

Katie hooked me up to the monitors and noticed that Samuel's heart rate was 215 and then 145, back to 212, down to the 140's, etc.  She checked me and said I was a good 3-4 cm.  At this point my contractions were two minutes apart.  In fact, it seemed like as soon as I got to the room, they went from  six minutes to two minutes and seriously increased in intensity.

Dr. Siegel got there shortly after 10:00 pm and checked me.  I was 7 cm.  In about 15-20 minutes, I had progressed 3 cm.  Katie said, "Oh my gosh!  You weren't kidding about fast labors!"  Dr. Siegel broke my water, and I told him we were on the clock -- I wanted to deliver before midnight.

Things got intense quickly.  I got in the shower for some relief but had to get out almost as soon as I stepped in because I felt the urge to push.  They got me out and on the table very quickly.  I was 9 1/2 cm.  Two contractions later I was 10 cm and pushing.  I think I pushed through two or three contractions, and out came Samuel at 10:42pm.  They laid him on my belly pretty blue and then whisked him to the corner with the resuscitation team.  Bryan got woozie at this point and had to sit down.

I kept asking if Samuel looked ok, and I would get "yeah, he looks alright" from Bryan who was sitting near the resuscitation team.  I asked Dr. Siegel if he looked like he had Down Syndrome, and he went over to check.  No, he didn't look like it!  Phew!  I felt very relieved.  The doctors worked and worked on Samuel while Dr. Siegel stitched me up.  I was super shaky and remember having a hard time being calm without Samuel in my arms.  I felt so empty without my just delivered baby with me and kept saying, "This is so much harder without holding him!"  I vividly remembered the minutes after delivering Caleb and Joel and not caring about the stitching and cleaning going on around me because I was enthralled with my newborn son.  I longed to have Samuel in my arms.

Eventually the docs brought me Samuel for about one minute of holding -- long enough to snap 3 quick pictures.  His breathing was really raspy, and they hurriedly snatched him away and took him up to the NICU.  They were admitting him which meant he wouldn't be in our room like we had expected.  The summary report was that his heart seemed fine, but his lungs were giving him some trouble.  We expected to hear something in a couple of hours.  Three hours later, we were still in the dark.  We called three times to see if we could come see him yet.

Finally the neonatologist came to our room and told us Samuel had a hard time breathing.  He was on a ventilator.  They had tried CPAP at 60% (our air is 21% oxygenated), but it wasn't enough.  With the ventilator, he was able to breathe 30% oxygenated air.  He said the pediatric cardiologist who was on call was still looking at Samuel and would be down soon.

An hour later, Dr. Balfour came in looking very uneasy.  He said Samuel has something different from what they expected -- probably Double Outlet Right Ventricle.  Before he could tell us what this meant -- what the course of action was, how hopeful, how soon, etc, he was called out of our room because Samuel's heartrate had skyrocketed.  So, we were left in the dark once again.

An hour later we called the NICU again, and they said we could finally see him.  It had been over five hours and was now around 4:00am.  He was BEAUTIFUL!  It was wonderful to finally see him.  Of course, he was covered in wires, but it was so nice to touch and see him.

Lord, protect our littlest love.  Put him in our arms soon.  Amen.  I dream of holding Samuel.  I just can't wait, and I'm not sure I'll put him down once I do finally get to cuddle him.  My arms ache for my Samuel.

Birth stats:  August 1st, 2009
                    6 lbs, 13 oz.
                    18 3/4 inches
                    10:42 pm