Norah's Story

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tapestry of Our Stories

My church (Rooftop Church) held an amazing Women's Event last weekend called Tapestry of Our Stories.  Several women shared what God was doing in their story, and I was privileged to share my (abbreviated) story as well.  It is not one that I would ever choose, but God has strengthened me so much over the last three years.  

My life in the last three years has taken a turn that wasn’t in my plan.  My plan was to marry a great guy, buy a house, have 3 or 4 amazingly smart, polite, and well-behaved children, and live happily ever after—all on my timeline.  And in some respects, it started to happen on my time, in my plan.  I married a great guy, moved to St. Louis.  We bought a house.  We had Maggie in 2008 and Elliott in 2010.  For the most part, they are smart, polite and mostly well behaved! 

We were ready to have another baby, and God blessed us when I found out I was pregnant in 2012.  My plan was happening!  During my first ultra sound, my doctor noticed a large cyst—about the size of a large grapefruit—in my right ovary.  Over the course of the next 3 months, we decided that I needed to have the cyst removed because of the immense pain I was in each day.  I was nearly half way through my pregnancy.  Not only did I lose my ovary, but I was rushed back in for a 2nd emergency surgery because of internal bleeding.  I lost too much blood to sustain my pregnancy and gave birth to Norah Rose on November 26, 2012.

This wasn’t my plan.  I wasn’t supposed to be sick, almost die from blood loss, and lose my baby.  The days and months following Norah’s death were the darkest days of my life.  My daughter Maggie followed me around the house with a box of tissues to wipe my tears.  And God was right there next to me too., He met me right were I was—right in the middle of my brokenness.  I can honestly say He has never felt more near to me as He did after we lost Norah. 

Losing a baby, adds a layer of sadness to everything you do, but the hope I have that I will see Norah again and the reminders of God’s faithfulness to me and my family were so apparent during the hard days.  I kept relying on His promises to me—that He would fulfill my desire to have another child.  And although the road to get pregnant again was not easy, I found out in May of 2014 that we were expecting another baby. 

I gave birth to Cecilia Rose on January 16, 2015.  I actually don’t remember much from the days following her birth, but I do remember the feeling that I was experiencing God’s promise to me.  I was holding my miracle, my rainbow baby, and she was so perfect in every way.  I was discharged from the hospital on January 19, and around 11:30 p.m., I experienced the worst  headache I have ever had in my life.  It was so acute, that I woke Greg up because I was sure that something was majorly wrong with me. 

After a few hours at home the next morning and many texts back and forth with my OB, we decided to go back to the Emergency Room.  While I was getting a CT of my head, I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke—my brain was bleeding.  I could no longer talk or feel the right side of my body.  I could think, but what I wanted to say came out as jibberish.  Panic and fear set in very quickly.  I remember watching Greg holding my four day old baby and pacing back and forth making phone calls telling our families to get in the car and drive to St. Louis.  This wasn’t in my plan.  I was supposed to be soaking in every ounce of my sweet, sweet girl.

The next thing I knew, I was being loaded up in an ambulance and was on my way to Barnes Jewish Hospital.  From this point on, I don’t remember anything.  I woke up  several days later in the ICU surrounded by my husband and my family.   Greg and my dad who is a doctor, explained to me what had happened, but I just couldn’t understand.  My brain started bleeding?  How could this happen to me?  In the days following my stroke, my brain literally could not understand what had happened to me.  The doctors would ask me questions and many times I remember looking at Greg to answer them for me because I could not make the correct words come out of my mouth. 

Although I was very lucky to regain feeling on my right side and be able to talk again, my stroke recovery has been difficult.  I have been a medical mystery to the 5 different specialties I have seen at Barnes.  No one has an explanation why my brain hemorrhaged.  I’ve been tested for every possible disease and or reason to cause this, and there are no answers for me.  I’ve struggled with my short term and immediate memory and my attention span is horrific.  I spent 4 months in out patient speech therapy, where I was asked to do simple tasks like alphabetize words and read words backwards.  I have learned how to run my family with a brain injury—how to remember soccer practices and when to feed the baby.  It is a scary, scary place to be when you look okay, but your brain isn’t functioning anywhere near where it used to.  It is difficult to be so young and to be so near death two times in the last 3 years.  I never planned to be sick.  It wasn’t in MY plan to have a stroke, to essentially miss my baby’s first months, to have what felt like a million doctor appointments, MRI’s and CT scans, to be told by 4 different doctors that I should not have any more biological children.  I had no control over any of this. 

But it was in God’s plan for me—not as punishment for something I had done wrong but because we live in a fallen world where there is sickness and death.  He has used the last 3 years to teach me to trust Him, to truly believe that His plans for me are to just be here as a mom to my kids, as a wife to my husband, as a worship leader in my church.  He met me in the middle of my brokenness 3 years ago and again in these last 10 months as I have recovered from a stroke—at age 35.

In Deuteronomy 31:6 and 8  it says Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be afraid of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

I know the Lord has gone before me.  He was in the operating room 3 years ago.  He welcomed Norah into heaven. He has seen every tear that has fallen from my eyes.  He was there as we welcomed Cecilia into our family and then 4 days later when my brain began bleeding, and I believe through the prayers of so many people, He saved me in so many ways.  He continues to teach me to trust Him with my life.—to stop trying to make it all go MY way, and just follow Him even when it is hard.

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