Oh, this poor little neglected blog! Having not written or posted a thing since April, I now come back with a renewed sense of excitement, purpose, and vision for this site (and a current list of no fewer than 15 ideas for articles that will be written and posted her in the next weeks and months!). Logging in to the website today, I was fascinated to see that my last article was posted on April 9th, for, you see, an interesting little thing happened the very next day, on Sunday, April 10th!
Life as of Late
I had been feeling a bit out of sorts that entire weekend in April, particularly Sunday morning while at church. I could not put my finger on what the problem was-I wasn’t upset about anything, I wasn’t angry at anyone, I felt ok physically. But as even my dear friend noticed at church that morning, I just was not my usual outgoing, happy self while talking with her. My poor husband pointed out later that day that I had, in fact, been a bit irritable all weekend. Then I noticed that the skirt I had worn to church that morning all the sudden wasn’t fitting quite like it used to. I voiced this observation to Owen and he immediately suggested I take a pregnancy test. Though I wasn’t having any morning sickness yet (the presence of which had been what led me to take a test when pregnant with Anna), for some reason there was a little voice in my head which caused me to feel that perhaps Owen was right-maybe I should take a test! As it turned out, I just so happened to have two left over from the package we had bought when I was pregnant with Anna and they were set to expire in May. I took the first one and it immediately turned positive, complete with noticeably dark blue lines. My mouth fell open and I walked out of the bedroom and into the living room where Owen and Anna were, in complete silence and shock. After all, there was no way I could be pregnant-I wasn’t sick! “It must be just a fluke, because the test came back positive!”, I told Owen. His hand flew to his mouth, his eyes got as big as saucers, and his whole face lit up as he exclaimed in delight. I, meanwhile, still wasn’t believing it to for sure be true and did not want to get my hopes up if it had been a faulty positive (which, I realize is pretty much impossible scientifically, but in that moment, it didn’t matter!). I took the second test which also turned positive immediately. At which point Owen cheered again. 😉 I, however, the girl who stopped at no fewer than 3 tests when confirming my pregnancy with Anna, sent Owen to the store for yet another test. Because, after all, the first two were set to expire the next month, so they were probably wrong, right? He excitedly traipsed off to the store, returned triumphantly with another test in hand, and I completed the process a third time. Sure enough, that test, too, came back positive and we discovered once and for all that the Lord had richly blessed us a second time with new life to be added to our family!
For the next couple days, I continued to feel pretty good, though I did notice I had to have little snacks here and there to keep me feeling energetic and like my blood sugar was where it should be. But I had no real morning sickness, so naturally began to wonder if perhaps we were expecting a boy because the pregnancy was starting out so differently from Anna’s.
I soon discovered that the only reason I had not yet been sick was that, because of the promptings we had had that Sunday morning, I had ended up testing positive at what ended up being four weeks pregnant this time around, whereas with Anna, I had already been 5 weeks along before I tested. Because sure enough, week 5 of pregnancy hit and so did the beginnings of morning sickness. By weeks 6 and 7, it was in full force 24/7 again, just as it had been with Anna. In some ways, it was not as intense as my sickness had been with her, so I again wondered a bit if we were maybe having a boy, but then I would throw up again and begin to think it was another girl.
The morning sickness which affected everything and caused me to not even want to read (which is crazy for me!) let alone write, was just the first reason for my absence from the blog. The other came along near the end of June at 14, almost 15 weeks of pregnancy, just as the worst of the sickness was beginning to wane a bit and I was looking forward to soon getting back into the swing of things.
I woke up on a Monday morning, two days before the 15 week mark, with some discomfort in my right hip. I thought little of it, assuming perhaps I had just slept wrong that night. I went through my day and continued to experience discomfort when I would walk or squat down to pick something up. If I was just sitting on the couch, I was fine, thus seemingly confirming to me the idea that I had likely just slept wrong. By late afternoon, it was a little worse but not that bad, to where I just casually mentioned to Owen when he got home from work that I must have slept in a funny position, because my right hip was a little achey. He took one look at my legs and noticed that my right one was a little purple in color compared to my left. He took a picture of my legs and had me text it to my midwife who replied with some concern. She told me to change out of the shorts I was wearing and into some loose pajama pants to see if it was just a slight circulation issue due to what I was wearing and to text her back in ten minutes with the results. The color had faded a bit, but was still a bit purple ten minutes later and it was evident that blood was pooling in that leg. She replied with the recommendation that I maybe go to the ER to rule out a possible deep vein thrombosis, or blood clot, for she did not want to miss something as serious as a DVT. I waived off the recommendation thinking it was no big deal and really not wanting to spend the rest of my evening waiting around in the ER waiting room, especially with a toddler in tow. I stubbornly stayed home and went to bed that night thinking I would feel better the next day.
But I didn’t.
By the next afternoon, I began thinking I must have pulled a muscle the weekend before while doing more walking around than I had in all the 10 weeks prior while I had been sick. Thinking I had just overdone it, I began to limp a bit and grow a little frustrated by my discomfort. By Wednesday, my discomfort had grown into all-out pain. That afternoon, I applied ice to my hip thinking I would get some relief from that, considering I was just sure it was muscle pain. I finally gave in and took an extra strength Tylenol, thinking that would do the trick. Then that evening I even had Owen bring me home some Epsom salts thinking that if I only took a nice warm Epsom salt bath, the pain would go away or at least be greatly diminished. Nothing worked. And it was then that I should have known that what we were dealing with was no muscle problem. Especially as my right leg continued to turn purple each time I was up on my feet. By Wednesday and Thursday nights, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even sleep much at all. I could not find a comfortable position, the pain and burning sensations were radiating down my thigh now, and it was common for me to burst into tears from the frustration and discomfort of it all. Friday came, just four days after the first onset of pain, and I was miserable. I would cry because I was in severe pain, I would cry because each morning I would wake up to it all over again, I would cry because it was all I could do to be up on my feet long enough to make Anna a sandwich before I had to sit down again from the pain, I would cry at the possibility of having a blood clot, because my grandfather had died of a pulmonary embolism, or blood clot that went to his lungs. Owen took me to the doctor’s office that day to finally rule out a possible DVT as my midwife had recommended days before, and they about sent me home with instructions to just see a physical therapist, for they, too, believed me to be describing muscle pain. My symptoms just were not presenting as a typical blood clot usually does. The one and only thing that caused them to end up referring me to the OB ER downtown was the fact, though, that my leg was turning purple regularly and that just did not coincide with the idea of a muscle injury. Down to the ER we went and upon initial examination, they, too, felt that I was describing muscle problems, though the color of my leg was a puzzle to them. They went ahead and sent me in for an ultrasound of my hip and leg.
By the time they wheeled me back into the ER exam room, the results were coming in over the phone from the lab-sure enough, I had a pretty good sized blood clot near my right hip.
They immediately went into action, expressed how thankful they were that I had come to the ER, said that I was right where I needed to be with such a condition, and proceeded to admit me into the hospital and get me set up in a room. It was all such a whirlwind and happened so fast, that I was still trying to come to grips with the fact that I did, in fact, have a blood clot. Looking back, I know that all along that week since my midwife had first texted the letters DVT to me, that a nagging voice had been in the back of my head, making me ask what if? What if I did have a blood clot? What if I was wrong and it wasn’t just muscle pain? What if I did have what my grandfather had had? You can be sure I immediately texted my midwife that Friday evening, apologizing profusely for not listening to her and heeding her advice sooner, and thanking her so, so much for looking out for me and taking such good care of me and taking all precautions when, to our thinking, the likelihood was that it was just a simple muscle problem.
That night in the hospital they gave me pain medication so I could actually get some relief and be able to sleep for the first time in a while. I’ll never forget the sweet, sweet nurse on shift overnight that Friday who exclaimed to me, “You poor thing!! I know you must be in a lot of pain, because you told me you gave birth to your daughter at home with no pain meds, and yet here you are asking me for pain medicine so you can actually sleep tonight!” She was right. I can’t count the number of times I lamented to Owen that day and the day before, “I would rather be in labor than have this awful pain!!” It was truly debilitating and so often felt like my hip and thigh were on fire. By the time I got home from the hospital the next day, the pain was at its worst and I was getting around slower than my little seventeen month old daughter. I can only assume that because of the size of the blood clot, perhaps it was resting on a nerve or something, because even the strong pain meds I took for sleep didn’t get rid of it completely.
How I’m Doing Now
Now, two months after the onset of the blood clot and 25 weeks into my pregnancy, I’m doing great! In order to treat the blood clot, the high risk OB at the ER that weekend put me on twice-daily blood thinner injections which, after only about a week, began to significantly reduce the pain from the clot and today I am pain-free! God is so good and has been so gracious throughout this whole ordeal this year. Though I would never have myself chosen the pain, frustration, worry, difficulty, immobility, etc. which came with the original onset of the blood clot, I can now honestly say today that I am truly glad it all happened. As hard and as miserable and as emotional and painful as those awful two weeks were while going through them, I look back now and thank the Lorszd that He saw fit to send that trial my way, for He has taught me so much about His character and transformed my heart in several ways. I want to close this article today by sharing those lessons with you now.
What the Lord has been Teaching Me
1. He is so incredibly faithful!
When you are a Christian and you study the Word, you know that all throughout the Scriptures-perhaps particularly in the Psalms-the faithfulness of God is proclaimed. You know His faithfulness as a truth in your head, but until you go through a hardship and see His faithfulness plainly displayed tangibly in your own life, it doesn’t necessarily become a heart truth that you take for yourself and wholeheartedly lean on and embrace. Such was the case with me. I knew the God I served could be accurately described as a faithful God. But it wasn’t something I regularly pondered on or saw as clearly for myself as I did when I was diagnosed as having a large blood clot. Having had someone close to me pass away from a blood clot traveling to his lungs, I know firsthand that blood clots are not something to be taken lightly or to be messed around with. They can be a matter of life and death. And when I then discovered that up to 50% of blood clots go by undiagnosed because they present no symptoms, I was in awe of my God Who, though the pain was terrible, allowed me to suffer some intense pain so that we would be alerted that something was wrong. Likewise, when so many of us were thinking it was just a bad muscle injury I was experiencing, the Lord allowed my leg to exhibit strange discoloration, which was the one and only symptom which led my midwife and the doctor to go ahead and send me to the ER. Otherwise, I would have undergone physical therapy for the pain, as all the while a large blood clot (which are often referred to as silent killers) would have gone on growing and untreated in my leg. Witnessing firsthand the amazing care and provision, love and concern, of my Heavenly Father in these ways takes my breath away. Do not let anyone ever tell you that the God of the Bible is a deistic God who is not intimately involved in our daily lives! I will vehemently denounce that each and every time. The Lord cares deeply about His children and is intimately involved in every detail of their lives, and His great faithfulness flows from this. We learn far more about our Heavenly Father and His heart for us in the bad times than we ever do in the good times, so, again, I am truly and deeply thankful for the physical hardships endured this year.
2. The love and service of the Body of Christ are some of life’s greatest blessings.
As Christians, we are the Body of Christ and are to live as His hands and feet in the world, reaching out to and serving others with the same love and care He exercised while He walked this earth. Knowing this and actually tangibly experiencing it are two very different things, however. I believe that all too often in the Church today, we know in our heads that we should be a certain way-we know we should love others unconditionally, serve them joyfully, bear their burdens with them, lay down our lives, our wants, and our desires for them sacrificially-but we rarely actually do it. We rarely put feet to our beliefs, unfortunately. Which is why I was doubly blessed and amazed by the service poured out to me and my family during the week following my discharge from the hospital. You see, back at the beginning of the year, the church plant we had been a part of for several years disbanded and my family along with our former pastor and his family and a few other families from our church all began attending a new church in our area. We had only been visiting this new church for a couple months (and had not yet officially become members of the church) when the all-day morning sickness followed by the blood clot issue made it impossible for us to attend church for the better part of 3 months. Nevertheless, in spite of our non-member status and our lack of attendance for so long, upon my release from the hospital, I immediately received a Facebook message from a dear lady from the church, the exact words of which were, “Please let me know how the people of Concord Baptist can help and serve you and your family during this time!” This precious lady went on to go so far as to not only ask how they could help, but to take the initiative and set up a meal schedule for our family! Over the next several days, that dear lady, the wife of the pastor, and a couple other women all brought us meals during that time when I was in so much pain that I could barely stand on my feet for more than a couple minutes. The outpouring of love and service for us, people whom they barely knew at that point, was overwhelming and unlike anything we had ever experienced. This experience further confirmed that this was the new church for us. I have honestly never been around people who so joyfully and seriously take the command to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to rearrange their schedules in order to minister to people in need, to love others as themselves, and to sacrificially serve others whether they are a member of your church or not. Being the very grateful recipient of this kind of Christ-like love made a deep impression on me, which leads me to my next lesson learned during that time…
3. My heart had been lacking in true compassion for others and, now, having been through an exceptionally trying time myself, I understand in a new way how hard life can be sometimes and yearn to reach out to others and help them through their own difficulties.
Unfortunately, my tendency in the past when hearing someone ask for prayer for a certain difficult or sad situation was to think, “Oh, how sad!”, maybe pray about it once or twice, and then forget all about the issue as I went on with my life, never having the reality of what they were going through truly sink down deep into my heart or experiencing true empathy for the people and their situation, empathy which would have led to more diligent prayer and an offer of service. I have discovered through this blood clot ordeal, however, that you never truly understand what others are going through until you go through something similar yourself. You never understand how physical pain can cause a real spiritual struggle, or can sometimes lead you to despair, until you go through it yourself. Experiencing blood clot pain which was not only extreme but was also quite rare taught me the valuable lesson of never judging the physical struggles of someone else, thinking that they are just exaggerating their situation or that they just need to get through it or practice more strength. With 50% of blood clots never causing any pain and then most clots not causing the kind of pain I had, someone could have made those judgment calls about me. But they would have been gravely, direly wrong, because they would not have understood firsthand for themselves the reality of what it is like to not be able to stand up for more than a couple minutes at a time without your leg burning in pain or what it is like to collapse in a puddle of frustrated tears because you hurt so badly that it is all you can do to stand up long enough to make your daughter a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch-a reality that leaves you feeling useless and good for nothing. Until we walk in someone else’s shoes, we can never understand the depths of their difficulties. I thank the Lord that He taught me this valuable lesson in the way He did, because I know it has been used to soften my sometimes harsh, misunderstanding, judgmental heart towards others and their struggles. I praise the Lord that I went through two weeks of the worst pain I have ever experienced so that now, when I hear of someone else going through something similar, my first thought is, “How can I help that poor person?? What can I do to lighten their load and bless them? What they are going through is so awful; I want to fix it! I will pray wholeheartedly for them for the Lord to give them strength, get them through, heal them, and work in the situation!” No longer am I as flippant about the needs and struggles of others, because now I understand how trials can affect you and how awful they can really be. And I understand how awful a mistake it is when we think more of ourselves and our own interests than we do the interests and wellbeing of others. Now I’m excited about the ways I may be uniquely able to encourage, edify, and serve others in the future because of the trials I myself have gone through and experienced. As I was just reading the other day (don’t you love God’s awesome timing?) in Sally Clarkson‘s excellent book, Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love, “My ministry messages grew out of my life experiences…….Your story lived faithfully will become your glory – the place where He builds messages, provides answers to prayer, and teaches wisdom.” A dear friend from the Bible study group I’m currently reading this book with shared with me another wonderful quote she had recently heard, the message of which was along the same lines. “God is building your resume in order for you to fulfill the job or work He has created for you to do.” Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Though the blood clot ordeal was uncomfortable and difficult, it is a part of the resume the Lord is building in my life-a set of life experiences each of which will provide me with insight, wisdom, care, concern, love, compassion, and encouraging words to share with those the Lord will bring across my path whom He wants me to witness to and share with in the future. When we understand this, the troubles of this life gain much purpose and, though difficult, they also carry with them a sense of excitement, anticipation at how the Lord will use you and your life experiences to encourage and equip someone else and point them to Him. As 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 says,
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.”
Along with this came another lesson the Lord has wrought in my heart and mind….
4. My self-righteous self needed a good dose of humility and, boy, I got it!
I’m a pretty crunchy Mama. I’m a big advocate of home-birthing, midwifery, breastfeeding, etc. And though I wrote in my When the Mommy Wars Enter the Church article that those issues are all secondary and need to not lead to competition, comparison, or strife among Mamas, my heart was nevertheless more prideful over having had a baby naturally and at home than I ever would have thought it was! You see, because of the blood thinners I have to take, I am no longer a good candidate for a home birth this time around, due to my having a higher risk of possible hemorrhaging during delivery. This was really hard for me to wrap my mind around when I was first told. I grew up in a very pro-home birth family following the home birth of my younger brother, which I witnessed at the age of 6. I always knew I would go the home birth route when I grew up and had my own babies. I studied the issue, watched the awesome, very informative documentary, The Business of Being Born, took Bradley classes while pregnant with Anna, had the best midwife ever (she’s like family!) whom I still text regularly when I have questions of any kind, and having had Anna at home, just assumed (rather naively, I suppose) that any future pregnancies and deliveries would all go the same way as Anna’s had-I would have a home birth each and every time the Lord blessed us with a child. The thought of having a hospital birth never really crossed my mind, except for the possibility of labor being problematic at some point and perhaps leading to a hospital transfer. Never did I even entertain the idea that sometime in the future I might end up with not only a hospital birth, but a planned hospital birth! So, needless to say, the Lord brought me down a peg or two, I think. 😉 And He taught me the valuable lesson that, though home birth is wonderful, though I hope to have another home birth one day, though home birth for low-risk Mamas is generally far safer and frought with far fewer issues usually than hospital births, home births are not for everyone and I had better be thankful for modern medical technology, advances, practices, and opportunities which provide a better outcome for Mama and baby when problems do arise! And I need to extend understanding, love, empathy, and grace to other women who choose hospital over home births! Having Anna at home in no way made me a better mother than the dear lady who has her baby in the hospital. Likewise, having our second baby in the hospital in no way makes me a worse mom than the dear lady who has her baby at home. As so wonderfully and profoundly expressed in this article, Jesus is the Hero of our birth stories! He-not us!-is the one in charge of what they entail and how things go, and they must never become a source of pride or arrogance for us in any way.
5. I truly can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me!
Fifth and finally, another lesson the Lord taught me in a new and profound way through this blood clot ordeal, was that Philippians 4:13 is so very true. It isn’t simply some nice platitude to encourage us and to help us to have a better day when we’re down. It is real! Never say never with God. Truly believe, down deep in your toes, that nothing is impossible with Him. I learned this valuable lesson through the news that shook my world that I would have to be on twice daily blood thinner injections for the duration of my pregnancy and for at least 6 months postpartum. Growing up, I had people tell me from time to time that I would make a great healthcare worker due to their belief that I would have a great bedside manner. My reply was always that I would NEVER work in the medical field because I simply COULD NOT handle needles and would never be able to bring myself to use one. Then the Lord sends twice daily injections my way and shakes me to the core! As I was lying in that hospital bed being told that my treatment plan for the blood clot would be injections every day for at least a year, I immediately turned to my husband and said, “Well, sorry, honey, but you’ll have to be the one to give me my injections. There’s no way I can do it myself!” He sure enough did administer my injections for me that weekend upon my arrival back home, but Monday morning came and the time for my shot loomed upon me and he was at work. I remember that morning so clearly and how I sat in bed shaking, knowing I had no choice but to shoot myself in the side with a needle (a pretty tiny needle, yes, but it’s a NEEDLE!!). My health depended on it, therefore my unborn baby’s health depended on it, there was no one else there to do it for me, and the clock was ticking. With heart racing and finding myself close to tears, I sat in bed, needle poised and ready, for thirty whole minutes, trying to muster up the courage to give myself my shot. I finally did and now, fast-forward two months, though I still don’t like the shots (primarily now because the medicine momentarily burns going in), they no longer shake me to my core like I always imagined such a thing would. When the 12 hour mark comes and I know it’s time for another shot, I just go, grab the package, open it, prep the shot, and administer it. All of this solely by God’s grace and His strength, I assure you! Though terribly upset at first at the thought of having to succumb to injections for at least a year, I am now so thankful for this, as well, for it has illustrated for me the fact that God is always with me, that His strength and help are not only always available, but also always sufficient in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). To further illustrate both His faithfulness and the immensity of His help and strength for His people, He also provided me with a friend at our new church who has a one year old little boy and also had to take regular blood thinner injections throughout her pregnancy. I stand in awe of God’s timing for our move to this new church and His tenderness and care for me in providing me with someone to talk to, gain encouragement from, and relate to who totally understands how I feel and what I’m going through.
I grew up believing in the goodness of God and in the existence of the love and concern He has for His children, but until going through the painful ordeals of this year, I have never so fully understood or grasped these concepts the way I do now, and I am so thankful. He truly is good, friends! We can trust Him! The hard times are good times. God brings so much good out of each trial, hardship, and heartache. They are so very painful, wearisome, and heart-wrenching in the moment, but our faithful, loving Father brings so much fruit to bear from them, blesses us in and through them, and teaches us most valuable lessons about His character and His heart for us. So, take heart, friends! This post is the most long-winded one I’ve ever written, but it is my prayer that something I wrote here, that one of the lessons the Lord has been teaching me these past few months, strikes a chord with you, too, and encourages you in your own walk with Him. It’s a blessing to serve you here on this blog and I am so excited about being back in the saddle again! 🙂
May God greatly bless and encourage you!
Until next week,
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*Edited to add: I realized I never made it clear in the article that we did come to find out that we are, in fact, expecting a boy this time!! We were so surprised! 🙂 James Owen Hargraves is due to arrive sometime around December 14th!