Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good [things; so that] thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
We planned an Open House for our new apartment for Saturday, October 15. The event loomed and much remained to be done around the house, but my energy levels weren’t keeping up with the workload. I had another ultrasound on Oct. 7 (32.5 weeks) to check on the fibroid. There was concern that it might interfere with labor’s progression. The fibroid had not grown, but my cervix was beginning to shorten (efface). The doctor’s office called to recommend I take it easy and keep off my feet as much as I could. I was still teaching violin lessons and trying to keep them through mid-November. My due date was November 27. I had a headache Monday night (Oct. 11) through Wednesday afternoon, but the weather was changing, and I thought it was just my sinuses.
On Wednesday, Oct. 12 (33 weeks), I had a relatively busy day—teaching, church, etc. That night around 11 p.m., while I was standing talking to Duncan, I suddenly felt really lightheaded. Not spinning or dizzy, but like I couldn’t stand up much longer. I thought I was just really tired. Duncan helped me into my pajamas. Around 1 a.m., I woke up to go to the bathroom, and the weird feeling persisted. I called the nurse hotline, and although I didn’t have any other symptoms (my headache had gone away), she recommended I go in to the hospital to be checked out. Poor Duncan! To be roused in the middle of the night, and it’s not even time for the baby!
At the ER, when you’re pregnant past a certain number of weeks, they take you right up to labour and delivery. Well, it turns out my blood pressure was high, and I was diagnosed with PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension). After a night in the ward, hearing all the questions that nurses ask when ladies in actual labour first come in, I felt like I had received an education! Thursday morning they sent me home, but to manage and monitor my PIH, the obstetrician put me on partial bedrest and signed me up for the local antenatal program. A nurse started coming to our house every day to give me a non-stress test (check blood pressure, measure contractions, and check baby’s heartbeat), take blood work once a week and answer any questions. I was also given a cuff to check my bp three times a day and little sticks to check for protein in my urine.
How your life can change in a few short hours! We did go through with the Open House on Sat., Oct. 15, but I sat most of the time. Duncan had taken Thursday off work and was able to get our place in ship-shape order. Thursday night we went to the first (out of 5) prenatal class at the hospital—we learned about the process of delivery and breathing techniques. Sunday at church I was not able to stay for both morning services because of fatigue. The following week was taken up with lots of rest, nurse visits, bp checks, and a couple appointments. My blood pressure had stabilized at higher than normal, but not excessive. Monday, Oct. 17, in the evening I had a strange pain/pressure in my left abdomen—I called the nurse hotline again, but we concluded it must be heartburn or something. As it looked like I could potentially be going into labour early, we set a time to meet the doula we were considering and to pay for the first half. We made an appointment for Monday, Oct. 24 in the evening. Thursday, Oct. 20, we attended the second prenatal class, which went over a tour of the labor and delivery area of the hospital and what happens during a c-section.
On Friday, Oct. 21, the nurse on her visit took my blood for testing. The results take one day through the antenatal program. They called me on Saturday to say that one of my liver enzymes was slightly elevated (it was 56 when 50 and under is normal), and they would retake my bloodwork on Monday. I still had no protein showing up in my urine with the sticks (high bp and protein in the urine indicate preeclampsia). Over the weekend, my abdomen pain increased, but only in the evening and night. Sunday night I was not able to sleep very much because of the pressure. But I could read and it was bearable. Also, my blood pressure was staying higher.
At 11 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 24 (35 weeks 1 day), when the nurse came to our house she recommended I go in to the hospital. They would be able to get bloodwork results within hours, and with my strange pain and higher bp, it was worth getting checked out. So I called Duncan at work to let him know, and used the taxi voucher the program had given me to get a ride to the hospital. My bloodwork came back, and not only had my liver enzyme that was 56 skyrocketed to over 200, but my platelets had dropped below normal (down to 90,0000). I was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome, a group of symptoms thought to be related to preeclampsia. The initials stand for Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelet count. The only cure is to deliver the baby.
By the time Duncan showed up from work around 5 p.m., we were talking about the baby coming that week. As the doctors discussed options with us, we had two alternatives: induction or cesarean. At 35 weeks, the baby was developed enough to not be in danger (praise the Lord!), but induction might take a couple days, and with my fibroid, I might have ended up with a cesarean anyway. We didn’t know how quickly the HELLP might progress. So the doctors recommended a cesarean. That night.
Poor Duncan ran home to pack a few things. He cancelled the meeting with the doula. He dashed off an e-mail to family. All it said was “Looks like a Csection tonight.” Mom Johnson immediately called, then booked a flight to arrive in Edmonton that night at 9 p.m. Around 7 p.m., I was prepped for surgery. I remember being comforted that I was wearing pink socks, since we were having a girl. The nurses were so helpful. One named Marion came into the cesarean with me, and stayed into the night.
Duncan was a real trooper. We read some Scripture together—Psalm 121 and 91. We warned the nurses about his record at medical procedures :). They had him wait until I had received the spinal, and everything was set up, then brought him into the surgery. Within three minutes of the beginning of the surgery, we had a baby girl!! She was born at 9:02 p.m. To hear her cry was so surreal. The nurse showed little Charisse to us and looked at Duncan and said “Don’t faint, don’t faint!” She weighed and measured her (4 lbs 3 oz and 17 inches long), wiped her up, and brought her over to us. Duncan held our tiny bundle right close to my head so I could kiss her. She was so tiny!! And sweet and precious. Our hearts were just overflowing with love for her.
I had never envisioned a c-section. There were so many ways that things did not go at all as we expected. But God was so good to us. He protected Charisse and me from dangers. We saw His mercy in so many ways, even to where we didn’t end up paying for a doula we did not use. Little Charisse was small for her age, and stayed in the NICU for two weeks. I was in the hospital for one, then the rest of the time came into the hospital for all her daytime feedings. What a joyful day when passed the “carseat test” and came home!
Luke 1:14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
Here are some more pictures!
1 Samuel 1:27-28
For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD.
On March 24, 2011, our lives changed forever. We found out that God had answered our prayers. We were going to have a baby! This was one of many changes in 2011.
I profited from being at home from work in April by starting to pack up and getting extra rest. My slight morning sickness stayed away if I ate regular snacks. My first doctor´s appointment was scheduled for the first week of May (10 weeks gestation), and we planned to tell the world after that appointment. Because of some insurance difficulties, the appointment was postponed until Monday, May 16 (12 weeks). So after a happy graduation with no special announcements, we started packing in earnest. Dear friends planned a shower for us, and we planned to send out an e-mail announcement and the invitations on that Monday following the appointment. Well, it too was delayed because my doctor was assisting in a delivery. The Lord was stretching my faith-and we went ahead and sent out the news. This was the first of several reminders that our little one is the Lord´s, and I can trust her to Him.
On Friday, May 20, we did get to see the doctor. Duncan came in to see the ultrasound. I was 12.5 weeks along, everything looked fine, and there was our baby, kicking away! I was so happy! About 10 minutes into the ultrasound, I reached for Duncan´s hand and said “What do you think, honey?” I thought we would have a gushy moment and he would say something profound or sweet. Ironically, instead he said “I don’t feel so good.” About a second later, he passed out in the little exam room. We´ve decided that he thought our little girl was “drop-dead gorgeous” from the very beginning :).
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully [and] wonderfully made: marvellous [are] thy works; and [that] my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, [and] curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all [my members] were written, [which] in continuance were fashioned, when [as yet there was] none of them.
After our move to Edmonton, we found a local doctor, and I received regular prenatal care. On June 23 (17 weeks), after a visit to Banff that day, I felt our baby´s kick for the first time. On July 20 (21 weeks), I had another ultrasound, and found out we were having a girl! We also found out that I had a decent-sized fibroid, but weren´t too concerned about that. Over the weekend, while I was out of town for a friend´s wedding, Duncan received a call from the doctor´s office that they wanted to see me right away. We did a lot of praying that weekend as I flew home. When we saw the doctor, she explained that the ultrasound showed some soft markers that potentially indicated our child might have Down´s syndrome or another chromosomal problem. Once again we were reminded that this little girl is the Lord´s-and He was knitting her together in a way He knew to be good.
Two weeks later, I had a follow-up ultrasound. I was praying that it would be clear either way-that the ultrasound would show even more likelihood we had a special needs baby or else that it would seem significantly less likely. God graciously answered, and every one of the “markers” that were noted before were perfectly normal. We praised the Lord for His faithfulness and goodness.
Because of our experience with the 1st ultrasound and because we would be far away from family, we pursued obtaining the services of a doula. We prayed for wisdom and asked the Lord for help, but didn´t commit to one yet.
To be continued…
In Spring 2011, our little family saw many answers to prayer. Most of them were not in ways that we would have expected. One prayer was for direction-Duncan was graduating and his job coming to an end. We had heard about some opportunities in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, but they seemed impossible because of timing and my job responsibilities. The last day of January, we spent some time over lunch praying for direction. It was becoming more and more critical to know. Well, that very afternoon, my boss took me into her office and gently and lovingly told me I was going to be laid off. My last day at work would be April 1, a whole month before graduation.
God used that closed door to help us realize we would be free to move outside of Greenville. As we pursued opportunities, the door to Edmonton really opened wide. In mid-March, we committed to serving as interns for 2 months of the summer at Meadowlands Baptist Church in Edmonton. If it seemed a good fit, we hoped to stay so that Duncan would being able to teach part-time at Foundation Baptist College, a small college at Meadowlands.
Another prayer that our gracious Savior answered in an unexpected way was our prayer for a child. We found out we were expecting on March 24-Bible Conference week and the day before Duncan´s birthday. Of all times to find out such exciting news, we didn´t expect it to be when we were both going to be unemployed and possibly moving across the country. But our hearts overflowed with joy at God´s goodness, and we stepped onto a path where we knew God was leading and would provide, protect and guide. We shared our news with our immediate family, and they were overjoyed. We called each family member and asked if they would mind becoming a [grandpa, aunt, uncle] in November. No one said “no” :).
After Duncan´s graduation on May 7, we said our goodbyes to Bob Jones University, Grace Baptist Church of Dacula, Mount Calvary Baptist Church, and my family in Newland, NC. We had decided to go ahead and pack up everything and ship it to Edmonton, trusting that the Lord would work and provide a job for Duncan.
The long drive went very well-we stopped frequently and had places to stay all along the way. I loved getting to see the Midwest and West. One highlight of our trip was visiting Truth Bible Church in Dickinson, ND. On June 13, we arrived at Bud and Debbie Talbert´s home where we would be staying for a few weeks. Duncan began his internship, and I was able to get plenty of rest.
Toward the end of July, Pastor Talbert told us about a 2-bedroom basement suite in a Christian family´s home that he heard about. We visited the suite, and everything seemed perfect-the location, size, cost, and availability. The only catch was that Duncan did not have a job. A monetary gift had been given to us that was the exact amount of the first month´s rent we needed to pay to reserve the apartment. Once again, we stepped out in faith and signed the rental lease.
In the meantime, we had enjoyed staying in 4 different families´ homes. It was a blessing to get to know folks in the church. Duncan was wrapping up the internship, and pursuing any job opportunities as we were able to find. By mid-August, we had not heard from any employer. Once again we were asking the Lord to provide for an increasingly critical need. On Monday, August 15, Duncan prayed in the pastors´ meeting specifically about hearing back from somewhere that week. We had also sent out a prayer letter asking for others to pray. Well, God answered again. On Wednesday, the IT department at Grant MacEwan University contacted Duncan about an interview, and on Friday, August 18, Duncan interviewed and was offered the job.
September flew by as Duncan started his job. Generous friends helped us move our belongings into our apartment in stages, and we moved into our apartment on Labour Day (Sept. 5). The church gave us a food pounding-filling our pantry. I loved being at home and working to make our place a home, including scouring the local postings for inexpensive furniture J. Duncan´s class, The Life of Christ, began and lecture preparations took much of his spare time. We entered the third trimester of pregnancy, I worked on a baby quilt, and we set the date of Oct. 15 for an “open house.”