Saturday, September 7, 2013

Catching Up, Month by Month: November 2012

We spent November trying to feel normal again, finding a new rhythm for our new family.  It didn't come as easily as I had hoped.  There were quite a few tears involved when it came to figuring out how to enjoy my new baby and teach and plan school and clean and cook and so on.  Put together sleep deprivation with my perfectionism and my ridiculously unrealistic expectations...well, let's just say that I struggled. A lot.  Casey, Braelyn and I all struggled in our own way, with our own stuff.  So much had happened in our family, but the world kept on turning. So we worked, and crashed, and burned, and worked some more to catch back up.  

But!  Every now and then, the Lord in His kindness would stop me and say, "LOOK! Look at what I have done!" 

...and what is there to do, but savor such moments and rejoice in the work He has done and praise Him, who does in abundance far more than we ask or think! To Him be the glory forever and ever!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Catching Up, Month by Month: October 2012

OCTOBER 2012.  Oh dear.
Well, we just have to dive right in.

Monday, October 1st: It was a normal day, except that I was exceptionally tired and achy. But...I was nearly eight months pregnant so I chalked it up to that and figured I'd feel better the next day.

Tuesday, October 2nd: I did not feel better this day.  In fact, I felt much worse and stuck to the couch for most of that day. Thankfully, I had a OB appointment on Wednesday, so I held tight till then. Also, Braelyn went to my mom's on this day because our "babymoon" was supposed to begin on Wednesday...which I was still hoping to go on.

Wednesday, October 3rd: We went to my OB appointment and I told him that I was feeling quite fluish, and even teased a bit that we should go ahead and get baby out so that I could take some medicine.  Well, of course he said he could do no such thing, as baby was safe and sound where she was, and I was sent home with instructions to rest.  I did go home and did absolutely nothing, but unfortunately it was anything but restful.  At this point, I could hardly sleep, due to an excruciating pain in my back (which I thought was muscle pain, it wasn't) and it was becoming difficult to breathe. Babymoon was cancelled.

Thursday, October 4th: Feeling worse and worse each day, we decided that this wasn't a simple respiratory infection, but must be the flu.  In my pajamas and bath robe, I went to see our general practitioner.   Upon her entrance into the room, I asked her, in a Joking-But-I'm-Not-Joking-Sort-Of-Way, if she would kindly put me in a coma until this was over.  Once again, my medical advice was immediately, although compassionately disregarded. I was tested for flu and sure enough, it was positive.  My OB didn't feel comfortable giving me Tamiflu, so our only option was to let it run its course.

Friday, October 5th: Around 5am I got out of bed after getting no sleep at all.  I was in tears and a bit of a panic because I could hardly breathe and the pain in my back was now unbearable. We called Dr. Z (our GP) and she recommended we go to the ER.  My quick shallow breaths and my unusually low blood pressure were cause for concern, so I was admitted to the hospital and spent most of that day in the ER. The doctors discovered that I had developed pneumonia on top of the flu (the pneumonia being the source of my back pain).  Despite all this, I was still in pretty good spirits, but I couldn't really believe this was all happening.  It was very surreal.  I was confident that I was going to fine, but of course, I was worried about Abby.

Saturday, October 6th: This day, things took a dramatic turn for the worst and consequently, where my memory starts to get fuzzy.  Long story, short...I was moved to the ICU, intubated and sedated, although I think doctors were being conservative with the sedative because of Abby.  Around 2 am that morning I had the first of several episodes.  Gasping for breath.  Heart rate rising.  Panicking.  During one of the episodes, I remember working so hard to breathe, and I just wanted more air.  I was motioning with my hands, telling the nurse how and when to pump the manual air pump.  Somewhere in all of that, I was frantically writing notes to Casey, trying to communicate with him and the nurses that it was so hard to breath, and if they would just leave me alone for one second I would be able calm down and catch my breath.  This was obviously not the case...the nurses were doing what needed to be done, but I wasn't thinking clearly at this point.  I was so worked up that the nurses had to restrain me. Finally, a doctor came in and said he was going to help me rest.  I remember feeling so relieved.  Yes! Rest! Please!  I was put into a medical-induced coma. As the anesthesiologist (who had obviously skipped the day they taught bedside manner at medical school) walked out of the room, he told Casey he wasn't sure that I was going to make it and walked away.

While my husband's world was falling apart, I slept.

Prayers from all over the world began to go out to our Almighty God.

Later Saturday evening, the doctors could see that I wasn't getting any better.  In order to give me the help I needed they had to get the baby out.  The decision was made to do an emergency C-section. Abigail Anne Cease was born around 9:30pm. 5lbs 14oz and 18 inches long. Once Abby was born, I was pumped full of medicine for the flu, pneumonia, and blood poisoning.

Sunday, October 7th: Sleep

Monday, October 8th: I met Abby for the first time, although I have no memory of this moment. Mostly...sleep.

Tuesday, October 9th: I started to come back to the world. I held my baby. It was strange because I didn't remember holding her before, but it wasn't like meeting her for the first time either.  I never had that moment of, "Oh my goodness!! The baby that I've waited and waited for is here and she's beautiful and perfect, and thank-you, Jesus!" None of that. It's is still so odd to me.  After all that, after 5 long baby was born and I didn't celebrate and cry and hold her and laugh and rejoice that my wait was over.  I have since then of course, but not in the moment or even in her first few days.  I do wish that I had had that memory.

Wednesday, October 10th: I was able to get around a bit more and I saw Braelyn for the first time in a week.  She was an instant success at being a big sister.

As Casey and I would walk through the hospital, nurses who were with me when I was very sick, would stop me in complete shock, eyes as big as saucers...they could barely believe that I was alive, let alone walking around and smiling and laughing.  One sweet nurse, with tears in her eyes asked if she could hug me.  It was a happy day, indeed. It seemed like everyone who knew my story was starting to see that God had done a miracle.

Thursday, October 11th: I was released from the hospital, Casey and I grabbed a little lunch date at Goose's Acre, and I spent the rest of the day with Abby in the nursery. I was finally able to start bonding with my sweet baby.

Friday, October 12th: Our family of four went home.

So that's how October began and how my baby was born and how I was reminded that life is so very fragile.  Honestly, this is only a fraction of the story.  So much happened that I slept through. I know there were some very dark moments.  I know my husband went through hell, and my parents, too.  I know that I can never know the half of what they went through and what they did for Abby and me that week.  But I know that I am blessed beyond measure to be loved so very much.  I know Abby spent her first night with one of my dearest friends by her side, loving on her when I could not.  I know friends drove back and forth to the hospital, day after day, to check in, to save me from hospital food, to assist me in some awkward and unpleasant situations.  I know gifts and meals and words of encouragement poured in for weeks after Abby's birth.  I know while I was in the hospital my friends put together Abby's nursery and cleaned my house and did my laundry and took care of Braelyn. I know people from all over the world, strangers, were praying for our family. I know that I can never say thank-you enough for all that was done for me.

Grace upon Grace upon Grace.

After all that, well, we rested and recovered and enjoyed our new baby.  Although, like an INSANE PERSON...I did attempt to get back to homeschooling that next Monday.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!?! ;) (I am literally laughing out loud at how ridiculous I am!)

Anyways...some happier pics from the rest of October...

Lots of sleepy smiles.

Sweet sisters!

Some newborn pics by our friend Lori McConnaughie.

This one went on the baby announcement.  I was not so great about getting those out.  Some people got one and some people who were supposed to get one did not. :/ As was the case with the thank-you notes.  #Anoouncement/ThankYouNoteFail #HopeMyFriendsCanForgiveMe!

Oh yeah! And Halloween! 

*Casey blogged during the time I was in the hospital to let people know what was going on and to process everything for himself.  I think it's safe to say that this was harder on him than anyone. You can read about his experience here.

Casey Cease...Thank you for fighting with me and for me.  I love you beyond measure.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Catching Up, Month by Month: September 2012

The best way I know how to walk through the past year is through pictures.  I'm challenging myself to write about one month every day or two, using just a single picture for each month...a picture is worth a thousand words, and all of that.  However, I can't make any promises...some months...well, there just aren't enough words to describe all that happened.  So off we go...

In September, we were in the thick of our school work, which of course included some classic reading.  Charlotte's Web. What a treasure! And what a task it was, reading aloud Chapter 21: The Last Day, when Charlotte tells Wilber she will not be returning with him to the barn, what, with a lump the size of Texas in my throat and my eyes leaking like a sieve!  It took me twice as long as it should have to get through that bit, for all the tears and blubbering. My daughter on the other hand, was completely dry-eyed, so of course, I immediately suspected her of being an associate of the evil Lord Voldemort, but she has since proven herself loyal to the side of goodness and beauty.  You can imagine our relief! ;)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

2nd Grade! First Day of School Pictures

Well, it's been one year to the day since I last blogged. So unfortunately, this is the exact same post as my last post 12 months ago, except we have Braelyn's 2nd grade photos to add in.  I do apologize for my absence.  It has been quite a year for the Cease household and honestly, maybe I just needed a year rest and recover and to be quiet for a while.  Most of you already know what the last year has held for us, but nonetheless, I am anxious to "get it down on paper," so to speak, and connect some dots from where I left off in our story. When I wrote that last chapter, I was about 7 months pregnant...and now, a year later...well, meet Abigail Anne! My precious 10 month old ray of sunshine!
So, much more to come about this sweet girl and how she came into the world and the many happy months that have passed since then.

For now...we will proceed with the annual First Day of School Picture Post.
Allow me to reminisce...

First Day of School (St. Paul's Day School)- 2009 (3 Years Old)

First Day of School (Children of The Woodlands) - 2010 (4 Years Old)

First Day of School (Classical Conversations) - 2011 (5 Years Old)

Mom & Daughter First Day of School - 2011

First Day of School (Classical Conversations) - 2012 (6 Years Old)

Mom & Daughter First Day of School - 2012

First Day of School (Classical Conversations) - 2013 (7 Years Old)

 Mom & Daughter First Day of School - 2013

So there you have it...Braelyn...a 2nd grader! Who's so big and gorgeous and missing tons of teeth and brilliant and funny and the greatest big sister a mommy could hope for and just a fantastic girl! I know we're going to have a great school year together!

Ahhhhhh! It's good to be back to The Beautiful Meantime!
See ya soon! (For real, this time ;)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's Tradition!...First Day of School Pics

First Day of School (St. Paul's Day School)- 2009 (3 Years Old):

First Day of School (Children of The Woodlands) - 2010 (4 Years Old):

First Day of School (Classical Conversations) - 2011 (5 Years Old)

Mom & Daughter First Day of School - 2011

First Day of School (Classical Conversations) - 2012 (6 Years Old)

Mom & Daughter First Day of School - 2012
(It was very sunny. :/ )

Technically, Braelyn started school at home last week...just to ease back into our routine.
And I'm so glad we did! To go from our lazy summer schedule to our full and rigorous CC/Homeschool schedule would have given us both a heart attack.

A few pics from our first day of school at home:

Zoo Keeper! I love it!

Hard at work...decorating her Bible Journal. ;)

More on homeschool still to come...hopefully...I mean, don't go holding your breath or anything, but...I'm really gonna try.  No promises.  Actually, it's probably pretty unlikely, but...we'll see.

Heh. :)
Good Night.

So Long Summer! (just a picture post)


Braelyn's 6th Birthday Party. Another gymnastics party.

Acts29 Pastors' Retreat in Newport Beach, California.

The lovely Brandi Hyde and me in the back of our 4-passenger bicycle.
A very funny afternoon.
I think, between us and the Hydes, we managed to quote every line of Arrested Development at some point during our trip.  So fun!

 And our gender reveal party!!!!!!
It's a GIRL!!!!!!!
Abigail Anne Cease...coming this November!


Playin' at the beach in Florida. (Casey was speaking at beach camp ;)

 Abby and I were also soaking up the sunshine.  Well, really me, more than her. ;)

So long summer!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chapter 5: It's Not the Chapter I Would Have Written

Well, Aiden was home.  Our house was stirring with bottle warming and diaper changing and happy visitors, who by the way, were not allowed to hold him (for the first 2 weeks only Casey, Braelyn and I were allowed to hold him to strengthen bonding with his new family).  The Lord had heard our prayers and was blessing us beyond what we could hope or imagine, and so often those moments aren't appreciated until they're gone, but not this one.  It was as if time stood still for the Cease family and He gave us eyes to see and hearts to savor the goodness He had done.

Aiden was such a good baby.  He would wake up for a feeding or two during the night and and easily drift back to sleep.  One of our favorite pastimes was to watch him smile in his sleep.  Another image that I treasured in my heart was to see Casey with his son.  There's something special about that, isn't there?  I loved knowing that this man, who I love and trust and respect was going to be modeling for Aiden day in and day out what it meant to be a man. What a joy it is to have such confidence in the father of your children!

And so it went for those first few days.  We were engulfed in celebrating and re-learning and catching up on sleep and all that comes with newborn babies.  A long, hard chapter of my life had closed and a new one was beginning.  Not that it would be without struggle, but I was just so thankful for a NEW chapter.

The Sunday after we brought Aiden home, our social worker called and asked us to be praying for Tina, as she was feeling regretful of her decision.  We, of course had been praying for her already, but assured our social worker that we would diligently continue.  I wasn't really sure what to think of this phone call.  I can honestly say that I was not upset with Tina at I said before...who could blame her! But I couldn't tell if our social worker really just wanted us to be praying, or if there a warning underneath it all.  While New Life had completely prepared us for the adoption to fall through BEFORE papers were signed, nothing was said of it happening AFTER papers were signed.

So there I was again...numb and humbled and terrified...knowing there was nothing to do but watch the Author of my life write this story out. And my spirit was willing to trust that God was going to do the very best thing, but as the story always goes with us flesh was weak...and my flesh demanded to have some control over what was happening to my family.

Remember, at this point I was also 8 weeks pregnant and I had (to my delight) been having healthy pregnancy symptoms, like tiredness and nausea and all of that.  Well, I woke up on Monday morning (5 days after we brought Aiden home) feeling like my symptoms had lightened up. Panic was welling up. "I AM GOING TO LOSE BOTH OF THESE BABIES!!!!" And as this whole situation just became too emotionally overwhelming, I could not manage a reasonable or rational thought and I went into a full-fledged anxiety attack.

In a desperate attempt to gain some sort of control over the at least know something for sure...I forced my way into an ultra-sound at my doctor's office.  I had to see that heartbeat. Kindly, the ultra-sound tech allowed me to come in, although I could tell she was a little confused as to why, but she saw me nonetheless, and it was there. There heartbeat was there.

Gasp for breath. Tears. Relief.

Ironically, on the way home from the doctor, our social worker called and said that Tina had written letters to both Aiden and us.  In her letters she shared her struggle and her grief, but also that she knew that she had made the right decision to place Aiden with us.  Our social worker seemed to think that this was a positive step and that we didn't need to worry about Tina taking Aiden back.

Another deep breath. Tears. Some relief...a small amount.

The rest of Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday we carried on...loving our new son, loving seeing Braelyn as a big sister, fighting with her over who got to feed Aiden next...all in good spirits, of course, and praying...praying fervently for Tina and for Aiden and for ourselves.

Wednesday evening, around 5:00, Casey received a call from our social worker.  Tina and her family had spoken with an attorney and we were to return Aiden to his birth-mother at 9:00 that night.

What a great sadness filled our home. It was almost tangible.  Braelyn and I held Aiden. And we wept as Casey gathered up Aiden's things and the things that Tina had given him.  We waited for my mom to drive up from Sugar Land and when she got there we let her hold the boy who was for a moment her grandson. And then Casey and I did the hardest thing I have ever done in my whole life...we returned the boy we loved to his mother.

It was a horrible night. And I'm still not over it.  My heart still hurts to think about it. I miss the boy I loved...who will likely never know that I loved him so much....will never know that there is a family in the world who thinks about him and prays for him and longs to know how he is.  It's such a strange thought.  At the same time however, I am so glad for him and for Tina that they are together.  I think she will be a good mother to him, perhaps because she knows what it means to lose him.  And she will have family around to help her and I'm sure that he will be well loved.

Obviously, there's more to say here.  There has been a lot to learn from all of this, but I'll leave some of that for another chapter, except to say that God redeems and God restores and God heals and writes more beautiful stories for us than we could write for ourselves. He is doing that for Aiden, He is doing that for Tina, and He is doing that for me and my family. As scarred and bruised as I may be from this past year, I walk away with history with the Lord...He took me through a deep and bitter valley, but He was there with me all the while and He carried me through to the other side. He shared Himself with me. I know things about Him now that I may not have known otherwise. I love the Lord....not so much in a The-Bible-Tells-Me-So sort of way, but a We've-Been-Through-Things-Together sort of way.  Please don't hear this as me's all to do with HIS faithfulness, I assure you. But...I do share this to say...Believers...let us not curse the vallies; in the vallies we build history with the God of the universe and then...what joy there is on the other side.