The Importance of Girlfriends

The other day, I met a friend for lunch and as soon as she sat down and we started talking, she burst into tears. You see, my friend is a busy young mother with a new baby. She was frazzled trying to get out of the house and get everyone situated before she came to meet me. I think she was just relieved to see me knowing that we could talk and that I would understand the struggles and challenges that she is experiencing. Basically, she just needed a friend.

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Girlfriends are important. We need each other. We need friends to laugh with us when we are happy and cry with us when we are sad. Friends that will pray for us and encourage us to do good. Hebrews chapter 10 tells us to consider, ponder, think about how we should stir up one another to love and good works.

The Amplified Bible says it this way, “And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.”

As Christian women, we should be creative in thinking about ways to meet with each other so that we can watch over one another and encourage one another to love God, love our husbands, love our children, and to love each other.

I have an amazing group of women that I meet with regularly, and I am so blessed by their friendships. Some of us have been friends for almost two decades, others have joined us along the way. We do life together. We may not see each other every day, but I know that these are the girls that have my back. We have shared both good times and bad times. We have celebrated all of the major milestones together—babies, birthdays, showers, and even funerals. These girls are a special part of my life.

I have other very close friends who are very special to me, and these ladies are the “older women” in my life who I look up to, and can call on for advice. These ladies are full of wisdom, and I consider these ladies my mentors. It is good to have women of all ages in your life!

The Lord has blessed me with a life filled with amazing women of all ages; both young and old. Some I see regularly, others I only talk to occasionally. It isn’t necessary to have a lot of friends, but what is important is having the right kind of friends. Friends that lift you up encourage you and pray for you. I hope you have a special girl or a group of girls that you can call your friends. If not, I encourage you to pray and ask God to put the right kind of girls and women in your life.

Connor’s Smile

Connor’s Smile

Peter, my husband, is the light of my life, and my best friend. In December of 1993, our life was forever changed, that was the day I gave birth to my eldest son. We instantly fell in love with our bundle of joy!  Peter and I were young, inexperienced parents, but we were given an incredible gift, our precious son Jacob. He was a wonderful little man, and he made me want to have more children just like him.I longed for more children, but I was a busy working mom and many years passed before I would become pregnant again. Finally, I did get pregnant again in 1998. This pregnancy was not as easy as the first one. I had trouble with spotting early in my pregnancy, and I began to experience some health problems. I was diagnosed with Gestational diabetes and was put on a very strict diet, exercise regime, and was very closely monitored. On a routine visit to the hospital, I was hooked up to a monitor to make sure everything was going okay. But today, something was terribly wrong. My baby’s lungs were not moving. They didn’t know if he was breathing okay, so they ordered an emergency C-section. This was a horrifying time. Several hours later, I gave birth to our second son, Connor.

Everything seemed okay at first. But everything was not okay. He was born with a condition called club feet. His feet were upside down, and backward. I remember holding him in those early hours after he was born, with my eyes full of tears, and all I could say was that he was perfect. I had longed for this child, and to me he was perfect.

The years that followed were downright difficult! Connor was in and out of the hospital from the time he was born. The first doctor that cast Connor, cast him to tight and Connor’s toes were turning black and blue. He was losing circulation to his feet. We took him to the ER, and they cut his cast off. The attending ER Physician said it was a good thing that we brought him in because if we had waited much longer, he would have lost his feet. He was only days old. And things continued to get worse from there.

Connor had a myriad of health issues. He had several foot surgeries. We were constantly either in the Doctor’s office or hospital. During one of his hospital stays, he contracted the roto virus. A diarrhea virus that lasted for six weeks!!  He had cast all the way up his legs and that made dealing with a diarrhea virus even more difficult. Also, he had over 15 ear infections by the time he was a year old. He was an extremely colicky baby who did not sleep. He would scream for hours on end, sometimes he would cry all night long.

We were exhausted and desperate for sleep. After trying just about everything we could think of, there were only two ways we could get him to sleep, either put him in a baby swing or have the vacuum cleaner on all night. We would put him in the swing and rock him back and forth continuously, and we would turn the vacuum on for white noise. We leaned the vacuum cleaner up against the wall so we wouldn’t burn the motor up. I am sure my neighbors thought we were crazy for vacuuming all night! But if I even tried to shut the vacuum cleaner off after two or three hours, he would wake up screaming at the top of his lungs.

At a year old Connor received one of his vaccinations, and shortly after he began having Grand Mal seizures. He had one seizure. Then another. Then another. They started out several hours apart until he was constantly seizing. We rushed to our pediatrician’s office, and he sent us to Texas Children’s hospital in the Houston Medical Center. After several hours in the ER, and with no real treatment, we were sent home. Only to find ourselves right back in the ER with Connor seizing more frequently. As a parent watching your child have seizures is an incredibly frightening thing, you feel completely helpless. It is horrific to watch your child flail uncontrollably, and there is nothing you can do about it. It took Connor being pumped full of the barbiturate Phenobarbital for him to finally stop seizing.  For the next year, Connor laid around limp, pumped full of drugs. These early years were extremely tough with Connor.

Connor did not walk or talk when he was supposed to, and we didn’t know what else could be wrong. We constantly took him to doctors and specialists looking for answers. At age 3, we took Connor in for a hearing test, and the audiologist suggested something else was wrong with Connor. We took him back to his pediatrician who finally diagnosed him with PDD-NOS. Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified. This is an autism spectrum disorder, and for the next fourteen years, we lived with this devastating diagnosis.

Years worth of therapy, specialized schooling and countless doctor appointments made some slight improvements in Connor’s life, but his language was minimal, and his deficits were huge. We faced the fact that Connor may not be able to live on his own, although we always held out hope for a better life for him. Connor has always had a very sweet spirit, with a huge smile. He impacts people and melts hearts everywhere he goes. There is an innocence about him, and a child-like faith that makes him precious.

We continued to pray and seek God’s will for Connor, and at the end of last year, God finally answered that prayer! We took Connor to a specialist, who for the first time in Connor’s life accurately diagnosed his condition, and told us things about Connor that no one else was ever able to diagnose before. Connor was given the diagnosis of autoimmune encephalitis.

According to Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance, “Autoimmune encephalitis is a rare and serious condition in which the immune system attacks the brain, resulting in impaired brain function.”

For many people, this would be a devastating diagnosis, but for us this finally meant hope. Because unlike Autism, there is a treatment for Autoimmune Encephalitis. I will talk about Connor’s journey and progress in future posts. But today I would like to leave you with a final thought.

Don’t give up, don’t lose hope! Continue to pray for those situations in your life that look hopeless, because in Jesus there is hope! He is faithful. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Turn your eyes to Jesus and cry out for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5. 

 

Little baby Liam

Much to my surprise, on Jacob’s 17th birthday and just a few weeks before my 40th birthday, we found out that I was expecting. After so many difficult pregnancies and losses, and years without getting pregnant, I was in shock and thrilled when my Doctor told me I was pregnant!!

I was considered a high-risk pregnancy. Because of my history, and my age, my Doctor, monitored me very closely from the beginning. On a routine blood draw, we found out my progesterone levels were deficient. So we immediately began supplementing with progesterone, and things seemed to be going okay. I was thankful for each day that I was pregnant. We had our first ultrasound, and everything seemed to still be moving right along. I got past the first trimester and began to let my guard down a little. When it came time to have another ultrasound and find out if we were having a boy or girl, I couldn’t wait! I was so excited!!! My mother-in-law and my youngest son Ian were with me, and all eyes were on the ultrasound screen as we awaited the news, boy or girl?  The tech told us that we were having a boy!

Everyone was so happy! Everyone, that is, except for the ultrasound Tech who kept taking measurements. We noticed that she kept measuring his spine over and over.  She seemed to be taking a long time, meticulously looking at his different body parts and re-measuring. She brought in the doctor… who informed us that it looked like he had a heart condition. But that was not all… In addition to that, he also had arms that were not fully developed, and his hands seemed clenched.

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So we were sent to a high-risk doctor for a level 2 ultrasound, and some genetic testing because the doctor said that our son likely had a chromosomal disorder. After the level 2 ultrasound and the genetic tests, we learned that our son had a two-chambered heart, instead of a four-chambered heart like you and me. They thought that he may have Spina-Bifida, which caused him to have an improperly formed spine. There was a cyst on the umbilical cord, and his cranium was shaped in such a way that would not allow his brain to fully develop. The Doctor said that his improperly formed arms and hands were backward. Our son was diagnosed with Trisomy-18, also known as Edward’s syndrome, a chromosomal disorder on the 18th Chromosome.

Ninety percent of babies with Trisomy 18 don’t live more than a few hours or days. Most boys with Trisomy-18 rarely ever live to see their first birthday and over fifty percent of them never even make it to birth.  The first thing the Fetal Maternal Specialist and the genetic counselor asked us was if we would terminate the pregnancy. This is considered to be one of the “hard cases” that made it okay to abort our son. Armed with information that our son probably wouldn’t survive, and if he did, that he would be severely handicapped, they expected us to abort him.

After all, many parents who receive this diagnosis for their unborn child chose to terminate their pregnancy. For us, we knew the difficulty of having a child with special needs. Our middle son Connor was born with clubfeet and many other health challenges.  For us, we knew the pain and suffering that our family would have to endure to choose to continue on with the pregnancy. But for our family, abortion was not an option! We firmly believe that our Heavenly Father is both the Author and Finisher of life, as is stated in the Bible in Acts 3:15.

We began telling others that Liam was a gift from God and that God would determine his future. We knew that the Lord had a purpose and a plan for his life, no matter how long he lived. The next several weeks were emotionally draining, not knowing what to expect, and trying to plan for what may be ahead of us. Instead of planning a nursery and a baby shower, we began to think about funeral arrangements, and how we would spend whatever time we had with our son.

A few weeks later, at a routine Doctors appointment, we discovered that little Liam’s heart had stopped beating. Liam was stillborn on March 21, 2011. We played worship music in the room, and after giving birth to him, we cherished every moment that we had with him. We had a photographer come and take pictures for us. We held him, we loved him, we cried and prayed over him and then released him to Jesus. We suffered much grief that day, but we did not grieve without hope. We know that our son Liam’s body is whole and that he never had to suffer the pain of this world. That he is waiting for us in heaven, and we can’t wait to see him again!

 

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