To Blog or Not to Blog?

I obviously have summer on my brain- thought I'd share a few pics of the early days since that is where my mind is after writing this post. Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FINDLEY! NOW YOU ARE AS OLD AS I AM. (but not as wise!!)

Before I went on bed rest with Eliza this past summer, there were only three blogs that I looked at regularly; two were caringbridge sites and one was the blog of a mother whose twenty-seven year old daughter suffered an aneurysm. I didn't have a facebook page and I only used the internet to check email, look at the weather, or shop without having to load everyone into the car. When I was forced to be in the bed for eight weeks, I finally broke down and created a facebook page and began to read the blogs of several friends. I have enjoyed catching up with old friends on facebook and celebrating their milestones. I have also found a new insight into people I know well through reading their blogs. I have been struggling with the idea of absgab this week and reexamining my motives for the site. On the one hand, I have to admit that I am proud of my children and like nothing more than for people to see how cute they are. (Not a good reason to create a blog, but it is certainly easier than emailing tons of pictures to family and close friends all the time.) On the other hand, there are many people who have invested a lot of time praying for Virginia and in a sense, they love her like she is theirs, too. I think absgab is a good way for them to see the fruits of their labor and to rejoice in her life.

However, there are things about the blogosphere that trouble me. For one, I think we were made to be in communion with each other. It is strange to sit at home and read about what someone you have never met is cooking for dinner when you don't have any idea what kind of day your next-door neighbor had at work. I want to be in my front yard visiting and sharing, not in my den wishing I were as good at crafts as some stranger with a beautiful blog. (Now don't get me wrong- it's great to be inspired by others' gifts. There is nothing wrong with finding a new recipe or a fun craft to do with your kids from a blog. But like everything else, moderation is the key.) Unfortunately, our life is rather isolating. I'm usually feeding Virginia, not visiting in the yard. We don't have time to socialize after church because we have to get her home to eat. The internet may be my best way to share what God is doing in our lives. As I go back and forth about 'to blog or not to blog,' my mind always rests on the blog I mentioned in the first paragraph. It has been a lifeline to me. I knew exactly how this mother felt as she prayed over her daughter in ICU. I know the pain of watching your daughter suffer and I have felt true communion with her even though I have never met her. Her harsh, yet honest words have been healing to me because they are always laced with the hope that Jesus gives us. I feel like it is my time to share in the hope that it will be helpful to someone out there going through a hard time. I have been to the depths of sorrow and lived to find joy again. It isn't that I think that our pain is unique. Unfortunately, pain is never unique. The specifics of our situation may be somewhat unique, but so are everyone's. Pain invades all of our lives in different ways, but the hurt is the same. My mom always reminds me that lots of people are in the same boat as I am, but they don't have as many paddles. She is right- my marriage is strong and there is still no one who puts a smile on face like Findley does. He is entrenched in this fight just as much as I am. Our extended families have been willing from day one to do whatever was needed to help us get through this. There are many out there who have to go through their trials alone, something I could not endure. We have also been blessed with the resources to buy Virginia the things she needs to make life easier.

I have prayed for many a baby since Virginia's birth who turned out perfectly fine. (I have also prayed for a few who haven't.) But at times it seems like we are the only ones whose prayers weren't answered. I remember a woman from our church in Montgomery telling me, "Honey, every few years we have one of these 'celebrity' babies who has a rough start, and we all pray, pray, pray. Don't worry- she'll be fine. They always are." It hurt when she said that because I knew she wasn't taking what happened to Virginia seriously. I knew she didn't understand just how much she had been through, just how long she was without oxygen, and just how sick she was. I wanted her to be right, but I knew enough about medicine to know that she wouldn't be.

There are many physical things to be thankful for in Virginia's life, like how incredibly smart she is and how she has been spared having any more seizures. But she has not been healed in the way that I anticipated she would be, at least not in an earthly sense. Every day is a struggle for her and it always will be. I am writing this blog for all of you out there whose prayers weren't answered in the way you expected, in the way you longed for them to be. When Virginia was six weeks old, someone anonymously stuck a beautiful leather journal in my mailbox with a card that said, 'Write about the pain you are experiencing so that one day you will be able to remember it. I know it's hard, but one day other people will benefit." (Thank you, LC. I know who you are!). I don't know that I will ever be able to share those early entries- I am not even sure I could reread them myself because it is just too hard to go back to that place.

God has brought me to a place where I feel like I can publicly share some of what we have been through. My hope is that others can see that the Lord has carried us to higher ground. No, it doesn't look like what I wish it did. I wouldn't even say that we are in a better place because of Sissy's injuries (I don't think you can ever say that when you watch your child suffer like she does. Maybe one day Virginia will say that about her own spiritual journey, but it is not for me to say because I am not the one who suffers like she does.) But God has brought good out of our situation, just like He promises, and it has been redemptive. As we embrace her suffering and ours, He draws us closer to Him and ultimately, we begin to walk in joy.

Embracing the Detour

I borrowed the title of this post from the blog of a new friend, Lauren, who is attempting to write a novel during her three month maternity leave. Impressive, as I can hardly get out of my pajamas and Eliza is already 6 months old! Her blog has inspired me to think about detours and when I look at the journey our family is on, I wonder if we still even want to end up in the same place we longed for six years ago. Have our circumstances changed what our end goals are? Maybe this "detour" is more than a detour? When I started Ab's Gab earlier this month, all my readers knew our story, but that is no longer the case. I wrote a short piece for Lauren's blog about how we have embraced our detour. If you don't know where we came from, you should check it out. It is a shortened version and I am sure the details of Virginia's story will spill out here over time, but in the meantime, perhaps some of you won't feel so lost. Also, you will find the rest of her blog to be engaging and thought-provoking as well.

4/20/2010 addition to this post: Just in case you can't link to Lauren's site, here is the short piece I wrote for her.

Embracing Our Detour
For our family, "embracing the detour" has meant continuing to seek joy in the midst of great suffering. Findley and I had been married a little over a year when I found out I was pregnant with Virginia. Not my choice for timing, but as my 101 year old great aunt used to say,  "Those things happen when you get married." We got over our pre-baby jitters and as my October of 2003 due date grew closer, we couldn't have been more excited.
I have always been a chronic worrier. If you take too long at the grocery store, I assume you have had a wreck. Every mole is precancerous, every plane is doomed to crash. Even I could not have dreamed up what happened to Virginia. I was the only patient on the labor and delivery floor at Baptist Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama. The baby was on a fetal monitor, but our nurse wanted to go home to check on her sick kids. She gave me a huge dose of demerol and phenergan without a doctor's order and I passed out. She went home for three hours, during which time there was no one to monitor Virginia's heart tracings.
My husband was asleep in the chair next to me because it was after 11 p.m. I slept from 1 cm to 8 cm- if you have ever had a baby, that will show you just how much medication the nurse gave me. I woke up in tremendous pain and sent my husband to find our nurse. He couldn't find her, but woke up our obstetrician who was asleep in the doctor's lounge. Upon looking at Virginia's heart strip, he immediately ordered a stat c-section. When she was born, she wasn't breathing and proceeded to have several seizures during the first day of her life, one lasting over three hours.
It turns out that Virginia was in trouble about 11 pm and not born until 3:08 am. If our nurse had been watching, it would have been obvious. It could have been as simple as repositioning me or putting me on oxygen, but she never gave us the chance. Many OBs have looked at Virginia's heart strip, and they all agree she should have been delivered by 11:45 pm and that from that point on, there was nothing reassuring about her heart tracings.
The fact that Virginia's injuries were preventable has been a source of tremendous pain for our family. I spent the first few years of her life longing to go back in time and relive those critical hours. Both my father and father-in-law are physicians and I just never thought this type of negligence could strike my child. Virginia will never sit up, walk, talk, or feed herself. She was robbed of experiencing so much of the beauty that this world has to offer. For the first 3 years of her life, she cried almost without ceasing because she was so miserable. I did not know that pain like that even existed. Findley and I felt like we had fallen into an abyss of darkness.
If I had known what the future would look like when she was born, I would have fallen apart. But day by day the Lord has given us the strength we need. I try not to look too far in the future and I feel like we are finally starting to do more than just survive. It was a shock, but life has a way of creeping back after tragedy- music starts to sound uplifting again, food starts to taste good again, and the sunshine looks beautiful again. For a while, all of the beauty of life was definitely muted.
I have learned that miracles don't always look like what we want. No, Virginia was not physically healed, but if you would have told me how much joy our family would have now in the early years of her life, I wouldn't have believed you. I have slowly watched as the Lord has turned our tremendous sorrow into joy. He has been with us every step of the way.
There are still really hard days when Virginia's suffering is almost more than I can bear. It is impossible to imagine what she goes through on a daily basis, yet she has more joy than any other child I know. She has no cognitive impairments and certainly knows how different she is, but instead of choosing to be bitter, she chooses to be joyful. Our life is certainly not what I imagined. We will always spend most of our time caring for Virginia, but she has embraced her detour with vigor and that is what inspires the rest of us to do the same.