Thursday, 17 September 2015

:: peaceful moments ::

These past few days have been relatively peaceful. Eléa is settled - she still has spills somewhat frequently (especially the last couple of days!), but I can't remember when we last had to rush for the suction machine to help clear her airways. She's smiling more, 'talking' and our days have been running relatively smoothly, with gratefulness for our friend Norma who has come for several hours a day to help me and love our children. Here is a random collection of photos to give you a little glimpse. Just remember that I didn't photograph the messy scenes, and the challenging moments - there are plenty of those! - a fair amount of tiredness too, but these are the moments we have been treasuring...

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

:: irene ::

Last week we heard the terribly sad news that a beautiful friend had passed away after a battle with cancer. We were honoured to have her as our midwife for Théo's birth, though several friends, including my sister and my midwife for Eléa, knew her at a much greater depth and her passing leaves a huge hole. In comparison we knew her relatively little but she made such an impact on us that I want to honour her by writing. It's still very surreal to believe that she is no longer here. The last time I saw her was just over 3 months ago when she popped along to see Eléa and I in the Neonatal unit. At the time she made no mention of cancer and I had no idea because, as a true reflection of her character, she directed all her focus on others, encouraging us with her prayers and hopes for Eléa. Even after texting her the night I learned the devastating news that she had terminal cancer and was flying to the US for treatment the following morning, her quick reply included a reassurance that she was still praying for Eléa. I was deeply touched by the depth of her selflessness when she had so much going on in her own life. 

Irene became my midwife just a week before Théo was born, as my midwife up until that time, Deb, went on leave for her wedding. My sister, Beth, had previously spent several weeks of her midwifery training working alongside Irene. I had heard a lot about her and already was aware of her wonderful reputation, so it was a real blessing to be under her care for Théo's birth. One memory of that beautiful Sunday morning that will always remain with us was her prayer of blessing over Théo when he was just minutes old. Those are her hands above, holding Théo as she showed us how to bath the only term baby we've ever had. We were so grateful for her care of Théo and of us during those first few weeks as we navigated the unfamiliar path of having complete responsibility of our own baby from day one.

She decided to override the previous decision to pass me onto the care of another midwife for the 6 weeks of postnatal checks because of how far away we lived, instead making the commitment to do them herself. I was so thankful! During those visits, we discovered that she shared Eti's dream to become a rescue helicopter pilot as she had grown up in the Austrian alps and had often had to help connect injured people with the rescue helicopter crews who had come to transport them to hospital. She was also a paraglider and had worked near our home in she connected easily to our hearts! Our girls still remember her visit shown above when she weighed Théo in "a bag" dressed beautifully for Deb's wedding. They asked me recently if Eléa's nurse was going to weigh her in a bag too ;o)

During the last weeks, with a Givealittle page that was started by a family friend to support Irene and her family, and subsequent Facebook posts since her death, it has been very clear that she touched many, many lives, from her beautiful family, to friends, and many, many women whose babies she delivered with such care. We can't make it to her funeral tomorrow, but I suspect it will be overflowing. She has left a great hole but a wonderful legacy. I have a beautiful bouquet of freesias on our table, that were given to us this past weekend. In many ways they remind me of Irene's life - vibrant, beautifully and intricately created, and with a sweet, lingering fragrance that has spread throughout the house - a reminder of spring and new life.

Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 
Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God
2 Corinthians 2:14-15 

There are times when words aren't enough and life seems so unfair. We can only hold onto our Father who is incomprehensively good, far more than we can imagine, as we stand in the gap for her family and friends and pray for His overwhelming peace to cover them in the face of such loss and strength to carry on until the day they will be reunited. Please join us in praying for them too x

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

:: a grateful heart ::

A wise friend once said to me that giving thanks is a powerful weapon in trying times. In the seasons of life that threaten to overwhelm us, to stop, notice and whisper a thankful prayer really does make a difference. We're in the middle of one of those seasons. Some days I don't know how I can do it, because I simply can't do everything on my own. There have been moments when I stop and look at the overall situation and wish that our story could have been just a bit different. Less complications, less stress, less tiredness, less confusion, less separation, less isolation, less unknowns. The unknowns make it seem like we're feeling our way along the path in the dark, not sure where we might end up. But, you know...if I change my perspective and take a little closer notice, the beauty is right there in the midst of everything. And there is always, always, something - many things - to be grateful for. As hard as it often is, choosing to have a grateful perspective lifts ours eyes and lifts our souls to remember that we are held, we are sustained, provided for and loved in every moment. And that we really are!

I am so thankful that we found the right person to come and spend several hours a day helping me out at home. Life is extremely busy with four pre-schoolers. One of whom loves heights and adventures of which his two year-old brain can't quite predict the consequences (or realise that there are consequences!), and one who needs our close attention at every moment. We found a friend who, at the same time, was discouraged in her work and was wondering how she could help us. So the both of us look forward to each day, grateful for each other's company. Jesus knows us so well to orchestrate things in this way. We are also so thankful to have governmental financial assistance and for friends who have been giving generously to add to that so we can pay her fairly.

I am thankful for our little team of people in this home. Our older three, who have gone through months of either waking up and finding mummy had unexpectedly disappeared off to hospital in the night, or had to share my limited time and attention as I spent hours a day at the hospital, could have understandably resented their little sister, but they haven't. They have wholeheartedly embraced her into our family and adore her. I have a feeling that her big brother will remain her keeper for many years...he may also have to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day with papa! He loves her so sweetly and gently I have no doubts they will be fast friends. Her sisters, too, love to touch her, talk with her, read to her, sing to her and help get anything she needs. They are strong, tender, and remarkable, and I am so grateful for each of them.

I am thankful for Eti, who is a wonderful support. We both have our hard days when we feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the endlessness of these early days, but normally when one is sinking, the other has the strength to grab a hold and pull, offering a better perspective. He is quietly servant-hearted, and generously loving in providing what we need and doing what few fathers can do or do, by doing the middle-of-the-night feeds. At least being fully nasogastric tube fed means that it doesn't just have to be mummy doing the feeds :o)

I am thankful for so many of you, our family and friends, many of whom live far away, who hold us in prayer and encourage us often. It means a lot to know we don't walk alone. Your hope joins with ours and your love for us is so generous. Thank you!

Last but not at all least, I'm thankful for the central character in this season's story -  our littlest love Eléa Agnès Joy. Her name means 'bright, shining light; peaceful, and joyful one'...and that is who she is. She is full of courage with the struggles she has gone through and still sometimes endures. As she grows and strengthens we have hope that these struggles will fade, but they do still occur from time to time. It's tough to see the panic on your baby's face as she tries to find breath that doesn't come until we manage to help her clear her airways. She is peaceful, though fiesty, sweet with such inner strength, and completely beautiful. Maybe it's her generous head of hair, or maybe it's her experience so far in her short life that fills her eyes with a depth of wisdom. We can't help but agree with Théo's adoration of her and feel so grateful to our Father in heaven for giving us the precious gift of her life. So thankful for every part of her...especially those ever-increasing sparkley eyed smiles :o)

These places in which such goodness dwells, which are all around us, help us find purpose and love in this narrative that is ours. It's easy to resent our story and wish it looked more like someone elses. I guess we always prefer the thought of a journey that is smooth, easy, fun and without fear, pain, or struggles. That is what we long for and what we look forward to one day, though in this life-time the shadows and darkness do exist. But that doesn't mean that lamps of gratitude can't be lit to show the beauty that exists all around us, if we just take notice. It's not easy. Some days I don't have the energy or the will to look up, but today I do...and I write to remember my gratefulness.