My Heart Belongs to Daddy

(Be warned, this post is REALLY long.  I needed to write this for myself AND for Gabriella to read one day.  I also need to share her story.  It’s a part of me and I believe a part of His purpose being fulfilled in me.)

When I sat down to write and share Gabriella’s story the first time, I was still in a place of only sharing facts.  And really, even sharing the facts was still very difficult.  In the 3 months since Gabriella has entered our lives, I have been on a journey.

A journey of learning to trust God at all times.

A journey of learning to live a life that is out of my control.

A journey of learning who I am and who my children are in the eyes of God.

On Sunday night, October 16th, around 7:00 pm, I lost all control.  My baby wasn’t breathing and I couldn’t do anything to help her.  Chaos erupted in my home and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.  I was at the complete mercy of my God, my husband, and the medical professionals who came to our rescue.  I was a basket case.  I didn’t know what to think, do, or feel.  I was convinced that I had done something or not done something that had caused my daughter to stop breathing and I couldn’t move beyond that.  I was terrified that I was losing my daughter…the one who I had worked and prepared so hard to love.  The one I fell in love with the second I held her in my arms for the first time.

In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, I screamed out to God.  I begged him to fulfill His promise He had given me for Gabriella’s life…

Amy, the daughter you are carrying will grow to become a strong woman of God.  I’m taking you on this path to break free from your bondage so that you may be better equipped to be both her mom and the woman I’ve created you to be.

I was uninhibited, unashamed, and unafraid of the thoughts the men in the ambulance may have had toward me.  In fact, they weren’t even on my mind as I audibly begged God for His mercy.  I spoke Gabriella Kate’s name and the meaning “pure heroine of God,” and relied on that promise with every ounce of my being as she repeated the pattern of breathing and not breathing, silence and an occasional cry, and I was left wondering if my baby was going to survive the ride to the hospital.

Once we arrived in the ER, I felt like I was in a horror movie.  They rushed Gabriella into a room, a team of medical professionals surrounded her, and they pulled the curtain in front of me.  A nurse hollered out to Tim (I have no idea who he was, but he had a St. Francis shirt on) to, “please take care of mom! She’s getting hysterical in here!”  Tim came over to my side and let me know they were working to get her stabilized and I should have a seat until someone came to talk to me.  I sat there, feeling the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my life, still wondering what I had done to make my daughter stop breathing.  And still begging for God to save her life and give me another chance to be her mom.

Out of nowhere came one of the paramedics who had worked so diligently in the back of the ambulance to keep Gabriella alive on the way to the hospital.  He knelt down in front of me, grabbed my hands, and looked me in the eyes.  He said, “You are a good mom.  You didn’t do anything to hurt your little girl. You did exactly what you should have done.  She’s going to be just fine.”  I sat there, squeezing his hands, hanging onto every word he was saying, and thanking him profusely.  I remember looking at the name on his shirt and swearing I would never forget it so I could thank him on the other side of this tragedy.

(I didn’t remember his name and finally worked up the courage this week to call the fire station and ask them to identify the crew so I can personally thank them for helping to save my daughters’s life AND for taking the time to reassure me when I was feeling so desperate.  The man I talked to was so helpful.  He did some research and called me back to let me know that Platoon A at Fire Station #2 are the ones we want to thank.  We are headed there this week to do our best to express our gratitude.)

Once Gabriella was stabilized and finally transferred up to the NICU, Nick and I were able to breathe a sigh of relief because we knew she was in the best care.  With the sigh of relief came a huge rush of anger, disappointment, and hurt.

Why was I going through this again?  (Our son, Reuben, was  a few weeks premature and was transferred to the NICU shortly after he was born.  He was released after 10 days.)

Couldn’t I have a normal, happy homecoming?

What had I done to deserve this?

When Nick and I finally got to go back to Gabriella’s room and settled in for the night, we held each other and cried.  Our baby was hooked up to a ventilator, had been medically paralyzed, and was making the most awful gurgling noises.   We cried tears of pain.  Tears of disappointment.  Tears of relief.  Tears of desperation. Tears of anger.  Tears of frustration.  Tears of exhaustion.

We didn’t know what was ahead of us.  Would Gabriella survive?  If so, were there any long term side effects for the time she was without oxygen?  Why did this happen?  Will she be a normal, healthy little girl?

AND…my little boy.  What did he see?  Will he be traumatized by the hysteria he just witnessed in his very own home?  All I wanted was to bring his baby sister home and have a quiet Sunday evening following his normal routine to prove to him that adding Gabriella to our family wouldn’t corrupt his life, as he knew it.  And now…now he’s at home for another night without Mommy and Daddy.  What was he thinking?  Was he scared?  How badly I wanted to be home to comfort him, calm his fears, and answer his questions.

Our children’s guardian angel, AKA my dear friend Joleen, had been at the NICU until after midnight on Sunday night making sure our girl was in the best care and very well taken care of before she went home to get a few hours of rest and return the next morning to work a 12 hour shift as Gabriella’s nurse.  When she arrived the next day, she assured us that it was okay for us to go home, shower, repack our bags, and take care of Reuben because Gabriella would be out of her room for testing most of the morning.  We were thankful for the permission to leave our baby girl to go and take care of our little boy.

I was so happy and relieved to see a smile on his face when we walked in the door that Monday morning.  I’m thankful for my mom, dad, and sister stepping in and taking such wonderful care of him when we couldn’t be there.  We decided on our way home that Nick would take care of Reuben the majority of each day while I stayed at the hospital with Gabriella.  We wanted to do our best to create new memories for Reuben in order to minimize the trauma of Sunday night.  Nick did such a great job running back and forth between home and the hospital while I did exactly what I needed to do…stay in the hospital, by myself, with my baby…and no one else.

My precious friends and family were so wonderful to offer anything and everything to me while we were in the hospital.  Besides relying on our family to help with Reuben during nap time and evenings, I continually turned other offers for help down…as graciously as I could.  I just couldn’t handle seeing anyone or talking to anyone outside of the walls of the hospital.  I had lost all control and I was lost…desperately trying to get the control back.  I felt that seeing people meant talking to them and talking to them meant acknowledging that what happened was real.  I couldn’t process the reality that I had almost lost my baby girl.  (My friends loved and respected me so well that week.  They got creative and decided to leave a home cooked meal in a cooler on our front porch so we didn’t have to pick fast food up on the way home.  Instead, we just had to go inside and heat up a delicious meal.  What a creative blessing.)

So…besides sending out a mass text each night with an update from the day, I didn’t talk to anyone outside of family for any significant amount of time…EXCEPT a random social worker that came by my room one day to check on me.  I guess it’s standard for her to visit each of the families to make sure they are coping well.  I don’t know anything about the woman and probably will never see her again, but that conversation was a blessing.  For some reason, I was able to talk to her and tell her all of my fears, frustrations, and hurts.  It felt good to get it off my chest, and for the first time, I swallowed the reality that this is Gabriella’s story.

It was also such a blessing to have Joleen as a nurse for 4 out of the 7 days we were there.  Because Joleen had been at our house, in the ER, and in the NICU the night when everything happened, I felt comfortable with her.  She knew everything.  I didn’t have to tell her any of the story because she was there to witness most of it.  Instead we could just talk about how crazy the latest “Sister Wives” episode was or the fact that Gap was closing several of their stores across the country and why didn’t anyone tell us that Gap is no longer fashionable because that’s where the majority of our clothes are from?!?  This was so therapeutic for me because he helped to remind me that I’m still a “normal” person.

Joleen, thank you.  Words can never express the gratitude in my heart for everything you did for both Reuben and Gabriella while they were in the NICU.  You are our angel.  We are so grateful for you.

(I also have to mention our wonderful lactation nurse, Tina.  She helped us so much with Reuben and we’ve been able to stay in touch over the last 2 years through Facebook.  An hour after Gabriella was born, she came down and helped me nurse.  She sent me a FB message on Sunday night to check in and see how I was doing with nursing.  She was there on Monday morning to comfort us when we were admitted to the NICU.  And she saved the day, once again, when it came to training a baby to nurse after being bottle fed.

Tina, you have a gift.  I’m so thankful you followed that prompting in your heart so many years ago.  You have blessed me and my children more than you’ll ever know.)

We spent 7 days in the NICU with Gabriella and continually received news that test after test was coming back negative.  While we were so thankful, we were very curious to know what in the world had caused our baby girl to stop breathing that night.  Everyone’s best speculation was that I was an undiagnosed gestational diabetic.  While it felt strange to be discharged from the hospital with only a hypothesis for a diagnosis, we were thankful to be taking a very healthy baby girl home.  We recognized that not everyone gets to bring their baby home having had a full scan of their entire body and knowing that every organ in her body is fully functioning.  Even though our diagnosis was only a guess, we realized how much we depended on that “answer” when my A1C came back completely normal and the gestational diabetes theory was disproven.  This news actually made sharing her story more difficult for me.  When you tell someone your daughter stopped breathing on her second day of life, they naturally follow up with, “why?!?”  Responding with “no one knows,” was a perpetual slingshot back into fear, worry, and anxiety over this ever happening again.

During Gabriella’s time in the NICU, I was so encouraged by my family and friends.  While I kept them at a distance, I know that their prayers on mine and Gabriella’s behalf had a huge impact on our time in the hospital.  I received a text message one afternoon with this verse,

The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; His ears are open to their cries for help.  The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help.  He rescues them from all their troubles.  The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.  For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!

Psalm 34:15, 17, 19-20, NLT

After reading these verses, I was able to, for the first time, recognize that Jesus rescued my baby girl.  He was watching over her that night.  The Holy Spirit was there, nudging my heart and mind, letting me know that something wasn’t right.  She was in her daddy’s arms when she stopped breathing.  Daddy was able to stay calm enough to call 911 and successfully administer CPR.  Jesus was there.  He was our calm in the storm.  He heard my cries.  He came to our rescue and we were going to walk out of this tragedy whole.

It was no longer about my anger, frustration, or disgust that something like this would happen to me.  It was now an overwhelming sense of gratitude that Jesus came to Gabriella’s rescue.  He was always there.  He never left us.  And while the enemy came in to try to “steal, kill, and destroy,” my Jesus had a greater plan and rescued His little girl.

As I mentioned before, this has been a journey for me.  While I did have this realization in the hospital, I continued to and still do have struggles wrapping my mind around and accepting what happened on October 16th.  I still wake up panicked in the middle of the night wondering if my baby is breathing.  And I’m still desperately trying to regain control over my life as if it’s mine to have.  We were treated to dinner by some of our closest friends about a month after Gabriella was born, and as we were talking, I asked if they felt like their second child was just a visitor in their home.  You know, like it’s the 3 of them and the baby is just a visitor.  My friend, in the sweetest and most loving way, shook her head no. She gently encouraged me and suggested that maybe I was dealing with some post-partum depression or even a hint of post traumatic stress disorder.

Around Thanksgiving (nearly 6 weeks after the event), I started to open up and talk through some of my feelings, thoughts, and emotions with Nick.  It is very unusual for me to keep my feelings to myself.  I’ve always been an open book to anyone I felt comfortable with AND who would listen.  This was different, though.  I closed up and didn’t want to talk to anyone about what happened…not my family, not even my closest friends.  I shared with Nick that I was scared that I may never go back to who I was.  I wanted to put myself out there again, but I just couldn’t.  The feelings I was having in regards to Gabriella and her story were unusual (or so I thought), heavy, and too much for me to discuss.

The counselor who did premarital counseling with Nick and me graciously agreed to meet with us a few times.  It was so helpful for us to talk through everything that happened and discuss our responses to these events.  It became quickly apparent to me that I had been doing everything I could to regain the control I felt that I lost that night.  I shut myself in the NICU for 7 days and hardly allowed anyone in because that was something I could control.  Without really knowing, I had built a wall around my heart, not allowing myself to get too attached to my baby in case something were to happen again…thus, her feeling like a visitor to me.  All the while, I know and believe that Jesus rescued my daughter, but I still have so many questions as to why this even had to happen.  But, I felt guilty for my questions and put pressure on myself to just trust God.

Terry pointed out to us that questioning God is a spiritual process.  Even Jesus himself questioned God when He was in the garden on His way to be crucified.

God, isn’t there any other way?!?

We are allowed to question and God wants to have that dialogue with us.  It’s true…trials do suck and they are inevitable.  But, Jesus is there.

I was cleaning out Gabriella’s drawers the other day, moving out her newborn and 0-3 months clothes and replacing them with 3-6 months clothes.  I came across the pajamas she was wearing the night of October 16th, and felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.  There on the jammies was written, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”  I had noticed this before and thought about how sweet it was she was wearing them when her daddy saved her life by giving her CPR.  But, for the first time, I thought about her Heavenly Daddy.  Her heart belongs to Him.  He had it in His hands all along and still does today.

For you created my inmost being; 
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, 
   I know that full well. 
My frame was not hidden from you 
   when I was made in the secret place, 
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
   before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16, NIV

My journey is still continuing, and is far from over.  I have hard days, fearful days, frustrating days, and angry days.  I also have days, when Gabriella smiles or coos at me, that I hold her as tight as I can, sobbing, and thanking God for coming to her rescue and allowing me this precious time with her.  Gabriella Kate has changed my life.  She has launched me down a path toward freedom of bondage, greater trust and dependance on God, and a commitment to living in and enjoying each moment.

And on those days that are riddled with fear and anxiety about my baby girl’s future, I can just take a deep breath and remember,

Her heart belongs to Daddy.

And so does mine.


9 Comments on “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”

  1. Jen Giles says:

    This is a beautiful journey you’re on, Amy, and I’m blessed to hear how the Lord is revealing Himself to you through it. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to go sop up my tears now. I love you and love your heart.

  2. Anna Powell says:

    I will write to you in more detail later, but you have to know that you are a wonderful MOM, and a beautiful writer. God has blessed me by you sharing your heart. I know He will bless you as well.

  3. Lori says:

    Amy – such an amazing story. You are an incredible writer and I also appreciate you sharing your heart. Hugs to you, Nick, Reuben and Gabriella!

  4. Amy, I know I don’t know you very well, but I am so blessed by your story and your willingness to share your experience. I basically cried through the whole thing and it is such a good reminder that our kids truly belong to HIm! Blessings to you and your family!

  5. […] with lies.  Then, after Gabriella was born and two days later her life was on the line, I shared here about how powerful it was for me to have her name, which was representative of His promise, to […]

  6. […] going to be okay.  Reuben was full of questions, and once he saw the ambulance, started recalling the time the ambulance came to our house.  Nick did a great job processing and talking through the whole event with Reuben.  We’ve […]

  7. […] been a little extra emotional, a little more paranoid, and a little more weepy as I remembered Gabriella’s story.  I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to do when this day came around.  I knew I […]

  8. […] I planned and prepared for Gabriella’s 1st birthday party for a couple of months.  I always want to make sure that my kids feel celebrated on their special day, but I was extra invested in making Gabriella’s day special as I viewed it as not only a celebration of her first year, but also a day to thank God for the miracle of her life. […]

  9. Christi Nix Bloomer says:

    I had no idea you went through all of this! How terrifying! Sounds like (in true Amy fashion!) you’ve grown from this though. How brave of all of you!

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