Room Enough

Leave it to the birth of your first child to bring you and your spouse closer than you ever thought possible.

I love Finn…and I love Ashley even more since experiencing my love for this miracle God has created through us.

I cannot wait to take him home to a place that is stable, loving, fun, and good because of his mom and dad’s love for each other. Before I was married I used to say, “there’s no room for marriage in my busy, cool, hip lifestyle.” After being married to Ash almost six years I’m finally forgetting the smell of the gutter I used to live in. Before Finn I used to say, “there’s no room for a kid in our marriage; what if it comes between Ash and I?” After experiencing the last 36 hours of Finn’s presence in the world I realize that Ashley and I’s love is big enough for him and bigger because of him.

Maybe that’s what marriage love is. Like God’s love. It’s so big, intimate, and close that your children just fit.

Joey (Finn’s dad and guest writer)

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To Be Held

Though he’s been poked and prodded and tested and scanned since the moment he was born, today was baby Finn’s first surgery: a major operation to close the lesion in his spine. The neurosurgeon, Dr. Gross, just stopped by our room to give us a report. Operation went smoothly; no surprises and Finn was a brave little man. His lesion was at the L4-L5 level, which means his legs, ankles, and urinary tract will be affected in some form. He’s been urinating on his own, however, so we pray that continues post-surgery. His hips are strong, but there is not much movement/mobility in his lower legs and ankles. Sedated, he’s currently in the recovery room.

The best part of today was just before surgery. Dr. Gross walked over to us and asked if we had held him yet. Pouting, we both responded, “no,” as the NICU will not allow us to hold him for fear that we irritate his spine. She responded by carefully swooping him up and handing him to me. My heart melted as I held my little peanut, kissed his cheek and smelled his sweet skin. He immediately became calm and even smiled. Then it was Joey’s turn. Finn became less of a little stranger and more of our son for those short minutes. What a beautiful gift to hold and be held.

The Obstacles

So here’s what we’re facing:

Spinal surgery tomorrow to close the lesion (they’re guessing L4-L5).

Shunt surgery to drain fluid on the brain Friday.

Will learn how to catheterize him before we take him home at the end of next week.

Both feet need casting as they’re slightly turned in. Not sure when; least of their worries.

I’m feeling sore, tired and irritated by all the arm bands and my IV, but otherwise doing well. Joey was a rock star today.

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So, Why?

I joined this very helpful yet brutally honest Spina Bifida Kids online support group. I’ve only visited it four times, each of which I’ve come away bawling and in a downward spiral of depression and anger. I don’t want this life.

However, my life is not my own. I was bought at a price. 1 Corinthians 6:20.

The moms and dads in this group suggest starting a blog so when life is too overwhelming and you don’t feel like answering tough, incriminating questions, you direct people to your blog instead.

It also allows friends and family to keep up with you, your child’s progress/struggles and let’s them know how to pray.

Thus, I’m blogging.

Side note: I hope to blog about other things as well, not just Spina Bifida and how it’s affecting our family.

The First Post

Pregnant with Finn Joseph Armstrong!

Though every now and then I enjoy visiting my friends’ blogs, I’ve never felt I had anything new to say to begin blogging myself. I could give fitness tips, share recipes, reveal crafts I’ve made, upload pictures of our vacation adventures or our DIY home projects, talk about our naughty dog, Jersey, or share my thoughts on theology or life in general. But I feel none of this would be fresh. And why would you want to enter my world anyway? I kind of like that it’s my world…not yours. I guess I’m a more private person than I ever realized.

However, I feel I now have a valid reason to let you into my world…our world.

We announced to our families the first week of August 2011 that we were pregnant with our first child. The very next day, I began severely bleeding, a pregnancy complication that continued for about four months, several bouts of which sent me to the ER and we thought we had miscarried. Healing came, however. Praise God! I was cleared to continue my job as fitness coordinator and allowed to “be active” again, something that is a part of the fiber of my being.

At 18 weeks, we were giddy to finally find out the sex of our little fighter. The ultrasound technician was uncomfortable and we knew something was wrong. We were escorted to another room and told that our little man’s (it’s a boy!) skull was measuring slightly too large. No explanation, just a referral to a high risk specialist. Two agonizing days later, we sat in an ultrasound room holding each other through sobbing tears. We had just been told our baby has Spina Bifida. Though one in every thousand children is born with this debilitating neural tube defect, it is rare for young, healthy people like Joey and I who eat nutritiously and had been on prenatal vitamins for about six months before conceiving.

Warning: I will use this blog to share my honest feelings…raw and sometimes downright wrong or unjustified.

Hours, days and months of intense fear, confusion, anger and an underlying sadness surrounded us. The expectations that all new parents have of their child seemed simply unattainable.

If he cannot walk or stand on his own, how will he play fetch with Jersey in the back yard, much less be the star of the soccer team? If held back in a classroom for those with learning disabilities or special needs, how will he ever make friends, much less become a member of  National Honor Society? If he has to catheterize himself every time he urinates, how will he find confidence in public, much less in the boy’s locker room? I don’t want him to struggle to keep up with us. I want to take him camping, rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking and hiking…activities Joey and I find great joy in. I want him to be active, like his parents.

We’ve experienced a form of grieving over our lost hopes and dreams for our son. Confusion over unanswered prayers for a healthy baby that began when I was thirteen years old. Anger that birth defects and disabilities even exist…especially apart from the sinful choices of the mother. Fear of countless surgeries, several of which he’ll endure during the first two weeks of his life. As I feel him tumble around in my 37 week old womb, I am reminded of his fragility, yet also his strength. He could have miscarried…five times! But he wants to live. God wants him to live. We want to help him.

We will meet this tiny fighter on Monday, Feb. 27th, my mom’s birthday. Though I’m excited to finally hold him and discover what specific issues our SB child will deal with (all cases are different), I really just want him to stay inside me…where he’s safe. Where no one can make fun of him or ask awkward questions or tell him “he can’t.” Where our lives won’t change so radically.

Thank you to all those who have left gifts on our doorstep, brought food, written encouraging cards, given money, sent hopeful texts, called at opportune times, added us to their prayers, and simply kept us in their thoughts. We are grateful for your support and feel God’s love through your warmth. He is with us. He has not left us and we will live grateful lives.

Our next adventure awaits…and I’m scared.