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.

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16 thoughts on “The First Post

  1. Thank you for your authencity and vulnerability. You encourage me and I know will encourage many others. I am learning so much from you guys. Love you guys.

  2. Do you know how much I have grown to love you in the short time I have known you as friend? I am In awe of your strength, your courage, your hope, your joy, your ability it keep it real – which I love, by the way. I am a better person to have known you, Ash, and you are going to be one incredible Mommy to your little boy – you already are. Love you love you.

  3. I love you so much friend. I just want you to know that even though we haven’t really talked much since I last saw you in September, I have been consistently thinking and praying for all three of you. I don’t always know how to pray or what to say, but I’m thankful for this blog and the opportunity to learn more about your needs. I can’t imagine how scary this is, but I don’t doubt God will provide you all with the strength to endure and be happy.

  4. What a journey you have begun, and thanks for sharing from your heart! Sometimes the heart carries some heavy stuff that we don’t like nor deserve… but that is the world we live in. Been feeling this with you for a while… hope we can stand in the gap with you so that we can go through this journey with you! God will be with you as it seems you have been chosen for this special journey of faith and strong testimony.
    Praying for you today and days…weeks and years to come.

  5. Ashley – though our situation was different, I know how terrifying and overwhelming it can be to have a sick newborn baby facing surgery. My deepest prayers go to you and Joey and especially your precious Finn.

  6. I’ve been thinking about all the questions you brought up in this first blog. They are very similar to the millions of questions we struggled with during our time of infertility. It was a very challenging time, and there were lots of tears. I can tell you, though, that God spoke to me in the most real way ever one night. He said, “I love you, and I know what’s best for you. Do you trust me?” When I answered, “Yes,” that Peace came over me, and I knew I’d be OK no matter what. Anyway, that’s our story. Hope it is an encouragement to you in some small way. He loves you, and we love you!

  7. What a blessing for Finn to be born to parents who are young, fit, active, intelligent and followers of God. All those things you fear losing are your biggest gifts to him!

  8. Hey, my name is Brandon Pettey. I am a friend of Sharyl’s. I”ve had Spina Bifida all my life (I’m 26) and require the use of a manual wheelchair. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me at brandoncpettey@yahoo.com . I’ve camped and played sports all my life. I can do pretty much anything able body people do, just in a different way.

  9. Oh my! Reading this brings back so many memories of when we discovered that our little guy would be born with spina bifida. I am a dietitian, so this was a huge shock. The Lord is really amazing how He works things out, though. My baby is 15 months old, just a few months older than your little guy. Thank you for sharing your story. There are lots of people out there who understand all too well!

    God bless!

    Kim
    the5bennettgirls.com

  10. A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. There’s no doubt that that you should publish more on this subject matter, it may not be a taboo matter but typically people do not talk about these topics. To the next! Kind regards!!

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