Challenges at work and Finn’s impending surgery kept me tossing and turning Thursday night. It was pitch dark when we left the house Friday morning, headed for the operating room at OU Children’s Hospital. When Finn was born, he was unable to stay on his back long enough to get circumcised due to his spinal closure surgery. Once you miss the three week window of time allotted to perform the “clip,” you have to wait until your son is 6-9 months old, and it becomes a slightly more invasive surgery. Spina Bifida also twisted Finn’s penis, so our urologist planned to correct this abnormality as well.
Though he hadn’t eaten since 8:00pm the night before, Finn was alert and happy as usual. Each nurse who made their rounds for surgery prep (and there were many) commented on his infectious joy and the “twinkle in his eye.” This kid is special.
He fell asleep on my lap while we waited; a mommy’s delight.
Our hearts wrenched as the man in scrubs took him away. The sound of ringing monitors and the pungent smell of antibacterial foam were all too familiar and sent us back in time seven months to the NICU. Not fond memories.
Two long hours later, Finn was sent to Recovery while he came out of anesthesia. All went as planned and Finn was “fantastic.” We could go one at a time to visit him. I was first. He was irritable (naturally) and hungry. I rocked him while he guzzled down some apple juice and he quieted while I sang our family songs. Such a brave little man.
Once we returned home, we noticed his diapers were bloody, but not wet. By 8:00pm his tummy was distended and he was in terrible pain. We finally broke down and catheterized him, thankful we had plenty of catheters on hand or we would have had to go to the ER. You can imagine this is not a pleasant procedure anyway but especially not on a raw wee-wee. Cathing continued every three hours through the night and continues presently. The on-call urologist said to give it 3-4 days and if he’s still not peeing on his own, we need to bring him in. Anesthesia can sometimes cause urine retention and with Finn’s already weak-pressure bladder, this is probably the case.
Pray for pee, please.
…Between typing this and publishing it, I gave Finn a bath and removed his bandages. Urine trickled as I toweled off his porcelain skin. He could squirt me in the face for all I care…just pee! Praise God for a wet diaper! Hoping this continues…
Listening to Daddy teach in Sunday School
I love listening to my husband lead worship. Not because he has the sweetest, most unique voice or that he plays guitar with finesse and groove, but because I love his heart. He’s genuine.
Finn slept on my lap while the first worship song began. There’s this incredible woman (I’ll call her Pam) who sometimes sits a few rows in front of us. She has lots of children…maybe six…maybe eight, one in jail. I told her once how in awe of her I am. Pam is “working poor” and plays the solitary, brave role of a single mom. At least the man is rarely beside her in the pew. Her children are sweet and ragged and often spill their Mountain Dew on the carpet. This morning I watched two of them stand and sing “Your Grace is Enough.” They didn’t know the words and were too young to read the screen but they mouthed along with us anyway. My eyes welled with tears. Their childlike faith was beautiful.
Sometimes when I pass a t-ball or soccer field, I cry. I can’t help it. I’m not hysterical, I just well up with tears, groan a little then move on. I’m sure I’ll get over it someday when Finn has found other activities he loves; but until then, I may just keep crying at the sight of dusty little boys sliding into home. As I watched Pam and all her kids in church this morning, I thought of this scenario. Finn can’t play soccer because his legs don’t work. Perhaps Pam’s kids can’t play soccer because they don’t have money for cleats or shin guards or a reliable vehicle to transport them to games. Maybe she cries when she passes the fields too.
There are worse disabilities than physical disabilities.
Cycles of poverty, addiction, greed, divorce, crippling fear, unrecognized pride, obesity, unforgiveness…on and on…these things disable us too.
As one wheelchair-bound friend says, “Everyone’s disabled. They just may not know it.” Good thing His grace is enough.
Our Sooner Start therapist separated the yellow carbon copy from the white and handed me the former. It was Finn’s report card. “Finn still struggles to roll over and sit without assistance.”
Still struggles. Big sigh.
I was in a funk all day. It was true. And it’s okay; not all six month olds can sit or roll over even with the help of legs to provide a strong base. But I just got the sense that this will be one of many, many reports that Finn is behind; failing.
I can’t allow the world’s evaluation of me or my child to have much clout. It can’t define us. Just because I was a better bench-cheerer than second base-woman doesn’t mean I’m not an athlete. And just because Finn can’t sit alone just yet doesn’t mean he’s a failure.
Enjoy his precious attempt in this video. (Turn volume up now.)
Finn sits and falls from Joey Armstrong on Vimeo.
Team Finn post-race
Finn’s Sooner Start therapist was also racing!
Greeting family after the finish
Races are boring for babies
Off to bike
Nana and Papa Rosell came for the weekend!
Joey got to see Finn before the swim…lucky!
Team Finn pre-race
Setting up our transition station
Pascha made Finn this race day onesie
(Pictures are in reverse order. Sorry. Too tired to fix it)
We woke up early, well 5:00am isn’t really “early” post-baby, but I’ll pretend. Today was the long awaited day of our sprint triathlon for Team Finn. 500 yd swim, 12 mile ride, 5K run.
We raised over $1500 THANKS TO YOU! So, thank you. Really.
Swim comes first, then the bike, then the run. I felt like a farm animal being branded with a race number on my arms and thighs, my age on my right calf. We obediently lined up like cattle (of all shapes, ages and sizes) as we waited our turn to dump off into the pool and prove ourselves amongst the other athletes and onlookers.
- Joey did SO WELL! Despite the fact that he dried off with the wrong towel (armpits, crotch and all) before he realized he was at the wrong bike (sorry other athlete!) and that he headed off running in the wrong direction, he still surpassed his goal of 1:20 and came across the inflatable finish line at 1:17 and SIXTH in his age group. So proud of that man! The months of training definitely paid off.
- I didn’t do as well as I’d have liked. I finished in 1:25, five minutes past my goal. BUT, I got fourth in my age group! My public goal was to finish, but my personal goal was under 1:20. I had a few glitches in each of the events, so that’s my excuse; but really, I just didn’t make it happen.
- I wasn’t prepared for the wake created by the other swimmers during the swim and gulped down quite a bit of chlorine. I also had to stop once to dump out my goggles. Hate that.
- I took off on the bike with vim and vigor. This is my best event. But as soon as I swung my leg over the saddle and sped away, I heard this loud clicking. It wasn’t my chain. I stopped my bike on the side of the road but couldn’t figure it out so I just continued on. I tried to tune it out, hoping my bike wasn’t falling apart. The sound changed 3/4 of the way through the ride and I just knew my bike was going to eject me head over handlebars any moment. I was so paranoid that I slowed down quite a bit. I certainly didn’t “ride like I stole something” as I had intended. This was the most disappointing for me of my events.
- Running. Oh, running. I felt the pain shoot through my knees immediately. BOTH knees this time. I was sure I was going to have to walk, but made it my new goal not to. And once my legs went numb at about mile 2.5, I knew I could press on. Joey passed me at the turn-around. Dang him. But I was secretly proud. I knew I needed a distraction from my breaking knees, so I prayed for Finn from his toes to his brain. What a sweet time of purposeful prayer for my little man! And whenever I wanted to stop and walk, I just thought of Finn and how he’d probably trade my pain-stricken legs for his paralyzed ones any day. I sprinted the last 100 yds to the finish line and heard the cheering of my parents, Joey, Finn and our friend Laura with her precious kids, Ali and Aaron supporting their daddy, Dustin (Joey’s training buddy).
Not sure I’ll ever do a triathlon again. I’ve got ice on both knees and I’m hobbling around the house. Maybe I’ll just stick to cycling; but it was a great opportunity to support the Spina Bifida Association and a blessing to be able to push my body. Always feels good to be “spent.”
Sometimes it takes me a while to realize my face hurts. I stretch my mouth out to release the creases in my cheeks. It’s been over an hour since Finn and I began making silly faces at each other and I’m not even bored.
A couple days ago Finn and I were having one of these stare fests and I looked around the room behind him and said, “Finn, this is your home. You live here. And we are your family.” You have Tivo and crown molding and a naughty velvety dog. You have the funniest, cuddliest daddy. And about twenty swaddling blankets to choose from and homemade organic baby food. It’s all yours; you don’t have to do a thing to earn it.
Light bulb flickers on in my skull.
This is also true of God’s gifts to me…my inheritance. Honestly, I would prefer to earn them. Then I feel justified–like they are mine because I worked hard for them and I’d feel better about claiming ownership and control. Oooo, I like control. But who am I kidding? None of this life is really mine. I didn’t work to be born into a stable American family. I didn’t earn the ability to walk.
I’m reminded to loosen my grip; to open my tightly closed fists and release to Him the people and the things that matter most to me. To acknowledge their rightful Owner.
“You are not your own; you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 19,20).
“For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; for it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
My rule: when I acquire a new clothing item, I must give one away. So I was cleaning out my closet today and found a couple “gems” that I can’t believe had graced my body. Funny to think about how my style has changed over the years. I’m not the most trendy dresser…I wait to see which trends will last a while and then I hop on the bandwagon rather late. Just bought my first pair of colored jeans a month ago. Okay, that’s also because last year I was pregnant and buying skinny red jeans would have been depressing. The common thread in my wardrobe: stripes. I love stripes.
Before bed last night Joey and I were clicking back through our Finn Joseph photo album. These included a picture of me in the hospital holding room where I waited for my “cut time” (that’s not scary or anything…) in a backless gown with a gaping hole over my pregnant belly button (you know these hideous gowns, moms). There was also Finn’s first photo once extracted from my womb and proud Daddy Joey holding him like he were a trophy. Many of these pictures produced tears as we remembered those incredibly tough first weeks and saw our son, now chubby and healthy and happy, with a feeding tube in his mouth, surgery prep fluid caked on his skin and way-too-sticky detector nodes stuck between his shoulder blades. We literally gasped at some pictures–we had purposely forgotten how bad it was. Looking back made us realize how far Finn has come…how far the Lord has brought us in six months.
I think it’s important to look back. To remember your “Egypt.”
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5: 15).
Mmm…I like that: “outstretched arm.” It makes me think He’s pursuing me; He’s extending Himself on my behalf.
Immediately following this verse is the commandment to observe the Sabbath day. Rest. Think about what the Lord has done for you; how He’s brought freedom from your own personal captivities. Chew on it slowly. Digest it. Then take a deep breath and rest in it. Sabbath.
Looking back reminds us where we’ve come from and challenges us to think about who we are now. I sure hope I’m a better wife, daughter, sister, trainer, and friend now than I was a year ago. A better version of Ashley Dawn. In stripes.
More wisdom from Voskamp this week (I will finish this book one day, I promise) as she reflects on her baby sister’s premature death:
“…and I won’t shield God from my anguish by claiming He’s not involved in the ache of this world and Satan prowls but he’s a lion on a leash and the God who governs all can be shouted at when I bruise, and I can cry and I can howl and He embraces the David hearts who pound on His heart and I can moan deep that He did this–and He did. I feel Him hold me–a flailing child in Father’s arms.”
Many times I feel like a David child, beating the breast of my Daddy. I shout, yet I also find rest in His capable arms. Despite the pain of this world, I believe it’s beneficial to focus on our blessings…the thousands of bright spots in our mundane days. But how do I know the difference between blessing and curse? Should I accept as blessing only the things I believe are good? My perspective is flawed, limited. Maybe what I think is curse is actually a blessing.
I don’t like to talk about Satan often; I feel it gives him too much credit. But I love the imagery of a “lion on a leash” prowling, searching for an opportunity to steal our joy and get us to focus on the ways in which we have been wronged, cheated and disappointed by God. Even restrained, he prompts us to turn from our Father. Find more curse than blessing in our days.
Finn’s innocence and purity make it difficult to be negative. I’m falling more and more in love with him as I watch his personality develop. This week he’s making “ba ba ba” and “da da da” sounds and lots of expressive gestures to accompany them. I delight in watching him squeal at his own jokes and giggle at mine too. His joy permeates the room. It works its way into my anxious heart and begs me to settle down. Take it slow. Drink him in. Be present. Curl up on our Father’s lap and trust that He is working toward our good.