A little over 9 years ago, our world came crashing down around us when the words "your son has a condition known as Gastroschisis. His chance of survival is slim" were spoken to us. We were 19 years old, and had so many plans for our upcoming baby. We dreamed of the newborn stage, the snuggles, the perfection of a brand new baby. The birth--I had it mapped in my head, the planner that I am. When we heard those words, I'll never forget the loss I felt in my heart.
With tears falling down my face, I desperately wanted to tell that doctor where to stick her license when she was pressuring me with an abortion. We walked out of that office with such sorrow and unsure of our future. I went home feeling like I was a failure and that I did something wrong. I decorated my Christmas tree early and kept wondering if our baby boy would be there next year to see it. How did my baby, my FIRST baby have this? What did I do to deserve all my hopes and dreams to be shattered? I felt like my family frowned upon me for producing a baby with a medical condition. I felt like there were whispers behind my back "what did she do?" Little did I know, that didn't happen. But those are the thoughts of a 19 year old, soon to be first time mother, who was just told her baby had a 1out of 3 shot at survival.
We were told he would spend a MINIMUM of 9-12 months in the NICU. IF he survived that is. He would never be guaranteed to survive the surgeries, and his chance of living a normal life might not be possible. I didn't have a real relationship with God at that time, but I do remember begging and pleading with him to heal my baby. Begging him to help me make the right choices when it came to medical care. I even bartered with him. "If you heal my baby, I'll go to church and pray every day of my life!" How stupid was that?! God can produce miracles, I've seen them because he gave me one. I was just too blind to see it at the time.
Peyton was born four weeks early, via c-section, on March 14, 2007. We were told his estimated birth weight (due to his condition) would be around two pounds. He was born weighing 6 pounds, 4 ounces, and was 19.5" long. They wouldn't allow me to see him due to the circumstances. He was born with his intestine, liver, stomach and other major organs outside of his body. I didn't see my baby until after his surgery was over which was nearly eight hours later. They wheeled me into the NICU, drugged and really not aware of my surroundings. He was covered in so many tubes and wires all over his body that I didn't really even get to see his face. No one really knew what he looked like without all that stuff. I went to touch his little foot, and the nurse slapped my hand away. Germs. Like I was contaminated and I was going to infect him or something. I remember not being very nice to her, and in all honesty, outside of throwing up, I don't remember a whole lot from that day.
He spent five long weeks in the hospital. At the time, those were the longest weeks of my entire life. He had ups, he had downs. He was on tons of medications, many days of tears because he would "fail" at a task he was supposed to complete, and lots and lots of loneliness. We didn't even get to hold him for six days. Mason was the first to hold him, and five days after that, it was my turn. I didn't get to hold Peyton until he was almost two weeks old. We wondered many, many times if we made the right choices by continuing the pregnancy because there were days our hearts just couldn't bear the pain he was enduring. Our hearts couldn't handle much more disappointment, judgement and questions. We were trapped in this whirlwind of emotions.
God held us up. I kept hearing this little voice in my head that kept saying "Just keep going. I promise, it will all be okay." So weird to think back on it now, to know that all along God truly was there. He knew the outcome long before we did. He had a plan. A miraculous plan.
I will forever be grateful for the simple journey with Gastroschisis that we had. Peyton had a "twin" in the NICU. His name was James. He was born the same day, within an hour apart, and was the exact same weight and height as Peyton. Like my son, James was four weeks early, and he had blue eyes and brown hair. James had the same doctor and pediatric surgeon as Peyton. He was Peyton's roommate. His momma and me--we understood one another from a distance. We could hear each other's pain in our hearts, just from a simple glance. I remember several days I would sit in that NICU nursery holding Peyton, begging God to keep healing him, and I would glance over and see James' momma begging the same, watching her baby from outside an incubator.
As five weeks went on, Peyton got better. James didn't. We later found out that the day after Peyton's release from the hospital, James died. It just happens that quick with these babies. Every year, on April 18th I celebrate Peyton. It might not be anything more than a hug and an "I love you" and most people don't even know that every year on that date, the flood of emotions I was feeling on that particular day, the sun shining on my face, and the comfort of God all around--still give me chills. Every year, it's the same thoughts, same feelings. That was the day he was finally released to come home, my baby was finally coming home. And every year on April 19 I think of baby James. Even though Peyton is healthy today, we never take that for granted. He can "go" any minute. I don't dwell on it, don't bring it up. But it is serious and I wish others would understand that too. Each day with him is truly a gift. He will never be allowed to be a football player, or play any sport with impact. For awhile that was hard to take in. But as time has passed, I think God knew what he was doing when he sent us a baseball player instead! The boy LOVES his baseball!
At the time Peyton and James were born, the doctors said there were only a few in the area to have this condition.After they were born, the NICU filled with them. They still don't even know what causes it, but I can tell you that seven years ago the stats were 1 in 10,000. Now? They are 1 in 2,229. It's becoming more and more common. And it's mostly in the Midwest. Today Peyton is bright, sweet, funny, loving and full of energy. He knows why his belly button looks likes it does, and he says it's "cool". He's often shy with it as well. When he was born, some days just hearing Mason tell me "just think--one day he'll think this is all cool" was all that got me through. And to this day, he does think it's cool. He loves baseball with a passion, to pose for the camera, and loves his little brother. (And sisters--but he really wanted a brother). Lexus is "his" dog, he loves her like no other. She was there for me through pregnancy, his birth, and all the emotions that followed. In the first days home, you likely won't find a picture where she isn't in it. That dog is his. He loves legos, swimming, running, and video games. He is a typical 9-year old boy. Other than his belly button--you won't be able to tell him apart from any other boys his age!
I will never take for granted how lucky we are. And I will never understand why we were given a child like Peyton. Maybe I'm just simply not supposed to. But I do know that by having faced all that we faced when Peyton was born, I've learned a lot about myself, about Mason, and about how strong a relationship can truly be in hard times. In the end, I think God put Peyton in our lives just to show us how strong we can truly be. He showed Mason and I how we needed to work together and be a support system for one another. Those lessons 9 years ago, apply to my life today. Peyton was a miracle just by surviving. But he's a miracle for Mason and I as well!
Looking back, God was always there. His finger was in every twist, every turn, and He was there hugging me as I was hugging my sick baby. He knew the outcome, and He was teaching me to trust in Him. Although it was a difficult and painful journey, I know there was a lesson in it all. God is always there, always on time! My baby boy was a miracle.