I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to the beginning...
February 18. The morning started with a call from my OB. My blood pressure was too high. I was too swollen. Baby was too big. Four weeks early. It was time to deliver. Within hours I was in active labor even though I was having a planned c-section. It was clear that the only cure was delivery. Despite everyone feeling confident that Abigail was ready for "life on the outside", she came out weak and with a strange high pitched cry that ignited a flurry of activity that ended with my baby girl in the NICU. And not in my arms. I wasn't prepared. None of us were. Her breathing was weak and her blood work showed a potential infection. The rug wasn't just pulled out from under me. The whole floor collapsed and I was falling. Every step forward was met with giant tumbles backwards, landing us flat on our backs once again.
I can remember sitting in my small hospital room, clinging to this tiny fragile body that was too weak to move or cry or even swallow. I held my daughter close and tried to pray. I've only known a handful of times in my life when I hurt so deeply I couldn't pray. This was one of them. My heart literally couldn't form the words. I only knew pain. All I could say was "God, help!" as I clung to the verse that says the Spirit intercedes with groanings and utterings we cannot understand.
Two months later, looking back, I can see that moment in a new light. I can feel God holding that broken mommy and little baby fighting for life. I can hear Him whisper "I already am, dear child." The mysterious infection that kept her in the NICU was never explained. But within hours of it being discovered she reached a critical state of dehydration and stopped eating. A feeding tube was placed in an effort to save her life. It worked. The milk dropped in her belly slowly brought her back to us. A glimmer of hope. A glimpse of God's grace.
We finally left the hospital but our battle wasn't over. She was still too weak to breastfeed and was steadily losing weight. For over a week after she was born she continually dropped lower and lower. I don't remember much from that week except holding her close as I wept. I begged her to fight. I begged her not to die. I prayed and prayed for our sleepy preemie to wake up and eat! Then one day, she did. Like a light switch, she turned a corner. She had gained two ounces the next morning at her weight check. My mom and I declared it a hallelujah day! We celebrated with cokes at Sonic. Which turned into lunch. Which turned into us ordering the entire left side of the menu. Which led to us coming home with the largest Sonic bag I've ever seen in my life! But I felt like I could finally breathe! She was gaining! Another glimmer of hope. A glimpse of grace.
As we approached our due date, another glimmer broke through. Abigail suddenly had the strength to nurse. She still relied on bottles, but we could see it in her eyes. She was growing. We slowly (very slowly) backed off on bottles and allowed her to nurse more. But every dropped bottle came with fear. It came with the nagging memory of those terrifying NICU days. It came with questions and wondering and doubt. It felt like a cloud that always hung over my shoulder - taunting me with dark storms but never bursting forth. Was she ready? Was she getting enough? Would she gain weight at the right rate? Were we making the right choices for her?
At her 2 month check up, I got to weigh her before and after a feeding. Not only was she gaining beautifully, we were able to see how much she's taking in when she nurses. Seeing that number grow after nursing felt like a breath of fresh air. It was a holy breeze that blew the storm clouds away. The clouds hanging over my heart broke free and sunshine took over. Hope wrapped itself around my heart for the first time in two long months and I can finally breathe! Our family is living in glorious glimpses of grace!