Our Pearl

She’s here. She’s healthy. And she’s beautiful.

“Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Matthew 13:45-46

Upon first holding Pearl, her grandmother summed up our thoughts perfectly:

“Jesus knit your heart back together. That’s what Jesus did for you.”

Here are some pictures from her first 4 days. The first ones are in the operating room, followed by a brief stay in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. We have lots more pictures to share.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers. We were given peace beyond all reason. Truly a miracle.

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Waiting…

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

Thank you doesn’t seem like a big enough response to the love I received after my last post. But it’s all I can say so – Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the comments, the e-mails, the texts, the love, the prayers. Thank you for letting us know that we are not alone. Thank you for helping me feel so loved this week. I am so thankful.

I’m thankful that my health is good. That I’m able to walk and move around rather than have to be on bed rest. I’m thankful that our baby continues to grow and kick within me. I love feeling those not-so-little movements. In-utero baby hiccups are the weirdest but coolest things ever and baby seems to get them at least once a day lately. I’m thankful that the doctor I met with yesterday seems hopeful for our baby. I’m thankful for the time she took to explain medical things to me, to answer my questions. I’m thankful for her honesty and her optimism. I’m thankful that our baby will have top notch medical care as soon as it’s needed. We don’t quite know what that will look like but it’s there and I know how fortunate we are to live in a country where we have access to terrific neonatal care.

I stayed with my brother at the start of this week and Baby got some serious loving from its big cousins. Saying good night involved two hugs – one for me, one for the baby. My nephew – who is the sweetest 7-year-old you could ever hope to meet – made me this:

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That’s a clay porridge pot with milk jug and sugar bowl. And three bowls – two for Peter and I and one little one for the Baby. This baby’s going to get a lot of squishy hugs and kisses when it arrives.

I’ve been struggling with the disappointment of not getting to have our baby in our own town. While I know that this is really minor in the larger scheme of things, it’s still something I’m struggling to let go of. I was looking forward to being in my own home for the first part of labour. To walking the trails near our house. To time spent waiting in the places we live and love. And instead I’m in this big, busy city. And I love this city but it felt dirty and chaotic and just not part of the plan.

Yesterday evening I walked through my parents’ neighbourhood to meet a friend for coffee. It was not quite dusk. Bikes whizzed past me in the street and the last stragglers headed home from the local elementary school. All along the sidewalks and in people’s yards, I noticed that the crocuses have made their appearance.

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Purple and white, they’re showing up everywhere. The earliest signs of spring.

And I thought, One day, I’ll tell this kid about this week. I’ll tell him or her how we walked the streets of Vancouver together and the crocuses bloomed and the sky turned pink. How I waited and I was afraid but excited. How I kept my fingers crossed to not go into labour until Peter could join me. I’ll try and describe the bins of fruit outside the market, the buds appearing on the trees up and down the street. Even the woman who stole from the tip jar at the coffee shop and was escorted out while yelling, “One dollar! One dollar!” I think it’ll be a good story.

For God is a God who bears. The Son of God bore our flesh, He bore the cross, He bore our sins, thus making atonement for us. In the same way His followers are also called upon to bear. And that is precisely what it means to be a Christian.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from The Cost of Discipleship

The Birth Plan

Photo taken in early January by our lovely sister-in-law.

Photo taken in early January by our lovely sister-in-law.

I like to think of myself as a pretty laid back person. Certainly, I don’t believe anyone who knows me could accuse me of having a Type A personality. I’m not that organized and I’m not really a planner.

From the beginning of my pregnancy I joked that my birth plan was:

1. Go to hospital.

2. Have baby

About two weeks ago, I learned that even this seemingly simple plan was not going to happen. My baby will not be born at our local hospital. Instead, I am in Vancouver, waiting to go into labour in order to deliver at the hospital here. While the hospital on the Coast is terrific and actually has one of the newest maternity wings in the country, it doesn’t have the resources for extensive neonatal care. And we have been told that our baby may need that.

It’s a terrifying thing to hear the word “abnormality” to describe your unborn child’s ultrasound. It’s a terrifying thing to meet with genetic counsellors and a team of doctors and to lay on a table for two and a half hours while you are given the most thorough ultrasound of your life. And no matter how kind and compassionate those doctors are, it only makes things a little bit better because you don’t want a team of kind and compassionate doctors because you don’t want your baby to need a team of doctors at all.

There are a lot of unknowns right now. The full situation can’t be assessed until our baby makes its appearance and so the best place for that is the hospital here in Vancouver. So it’s an easy decision to be here. It’s everything else that’s hard.

In the past two weeks though Peter and I have experienced such an outpouring of love from our community, both near and far. I am overwhelmed by the number of people who are praying for our little one. By the number of people who love our baby already. Those prayers and that love has enabled the two of us to have a peace in a situation where peace doesn’t seem like it should be possible.

And I am overwhelmed in the knowledge that God does not make mistakes. That this is our baby, the child He has given us. And that whatever the next weeks and months and years hold for our family, we are not alone. Our God stands with us in the furnace. Our God walks at our side through the valley.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.

Jeremiah 1:5

This past year, God has spent a lot of time teaching me about fear. There is a story about Jesus in the gospel of Mark that I’ve come back to repeatedly. Jesus is called upon to heal the daughter of a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue. While Jesus is still on his way, a messenger comes from Jairus’ house to tell them that it’s too late, the girl has died. “Why trouble the Teacher any further?” the messenger says. Jesus’ response to this has been my reminder in the moments of my greatest fear. He says, “Do no fear; only believe.” And then He goes to Jairus’ house and he brings that girl back to life from death.

When all human wisdom says, “Give up. There’s no point in trying anymore,” Jesus says, “Believe”. And He conquers fear and He conquers death and He tells them to give that little girl some lunch.

“Do not fear; only believe.”

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:16

God sees deeper than any ultrasound can. He knows what the days ahead hold for Peter and I and our child. And, oh, it is hard to not know and trust doesn’t come easily for me. It’s a daily struggle to let go of fear, to trust my unborn child in the hands of God. To trust my own life and future in the hands of God. It’s something I do only with His help and even then I do it poorly. But in response to my fumbling, faulty steps, His love is big and His grace and mercy are overwhelming.

Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me,

for I am poor and needy.

Preserve my life, for I am godly;

save Your servant, who trusts in You – You are my God.

Be gracious to me, O Lord,

for to You, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving,

abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;

listen to my plea for grace.

In the day of my trouble I call upon You,

for You answer me.

Psalm 86:1-7

What I Read – January 2015

Since weekly book reviews seem to be something I can’t accomplish right now, I thought I’d post mini-reviews of everything I read this past month. January’s been busy but I managed to squeeze in a fair amount of reading and finished 9 books.

The Birth House – Ami McKay (Vintage Canada, 2006)

I did write a more in-depth review of this one but short version: I liked it. A little heavy on the wonders of midwifery (in my hospital-birth-bound opinion) but also very well-written and enjoyable to read. And a good reminder to me that women have been doing this giving birth thing for eons and it mostly goes okay.

The Doc’s Side – Eric Paetkau (Harbour Publishing, 2011)

This is a very local history of a doctor here on the Sunshine Coast. Dr. Paetkau was one of the early medical professionals in our part of the world, back when the hospital was still up in Pender Harbour. He tells a lot of stories of treating the loggers and fishers and local people, as well as how the hospital came to be moved to Sechelt and the expanse of medical care on the Coast. There’s a fair bit of his personal story in there too. Probably a book that is most interesting to locals who will recognize the places (and maybe some of the people!)

 

Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn (Anchor Books, 2001)

This is a fun, semi-experimental novel. Ella Minnow Pea leaves in a fictional country where language is more important than ever and the man who wrote the sentence The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy sleeping dog is worshiped like an idol. That quickly begins to backfire as letters begin to fall from his monument and the council declares every fallen letter illegal to use. The novel is told in a series of letters, mostly between Ella and her cousin. As the story progresses, the forbidden letters are dropped from the text and the language becomes more complicated. Fortunately, the story ends around the time this becomes truly annoying to read. It’s a nice little fairy tale though, at times, the conceit overcomes the story.

A Million Little Pieces – James Frey (Anchor Books, 2003)

I know I’m about a decade behind on this one but I finally wanted to see what all the controversy was about. Knowing that parts of this memoir were fictional, it seemed to me to highlight the fact that the book is not that great. While it may be a great look at the depths of addiction (something I’m not very familiar with, so I can’t speak to its accuracy or honesty) I didn’t find the book very well-written. It’s quite repetitive and its lack of punctuation makes dialogue difficult to follow. To be completely honest, I read about the first third and then skipped to the last two chapters to see how it ended. I don’t think I missed much.

 

Great Expectations – edited by Dede Crane and Lisa Moore (House of Anansi Press, 2008)

First off, I hate the name of this story collection. Don’t take the title of a book more famous than yours.

I picked this one off the library shelf, thinking how cheesy collections of pregnancy and birth stories are, but then was impressed by its list of contributors. It includes Caroline Adderson, Joseph Boyden, Lynn Coady, and twenty-one others. Each writer tells of their own experience of becoming a parent. The stories are raw, honest, sometimes terrifying, and often beautiful. I really liked that they included the stories of fathers too. Bill Gaston and Dede Crane (married with four kids in real life) tell their tales back-to-back and I found the similarities and contrasts of their shared experience fascinating. Admittedly, I’m more interested in birth and pregnancy right now than I normally am so this might not be a book for everyone. But for an expectant mother or father who also enjoys some good writing, it’s pretty great.

The Mistress of Nothing – Kate Pullinger (McArthur & Company, 2009)

I was never particularly grabbed by this one but it was big a few years ago so I figured it was time I read it. And I enjoyed it quite a bit more than I thought I would. Based (sort of) on a true story – based on real people, at least – we follow a lady’s maid from England to Egypt and into a life she never imagined. The setting is wonderfully evoked and both Sally (the maid) and Lady Duff Gordon (her mistress) are fascinating women who are wonderful to read about. Both buck against society’s expectations in very different, very far-reaching ways.

Among the Ten Thousand Things – Julie Pierpont (Random House, 2015)

Honestly, I saw this title on my list and it took me a second to remember what book this was. This was an ARC I got through work; the book comes out this July. I was grabbed by the good reviews and an interesting synopsis and brought it home. The story is easily readable, if slightly predictable. The first chapter – a letter from a mistress to a wife – got my attention right away. As did the second chapter, where that letter is intercepted by the 11-year-old daughter of the wife and the unfaithful husband. Overall, I think the plot portrays a pretty honest fallout of infidelity and divorce. There’s a lot hinted at about the husband and father’s personality – he’s an artist and his most recent exhibition has exploded (literally) – but he isn’t fleshed out as much as he could be. I thought the most impressive part of the novel came in the middle when we get a brief but well-sketched glimpse of what the future could be.

The World Before Us – Aislinn Hunter (Doubleday Canada, 2014)

I’d been wanting to read this one for a while and it didn’t let me down. The story follows Jane, who is about to lose her job at a museum that is going out of business and is experiencing some sort of mental break (perhaps). Less because of her job loss and more because of an encounter with the father of a little girl who disappeared years before, while Jane was babysitting. The story intersects with the disappearance of an unnamed woman from an asylum in the same area years before. The narration is definitely the most unique aspect of this novel; it is told from the perspective of what you might call spirits who follow Jane around, hoping to discover who they are. Or were. While they start the novel as a fairly homogenous “we”, as the story progresses – and as we learn more about both of these disappearances – individual characters and histories begin to emerge. It’s a bold narrative experiment and Hunter does it well. While there are two mysteries at the centre of this story, it isn’t a mystery novel and there are no simple answers here. And that is to the novel’s benefit.

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering – Timothy Keller (Dutton, 2013)

Timothy Keller is probably my favourite modern day theologian. This was the fourth book from him that I’ve read and I am consistently impressed by both his knowledge and his practicality. I read this book slowly over several months. Not because it’s a difficult read but because there was so much in it that I wanted to slowly absorb. Keller speaks about suffering and sorrow both from a more detached point of view and from a personal one. He examines what suffering means, how our society reacts to it, how the Bible talks about it, and how Christians can deal with it. There’s a lot of good stuff in here. If you’ve experienced suffering (and if you’re human, you probably have) then you could find a great deal of comfort and assurance here.

Amnesia – Peter Carey (Knopf, 2015)

I really like Peter Carey’s books. I’ve read several and he’s a talented writer. He’s won the Booker Prize twice, so I’m certainly not alone in this opinion. I was excited to learn he had a book coming out this year and eagerly took the ARC that came my way. That said, I didn’t love Amnesia. Perhaps it was the unlikeable main character of Felix Moore. Perhaps it was the overabundance of computer/hacker talk. (Admittedly, much of it was over my head since I’m certainly not a computer person, but a lot of it reminded me of hackers in movies in the early 90s when characters could basically do anything and the answer was “hacking”.) Another problem was that most of the action of the novel takes place in the place and Felix is learning about it. Yes, there is some present-time action around Felix but I found it confusing and not particularly tense. I was never worried about Felix’s safety or his ultimate success. I don’t know if that’s because Carey didn’t do enough to build that tension or if it was just because I didn’t care much what happened to Felix.

Currently reading:

Daddy Lenin – Guy Vanderhaeghe

The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Join me at the end of February* to read mini reviews of these and whatever else I manage to squeeze into the month.

*May not be precisely at the end of February because I’m due to give birth to a human child on or around March 1st.