We know our families don’t always look like we’d hoped, prayed, or planned.
We know our “Ideal” is rarely our “Real."
When you’re struggling to overcome challenges or surrender to God’s plan for your family, the last thing we want is for you to feel alone. Instead, we want to show you evidence of God’s faithfulness to women in varied circumstances so that you are encouraged. Your situation may feel unique, but often it is more common than you may know. You may feel alone, but others understand. You can be sure God sees you and cares for you.
This series, Ideal Meets Real, has been on our hearts for a long time, and whether the topics are ones you’ve personally wrestled with or not, we hope you read them and are blessed and stretched by them. Perhaps you know someone in a similar position and you can share the hope of the Lord with them.
The women we’ve interviewed have endured difficult trials and allowed themselves to be transformed in the process. They may have seen the redemptive hand of the Lord, or they may be waiting for it—but they are clinging to Him and His Word as they do so. Be inspired and encouraged to to fix your eyes on Christ, whatever your situation may be.
Because what we really know is that God is good.
An Interview with Emily
This beautiful interview is a reflection from a mama we love and respect. She looks back upon her trial with eyes to see how God was near--and good. Whether you have experienced the ache of leaving your child in a NICU bed or not, we hope you read and are encouraged by God's faithfulness in an undeniably difficult season. May you cling to Scripture as Emily did and learn how to love on others in their time of need.
What circumstance has left you thinking, “This isn’t how I pictured my life”?/What real situation threatened your “Ideal”?
“Most likely, your baby isn’t strong enough. It's also probable that there will be developmental issues that could be avoided if you're able to carry this baby to term.” These were the words that my husband and I heard from my doctor at 31 weeks along. The labor pains came too early, and this was our first child. Having had no signs of early labor prior to this, my husband and I were shocked. It was too early to give birth, or so they told me. Recollections of that moment bring me back to a hospital room, with a monitor strapped to my belly. As nurses scurried about the room, I laid and listened to the rhythm of my son’s heartbeat not knowing what awaited me in the weeks ahead. Bedrest was my prescription. In spite of our best efforts, one week later, Benjamin entered into the world at thirty two weeks. He was our four-pound miracle.
Upon his arrival, they checked all vitals. There was a small moment that I held my breath as I remember waiting to hear his cry. As quickly as I heard his first cry, they rushed him out of the room. My husband followed. I had to wait quite a few hours before I could see my son as stabilizing him became the first priority. Some memories are memories that will stay with you for a lifetime, and seeing him for the first time in his incubator, so small with cords attached as well as a tiny feeding tube in his nose, almost brought me to my knees. The child whose arrival we had tried to delay, had now fought his way out into the world. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of me fighting on my knees for him–not only in birth, but also throughout the everydays of life.
Specifically, how did this impact you and your family?
If I had to assign a word to this time in our lives it would be… uncertain. When I was 30 weeks along my husband was laid off from his job. He was able to find a new job quickly, but the insurance benefits didn’t begin before Ben’s premature birth. The subsequent job loss, coupled with the cost of uninsured NICU expenses held severe financial consequences. Looking back I remember deep feelings of loneliness. We had no family near us, and our sense of church community was not strong.
How did you have to adapt your life to embrace your new normal?
Three days after Benjamin was born I came home, alone. No baby, no husband, no family, no friends, completely alone. My husband started his new job on the day of my hospital release, and though I have a wonderful family, they lived too far away. I knew they would have loved to have been with me, it just wasn’t possible. So, I drove myself home from the hospital. It’s funny, the things you recall during moments like these. I vividly recall parking in the garage, walking in, setting my hospital bag down. I sat in a recliner chair in our living room, and thought, “What now?” For several weeks I had fought to keep Benjamin in my womb, then after he was born, we fought to keep him stable. Though now he seemed stable enough, I felt extreme guilt for leaving him and loss for the pain that my ideal was not real life. I struggled to reconcile this. So, I sat, cried, and prayed. The next two weeks of my life were filled with visits to the hospital all centered around his feeding time. Holding my baby close were the moments I lived for.
How have you seen God’s faithfulness to you and your family in this trial?
God’s faithfulness was seen everywhere during this time in our lives. Benjamin’s homecoming was dependent on his ability to hit four markers. He had to learn how to suck on his own (while nursing or from a bottle), make it through an entire night without his apnea monitor alarm sounding, he had to gain weight, and maintain good coloring. He hit all four markers within two weeks–and, the nurses raved about how quickly he did. Although I was much too tired to see it while I was walking through it, God carried our family of three every step of the way. Benjamin wasn’t predicted to hit all of those makers so quickly, but against all odds, he did. Who, but God, is capable of such things?! Although multiple tests were run, Benjamin did not permanently sustain any developmental issues which could have accompanied premature birth.
Which words of Scripture have ministered to you?
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:6-8
“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
How would you recommend women come alongside someone in a similar struggle to yours/what would have blessed you in your season of trial?
Don’t wait for an invitation to help… just show up. Although you may not be able to physically go into the NICU, go to the window and let her hold up her baby so you can share in her joy. NICU mom’s live for visits to the hospital, so meet her there and bring lunch. Gift her encouraging books that relate to what she is walking through. Encouraging books will fill her mind with sustaining truths. Text her verses of hope and of God’s goodness. In a non-intrusive way, make it your job to know the next milestone the baby has to hit or if transportation is needed. To know someone else is invested can make a world of difference.
Once the baby comes home, plan to provide a meal for the family just to simplify their day-to-day. There is a tremendous amount of information given to new parents and it can be overwhelming. If her husband isn’t able to accompany her to doctor appointments, offer to ride along with her. Once Benjamin was able to come home, my mom came for an extended visit. Her presence ministered so deeply to me during this time. She went to every appointment with me and caught information that I missed. I’m quite sure I would have not made it without her during these times!
If you could go back, what would you tell yourself at the beginning of this trial?
God holds you so tenderly.
Psalms 139:13-16, My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.
There is no honor in your own strength, but there is peace in God’s strength. Don’t push Him away, draw nearer to His arms. Your tiny, frail son that now lays in an incubator will someday tower over you. The nights of tears you shed now will be replaced with moments of joy that you know only came from above. For a while you will struggle with this small baby. Stand firm. God created him this way. As he grows, his years of resistance towards all instruction will genuinely be replaced with tenderness and kindness. You will once again see God’s affirming hand throughout His life. You will get to see him grow beyond what you can dream. He will not only learn to build with his hands, but he will also build up people. Your blessing will be greater than your struggle. You will see that God is so consistently good to you during these times. Never doubt, only surrender.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about this situation?
I believe this is where my heart for ministering to women all began. During this time in my life I truly didn’t have many people that reached out to us, but God used it. Hurting moms now have my heart, and there is an understanding of the depth of care that goes into reaching out to others. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade the road I walked for anything, because it was this road that gave me an introduction to the understanding that my best-laid plans are rarely God’s plans and relying on Him doesn’t show weakness. It indeed shows the greatest depth of strength that one can have on this side of Heaven.
We want to thank Emily for taking the time to share her story with us. We rejoice that Benjamin is growing in wisdom and stature and that He loves the Lord!
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