Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I thought I would start out my blog by sharing a talk I gave in church on September 15th, 2010:

“All of us face times in our lives when we need heavenly help in a special and urgent way. We all have moments when we are overwhelmed by circumstances or confused by the counsel we get from others, and we feel a great need to receive spiritual guidance, a great need to find the right path and do the right thing. In the scriptural preface to this latter-day dispensation, the Lord promised that if we would be humble in such times of need and turn to him for aid, we would “be made strong, and [be] blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.” (D&C 1:28.) That help is ours if we will but seek it, trust in it, and follow what King Benjamin, in the Book of Mormon, called “the enticings of the Holy Spirit.” (Mosiah 3:19.)

Perhaps no promise in life is more reassuring than that promise of divine assistance and spiritual guidance in times of need. It is a gift freely given from heaven, a gift that we need from our earliest youth through the very latest days of our lives.” - Howard W. Hunter

Elder Richard G. Scott taught that “the Lord is intent on [our] personal growth and development. … Progress is accelerated when [we] willingly allow Him to lead [us] through every growth experience [we] encounter. … If [we] question [every unpleasant challenge], … [we] make it harder for the Lord to bless [us].” But if we center our hearts and minds on the Lord’s will, we will gain more happiness in the journey and more fulfillment in life.”

The past 8 months have been the most difficult time of my life. I have had some of the most heartbreaking experiences, and yet have also had such an increase in faith. It could have been so easy, as I have faced this challenge, to let it consume me and bring me down. To wonder, why me? But that thought has never entered my mind. From the moment we were told about Asher’s condition, my thought has been, what can I learn from the experience?

I always took for granted having healthy children. I was very naïve, and had never even heard of congenital heart disease. Taylor and Jonathan have lived uneventful, healthy lives. None of my siblings, or extensive extended family, have experienced any sort of childhood illness. We have all been beautifully healthy. Through this experience, I have learned to appreciate that health.

We found out about Asher’s condition half way through my pregnancy. They found it during a routine ultrasound, and at that time they were unsure of what his specific condition was. We had to wait a month before we met with the pediatric cardiologist and found out what they believed his heart problem was. Asher has a condition call Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia and MAPCA’s. What that means is his heart has 2 holes in it, his artery that takes blood to the lungs is very narrow, and is not connected to his heart, and he has extra arteries supplying blood to the lungs.

That was such a hard month, not knowing the extent of what was wrong. I wanted the doctors to be able to tell me exactly what was wrong, how they would fix it, how long he would be in the hospital. I wanted all the answers, I wanted a plan, and I wanted it now. But that’s not the way life works. No one knows how things will turn out. The doctors could have all the knowledge in the world, but they can’t tell us the future. Every doctors appointment throughout the pregnancy brought different, more challenging news. Initially they believed his Pulmonary artery was simply very narrow. Then they thought it was completely absent, and there was a hole in his heart. Then we found out that there were also extra arteries present, complicating his condition, and his heart would need to be repaired in Stanford. I learned patience through all of this, and I also learned that only the Lord knows how things will turn out, and I have to have faith in his plan.

Apostle Orson F. Whitney (1855–1931) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”

It would have been easy to question our decision to have a third child. Did we make a mistake? I learned to have faith in the spiritual witness we received, that this child was meant to come into our homes and lives. Adam and I talked a long time before we decided to have a third child, and felt strongly that it was time to add to our family. We were blessed to be able to quickly become pregnant, a further witness to me that the time was right. I have held on to that knowledge throughout this, it has helped me through the toughest times, knowing that this experience was meant for is. I have leaned to trust in the Lord and his wisdom.

We prepared as well as we could for Asher’s birth, and I became an expert on his condition. I studied everything that I could, and spent countless hours doing research on the internet and talking to other heart moms. There were still a lot of unknowns, and I had myself mentally prepared for the worst.

The day he was born, we experienced many small and large blessings. Asher was born on my birthday, and his arrival was very intense,. However, I was blessed to be able to hold him for a few moments before he was taken to the NICU. Another blessing was having Taylor and Jonathan come to my recovery room, so that they could see him for the few minutes that the transport team brought him to my room before he was taken over to Primary Children’s. I was blessed with a quick recovery, so that I had the strength needed to spend long days at the hospital while still caring for my family. We were blessed with being able to hold Asher that first night at Primary Children’s, something we hadn’t even hoped for. And we were blessed with being present at his first echocardiogram that night, where the doctor was a able to see a pulmonary artery present. It was very narrow, and did not connect to his heart, but it’s presence meant that Asher would have a greater chance at a successful surgical outcome. I believe that it is because of the countless prayers and blessings that have been said on our behalf, that we were able to experience those small miracles that day, and continue to experience them.

The first eight days of Asher’s life were not what I imagined them being when I first became pregnant. But they were better than my worst fears. I remained positive, and was blessed with numerous helpful friends, neighbors, and family members at that time who watched the kids and brought over meals. I don’t know what I would have done if it weren’t for their help- someday I hope to be able to repay the kindness that has been shown to me.

Asher came home from the hospital after 8 days. he came home on oxygen, but he was able to eat on his own, and was gaining weight, both small miracles. Heart babies typically have a difficult time with both of those things. After three weeks home, his condition began to deteriorate, so it was decided that he needed his first surgery, which would provide more blood flow to his lungs through his tiny arteries, and hopefully help them grow larger. We got a call on Tuesday May 25th letting us know that he would have surgery on Wednesday May 26th, which coincidentally is Taylor’s birthday. We’ve decided that Asher has a thing for birthdays. There was a whirlwind of prep for his surgery which such short notice, and sweet family members took the kids for us for the entire time Asher was at the hospital.

Spending so much time at the hospital, I learned how important perspective is. While what we have experienced is difficult, there are certainly always worse things. I happened to overhear doctors discussing another child, whose condition was much worse than Asher’s, and there was no longer anything they could do for him. They were deciding who would be best to tell the parents that there was no longer any hope. I realize that things could always be worse, and I appreciate how blessed we have been. I appreciate that his condition can be treated, that there is hope. I appreciate the doctors and surgeons who chose to go to medical school, who chose to research congenital heart defects. 20 years ago there was no treatment for Asher’s condition, but now there is, and I am so grateful to be living at this time where we have the blessing of such advance medical treatments.

Asher has done remarkably well since surgery, he hasn’t experienced any complications. He was able to come home from the hospital only 6 days after open heart surgery. He no longer requires oxygen, and is growing, developing, and thriving. People often comment that he looks so healthy, you would never know that he has a heart defect, and has already undergone one operation. I know that it is because of the countless prayers that have been offered on his behalf, and the blessings he has been given, that he has been able to do so well, and I have received so much strength. So many ward members have spoken to me regarding Asher, letting me know of the prayers being said, and his name being placed on the temple prayer list. I have learned through this experience what a ward family truly is. Thank you.

Asher’s journey is far from over. We are in the process of scheduling his next surgery, which will completely repair his heart. It will happen at some time in September. Because of his complex condition, it will have to take place at Stanford, in California. His problem is very real, uncorrected he wont make it to a year of age. And there will still be more surgeries in store for Asher as he grows and the surgeons need to replace conduits that they will place in his next operation. But I know that by centering my heart and mind on the lord’s will, I will be strengthened and gain a greater understanding of the Lord’s plan.

Thomas S Monson has said:

“I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.

My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”

There is a scripture that has been at the forefront of mind through all of this:

in D&C 121:7 it says..”peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.”