Friday, May 28, 2010

Home sweet home.

It's hard to believe that just 2 days ago we welcomed Jackson into our lives and today we are welcoming him into our home. This morning was a busy one at the hospital. Jackson was seen by the hospital pediatrician and was pronounced absolutely beautiful, healthy, and strong. He weighed in at 6 lbs. 14.7 oz., nearly a pound short of his birth weight despite his eagerness at each feeding. This morning the nurse also removed the staples from my incision and my doctor told me we were free to check out.

I did my best to be nonchalant about the dismissal, suppressing the urge to break out in the Hallelujah Chorus. Ah, we're going home. Finally!

And so we packed up our belongings and prepared to leave behind the hospital food, the uncomfortable bed, the freezing cold air conditioning, and the nurses who interrupted our sleep at all hours of the night to take my temperature and blood pressure.

We said our goodbyes to Soon, the sweet nurse who had seen us through the past 48 hours, and piled into the car. We made a pit stop before heading home. Panera. Throughout the last 40 weeks I'd craved Panera caesar salads and so it only seemed appropriate that I should request that as my celebration meal.

It was delicious.

And now we're home. It feels amazing to be at home with our son. And it's not just because the food is better, the bed is ten thousand times more comfortable, the air temperature is above freezing and there are no nurses to randomly wake us throughout the night. It's a surreal experience to come home one day and walk up the stairs to our apartment carrying a diaper bag and a newborn baby. Not just any baby. OUR baby. Wow.

Life as we've known it is definitely a really, really good way. No, make that a GREAT way!
Blankenship party of 3...ready to leave the hospital in our wake.Soon & Me.
Comfy bed. No "DO NOT DISTURB" sign necessary.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

And Then There Were Three.

Today was finally the day! The waiting game ended and we welcomed Jackson Cole into our hearts and home at last. We had been on the edge of our seats for days since my labor began on Saturday evening after the third in a series of purposeful uphill, after-dinner walks. Contractions were 4 to 5 minutes apart all throughout the weekend but weren't progressing in their intensity so we spent the next 4 days taking long walks, short walks, uphill walks, downhill walks, eating pineapple, driving over speed bumps, and a few other alleged labor-boosting activities in hopes to help the labor along. Finally, on Tuesday afternoon after another routine walk down to the waterfront, I began having the type of contractions that cause women to cuss at their husbands (which for the record I did not do) so we called the doctor. She told us to meet her at the hospital and away we went in a flurry of anxious excitement.

By the time we arrived at the hospital and were admitted, I had been in pre-labor for 72 hours already at this point. Next came another 14 hours of active labor that definitely pushed me to the limit. I was determined to go through natural childbirth no matter what. I roamed the halls of the hospital wings with Dan moaning my way through each contraction as I walked, knelt on all fours, or clung to the handrails. I drowned the contractions in the jacuzzi tub, and rolled through them on the birth ball. But once 5:30 AM rolled around, my cervix came to a screeching halt at 9 cm and refused to budge. Jackson's positioning was preventing him from coming down the birth canal and with each contraction his heartbeat plummeted. After 2 hours of prayer and trying alternate birthing positions, the doctor said that we had to do something and do it quickly for fear that Jackson wouldn't be able to handle the dips in his heart rate much longer.

And so 86 hours of natural labor culminated in roughly 30 minutes of surgical intervention. I was hooked to an IV, given a spinal block, and prepped for an emergency c-section while Dan donned a pair of scrubs. It was just a few minutes later that I heard the cry of my son fill the operating room from behind the blue tarp shield pinned in front of my face. It was one of the most incredible and surreal moments of my life, first hearing the cry and then finally meeting face to face OUR SON when Dan placed him on my chest.

Weighing in at 7 lbs. 12 oz. and measuring 20" long, little Jackson is completely healthy and had a great first day outside of his mommy's tummy. He's filled his share of diapers already and has impressed the nurses with his mad breast-feeding skills in addition to capturing the hearts of both sets of grandparents and a handful of sweet friends who came to the hospital to greet him.
In between contractions, Dan was keeping Facebook updated on our progress. And hogging my hospital bed.
Minutes before being wheeled into the Operating Room.
In the OR getting ready to meet Jackson at last.
Listening to our baby's first cries.
Weighing in.
Our first family photo.The very proud grandmas.
And the proud grandpas.

First time holding my son.
Blankenship party of three!
Exhausted after a long, amazing day.
Cutest baby on the planet.

the video

If you can handle a little blood, you can handle the miracle of our baby's birth. The doctors expertly removed Jackson by cesarean after more than 86 hours of labor. Within 15 minutes of me being wheeled into the operating room, Jackson's cry filled the room and true to the Jerry McGuire cliche..."he had us at hello."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What's in a Name?

Today was not just any ordinary day. Today was May 22nd.

I spent a lot of time thinking today about our baby boy who's due to arrive literally any minute now. My contractions actually began tonight and we readied ourselves to drive to the hospital but then the doctor assured us that we still have some time and so our packed bags sit by the door and we've stopped timing my contractions so that everyone can get some rest.

I had hoped that we would meet our little boy today, but God has given us the cue once again to wait patiently on His perfect timing and so here I am sitting in our living room in the glider that I will rock our son in. Here I sit in the quiet stillness of late evening while both Dan and my mom (who's here from Florida waiting for her first grandson's arrival) sleep in the rooms just down the hall. Here I sit waiting to meet my son and thinking about what he will look like and thinking about his name. His name.

It took a lot....and I mean A LOT...of time, discussion, thought, and prayer before Dan and I decided on what we would name our firstborn son. We literally went through an ENTIRE book of baby boy names and wrote down each name we liked and paired it with a middle name and looked up the meaning of the names and then called him each name in the series for months before we came to our final decision.

Jackson Cole Blankenship.

But there's so much more to his name than just those letters that come together to form words. There's so much meaning behind those words. His middle name Cole means "peace" which is just a really great perk to a cool sounding name. And it's a bonus that his first name carries the family lineage in that it means the same as Dan's mom Janice, my mom Jean, and Dan's uncles Gene and John. But the fact that Jackson means "God is gracious" and the significance of that meaning runs deep for Dan and me. We feel so strongly the presence of God's grace in being given this baby boy to raise.

Dan and I agreed when we married in November of 2008 that we would wait one year before trying to become pregnant so that we could establish a base as a couple before adding to our family. Then unexpectedly in May of 2009, I started exhibiting every possible symptom of pregnancy although pregnancy test after pregnancy test came up negative. We eventually both knew in our hearts that we were pregnant even though First Response said otherwise. I made an appointment to see the doctor and finally the day of my appointment came. That morning, I thought my proof of a false alarm had finally come. I called the doctor to cancel the appointment, but she advised me to come see her anyways. The doctor explained that it was possible that I had miscarried though most women don't know it when they do. She thought it more likely that I had just had a "weird cycle" but in her thoroughness she ordered an ultrasound due to my mom's history of cancer just to be proactive. She also had another pregnancy test ordered.

I left her office feeling nervous about the ultrasound but I tried to play it off as no big deal. She had mentioned the M-word. Miscarriage. I hadn't been able to choke back the fear or the accompanying tears when she'd first breached the subject and I was barely holding things together now. On my way to the imaging center, the doctor called to tell me that she wanted me to come back for blood tests. The pregnancy test had come back positive. It was definitely a miscarriage.

My heart officially shattered. I had already cried thinking it was a possibility, but now the certainty of it was utterly crippling. I don't know how I drove myself around Seattle with the floodgate of tears coming down my face as I went in for blood work and then to my ultrasound appointment. The technician who did the scan was so stoic and worked wordlessly, leaving my imagination wide open to interpret the silence as proof that there was something terribly wrong with my body. Fears of never being able to have the babies Dan and I dreamed of and fears of cancer gripped my heart and choked my spirit. Too nervous to go home to be alone, I decided to go back to work where I hoped to be distracted. I sobbed the whole way back to my office as I talked to Dan on the phone. Back at the office, I pretended like nothing had happened.

That night was one of the most painful nights of my life. We had a friend visiting us and I was too emotional and broken to tell her what was going on and so I pretended like nothing was happening and I suffered in silence both emotionally and physically. I had back labor and cramps like I have never experienced before and it was so hard to choke back the sobs as I realized that my body was "getting rid of" my baby...OUR baby.

Dan was wonderful and he did his very best to comfort me that night and each day after. Though I'd never had prior confirmation of my pregnancy or felt the baby's movements inside my belly, I mourned and grieved for my child nonetheless. I struggled with it daily. Some days were easier than others. It took me weeks to get to the point where I did not cry each day. Every
where I went, there were pregnant women or moms pushing their babies in strollers. Church was the worst as I was surrounded by newborns and toddlers there and Dan and I served in the church nursery once a month. Plus our home group which meets each Monday had three babies and two pregnant moms at the time.

It took a week to get my test results back and I had to go back for a few more, but the end result was that I was perfectly healthy and the doctor saw no reason why we wouldn't conceive normally in the future. There was no sign of cancer or anything else to fear. And yet fear gripped me nonetheless. I kept my pain a secret from those around me and Satan loomed ominous in that solitude. I couldn't bring myself to tell my family as I knew that they would want to be with me, not 3,300 miles away from me, during such a painful time in my life. In all honesty, I didn't want to tell anyone. EVER. It was just too hard to speak those words.

Dan wisely urged me against my initial, adamant protests to talk to a few close girlfriends about what we were experiencing so that they could support us in prayer and be there for me in a way that most likely only other females could bring comfort. The prayer support proved to be invaluable. I still couldn't bring myself to speak about my pain most days but knowing that we were being prayed over was amazing. Satan's grip of fear lost its strength quickly as prayer warriors rose up to fight on my behalf.

After losing a baby that we had not "planned" for, I felt the need to be pregnant with such an intense desperation - even if only to prove to myself that the doctor was right about my ability to conceive and carry a child. The fear of never having a baby of my own was suffocating. My body took a while to return to normal. My hormones were running WILD (my poor husband will testify to that) and my cycle had definitely gone haywire. That being the case, each month when I was late there was a glimmer of hope that "maybe we're pregnant THIS time!" But then came the unwelcome assurance that it was just another false alarm and the struggle to trust God and the perfection of His timing when it so clearly didn't align with my own desires. I wanted to desire God's timing, but I struggled to be truly patient and trusting.

I was amazed at the way God spoke to my heart and ministered to me in my pain and grief. He brought other women who had suffered similarly (and even more intensely) to bring words of encouragement and specific Scripture passages that soothed my bleeding heart as God worked to restore me by His healing power. In church one Sunday, the worship band introduced a new song whose lyrics rocked my world and shattered my self-protective shield.

Though dark my path, and sad my lot,
Let me “be still,” and murmur not,
Or breathe the prayer
divinely taught,
Thy will be done!

If Thou should call me to resign
What most I prize, never was mine;

I only yield Thee what is Thine;

Thy will be done!

Renew my will from day to day

Blend it with Thine and take away

All that now makes it hard to say

Thy will be done!

"Thy will be done" we sang as I surrendered my own self-seeking will to the Lord and realized that only His plan for my life and for our family would be truly good. The tears flowed freely once again as I sang such bold truth.

Then in September came the news that we were pregnant again (by now we had tossed the one year plan) and that the baby was due on May 25, 2010. The date didn't strike me as one of coincidence but rather one that was clearly God-ordained. The same week our family had lost a baby in one year could very likely be the week that we would welcome a baby into our family the next year. What a beautiful story of God's redeeming grace in turning a time of sorrow and grief into a time of great joy! That beautiful story of God's gracious redemption is where Jackson's name comes in.

"God is gracious."

Jackson isn't by any means a replacement for the baby that we will joyously meet for the first time in heaven one day. But he is most definitely an answer to our prayers. He is God's gracious gift to Dan and me.

In a rare moment of courage that was of the Lord and clearly not of my own strength, I was able to release this unborn baby boy to the Lord and say "Thy will be done" just as I had in church during Sunday morning worship just a few weeks prior when the pain was so raw and deep and oozing. In the same way that I had released my relationship with Dan during our courtship and asked God to either bless it or take it away if that be His will, I tearfully and rather fearfully asked God to either bless us with this baby or to allow me to trust Him to take him from us.

That prayer was freeing in that I recognized the powerful truth that this child belongs to Jesus, not to us. The fact that the Lord would entrust us to raise him is humbling and overwhelming and such a testimony of the grace that God extends to Dan and me in our sinful state of humanity with all of our flaws and shortfalls.

"God is gracious" indeed.

Even though I had hoped to meet Jackson today on May 22nd, this date has already been redeemed. God has already turned our mourning into dancing. We anxiously await the arrival of our son and welcome the birthday that God has hand-picked specifically for him.

We praise God for His very, very gracious gift to us named Jackson.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the final countdown

Well we made it to May 15th, the date of our fourth and final baby shower without going into labor! In hopes of getting things started with this baby, I accompanied Dan and our friend Thanh to the Home Course (our fave golf course in the area which boasts incredible views of Mt. Rainier) the morning of the shower. Everyone says that walking helps to build your endurance and also to jumpstart labor so I figured walking 18 holes up and down the hills of a golf course couldn't hurt. I was right.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day on the course. 70 degrees and the bluest sky possible! I walked almost the entire course while Dan and Thanh took turns driving the "just in case we need it" golf cart from hole to hole.

The baby shower was thrown by our sister-in-law Beth and hosted at Dan's folks' house in Tacoma and it was a lovey finale to my fabulous foursome of baby boy celebrations. The Blankenship ladies spoiled our little guy some more with cute and useful gifts while we played wacky baby games including the infamous guessing Mom's belly diameter game. The winner was Beth with 38.5 inches. Yes, I'm officially huge at 39 weeks pregnant!

Everyone was curious about the GIANT box in the room that required an entire roll of wrapping paper to cover. It turned out to be a glider rocking chair from both Dan's parents and my parents and it has quickly become our most highly desired seat in the house. Rocking Jackson will be like a mini retreat for the lucky parent who is holding him and lays claim to the coveted chair. Thanks, Mom & Dad!

It's so crazy to think that any day now we'll finally meet our son face to face.

Friday, May 14, 2010

answered prayer

Psalm 28:6 says, "Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy."

This verse pretty much sums up our hearts at the moment as we are praising God for his perfectly timed blessing in providing the much-anticipated and long-awaited job for Dan. Since being laid off from PSI last March, Dan has been tediously hunting the job listings and running down leads in one of the toughest job markets I can imagine. Thirteen months of frustrating searches and fervently uttered prayers later, we are praising God for providing Dan with an industrial engineering job at Boeing which he started this week. What perfect timing our God has as Dan has started his new job just days before the due date of our son's birth!

Dan's dad retired from Boeing after working there for over 35 years so he's pretty proud of his son, "the bean counter." Dan will be working out of the Everett plant so he'll miss the worst of Seattle traffic traveling North (and away from downtown Seattle) each morning at 5:00 AM.

We celebrated Dan's first day on the job with one of Dan's favorite things...dessert! Ten of our friends from our home group came over to indulge their sweet tooth cravings and savor the rich blessings of our great God that we've all been praying for together over this last year. In keeping with the Boeing airplane theme, everyone hand-crafted their own Boeing jet out of paper complete with words of encouragement or Scripture verses for Dan which we hung from his CONGRATULATIONS banner.

My parents and sister sent their own airplanes all the way from Florida. In true Tyckoson style, their jets far exceeded the rest of ours in both creativity and ingenuity.

Thank you to everyone who has been faithfully supporting us in prayer over these past 13 months. We're so grateful for your prayers and are so excited to have you rejoicing with us in God's amazing blessings in His perfect timing!