Mama Did You Know?

Judah got the best present for Christmas this year- just weeks ago, we were able to pick up this ‘Standing Frame/Stander’ which was custom ordered for him, thanks to the fine folks at Variety, and we are all loving it!  This adapted positioning ‘device’, will help Judah to bear weight on his feet and legs, to properly develop the muscles and ligaments in his hips, to set him up for success to stand on his own and to (hopefully) walk one day too.

 

At this point in Judah’s development, he LOVES to stand, and thankfully we haven’t had any hips issues though he is at high risk for that, simply because he spends a lot of time sitting or laying and hasn’t moved like a normal 14-month old would (keep in mind we are nearing his 18 month actual birthday, but it’s just 14 months since his due date).  When he was fitted for this frame, the rep from the company who builds them, along with our Physiotherapist (who might be one of our favourites️), both said they have never seen a kid tolerate a Standing Frame so well- so we celebrate that as a win, cause Judah DOES love it!

 

He can handle up to 30-45 minutes at a time before his neck and body just get a bit tired. He loves being at eye-level with his siblings, and playing with toys on the tray.

All that has taken place this month (if you haven’t read about his hearing improvement, you can click here!), obviously got me thinking back to what we were experiencing LAST Christmas. Judah was in the hospital, and we had JUST started talking about his homecoming, since up until then, we weren’t sure when (or if) that would happen.

I remember longing for him to be home, especially at Christmas, however at the same time feeling a bit freaked out with what the future would hold.  I still feel the same way a bit, however the process of my faith is a bit clearer to me.

This season, it has made me think time and time again, of that song ‘Mary did you know’. As I read through the Christmas story in Luke 2, I feel as though I can somewhat relate to Mary- as if God is saying to me…. ‘Jenna did YOU know?’…

Did you know, that your baby boy would be Standing one day?

Did you know, that your baby boy, would be able to take a bottle- and love it?

Jenna did you know, that all those tears and prayers and fears and anxious feelings, would be overshadowed by hope and so much joy?

Mama did you know, that what you believed for could actually come to pass?

Mama did you know, that your baby boy would give hope to so many around the world?

My response? I could only dream of what is taking place today. These things seemed so far off, but oh how quickly a year passes!

I feel that we are living in the ‘exceedingly, abundantly above what we could think or ask’ (Ephesians 3:20). That is just how God works, isn’t it?

We are off to enjoy these next few days as deeply as we can- because our baby boy is home with us this Christmas, and who knows what next year will bring, but I sure am excited for it.

I am praying that you- yes you reading these words- would experience this Christmas with eyes to see the things you have prayed and hoped and believed for long ago. Whatever it is that you need to see that God has done for you, whatever moment you need to revel in the joy of, I pray that you experience it all. Merry Christmas friends- thank you again for your prayers and for following along this wild ride!!!

As you can well see, dude loves this contraption!

XOXO


Ears To Hear

I remember the day SO well.

Judah was having his first follow up appointment after being discharged, with the ‘Neonatal Follow Up Program’ at BC Children’s Hospital- the team that will follow up with him until he is 19, simply because he was a micro-preemie (born before 26 weeks).

At this appointment, I knew he was going to be seen by a gamut of Dr’s and specialists and therapists- one being the Audiology clinic (some of the best specialists in our country). Judah had his first ABR Test (Auditory Brainstem Response), and since he made a lot of noise while sleeping (#chroniclungsnoring), and this test is conducted while sleeping, the results were inconclusive. I thought nothing of it… ‘of course my baby can hear!’ was what went through my head. I remember times in the early days where our team would comment on Judah’s numbers being their best when I would sit beside him and sing. So these hearing tests to me, were a waste of time.

To make a long story short, after 3 ABR’s, the Audiologist called Koby in, and told us that she felt after these 3 tests, that she had enough data for a diagnosis- I will never forget when she turned to us and said ‘Judah has severe hearing loss… in both ears’. She went on to tell us that he had Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD), which was a result from a certain ototoxic medication he needed in the early days, and that some kids with ANSD can never hear/hearing aids don’t work/etc etc etc.

My gut… my heart… it was the same feeling I had when the Dr told me that my water broke and there was no fluid around this baby. This same baby.

I was devastated, to say the least, but I held it together while in the clinic. The moment we got out to the elevator, I completely broke down. Like… broke down. Weeping. I actually shocked myself- we had fought, for MONTHS, for his very LIFE, so how could something as ‘simple’ as him not hearing have affected me so bad?

It took me about a week of discovery and conversations and grief and realizations (I actually had a ‘oh my’ moment when I thought ‘if he can’t hear, he won’t talk’.) It was a heartbreaking week… but God…

I remember I felt lifted after awhile- almost excited- to dive into this new world of hearing loss, and to discover all that was available to us, all the while still believing, still clinging to the hope that my boy WILL hear, one day, somehow.

It has been about 8 months since discovering Judah’s hearing loss. We are full-blast into weekly ASL courses (American Sign Language), and our instructor is so proud of us for learning so quickly. We also work with a Speech and Language Pathologist- she helps us with communication tools that will help Judah. The Deaf community is huge- and super supportive. We have been welcomed with very open arms.

This whole time, we have been having periodic Behavioural Hearing Tests for Judah- where he sits with me in a soundproof booth, and the Audiologists test him to see his response to certain sounds and volumes.

These tests have been the MOST frustrating for me… after about 4 or 5 of them, the results were consantly ‘inconclusive’. The other frustrating thing with these tests is that the child being tested needs to be able to lift their head well and turn it from side to side- Judah hasn’t really been able to do that due to his developmental delays, since recently.

SO YESTERDAY, was our first time back in about 3 months and all I was praying for was for RESULTS.

To explain this a bit further… we have always been hopeful that hearing aids would be an option for Judah, but knew that there was a very big possibility that hi hearing loss was too severe for even the amplification of hearing aids. AND… Cochlear Implants are not a solve-all thing for people with hearing loss. They are ‘simply’ a device that is placed under the skin, that stimulates the Cochlear nerve- also a hearing aid. And its a big surgery too- so the Cochlear Implant Team at Children’s won’t even see you unless you’ve had hearing aids for 6 months. And then you STILL have many tests to complete before ‘qualifying’ for them.

The test yesterday went SO WELL– we have been noticing at home how Judah seems to be turning his head to loud sounds, startling, etc… something you never think you’ll need to monitor on your child! So the girls testing him were BLOWN AWAY at how much he has grown up 🙂 And could definitely get some RESULTS- HALLELUJAH!

When the Audiologist came in to speak with me at the end, she said his hearing loss seemed more at the ‘moderate-to-severe’ level… IMPROVEMENT! Basically, Judah CAN HEAR really loud tones. #WINNING. She then proceeded to tell me that at our next appointment, we would fit him for his ear molds, and set some hearing aids and start the trial on them…. I felt like I won the FREAKING LOTTERY.

So yes… I’m so excited that Judah will even get this opportunity to TRY hearing aids! Its huge. But we also are no where near the end of this part of our journey.

We will continue to pray that Judah WILL HEAR– that he will have great success with his hearing aids (and not try to pull them off!!!), and we will continue with all our therapies too.

We just want to say a HUGE thanks to you- this community that has supported us from the get-go, that continues to pray for the big and little things for our boy and for us. It means the WORLD to us to have so many praying and believing with us!

Miracles happen friends…

XO


#FAITHFRIDAYS – Throwing Mountains

My kids got in the car the other day after school, and were humming this familiar tune, and it reminded me of this whole album that I used to sing to Judah when he was so sick.

So naturally I turned it on, and turned it on loudly. It was just what I needed, as this week has felt a bit heavy to me, and until that moment, I couldn’t quite figure out why.

This looming diagnosis for Judah has been taking a toll on me. On my heart, on my mind… all the fears and unknowns, and comments from kind-hearted people who mean well.

We don’t know if Judah has Cerebral Palsy, but it has been heavily suggested by several Dr’s that know Judah well. And to be totally honest, it breaks my heart. But we still have to wait. And in the waiting, I can feel my heart healing, and my spirit being taught something so deep.

Here’s the thing that this moment of silly worship in my van with my elementary-school-aged kids (cause God can use ANYBODY) taught me…

I believed God for a healthy pregnancy. I believed God for a full-term baby. I believed God for so much that DIDN’T happen. And that hasn’t made me doubt Him one bit.

Why?

Cause His plans have been, and always were better than mine.

I’m NOT saying at all or by any way that God ’caused’ Judah to come early, but what I am saying is that He works ALL THINGS together for the GOOD of those who love Him (Romans 8). And that I wouldn’t trade any of these last 2 years for anything. ANYTHING.

So yes, in the same way that I believed with all my might, and prayed and trusted God for all those things with Judah- its the same way I’m applying my faith to this diagnosis that is to come… whatever it may or may not be. I believe God can and will heal Judah’s brain. I’ve seen Him do COUNTLESS miracles, so I know He can do it again. I also know He is powerful enough to heal 2 brain bleeds in a MOMENT.

But I also know THIS- God can work in and through anybody, with any diagnosis or disability or prognosis.

I know that God is the GIVER of every GOOD and PERFECT gift, and that if we seek to see with heavenly eyes, that we will see a gift in everything.

As we continued listening to that album, I remembered this song which was one of my favourites. One of the verses says this…

‘Far be it from me to not believe, even when my eyes can’t see…

And this mountain that’s in front of me, can be thrown into the midst of the sea.’

I admit, I have been looking at the results of Judah’s brain bleeds as a huge mountain in front of me. It’s overwhelming to say the least. I can’t see over it sometimes. But I’ve come to realize that this mountain? Its not always the diagnosis, but rather the way I have been seeing the diagnosis, and the fears that come from the unknown.

I have to remind myself that fear is ‘false-evidence-appearing-real’. Its NOT reality.

Sometimes the mountain that’s in front of us, isn’t the diagnosis itself, but rather our perspective of it.

We take this life with Judah day by day. And we come to know more and more people each day living with this or that diagnosis, who give us SO MUCH HOPE.

And we continue to pray. Always, And trust and lean on God. And thank HIM for the moments where the burdens get put onto Him and He makes life all the lighter for us.

So in case you are wondering, the details of Judah’s development are an ever-evolving picture. Right now he is showing pretty clear signs of CP, which I have also come to learn is a very wide-range condition. As always, we will keep you posted as we wait for Judah to be seen by the CP Clinic at Children’s Hospital. For now, we continue with therapies of all kinds, and lots and lots and lots of snuggles. This kid blows our minds, and grows our hearts DAILY.

It is well with us. It is ALWAYS well.

XO

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Steph Schulz


#FaithFridays – A Full Heart In An Empty Season

When we started our family, we never thought that we would have a kid who would be needing ‘equipment’.

No, I’m not talking about your usual stroller and high chair, I’m talking custom-fitted bath chairs, ‘standers’ and a walker.

I was pumped to find out this week that Judah will begin being fitted for these items, but I also found out that some parents find it hard to accept that their children need specialized equipment to perform simple developmental ideals like STANDING… understandably so. Our Occupational Therapist was so gracious in how she gently broke the news to us, that she thinks Judah would benefit from these items, and I was like ‘heck ya!’. But when I noticed her hesitation, I had to ask why.

When you’re climbing mountains, and it’s hard to see the top, sometime it helps to look back down at the pit of the valley that you came from. It’s the push you need to get your eyes back on the path to the top- no matter what your ‘top’ might look like!

So after thinking about it for a day, I realized why I wasn’t upset but rather stoked for my kid to be strapped into some crazy contraptions. HA!

I’ve gotten into the habit of looking back!

Seeing how far we’ve come is good for my soul. I’ve gotten into the habit of remembering the scriptures we have stood on time and time again, because they are still so applicable to today’s battles. So when we are hit with the next thing Judah needs or the next thing that feels like a bomb in our lives, it has become my default to look back and remember these things. Remember, remember, REMEMBER! Joshua 1:8 encourages us to ‘meditate on it (God’s word) day and night…’!!!

So even in a season that can seem a bit ’empty’ in a way, I can have a full heart…

Empty in the sense that I have zerooooo ‘gas left in the tank’ at the end of each day- #4kids.

Empty in the sense that I have every excuse in the book to live in worry- JUDAH, what will our next ‘job’ be (I will write more on this when I can!), etc.

But FULL AT THE SAME TIME because I am so thankful. Full because God loves me and has proven his faithfulness time and time again. Full because God’s plans for me are GOOD… full because He gives me a peace that surpasses understanding!

When we have a thankful heart, we have a full heart, which equips us in these ’empty’ seasons.

So all of this new equipment for Judah (which is slowly taking over my home!!!), including a wide array of POOL NOODLES (all you PT’s know what I mean!), they may point to the fact that my kid has ‘special needs’, and that life is in no way, shape, or form ‘normal’, but goodness me I am so thankful for these needs.

My kid who needs a stander, has LIFE, and HOPE that he will walk one day.

My kid that needs a special seat for the bath, GETS TO have baths.

Our home that is flooded with equipment and beeping things and toys that stimulate, is also flooded with love and joy- SO MUCH JOY.

So ya, my heart is full, my tank is empty most days, and that’s a really good thing.


Photo Credits: Phone CaseBible in NLTThrow

XO


Happy Birthday Judah!!!

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WE MADE IT!!!!! Here we are friends- Judah’s first birthday!!!

As I wrote in my last post, all Judah wants for his birthday presents is TO GIVE BACK…

So we have created 2 ways for you all to join us in celebrating Judah’s birthday by GIVING BACK to the place where Judah got his start- The Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Below is a link to the website where you can donate towards the purchase of a new Ventilator- a life-saving device that will help babies just like Judah! We appreciate your donation on Judah’s behalf!!!

You can also donate by purchasing one of these T’s!!! $5 from each Tshirt sold, will also go towards the SMH NICU. We are currently accepting pre-orders via email only (please email jenna.liesch@gmail.com). Tshirts will come in baby onesies (up to 18 months), toddler T’s, and in Men’s and Women’s as well. (All Tshirts/onesies are white with black lettering- pictured below is the Men’s version). Stay tuned for new styles coming as well!

Adults- $30 CAD + shipping

Kids T’s & Baby Onesies- $25 CAD + shipping

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Or, to make donation on the Hospital’s website on Judah’s behalf, you can do so HERE!!!

We are also gearing up for our NEW WEBSITE LAUNCH within the coming weeks, which will have an online store to properly process all the payments, so we appreciate your patience!

ONE YEAR!!!

Oh my Judah boy! ALL THIS STUFF IS FOR YOU my boy! Where can we even begin… how can mere words do this year- do YOU the justice you deserve my CHAMP!!!

I remember being scared- so scared to write to you, and have waited a year to do so. I was scared, I guess, that I would be the only one to read it one day, but now I am more hopeful than ever, that every year, for YEARS to come, you will look back at all of this (and maybe be annoyed some years!), and see what God has done, and how amazing you are!

ONE YEAR my baby boy- and how life has changed with you in it. This last year has been both the worst, AND the best year of our lives at the very same time.

You have taught us more about fighting for faith, and more about love, and fervent prayer, and PATIENCEEEEE, and the heart of God… than anyone else we have ever met.

You are, and have always been fragile, yet so strong. Your spirit my boy, has always been what SHINES so bright- to everyone around you!

I spent the night before your birthday, having a bath with you (sorry teenaged-Judah), and rocking you to sleep BECAUSE I CAN.

It just feels like a dream that we GET you. The peace you bring is such a gift- your joy (and your 90-year-old-man-with-emphazema-cough laughter), is just the BEST thing on earth.

Judah you have moved mountains. You have defied the odds. You have broken records. You have captured hearts. And you are ‘only’ ONE!

I have been whispering these words over you since you arrived, and will continue to do so my love…

You are…

STRONG & MIGHTY…

HEALED & WHOLE

PRAYED FOR & LOVED

FULL OF PEACE & JOY

How much we love you Judah. We are SO glad for TODAY. SO glad. NOW TO CELEBRATE!!!

Songs featured in video:

‘Do It Again’ (acoustic version) by Elevation Worship- get it HERE!

‘Wonder’ by Hillsong United- get it HERE!


Judah’s NICU Journey

***This post is the 2nd instalment of Judah’s story- to read the first part of his story, you can click here!***

Since Judah’s emergency csection delivery at 25 weeks and 5 days, we were told and prepared the worst of the worst.

After I got to see him for the first time, he was still in critical condition and though I wanted to stay by his side, the team needed the space and my body needed to heal- and I needed to start pumping!

I went back and forth from my hospital room to the NICU as much as I could, until I was discharged and then got to stay for 4 nights at the Ronald McDonald house which was right next door to the NICU. It was during those 4 days that I began my long hospital days of being by Judah’s side, and going home or to the RMH room just to sleep (or pump … #pumpingislife ).

Judah was in critical condition for the first few days, which all the Dr’s refer to as the ‘crucial days’. Judah was intubated at birth, and tried on several ventilators to help his very little, underdeveloped lungs. He received surfactant (which they referred to as him being ‘BLESED’ (yes, with one ‘S’)- there was literally a sign above his incubator that said ‘I’ve been ‘BLESED”!!!)- a soapy substance in his lungs that helps them to move and not stick together. He received 3 doses within his first day of life. Judah was initially on the High Frequency Jet Ventilator, at 100% oxygen, with Nitrous Gas as well- in plain language, that’s as much help as a 1 pound 14 ounce babe can get.

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Judah’s lungs were actually hyper-inflated, which caused a large pneumatocele (air-filled cyst on his lung) to form. This kid has had a bagillion chest X-rays! In total, Judah had 46 days of being intubated (the first time!), and was moved to non-invasive ventilation from day 47 until he was taken off daytime oxygen support at 10 months of age. So yes, even at his one year birthday, he still requires ventilation at night via CPAP, and oxygen at times for naps.

We were told days after Judah’s birth, after his first brain ultrasound, that Judah had no bleeds in his brain- something that is very common for preemies that can cause a lot of issues for development, etc. We were so thankful.

Judah got Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia at 12 days of life, which was the second time we thought we were going to loose him, and were prepared for the worst. He was treated for 14 days with antibiotics, some of which caused his profound hearing loss, and was again diagnosed with Pneumonia at the end of August. Because of the Pneumonia, Judah also suffered from 2 brain bleeds- a grade 2 on the right and grade 4 on the left, grade 4 being the worst it can be.

I specifically remember one night where Judah was on full support, was so sick, and there was an expected perforation in his bowels. The Dr’s sat us down, and said that if the ultrasound results came back with the perforation, that Judah would need to be transferred via helicopter to BC Children’s (about 45 minutes away), for emergency surgery, but that’s only IF the specialists at Children’s deem him ‘transferable’.

Before we got the results back from that ultrasound, the Dr came back in to tell us that transferring Judah was not going to be possible- he was just too sick and too fragile.

As we awaited the results for that ultrasound, I remember the song ‘Do It Again’ from Elevation Worship came to my heart. So we prayed and believed again, and when the ultrasound results came back, there was NO PERFORATION.

Judah’s course from September through to November was somewhat uneventful- minus the 2 code pinks that were called on him. I just figure he liked being dramatic! We happened to be there for one of them (code pink is infant cardiac arrest), and it was also one of the worst moments in this journey. It was also the day before my birthday. But as you know, he pulled through- thanks to God and our amazing team!

We celebrated Judah’s 100th day of life with a big cake that I made for our team, and of course they had surprised us with a banner and a big card.

Judah also got the chance to be highlighted by Global TV for Variety, the children’s charity. He has become quite the famous little boy!!

Judah was receiving weekly head ultrasounds to monitor the bleeds in his brain and after a while, it was revealed that the bleeds were ‘resolving’- basically the best outcome for him. Our Dr even explained to us that she was quite surprised, and had expected to see cystic formations (which cause Cerebral Palsy), and there were none on his brain tissue. We are still hoping and praying for a full recovery for him, as the bleeds are still there, however we are definitely headed in the right direction!!!

Koby and I were hoping to have Judah home by Christmas, so at the beginning of November, with the ‘approval’ from Judah’s team, we decided to have a little break from the NICU and tried to go on a little getaway before bringing Judah home. TRIED TO being the key words 😉

Judah’s oxygen requirements had been slowly creeping upwards for a couple of weeks and his team had been trialing him again on a number of different CPAP settings. On our 2nd day in Whistler, we got the call that Judah needed an emergency transfer to Children’s, as they did a chest X-ray and it was revealed that the pneumatocele had grown to almost the size of his entire lung and they needed to intervene, but we’re only able to do so with the specialists at Children’s.

So Judah was re-intubated on day 116, and transferred to Children’s as we sped (SO FAST) from Whistler to meet him there.

Since Judah was already getting pretty big at that point, they had to temporarily paralyze him, so that he wouldn’t take out his breathing tube on his own- he’s been known to try!

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When koby and I got to this new environment at Children’s, we were shell-shocked, and everything within me wanted to be at our safe, familiar NICU in Surrey. For me, this week was the hardest of this whole journey. We had made it to 4 months, and felt like this was the end.

Judah was again, on death’s doorstep, but became stabilized through the night and the next day they decided to put chest tubes in, one to drain the pnuematocele of air, and another in his lung for the fluid that had built up. Typically this is done in radiology, but as they tried to move him there, he started to crash. So they set up a mini OR, right in the NICU, as I sat and watched on, and waited for Koby to arrive as he was with our other kids.

I’m pretty sure this is the closest to hell I will ever get. To have to sit back and watch your child in a life-saving surgery, while 16 people chased around him (yes I counted), is something I wish on no parent. It’s awful.

But he pulled through again.

Then it was discovered that there was a hole in his lung, that was feeding the pneumatocele, so another procedure or surgery would need to be performed.

What was decided was that Judah would have what’s called ‘selective intubation’- they place the breathing tube down far enough, with a cuff on the bottom of it, so that it only inflates the ‘healthy’ lung, therefore causing the right lung with the pneumatocele to collapse. This is when we started calling Judah the ‘One-Lung Wonder’… he went for 5 days with one lung, still on a lot of support, got pneumonia AGAIN (4th time’s a charm??).

So many times in this journey with Judah I was taken back in awe of how God created our bodies- while the lung is collapsed, it heals up and seals any holes. HOW CRAZY.

So as Judah’s right lung got re-inflated, the pneumatocele went away, and from that point onwards, Judah began to improve MASSIVELY.

We became accustomed to our new environment at Children’s, got moved to a private room (which doesn’t always happen at Children’s!), and continued the rest of our 181 days.

We celebrated Christmas in the hospital with a family visit, all with masks on, as our family got hit with the worst cold/flu right before Christmas. Judah even got to see Santa!!

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Right after Christmas, Judah had surgery for his Gtube to be placed. Another thing that I was so nervous for, but in the end have been so thankful for! It was a quick surgery, that again caused my faith to grow as I kissed him before he was wheeled into the OR- at least he was able to make it over there this time!!

The last few weeks of Judah’s hospital life were full of work for Koby and I- we had about 6 classes of training in order for Judah to be allowed home with us… everything from CPR, to equipment training. We also did 2 full days and nights by ourselves with Judah in hospital called ‘care by parent’, who I felt so funny- like we were first time parents again!!

January 13th 2017 will forever go down in the history books as one of the best days of our lives… the day we got to bring Judah HOME. We felt like we were stealing him! He slept the whole way home, and we were greeted not only by a homemade ‘welcome home’ banner made by my kids (and my mom), but also by the crew from Global. Nothing like filming with a TV crew the day you finally get your baby home after 6 months! HA!

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So here we are- 2 days out from celebrating his 1st birthday and to be honest, ALL WE WANNA DO IS GIVE BACK.

GIVE BACK to the place that GAVE JUDAH LIFE.

GIVE BACK to the place where our faith was tested and stretched.

GIVE BACK to the place and the people, who changed our lives forever.

So on Saturday the 15th, we will be launching a special little celebration for our guy, and we will let you know ways that you can all be involved in the party!!!

Thanks again for following along my friends. This journey has been the farthest thing from ‘easy’, but was do-able because of the grace of God, AND ALL OF YOU!!!

XOXO


Judah’s (Womb &!!!) Birth Story

I cannot believe we are just 4 days away from this boy- this LEGEND of mine- turning ONE! How has an entire year gone by already??!!!

This post will begin a series of 3 posts that I will do this week to celebrate Judah’s birthday. There is such much still to tell of his story, that is really still just beginning, but I figured we would start here- by looking back at my pregnancy with Judah, as well as the story of his birth.

So please BE WARNED: THIS POST CONTAINS IN DEPTH CONTENT ABOUT HIGH-RISK PREGNANCIES, AND ALSO CONTAINS WORDS LIKE ‘BLOOD’ AND ‘BLEEDING’. It is also long, cause well, its a long story! Proceed with caution 😉

Judah’s (womb &!!!) birth story goes a little like this…

On a Saturday night in early February 2016, my husband was headed home after an evening church service and texted me to ask if he should stop to get us a bottle of wine. I told him yes,  but to grab a pregnancy test as well, because I was almost late for my period and didn’t want to drink if I was pregnant. He laughed and obliged.

I took the test- it was negative, so I tossed it in the garbage in our bathroom and had the glass of wine.

Over the weekend I still didn’t get my period and then one evening as I glanced in the garbage in our bathroom, the test had turned positive. I took another one the next day, and it had a very faint line, so I called my midwives who sent me for 2 rounds of blood tests to prove I was pregnant. The first one showed that yes, I was pregnant, and then 4 days later, again another yes- I was definitely pregnant.

So on we went with our excitement- our 4th baby, our ‘rainbow baby’ was set to arrive October 23rd!

Fast forward to 7 weeks of pregnancy. Everything was fine until this one night I was laying on our couch while Koby was upstairs bathing our kids and I felt a huge gush of blood. I felt like I was starting my period and when it didn’t stop, I thought ‘I must be miscarrying’. It eventually stopped, and we were sent for an ultrasound a few days later to find out baby was fine, with a strong heartbeat. Thank you Jesus!

THIS WEEK. This week marks the week that I was due with my baby Joseph, who was born on the hardest day of my life- December 12th, 2015. What his life has taught me (which I am still in the process of learning, seeing as we were back at the ER {AGAIN!} last night with this current baby growing in my belly- all is well, but we definitely need prayer! Back to what God is teaching me through my boy's life): – God is ALWAYS GOOD. PERIOD. – pain and grief are weird and take time, even when life is full of blessings (HELLO baby in my belly right now ❤️) – Trusting God is better. Always. – God's peace HAS TO BE the very best thing we will experience earth-side of eternity – God's plan is always LIFE, and FULLNESS. – God doesn't TAKE AWAY LIFE, He provides peace, and oh SO many gifts amongst life's hardest battles Joseph my son. You were 'due' to come this week, and instead, you slipped into Heaven so peacefully, way too early. I look forward to the day where I meet you and your probably curly hair, your big dreams, and your healed, whole body my sweet boy. I'm so thankful I got to carry you for the days that I did. You are a GIFT to me and to our world 💙 And hey baby in my belly right now, stay in there as long as you can ok?? #Lieschbabies #mycurrentview #peacharchgranniesaremybffs

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Another 2 weeks went by and I believe this time I was in a church service and I felt another gush. I rushed straight home, and this time the bleeding didn’t stop. When I called my midwife, she told me to head to the ER, as I was loosing a lot of blood. This would be the first of 9 or so visits to the ER in this pregnancy. I hemorrhaged at least 3 times in those trips and every single time we were told ‘baby is fine- growing at the right pace, with a strong heart beat’. I was also told that I had subchorionic hematomas- tears within the uterine wall that develop as scar tissue/clots and eventually pass (in the form of clots the size of an orange- its traumatizing to say the least!), but since they were outside of the amniotic sack, they weren’t harming the baby. What we later found out though, is that blood causes the amniotic sack to be fragile and weak… one of my Dr’s also thinks that I had a slow leak of fluid the whole time.

Fast forward again to 19 weeks + 1 day of pregnancy… I woke up early to another huge gush- the biggest one yet and this time it wasn’t too bloody. When we headed to the ER and got all the results back, the ultrasound revealed that baby had little to no fluid. My waters must have broken. I was devastated. Again. We were in the same hospital, possibly even in the same room where we were told that Joseph had no heartbeat- how could this be happening again? And this time I would have to have a csection if baby died… these were the things going through my mind.

My midwives and the OBGYN from the hospital got me in to see the Maternal Fetal Medicine Dr’s in our city later that week- if I could make it that far. Since I was only 19 weeks, they typically didn’t see anyone until around the 23 week mark. I was hoping to see the specialist we had seen with Jacob- our first born- because he is the kindest older gentleman. My midwives told me to be on bed rest until that appointment.

We made it to that Wednesday and got in to see the MFM Dr’s and it was certainly not Dr. Still- the kind man. This Dr was cold and hugely lacked bedside manner. She told us all the info we needed, asked a whole bunch of questions, highly suggested we terminate, and gave us the worst possible outcomes. We were given NO hope, but Hope already lived inside our hearts. She said we’d be lucky to make it to our next appointment in 2 weeks.

When we made it back to the car after that appointment, I cried like I have NEVER cried in my life. It was a desperate plea kind of cry- ONLY GOD could do a miracle in this hopeless situation.

2 days before that next appointment, I woke up to another episode, this time not as big but it was definitely blood. Because I was at 22 weeks and 2 days, my midwives told me to go directly to the birthing unit at the hospital where we were registered at… which we weren’t yet registered at!

Hi friends! So here we are- hospital stay day NINE, and it looks like I will be here a while still! Baby is growing and doing well (despite the low fluid levels… It's really such a miracle!) and so am I, but not good enough to get to go home. I am thoroughly thankful I can stay here, and thankful for the amazing team that is working with us. Thank you for praying- I'm missing my babies like crazy, but whatever it takes to keep this baby inside is what we are all willing to do! Dr's are beginning to agree with us- EVERY, SINGLE, DAY IS A MIRACLE! PS- it looks like I'm going to start a blog to keep you all updated, so STAY TUNED! #pprom #23and3days #mamajenna #babyliesch #filtersaremyfriend #ineedahaircut #andafacial #andahealthybabysoWHOCARES

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After being examined by the team there, they decided to admit me- one of the miracles in this story, because typically they won’t admit anyone until at least 23 weeks, and yes- every day counts. Though this wasn’t ideal, I hung on to the fact that my baby was still alive and well, and we resolved to do whatever we needed to do for the health of our baby. My mom took a leave of absence from her job in a city that was a 3 hour flight away, and came to stay with us for the next 5 weeks. #BESTMAMAEVER

The first few days in the hospital kinda sucked. I was bleeding off and on, checked on and poked by nurses too often (but God bless them for that!), and unfortunately had to share a room with 3 other girls in the course of those 2 nights- one was in early labour at 38 weeks, another whose water had broken but had no signs of labour at full term, and another just like me, who was choosing to terminate. It was heartbreaking.

I held onto hope. Though it was the hardest thing, and I had to continually (like- by the minute!) remind myself – I held onto HOPE.

I finally got placed in a private room, and we were set up for a meeting with one of the Neonatologists (small baby Dr in layman’s terms!) to discuss the potential outcomes for our baby, if he/she came within the coming weeks. He was the kindest, softest-spoken man. He gave us hope, but also gave us the honest statistics that don’t look too good when you’re 22 weeks pregnant with your water broken. He gave us a chart that had the percentage of survival placed next to the percentage of disability. It was shocking to see, and shocking to grasp the reality that this could very well be our story.

Side note- yes I cry when I write this. It’s still so fresh, even a whole year later!!

Over the next 3 weeks, I had visitors and food and Starbucks and obscene amounts of water and coconut water, and thankfully got to see my kids most days. It was hard on our family for sure! I was getting a blood thinner injection twice a day because I was on bedrest. Needles twice a day in my thighs (I knew these thunder thighs were made for a reason!! ????) that hurt like a motherrrrr.

At 23 weeks, I got my first steroid injection, for baby’s lungs to have a chance, and I was getting weekly ultrasounds to check on our growing baby. Finally at the 24 weeks ultrasound, I asked if I could guess the sex… because it’s very hard to see detail when there is little to no fluid, I couldn’t see clearly but guessed BOY, and to my shock and surprise, yep! We also saw miracles in these weeks- my fluid levels were increasing and also decreasing, but there WAS fluid! And it was usually right near Judah’s mouth (the most important spot!). Such a miracle. SO MANY MIRACLES!!!

Fast forward again to 25 weeks and 4 days. I was feeling fine- I would always have a little fluid leak every morning when I would get up to pee, but besides that, I was just bored! This was the day that my mom was scheduled to fly out because grandchild number 12 was due to come the next week back home in Winnipeg for my sister in law. So we said our goodbyes (and thank yous!!! And tears…) and my mom left that evening.

Of course that’s the night when Judah decided to make his appearance!

At around 10pm, I was just settling in to sleep (and was watching Dirty Dancing on my bestie’s DVD player… thank you B!!!) but was getting some cramping/tight pains on one side of my body. I finally got out of bed and tried walking it off, thinking it was just a muscle spasm or something. Keep in mind I have only ever had an 8 hour labour with a 16-weeker and dilated to 8cm, so I still felt new to this whole labour thing! I gave it 10 minutes, and when it didn’t go away, I finally called the nurse.

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She decided to monitor the baby with the straps around my belly- something they don’t typically do until the 26 week mark, but we needed to see how baby was so we gave it a shot. Baby’s heart rate was fine, but then about an hour in to monitoring, I could feel that I was starting to gush blood again, and this time it was a non-stop flow.

The Dr’s were called in around midnight, and I was examined, and that’s when baby’s heart rate started to drop… I thought we were going to loose him. The Dr that was on that night looked me in the eye and said ‘Jenna, I think it’s best we get baby out tonight’. I felt such peace to be honest. I was sort of excited too and scared- it would mean that we turn a page in this journey… onto the next chapter. A new fight. Not knowing what the next few hours held.

Of course I couldn’t get ahold of Koby, so I had to call my mother in law to get to our house to be with our other kids. Thankfully Koby finally answered his phone (he is a heavy sleeper!) and got to the hospital just as I was being wheeled down to the OR.

Our 1 pound, 14 ounce baby boy was born at 3:33am, and as far as csections go, everything was fine.

I got to see his little hand as they wheeled him out of the OR and up to the NICU- Koby went off with him. I can’t describe in words what was going through my heart and mind in those moments as the Dr’s stitched me up and talked about their kids’ private schools. It was a very surreal night, and as I type this, it’s like I’m re-living it in a different way. #TEARS

I was wheeled over to recovery where Koby came back in to see me. He felt like there wasn’t much he could do- there was like 20 people in a room trying to save our boy so he wanted to stay out of the way and be with me. We sat in silence (the recovery room is quite peaceful at 4am!), and prayed and waited.

Our amazing Dr- Judah’s first neonatologist- the one who delivered him, came in to see us in recovery. We had first met her in the OR, where she was so kind and proceeded to tell us that he wasn’t doing well- his lungs were so underdeveloped and things didn’t look good. When she came down to recovery, nothing had changed- they were still trying to help him as much as possible.

I was wheeled back to my room after being in recovery for about an hour and that’s when she came again, to tell us that things were still not looking good – they were trying all different types of ventilators for his lungs, and she added that our little boy was ‘very ferocious’.

Koby was then called by the NICU at around 7am to come and see him and I knew in my heart they were getting him to come because it was bad. He was told to hold our baby’s hand cause he had minutes to live. I was in my room, alone, laying there with God- begging him for life and hope for our boy. Praying like I never had before. Worshipping and singing cause that’s all I knew to do. Sensing the presence of God like I never have before. 15 minutes went by, and Koby finally came back… no change, but our baby boy still had LIFE. Just barely.

A few minutes later, a nurse came in and told me that I had to go to the NICU- to get out of bed 5 hours after a csection is NOT recommended so I knew something was up. We were met at the door to my room by the social worker from the NICU- Koby ran ahead. The social worker ran me over to the NICU in a wheelchair (actually RAN) and I remember that moment…. that’s when the fight rose in me. Under my breath, I was saying ‘I will NOT loose my baby. Not now.’

I was wheeled in to see my boy for the first time and what got me crying, really, was seeing ALL the people- this team that was working so hard to help my boy. I can’t even explain HOW MUCH I LOVE THEM ALL. #sherlockstayedhourspasthershift

I tearfully thanked them, and then went in to his room, with all his machines and beeps and alarms- this new environment that was so SO scary- and was told to put my hand on my baby.

We still hadn’t decided on a name yet, so when the social worker asked me what his name was so she could put it on his wall, I looked at Koby and he said ‘you decide!’. Up until a few days prior to his arrival, we had thought his name would be ‘Jentzen’ (one of our favourite preachers), but it just wasn’t sticking. So when Koby gave me the go ahead, I blurted out ‘JUDAH! His name is Judah!’. And she wrote his name on the wall. I had stopped crying at that point and what came out of me was like a primal motherly instinct. As I placed my hand on him, I began to softly talk to him- over all the beeping and loud sounds of the machines, we needed some peace. I told him ‘mama’s here buddy- it’s ok- you’re strong- Jesus loves you’. You can see a video of this below… And I still do the same thing with him today ❤

The details of Judah’s first 6 months of life- 181 days to be exact, will come in a few days in the next post.

Please note this photo below, is of Judah on day 2/3, after he had been washed up a bit!

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Thanks so much for reading friends!!! We’ll see you back here in a couple of days XO


#FaithFridays – What A Difference A Year Can Make

This week marks one year, since we found out at 19 weeks and 1 day of pregnancy with Judah (not even at the halfway mark), that my water had broken- there was ‘little to no fluid’ left for the baby.

I was put on ‘unofficial bedrest’ (cause they don’t actually do that anymore?), my mom flew in to help, and I stayed in my bed and drank A LOT of water (and coconut water, and watermelon… you get the theme!).

But I just remember this week last year being a pivotal week, not only in the history of our family and in Judah’s whole story, but for my faith.

At that point, it had only been 5 months since I lost Joseph (you can read THAT story here), so every day while I was lying in bed praying for Judah (although I didn’t know it was a boy at that point!), I would still see Joseph’s birth card on the wall, and his little ultrasound picture, right by my side of the bed, and the scripture I wrote out for Judah right under it-

“Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19

I remember praying for God to do a NEW THING in this pregnancy, and boy did He ever. I remember praying for big things like LIFE and WHOLENESS for this baby, and for me. I remember praying to make it to 28 weeks. I remember remember praying for the simple things like making it to the day of this baby’s dedication- it was a DREAM, and now its HERE.

This weekend, we will dedicate Judah to God, in the presence of friends and family, at a place I have called home for 15 years- Relate Church. And yes- you can watch online by clicking here at 11:40am PST on Sunday morning!

What a difference a year can make!

This week, this year, I am a ball of MUSH… Last Sunday we got to take the kids on a quick little getaway to our favourite place and brought them for the first time to the PanPacific in Whistler. It was such a dream!

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Monday was June’s pre-school graduation, today is Jacob’s kindergarten graduation AND my oldest nieces 17th birthday (the beautiful girl that MADE me an auntie!), and on Sunday Judah will be dedicated.

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So needless to say, I’ve been slightly emotional all week, and so for some reason I felt lead to go back and listen to an album that I haven’t listened to in a while.

As I had some alone time (PRECIOUS alone time… #momof4), I put on the Hillsong United album Empires, and I felt like God took me on this little journey again with these words in these songs. This was one of the albums that I would have playing in my car on the way to the hospital when Judah was really sick, and was what would be in my ears while sitting by his bedside. These are some of the first songs that Judah ever heard me sing… these words…

Here now… still my heart, let Your voice be all I hear now… fix my eyes on the things that I can’t see now… Spirit breathe like the wind come have Your way… cause I know You’re in this place…’

‘Say the word and there is light- say the word and dead bones rise… every start and end hangs on Your voice- for Your word never returns void…’

‘Even when my strength is lost, I’ll praise You… even when I have no song, I’ll praise You… even when its hard to find the words, louder then I’ll sing Your praise… take this mountain weight, take these ocean tears… hold me through the trial, come like hope again… even when the fight seems lost, I’ll praise You… even when it hurts like hell, I’ll praise You… even when it makes no sense to sing, louder then I’ll sing Your praise… Lord my heart burns only for You, You are all, You are all I want… and my soul waits only for You, and I will sing till the miracle comes… even when the morning comes, I’ll praise You… even when the fight is won, I’ll praise You…’

‘Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war, when night screams terror there Your voice will roar, come death or shadow God I know Your light will meet me there… when fear comes knocking there You’ll be my guide, when day breeds trouble there You’ll hold my heart, come storm or battle God I know Your peace will meet me there…’

I remember a year ago, listening to these songs in my bed, laying my hands on my belly, and RESOLVING in my spirit that these words that ring true to the unfailing word of God, would be the ‘thoughts and intents of my heart’- no matter where this journey would lead us.

And now a year later, in my van driving through Burnaby, I have realized the truths in these songs yet again…

He was there with me by Judah’s bedside and He is STILL with me now in this season that still has so much unknown, and so much fear that tries to slide in daily. And He is lifting the fears… I no longer brace myself daily for emergencies. I no longer wear a bra at night ‘in case’ our nurses have to come get me in the middle of the night… TMI?? HA!

God is so faithful my friends. He was faithful when I lost Joseph, He was faithful when Judah was on death’s doorstep (several times!), and He is faithful now when we are about to bring him to church to be dedicated- HE IS FAITHFUL!

I pray that wherever you are- wherever you find yourself at today when you read this- that you feel encouraged to KEEP BELIEVING, KEEP PRAYING, KEEP HOPING, KEEP TRUSTING God… He is so good!

Happy weekend to ya!

 


‘Dear Mom’- Hospital-Mom Edition

Dear Hospital Mom,
I see you, hospital mom.
I see you and your freshly birthed body, being wheeled down to the NICU to see your unexpected journey for the first time.
I see your tired eyes from watching numbers all day long.
I see you here, again, for the 8351st appointment for your toddler and your frustration that ‘they just can’t figure out what’s wrong’ with your sweet baby.
I see you coming in and out of the Oncology department, trying to give every ounce of joy left in you, to your bald and sick 7 year old.
I see your tears and your anger and your thankfulness mixed with frustration and your moments of joy amidst the trial.
I see you sitting by the bedside of your 16 year old in palliative care- where you’ve been for the last 8 years.
I see you changing your paralyzed toddler’s position every 2 hours in ICU, just to give her the best spot to breathe.
I see you making friends with nurses and therapists and specialists- these angels that care for our babies.
I see you snuggling your 10 year old boy, in his little bed, singing for him again.
I see you, fighting for your kid’s very life- fighting for your own life too.
I see you hospital mom, and can I just say- YOU’RE MY HERO.
You’re my hero because you got out of bed this morning.
You’re my hero because you do ALL THESE THINGS, and so much more.
You’re my hero because you are your kid’s biggest and best advocate.
You’re my hero because at the same time of being a hospital mom, you’re a soccer mom and a ballet mom and a school drop off mom and a teenaged-drama mom and a cheerios-on-the-floor mom. You’re a wife and a sister and a friend and a co-worker that misses working. You’re so much more too.
You’re my hero because you aren’t doing it ‘right’, you aren’t doing it ‘wrong’, you’re just doing IT. You’re going through the motions because that’s all you can do.
You’re my hero because you have given SO MUCH of yourself and put your life on hold.
I see you, hospital mom.
And I champion you. I encourage you to keep it up. Get up AGAIN. Push hard AGAIN. Show up AGAIN. Choose joy AGAIN. Do another appointment, give another med, challenge another diagnosis.

I say ‘KEEP GOING, KEEP GOING, KEEP GOING, KEEP GOING, KEEP GOING….’.
I see you, hospital mom. You’re OUR hero, and I wish I could buy you a coffee (make it a Venti), AND a massage today ❤ May you know how amazing you are XO