Leslie's Story | Reid

           I was thrilled to find out I would be expecting my first child, especially since I was in my early 30s. However, it was not a picture perfect pregnancy. I was nauseous from the beginning. By the 2nd trimester, I had high blood pressure and was put on blood pressure medicine. I ended up on bed rest with 5 weeks left in my pregnancy. Throughout the nine months, I had numerous doctors’ visits to be monitored and sent to the hospital to listen to Reid’s heartbeat. The doctors never mentioned that Reid was in danger though. They never made me worry that I was in danger either.  Due to my blood pressure, my doctor scheduled me for a c-section for week 38 but that ended up not being God’s plan for us.

           On the night of July 25, I began having severe pain in my side (liver area) and my blood pressure was 200 over 120 (stroke level). I told Trey to take me to Huntsville Hospital. When we got checked in, the doctor on call was hoping to get my blood pressure down and I could be induced the next morning. The next thing I knew they rushed me to the operating room for an emergency c-section. I remember music playing and the nurses were talkative. I was calm but confused because I knew I needed help from the pain, but I could not believe Reid was about to be born!

           Reid was born at 1:16am on July 26, 2011. Reid was not crying. The doctor put Reid up next to my face to let me quickly feel him. Reid was pale and limp. His breathing was shallow and barely there. Trey and the doctor rushed out. No one said a word to me and I was confused. I no longer heard laughter, or talking or music. It was an eerie feeling, but I could not form questions to ask. I was in shock.

           A team of nurses surrounded me and wheeled my hospital bed to the NICU to see my baby. He was surrounded by NICU nurses. I touched his hand and then I was taken to recovery. It would be 48 hours before I saw my baby again. I continued to struggle due to preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Thankfully, my husband was able to hold Reid, bond with him, and give me updates. Finally, the nurses took me in a wheelchair to see him and hold him for the first time! He was perfect!

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            Reid had breathing episodes during his NICU stay. He was over 5 pounds but needed to learn to suck, swallow and breathe all at once. They called his episodes turning “dusky” and if he had one of these episodes the countdown to come home would start over for an additional 5 days. As a NICU parent, you have to go through the same routine every visit: check the vitals, unhook the machines, record their temperature, and then finally get to hold your baby. Trey and I gave him his first bath at a baby bathing station in the NICU right next to other NICU families. Visiting my baby from my wheelchair became my routine for the first week. The day I was discharged and left my 6 day old at the hospital and went home without my baby in my arms was devastating.

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           The second week of his life was a similar schedule. Only this time I had family and friends that graciously drove me to visit him during his NICU visiting hours, because I was released to go home but could not drive. Reid continued to have a couple more dusky episodes but by day 14 he was supposed to come home. On what was supposed to be his last night in the NICU, Reid was running a low fever. Mommy instincts kicked in and I had this overwhelming feeling that he was not coming home the next day.  The nurse reassured me that everything was ok, so I gave him my love and yet again left one more time empty handed.

          The worst missed phone call ever came in the middle of the night on August  8 when I got up to make bottles, and the NICU nurse said call us immediately. They said, “Mrs. Jennings we need you and your husband to come in as soon as you can. Reid has a 102 fever and a red rash all over his body. He is very sick.” Two doctors met us at the NICU door. One hugged me with a tear in her eye and told me we almost lost your son during the night. Dr. Dworsky met my husband and told him to sign papers for a spinal tap. They were concerned it was bacterial meningitis. This was a gut wrenching heartache. We were stunned.

         We walked back to intensive to see Reid’s hands and feet drawn in and an IV attached to the top of his head. We reassured him that his mommy and daddy were there and then we had to go make phone calls. We sat on the curb of the hospital, called family and cried. We felt helpless and lost and did not want to leave the hospital.

        I took Trey by the hand and we went to the hospital chapel and prayed for our baby! We prayed for God to give him the strength to fight through this sickness!   

             Our family came for support and provided us with a hotel room near Huntsville Hospital. We received so much love, support, gift cards and most importantly prayers for our baby! We spent the next 48 hours praying that the test would come back negative. For 48 hours we were told that no news is good news, and the longer it took the results to come back the better news it was for Reid. Visiting hours were even more restricted and I could not hold my baby for a few days once again. I sat by his bed crying and telling him I was sorry that I hadn’t protected him, but that we had lots of people praying. I continued to hope and pray God would protect him. Once the 48 hours cleared, we counted each hour as a blessing of good news. They decided it must have been something viral. On day 21 we were finally able to bring our baby home on August 15. God answered our prayers!

            My miracle baby is now a healthy 6 year old in Kindergarten. He is full of life and personality. I am thankful God made him a fighter! I am looking forward to watching the life God has planned for this NICU baby of mine!

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           NICU experiences are lonely and scary. When Amanda asked me about Bundles of Hope, I did not hesitate to say yes because this is my opportunity to pay it forward. Bundles of Hope gift cards and warm meals at the NICU waiting area help these families feel like they have the support system that we were so blessed to have. It gives them a few moments of relief from their reality. I was surrounded by family and friends from the day I was put on bed rest to the day we brought him home. I thank God for that support system for lifting Trey and me up and praying for our son! Some people do not have that support and Bundles of Hope is our way to give back.

-Leslie

To get your tee benefitting The Bundles of Hope Fund, visit our online shop here. All "Carry Each Other's Burdens" tees, "My God is Mighty" tees, and the "Beautiful and Beloved" tees will benefit this precious cause. Last day to purchase from this pre-sale is Sunday, April 29! 

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His Flock

A couple of weeks ago, on a random weekday, five women left their busy (and I mean BUSY) homes (and about thirteen children total) to sit down with a warm cup of coffee and chat about their ministries. Ashley and I met with Amanda, Leslie and Kelly, the trio behind the fairly new and local non profit, Bundles of Hope

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Bundles of Hope ministers to families who have children in the care of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Huntsville Hospital. When we sat down with these three amazing women, I already knew that they collected and donated restaurant gift cards, since these parents would be away from home during so many meals as they visited their sweet babies. I also knew they helped to provide gas gift cards, which would allow parents transportation from home to hospital. Some families living over 60 miles away from their dear children who had not been able to leave the place where they first entered this world. 

What I didn't realize, though, is that this triad of women are often times providing the very glue to hold these parents together. They not only donate gift cards for families to eat with, but they often serve warm and delicious meals with their very own hands. They told us stories about how they would sit and hold a mother as she cried in fear of the future. Leslie recalled a time when she bonded with a man whose grandchild was fighting for his life in the NICU. This man not only ached for the sweet child, but for his own children who were dealing with the pain of watching their new bundle of joy battle his way out of the hospital. 

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These women not only take the burden off of these families so they don't have to think about where their next meal is coming from, but they help carry the load of anxiety and worry by listening to their fears and providing words of hope.

Why? Because Amanda, Leslie and Kelly were all once there, sitting in the same chairs, pacing the very same halls. They each had children of their own battling, surviving and fighting their way back into their parents' arms. They know they are the lucky ones. They realize not all are so blessed to bring their children home to their houses. Unfortunately for some, a few sweet angels are carried by their Savior's tender arms to the gates of Heaven.  Whatever the outcome, this ministry never lets these families lose hope, and reminds them that, no matter what, Christ will never leave them to carry this weight alone.

My son and I walk to school most mornings and pass a small pond along our way. It's a popular resting spot for geese as they are migrating one way or the other. Liam loves to hear them honking and he giggles and tells me that the geese are fighting with one another. I agree, since I'm no wiser. One day he asked me why geese always fly in a "V" while other birds fly alone or in bunches. I didn't know the answer, so he tasked me with researching geese while he was busy at school. 

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A quick google search and I had all I've ever needed to know about geese right before my eyes.

Goosebumps swept up my arms. Immediately thinking of Amanda, Leslie and Kelly as I read about geese and their amazing display of teamwork, loyalty, encouragement and compassion. 

For you scholars who already know everything there is to know about geese- bear with me. For the rest of you, who like me, let geese be without scrutinizing their every move... GET THIS-

Volunteers serving dinner to families of NICU babies. 

Volunteers serving dinner to families of NICU babies. 

Geese fly in a "V" because it conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The geese take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. Therefore, the geese can fly for long periods before they must stop to rest. These women were once tending children in the NICU, tired and weary. Now that they are in the next chapter, they have moved to the front of the flock to carry the load and help relieve some of the stress from those that are now in the chapter they once knew. 

Geese honk at each other as they fly to encourage one another. They are constantly letting the ones in front know that they are still behind them, still in the journey and encouraging one another to keep flying. Bundles of Hope not only sits with these families and shares stories of struggle and triumph, but they pass along hand written notes from former NICU children. Physical proof that hope exists. 

My favorite fact about geese is the one that surprised me and touched me the most. Scientists have discovered that if one goose becomes ill, is shot or injured, and drops out of the formation, two other geese will fall out of formation and remain with the weakened goose.  They will stay with and protect the injured goose from predators until it is able to fly again or it passes away. Then the two geese will again take to the sky to find another flock to fly with, encourage and support.

A beautiful picture of the Body of Christ found in something as simple and ordinary as a flock of flying geese. 

Supporting each other, encouraging and serving one another when one is weak and never leaving one of our brethren behind as they fight their own battles.  

"Carry each other's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2.

Leslie, Amanda, and Kelly

Leslie, Amanda, and Kelly

These three women, and the Bundles of Hope ministry, may not be sharing the gospel to each of the families with words, but they are the Body of Christ made tangible within the walls of Huntsville Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Waiting Room. And making those sometimes scary halls a heck of a lot brighter with their shining, smiling faces.

Hop on over to our shop to purchase your tees to benefit the Bundles of Hope fund. All "Carry Each Other's Burdens", "My God is Mighty" children's tees, and the limited edition peach "Beautiful and Beloved" tees will benefit Bundles of Hope. 

Want to do even more? Volunteer to serve, donate a food or gas gift card by emailing Bundles of Hope at bundlesofhopefund@gmail.com or visit their Facebook page! 

Love and Blessings, 

Anna