Friday, November 07, 2008

This wasn't how I pictured it...

Last Christmas, when I found out that Casey, one of my best friends, was pregnant, I was so excited! I got a phone call later in the evening on Christmas from Dan and he shared about one of the gifts Casey had gotten him and then he said something about "when I have a child...which might be sooner, rather than later." I sort of paused because sometimes when you hear words like that, you instantly go to "Are y'all pregnant?!," however, I didn't want to jump to conclusions since I knew that they weren't really "trying" at the time. Finally, after a few more moments of neither of us talking, I said it... "Dan, are y'all pregnant?" Yes. They were. It wasn't how I pictured it.

He shared the story of how Casey told him about their coming little one.
I cried and I heard the sounds of my other friends who were there with them while I was in the mountains, back home, with my family. I am thankful for my family, of course, but I was sad I couldn't be there for the occasion. I thought I would be there with them when they would tell us they were going to have their first baby. It just wasn't how I pictured it.

As the months went by, Casey had some physical sickness, but mainly, fears and restlessness as she pursued the thoughts and changes in becoming a mother. I think we all think we're going to be good at it when we get our chance. Its tempting to believe that since I'm older than most who are having kids these days, that when my turn comes, I'll have it figured out and I'll get to have this smooth, question-free pregnancy... Casey is the oldest of 9 children and has so much knowledge... but she still had fears, worries, concerns. It just wasn't how I pictured it.

The spring came and it was finally time for them to find out the gender of this precious gift being knit together in her womb. Because of scheduling, Kristin and I were able to figure a way to go with them to the appointment to find out. What a gift! The doctor said some funny, but awkward things (that we all still laugh about to this day) and finally, it was time. That sound came... and I cried. However, the little baby just wouldn't position itself so we could see the gender. The doctor tried and tried and finally, he just suggested they wait it out a few more weeks and come to try again. It just wasn't how I pictured it.

Dan and Casey did some research and found out about a place, Prenatal Peek, and again, we waited and hoped to find out more... but instead, left feeling discouraged because the baby wouldn't cooperate, and the nurse was probably saying more than she should have. She mentioned the spine to us, but then basically left us in our own stewing thoughts by dropping comments like "well, I can't see the whole spine, so that might be spina bifida." You can't just drop comments like that if you don't know or aren't ready to share more information. It was very upsetting. It definitely wasn't how I pictured it.

The summer came and God made a way for Dan and Casey to move downtown... to the house right beside us! We were so happy! It felt like we weren't going to have to miss any of the fun details now! In early June, they got a call from their doctor who said the nurse at Prenatal Peek had called with some concerns she had during their second try there to find the gender. The doctor's office decided it was time to run some tests and get some higher level ultrasounds done.
The results were silencing. It wasn't how I pictured it.

The rest of the summer was spent in a flurry of doctor's appointments, decisions, and emotions. We prayed and prayed for understanding and clarity. Dan and Casey fought for joy and normalcy and waited. There was genetic counseling, doctor changes, hospital changes, the works. It wasn't how I pictured it.

Casey used this time to really reach out and blog often about all the appointments and be a good source of knowledge for those of us trying to follow the details of this soon coming one. My niece or nephew. She wrote a letter to the baby that still makes me cry. I write letters sometimes to my future husband or children, but they are always attached to the assumption that they will exist. That God has no other plan than to give them to me. This was very eye-opening to me. It wasn't how I pictured it.

Finally, we got to see a few more photos of Sweet Baby.

Even still, as the picture shows, the identity was kept from us.
At this point, it was much safer to choose the option of having the amniocentesis done. Previously, because of the risks involved with the womb, they had decided against having it (even though that meant they wouldn't have to wait anymore on the gender) because they wanted to protect the baby's life as long as possible. The womb was safe and they wanted to keep it that way.

The Sunday before the amnio, we had a baby shower for Casey. Because there were so many unknowns, we wanted to devote much of the time to prayer and singing. We also had a money tree available for gifts. What a blessing to be a part of a church who pours out on one another in times of need. It was really special.
Here's the quilt several of us made for Casey.

So, Casey had the amnio. They were told that full results wouldn't be known for about 2 weeks. This could clear up most unknowns about the Trisomy possibilities as well as the definite gender of the baby. However, God saw fit to answer one big question the very next day.
Asher Daniel Chappell. They were having a boy.

Our hearts rejoice and we cried and worshiped. What a gift! This was Tuesday, August 5th.

On Saturday morning, August 9th, several us met for breakfast at Big Ed's in downtown Raleigh. I had never been, but Alicia's dad was visiting for the weekend from Florida, and he really loves that place. Alicia had it planned and after the gym, Heather and I met the rest of the group over there. It was fun, and we just ate and laughed and talked about this funny little boy named Asher.

I left the restaurant and went on to my part-time job at church.

With just about 1 hour or so left of work to do, I get a phone call.
It's Dan.

"Casey's water broke. We're going to the hospital."

I gasped. I couldn't believe it! She was just about 3 weeks early at this point.
As I was getting of the phone with Dan, Kristin called. "Casey's water broke." I told her that Dan had just called me and I was on my way home. When I drove up, Casey was putting her bag in the trunk. We both looked at each other with amazed surprise. It was exciting and scary at the same time. The time was here - but early. It wasn't what I pictured.

Kristin and I followed (for all of about 2 miles) behind Dan) then had to stop for gas. I'm convinced we couldn't have caught him anyway. I understand.
We got ahold of Heather (to have her call the community group) and Alicia (who was at the gym with her dad) and kept on our way. We talked on the phone to people the rest of the way to UNC-Chapel Hill Hospital - everyone needed directions and information. :) Thankfully, God kept us both patient with folks.

We arrived and checked in. We gathered in the waiting room with Dan's parents and watched as God brought more and more friends in to take part. We cried, we prayed, we laughed, we ate... a lot. Dan and I still laugh about his tray in the hospital cafeteria. What a random mix (and plethera!) of food. Ha Ha. Nervousness.

Casey was just beautiful. She was waiting in triage for a while because had snacked on some M&M's in the afternoon after telling Kristin she just wasn't feeling that great. (This was before her water broke.) I went back to see her and we just listened to Asher's heartbeat and chatted about how amazed we were and how grownup this felt. It was really special.

I tried to keep up their blog for the hundreds (I'm sure!) people who were watching and waiting for the news. Finally, they scheduled her C-Section for 8:00. At 8:30, Dan called and said they were finally getting things ready and he was about to go back.

We fell to our knees. From 8:30-9:00 we prayed to the Creator of Life. We pleaded for Asher's life. We pleaded for Casey's life. We begged God for comfort for Dan and steady hands for the hospital staff.

Shortly after the birth, Dan walked into the room.
He was so calm and looked as if he had just watched a miracle. He had. His son had been born.

At 9:08 on 8/09/08, Asher Daniel Chappell born at 5 pounds 5 ounces, 17 inches long.

He only lived for about a minute.
This definitely wasn't how I pictured it.

We wept together and looked at photos Dan had taken from the operating room. The first Chappell family photos. He was so little and just so beautiful.

We spent some time waiting together and crying. We updated friends and family and waited to be able to go back to see Casey and Asher. Finally it was time.

When I pictured the first time I would hold this precious one, I never thought it would be like this. I always imagined tears, but I wanted to see victory in life. I wanted to hold him and proclaim God's victory over sickness in his life. This wasn't how I pictured holding him for the first time.

God chose something different. He chose to glorify His name in a whole different way.

The days that followed were painful and tiring. We visited Casey everyday and tried our hardest to serve them and pray for them. We slept little and cried often. Our bodies were weak and we were very weary. The day after the birth, I went to church and participated in one of the sweetest moments our church has experienced. You see, we are one baby-making church. Asher was to be one of 14 new babies to come to TCC in the year.
Now there are even more. Not less, more! God is glorious.
Our Pastor, Sean Cordell, who labored with us at the hospital for hours as well, stood before his congregation to declare the good works of the Lord. That week, God had given TCC three babies.

~Josiah James was born to Jeremy and Amanda Massey on Sunday, August 3rd.
~Asher Luke was born to Adam and Stephanie Saxon on Thursday, August 7th.
~Asher Daniel was born to Dan and Casey Chappell on Saturday, August 9th... but was returned to Jesus moments later.
Some folks gasped, most just burst into tears like me.
Pastor Sean immediately reminded the church that we still rejoice because God is perfect. He did not make a mistake in this life.
He had us gather in groups and pray for Dan and Casey. While this was going on, Dan and Casey were saying goodbye to their sweet one for the last time. They were able to keep him overnight and woke up for family devotions before having him carried away. I'm quite certain that this was not how they had pictured it.

We prepared for the memorial service and burial. Family was coming from out of town and many many hand were working tirelessly on the details of the week.

The service was amazing. About 500 people were there to worship the Creator and thank him for this gift of life. Dan shared from the podium about his life as a father - and how Casey had never been more beautiful to him than those last 37 weeks. It was very special and the music and preaching were water for our souls.

There were so many people there who some of us hadn't seen in a long time. God is faithful.

Now, it's been three months.
Dan and Casey are still fighting for joy in all things and are living their lives in pursuit of a great God who has not left them nor forsaken them. Some days are really hard and most days, I just don't know what to say to them.

Kristin shared beautifully about the ideas she had in watching this little one grow. I had some of the same visions... thinking on how fun it would be to have them so close and be able to grab him up and tickle him, play with him, shower him with gifts and toys... I feel like I had so many things to tell him.

And now, when I want to see him, I have these...

I don't get to watch him outgrow his baby clothes, learn to potty, play with Blue the dog, catch a ball, have his first birthday... This isn't how I pictured it.

But I am sure of one thing. God did not make a mistake.
He has not left Dan and Casey.
He has not forgotten them.
Their grief is not wasted.

And we will see Asher again.
He is safe.


Josh and Donna said...

so sweet and hearfelt. love you.

Jarrod, Dawn, Trevor and Mackenzie said...

It's funny how not a day goes by that I don't think about him! What a big impact he made in such a short time:-)

Amber said...

Thanks Nicole for the post... life doesn't always turn out the way we picture it, but no matter what God is so good and perfect. Thanks again..

stef said...

aww, Nicole, Casey is so blessed to have a friend who will walk so closely with her, care and dream with her! I have felt that way so many times, this is not the way I pictured it, and all the dreams, anticipated moments to have with my babies... and what they would look like? God pictured it a different way, an extremely sorrowful, painful, stretching way and I wouldn't take nothing for my journey now.
love, love you! and this post!

also, saw rosalie at target (random) tonite.

Kathleen said...

what a sweet auntie you are!