Adventures in Thailand

Time sure does seem to fly when your having fun. The past several weeks have flown by in a flash. As each week passes we learn more and more about this beautiful country, the amazing people and our school community. We get asked often how we are transitioning and how our kids are doing. I am so thankful to say they are thriving and doing better than we expected. We owe all the praise to God for the amazing changes we have seen in our children during this transition.

Fall break was at the end of September. We originally decided to do a staycation and explore more of Singapore during this time. A couple nights before break we made a spur of the moment decision to go to Thailand instead. We knew that if we stayed in Singapore we would continue to dive into work and not spend the much needed time as a family with Dawson and Ellie Anna.

I know going to Thailand sounds extremely expensive. Thankfully, it’s very cheap. That’s one of the amazing benefits of living in Southeast Asia. (As an example: Flying to Thailand and staying for four nights is cheaper than driving to Branson for a weekend if you live in Arkansas or driving to Corpus Christi to the beach for a weekend if you live in San Antonio.) Little did we know the spontaneous trip to Thailand was just what our hearts needed.

While in Thailand Nick and I realized very fast how much time we have wasted the past few years not making memories with our kids. We let the hustle and bustle of work take over. It was a blessing to have the opportunity to hop away to Thailand and make some unforgettable memories. I think we all laughed more during our time in Thailand than we have in a very long time. The memories we are getting to make are something I will forever cherish. The icing on the cake on our trip was on the last night. Dawson and Ellie Anna both stated at different times that they were ready to go back “home” to Singapore and that they missed the condo.

It was eye opening to hear our children call Singapore home on their own and out of the blue. It was the affirmation that we needed. The four of us are all in this together. No matter where God takes us, we will continue to follow his lead. When we were trying to decide to take the leap of faith and come to Singapore a good friend of ours urged us to not worry about leaving “Home”. He told us that a home can be built anywhere, but “HOME” is wherever we are together. Looking back, that seemed so impossible, but it is something now we will never forget.

As time passes by, we fall more in love with this country, our amazing school family, and the students we get to serve. This past week I got a first hand look at just how much some of our students rely/need our school family. A student of mine received the devastating news that his family would unexpectedly be moving back to his passport country. Singapore is the main country this student knows. He depends highly on our school family. All the hard work and love the amazing previous and present teachers at ICS have put into shaping this student is evident. Tough times are ahead for this student, but I pray he doesn’t lose his way.  I pray he keeps his eyes on christ when all odds are against him. I pray he realizes his worth when he feels his family does not. I pray that over the next several months, God paves a way for him to finish high school. Most importantly, I pray for his safety and for him to fully give his heart to God and walk with the Lord in the trying days ahead. I will never forget this student as well as many others.

This situation was a great reminder to me that as teachers we are blessed with the opportunity to shape the future generation and to instill the core values of what we dream our nation to be. Most importantly we have the opportunity to be there for the ones lost and show them God’s unconditional love. We can help them pick up the missing pieces when they stumble upon the wrong path. We can shower them with kindness and love as they try to figure out where they fit in this crazy big world. Everyone deserves kindness and love no matter what walk of life they come from. Your past doesn’t define who you are. What matters is who you become and the next steps you take. When life throws our student lemons, as teachers, we should help them make the best lemonade they possibly can.

Until next time….. Here’s a video of our Thailand adventures.

Sending much love and prayers to all our family and friends. We miss you all dearly!

Life in a fish bowl

This summer our family attended training in Mississippi to be commissioned as missionaries and prepare for our new journey in Singapore. Over the course of a week we listened to several devotions on “Living life in a fish bowl”. That statement didn’t make much since at the time, but now hits home. We are definitely in a fish bowl trying our hardest to swim while everyone around us is just staring to see what these American fish do next. There are times we decide to venture out and end up lost because we listened to directions from each other. In moments like these when we are all tired, miserable, grouchy and sweating like crazy, Nick or I will randomly say “fish bowl”.  It’s a reality check as a family. We are christians, but we aren’t perfect. Life can be messy and no one is perfect. The truth is we are learning to swim in the biggest fish bowl we have ever seen and adapt to a new country at the same time.

Over the past two months our lives have definitely been shaken up. It’s been quite an experience to say the least.  Living in a foreign country and all the unexpected challenges that it brings has now become a reality . We have made some amazing memories so far, but there are some moments that just knock you straight down. The one thing that our little family has discussed is how much we took things for granted in America. It’s been beautiful and humbling for all four of us to learn to live a much simpler life. (Singapore is an amazing country and is highly advanced. Things are available, they are just extremely expensive.)

Gone are the easy trips to our favorite Target, the frequent visits to Chick-Fila, walking in a  grocery store that has all the items needed to make our simple go-to family meals, the convenience of hopping in our van to go places, weekends spent on the soccer field with those that are dear to our hearts, the quick trips down the road to visit with friends or the 10 hour drive to see our family. All these options once seemed like a “must do or have”. We do truly miss our “old” life, but as of today none of us would change the “new” life we are learning to live now. We all feel God has the four of us right where he wants us.

I am not going to lie though, when I go from grocery store to grocery store just to find the ingredients that are actually affordable that my family with too many allergies can eat, or when I try to think of a million reasons to get Ellie to try a new food (because nothing  looks like our “Texas” food to her), or when I fight the never ending battle of stupid ants that some how make it up 19 floors to our condo, or when I have no choice but to use the squatter toilets at a public restroom and almost fall in the hole, or when I sweat to death daily in my non air-conditioned restroom and kitchen, or when I  accidentally set off our bidet (which I have since had Nick uninstall) while cleaning the toilet and it squirts me in the face and floods our bathroom….I can’t help but think for a couple minutes, “JESUS, JESUS WHY MEEEEE!” Putting all the endless laughs we have endured behind, this journey we are on has slowly started to change us deep within. And that’s a blessing.

In just the short time we have been here, we reflect back often on our life in America. It’s easy to realize now just how materialistic life can become in the blink of our eyes, how much we as Americans take for granted, how insensitive or judgmental we can be of other cultures, how much money we throw away, how much food we waste and just how selfish we can be.

As a family in a new country, we are adjusting well. The glory of it all is our life has completely changed from what it was a few months ago and we are all just fine. I have had to make some decisions in my life as a super overprotective mother that 2 months ago I would have never done. God has truly worked in my heart and has given me so much peace.

Back home we lived in a very nice and safe neighborhood, but we still always kept our kiddos close by. Dawson didn’t really play outside without adult supervision, go the store, park, ride the bus, or walk home from school alone. It’s taken several weeks for us to accept the fact that it is the culture and is perfectly normal in Singapore. I am so thankful Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world. (The laws are super strict.) With a lot of prayer we have adapted in this specific area of our life. It’s helped Dawson with adjusting to the culture as well. Dawson has made good friends with a sweet boy in his class who lives in the condo building next to ours. They ride home from school on their scooters or public bus, play basketball and make frequent trips to the park etc. Ellie Anna on the other hand thinks Singapore is awesome for only transportation reasons. She does not sit in a child seat when we take a taxi, she loves to ride the bus, MRT, or on our electric bike when we go places.

We often say that our kids are the magnets that help us connect to others in the community. As you can imagine in Singapore there’s not many little white girls with little round glasses with big curly hair. In fact to quote Ellie, who is not keen on people saying she’s cute or touching her hair, “I must be the only one in this Singapore state that is cute, because these people just always come find me and touch my hair. Is there not anyone else cute in Singapore?” Dawson embraces all the comments he receives and has come to accept the frequent head pats. Honestly he doesn’t feel like an outsider which is so amazing. He loves the fact that in his class there is one student from Jacksonville, Arkansas and one from Texas. Never would we imagine that we move to Singapore and he meets someone from his home states.

As we continue on this journey, thank you for all your prayers, support and following along. Please continue to pray with us that God will continue to lead our way and that we can fulfill the plan he has for us. Also, pray for the amazing students at our school. Less than 40% of our student’s are believers.

Until next time, here are a few pictures we have to share………..

 

 

 

A new season, a new country

{I told myself a few years ago that I would not stop blogging. It was an outlet to keep all our family and friends who lived so far away updated on our life. As time passed and life became overwhelmingly busy, I ventured away from social media and blogging all together. Now living thousands of miles away, across the world, I have committed to my family to do a much better job of make blogging more of a priority.}

This year God threw us a huge curve ball when he laid it on Nick’s heart for us to do more for the Lord and teach internationally. If you would have told me last summer that I would be teaching in Southeast Asia this school year, I would have probably told you that you’re crazy. It’s something so out of my comfort zone. I had no complaints about life. My children were happy and thriving. I enjoyed my job and Nick was very happy with his as well. The most important lesson I have learned over the past year is to listen and follow God’s lead. Sometimes being comfortable with life isn’t what he has planned for us. When we accepted the position to become Missionary Teachers in January, I don’t think it really soaked in at the time. There were so many doors that had to open in order for us to make this huge decision and move across the world. I don’t want to say I ever doubted God and his power to open door after door, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it all seemed impossible. Month by month our story began to unfold as doors continued to open and the impossible was made possible. It was truly only the work of the Lord. He is the reason we are in Singapore today. This summer as we were in training to be commissioned as missionaries it all became much clearer to us. Jesus has paved the way and now it’s our time to be the hands and feet of Jesus on the ground in a country that his name is barely known. I can’t say the past few months transitioning into this new season of life has been easy. We had to make some of the biggest decisions of our life. We resigned from our teaching positions, we sold our vehicle, we sold our home we custom built, and also sold everything inside that was materialistic. We rented a Uhaul and loaded up all our meaningful items and put them in storage in Arkansas. We had to grieve leaving our family and friends all over once again. Through all the sadness of leaving what we know behind, God has given us so much peace about following his lead and being a light.
For the next two years, we will be serving as missionary teachers at an International School in Singapore. We get the most amazing honor of teaching and witnessing to students from numerous countries all over the world. This is the biggest leap of faith we have ever taken, but we know our Lord and savior is in control.
The past few weeks in Singapore have flown by. We have so much to share. To summarize our time here so far is simple; God is always good. In a few short weeks God hasn’t just changed our lives, he has worked in the lives of our children. They are thriving and doing better than we could ever have expected. Their story in this season of their life is just beginning. The support from our school staff and the community itself in helping us transition and adjust has been a blessing. We have been welcomed with open arms. We work with amazing teachers and administrators who all have the same goal in mind. I can’t wait to share more as our story continues to unfold.

Happy Birthday to our MIRACLE!! Ellie Anna is ONE!

Exactly one year ago today our world was turned upside down. I laid in pain from the inside out doing the only thing I knew to do….pray. Pray for a miracle! My precious daughter I had just given birth to needed a miracle to say the least. As time ticked away, I prayed so hard. I cried and cried and laid in the cold hard hospital bed fearing for the phone to ring or a team of doctors to walk in my room and tell me that my beautiful daughter didn’t make it; that she lost the ugly battle of CDH. Minutes, hours, and days passed. I continued to pray and give it all to God, something that’s so hard to do when all you want is to hold your sweet baby and take her home.  Deep inside I knew that God had a plan, and know matter what road he had my family headed down, I had to keep the faith. God would get us through it.  His grace is unending. 365 days later, I am speechless and humbly blessed. My sweet Ellie Anna woke up this morning in her crib, in her home, surrounded by her family. That’s something I will be forever grateful for and beyond blessed; something I once took for granted. You see, 50% of babies born with a Congenital  Diaphragmatic Hernia don’t survive. The chances of survival with having a right sided diaphragmatic hernia like Ellie Anna are even more slim. She is proof that miracles can happen and our God is the great physician. I pray that those who are lost or are hurting find comfort in the fact our God is an awesome God. Sometimes the cards we are dealt are hard to over come, but trusting in him and his plan is the most rewarding thing we can ever do.   Thank you all for your prayers and love! We are forever thankful!

Blessings, Chel

(Here’s the link to my first post about Ellie’s journey with CDH)

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The Roller Coaster of CDH, BLESSED & Saved by his GRACE

I can’t start off this post without acknowledging all the sweet texts, calls, comments and messages we received on my last post. THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts!! Your love, prayers, and thoughts mean the world to us.Our journey with Ellie was a hard one to write and share, but it’s something we will always treasure. Nick and I have been overwhelmed and beyond humbled to see that our blog post on Ellie was viewed more than 1,000 times. (The fact that actually more than 5 of you read Ellie’s story blows us away!) What a blessing you all are for taking the time to read our story and also the many of you that shared it…Thank you!   If our story with Ellie gives hope to one person on how amazing God’s grace is, we are forever thankful.

Shorty after my last post, Ellie was discharged from NICU and our journey home began. Praise GOD! To be completely honest with everyone, It’s still not the journey I imagined. It’s been a tough three months at home and an emotional roller coaster to say the least. Ellie is not a typical infant. Daily, I am reminded of that, and daily, I remind myself to praise the Lord for his amazing grace. I just assumed once we got home everything would be normal; like the life many enjoy daily with a newborn. Unfortunately,  having a newborn who is a survivor of  CDH (Congenital diaphragmatic hernia) brings a lot of unknown baggage when it comes to their health. This baggage we have gladly accepted and are blessed to have.

Ellie is now 4,5 months old and weighs almost 12 pounds. It seems just like yesterday she was just 31 days old, and we were bringing her home from the NICU. Since leaving the NICU, we have had many doctor visits and tests. We had Ellie home for less than two weeks when we had our first big scare and were told by her surgeon to rush her to the hospital. I was feeding Ellie a bottle and noticed that her arm was turning purple and as I kept watching each limb began turning darker and darker.  X-ray’s showed her diaphragm was still in place, stitched to her ribs. Ellie’s heart, respiratory and oxygen levels were all ok as well.  Luckily, these episodes started happening at the same time we were already scheduled for follow-ups with her surgeon and cardiologist, so we were able to rule out anything life threatening quickly. Ellie’s episodes of turning purple have not stopped and they are no longer happening just during feedings. She turns purple limb by limb, while holding her, feeding her, while she is sleeping, crying, laughing etc…

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In the back of our minds their is a tiny fear of the small chance of Ellie’s hernia coming back one day. So we try to be optimistic and positive, but at the same time be cautious and realistic with her needs as well.  In July, Ellie was hospitalized for a few days to evaluate her heart, respiratory and oxygen levels during these “purple” episodes. She was discharged on an apnea monitor. My little purple beauty (rightfully named by her pediatrician) sees a slew of specialist  (cardiologist, neurologist, pulmonologists & gastroenterologist) and  has withstood several tests to figure out the cause.  It’s believed as of right now (pending future tests) that Ellie turns purple due to an immature nervous system. I’m not going to lie, it’s a little alarming when she turns purple. It looks a little scary, but we have faith that God’s in control and that it’s just apart of Ellie’s anatomy. We were told when we met with Ellie’s surgeon at her 2 month appointment that everything normal goes out the door when you have a CDH baby. Their anatomy is not normal (example in Ellie’s case her heart actually sits on top of her liver) due to the hernia. A lot of different things can happen with babies that have CDH, and some babies have more hurdles to overcome than others. Basically, if Ellie is eating, sleeping and pooping then we need to throw our hands up and praise God!

One hurdle that was extremely tiring, emotionally and physically draining as a parent of two is the fact that we struggled so much to put Ellie down the first few months. Sitting in a bouncy seat, car seat or swing has been too uncomfortable for Ellie since her surgery. The pressure on Ellie’s diaphragm in that position seems too much for her to bare at times. Many tears have been shed by all of us. We have spent the last few months holding and holding and holding and rocking a sweet precious baby! We tell ourselves in times we really need a break that God blessed us with Ellie so we will hold her until we drop. 🙂 Over time she has slowly progressed to accepting the pressure and can withstand longer period of times in a car seat, swing and bouncy seat. Last week we hit the jackpot and our arms are leaping for joy. (hence… I actually have free arms to type out this blog..j/k)  Nick put together Ellie’s walker in hopes that she might possibly be able to touch the floor enough to balance. We are happy to say Ellie is on cloud nine and so are we! She can stand up straight, be happy and have something supporting her body besides us! It’s a little odd seeing a tiny 4 month old tip toeing around the wooden floors in a walker, but here in our house we are all dancing and screaming, “Go Ellie it’s your birthday…Go Ellie….” you get the point. 🙂 She might start walking before she is able to do a lot of things, but progress is progress, people!!

Another set back has been Ellie’s development. She has high muscle tone in her hands and weak muscle tone in her trunk. She is also having trouble with always leaning towards her right side as well, which is the side her hernia was on. This is all expected with having CDH and especially being in the NICU for 31 days.  Ellie started the Easter Seals program last month. Every other week we have an occupational therapist and a physical therapist come to our home to do therapy with her.  We were told early on in the NICU to give Ellie time. She’s a fighter, and she will get caught up. Those words are so true, because time has made a huge difference in our journey with Ellie. Everyday she amazes us. Even though the last few months have been so incredibly busy with Ellie and having doctors appointments after doctors appointments ( We consistently have averaged at least one appointment a week.), we wouldn’t trade our life for anything. God has taught us so much through it all, and we are blessed. She is our miracle and these hurdles we face are so minor. In the whole grand scheme of things, these hurdles are nothing compared to what many others face daily!

As I reflect back on the last 4 months, I can’t say it’s been an easy road.  It is far from what I imagined. Things are appearing to be  getting better, and Ellie is getting stronger and stronger.  There have been times that the devil has tried to tear my faith down, and it’s been so hard getting through each day. I wish I had some super power and could honestly tell you all that I am incredibly positive 24/7 (which I try to appear to be on the outside) and don’t throw a “why me God” pity party, but it’s not the truth.  I’m human.  During the tough days, I look into the eyes of my two precious children  (whom both have rare health disorders) and see hope, love, God’s faithfulness and his grace. I then stop throwing my pity party, tossing cheetos or chocolate in my mouth and instead bow my head and pray. Thank you God for your many blessings! I am blessed!!

Isaiah 41:10
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
There has been some pretty incredible things happen in the past few months in the Folts’ household as well. Ellie can win any sleeping contest at night! She’s a pro and has been sleeping through the night since she was 6 weeks old. I wish I could take credit for this, but it all came from the strict schedule she was on while she spent the first 4.5 weeks of her life in the NICU. Ellie’s smile will also melt your heart. She is the sweetest little thing, and her relationship with Dawson is indescribable. I was so worried about how Dawson would do with a little sister. (Boys are rough. They have an obsession with nerf guns, hot wheels and they aren’t really into playing mommy like little girls.) I have been completely blown away though by Dawson’s love for Ellie. He is so passionate about caring for and entertaining Ellie. I mean, there are times when I need a repeat button to say “Stop aggravating your sister please..” but in all honestly my heart is so full watching these two interact. Dawson is the first to run to Ellie when he hears a tiny cry.  The first thing he does when he awakes is says,”Where’s Ellie?”. He truly  has a heart of gold, and I couldn’t be prouder! One tiny thing (not so much an important thing) that excites this mommy, Ellie’s hair is growing back! She lost all her dark brown hair during her NICU stay. Now her hair is growing super fast and is coming back a lighter brown color.
The final BIG thing that’s happened in our journey the past few months…..we are homeowners again!!!! (Yes, we are absolutely, stupidly nuts…. this all happened in the past three months while bringing a baby home.)
Just to lay it out there so you realize we do have a brain, before Ellie was born we decided that we needed to go back to a one story house. It’s what we know and love and worked the best for our family. Since most of the two story homes built in this area have all bedrooms or at least the majority of them upstairs, we knew a one story home was our only option. After searching for a one story home we loved to no avail, we decided to build a home. We found a really nice subdivision just down the road from where we had been living, that we fell in love with. For some reason it gave off a vibe that made us feel back home in Arkansas. Our closing date on our new home was scheduled for the beginning of May, but little did we know that we would have so many hiccups in the road ahead after we decided to build a home. If Nick and I would have known about Ellie’s condition we would have waited on building a home until later this year. The timing ended up absolutely horrible with everything going on with Ellie and her lengthy stay in the NICU.   Plus talk about a roller coaster of changes for my sweet little boy. Dawson’s world was turned upside down with everything going on with Ellie. He handles change as well as I handle ants and mice!  When I was induced to have Ellie, nothing was packed except a few boxes. We thought at that time we had 6+ weeks to pack. With all the cards we were dealt, we held our heads up, kept the faith through the tough times, and went full steam ahead.
Our moving date was fast approaching, and there appeared to be no time to really enjoy the moments of finally being a family of four. On our hands we had a newborn who needed extra care and a 5 year old who was starving for his parents attention. It was also back to the real world for Nick….work!   . A whopping 14 days to pack up the house and move.  Well none of that was happening because it took all I had to crawl out of bed. Five days after finally having Ellie home with us, I developed an infection in my c-section incision. Things weren’t looking so great in the Folts’ household. It was slow going for several days. We had movers scheduled to arrive to move the big stuff, but little did we know how much “little” stuff we had and committed to move ourselves. Big MISTAKE! Somehow by the Grace of God we pulled a few all nighters and made it all happen! (The only time we could be productive is when the two little people would sleep. Ohhh what I would have paid to have my family in San Antonio to help entertain a child or two during this time.)  I am happy to report,  Nick’s still alive and I didn’t kill him through all the insanity! We are now happily living in our new home!  (Don’t think it’s all put together, because that’s a little ambitious of you. For heavens sake I am still recovering from the disastrous move!!)  I’m just counting my blessing none of us broke our necks on the many boxes that randomly set all over our the house for a month waiting to be unpacked. Finally I had to kick them to the garage so I felt like I accomplished something!  Now the garage is a maze! 🙂 More pictures of the place we call home will be a few blogs down the road….we are making memories right now, so I am sparing you messy pics!
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To wrap this up…. I am attaching a few pictures of the past three months below. Lots of memories where made! My sweet little boy is officially a KINDERGARTNER now! His pre-k graduation was bittersweet. A huge moment for Dawson coming out of his shell. He danced his little heart out at his first dance recital! His love for dancing keeps us entertained! Also we made a short trip home in June for Dawson’s scope at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. We were extremely thrilled to see some of our family and friends! What a blessing it was for them to meet Ellie as well!  It was such a short, short visit! We hope to be back soon and get the chance to see everyone!!
Until next time my sweet friends and family…please know I am praying for you all!! Thanks again for all your love, prayers and encouragement! (Ohhhh….. and THANKS for reading this long post! Eek I promise to keep them shorter! Bless all of you!! We are truly humbled!!)
Psalm 28:7
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

Blessings,

Chel

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Ellie’s looks have changed so much since birth. We can’t figure out who she looks like the most. She looks like Nick a lot,  but my sister sent us this pic below and now we aren’t 100% sure?!!!. This is me at 6 months.

 

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Ellie Anna: Our Tiny Miracle Saved by God’s Grace & Love

“Let Jesus Take the Wheel.” That’s the first thought that comes to my mind as I sit here in the NICU with tears in my eyes while I type the journey we have been on the past 4 weeks.

March 27th was a day I counted down for quite a while. The day we would finally meet our little princess and be a family of four. We were on cloud nine as the day approached, and our family was finally in town. Little did we know that our lives would be turned upside down in a matter of hours.

I can’t explain the feeling I had as nurses prepped me for my c-section the morning of delivery; the feeling of nervousness; the feeling that something just wasn’t right. (Was it God preparing me?) As I was wheeled into the operating room, my anxiety was in full force. Once I saw Nick walk in the operating room doors in his blue scrubs, I knew it was go time and I needed to be strong. In a matter of minutes, I saw the smile and excitement on my soul mate’s face turn to fear and paleness covered him. In the background I will never forget the words from my sweet nurse, ” I need to page the NICU now!” I can’t explain the thoughts going through my head as I glanced over and saw my precious baby, who was purple, surrounded by doctors and being rushed through the operating room doors to the NICU. I remember frantically telling Nick, “Don’t worry about me, please go with Ellie.” All I could do is pray and cry as I laid on the cold metal table alone waiting for doctors to sew me back together. As they wheeled me out of the operating room to recovery, they made a stop by the NICU for me to see Ellie. It was a breath of fresh air to see her beautiful face, but to see her struggling to breathe was something I will never forget.

Although we knew something was wrong, nothing could prepare us for what was about to happen. Later that night, Nick would walk back in the NICU to check on Ellie and see a team of doctors surrounding her bed because she was crashing. It’s hard to recall the following 48 hours at this point, because it was probably the hardest times we have faced in our life. We will always remember (And forever be thankful for) the Neonatologist over Ellie’s care and the words he spoke to us in the darkest time.  It was so hard to hear Ellie’s doctor say, “Your daughter is in very critical condition and we have to take things hour by hour at this point.”  That’s not the answer any parent wants to ever hear. We immediately wanted answers, to know what the future holds. Ellie’s future seemed so unclear. There was one thing that was clear in the next words out of her doctors mouth. “I believe in a higher power, and all I can say is you need to pray that God will help guide me in diagnosing and treating your daughter.” As hard as that answer was for us to hear, it was the biggest reminder that our God hasn’t left our side and there was hope. We just needed to let Jesus take the wheel and keep the faith! Having a doctor praying for guidance on treating our child and asking for prayers was a true blessing.

As hours and days passed, we stayed in prayer and waited for news on what Ellie’s future held. It took everything I had to gain the strength to get in a wheel chair after surgery so I could go to the NICU to see her precious face once again. Over several days, we spent endless hours staring at her while she struggled to breathe. She was hooked up to a ventiallator with more cords, tubes, and iv’s than I have ever seen before.  After several tests and the collaboration from a team of doctors, it was suspected that Ellie had a Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). A condition in which a hole in the diaphragm allows abdominal organs (in Ellie’s case her liver)  to move into the chest and restrict lung development. How bad was this hernia? How much damage was caused? All questions that couldn’t be answered. Our goal and only hope at this point was to get Ellie’s hypertension under control and get her breathing stronger on her own so she could undergo surgery.

Nick and I were a little more at peace knowing their was a plan of treatment for Ellie and that she had a possible diagnosis. At the same time though, it was also hard to fathom that we would soon be walking out of the hospital doors empty handed and leaving behind our precious gift from God. I spent five nights in the hospital due to complications I was having myself, so I never realized how hard the day I was discharged would be. Going home to see my precious little boy was refreshing, but the sadness on his face because he hasn’t been able to meet his little sister, the empty car seat in the back seat and a bassinet that would set empty was a tough thing to overcome. We easily found peace though every time we thought about Ellie and all the wonderful blessings God has done for her thus far. This was just a little hiccup in the road and we needed to keep our faith up!

Day 8 rolled around and it was the day Ellie was finally strong enough to take on surgery. I never knew how scary this day would be.  It was probably the second hardest day for us looking back. As I walked into the NICU the morning of surgery all I could do is cry and stare at this beautiful 7 pound baby who was such a fighter.  I haven’t even had the chance to hold her, kiss her and tell her how much she was loved. Seeing code blue instructions taped to her bed and knowing in a few short hours our baby girl would be undergoing a major surgery to pull her diaphragm and liver down so her right lung had room to develop, seemed to much to bare.

There were so many unanswered questions leading to surgery I still had, but I knew it was all in God’s hands. Sometimes as a Christian, that’s a hard thing to accept when your at your lowest, but as all the pieces to our puzzle have fallen in place, Nick and I are one hundred percent positive we are still living in God’s great big plan for us. It’s all in his timing. You see, out of this huge city we so happened to deliver Ellie at a hospital with the largest level NICU center and some of the best doctors/surgeons in the country for her diagnosis. This hospital wasn’t the closest to where we live and I actually didn’t prefer it, but it’s the only place my OBGYN (that I found while randomly GOOGLE searching) delivers. We actually pass 2 hospitals in our 25 minute route to the hospital. Not only that, the actual lead surgeon that was over Ellie’s procedure is one of the top doctors in the world specializing in CDH patients.

As the time came for Ellie’s surgery, we followed the team of doctors towards the operating room. I am beyond thankful for this team of doctors who volunteered to take Ellie past the waiting room so Dawson could finally get his chance to see his little sister. Dawson was thrilled to get to see her, but it was obvious that the health Ellie was in was not what he really imagined. It wasn’t as magical as we dreamt of when the two would finally meet. Although not knowing what the future held for Ellie,  it was a blessing at the time for him.

Nick, myself and our families watched the clock tick for almost three hours waiting on news of Ellie’s surgery. It was a sign of relief to finally see the surgeon walk through the operating room doors with a smile on his face. It was confirmed that Ellie had CDH on her right side.  The chances of developing CDH is rare, and it’s even more rare to have the hernia on your right side. The survival rate is pretty low. To hear her surgeon say that she had plenty of lung and the surgery was success was the best news we could ask for. We were also told that Ellie is very lucky and she had a membrane covering the hernia which prevented all her organs from pushing up into her chest. The surgeon told us without that membrane, we would be having a different conversation than what we were. To make it clear, Ellie was simply saved by God’s grace!! She’s a fighter and has already taught us all so much.

We knew that this surgery wasn’t something that Ellie was going to overcome in a short time and that we had a long road ahead. We were surprised everyday to see how much she was fighting to beat this. It took Ellie 6 days post-surgery to come off of the ventilator, and it was an amazing day for us all. We finally could hold our sweet baby girl. It had been a long two weeks since she was born and there was nothing better than to hold her sweet little body in our arms for the first time.

Every morning I couldn’t wait to get to the hospital to hold my baby girl, tell her how proud I was, how much she was loved and to please keep getting stronger. It’s something I still do everyday. As I walk through the NICU daily, I am constantly reminded that God has not left our side. We give him all the praise for Ellie’s health.

In all honesty, the past 4 weeks have been a complete emotional roller coaster not knowing what the next day holds. From good days to bad days it all comes and goes.  The road to healing and overcoming CDH hasn’t been easy, but we are beyond blessed that she’s as healthy as she is. Ellie may not ever be a marathon runner or the best soccer player. She will more than likely be short winded, but at this point in her prognosis she is expected to make a full recovery! We will have frequent doctor appointments and x-rays to make sure her diaphragm hasn’t moved and everything is still in place for quite a long time. There also is a chance that the hernia could re-occur, but we are letting Jesus take the wheel!

We never once imagined that we would spend Easter in the NICU and not as a family of four, but God has taught us so much these past several weeks. There are no words to express how grateful we are for all of our blessings and everything he has done for us. When you walk through the NICU doors that holds 80+ babies, it’s hard not to fall on your knees and praise God for all the miracles he’s making happen. We have met so many wonderful families, and their stories are incredible. We have watched some families come and go and cheered them on as they finally were headed on their journey home.  We are hopeful our day will soon come where we will be loading up our sweet baby girl and heading home. Until then I will be thankful and blessed for our time in the NICU. Please keep praying for our precious Ellie Anna. She has come so far, and we are so proud of her! Also please pray for all of the precious babies in the NICU and their parents. Some babies have much longer roads of healing ahead than Ellie, and I know their parents need prayers as well. One day I hope to share with you some of the stories from the families we have met. The power of God is incredible for sure!

As a I wrap up our first month of this journey, I  wanted to share some pictures of our milestones with Ellie. I want to be honest. Nick and I have been so hesitant of sharing our pictures of Ellie with tubes and the shape she was in. As I began to write this blog, I realized that those pictures, although hard for us to see, share an amazing story and journey.  Most importantly, they show how our God never leaves us. He is the great physician, and his work is nothing short of a miracle.

Thank you to all of our wonderful family and friends for praying for Ellie and us. We are overwhelmed with gratitude for all the calls, texts and prayers. You mean the world to us! Your prayers were felt and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You never realize the power of prayer and how many people will support you until the time comes. I pray for many of you daily and I want you all to know that Nick and I were completely floored by your prayers and support. We are forever grateful!!!  A huge thank you to our family as well, who have dropped so much to come be with us during our journey. You are so loved!!
 
Much love and blessings to you all!!!
Chel & Nick

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3/27/14 Ellie’s journey began.  | 1 week old

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8 days old. Surgery day for Ellie. The first time Dawson was ever able to see her.

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Our 1st time to hold Ellie. She was 2 weeks old!

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3 weeks old and finally tube free!

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This picture takes our breath away. Our hearts are so full! Thanks to some amazing nurses who made this moment possible. They made a huge exception and made it possible for Dawson to see Ellie for a few minutes on Easter!! He was speechless and completely in love!! This was the first time Dawson was able to hold Ellie. The smile on his face never left. This sweet boy’s world has been turned upside down trying to grasp everything that has been going on. We were so happy to hear Dawson say this was the best day ever!!!

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Easter 2014

(Ellie’s nenny had to take a few photos and play dress up in the NICU.)

 

Faithfully Waiting for a Healthy Baby

Hello my sweet family and friends!

It’s been several weeks since I posted. I am sorry for being such a slacker.  As many of you know, pregnancy really isn’t my “thing”. Some women have the perfect bodies for it and have no trouble, while others struggle along the way. Little did I know that all the issues I had with my pregnancy with Dawson were nothing compared to the troubles now. My sweet little girl who we have named “Ellie Anna” has already warranted sleepless nights, several tests, and hundreds of prayers. I am not normally the one to throw all my issues out there for everyone, because I know my struggles are so tiny compared to all the problems people are facing daily around the world. Having said that, if you have a few extra prayers we could use them.

This pregnancy has been an extremely tough one, and it’s been hard to catch a break.  A little over a month ago I was told I have Polyhydramnios. Basically, I have way too much amniotic fluid, and at this point my doctor has no idea the cause of it. I have been going to the doctor every week for non-stress tests and ultrasounds to check on my levels and the baby. I will continue to do so until delivery. Everything appears to be ok with Ellie Anna at this point.  My fluid levels were steadily increasing each week, but  for the past couple weeks they are staying the same and not getting any higher. Thank the Lord!  I was first told about having Polyhydramnios around 31 weeks gestation and I have been measuring anywhere from 40 – 42 weeks since then. (Yes, Insanity I agree!)  That’s a big ole about to P-O-P!! (No twins and my dates are correct. 🙂  I am at high risk for pre-term labor with everything that I have going on (contractions, fluid levels etc.), but Ellie is still hanging on strong!  It’s been physically and emotionally a tough pregnancy.  I never measured this big with Dawson. I measured 38 weeks and I delivered him at 38 weeks gestation by c-section. So this all is a first.

It’s becoming harder and harder to breathe or move around, sleeping is almost impossible and I am far from being my normal active self, but I am counting my blessings every day. I truly have so much to be thankful for and I have faith that God will get us through this. I have been trying to stop myself from being a hermit crab so much, as it doesn’t help the situation. When I step out in public I get the looks and the “Are you having twins?, Due any day huh?”.  As I turn bright red and just giggle right along with my sweet little boy (who by the way thinks it’s hilarious and creepy mommy is extra huge), I can’t help to think…”Why oh why did I decide to get out of the house today?”  Through prayer, I realize that there’s nothing I can do at the moment to change my appearance  and all I can do is pray and just giggle at silly people. Honestly as big as I am, I don’t blame people for asking if am about to pop. It’s not a common thing to be this huge because of excessive amniotic fluid, so I do look 40+ weeks.

The good news is as of today I have made it 36 weeks, which is much farther than was originally thought. Ellie seems to be developing just fine at this point. I have been told if I go into labor anytime now, my doctor will not stop it and will proceed with a c-section. If she doesn’t come on her own in the meantime, then I have a c-section scheduled on the day I turn 38 weeks, March 27th. 14 days to go!! We are so excited!!!

Until we finally meet our precious Ellie Anna, all I dream, hope and pray for in the end, is a healthy baby girl to finally complete our family and our life be back to the “crazy” normal that we love!

Philippians 4:6-7

 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Thanks to all our family and friends for your calls, texts and prayers!!! The mean the world to us!

Blessings and love to you all,

Chel