NICU Nursing Gifts: Letter From A Family

Everyone has a way they receive love.  Gary Chapman covers the topic thoroughly in his book The Five Love Languages.  From what I remember of the book, and from what I identify in myself, is that we receive from all of the five ways love is expressed, but each of us has a primary love language.

Evidently, my primary love language is quality time.  My secondary is acts of service.

But one thing I love so very much are words.  I love written words and spoken words.  I love the bridge words create connecting one person to another.  And recently, I received the most beautiful words from a beautiful family.

This family gifted each nurse who took care of their baby with a rustic cuff and the letter below.  I’ve changed a bit of the letter to protect the family’s privacy, but wanted to share because of the insight it provides.  Sometimes we get so focused in, we forget how much value each of the little things holds in the hearts of those we as nurses get to care for.

As I read through this letter, the following passage of scripture was stirring in my thoughts.

Matthew 25:34-40 NLT
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” 
Then these righteous ones will reply, “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?”
And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”      

NICU Nursing Gifts: Letter From A Family

Hope– a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a feeling of trust. 

We were so excited when we finally had our son on that autumn day in 2016.  He was beautiful and sweet and just perfect.  Then two days later we were told he wasn’t going home with us and that our perfect little boy wasn’t medically perfect.

Our emotions leapt from total joy and excitement to fear and confusion.  The next few days are totally lost in our memories, and the following weeks were so emotional and draining.  There is nothing to prepare you for the sadness and complete helplessness you feel as a parent with a child that is sick to any degree, let alone in and ICU where we weren’t sure what the problem was or what the solution would be.

The things we do remember are the people who were there to take care of our son.  Upon arrival at the NICU, a nurse had prepared our baby’s bed with personal bedding and had placed the sweetest blue knit cap on his precious head.  Within the first few days, our little man had a handmade name tag on the door to his room.  A few days later, a nurse brought in an outfit and said, “Let’s dress this sweet boy!

Being such an emotional time, I had never even thought to put clothes on my baby!

November arrived and our little turkey got to make his very own first craft!  A turkey!  Made using his little footprint.

Nurses who had taken care of him before would stop in on their shifts just to check-in on him.  We really felt as though the nurses here cared for his health and loved him as all children need to feel loved.

Although we as his parents were not the patients ourselves, we felt cared for.  The nurses here engaged in conversation with us both medically to keep us updated and socially to keep us feeling sane and a part of the world outside of that room.  Each night, a nurse brought in fresh bedding for us to sleep on and always asked if we needed anything else.  We received comfort in the form of positive words or encouragement, friendly smiles and even a few much needed hugs.

You are what gave us HOPE.  We desired for our baby’s health to be taken care of and we had to trust that it would be.  In some cultures, blue is representative of hope.  The shade of blue we chose is the same shade of blue as the knit hat he received in his first night in the NICU.

When you wear this bracelet, please remember that what you do matters.  You give hope to a lot of families.  Your kindness, patience, and individual care matters.  We are forever indebted to this staff and this facility.

Love,
a NICU Grad’s Mom & Dad

 

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Thank You Notes

Thank You Notes

My great aunt and uncle lived in North Carolina and would come to Oklahoma once or twice a year for visits. Mostly I remember them visiting over the summer, but I also have some holiday memories tucked in my mind, visualizing a Thanksgiving one year and some Christmases too.

Although this sister and brother-in-law to my Grandma lived in North Carolina, I very much knew them. Aunt Venita and Uncle George were not the great aunt and uncle my mom forced me to hug or demanded I talk to. Actually, none of my great aunts and uncles were unfamiliar to me. I had the opportunity to build my own relationship with siblings on both my grandparents’ sides of the family. And one thing I knew about my Aunt Venita and Uncle George is that they liked Thank You Notes.

It was a pain as a kid having to write them.  Although, I did love what they’d send me for my birthday and Christmas. I even remember my seventh birthday specifically. Aunt Venita mailed a pretty pink spring dress. I opened it and could not wait to wear it.

Seriously. I know we say that as a figure of speech, but I really could not wait, made evident by what transpired a few hours after I opened it.

I’m certain I tried the dress on, although I don’t specifically remember. What I do remember is getting in bed with such excitement to wear my new dress the next day that I could hardly go to sleep.

But I did.

And then I woke up. The fact that it was still dark outside didn’t mean anything to me. It was usually dark when I got up for school.

However, the fact that my mom was still there did mean something to me. She was usually gone for work by the time we were supposed to wake up.

In the moments before I realized this, I got out of my bed, wide awake and ready for the day, put on my dress, and my shoes, and exited the room feeling dressed to the nines, because in my mind, I was. Entering into the hallway I could hear Mom’s voice. Curious as to why she was there, I walked over to my parent’s bedroom door to see my mom in her pjs! I assumed something was wrong.

Oh something was wrong. Mom wasn’t late for work. She was going to bed!

I had such anticipation of wearing that dress that I had hardly slept and woke up round about time for the ten o’clock news!

I wish I could tell you I was just as eager to write the thank you note.

I wasn’t.

Nevertheless, over the years I learned how much a simple thank you note meant to the people who received it, and I began to feel that it was the least I could do for the gift of what they gave to me.

In fact, I screen shot this Facebook post back in May. A friend wrote, “I love getting thank you cards in the mail. It makes your gift seem appreciated. It’s becoming a lost art.”

She’s right. But not in The Meadows Home.

I’ve had this post stirring in my heart, and portions of it sitting in my folder for over two years. I took pictures of Caden writing thank you notes after his 9th birthday. At nearly every age I’ve had my kids write thank you notes. From the time they only had the ability to sign their name, to copying a formatted example I provide, to getting the gift list and writing them independently, each child has been raised with value placed on expressing gratitude in a note. 

I know a lot of people approach it differently, but here’s a couple of my personal goals when writing thank you notes.

  1. In the event the receiver didn’t physically hand me the gift, the note communicates the gift arrived whether by mail or passed along from another person. It doesn’t leave the giver wondering if I ever got it.
  2. My goal is to communicate consideration of the cost. We live on a budget in our house. And thanks to Dave Ramsey, regardless of our future earning potential, I imagine we always will. With that in mind, I envision each gift given to me coming out of a budget. That means someone chose to take money from something else to purchase something for me. Furthermore, it cost their time. To spend time working to make the money, then to spend time using that worked-for money to buy a gift for me, to spend even more time to wrap it, package it, mail it or bring it to a celebration which takes again, more time! I aim to communicate how valued I feel by acknowledging the value of what was given- time and money.

And for a little cake topper here, Thank You Notes are a keepsake. For the words person like myself, a special note can be retrieved on the difficult days, and in the trying times, to be the much-needed reminder of the goodness in life.

But there’s one more. Yep! Bonus material right here on heathermeadows.com. ☺️

I wouldn’t have thought about it, but now I know it—Thank You Notes can open doors.

Because my routine for writing Thank You Notes was established years ago, it was natural for me to send on a note of appreciation in 2014 to Video Revolution for their help in getting us set up with a camera to record some of our speaking events. That little Thank You Note led to a connection with Stevie Fernandez who invited us to share our story for Explore Tulsa a year later, and giving me his card for InVision Media Group.

Fast forward to 2017. Stevie created an incredible speaker video from Saint Francis’ Hospital Week for me, potentially opening even more doors to share not only my story, but the messages this story has written.

I’d say Aunt Venita and Uncle George developed something of great value in me from their expectations of a Thank You Note. If they were here today, I’d write them one to thank them.

Proverbs 18:16 NLT Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!

I pray this post spoke to you. Did you know I’m writing a book?! Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? We can’t grow with out you.

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Not So Grateful

Of all the changes that take place when you’re first married, there was one I loved the most. Sleeping together. Before you think this is some crude post, I’ll elaborate. There was something about not having to say “goodbye” at night. Remember those days when you wanted to spend every single moment together, and any moments apart felt like forever?

That is what I loved about being able to sleep together. Brandon and I fell asleep and as soon as the next day became new, before we even opened our eyes, we were together. Sounds like mushy newlywed stuff, but I think I’m even more grateful for it today, because there are some days it’s the only time we spend together. We may be asleep, but hey, we’re together.

Those early days of marriage were when I began expressing how grateful I was to be alive.

I’d say to Brandon, “I’m so grateful the Lord allowed me to live so I could be your wife.”

Again, it may sound so mushy that it’s almost nauseating. But I spoke it from a heart who had questioned God so many times why He let me live. Honestly, from a heart who had once felt upset that He let me live. The road of recovery, both physically and emotionally, was unbearable at times. So unbearable that I would have rather not walked it. At least that’s what I thought when I was on the journey.

The gratitude has grown over the years from wife, to wife and mom.

A Facebook comment stirred it up recently for me. One of my doctors who cared for me after my burn injury commented on my daughter’s pictures from her freshman formal. I replied, “Dr. Kramer—thank you for doing what you do, so I could do this. I’m so grateful I got to live to be her mom.”

But I probably should’ve added “today.” “I’m so grateful I got to live to be her mom today.” Because friends, let me tell you there have been some days I’ve questioned it. There have been some days that I’ve allowed my thoughts to consider how much better, how much happier and how much more peaceful my family would be if someone else were performing the wife and the mom role in this family.

In fact, I was having some of those thoughts the day before my birthday.

This is what I journaled,

3/22—At the end of my life- or now for that matter- is anyone going to feel benefitted by the life I was able to live? Will anyone feel blessed or grateful that I didn’t die at 7– that my life was spared? Or will they just feel happy it is over?

Why, oh why would I share something so raw with you? Well, because perhaps you’ve allowed your thoughts to go down a similar negative route.

And why, oh why would I have even thought such things? Had there been a problem? Had there been an emotional explosion in our home? Well, no, not this time.

First of all, I do hope my life is one lived to give and to bless others.  But also, I was feeling a little down, okay, well, maybe considering my journal entry I was feeling downright down, about my birthday. And downright down about myself.

It’s been a challenging year. I’ve wanted to run away from home on more than one occasion. I think we all have. If not, stop reading and start praying for mamas like me.  I mean who wouldn’t prefer a nice cool drink on a nice warm beach over the responsibilities and obstacles of raising your people at times? It’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows everyday in The Meadows Home, or in any home for that matter.

So how do we combat the negative thoughts? How can we find gratitude in a trial?

#1— remember what is true from what is emotion. We have to guard our hearts from the disease of negative emotion. Getting caught up in the emotion clouds what is true.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

#2—remember there is a reason we were given an armor. We can’t forget that we are in a battle, which is why we have armor. We’ve got to make sure we have it on to combat the attacks- whether they’re external or internal.
Ephesians 6:14-17 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

This story isn’t over, but as usual, in my posts and in my life, I’ve exceeded my word limit. I hope you come back for the next post so I can share with you a great story about loving one another.

For now, may you feel a little encouraged to know you’re not the only one who lets negative thoughts run loose at times. May you feel gratitude knowing God is with you and loves you, whether you’re standing in the battle or sitting on the beach.

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Why, Oh Why?

Last night I packed for a trip. I’ll be gone for three to five days. And while I know I’ll be taken good care of, I’m not too excited about going. But I grabbed items which bring me comfort and encouragement; my soft navy blue polar fleece blanket, I’ll take my pillow before leaving, and I packed three pictures from my house; one of our trip to Hawaii, one of our last visit to see Mickey, and one of us from last year taken at home by our fence. The photos help me focus on what I have, over what I’ve lost. Has their been loss? Immense. Has their been pain? Excruciating. But I’ve experienced a far greater portion of joy, peace and happiness. And that is what gripped my heart as I was pulling out of my doctor’s office last week after scheduling today’s surgery.

Before my most recent surgery, I had a very small area of scar tissue tear on my back. This was a reoccurring problem after my injury during the rehabilitating years, and on into my adolescence as my body was growing from that of a child to an adult. However, this was a scenario I no longer anticipated having over twenty-six years later. Regardless, it had to be addressed, so when my surgeon came in to do surgical markings for the last operation, I asked him if we could have an “adder” and take care of that area. He examined it. He then informed me it would be more than a simple release of scar tissue. He said the dreaded words, “We need to do a skin graft.” Yuck. To say those are painful is a bit of an understatement. It’s surprising to some when I explain that it’s not even the area released which causes such discomfort as it is the donor site.

Addressing the issue is always more than the obvious. Having another surgery this year was not in this planner’s plan. It meant making arrangements for the kids, missing activities with them, along with all the holiday parties during my most favorite time of year, and, it meant regrouping my commitments at work. I was bummed. I was frustrated. I was disappointed. Those emotions came in to check quickly.

I left my doctor’s office, pulled out on Utica, stopped at the light, and began crying. Through my tears, I sang, “Thank you, Lord. I just want to thank you. I just want to thank you. I just want to take a little time right now, and say, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ for all You’ve done for me.” It’s a minor inconvenience to spend the last part of my year recovering from what is, yes, a highly unpleasant procedure, but not a complicated one with uncertain outcomes. This trip to the hospital and stay in the burn center won’t necessarily be fun, but it will all be okay. In consideration of this beautiful life God has provided me to live, it’s petty to complain about it, even to grumble about it in my own heart.

The “why such emotion and tears” thought may arise. Why cry? Why sob? It was out of my immense gratitude and deep conviction, because there were so many, many times I begged the Lord to allow me to die. I didn’t want to live a life in this body. I didn’t want to walk the road ahead of me. I didn’t understand why I lived and my brother died. I couldn’t imagine a future for me. I didn’t have life experience to help me reason it out, and even at that, I don’t know if I would have ever been able to find reason. I didn’t have coping skills to work through the physical, emotional and psychological trauma. I asked God, “Why?” I prayed prayers, “Please let me come to Heaven and be with you, let me see Jon. I don’t want to live here.” For years, I mean for years I prayed like this. What came out of it wasn’t pretty, but necessary. Much of what I felt, I internalized. Being the brave little girl was a role assigned to me early, and one I felt I had to uphold. Which is why an eating disorder was the outlet for me to channel my emotion privately. The path was ugly, depression was as real as the sun in the sky, but a light I couldn’t see.

But the uglier it got the more I cried out to my God. And the entire time, all those years, He was listening. All those years, all that time, He had a plan. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude that He didn’t allow me to die, not from the physical trauma of that tragic accident, and neither from the emotional wounds thereafter. No, He held me. He never let go. And He was speaking, “Heather, I have a plan, to prosper you and not harm, to give you hope and a future.” He was saying, “All things work together for those who are called according to My purposes, and my child, I have a purpose for your life.”

I am going on this trip today. I am going to be back in the place where it all began so many years ago. I’m going to stand in awe of what the precious people there did to save my life. I’m going to meet some new faces, learn some new names and thank them for caring for people like me, whose lives are forever changed, but whose lives are always worth living, because God is greater, His ways are higher and His plans are perfect.

In my distress I called to the Lord;

I cried to my God for help.

From His temple He heard my voice;

my cry came before Him, into His ears.

Psalm 18:6

NIV

*scriptures mentioned: Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28

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