GUEST POST: God Multiplies Goodness

*a special post from special guest Kim Couch*

Ten.  Ten Years. Ten years ago, I was finishing my first year of teaching, trying to figure out how to be a mom to my 18 month-old son, and building a new house with my husband. It was a time in my life when I was in a good place.  It was also ten years ago that I found a lump in my breast.  So, at that point when I felt everything was coming together–everything came to a halt.  In June of 2007, at the age of 28,  I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. The only previous experience I’d had with breast cancer was the loss of my high school friend’s mom due to the disease.  So, that was it.  The only person I’d known with cancer had lost her battle about ten years prior to my diagnosis.  It was at that very moment when I felt like I had been given a death sentence

Little did I know, while I was trying to grasp my new reality, God had already lined up numerous people in my life who would have an impact on the journey my family was about to start. Our family friends had resources that led me to Cancer Treatment Centers of America with the most amazing doctors and medical team.  Our pastor’s wife was a breast cancer survivor, so she was able to be an encouragement to me along the way.  Once I got set up with my medical team and had a plan, I was ready to go into battle.  I had decided that my attitude would be a major impact in my ability to beat this disease!  So right then and there, I decided that I would be positive and try to show God’s light to those around me.  I had a bilateral mastectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy, and 30 rounds of radiation.  I started in July 2007 and finished my treatments in April 2008.  

One of the first things I remember asking my doctor was, “Does breast cancer mean I can’t have any more children?

His response was, “Not now, but I’m not saying never.”  As time passed, I would ask him the same question.  Ultimately, the answer was the same.

There were many things on the journey that were hard, but looking back, the two hardest things for me were losing my hair and not knowing if I would ever have more children.  As I progressed on my treatment plan, my hair began to grow back, but I was still left with the pain of not having more children. There were points during this journey when I would imagine having another baby; however, while I obviously wasn’t pregnant, several of my friends were preparing for babies in their lives.  Although I was excited for them, it was truly a difficult time.  Please understand, I was grateful for my family of three and wasn’t willing to jeopardize my health, but I was still mourning the plans I had for my family.  My husband and I talked about and were open to the idea of adoption, but nothing seemed to work out for us.  I learned our plans are not always God’s plans.  

Finally, after about four years, my oncologist began to discuss the possibility of becoming pregnant.  Whoa!  When I was given that news, I panicked and questioned if it was something I really wanted. I felt like I had gone through the mourning process and had come to terms with my reality.  After about a year of praying and processing the idea, I had a sense of peace about the situation.  My husband and I decided we were ready to explore the idea.  We agreed that if I didn’t get pregnant then it wasn’t meant to be, and we would not seek fertility options.

In September of 2012, our first month after making the decision to try, we became pregnant!  A month later when we went in for our first ultrasound, the doctor said she saw something interesting.  I immediately thought the worst and asked if something was wrong.  She smiled and said, “Not necessarily.  You’re having twins!” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to get pregnant, let alone getting pregnant in the first month of trying, and to top it off, pregnant with twins!!  

On May 8, 2013 we welcomed Karlee Jo and Kynslee Jane to our family.

I’m a planner.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but I’m so thankful God’s plan was bigger and better.  I’m a stronger person because of my experience with cancer, and I’ve learned to trust God…even in the ugly, scary times.  Although we may not see it at the time, God is always working things out for our best.  It took longer than I wanted to see what God’s plan was, but the wait was so worth it.  He turned my ugly and scary  into something beautiful!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.” Jeremiah 29:11

God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

A Little Thought from Heather:
I met Karlee and Kynslee on the day of their birth, and I’ll never forget their big brother trying to catch a glimpse of his brand new baby sisters as they were being rolled down the hallway.  A brief stop to let him gaze upon the miracle of their lives and God’s goodness beamed from the light of his little eyes.

Goodness.  Goodness is what I think of when I think of this amazing family.  So many times we see a diagnosis, but God sees a platform to display a mighty work of His hand– a work that can only be accomplished by His supernatural intervention.

Kim’s story gives hope to all.  Believing for a healing?  She did much more.  She believed for a healing without resolving to a sacrifice.  Did she desire to be healed from breast cancer?  Absolutely.  Did she forfeit her desire for more children?  Not at all.  She believed and held on, standing in faith for BOTH!  

I believe Kim is an example to all of us for how to believe.  Don’t believe for sufficient, believe for abundance; believe for fulfillment; believe for icing-on-the-cake; and in Kim’s case, believe for multiplication!

May you be blessed and encouraged today to continue standing confident in God’s goodness in the plans He has for your life!  ❤ Heather

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Dare to Dream

I read about a man who had a failed business venture and didn’t even have enough money to buy a railroad ticket to leave the scene of his failure. As the story goes he went door to door photographing babies, then sold his camera and bought a one-way ticket to California.

Here’s my favorite part:

He left Kansas City in July, wearing a checkered coat and un-matching pants. He had $40 cash, and his imitation-leather suitcase contained only a shirt, two undershorts, two pairs of socks and some drawing material. But when he paid his fare for the trip to California, he bought a first-class ticket.1

A first-class ticket?!?!

It seems foolish for a guy who had just begged and borrowed for his failed business to spend money on a first-class ticket. Seems frivolous. A misprioritization of funds. But this man had a first-class dream only fitting for a first-class ticket.

The man was Walt Disney.

Walt had first–class vision and considering he left Missouri on the heels of defeat, I’d say he had first-class ambition. In reading his biography by Bob Thomas, Walt Disney: An American Original, I learned many things about Walt. Much was unknown to me, but for the parts I knew, I gained a deeper understanding. For instance, Walt didn’t face just this one obstacle of failure. He faced several. But one of the reasons I find him to be so inspiring is his relentless determination to hold on to his dream.

Stories like Walt’s inspire me to pursue God’s callings even though I have no guarantee of success and to keep trucking even if I’m met with some obstacles of failure.

First-class vision. First-class ambition.

Maybe you don’t have a Walt Disney sized dream. I mean, seriously, who would’ve ever imagined? But the potential for what God wants to produce from your dream will never be known unless you keep trying. Maybe it won’t look like what you thought it would. Maybe it will be more than you could have ever thought or imagined.

Ephesians 3:19-21 TLB Now glory be to God, who by His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.

There are some visions in my heart that just seem downright crazy. One I shared with my pharmacology instructor in nursing school. As I was speaking it out I thought, “I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud. She probably thinks I’m nuts.” But something must have resounded in her, because she, to this day, is one of my biggest encouragers and supporters to keep moving toward that vision.

Here are some questions to consider…

Would you pursue your goal even if others doubted your ability?

If you failed at something you desired would you try again?

Do you look for new possibilities when you get rerouted from the original goal?

These were my thoughts last year when approaching my test to get my national certification in neonatal nursing. The reality of failure was thick. I mean I’d walk out with a paper that either said, PASS or FAIL.

I had studied and studied still yet, felt like I hadn’t studied enough. I married my book for a good two weeks. I went through all online practice questions, looking at not only the right answer, but also all three of the wrong answers per question, making notes as to the rationale for each one.

It was pouring down rain the day I went to take the test and on my way there I got a call that my daughter’s school was on lockdown for a reported gun on campus! Seriously! Talk about being rattled when you’re already rattled! At the reassurance of my husband, I proceeded on to the testing center thankful for him to be making decisions regarding the safety of our child.

The few items I took into the testing center were zipped in a bag and locked away. I lifted my pants for an evaluation that I wasn’t stowing any cheat sheets in my socks. Cameras were recording every moment, and I was suppose to relax, focus and think. Did I mention I have testing anxiety? I kept thinking, “Why do I do this to myself?!” Then it came time for the photo. I knew this photo would either have a pass or fail beside it when I left, but I chose to smile anyway.

This was my goal. This was my personal desire. I knew I needed to smile because no matter the outcome I was going to give my best, and I was going to keep trying. No one or nothing could influence my motivation more than my own desire.

I guess God has hard wired that approach in me by this point. I mean, considering this blog, I consistently overcome questions of my own doubt and it’s value to others when I write. Then there’s the book, the memoir I’m writing. How many times I’ve asked myself, “What if no one reads it?” To add to it are the speaking commitments. It’s awesome being asked to speak at an event, but what’s the point if no one shows up to hear it, or if it’s not relevant to them in their life?

I suppose what makes a dream a dream, is the possibility of failure or of it never becoming a reality. Without the latter, it’s not really a dream at all.

But who wants to fail? Who wants to invest their heart, thoughts and efforts into something that may never come to fruition?

No one, I would think. But wouldn’t we miss something of great value if we didn’t go for it? And even if it doesn’t pan out, we know that we’re becoming something in the process, more of who God wants us to be.

Well, we’ll never know if we quit, or never even try.

It’s why we do what we do unto the Lord and not unto people (Colossians 3:23), because God will get us where He wants us to be. He will make us into more of who He wants us to be through the process, but we have to stay the course, focused on Him.

Walt Disney buying that first-class ticket shows me that failure is more of a mindset than a reality. As Walt said, “Around here however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Nothing holds a candle to God’s creative work in our lives. But we play a part. We have to dare to dream.

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, sharing with your friends and family, or making a purchase below? We can’t grow with out you.

**If you are considering testing for your RNC, I invite you to purchase my study notes.  Your purchase will help us generate funds needed for website redevelopment and editing our book for publishing! The notes are compromised from the book Core Curriculum for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing Fourth Edition by M. Terese Verklan and Marlene Walden. My study notes include all lab values as listed in the book, and the online practice questions, also from the workbook Certification and Core Review for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing Fourth Edition by Robin L. Watson. Also included is the information I needed to apply for the test.  After your purchase is complete, the study notes will be emailed to your address provided at checkout.**

Click Here to Purchase RNC Study Guide

1Walt Disney: An American Original (p.66)

 

Nurses Cry

There are a few days out of each month I have the privilege of walking the halls amongst many great minds and using my life to be of use to another. While I cherish the moments I have to spend working as a neonatal intensive care nurse, I know God is calling me to use my life in some other areas as well. We want to be right where He wants us to be, when He wants us to be there. Although my time in the NICU looks differently now, I’m grateful I still have the opportunity to be there in some capacity. I see mighty works occur in that place, the power of God demonstrated before our very eyes.

There was a season I invested a full-time schedule in the NICU. And during that time I had the privilege of being a part of many families’ journeys. In our unit, our families are given the option to choose which nurses they would prefer to care for their baby. Personalities and dispositions of parents and nurses connect differently, and having a strong connection benefits the baby’s care. One way in particular is from the consistency it provides.

Being asked to primary a baby is a great honor. I mean, to be chosen, is a pretty incredible feeling. Picture being asked out on a date. It means you stood out, you’ve been evaluated and assessed, and the conclusion made is that you’re of value. Someone wants to take you out and spend their money just to spend some time with you and get to know you more. It’s more than the, you’re good enough message, it’s communicating, you’re really great!

While primary nursing isn’t exactly as charming as dating, it certainly provides for a strong bond to be made. Spending twelve hours a day, three days a week, for sometimes and often, months at a time, creates a special connection for nurses with the baby and the family. It’s an endearment that lasts far beyond the discharge date. Friendships are frequently formed. Updates are routinely given. Messages are usually exchanged and occasionally, invitations are extended.

Just a month ago I received such a message and along with it came a request. A sweet woman who once chose me to be a part of caring for her sick baby, was now asking me to help her with an endeavor to help others. She contacted me only a month ago regarding a charitable organization they had formed, expressing her intentions for this project, “to help families with preemie or sick babies.” Her heart for others was evident, “our goal is to help with breast pumps or paying the rental fee for moms who want to breastfeed.” She continued, “to also provide information and resources to them.”

Upon receiving the message, I was honored she felt my contributions through writing would be advantageous for her organization. I was more than willing to compose a post for her. Her last message to me was in regards to her precious baby, “we have such a miracle thanks to all of you that worked so hard on her behalf.”

There is so much I don’t understand about life. There are so many questions I have.

It was a rainy morning that particular Thursday I found myself back in the NICU. I was eager to be there. See, we’ve had a storm at home. From it I’ve contended those occasionally inevitable feelings that nothing I do is good enough and that I can’t get right the stuff that really matters. It sounds selfish, but I needed some time to feel useful, to feel productive, to feel good about what I do. Barely into the eight o’clock cares, my phone received messages my heart could not process.

Message after message came through from those who knew of my connection to this family.

While I didn’t know them well, I knew enough. I knew being a mother was the most important role to this woman. I knew her children to be kind, well mannered and respectful. I knew her to be concerned for others, wanting to help in any way she could. She was dedicated, sensitive, kind, sweet and reasonable. Why use the word reasonable? The NICU sees parents at their worst, when they have no control over caring for their own baby. We walked through a dark time with them, and they came alongside us as a team, for what was best for their baby.

I can’t imagine all the things that may be said about them. Who knows what may or may not have happened? Who knows why?

We’re so inclined to ask, but nothing could attest to the senseless tragedy which has unfolded before us all.

There are times I wish I could emotionally “end my assignment.” We log in at the end of our shift, report off to the next shift, select our patients in the charting program, right click, select “end my assignment,” we clock out and we go home to come back and do it again.   But sometimes we barely get the car door closed before the well bursts open, tears of compassion a nurse can’t help but shed. Sometimes we can’t go to sleep fueled with concern for our little patients. Sometimes we call in the middle of the night just to check in where our heart has stayed, with the patient, with the family, with the hope that a positive outcome will surface.

Nursing is more than a career option. It’s more than a schedule of twelve-hour shifts in which you rarely sit down and sometimes even forgo eating and bathroom breaks. It’s more than stethoscopes, meds and tracking I’s and O’s. It’s an investment of heart. It’s giving a piece of your life for another, and there are times, you’re blessed to be given a piece of theirs. Sometimes it hurts. Many times we cry. But there’s no doubt, someone who is called to be a nurse, will always come back to do it again.

This mother asked me to use my voice here at this blog to inform readers about their organization. I am grieved by the opportunity I no longer have to fulfill her request. So today, I write a little about what I knew of her and her family. I write to say something good about their family while many may be formulating very negative opinions. Above all, I write to point to the One who is greater than the most heinous of all acts, our magnificent God. Only He can bear the turmoil, only He can touch the hearts, only He can speak into the darkness, only He can comfort the overwhelming loss.

Job 19:25 ESV

For I know that my Redeemer lives,

and at the last He will stand upon the earth.

Romans 16:20 ESV

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

A Nurse’s Prayer by Rita Riche

Almighty God, Divine Healer of all, grant me Your handmaiden, strength and courage in my calling.

Give to my heart, compassion and understanding.

Give to my hands, skill and tenderness.

Give to my mind knowledge and wisdom.

Especially, Dear Lord, help me always to remember the true purpose of my vocation, that of self-less service and dedication to the weak and despairing in body and spirit. Amen

*please help in avoiding any mention of names in comments– bless you for your thoughts, your compassion, and your prayers.

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New Year, Same Life

We’re a week into the new year. A week ago today many people had packed up their Christmas décor, along with their reflections of the previous year, embracing the annual “ready, set, go” as our new starting line when the clock strikes midnight.

As far as decorations, there wasn’t much packing for me to participate in this year. The kids and my Mom tackled the task. I picked out non-physically demanding packaging, like the nativity scene. While trying to delicately fit each piece back into the Styrofoam containers, I thought about my goal for 2014. Of course, I’ll share it. But brace yourself. You may think I set the bar as low as possible.

2014 New Year’s Resolution: Be Less Productive.

We quote Ecclesiastes 3:1 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” But are we sensitive to the seasons the Lord is moving us into and out of? Certainly many of us would choose to return to a warmer season, perhaps a beautiful summer day over the bitter cold ones we are encountering at the moment. This is literal and figurative.

Our temperatures here in the grand state of Oklahoma aren’t the coldest in the nation; but are definitely low enough to qualify for mention. How many of us would love to hop on a plane to the Caribbean? But that’s not going to change the reality of the conditions where we live. And sometimes we have to endure where we are until the season changes. It is in the different seasons that we grow and mature. The season shakes things up. No monotony. No apathy. No complacency. Sometimes the bitter cold makes us more aware and more appreciative for the warmth of brighter days.

My 2014 New Year’s Resolution, or what I would consider to be my New Year’s CHALLENGE, had to do with a season the Lord was speaking to my heart…rest.

After years and years of setting lofty goals, I felt challenged to rest.

My husband and I married in 1999. We started building our home at the end of 2000. We welcomed our first child, Brooklyn in 2001. Brandon went back to school in 2002 after a hiatus for the house and new baby. Jaron made his debut in 2003 with our first, yet brief, NICU stay. All the while Brandon and I were working and he was going to school.  2005, I had six surgeries in five months, and then my Dad passed away.  My Mom and I kept the wheel rolling until we sold the business. Caden arrived in 2006. Brandon received his congratulatory letter from OSU on the completion of his mechanical engineering degree and walked in the spring 2007 ceremony; only to find out he had been misadvised on a class and wouldn’t get his diploma until after taking the required class, which he did that summer. I started my pre-requisites for nursing school as soon as Brandon finished. We found out we were expecting again in 2008 and Gavin arrived in 2009 with our unwanted, but second short stay in NICU.  In 2010 I started nursing school at OU, had a couple year whirlwind, graduated in 2012 and started working in the NICU. 2013 felt like our year of transitioning.

When I was evaluating my personal, spiritual, and intellectual growth for the new year, I felt the Lord speak to my heart…REST.

Matthew 11:28, Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Why do we discredit it? Why do we neglect it? Why do we not prioritize it? We feel we can’t turn down someone’s request for the mere fact we need rest. We think we have to be the ones to step up to head the project, because rest isn’t a real reason to decline it. We assume if we’re pursuing good things and meeting goals then we’re fine and don’t need to simply sit. We conclude if we’re home resting, then we’re doing nothing.  When in all reality, it is something, and it’s something quite important. Even Jesus gave us an example to rest in Mark 6:31, “Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.”

We’ve all heard that sometimes we have to disconnect to reconnect. Over the year, each time I began to allow feelings of guilt to seep in, I’d remind myself that I was meeting a goal, rising to the challenge to be less productive. And was it ironic at all that while I was intending to have a year of rest, the Lord already knew I would? I had no idea at the time that I’d be working three surgeries into 2014. While it takes a lot of energy to heal, I had what He desired of me…to be still, to be in the quiet, and to rest.

When reflecting on the year, I see how my loving God orchestrated my season of rest. For 2015, I hear Him speaking to my heart, “It is time.” Over and over, I hear His precious, gentle, inaudible voice speak, “It is time.”  2015 is the time to start the beginnings of what He has prepared, for what He has set before, for what He has planned. And the only way I could have ever known this is by those quiet moments.

Taking a year of intentional rest helps me to realize how productive being unproductive can be. We don’t always have to have measurable outcomes. We don’t always have to have evidence of completed tasks. Sometimes the biggest benefit, the grandest gift, the priceless pieces cannot be seen with our eyes, scheduled on our calendars, or fabricated with our hands. They have to be received in our hearts, nurtured and grown without our meddling and without rush.

The time we take at New Year’s to self-examine is an opportunity to adjust, to tweak, to elevate who we are and who the Lord has called us to be. We get this one life to live. It’s not about what we do. It’s about what we need to be our best. Yes, it’s a New Year, but it’s the same life, the same life we had back in those warm summer months. It’s what we decide to do with this life that makes the resolution worth making.

Bless you as you set out to conquer the goals set before you. Bless you as you pursue the one who placed them there. Bless you as you use your life in this New Year for His glory.

 

*In case you’re being called to a season of rest and quietness, I pray these scriptures encourage your heart.

Psalm 91:1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.

1 Samuel 12:7 Now stand here quietly before the Lord as I remind you of all the great things the Lord has done for you and your ancestors.

Psalm 62:1 I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.

Psalm 62:5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.

1 Timothy 2:2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

Joshua 1:13 “Remember what Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded you: ‘The Lord your God is giving you a place of rest. He has given you this land.’

1 Kings 8:56 “Praise the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the wonderful promises he gave through his servant Moses.

Psalm 127:2 It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.

Isaiah 28:12 God has told his people, “Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.” But they would not listen.

Isaiah 32:18 My people will live in safety, quietly at home. They will be at rest.

Jeremiah 31:25 For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing.”

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

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Who Can Be Against Us?

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31 NIV

Romans chapter 8 is one of my favorite passages. In this one chapter, I find scriptures there that convict me, challenge me and comfort me. But verse 31 came to mind not long ago on a day I was working.

After my twelve-hour shift, I traveled those thirty-five miles home, opened the door, hung my bag on the wall, emptied my pockets and got ready for bed. It’s a typical routine when I’m scheduled back the following day. But my husband seemed to think I had had an exceptionally grueling day. I clarified to him it wasn’t a bad one or a bad assignment, I just felt as if this family thought I was against them the whole day. He asked, “Why would they think you were against them?” And I answered, “Because their baby is in the NICU and they don’t want him to be.”

It’s a typical day at work caring for other people’s babies. But it’s incredibly unnatural. See, moms anticipate and fantasize about the moments regarding their child’s birth. They’ll come in with detailed birth plans. Some will decline epidurals, envision skin-to-skin, putting baby to breast immediately; but none desire the NICU. No one wants to sign up for having their baby taken away from them. Babies are supposed to be placed in their mama’s arms, anything but, as necessary as it may be, feels so unnatural.

I know because I’ve experienced it. Yes, of course as a nurse, but I experienced it twice as a mom, before I ever became a nurse. My second child was born with respiratory distress syndrome. He was grunting, retracting and I imagine didn’t have a very impressive pulse ox. After his initial, but brief visit down to the special care nursery, he earned himself a NICU pass. The nurses brought him by my room and told me they were taking him to NICU. Let me take a brief moment to just say… mamas having just given birth are crazy. I feel I can draw that conclusion having given birth four times and meeting so many women after having done the same. Please don’t make judgments in those moments, or for the next several months even. A woman is not herself. And her mind, well, it is not much to speak of either, which is why I can share with you what I said to those poor nurses when they brought Jaron by my room. “I need to hold him.” They looked at one another somewhat puzzled with traces of fear in their eyes and stuttered a reply, “We were given orders to come by the mother’s room and take the baby straight to NICU. We can’t take him out.” I looked at Jaron in the isolette and said, “Oh no, I need to hold my baby.” They apologized and whisked him out of the room. Despite the residual effects of my epidural, I started to get out of my bed, as if…as if I was going to go after them! Absolutely crazy.

My natural instinct to hold my baby was overriding all reason. I couldn’t even process the fact that without medical intervention he would die. And I see this heartbreak of mother’s routinely. There can be this continual flux of appreciation and aggravation. Overall, parents do seem grateful for the care, but they can also get so frustrated with the process. They simply want to take their baby home and sometimes the only obvious physical barrier between home and the hospital is the nurse. In these moments, strength and fortitude are necessities to focus these families on each goal for their baby, and to remind them how we are doing everything we can to get them there. We must remind them we are for them, not against them.

And we demonstrate that by holding them up. A woman never knows the feeling of having her heart outside her body until she experiences the birth of her child. We literally feel outside ourselves… forever. From the moment that tiny person enters the world and for all the years which pass, our children hold our hearts.

Consider with me the families who were never prepared to care for a baby with extenuating medical needs, or those precious families who never take home their baby at all. Those families, those mother’s, need to be held up. They need to know we are in their corner.

In the times we are speaking words mother’s don’t want to hear, giving information they don’t want to receive, or implementing care they wish wasn’t needed, think of Aaron and Hur and what those men did for Moses.

Exodus 17:10-13

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

These women are in a battle. There is so much conflict in their heart, so much disappointment, sometimes resentment, sometimes denial. Life in the NICU is not the way they pictured it. Therefore, when they ask the same question repeatedly. When they call several times a shift. When they get snippy one minute, cry the next, and moments later spill every detail of their life. Hold them up. They are tired. They are worn. Everything feels heavy. Just like their babies, they need you, a person who cares, a person who loves, a person who is compassionate and understanding; a person who is strong enough, and a person who is for them.

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Give a Little Honey

When searching “The Benefits of Honey,” multiple websites resulted, laying claim to the use of honey in treating allergies, aiding in sleep, enhancing athletic performance, and even treating wounds, such as burns. The same search through Google Scholar provided many articles on the subject. I’m skeptical of the grandiose claims. I eat honey simply because it tastes sweet; any added benefit is icing on the cake. However, there is another type of sweetness that is undoubtedly good for the body, and the soul. The sweetness found in kind words.

New nurses don’t anticipate receiving too much “honey.” There’s not too many opportunities to hear encouraging words, especially from physicians. Why? Because there hasn’t been enough experience to really benefit the team. Hard workers? Yes. But savvy clinicians? Not quite. It’s a time when the team is investing. It is a time when the doctor, the respiratory therapist and when fellow nurses are helping that new nurse connect the dots from textbook to practice.

There are occasions when the unexpected and unanticipated words of affirmation are spoken. I remember two.

The first was when I was working night shift. This was about three months into my new nursing career. I was taking care of a baby who had a tracheoesophageal fistula and esophageal atresia. The baby’s temperature had steadily increased throughout the night, along with the respiratory rate, and the baby just seemed different. I spoke with several nurses, and fact of the matter was I knew I needed to call our neo. No problem, right? Hardly. It was approaching three in the morning and I knew I would wake him up. And then what if he was mad because maybe my concerns were misinterpreted? Regardless, I had to call.

I punched my “neo on call” button and the line began to ring. That awkward moment of identifying yourself and then pausing for the person on the other end of the line to wake up took place; I wonder if it’s something I would have gotten use to had I continued on night shift. I informed him of the infant’s status. He began to ask questions, which caused me to feel even more terrified. I was calling him with questions, I gave him the only bits of information I had. So I thought. That sweet doctor asked, “The baby went to radiology today, right?” I said, “Right.” He said, “Well, it could be the contrast causing the change, do you think?” I said, “I’m sorry, I have no idea.” He said, “It could be the contrast or he could be septic. How do we know?” Again, I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “Well, we don’t. So we better get a CBC and blood culture.” I took the order and proceeded with the lab. That morning he made his rounds and wrote orders for antibiotic therapy because the baby’s white count was elevated along with the fever and respiratory rate. He said, “Good job! You caught that!” What???? Me???? Wow! I sure wasn’t expecting that, and I surely will never forget it.

Another instance occurred about a year into my nursing career. I was on day shift at this point. My assignment was a one-on-one. In critical care, we know that’s not so good. The baby had NEC and the bowel had perforated. At the point I had the baby the abdominal cavity was somewhat open with retention sutures, the baby was being treated for sepsis, was on a JET and was down right very, very sick. I was drawing frequent blood gases. When the results printed for one in particular, I thought, “No way. This can’t be right.” When I handed the results to the baby’s neonatologist I said, “I think there must be an operator error.” She chuckled a little and then said, “No, you did it right. This baby is very sick.”

I administered countless meds, we had x-rays, gave blood, ran gases and I can’t even remember everything else. What I do remember is I had a realization that this baby could die. With each task and every intervention, I prayed. I prayed for a miraculous work in her body. I prayed the Lord would make Himself known to everyone involved in her care by the supernatural touch she so desperately needed. And the other thing I remember is walking out that day. I was exhausted and the baby was not stable. I had given my all and it just didn’t seem like enough. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling too great. And that is when those sweet words, like honey, fell upon my ears. Dr. Malik, sitting at the computer, didn’t look up but said, “You did a good job today, Heather.” I didn’t even know she knew my name! And I surely didn’t feel like I had made much of a difference. But her words made a deposit in my heart giving me the tenacity to come back and do it all over again.

I would love for every physician to know how much of an encouragement they can be to their nurses and what a difference it makes in the work environment. Nurses are going to give their best regardless, because it’s all about the patient, but nothing is stronger than unity. And when everyone is united, the moments of teaching and instruction are well received, the inhibition to ask questions is removed and the security of the team benefits the whole reason we are there…the patient.

Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey—
sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities to work with physicians like Dr. Anderson and Dr. Malik who took a moment to speak kind words. While those moments likely fade from their memory, they will never leave mine.

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Dr. Malik– sweet, kind, gentle, compassionate and approachable! So thankful for her!

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