I'm pretty sure it's been at least 6 months since I last posted. There's NO WAY October 1st was only a month and a half ago. Remember me? Yes...I am alive. Yes...my husband survived his 10th marathon. And no, I had no idea that the St. George marathon this year would be the beginning of my family's life changing forever. NO IDEA. Get ready, because I'm going to get a lot more personal here on FitMePink than I ever thought I would. Ready? Here goes.
My big sister is my hero. She always has been. And now I know FOR SURE that she always will be. I spent my years growing up copying her every move. Everything she did was cool. Everything she wore was cool. She wasn't ever thrilled to share her clothes with me, but I had to practically beg her to wear something of mine, because if she ever wanted to wear my clothes? Then I had truly entered the world of coolness that every little sister dreams of achieving. Recently, my sister inspired me to become a certified Zumba instructor. Since she was so passionate about Zumba, I knew I had to do it. I left my baby home all day for the first time to attend the certification class. Totally worth it! My sister is a leader, my sister knows who she is, and is true to herself in all she does. She's definitely not the type to run a marathon just because everyone else is doing it (I'm totally that type!) She's an amazing mom, an amazing wife, an amazing sister, daughter, and friend.
I know we all have trials, but I don't think many of us will experience a trial quite like the one she's going through right now.
It all started last April. She was pregnant, expecting her fourth baby in October. Her husband, who'd lost his job a few years back, was finishing school. He graduated, and had seemingly plenty of time to secure a job before the birth of their baby boy. Several times, he was sure he had something promising, only to have it fall through yet again. Finally in July, he was offered a new position. The downside? It would require 8 weeks of training in Chicago. The date he would begin training was pushed back again and again, until he was told he wouldn't be starting until the end of September. A little disappointed, they figured that at least he could be home for the baby's induction on October 7th for one of his weekend trips home (promised every two weeks during training). And at least she had Zumba to look forward to...teaching 8 classes a week does wonders for a missing-your-husband state of mind.
With no husband, she was relieved that we would be visiting for the St. George marathon. Early Saturday morning, we left her with two of our kids, and her three, and headed down for the race. My husband hadn't trained, and we really should have just stayed home to spare him the pains that result from lack of training. But having spent the entry fee, he couldn't stand the thought of not actually running the 26.2 miles, so in Southern Utah we were. We got back to my sister's house late Saturday afternoon, and decided to spend the night, and hang out with her on Sunday before driving home.
Sunday morning, the contractions began with some spotting. She came out of the bathroom in tears, not wanting to be in labor with her husband so far away. We hung around all day, not sure we could leave her even though she assured me it was nothing. She figured she was just having contractions, and that they would just go away. Sending us home was a sign to the universe that this baby could not come two weeks early. At 6 pm we left, and I texted her to make sure she was okay. She wasn't. She'd just had two big contractions, so we turned around, I nursed my baby, and left my husband in charge of 6 kids as we headed to the hospital. Her baby was born two hours after we got there. It was a miracle to witness. I will never forget watching my strong sister give birth to this beautiful, precious, purple bundle. I will never forget cutting his umbilical chord. I loved all 5 lbs. 13 oz. of that little Jack as if he were my own. And I will never forget the hours, days, and weeks that followed.
Soon after birth, exhausted, and husband-less, the doctor came in to tell my sister that there was a slight chance the baby could have Down Syndrome. "Don't worry about it, it's probably nothing," he said. I watched her face, watched the doctor, wanted to kick him out of the room in a not-so-loving manner for tearing my sister's already upside down world into more broken pieces. We cried all night long. A few days later, her husband caught an early flight home, and relieved that the worst was over, we drove home with our three kids, including my amazing little baby who survived once again without her mama.
Before the hubby flew back to Chicago, my mom arrived to take over from Tennessee. Phew...the worst part is over, we thought. The baby's here. He has Down Syndrome. He was born into an amazing, loving family. They'll be okay. And then the throwing up began. "It's totally normal," the doctor said. "Just feed him some formula to help weigh it down." "Hmmmm... 4 lbs. 10 oz. I'm not too concerned yet. Let's re-weigh him in a few days." Finally, the waiting for answers had to stop. They were going to the emergency room whether the doctor liked it or not.
Two weeks after his birth, I was at the hospital again. This time, I was waiting at Primary Children's hospital for my sister's ambulance to arrive with her sweet baby. Severely dehydrated, he'd had zero nutrition in his tiny body for two weeks. I have no doubt that faith, prayers, fasting and blessings kept him alive when a doctor didn't. Diagnosed with duodenal atresia (apparently very common in babies with Down Syndrome...should've been one of the first things they tested for), he had to undergo surgery for the blockage in his intestines, but not until he was well enough. So three weeks ago, he had his first surgery. And this morning, they found another blockage and performed another.
My sister is my hero. Her family has been spread throughout the country. Her husband in Chicago, her kids with her in-laws in Southern Utah, and her at Primary Children's hospital because the only thing she can offer her sick (but recovering!) baby is her love, her swaddling arms, and her prayers.
Last night I sat in the hospital cafeteria with her as she talked to her kids on the phone, sang the "Transformers, more than meets the eye..." song to her 4-year old, listened as her 6-year old sang his made-up song to her, and as her 8-year old said their "family prayer." Today I watched her sit, exhausted in the waiting room while her now 6 lb. baby underwent another surgery. I saw her talk to her husband, and tell him the good news that the surgery went well, and saw her breathe a sigh of relief as she realized that his 8 weeks of training will be over in two days!
As I've watched my sister over these past weeks, I've realized how shallow my life has been. Every day I've woken up, worried about whether or not I can fit in an hour of exercise. I've been nearly devastated as I've driven to the gym without the chest strap of my heart rate monitor, for crying out loud. I've felt sorry for myself when my husband has had to stay late at work until, oh, 8:00 at night. So tonight, I sit here grateful beyond words for the birth of my sweet nephew. He has taught me more in the short 6 weeks of his life than I ever could have learned in a lifetime without him. I've learned that prayers really are answered. I've learned that my family is the most important and treasured of all my posessions. I've learned that the most important thing I can do is to nurture and cultivate my relationships with my loved ones, because tragic things happen every day. They need to know I love them. I've learned that a lot of people love me and would do anything for me. I've learned (again) that my husband is amazing...he's totally stepped up in the childcare department when I've completely dropped the ball to help my sister. I've learned that there really is a God in Heaven who is keenly aware of even the tiniest of babies. Through his tender mercies, we were in St. George at the right time so my sister wouldn't have to deliver her baby alone. I've learned that good things don't happen by coincidence. And I've learned that my sister is still my hero.
I think one day I'll look back and wonder when my life changed forever. I'd say it was the day Baby Jack was born. Welcome to our family, sweet baby. Hopefully soon we'll get to welcome him home where his family can all be together again. When that day comes, maybe I'll start thinking about training for the marathon I signed up for in May, or actually teaching the Zumba I was certified to teach. But until then, as I've said before, exercise IS important...but some things are more important!