Friday, December 30, 2011

The things we'll never understand

There are things that happen in this world that I will never ever understand. Things that I can't comprehend, things that just don't feel like they should happen in a world where God is present everyday.

I felt this way when we were in the hospital. As a self proclaimed control freak, existing in a new reality that gave me no say whatsoever was a rude awakening. I felt betrayed and wondered how on earth this was happening to us. When actually, my lack of control should have given me some solace.

Recently I've heard of two other babies in the hospital, the stories of which immediately brought tears to my eyes. I know what those parents were feeling and the mere remembrance of those emotions cause a physical reaction in me that I truly cannot control.

A very sweet sorority sister (also fellow high school volleyball player and fellow blogger) lost her brand new baby boy Reid this month. She said many prayers for Davis when we needed them and as they struggled to sustain Reid's life I prayed constantly. When I then heard of his passing I felt hopeless, like all of our prayers were for naught.

Last night we found out that an acquaintance of ours (and Matt's best friend's cousin) is in the hospital with their little girl who has spinal meningitis and is currently in a medically-induced coma. We don't have any additional details but again, we find ourselves in constant prayer. Knowing of their situation, which bears such similarity to our own, caused me to cry everytime I looked at Davis last night. I cried for the days we spent in sheer agony and for every day we've spent at home since. But mostly I cried out of desperation and for a lack of ability to explain why these things happen.

I suppose it's in these times we should lean on God the most that sometimes cause us to turn away. I know miracles happen. It is the only explanation for why I get to rock my sweet boy in his room everyday, but it is very difficult for me to understand why everyone doesn't get to be as lucky as us, and it makes me feel extremely guilty for this amazing gift we've been given.

When I was in the hospital three different friends send me the lyrics to this song called "Blessings" by Laura Story. I found it awfully ironic that three separate people would suggest the exact same song to me, but looking back on it I understand why. Here are the words. If you are hoping for a miracle for someone else, waiting on one of your own, or just trying to make sense out of this world, I hope this helps.

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family,
protection while we sleep

We pray for healing,
for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while,
You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness,
we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heartThat this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nightsAre what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Merry Christmas

Wishing you the merriest of holidays and a wonderful 2012!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Our family hit a few important milestones this week that I thought were worth sharing. Behold Marden family accomplishments, December 2011 edition.

1. Davis is rolling over! Just 4 days after his 3 month birthday my little love bug decided he wanted to move and he's barely stopped since, begging the need for his new nick name, roly poly. Given his new fascination with movement we've had to stop swaddling him which has lead to a few sleepless nights, but Moms on Call assures me that after three nights he'll get used to being unswaddled and we'll go back to sleeping normally. Tonight is the third night--fingers crossed.

2. Madelyn is almost completely (afraid to say it for fear I may jinx myself) potty trained! Alert the media, cue the harps, and let's all cheer for having one diaperless child! We've been slowly (very slowly) working with her on it since the end of the summer because we've known for quite some time she was smart enough to understand, but as I'm leaning, she is a child who will do things on her time, when she is ready. And it appears she was ready to give mommy an early Christmas present, that sweet girl. I say almost potty trained because she's still in pull ups at night and has yet to go in a public restroom, but we'll get there.

(p.s. I love Davis' face in this picture. He is clearly excited about cuddling with his big sissy)

3. For the first year on record I had all of my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving and even got little teacher gifts for Madelyn's daycare together way before the week of Christmas. I'd like to thank the following parties for making this possible:,, and my company, for allowing me two extra weeks of maternity leave and the ability to be home during this busy time of year. Yay for shopping online at home in yoga pants. Oh, and thanks to Minted and Erin Condren for our cute gift labels.

Hope you all have a safe and wonderful Christmas holiday!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas traditions

Having children seems to fuel you with this urge to infuse Christmas with as many personal family traditions as possible. It suddenly feels increasingly important to add meaning to these days that otherwise pass so quickly and to give your children a little piece of you to remember forever.

I have been wanting to start some family traditions of our own but given my general lack of creativity have found more inspiration from Pinterest and other blogs than from my own creation. I figure, no need to reinvent the wheel. So, in an effort to share with other creatively-challenged folks out there, I thought I'd share.

First, we've decided going forward that we'll wrap all of our Christmas books and leave them under the tree, then each evening the kids can open one to read before bed. After Christmas, all of the books will go up in the attic with the other seasonal decorations until next year so they'll be fresh and new all over again. This fun idea (and below image) was courtesy of Meredith over at the Tichenor Family.

Second, we've begun a relationship with our Elf on the Shelf that Madelyn lovingly named "Smileyface." Admittedly not my first choice for our Elf's moniker, but I suppose it's not my game :) So far, Smiley is proving to be an excellent bargaining chip against disobedient behavior which makes mama happy.

Third, we will celebrate Christmas Eve every year with a Mexican fiesta. To me, there is no better way to embrace our savior's birth than a copious variety of dishes covered in melted cheese. Can I get an Amen?

And lastly, from Nina, each year we will all get a new pair of Christmas jammies to wear on Christmas Eve and while opening presents the following morning. This really appeals to my cheesy need for coordinated family photos during which I can assure you both children will be looking in different directions. Cute jammies do not perfect photos make, but everytime we wear them we'll remember our Christmas together and that's priceless.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Things I'm happy to sacrifice

Everyone tells you that being a parent is the most selfless thing you'll ever do, but like everything else, you never really get it until it happens to you. Honestly, it's hard to even know what it means to be selfless until you are a parent. And I'd wager that what it means to you is vastly different pre and post children.

When we had Madelyn our life didn't really change. Sure we lost some sleep and the ability to travel without 19 suitcases and a monstrous SUV, but we still traveled. We could both easily take off for an afternoon to have some alone time because managing one kiddo is relatively easy...especially, you realize, once you have two.

With Davis things are very very different. Though he looks healthy, happy, and thriving, he is still a 13 week old baby with a heart condition. And this has taken the meaning of selfless sacrifice to a whole new level.

We have very little social life because our sweet boy isn't supposed to be around a lot of people, especially children who could potentially be sick. We've forgone holiday parties, playdates, and even church for his safety (and per doctor's orders). What this usually means is that Matt and Madelyn attend all of the fun things and me and little D stay home. This is actually ok with me-knowing that this is our last baby I want to soak up all of his sweetness as long as I can- and it certainly isn't fair that Madelyn suffer because of her brother's health obstacles.

We don't eat out. We used to love to go out for Mexican or hit up a burger joint on a Saturday night, now we stick to once-a-week Chick-Fil-A drive through that we can bring home. I can't just throw him in the car and run up to the grocery store or Target because those are the other venues the doctors would prefer he avoid. It's just too risky to have him in those environments, especially during this time of year.

Once we were sure of Davis' diagnosis we knew our life would truly never be the same. He can't attend daycare due to the dangers of illness so we've hired a nanny to stay home with him while I work. This is obviously an unplanned financial burden but one we're happy to take on, given that it means we are home with him and the alternative would be waiting for a heart transplant in the hospital. We've completely given up our peace of mind. We can't ever fully relax and assume he is "ok" because we just don't know.

His sweet sister can't even kiss her own brother for fear of what she might be carrying, so she sweetly kisses his toes and his head until we *hopefully* find out, some time down the road, that he's fully recovered.

I'm not saying these things to complain, in fact quite the opposite. It's amazing what you can give up without even a second thought for the sake of your children. Sure I'd love to take Davis out to eat or to a Christmas party where I can show him off to everyone we know--part of the joy of having children is being able to share them with people-but I know right now my selfish wants have to take a backseat to his well being and I am 100% ok with that. I thank God every day for my two little monkeys, and if it means I have to drink my wine at home with Matt instead of in a fancy restaurant, that is fine with me.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I will be grateful

I will be grateful that our neighbors painted their house and not complain that they chose a shade of mint green only appropriate for South Beach and nursing homes.

I will be grateful that I have a wonderful supportive job and not bitter that I have to leave my babies four days a week.

I will be grateful that my sweet husband does the dishes, makes the bed, and throws in laundry and not complain when he doesn't do it the way I want.

I will be grateful that my body has successfully given me two incredible children and not complain about the saggy parts.

I will be grateful that we have a roof over our heads even if it may not be the one we want.

I will be grateful when Madelyn is disobedient because it means she has a strong will and thriving spirit...and she always apologizes afterwards.

I will be grateful for every busy, chaotic day because it means I have a family to take care of and people who depend on me. And if I wasn't busy it would mean I was all alone.

image from here

Monday, December 5, 2011

What we've been up to

Baking delicious homemade granola

Setting up our Christmas tree

Playing Santa's workshop while the kiddos nap

Singing jingle bells and practicing smiles

Experimenting with our hair. (Disclaimer: this was for "crazy hair day" at school though I can't lie and say we don't sometimes do this for cheap thrills)

Staying in our jammies and snuggling all day. It's heaven.

Friday, December 2, 2011

28 days in the hospital

I've wanted to write a full account of our month in the hospital for quite some time but haven't felt emotionally ready to relive each and every life-sucking detail all over again. But considering the general deterioration of my brain since leaving work and increasing inability to remember anything, I figure if I don't do it now it may never be done. So here goes.

Davis was due to be born September 19th at 39 weeks via scheduled c-section. The Friday prior I awoke with debilitating pain in my abdomen. Given the close proximity to my due date we raced to the hospital and spent the day running every possible test without any conclusive results. The pain escalated to where I couldn't sit or walk without crying, yet the doctors had no clue what was wrong so they decided to go ahead and get Davis out for fear of really, the unknown. We now know that Davis somehow contracted the enterovirus from me while in utero and my body was essentially rejecting him. My immune system had sent all of my antibodies to the abdomen to fight the infection, my sweet son. Once he came out the pain was completely gone but we still didn't understand why.

At birth he was born with a fever and further testing came back with a positive but unidentifiable blood culture and low white blood cell count. Nothing that appeared too serious, so we went home.

Two days later I felt like he was overly sleepy but wasn't concerned until around 7 p.m. when he spiked a fever of 101. Within literally four minutes we had packed our bags and were on our way to the ER.

Because of his age (6 days) and his fever the ER doctor insisted upon three tests- a blood draw, a urinalysis, and a spinal tap, to which I literally told him he was out of his mind. Long emotional story short, we did them all. And I sat in the hallway outside his door listening to him scream for what felt like years as I truly cried harder than I have ever cried in my entire life. How could you do a spinal tap on a 6 day old? MY 6 day old? It was truly horrifying.

Good thing we did though, because his spinal fluid showed what appeared to be meningitis. We boarded the ambulance to the in-town children's hospital and arrived there at appx. 3 a.m. to begin a new battery of tests. After a few days we came to the conclusion that he had bacterial meningitis. At the time this was the scariest possible thing I could imagine as it meant 14 days of extremely strong antibiotics that could potentially damage his hearing and 14 days in the hospital.

A week later additional tests came back informing us that he had enterovirus. We met with infectious disease specialists, doctor after doctor after doctor, and decided to continue on our current course of treatment for fear that if he also had bacterial meningitis, we didn't want it to go untreated.

Those first few days we had a difficult time regulating his temperature. One night I'd be wiping him down with cold rags as he burned up with a raging fever, the next his temp would plummet and we'd be putting warm compresses in his swaddle. He also had several IVs through which the drugs were administered and eventually a PIC line in his arm and then later two CVLs, surgically inserted IVs that went directly into large veins. Each increasingly scary and each presented their own individual challenges and fears. It turns out Davis has very visible but extremely small, weak veins, and drawing blood or inserting an IV is both difficult (nearly impossible) and painful. The last blood draw before we left they actually had to draw from a vein in his head. Night-mare.

A few days after the entervirus diagnosis a doctor noticed Davis breathing faster than normal and we were whisked off to ICU after an echocardiogram revealed that the virus was attacking his heart. His little heart was enlarged, one of the valves was leaking, and it wasn't pumping efficiently. We spent a few days in pediatric ICU during which he was given drugs to help his heart pump, human antibodies to help his heart heal, and at one point a blood transfusion because of anemia and low blood count. We had to monitor his urine output to make sure his kidneys were receiving enough blood to function and watch for any change in his behavior that may signal his brain wasn't receiving enough blood.

After a few days he began to show improvement and we moved down to the cardiac stepdown unit where we figured we'd finish out his antibiotics and go home. Except that the day we thought we'd be told we were going home soon, a follow up echo confirmed my worst fears- his heart was getting worse, not better.

For the second time we left for ICU, this time the cardiac ICU which was a completely different environment. I wasn't allowed to stay with him, or breastfeed (so I pumped), visitors were limited, and conversation turned from being cautiously optimisted to talk of a possible heart transplant if this course of meds didn't work. This was by far the low point in our journey. We felt absolutely hopeless, bewildered, and scared to death. I couldn't eat and I barely slept. There were days I did nothing but cry.

48 hours later we were back in the stepdown unit, waiting and waiting and waiting to see if this time his heart would be able to function on its own. And if you've been reading this for long, you know, it did :)

In fact, his heart performed so well it shocked all of the doctors. His last echocardiogram actually almost appeared normal, a possibility none of us had ever considered. And with that, we were released. Of course, not without a myriad of daily maintenance medicines and immediate follow up appointments with the local cardiologist.

For 28 days I slept in his room by his side all but two nights, one of which I was literally kicked out. My mom stayed by my side every single day and went home at night where Matt was taking care of Madelyn. Wonderful friends brought us dinner (Kristin and Matt even snuck in a few beers much to the chagrin of my rule-abiding nurse), pastors visited, people we'd never even met brought us gifts to the hospital. It was an awe-inspiring experience and we're still moved thinking about it today. People all over the country were praying for our little guy and we truly felt it. I know people were praying for me too. Even though I think I probably seemed ok on the outside I was literally having a nervous breakdown on the inside. Then a few days before our release I had a complete change of heart- I realized that if he had to have a heart transplant than that was ok. He was worth every day we would spend in that hospital, and I wouldn't want anyone else in the world to be his mommy, so I better suck it up and deal.

I think one of the greatest blessings is that he was so small he won't remember any of the experience. He won't recall the excrutiating pain he encountered, the wires and monitors, or the smell of the hospital. I on the other hand, will never forget. Emotional drama aside, what it did provide us was 28 days of uninterrupted time together. I held him for 28 straight days in that hospital- praying, singing, crying, and hoping for an absolute miracle. And all I can say is I must be on God's good side because I got one.
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