Part 2 of my conversion (part 1 can be found here) starts with the birth of my second daughter. My first birth ended up a cesarean for fetal distress after a failed cytotec induction. My second daughter we planned to have a homebirth, but after 2 days of labor and failure to progress, we transferred to the hospital for another c-section.
Things weren't good when she was born, her APGAR was only a 2. But the second was a 9 and they took her to the NICU for observation. While she was being evaluated, she started to seize. And seize. And seize some more. Every time she seized she quit breathing. They gave her an oxygen hood and phenobarbital, which helped, but she was still having occasional seizures. The put her on a ventilator and gave her dilantin, which finally got the seizures under control. She was so beautiful. I didn't get to hold her for 5 days.
Initially they thought her had something wrong with her blood, that she clotted too much and it caused a blood clot and stroke, but later they decided they couldn't find evidence of a stroke, but her oxygen flow to her brain was interrupted at some point, which is what cause over 50% of her brain to become completely dead (dead to the point a subsequent MRI showed that it was being reabsorbed into her body). When they first told me that I lost it. She was basically in a drug induced coma and they couldn't give me much of an idea of what such severe brain damage meant for her future. The damage was mostly to her occipital and parietal lobes, which largely have to do with vision and sensory integration.
It's difficult to express what an emotional roller coaster it was. I spent a good portion of the time sobbing (and pumping milk...and pumping...and pumping...my nursing relationship with my first daughter had been ruined and I was determined to make it work the second time around). But it was interspersed with moments of total calm that I couldn't explain. I can vividly remember rocking her in the NICU in the middle of the night at one point, holding her and loving her and just feeling very strongly that we were being taken care of and that it would be alright. I don't mean I had I sense of naivety about the seriousness of what happened. I knew that while the doctors were hopeful there were no gurantees, and that even the best case scenario meant various therapies and mild developmental delay at best. But somehow, in my darkest moments, peace would come. I didn't question that or over think it, I just accepted it and the strength it gave me and went on.
I was amazed at the time with how it worked out. We live 45 minutes from a hospital with an actual NICU. If our local hospital hadn't been full (which never happens, small town!), I would have had my c/sec there, and then I would have been so far away from her. My midwife carries resuscitation equipment, but no anti-seizures meds, so had she been born at home as we planned, things could have been much worse. 3 days after she was brought home (she left the NICU after 2 weeks) my husband was pulled over for speeding. He had our older daughter with him and an ancient warrant for failure to appear in court (bad checks). He was carted off to jail in a town 2 hours away, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. They returned 2500 dollars in bonds to him, which let him take another week off of work to help me. And, all the judge asked was that he get his GED, which he had been planning on, anyway. We also had more unexpected money showing up. We normally live pay check to pay check, without that money to relieve the financial burden of my husband missing work and funding the twice daily NICU trips we took for over a week (45 minute drive one way!), we would not have been able to focus on our daughter and getting through that time. I remember saying to friends "I don't believe in God, but it's unbelievable how this worked out!"
I don't believe that God caused my daughter's stroke, but I do believe that He used it as an opportunity to reveal Himself to me. I felt Him with in the weeks we were in the NICU following her stroke. It was difficult to process at the time and I was resistant. I wasn't sure how to broach the subject with my husband, staunch atheist that he was. We both skirted around the issue in the months following he birth, until he finally blurted out that he was going to talk to a priest and look into becoming Catholic. Needless to say, I was shocked.
My husband told me that when she was in the NICU, he prayed to a God he didn't even think existed, and begged him to take the burden from our daughter and let him take the fall. I don't believe that God makes deals, but as I said, I believe He daily reveals Himself to us and invites us to know Him, and for my husband, being arrested for an ancient warrant 3 days after she came home was a sign that God was there and had heard him. I believe that God used that situation to reveal Himself to my husband, because it was he needed to open his heart to Him.
Riley is doing very well these, by the way! She'll be three in July and she's a blessing and a joy. She's gone to physical and occupational therapy every week since she was 2 months old, and she's also done developmental therapy every week for the last year. She's bubbly and ornery and full of joy! She is, of course, developmentally delayed. She's closer to 24 months development wise than 36. She's also visually impaired and has difficulty with sensory integration (something that's becoming more of an issue as she's getting older and issues like potty training are coming up). I thank God every day for blessing us with her.
We were now on the same page with regards to believing in God. I, however, had no interest converting to Catholicism, although my husband and I had jokingly said before if we ever were religious we'd be Jewish or Catholic. I was a staunch feminist. I was fiercely pro-choice. The Roman Catholic Church to me was a hot bed of everything I stood against.
And so part 3 will start there! Sorry to break it up, but otherwise it will take forever :)