Sunday, July 22, 2012

How do you measure a year?

You know those moments; the ones that completely alter the direction of your life. They can be good or bad. Maybe it happened when you got engaged, or the time you found out a family member had died. You might have had one when you got into the college you wanted to attend, or the first time you ate an In-N-Out Burger.

For me with Natalie, the first of those moments was on an early date at an A's game. Natalie impressed me with her vast knowledge of baseball, and even noted that Jeremy Giambi was a proper leadoff hitter because, despite his lack of speed, he had an excellent on base percentage. In truth, his lack of speed will forever haunt me. (Slide Jeremy, slide.)

More recently, one year ago today in fact, Natalie and I had an experience that forever altered the course of our lives. It happened during our 20-week ultrasound, when we saw this...

So many thoughts, and so many emotions flooded our brains as the ultrasound technician looked at the image on the screen. Her demeanor changed quickly, though we knew not exactly why; we just knew that something didn't look quite right. A hushed silence fell over the room.

"Do you know if the baby has a cyst of some sort?" she asked.

We knew of nothing. We had seen a small image of the baby during the first ultrasound in week eight, but hadn't seen one since. And, he just looked like Mr. Peanut at that point anyway.

After checking out the rest of the baby's important parts, and relaying to us that it was, in fact, a boy, she left the room to share the images with the physician.

Then, we waited.

I'd never wish that wait upon anybody.

You want to learn patience? Try this wait on for size. Your first child appears on the screen, clearly not entirely healthy, but also not unhealthy in a way you've neither experienced nor expected. The only person with any ounce of medical knowledge just left the room to confer with someone who (we hoped) had significantly more. We were left to fend for ourselves, not even knowing what to search for on WebMD.

After what seemed like an eternity, we were whisked into an exam room where we met with the OB. We were fortunate to be in the care of Dr. Craig Gourley that day.

Dr. Gourley described briefly what the potential situation was, then he referred us upstairs to the high risk clinic pregnancy clinic within the medical plaza. They wanted to get us in as quickly as possible, but weren't able to do it immediately. So, we went to Zoe's Kitchen and attempted to enjoy what is truly a great lunchspot. (Choose your own adventure with the entree, but be sure to get the braised white beans as your side. You've never had anything like them.)

We called family, and shared the good news: we were having a boy. But, we weren't sure if he would be healthy or not, and we didn't know how serious these complications would be.

Then we got a call from the high risk practice; they were able to see us shortly. We hopped back in the car, still not knowing what we faced, and headed back to the doctor's office for another ultrasound.

This time, we met with Dr. Thomas Stubbs. Quickly, he gained our confidence when he referred us elsewhere; outside of Charlotte, in fact, to a specialist whom he felt would be more able to assess our situation. When a doctor with as much experience as Dr. Stubbs referred us elsewhere, we knew it was serious. But we also knew that we were in the hands of a humble, capable physician.

Natalie and I went home that day having had a totally different experience from what we expected. We cried, prayed, and shared more with family. We tried to focus on the good without ignoring the risks. And, we spent time reading and studying.

Fast forward one year, and what does life look like?

It looks like this...

and this...

and this...

Theo has been through a ton, but, he's persevered. This experience has taught us more about who we are and who God calls us to be than we could ever imagine. Through it, we've met more amazing people (Dr.'s, nurses, and other families) than we ever thought possible. In some strange way, while we wouldn't have chosen these challenges for Theo, we're exactly where we should be, and we're doing exactly what we should be doing. He still has a long road ahead, and we're never promised tomorrow. So we're cherishing every smile, every bath, and even every dirty diaper.

This past year, I've embraced this song by John Mark McMillan like never before, and I've spent time singing it to Theo in the womb, in the NICU, and at home. I was so thankful to hear it played today at Mosaic Church.

We took Theo to Zoe's Kitchen today for lunch. (I got a sandwich, with a side of braised white beans.) We sat and talked about our future, and our past. And, we held Theo. He's hard to hold now: he likes to wiggle a lot, and he's over 18 pounds. It turns out he likes Zoe's, too. Maybe not so much for the food as the ambiance and the company. One year ago today we had lunch there in total disbelief. We did the same today, though for a different reason. Maybe we'll turn it into an annual tradition.


  1. Nick, I'm so glad to hear your perspective on this year. People ask me how you're doing and I can't keep my eyes from being flooded with tears every time. You and Natalie are the perfect couple to be gifted with Theo. It would be impossible for him to have parents better suited to the task of raising him with all of his challenges and his quirky personality, too. It has been a blessing to witness you and Natalie begin walking through this together. Thanks for letting the rest of us be part of it.

  2. Nick you are an amazing man of God and I am grateful to call you a friend. While Theo can not yet tell you that he appreciates everything you do for him, he will one day. I look forward to hearing many more great stories of triumph.

    All For the Glory of the Lord,
    Ed Coambs