Thursday, January 31, 2008
Britton is graduating to a crib today! He is finally getting out of his open bed, and is moving to a "big boy" bed. This means he can start wearing clothes, and start being swaddled, instead of lying under the heater on the open bed.
He is now up to 6 lbs., 9.4 oz. Yes, he is gaining weight fast! He got down to 5 lbs. or so at his lowest, but is now putting on the weight. He has been a great eater lately and is now on full feeds.
We are currently on day 2 (I believe) of dsat-free days. We have to have 7 consecutive d-sat-free days before we go home. It is *very* likely that we'll go back down to day 0, but so far he's holding his own!
Thanks to everyone who asked about Danny's ordination tests. He did pass his written & oral exams with flying colors. We are very excited! The next step is for him to go before Presbytery on Feb. 12 (and to think that we were so worried during our pregnancy about the baby coming on this day), and then comes his Ordination service on March 9.
Finally, Thanks to all of you who keep posting comments, sending cards & e-mails and encouraging us! We are forever grateful for you!
Little monkey boy loves to eat, but still isn't sure about the burping business.
This is one of his least favorite activities (taking his temp) especially when he's hungry.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Yes, he is his father's son. He is flashing the "hook 'em horns" sign completely of his own volition! The previous picture of him flashing the horns was his daddy's doing, and even then it took a lot of work. This time, he worked his fingers into this position all on his own.
His mama was hoping he would grow up with an affinity for SEC football, but his daddy has already overdone it on the Longhorn gear. I'm thinking we don't have a chance. His daddy is so proud of this littlest longhorn!
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Then (January 8):
Three weeks ago today, Britton was on a ventilator ... he was white as a sheet & getting blood transfusions ... his kidneys were struggling to function ... he wasn't responsive ... he couldn't eat.
Now (January 29):
Today, Britton is breathing room air ... his color is good ... his hematocrit (red blood cell count) is normal ... his kidneys are working great ... his heart, lungs, liver & "gut" are functioning well ... he is eating very well & gaining weight ... his legs & arms are getting stronger ... he is responsive & making eye contact!
How blessed we are to have this beautiful, little person in our lives! We will never forget, or let him forget, the miracle that took place so early in his life.
A fitting gift we received this Christmas was a book by Samuel Rutherford titled, The Loveliness of Christ. It is a very small book with huge nuggets of truth for us to rest in and meditate on. During the end of our pregnancy, Emily and I would read a few pages of this book and pray together for our child and each other ... eagerly anticipating the bundle of joy that was about to arrive. We never expected Britton's entry in the way he came. Yet, now as I reflect on how God had been preparing us to be parents, I find it comforting to know that our focus was to be rightly placed on Christ and not ourselves. In my own strength, I know there is no way I would have handled this emotional roller coaster. Focus has been a theme of mine the past year as I try to ask myself, "to whom are my eyes affixed?" According to Hebrews 12, it should be fixed upon the author and perfecter of our faith. I think I've used this as a theme lately because I struggle so much to get rid of my own narcissistic tendencies. And in light of our current circumstances, I am thankful that both Emily and I are rejoicing in the birth of our son and placing our hope in the Son -- oh how lovely He is!
"The immeasurable, unchangeable, and unconditional love of God is something that is wonderful and precious beyond our abilities to assess. We who are the objects of that divine love are infinitely more treasured by our heavenly Father than we can know. Yet, because the unconditional love of the Lord is not the same thing as an absolute indulgence, we at times feel as though our God's love for us is weak, wavering, or that it has expired to be replaced by divine wrath. Here we must have a clear understanding of the difference between the nature of the love of God and the administration of that love.
It is clear from Scripture that God loves His people unconditionally. The Lord does not discover loveliness in us and find Himself attracted to us because of that, but rather by His sanctifying grace He deposits loveliness in us. Therefore, we read of our being predestined in love (Eph. 1:4,5), and of God's demonstration of His love for us in that while we were at our sinful worst, He gave His Son to die for us (Rom. 5:8). We have done nothing, nor can we do anything, to deserve or compel the Lord's love for us. It is for us a wonderful, liberating, and soul-securing truth that the ground for God's love for us is in Himself not in us. Thus, the foundation for that love is unchangeable, as God Himself is unchangeable.
However, in the administration of God's love, we sometimes find it difficult to perceive that love. This is so because God does not always show us His love in every detail and circumstance of our lives. This is not to say that anything other than His love is the source of all details and circumstances of our lives. It is rather to acknowledge that the changing details of our lives form part of a pattern designed by our heavenly Father according to His wise, holy, and loving determination. We perceive now in part, and that incomplete perception accounts for our occasionally losing sight of the love of the Lord.
We especially fail to see the love God has for us in the trials, afflictions, and deprivations of our lives. But our reckoning that circumstances contrary to our desires betray something less than our God perfectly loving us manifests our confusing divine love with divine indulgence. Our faith should cling to the clear teaching of God's Word, and not seek to read the level of our Father's love for us from the mystery of His providential dealings with us. The Word of God clearly tells us that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases (Lam. 3:22), that God has supremely and undeniably demonstrated His love for us in Christ's death for us (Rom. 5:8), that our God lovingly causes all things to work together for our good (Rom. 8:28), and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8:38,39)." William Harrell
Continue to pray with us as we hope in the God of our salvation. We pray that Britton does not ever recall a day where Jesus Christ is not his Lord and Savior.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Britton is doing really well on his feedings and is steadily gaining weight. He is up to 6 lbs., 3.6 oz now. All of his latest lab numbers are good (won't bore you with the details on those). Because of his d-sats, he went back on the nasal cannula for the last two days, but is back off of it today. So far, he has done well! We don't know the cause of Britton's d-sats -- neurological, reflux, airway issue, etc., but we're all hoping it is something he grows out of quickly. Thankfully, when his oxygen saturation level drops, it doesn't drop by too much.
Britton had an assessment today by the NICU physical therapist, and we received a very positive report! She was very encouraged by his head & eye movements, his facial expressions, and the responsiveness and tone of his arms & legs. We will continue to work with her after we leave to help Britton meet his developmental milestones.
Britton will have another MRI & EEG at the end of this week. Of course, we are hoping & praying for good news. We were certainly sad after last week's negative reports, but in putting our sadness into perspective, we realized that we are so thankful that we even get the chance to be sad! We came so close to losing him, and by all evidence of what he went through, he should not have survived. We'll take a bad MRI report any day over the alternative. We are so thankful to have our hands on a miracle, and we trust that God has a lot more to accomplish through him.
Wish we could get him to hold his pacifier in all the time!
Britton strikes a cute little pose (all by himself this time).
Wearing his mama's shades.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Just woke up ... I'm hungry:
Ummm ... where's my food? Did I mention I was hungry?:
Losing it (check out that pout at the end of clip):
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Today is Saturday, but the days have become so blurred. We typically return from the hospital each night around 10 p.m. As you can imagine, some nights are easier than others to leave his side. Last night was a difficult one as we just wanted to be with Britton as long as we could. The reality that the NICU is going to be his home for a time is still setting in. We suspect, but have been given no indication, that he'll return home around his due date (Feb. 8) if he continues to improve clinically. Almost all of the beds in the NICU have new children in them since Britton arrived. It is hard to watch the families depart for home. We pray for their families as they begin the tough task of post-NICU parenting.
I did pass both of my ordination written exams which is miracle in itself in light of our current events. I will sit before the examination committee this coming Tuesday. If all is smooth we will be preparing for my ordination service on the evening of March 9th. It somewhat pales in comparison to what we've experienced with Britton, but it is still a milestone that is 6 years in the making.
Emily and I are still processing all that has happened in the past 3 weeks and there is still so much uncertainty -- which is the most difficult to digest. It has been sweet to see her love Britton, pray for our family, and be so gracious towards all of our visitors. Our love for each other has deepened and we look forward to raising a family together.
Dad and Britton sharing a pose
"Another strong consolation in this hour of your grief is the truth that, this event- so dark and crushing- was among the 'all things' of the everlasting covenant, and that, therefore, it must be right. Not by accident or chance- for there are no such terms in the Christian's vocabulary has this bereavement transpired. Your mind, in its first transport of grief; finds it difficult to grasp this anchor of your tempest-driven soul; and you can see nothing but darkness and mystery in an event that veils- as with scenery of your life. But, oh, heed the precious truth with which the King of Israel- wading far deeper and darker waters than yours- controlled their turbulence, and floated safely and serenely upon their topmost wave: "Although my house be not so with God; yet has He made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: and this is all my salvation, and all my desire, though He makes it not to grow." In this same covenant is ordered your present shadow- ordered by the eternal purpose, the infinite wisdom, and divine love of your covenant God. Allow this truth to have its full weight with your bewildered mind, and anguished spirit, and your broken heart will sob its sweet response- "IT IS WELL!"" Octavius Winslow (a great companion in 2008)
Friday, January 25, 2008
Here's some Britton cuteness ... I think this guy must get the hiccups 10 times a day:
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Both boys are done with their tests. One got to sleep through his and the other wished he was sleeping.
Please pray for Britton as he is having repeat EEG & MRI tests this morning. His last EEG showed some abnormality, perhaps in part to the high phenobarbitol level he had then. Now that his phenobarb has dropped, we are hoping for different test results today. He is also having a repeat MRI (the last one was normal) because he hiccupped his way through last week's test. We, of course, are hoping & praying that today's results will be normal as well. We will post on the results as soon as we know something.
Also, pray for Danny as he is taking his written tests for ordination today at 1 p.m.
It's a big day for the Giffen men! We covet your prayers!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I believe this is probably the way God sees me in relation to my attitude at life's hurdles. It's as if I'm helpless, so I might as well whine about it! For Britton, crying is his only means of communication, but for me, I have been equipped to handle things more maturely, and, sadly, I often do not.
These last two weeks have been a blur. I have found myself more contemplative and less able to get things done. When a precious life is almost taken from you, it forces you to ask yourself some tough questions. And, maybe, for the first time, I have been rendered completely helpless -- at least I finally recognize this deficiency. There is/was absolutely nothing I could do to save Britton. It was & is completely a God thing. I've witnessed in my own spirit a move from restlessness to calm ... from an "I can do it myself" attitude, to a "God, have mercy on me, a sinner" attitude.
I've also gone back and re-read books or passages that have ministered to me over the past couple of years. A favorite book of mine (that most who know me can attest that I espouse its nuggets of truth often) has stepped up again during this time of conflict -- Holiness by Grace by Bryan Chapell. The following passage encourages me as I struggle to lean hard on Christ and not my own weaknesses:
"We progress in sanctification as we humbly and prayerfully depend upon the Holy Spirit to mature our wills and transform our affections so that we stay on the course that he has designed...No growing (in Christ) occurs, however, without the realization that we cannot progress in our faithfulness to God without the supernatural work of the Spirit. This acknowledgment keeps us from pride in our maturity, or from too hasty judgment of others' spiritual condition. For instance, I can be tempted to take pride in my parenting by virtue of my children's wonderful record of scholarship and conduct. However, I may learn upon my entry into heaven that the reason God so blessed me was that my faith was too weak to have persevered with the more troubled children of other Christian parents (whom I frequently judge for their apparent failings). The challenges of raising a child are as much for the sanctification of the parents as they are for the benefit of the child."
Even within the NICU, it is amazing how the sin of pride can creep into my spirit. I have only changed one (admittedly non-stinky) diaper and I already revere myself as the latest and greatest dad! :) I have a lot to learn, but I thank God for each moment He has already used Britton to point me to Christ.
A sweet Liz Landgren painting just for Britton's room -- a mama lamb, a baby lamb & an angel watching over them. There were several handmade gifts (a beautiful quilt, a hand-monogrammed blanket) ... I wish I had pictures of all of them.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Today marks Britton's two-week birthday! On one hand, we can't believe it's only been two weeks since he came into this world, yet on the other hand, it seems like that traumatic day was a lifetime ago. We are so grateful for the progress he's made in just two short weeks! This little guy has come a long way, and we are reminded of that by the medical staff every day.
Here are a few pictures from today:
Two weeks old today!
BFFs -- Mr. Wilson & Britton. Notice that Mr. Wilson has his own heart sticker and blue tape just like Britton. If you didn't read about him earlier, Mr. Wilson is Britton's bed buddy. He was given to us by the NICU so we could carry him around and have our smells on him. That way, Britton will hopefully be able to sense his mom & dad around the clock.
Happy Mama. Danny & I love every chance we get to hold our little man.
Monday, January 21, 2008
I know the Lord is nigh,
And would but cannot pray,
For Satan meets me when I try,
And frights my soul away.
And frights my soul away.
I would but can’t repent,
Though I endeavor oft;
This stony heart can ne’er relent
Till Jesus makes it soft.
Till Jesus make it soft.
Help my unbelief. Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
My help must come from Thee.
I would but cannot love,
Though wooed by love divine;
No arguments have power to move
A soul as base as mine.
A soul so base as mine.
I would but cannot rest,
In God’s most holy will;
I know what He appoints is best,
And murmur at it still.
I murmur at it still.
Help my unbelief. Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
My help must come from Thee.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
For two weeks this was our home. For the first 24 hours it was the most dreadful place I could imagine. For the next 12 days, it was just my home, like it or not. It was the pathway I took to visit Britton each morning, each afternoon, each evening. Living at a hospital can be tough, I've come to learn. We typically got 6-7 hours of sleep each night but we were always exhausted. The emotional drain of having a child in the NICU can be overwhelming at times.
Last night we returned to our own bed and slept much more soundly, but a return to a quasi-work week also looms. I believe Emily and I are just tired and so wanting to bring our son home into our arms. We now commute back and forth several times each day. I truly believe that this is the time now that begins to be very difficult--the intense trauma has ended, our adrenaline is spent and the daily grind of traveling back and forth sets in. We need your prayers for us as well. It's a game of waiting. We are so excited each time we see him and he warms our hearts with his smiles and fussiness, but then within an hour we say good-bye and plan to see him tomorrow.
I have learned a lot these past two weeks. Probably nothing more than the power or prayer. I am beside myself that so many would lift up this child to reflect God's glory in healing and restoring his body. I have been humbled as never before as I was deemed completely helpless. Sitting just outside the operating room while Emily had her c-section was a surreal experience. There was no crying to be heard through flapping doors that is typical when a baby enters our world, just beeps and rings and the rustling of nurses feet. I tried to pray, but more likely just kept asking "why?" This quote from Richard Sibbes comforts me now when I could find no words of comfort for myself then.
"When God means to bestow any blessing on His church or children He will pour out upon them the spirit of prayer and, as all pray for everyone, so everyone prays for all; this is a great comfort to weak Christians when they cannot pray, that the prayers of others shall prevail for them."
I have been weak often these past few days. But the prayers of God's people have encouraged us beyond anything that is in ourselves. We have experienced new joys. Continue to pray with us as this miracle begins to shine forth more and more each day.
Lastly, this was sung at our service this morning at Covenant Pres. It is one that still causes me to weep.
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.
Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.
Here is a picture of our little family taken tonight. Danny & I moved back home yesterday and had the best night's sleep we've had in 2 weeks. We are now driving back and forth to the hospital.
Britton snoozing with Mr. Wilson. He actually was so much more awake & active today -- a result of the phenobarbitol wearing off. They are holding the medicine until his level drops. Nurse Amy carried him around all day b/c he decided he didn't like laying in his bed any more. His fussiness is another indication that the meds are wearing off. His muscle tone is also a lot better today. He will go back on the phenobarb at some point, but the docs are wanting to keep it at a much lower level than it has been.
Like my big hairy guns? (Danny's contribution to this post.) This picture (taken yesterday) shows his nasal cannula, which provides room air-level oxygen. Today, he is off the cannula and is doing well. He occasionally has "d-sats," where his oxygen saturation level drops. This is going to be one of the biggest obstacles to us coming home. The d-sats appear to be positional -- he only does it when his neck is at a funny angle -- or when he is feeding and he can't breathe deeply enough and suck & swallow at the same time.
This is nurse Amy feeding Britton. She is able to get lots of food down him! A tough task for a baby that doesn't want to eat too much. She is going to start teaching us how to feed him tomorrow. Feeding & gaining weight is the other obstacle to him coming home. He has to start gaining weight. He has lost for the past 3 days, but is only down to 5lbs., 11 oz. (2 oz. down from his birth weight). We are hopeful that he shows a gain tomorrow. He has to show an upward trend of gaining weight before we can take him home.
Britton is Amy-fied! Amy (above) is a master at positioning the babies so that they are comfortable and don't move around. Britton seems to like all the body pillows.
Tired Mama. Tired Britton.
Thanks so much for being on this journey with us! We are amazed every day at his progress, and are so thankful for the miracle that he is. We are so thankful for every day we've had with him, and are still, at times, in unbelief that he has not only survived such a traumatic birth, but that he is thriving. We are blessed beyond belief...
Saturday, January 19, 2008
I tell you what, this kid is about as cute as they come. Our nurse yesterday pointed out his good looks and reminded us that not all babies are cute! :) Emily and I both agree he already has us beat on the "good looks" department, although Em's running a tight race with him--both are gorgeous! :)
Friday, January 18, 2008
The main things that have to happen before he comes home are:
* he has to eat well
* he has to gain weight
* he has to keep his oxygen saturation levels up
We have been told that it will at least be another week, or maybe two. We hope it won't be any longer than that!
Danny & I are moving back home tomorrow. We have really enjoyed staying at the hospital and being so close to Britton, but it's time to get back in our home, and start getting everything ready for the little guy to come home. We hope the impending snow storm here won't get too crazy tomorrow.
Here are some pictures & a video from today:
Danny's first dirty diaper change. Many more to come!
Loving the Eskimo kisses.
Grand Marna (Emily's mom) is back in town, and got to hold Britton for the first time tonight.
Jesus cast a look on me, Give me sweet simplicity
Make me poor and keep me low, Seeking only Thee to know
All that feeds my busy pride, Cast it evermore aside
Bid my will to Thine submit, Lay me humbly at Thy feet
Make me like a little child, Of my strength and wisdom spoiled
Seeing only in Thy light, Walking only in Thy might
Leaning on Thy loving breast, Where a weary soul can rest
Feeling well the peace of God, Flowing from His precious blood
In this posture let me live, And hosannas daily give
In this temper let me die, And hosannas ever cry!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
We were visiting Britton in the NICU yesterday when another baby here coded at birth. He/she is now on the cold therapy blankets (this makes only the 4th or so baby at this hospital to be on this treatment). In light of Britton's progress, we are so hopeful for this little baby, and hope to be able to talk to the parents at some point.
The little thinker.
Bonding time with Dad.
Our friends who have visited Britton can't believe how small he is. Apparently, he looks a lot bigger on the Internet. You can tell his size a bit as compared to Danny's hands.