Judah’s Story: Our Miracle Baby

Judah's Story

Judah Stephen Helm was born on July 14th, 2014, at 11:38pm.  He weighed 8 lbs 3.5 oz and was 20” long.  (Let’s just be perfectly honest here and admit that I had to look all of that up in his baby book that I barely even recognized because I haven’t added to it in so long.  He’s only 2.  But, he’s the 3rd baby.  My brain has to hold other information now.  However, I DO remember the date all by myself.  Win!)

This baby was, and still is, an amazing picture of perfection.  I have never felt so much love flood over me so quickly, as in the moment Judah was born.  I have never felt such peace, honor, and responsibility to protect.  Might I remind you, this was baby number 3.  But I had struggled with mild postpartum depression previously, and a general gradual movement into the hard core momma love thing.  This, though…this was a miracle.  Everything surrounding this little guy’s grand entrance was a miracle.  So let me start over.

In the fall of 2013, I found out I was pregnant.  Yay!  This was planned, and we were excited.  Around 7 weeks, I experienced some bleeding, but it went away.  I googled it to death, and asked a few girls, but decided it was nothing.   One week later, on a Sunday morning, I woke up to bright red blood.  I went into survival mode and quickly and silently got ready, quietly woke my sleeping husband to tell him I was going to the emergency room, and left.  He stayed home with our older kids.  The emergency room visit seemed to take forever, but I wouldn’t allow my mind to think about what was happening.  I knew that once I let go, I wouldn’t be able to gather myself easily, and I didn’t want to be like that there…alone.  After an ultrasound, hormone level testing, and exams, the doctor told me it was an “inevitable miscarriage.”

Once home, I collapsed in the open bedroom doorway, clinging to my son and sobbing.  I couldn’t say anything – I just couldn’t talk – but my husband knew.  That night, I couldn’t sleep.  I went to my kids’ playroom for comfort and just cried and prayed.  I was so thankful for the two children I already had, and couldn’t imagine going through this pain without having them.  So I prayed for other mommas-at-heart.  And I begged God to save my baby’s life.  But I praised him no matter what the outcome.  He is good.  All the time.

The doctors said that bedrest wouldn’t make a difference, but I decided otherwise.  Less moving meant less bleeding, so I put myself on strict bedrest until the appointment with my OB.  Once there, he put me on an oral supplement of progesterone, and the bleeding stopped almost immediately.  I literally believe we were probably hours or minutes away from loosing our baby.  But the progesterone turned things around, and God saved Judah’s life.  The rest of the pregnancy was completely normal and routine.  All tests and ultrasounds came back normal – a healthy baby boy was on the way!

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I had a birth plan in place, as I had with the other two.  My first two births were completely drug-free and I went into labor on my own, 1-2 weeks before my due dates.  I assumed this birth would be similar, but at 41 weeks and 1 day, I was a crazy pregnant lady.  I was SO done.  My sister-in-law, who I’m pretty sure had a due date AFTER mine, had birthed a sweet baby girl 11 days EARLIER.  I had even gone into the hospital that same day in false labor, probably just with sympathy pain.  I had been sitting at 3cm dilated for…oh, I don’t know…FOREVER.  I was done being patient.  I went in for an ultrasound appointment to check up on baby – something routine for mommas who are past their due date.  The appointment was ON the labor and delivery floor.  What a tease.  Last minute, I decided to cancel the appointment and ask my doctor to break my water instead.  This was so not me.  I was going to wait, and I knew that breaking my water would make the strong pain come earlier than normal.  But I was a crazy pregnant lady…and God was writing Judah’s birth story.  Looking back, I am SO thankful we did not have that ultrasound.

At 6cm, I asked for an epidural.  My doctor was totally confused by me at this point.  I mean, nurses make it pretty clear that they don’t expect you to follow your birth plan the first time around (which, I DID, thank you very much), but by baby 3, they figure you know what you’re getting yourself into.  But you don’t argue too much with a crazy pregnant lady, so I got the epidural (OUCH…not the shot…the stinking contractions while sitting in that position).  It.was.AWESOME.  Relief!  Laughter!  Ahhhhh…. I was ready to push in almost no time at all.  My doctor nearly missed it, but he showed up, and I pushed, and Judah was out!  FINALLY!!!

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They put him on my chest, covered him with a blanket “to keep him from being cold,” and we nursed.  (Can I just say the epidural was worth it, if only to not have to feel them pushing on my belly after baby was out!!!!)  I played with his left foot and counted his toes.  I literally remember thinking, “Everybody says they count their baby’s toes, so okay…1,2, 3, 4, 5…this is dumb.  Of course he has 10 fingers and 10 toes.”  And I stopped counting.  My doula told me later that she saw me do that and her heart sank.

See, what I didn’t realize is that he didn’t have 10 toes.  My baby was born with one normal leg, foot, and toes, and one short leg with a tiny foot and 2 toes.  My doctor, nurses, and doula saw it right when he was born, but I didn’t.  I had even leaned up, touched his head, and basically watched myself push him out, and hadn’t noticed what was wrong.  My husband was video taping, and didn’t see it either!  My doctor later told me that immediately when he saw Judah’s leg, he started praying.  “God, give me wisdom.  God, give me the words to say.  Lord, help.”  He knew we needed to nurse and bond.  So he gave that he-might-get-cold excuse to have nurses keep him well-covered.  We nursed on both sides, as my doula took cues and strategically helped the blanket placement as well.  I did not even realize something was wrong until nurses had taken him to weigh and measure across the room, and my doctor asked me if I had seen Judah’s leg.

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In that moment, God held me.  He held my heart.  He held my emotions.  He held my reactions.  He held my mind.  I had peace that passed ALL understanding.  People were waiting for me to loose it.  And I just wasn’t.  God gave me strength, courage, and love that were all His.  I immediately said that this was our baby boy, and God had entrusted him to us, and that I was so thankful and humbled to see what God had in store for him.  I would not have been able to focus during this time if I had been battling with physical pain.  Praise the Lord for knowing I needed that epidural – for the aftermath.

God put the exact people in that room that needed to be there.  He led them.  And they carried me.  My doula (who is a good friend) and I lovingly joke that my doctor is our Birth Pastor.  He has prayed with my husband and I through this journey.  We can rejoice in the Lord together in complete trust in Him, even when we don’t understand.

God also designed my labor and delivery music playlist.  I chose some Christian songs to help me through the time, and listened to them a lot leading up to that moment.  The lyrics and truths in those songs were so relevant to that situation, it still gives me chills.

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Throughout my pregnancy, God was obviously strengthening my faith, a “gift” which I had never felt super strong in before.  He really and truly prepared me for this moment, and I didn’t even realize it.  Until that moment came.  And I am overwhelmed with awe and wonder of our loving Father God.

We eventually learned that Judah has PFFD, or Proximal Focal Femoral Deficiency.  We have been told by doctors, specialists, geneticists, and google that we will never know the reason why he has this.  It is pretty rare, and the causes are unknown.  The medical world does have a few “best guesses,” however, and I have my guess as well.  See, I’ve learned that limbs begin to form in utero around week 7.  (First of all, how amazing is that?!)  Week 7 is when I started having bleeding.  Something happened.  My body was letting go.  But God answered my prayer and saved his life.  My miracle baby.  Leg, shmleg.  He’s alive.  And for that, I am forever thankful.

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God has big plans for this little guy.  And I am so grateful that I get to be his momma, and that I get to be along for the ride.

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Letting Go When You Don’t Want To

Letting Go

Many of you know that our son, Judah, has PFFD, which accounts for his leg length discrepancy.  Explanation of that is for another post at another time.  But for now, I just want to share part of my momma heart on it.

Most of the time, I think nothing of his differences.  It’s just normal life.  People often tell me how amazed they are by him.  Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate those comments, and I am incredibly thankful that he can be an inspiration.  What an amazing gift, and a way he is already impacting the world, before he even means to.  But internally, I am always kind of surprised when people say things like that.  I mean, he totally doesn’t know any different.  He learned to walk.  Just like other kids.  Sure, he learned differently.  Believe me – I get it.  But really, he doesn’t get it.  He just learned to walk.  None of us treat him any differently.  I work with him on teaching him how to go down a slide…just like I worked with my other kids to teach them how to go down a slide without slipping or falling.  I absolutely love that Judah is growing up with this, rather than having gone through a traumatic experience and having his leg taken away that way.

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I don’t bring that up to deter people or say that I think their comments are weird.  I bring it up to say that I don’t get super emotional about his leg and situation a lot.  Honestly, you wouldn’t either if you lived with it day to day.  It’s just how things are!  BUT, there are times I do get emotional. Like right now.

I’m writing about this for a few reasons.  One, it helps my heart to spill.  Two, I want you to recognize that when life gets to be a lot and you feel emotional, it’s okay to feel those things.  Let it out, and then hand it over – completely – to our Good Father God.  Three, if there are any other PFFD (or similar) families out there who read this blog, you are not alone.  The online community I have found has helped me, and I hope this post encourages you too.

So, here it goes.  Currently, there is something that is making me feel hot tears well up behind my eyes, just ready to spill out at any moment.  It’s that toe.  Oh, that sweet baby toe.

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Excuse the bad photography and old pictures (he is almost 2 now!)  But he’s asleep and I’m not about to wake him for a picture.  🙂

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This is my baby’s foot.  He has two toes.  One of these toes has bones, but the other one doesn’t.  It just hangs there.  It does have feeling, it does have blood flow, and I do have to trim that sweet toe nail.  Various people – medical and otherwise – have flippantly suggested we get rid of it.  I shut that down quickly.  I’m not sure why.  But I love that toe.  So much.  Maybe it’s because I feel he has been deprived of so much, that I can’t fathom taking away one more thing.  I kiss that toe.  It is part of my baby.  I feel momma-bear-ish about that toe.  I get that that makes no sense.  I get that the toe doesn’t help him.  But I don’t care.  And I’ve decided that I’m allowed this illogical request, to keep the toe.  The interesting thing was, when we finally got to talk to Judah’s orthopedic specialist about the future, at around 10 months old, he didn’t even ask to get rid of the toe.  He said we would leave everything as-is unless a problem arose.  I know he was talking about joint surgeries and such, but the toe thing was in there too.  Understood.  He’s seen enough momma hearts, and didn’t dare take this away from me.  I couldn’t handle it then.

But a problem has arisen.  No, he hasn’t pulled it off.  No, it isn’t getting caught on things.  You would be surprised how strong that little thing is.  However, last week when I removed his prosthesis and sock, his little tiny toe was swollen and almost purple.  I always pull that little toe out to be even with the other one while he is wearing his leg, but for some reason, this time his toe had been stuck backwards.  His foot and the prosthesis were allowed to put pressure on it this way, and basically cut off some circulation.  It kind of freaked me out, but I decided it was a fluke.  Well, today the same thing happened again.  I’m not sure if the toe was twisted weird, or turned the wrong direction, but it was swollen and almost purple, and Judah was grabbing it and saying, “Ouch” as it started to regain its color – you know that feeling when some part of you was “asleep” and you didn’t realize it until you moved and it started to wake up.  My heart sank.  It’s time to get rid of the toe.

Thankfully, I’ve had time to get used to his reality.  Taking away his toe is not going to be a big deal in the long run.  He will never remember he even had it.  But even typing that makes the tears well up in my eyes.  See, he loves that toe too.  He plays with it, as if for security, when I hold and rock him.  But it’s time to let go of this thing.  This thing that is unnecessary.  This thing that once was security for both of us, but has now become a problem.  The thing that once was harmless, but now sometimes causes harm.  It’s time to let go, and move on, and trust God to take care of my baby and my heart.

This all may sound a little silly to you.  But I think in some way, at some time, we have all been able to relate.  We have all had things in life that seemed harmless – maybe they were even gifts from God, good things.  But then they started causing problems.  Maybe we put too much attention on the gift, and not enough on the Giver.  Maybe we have found our security in the wrong place.  Maybe God is asking us to let go, move on, and trust Him to take care of us, and our hearts.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18

Much love to you as you search your heart, checking to see if anything needs to be modified.  We’re all in this together.

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