a jumble of an update.

i’ve been thinking about how to write this post for 6 weeks and i’m still totally unsure on how to say what i want to say. this post will not rank very highly in the eloquence category, so consider yourselves warned. also, if words like “uterus” make you feel squeamish, go ahead and click over to the next blog post in your reader.

i’ll start with a little background fact: the Perrys do not have fun 20-week sonograms. at Owen’s, our emotions took a plummet as we went immediately from the thrilling moment of having his gender written down for us, to hearing that my uterus had grown an amniotic band that could cause disfigurement should Owen interact with it, and that Owen had spots on his heart and brain. i’ll never forget how i felt in that room, like the blood was draining out of me, like i couldn’t protect a being though it be fully enclosed by my own body. we had monthly sonograms after that, each showing that Owen seemed to be doing well, but toward the end my ability to sustain him was dwindling. fluid levels lowering, placenta calcifying, movement lessening, he had to be removed from me 3 weeks early by emergency c-section. by God’s grace, the heart and brain spots proved to be nothing, and he never interfered with the band, which turned out to be attached to a uterine septum, a “heart-shaped uterus,” a division.

a touch over two years later, we giddily walked into the sonogram for baby #2. once again, we asked that the gender be written down for us to open later, and we were thrilled when it was easily deduced. and then came the plummet,

“Well, almost everything looks good, but this baby has club feet. They could have been caused by him kicking against your uterine septum.”

in case any of you are under the false impression that my initial reaction to everything is “well Praise the Lord,” i’ll just inform you that my thoughts in the moment after the doctor spoke were well outside the range of blog post appropriate.

the doctor went on to explain that he didn’t see any other issues at this point, that the feet were likely an isolated incident, as most cases of clubfoot are. clubfoot is a birth defect that occurs in 1 in 1000 births, 40% of which show the defect in both feet. clubfoot can also be a sign of spina bifida or cerebral palsy. no reason to think the baby has either of those conditions at this point, the doctor told us, let’s do a follow up in six weeks.

let’s go to Antigua and never come back, I thought.

in the weeks since that appointment, we have traveled to Antigua (that will get a “Praise the Lord” from me), hosted the first fosters, and had a follow-up sonogram. i have questioned why we have experienced such a string of strange, not life-threatening but not minor health issues, and why my body seems intent on causing the lives within it to struggle. the follow-up sonogram was consistent with the first, showing clubfoot present in both feet but no markers of a larger issue. my thoughts are still working themselves out.

i am a mix of thankful, frustrated, incredulous, fierce, annoyed, exhausted and ready. in other words, i’m a mother. i’m struggling, i’m processing. i’m learning and preparing; that’s what mothers do.

from what we have gathered, Gabriel will need to see a Pediatric Orthopedist within the first week or two after his birth. at that appointment, he will have his legs stretched and casted, and we will return for new casts every week for several weeks. once casting is completed, he will be fitted for boots with braces and a bar that goes between his feet, most likely to be worn 23 hours a day for a few months, then fewer and fewer hours until he wears it just at nighttime, probably until around age 4. the treatment is extremely effective and, while he will probably walk later than most children, he is likely to gain full usage of his legs and feet over time. for that, we are very thankful.

while we are extremely grateful at the thought of the outcome, we are also recognizing that the process is no small thing. all the “baby stuff” that can come with it’s own set of joys and frustrations, trial and error, like nursing, bathing, babywearing, clothing and playing, has to be thought through a little differently this time around. nursery workers and babysitters will need extra information. sleep scheduling will have to take a backseat to weekly trips to Houston for casting and extra soothing on uncomfortable days. blankets and pillows will be constant companions for supporting awkward limbs. it’s not unmanageable, it’s not nearly as hard as it could be, and it’s also not nothing. i can be so quick to downplay my hardships in comparison to those of others, and i don’t necessarily plan on trading in that quality anytime soon. but this time around, i’m at least letting other people know what’s going on. i’m at least saying that i have completely bought into the “it takes a village” philosophy for raising children, and if someone wants to help, i’ll be saying yes.

we would love prayers for finding the right doctor, Owen’s adjustment to a new baby who will require extra attention, wise financial planning as we prepare for a new onslaught of medical bills and my mental and emotional stability as we prepare to climb a new mountain.

one thing is for sure, our lives are never boring. they never fail to give opportunity to let our true colors show, to ask us if we will choose Christ and joy or self-pity and apathy. i’m praying that by choosing to struggle through my feelings and prepare for this baby with all the foresight and tenacity i can, that i’m choosing Christ. He’s never asked me to shut down those screams inside that say but this isn’t right, to ignore the mothering instinct that is sickened by the thought of her child in pain. i’m hacking away at the lies and accusations that attempt to keep me from taking those appeals to Him. i’m reminding myself that the desire for wholeness, the desire for health and peace and good and right comes from Him. He is the only One who can show me how to live in this in between, in this world where I know of His always goodness yet live inside the nowhere near perfect.

a friend once gave me a Bible with Proverbs 3:26 underlined in it. “The Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.” i never thought that verse would have such a literal meaning to me. it’s become my verse to pray for Gabriel and myself together. Gabriel, whose name means “The Lord is my Strength.”

strength and confidence. uncaught feet. let’s add those to the prayer list, too.

first fosters.

where in the world to begin…

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three little birds flew into our home wednesday morning. into the car, more specifically, where we spent our first hour together, where I realized that they were foster kids yes, but at the root, just kids. copious amounts of “are we there yet?” asks and knock-knock jokes will remind one of that.

the next four days were a continual reminder of that kid-ness at the core, a whirlwind of mothering four, an exercise in growing immeasurable respect for moms of many and the recognition of a growing desire to be one myself. they ran us ragged in my favorite way, every night leaving that “camp tired” sensation coursing through me. i loved it. i miss it. i want my phone to ring and more sweet faces to walk through our door.

we did art projects and put together Legos and read books. we swam and ran and squealed and laughed. we lived like a family.

is all of this so very obvious, full of recognitions I should have had before the three came? I didn’t know that they would feel like part of us, even assumed they wouldn’t since their leaving time was always known. but maybe that’s just it, maybe the knowledge that their lives are full of coming and going, hellos and goodbyes unwelcome, maybe that’s what bonded them to me in a way unimaginable. maybe I’m just pregnant and sappy and idealistic. maybe I’m not going to worry about the reason and just ride this wave of first-time emotions, so sad to see them go, so glad that they live with a wonderful foster family, so begging God to bring them stability. they knew how to pack their bags far too well for children their age.

I’m so thankful as I think on the way the three were loved during their few days with us, the way our church family embraced them and friends came over to play and our families praised their drawings over FaceTime. I’m becoming okay with the fact that I’ve evolved into the pregnant, weeping, worshipping mama in the second row at church, lips quivering through lyrics of God’s sovereignty, love, protection, Fatherliness. those marks of Him cover every part of my life, do the three see it too? they articulated the gospel clearly to me, knew the truth of the body and blood and resurrection. I’m begging for the faith to believe that the Spirit will testify to them exactly Whose children they are when the answer to that question on earth only breeds confusion.

I’m just going to sit here in this moment of reflecting on our first fosters. I’m so prone to running ahead, ignoring the gnawing inside that asks me to just take a minute, just let this be important, weighty, sad. it is sad. it’s sad to say goodbye, and it’s infinitely sadder for little babies to be shuffled from one place to the next, lives shrouded in uncertainty.

remember how I was reminded that the three were kids long before they were foster kids, children just like Owen is, just like I was? this is a truth that burrows deep and demands my attention. just like one with a handicap is not defined by it, these children are not defined by their status in the system. all that that status means matters greatly, but it is not all there is. they do not have to be children of the system forever, defined by paperwork and packed bags. that we could be some minuscule part of showing them possibility, showing them Jesus and hope and life beyond is a calling above my pay grade, a mission fulfilled only by the Spirit’s empowerment. I cling to Him. I thank Him for letting us join Him in caring for souls. I feel sad and let it be so. I wait for the phone to ring.