Thursday, October 4, 2012

Serenity, Courage & Wisdom

God grant me the SERENITY
to accept the things I cannot change;
COURAGE to change the things I can;
and WISDOM to know the difference.

As I struggle with our entire journey and prognosis, this Serenity prayer keeps coming to my mind, and I've been reflecting back to it daily. Of course I wish things had turned out differently. I wish they were just now meeting us and this world healthy and ready to go home, and I wish that I had experienced a full and happy pregnancy. Instead, all of my milestones were clouded by darkness or I simply did not reach them. On the first day of my 2nd trimester, I ended up in the hospital with a "threatened miscarriage." On the day of the gender sonogram, we were elated to know we were having one boy and one girl; however, fear set in when we were rushed to the hospital for an emergency cerclage. The excitement of the third trimester is something I never reached. The unimaginable joy of delivering was instead a fast and frantic delivery and fear was our only emotion. Helplessness is what I have felt here in the hospital as I have watched both of them fight to survive infections and grow. What they have gone through, especially Drake, is not fair, but there are no guarantees in life. This is our reality; this is the hand we were dealt. I pray for serenity.

Brian and I had no choice but to face this hurdle with as much courage as we could muster up. Our fate is not etched in stone and we will work every day to help both Drake and Kennedy reach their full potential. Doctors are filled with knowledge and statistics, but they haven't taken into account the love and determination of our family. Over the weekend I felt that there must be some mistake...they were showing us the wrong MRI. Those results do not match up with the little boy we are looking at in this crib. Today I accept that this is Drake's diagnosis, but I do not accept the limitations. I pray for courage.

I have gone back over the week and days before they were born with a fine tooth comb. Were there any signs? Could I have done something differently? Could this have been prevented? Why were they born so very early? The doctors tell me that these things just happen. What that really means is that they don't have the answer either. These questions fall into the area of guilt that plague mothers of preemies.

Drake had a good day today and he will be on full bottles in no time. He also had a routine echocardiogram and everything looked completely normal. Kennedy is still working on her feeds. Reflux has been a major issue for her and we are hopeful that her reflux will improve in time. Tomorrow I will be meeting with a developmental doctor about Drake, and hopefully I will learn some new things that will be beneficial for him.

1) Drake
2) Kennedy
3) Drake
4) Kennedy
5) Drake exercising


  1. No one is at fault for any of this. Especially YOU, Annie. I whole heartedly believe that
    God gives us mountains to climb to show us what we're made of. You and Brian have proved not only to the world but to those babies that u will do what it takes to give them the love and support they need to thrive. Keep your head up...God has great things in store for all of you as a family. Unlimited prayers going up.

  2. Yes. Never accept the limitations! I was told my daughter would not do many things, but she has. Drake can too.

  3. You all have been constantly in my prayers and thoughts lately. Even though we all can't see Drake in person, I too see life and cognizance and understanding in his little eyes. I completely understand the guilt. My labor and delivery of my twins 16 weeks early was completely unexplainable too. None of the doctors knew why I went into labor. Despite knowing I did nothing wrong to cause my twins' very early arrival, I still deal with feelings of guilt, and my twins are 2 1/2 years old. It's just part of being a preemie mommy I suppose. Hitting that due date mark in the NICU is really hard too. You can't help but think of the what-ifs and should-have-beens. The pictures are absolutely precious of both of them. Drake's hat is too cute! How long has Kennedy been off oxygen now? Praying you all will be heading home soon.

  4. Annie, praying for your heart to be healed and your mind to not be troubled, as you have to remember that all of this happened in God's perfect timing. We as humans will never understand why he has things happen the way that they have, but we just have to trust God and know this is all fitting into his perfect plan.

    Drake was previously given 24 hours a few weeks ago and remember how many days he kept going after that before finally urinating and going from there? Doctors can't put a time limit on Drake, only God, the one who created him can do that. God may only give us 2 more years with Drake, or he may give us 100 more years with Drake... only time will tell and all we can do right now is love Drake, treasure each moment of his, and shower him with love and affection, so he can grow up happy, loved, and keep making a difference in so many lives all over the world.

    Annie, what you and Brian and everyone else in the family has been going through for so many weeks now is very tough and is more then anyone should ever bear, but God has been there for you through all of this and will keep being there for you. I know it is so hard to just trust in him right now and let him guide you, but just cast all your fear, worries, and doubts to him, having him wash them away, and replace those negatives with peace and a calm heart.

    Drake, you have come a long way little buddy, and I know you have a long way left to go. Don't let any of those around you discourage you, as you are such a strong fighter and I know you aren't going to let some doctor's words stop you, but you will keep growing, thriving, and defying all human odds, as you are the child of God, and he knows what you are made of! We love you and think of you daily, and can't wait for you to get out of the hospital and be safe for visits, so we can see you and watch you grow up with that great big smile on always :)

    Kennedy, keep being strong for your brother, encouraging him to keep fighting and not give up, and being there for him always. Drake is going to be so blessed to grow up with a sister like you around, and I know he will also watch over you as well. You two always sticking together, will be able to get through anything in life.

    God, keep watching over Drake and Kennedy, Annie and Brian, and everyone else in their lives, giving them peace, comfort, and the knowledge that you have it all under control, knowing already how things will turn out, as part of your perfect plan. Please keep protecting the doctors so they can care for these two loved ones of ours, give the nurses strength to keep watching over them, and may they be given the best care possible, so that they may grow stronger and able to leave the hospital soon, and start growing up normal as can be outside of the NICU and Special Care.

    Annie, Psalms 46:10 says "Be still, and know that I am God"... Matthew 11:28-29 says "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

    Annie, be still, know that God is under control, give him your heavy burden to carry, and find rest for your soul right now in this troubled time. God will get you through this, carrying you onward, just trust in him.

    God, please keep watching over the Gilstrap family and everyone else in their lives, and comfort everyone right now, so they can have peace, knowing you already have everything planned out in your great big plan for our lives.

  5. I just read the same verse from Matthew just yesterday and my thoughts immediately went to you and Brian. I pray that you will find rest for your soul. Both of your strength, love and faith are amazing and we continue to pray for you and Drake and Kennedy and everyone in the lives of these precious children. God certainly placed them where love knows no boundaries.

    Allen and Karen

  6. That is a great prayer to remember. Being a mom is a tough job, and yours began exponentially harder than the typical routine! I am pretty confident that you are physically and emotionally exhausted, and must often be on information overload, trying to listen and understand so carefully to be able to care for sweet Kennedy and Drake!

    I wish I felt less guilt as a mother. It can be so non-productive, worse than non-productive, it can be destructive! I would think you have absolutely no fault in this. The scripture of Jesus and the blind man came to mind as I read your post: John 9

    1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

    2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this aman, or his parents, that he was born blind?

    3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

    Now, I'm not saying Drake and Kennedy have had to have these difficulties to manifest the works of God. That sounds pretty cruel. But, the other parts ring true: You and Brian did not sin, and certainly not Drake and Kennedy. And for the works of God being made manifest? The amount of people that are praying for your family and that are touched by your experiences is huge. Again, I can safely everyone would have preferred you to make it well into your third trimester, but your family has touched so very many. He must be so pleased that you are fighting so hard for your babies, and at the same time, fighting against fear, doubt, worry, guilt, and frustration.

    I pray that as you continue to seek Him faithfully, He will replace the burden you are carrying with the serenity, courage, and wisdom you seek. May His peace and love give you rest, fill you and heal you.

  7. Annie - Thoughts of you and your sweet babies fill my thoughts and heart daily. Yesterday as I was driving to school, Drakes song came on (Syd has deemed This Ones a Fighter as Drakes song) After that song, Jason Maraz's song I Won't Give Up came on... tears filled my eyes as I drove into the parking lot of school... the words made me think of you, Brian, the babies, and all the prayer warriors lifting you up... We love you and know that even with medical science that God has a bigger plan...sometimes it is difficult watching that plan unfold. You are so strong and those babies know it! Sending you extra prayers, tons of love, and giant hugs!

    Love you -

    Sydney and Yvonne

  8. I know I normally write a book long response...I may come up with one later, but for now:

    I have never been so inspired by another mother. There are days in my simple life of motherhood that I cannot even muster an attitude of faith and courage--you are just incredible. And so is your hubby, son and daughter.

    I am still praying for blessings upon each of you, yet somehow I am the one who feels blessed by the 4 of you. Keep the faith Team Gilstrap!

  9. I have been reading your blog for a while & I can really sympathize with y'all. Here's a very condensed version of my story: Ryan & Michelle were born 5 weeks early, we were assured this was not a huge deal, happens all the time. Ryan was born 2nd, breach, cord wrapped around his neck, had to be reccessitated, low apgars. You could tell he just "wasn't ready"... 2 years later, a diagnoses of autism. Very delayed speech w/ imparments, poor fine motor skills, ADHD. Today my twins are 13yrs. Ryan still has all the labels, but.... he is sweet as can be, he has improved tremendously in all these areas. He has tested with a low IQ, but I am convinced they just don't know how to give IQ tests to people with autism because he is such a bright kid!
    And there was a LOT of self doubt on mine & my husband's part earlier. Did I not eat the right foods, did I not wash the veggies good enough, did living in that old house poison my system, did I smoke too much pot or drink too much when I was younger? You did nothing wrong. You tried to care for yourself the best you could. It's not your fault!
    I would do it all over again. It has been really hard over the years, but it has been oh-so rewarding! I am so proud of my family and so in love with them.
    Please keep the faith, pray, love, accept and hand over your worry to God. DO NOT have any regrets! Believe in great things and great things WILL happen. I pray for your sweet family everyday!

  10. Your physical body may have let you down but you have gone far and above the call of duty of most moms. I remember all to clearly the fear and emptiness of delivering premature babies and how I thought I'd failed at my very first day of motherhood, but I had to let go of my regrets and "what ifs" and forgive myself for what I couldn't prevent. God has a plan for each of your precious babies and will do miraculous works in your family. We will continue to lift you all up to Him.

  11. What a story...I can relate on some level. I had a cerclage as well, at 18 weeks, with four months of bedrest. Our daughter still came early, at 32 weeks, after my water broke. I remember so many "what ifs" or "if onlys", and the desire to have a "normal" pregnancy/delivery/baby. However, sometimes I think we're the lucky ones. While our children came into the world early, we get that much more time snuggling and loving on them...and we certainly don't take any day for granted.

    Praying continually for your family, especially Mr. Drake...I just know he has a fighting spirit and that God is going to use him in might ways.

  12. I know that I don't always sign, but I read this site religiously! I always have to check in on the babies.

    I understand your Mommy guilt - and unfortunately - it is always going to be there. It will get much smaller (trust me) but it always finds a way to rear its ugly head. I know that these things just happen. Grace's heart was formed before I even knew that I was pregnant. But, there are so many what-ifs. Everyone tells us that we did nothing wrong....but it still lingers there...unwelcome.

    All of this to say, it sucks and it is hard. But, I wouldn't trade my Gracie Lou for anything in the world....even with all the diagnosis, surgeries, hospitalizations, etc that she came with. We love her just the way God created her. We don't always know the road He wants us to walk down...but we can walk it knowing that He is beside us and carrying us when the burden gets to be too much.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers. I am constantly praying for those 2 babies and their parents because their mom was one of my best friends in high school.

    If you need to talk, vent, scream, etc....please let me know. I know how you feel. I get it. And I promise that it gets better.