When Christopher was five, they got a call from his birth family. His cousin, also five, needed a place to stay for a couple of weeks. Weeks turned into months and pretty soon it was clear that Isaac belonged with us and he was adopted too.
Jim and Millie still wanted to have a girl. I started praying for them that somehow, by birth or by adoption, they would have their girl. I asked God to let Millie get pregnant, just once. Just one girl.
Be careful what you ask for.
At the end of a very scary and stressful year, a year in which Millie almost died from gastric bypass surgery and my mom did die in an automobile accident, I got a call. "Mom, are you sitting down? We have something to tell you." "Millie is pregnant!"
Talk about unending joy! God had heard our prayers and they were going to have the baby everyone said it was impossible to have.
As the months went by, they planned and prepared. They decided on names. If it was a girl, it would be Grace, since it was by God's grace she had been conceived. If it was a boy, it would be Samuel, which means, "God Listens." Then the ultrasound-"Mom, it's a girl!" "I told you so!" "OK, Jean Dixon!" The reason I knew it was a girl was because we had asked God for her.
Then at 22 weeks, came the terrible news. Millie was in danger of losing the baby. She had started to dilate and the baby's foot was sticking out. The doctors tried to talk them into letting the baby miscarry and then go on to try for another baby, but we knew this baby was supposed to be born so the decision was made to try everything to save her life.
She spent one week in the Bozeman hospital, with her feet higher than her head to keep the baby in. Then another week and a half in a Billings hospital, after stitching her cervix and buying some more time. Then it became clear that the baby was not going to stay in much longer, so they flew her to Salt Lake City, to the University Hospital, so that Gracie could have the best neonatal care possible. Stan and I drove down a couple of days later to bring them their car.
The day after we arrived, it became apparent that Gracie wanted to be born. So at 25 weeks, she came into this world at one pound, twelve ounces, and was a whopping fourteen inches long. Immediately she was rushed to the NICU, where she spent the next 3 1/2 months of her life.
It wasn't easy. She had pneumonia, she had an infection that went septic, she kept "forgetting" to breath and had to be on the ventilator longer than usual. Once, a few weeks before Gracie was due to go home, I got a call from Millie. She was crying. They had found a perforated bowel. They were going to do surgery, but the surgeon wanted his own set of x-rays, so they were waiting for that. Fixing a perforated bowel in a preemie is risky business-it might not work, and the baby could die from the surgery. Millie and the boys went to the chapel to pray and I got down on my knees at home. I specifically prayed that the doctors would be "baffled" because the perforation would be gone. After the prayer I fell sound asleep in my chair. The phone woke me up-it was Millie, excited out of her mind. "You'll never believe this, the doctor said they were really BAFFLED because there was no sign of the perforation!"
Finally she got strong enough to come home. The next several months were hard, with trips to the hospital because she stopped breathing, and dealing with medicines, monitors and constant oxygen. As the months went by they were able to drop all those things one by one and by the time she was one she was fairly healthy.
Today she is five. A tiny sparkle of a girl, with flashing blue eyes and a huge smile, she is smart, stubborn, and is excited about going to kindergarten. She loves horses, pink and purple, and going to coffee with her Grandma. She wants to be a doctor so she can help tiny babies like she was, and she's going to marry Johnny, a boy from Sunday School.
Her middle name is Catherine, named after my mom, who had died ten months and one day before Gracie was born. Her smile is Mom's and so is her spirit.
I always said that Gracie was God's way of comforting us for losing Mom, but she is ever so much more. Happy birthday, Grace Catherine, and Grandma is going to come get you for coffee today.
This is the picture the staff took within minutes of birth. It was a lifeline in the beginning.
At one month, with pneumonia, she was a very sick baby.
First steps at sixteen months. What a tiny girl!
This Easter in her new dress (not pink-a miracle) and healthy as can be.
P.S. If you want to read her story in its entirety, go to Gracie's mom's blog and read all the installments.