Sister’s Baby : Out of Surgery & Doing Well!

Photos taken a few moments before Levi had to leave to be prepped for surgery. My sister’s sweet smile put tears in my eyes!

Levi is out of surgery!

I just chatted with Bethany! :) (Yay! How comforting it was to have a conversation with her!)

Mike is with Levi, now.

The operating room is apparently in a different building connected by about a half-mile of underground tunnels. As soon as he was done, the surgeon ran all they way over to give her an in-person update. How thoughtful?!

The surgeon said that Levi’s anatomy was not difficult to work with and that he was very hopeful about the outcome of the surgery.

Next, they will wait to see if the swelling around the brain goes down (even as I write this, Bethany just IM’d me and said Mike called from the NICU and said swelling looks like it is already going down!) and determine if a surgery to insert a drainage shunt is needed.

Bethany asked the surgeon when she may hold Levi and he said perhaps as early as tomorrow!

It’s definitely not the easiest way to come into the world, and Levi’s not even a day old yet, but so far, things are going in the best possible way for this situation.

We’re smiling through tears over here.

Thank you for your prayers!

If you wanted read more about Levi’s story and to send a note of encouragement to Bethany and Mike, please visit their page at CaringBridge :

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/bethanyandmikebracht

Update : My Sister’s Baby

This morning, my sister Bethany gave birth to her first baby, a son, named Levi.

During a routine ultrasound a few months ago, it was discovered that Levi had spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

He had been scheduled to be born Thursday by Cesarean section, but due to contractions (labor trauma would have been dangerous for him) and Bethany’s slightly elevated blood pressure, it was decided to deliver today instead of risk waiting until Thursday.

We are very excited about Levi’s birth – my first nephew!

He is welcomed by parents who have a very strong faith in the Lord and are trusting in God every step of the way.

My parents and my sister Grace were able to go to the hospital in Indianapolis to support Bethany and Mike as much as possible. Mom said he has a beautiful face and seems to be strong, despite his many obstacles. She said that Mike is doing a great job being supportive of Bethany and handling decisions for Levi’s care very well.

Although it’s a tough situation, it does not seem that there were any surprises. Through ultrasound and other prenatal tests, doctors had a course of action in place long before Levi’s birth and did an excellent job preparing Bethany and Mike for what to expect.

Levi
Positive signs

  • Birth weight over 7lbs (healthy weight)
  • Has good color
  • Does have a breathing tube but is breathing “air” as opposed to oxygen
  • Right leg is moving
  • Items of concern

  • Hydrocephalus (I’m not sure extent of severity, but it was hoped that it would have resolved itself before birth. Because of the anomaly of the spine, fluid buildup in the brain is a common complication of spina bifida.)
  • The hole in his back is about 1″ diameter.
  • His left leg does not appear to be moving and is turned inward.
  • Bethany

  • Resting after c-section
  • Incision was larger/deeper than normal c-section so as to give more room to carefully birth Levi
  • On morphine drip
  • Beth did get to touch Levi’s fingers for a few moments, but was not able to hold him.

    My mom was able to get some photos through the incubator glass.

    Doctors are waiting until Levi is “stabilized”, and then he will be admitted for surgery to repair the hole in his back this afternoon. This was anticipated. It is possible that the spine repair will help to reduce the fluid buildup in the brain and that a shunt would not be needed. It is also possible that the surgery may help with the use of his left leg.

    UPDATE – 5:15pm

    Bethany just posted on Facebook that Levi went in for surgery around 4:30pm. She writes,

    “Well folks, the countdown got cut short! Levi Morris Bracht has arrived this morning!! I have been away from him all day so far so I don’t know toooo much ;( but he is 7lbs was born at 8:45am(ish). I am doing super, and he just went in to his first surgery! please keep praying, sorry this is short but momma doesn’t know everything just yet!! pictures will be here soon! Thanks everyone!”

    Thanks for your prayers!

    If you wanted read more about Levi’s story and to send a note of encouragement to Bethany and Mike, please visit their page at CaringBridge :

    http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/bethanyandmikebracht

    Photo credit: Elijah Phenicie (my brother) / Elijah-Paul.com

    Death Was Not Part of God’s Plan : A Quote That Gives Me Hope

    Michele from our home church lost her son Hezekiah a few months back to anencephaly. In her blog, she wrote about her pregnancy, her baby’s short, yet precious, time on this earth, and now is blogging about her grief. (Will you please pray for her and her family?)

    To lose someone you love, especially a when it’s a child, is so jarring.

    I keep a basket of little booklets and tracts in my bathroom for anyone who wants to read them. One of them is called Grief: Finding Hope Again by Paul David Tripp.

    Today, I was that person who picked up the minibook. When I read these two paragraphs, I thought, “Thanks, God. I knew this, but I needed to hear it again.”

    Death Was Not Part of God’s Original Plan

    We all feel death’s wrenching finality. Death is so wrong, so completely out of step with life as God planned it. The apostle Paul could think of no better word for it than “enemy” (I Corinthians 15:25-26). Death is the enemy of everything good and beautiful about life. Death should make you morally sad and righteously angry. It is a cruel indicator that the world is broken; it is not functioning according to God’s original design, where life was to give way to life, on into eternity.

    It is biblical to treat death as the sad, unnatural thing that it actually is. God encourages you to mourn. Death was simply not meant to be. When you recognize this, you will hunger for the complete restoration of all things. You will long to live with the Lord in a place where the last enemy – death – has been defeated.

    1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ties in well with Tripp’s thoughts:

    But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

    For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

    Therefore comfort one another with these words.

    Photo Credit: Westpark via Flickr

    10 Ways to Pastor Adoptive Parents and Those Considering Adoption

    I just finished reading this great post at one of my favorite blogs, Desiring God. I thought it was worth sharing. Enjoy!

    by Jason Kovacs

    There are many ways that you can express your pastoral care for those considering adoption and those who have adopted already. As an adoptive father and former pastor, I offer a few thoughts on how to help adoption become a biblically based, heart-led, missional movement in your church and not merely another program on your church’s list.

    1. Develop your own heart for the fatherless.

    God calls Himself a “father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5) and emphasizes throughout Scripture his special care for orphans. In fact, the very heart of the gospel is God’s passion to not only redeem sinners but to adopt them as his very sons and daughters (Ephesians 1:4-5).

    Many adoptive parents and those pursuing adoption feel alone in their churches because it seems like no one understands. By communicating that adoption is fundamentally connected to the gospel and the nature of God you will challenge the view that adoption is a “plan B” if a couple cannot have children biologically.

    2. Do a biblical study on God’s perspective on orphans.

    As you develop your heart for adoption, pass this on to your people in your preaching. You can start by simply looking up all the instances in the Bible to the “fatherless.”

    3. Educate yourself on basic facts about adoption and orphan care.

    Did you know there are roughly 129,000 children waiting to be adopted today in the US and over 132 million orphans worldwide? That is a starting point to stir your heart to pray and cry to God for his justice and grace to be poured out on their behalf.

    Some websites I’ve found helpful in keeping me aware of these issues are…

    Your awareness of these kinds of things will speak volumes to the church you lead. Whether it is through your preaching, teaching, or just regular conversation, your church will begin to hear this and will gain God’s heart and perspective on adoption.

    Your understanding will also touch those who have adopted and who are considering it.

    4. Ask questions.

    Listening is one of the most powerful expressions of your care. Learn to ask the right questions. Here are a few good ones to ask:

      * Why are you considering adoption? Are you both on the same page? If not, where do you differ?
      * Do you both have the faith for adoption?
      * Are you aware of the risks, ups, downs, and unknowns of adoption?
      * Have you talked to other adoptive families about their experience?
      * Have you been praying together about this?
      * Where do you feel called to adopt from?
      * What kind of support do you have in place?
      * Are you aware of the cost of adoption? How will you pay for it? Will you need help?

    5. Remind them that they desire a good and God-magnifying thing.

    Encourage those pursuing adoption with God’s heart for the fatherless. Encourage them with God’s promises to direct their steps (Prov 16:9). Encourage them with God’s faithfulness to provide.

    6. Keep on encouraging them.

    Those who step out in faith to adopt enter a journey filled with many ups and downs. Keep supporting them throughout the process. Ideally, they will have a care group or some close friends that will be able to do this as well.

    7. Provide financial counsel and help.

    The majority of couples adopting are challenged by the high costs. Any ways that you can provide encouragement and help financially will express love in a very tangible way.

    One way you can do this is by establishing a church adoption fund to offer grants and loans to members. You can visit Hope for 100 for an example of what one church in Texas is doing.

    8. Cry with them and celebrate with them.

    The majority of adoptions are filled with great highs and great lows.

    There are often many tears shed due to failed placements and other setbacks. There is also unparalleled joy in being matched with your child and bringing them home.

    Do what you can to enter into their experience. Embody the compassion and empathy of Christ in the hard times and magnify the joy of the Father in the celebration.

    9. Celebrate adoptions publicly in services.

    Give time during worship services not only to teach on God’s heart for orphans, but also to celebrate specific adoptions. You can perhaps do this as part of Sanctity of Life Sunday or in conjunction with another special day such as Mothers’ or Fathers’ Day. Also, November is National Adoption Awareness Month.

    There are many ways you can publicly celebrate adoption during the service such having an adoptive family share their story, honoring adoptive parents in the congregation, or taking a special offering for your church adoption fund. Be creative!

    10. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers.

    Use the wisdom and experience of the Christian adoption community. There are a growing number of resources available, including many churches that have ministries aimed at promoting and supporting adoption.

    Encourage those in your church who have a passion for adoption to lead the church in caring for the fatherless and supporting adoption. And remember you are not alone! There is a community of others to support you and above all, God, the Father of the fatherless, is with you to provide all that is needed to follow his call to care for the “least of these.”

    * * *

    For more information on the connection between our adoption by God and our adoption of children please visit Together for Adoption. We will be hosting our second national conference on adoption this October in Nashville.

    The Eloquence of Sighs (Red Tent Quote)

    My friend Sally is letting me borrow The Red Tent.

    Despite all my interest in childbirth, I have never read it!

    Now, I’m about halfway through the book.

    Here’s a beautifully-written description of the burial of an infant who died after being a prematurely born:

    “I held my sister, who was never given a name, and who never opened her eyes, and who died in my arms.

    I was not afraid to hold that small death. Her face was peaceful, her hands perfectly clean. It seemed she would wake at any moment. The tears from my eyes fell upon her alabaster cheek, and it appeared that she mourned the passing of her own life. My mother came to take my sister from me, but seeing my sorrow, permitted me to carry her to burial. She was shrouded in a scrap of fine cloth and laid beneath the strongest, oldest tree within sight of my mother’s tent. No offerings were made, but as the bundle was covered with earth the sighs that poured from my mothers’ mouths were as eloquent as any psalm.

    Photo Credit: Joiseyshowaa via Flickr

    Parents Come In Pairs

    I’m reading the Husband-Coached Childbirth for my Teacher Training Class. (Lots of homework due, so little time!)

    The book is excellent for anyone who is preparing to give birth or who has an interest in the topic of natural birth.

    Here’s a memorable quote from chapter 7, “The Coach’s Training Rules”:

    “Parents come in pairs. If you think the only task you have as a parent is to get your wife pregnant, you’re going to be like the farmer who thinks all there is to farming is planting seeds. You will harvest only the weeds of resentment to your passivity. You are poorly prepared for parenthood and have yet to recognize your responsibilities….

    Maybe I’m old fashioned, but don’t kid yourself, the hand that rocks the cradle still rules the world, and always will. Motherly women and fatherly men acting as wholesome symbols of strength and righteousness in a family setting of mutual love and respect continue to be essential to progress in any civilization.

    The reaction your wife has to her pregnancy and the birth of your child will reflect on the relationship between mother and child forever after. Will she look upon childbearing as a horrifying ordeal that ruined her figure and seared her soul? … Or, will she joyfully share with you even the little nuisances involved and thank you for getting her pregnant and bless her God for the privilege of being a woman and of giving birth?…

    You are going to live with this woman “until death do us part.” How rich, full and meaningful that life will be is very much dependent upon your ability as a participant in parenthood.
    This does not exclude but takes precedence over the golf games, pool hall, poker game, CD player, computer, etc. Lets get on with it.”

    (Preach it, brother!) :)