This Documenting of Days

The hum of the box fan softens the sound of the outside noises. And the throbbing deep within my hip can be felt with every push of the rocking chair. I have the shadows cast upon the bedroom walls memorized by heart. The neighbor’s car rumbles to life, telling me it is nearly 5am. Like clockwork. My baby rests uncomfortably in my lap, and I watch him work for every breath.

This is where we sit. Or stand. Or rock. Or walk. Or bounce. All night long.

Liam came down with a cough turned cold. Something that makes every baby and parent miserable. But my baby, with his already compromised airway and his nighttime struggles? It has turned our nights horrendous.

I knew parenthood would come with its plethora of surprises. But this one? Where I pace the floors and spend hours helping my baby get into a comfortable position where he can breathe? I never imagined such a thing could exist. And despite living it, I still find it hard to believe.

The darkness that is 2am wraps me in all its worries and despair. 14 months sleep deprived. With countless therapy sessions, doctors appointments, oral exercises, and bitten fingers under our belts. And still, we have gotten nowhere.

My tears blur the blue stars projected onto the ceiling, our nightlight that illuminates every hour of the dark. “Where are You?” These lonely night hours have crept into my days and my life. Their existence a reflection of the way I feel abandoned by the God who said He would never leave me.

All the praying. The begging. The surrendering. The embracing. The trying to trust. The asking for answers. In this moment, it all feels futile.

This is not the story I would have written.

The not-so-baby in my arms tosses, bolting his body upright as he coughs up the flem and saliva that quite literally take his breath away. We walk the room, his cries softening, his body settling as the minutes pass by. Finally still, I slowly ease us back into the rocking chair, a skill I’ve gracefully mastered in light of the last week. I breathe him in, that baby-mixed-toddler scent of his skin.

Tired as we may be, I cannot imagine a life without him.

Light creeps in between the cracks of the windows. The pale gray a reminder of the winter mornings that lay ahead of us.

As surely as the sun will rise, You’ll come to us. Certain as the dawn appears, You’ll come.

In the meantime, I write. To document the days. The thoughts. The feelings. The worries. The joys. All in hopes that one day, it will be a reminder of the trials He has carried us through. A remembrance of how far we have come, because of Him.

And in the midst of this waiting, I will choose to trust the Story Writer.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Liam is on the mend from his cold and almost back to his normal sleep-breathing patterns, thanks to use of a nebulizer. After 5 very long days, we are getting our normal bad nights back again. Something I never imagined I could long for. Haha.

Back in September, we went to appointment after appointment to look for answers for Liam and rule out possible issues. We have one last appointment in early November with an airway specialist up in Chicago. We are praying this appointment yields answers and some solutions on how to better help our little guy. In the meantime, Stephen and I split night duty and remind ourselves that we have extra precious time to enjoy Liam’s baby stage. People often tell us it goes by in the blink of an eye. Our solution for that is to just not blink or sleep for 14 months 😉

a letter for my 10 month old

Dear Liam,

The summer air is heavy with heat and humidity as I sit here, watching you sleep. It’s a rare and peaceful moment, one I do not take for granted.

My goodness. What a year we both have been through. If I have learned one thing about you these last 10 months, it is this: you are resilient. Strong. Curious. Determined. All qualities that make me wonder what exactly is in store for your future. If I am being honest, I live with a bit of fear for your toddler years. But I have no doubt, God has great things planned for you.

I adore you, did you know that? You are far from anything I ever expected, but every fiber of my being is in love with who you are. Those hazel eyes, they light up all the world when you laugh.

And I am smitten.

You won’t remember these days. The thought strikes me from out of nowhere. These days that are shaping both you and me.. they are mine alone to remember. The scent of your baby skin, your almond shaped eyes, your utter delight at new discoveries, the mischief in your grin, your chubby baby toes, the way you are sticky with sunshine and summer and all things boy.. I cradle the moments with certain tenderness, knowing they are sacred.

I find it hard to believe we have an almost-1-year-old. I imagine that sense of surreality grows with every milestone and birthday that lay ahead of us. Life with you will forever be spent in this paradox of bittersweet. How can time give and take so much, all at once?

What they say is true. These days are fleeting.. but they have left their lasting mark upon my heart as they go by.

All my love,

Your mama

Anna

Beautiful Nevers

The dimmed nightlight casts shadows on my bedroom wall, illuminating the darkness that is 3am.

I have seen this hour more times than I care to count. We’ve become well acquainted with one another, this baby making us otherwise unlikely friends.

Life is a funny thing. Throwing you twists and turns, curve balls and foul plays, landing you in unexpected places. God has this funny way of bringing your never’s to life. Of making you face your greatest fears.

I wasn’t in a rush to change our life of two. The Stephen and Anna life seemed to be working pretty well. And, if I am being honest, I had some serious reservations about the idea of motherhood. Motherhood is exhausting. Motherhood is draining. Motherhood demands your entire life. Motherhood is downright terrifying.

Motherhood was something I wasn’t totally sure I was cut out for. And most of it hinges on this: I was, and am, daunted by the idea of being responsible for another life. A life completely helpless and dependent. On me.

The irony of it all is not lost on me. Not only am I a now a mom, I have been gifted an incredible child with an extra demanding personality— one who refuses to be laid down for play or for sleep, one who can’t be on his own for more than 3 minutes without melting down, one who demands my attention constantly.

He is my world.

And now, I would never go back.

But even as he sleeps, I am reminded of this, my greatest fear: I am responsible for this little life. And I feel the weight of that. The unrhythmic rise and fall of his body on my chest heightens my every sense. Because this baby of mine, he still struggles to keep his tongue out of his airway. He still has moments he stops breathing in his sleep. He still can’t get that tongue where it belongs, especially at night.

And that fear I had leaving the hospital last summer has been made all the more real. What if my baby stops breathing in the night? has become my baby struggles to keep his tongue out of his airway when he breathes at night.

God has this funny way of bringing your never’s to life and making you face your greatest fears. Perhaps to find that, in the face of them, He is enough.

He is able, and you are not.

What I’m learning these last 7 months is this— this may not be the life I had planned and these may not be the challenges I expected to face. But they can draw me to that place where He is enough.

I’m not there yet. But I want to be.

He has gone before us in every situation in the past. He has been in every situation we’ve previously faced. He has been enough up until this point. Why should I doubt that he will be enough again?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

We are still here.

As of this week Liam is back in myofunctional therapy for his floppy tongue that should hopefully get stronger as we are exercising it. We anxiously await the day Liam can sleep independently for longer than 45 minutes with his tongue in that “optimal resting position” he just can’t seem to get the hang of. In the meantime, mom and dad sleep in 3 hour shifts and try to enjoy the moments our wild child is calm and peaceful.

I’m still in pelvic floor physical therapy but have been blown away by God’s hand of provision for a new PT who specializes in mom and baby care. After not having lots of luck with my first PT, I’ve been seeing slow but steady progress with this new one, and remembering that healing takes time, and lots of it.

Stephen will be transitioning to a new job in mid-April. While a good job for a season, we felt God leading him to resign. His new job is still an airport job and actually very similar to what he was previously doing, but this one is closer to home and all around a better fit. Another story of God’s incredible hand of provision at work in our lives.

Unending Winters

4 o’clock sunshine pours through my kitchen windows.

Winter. It has been long, and dark, and cold. I feel it. Deep inside. The dark evenings and bone-chilling wind have left their mark on me, body and soul. Like many others, I am winter weary and tired.

But there are fewer things that whisper hope to me the way these early March days do. The tulip buds, sing-song birds, and golden evenings scattered between the cold days.. all reminders of a long forgotten promise.

Winter does end.

Soup steams on the stovetop, vegetable cuts scattered on the kitchen floor. My baby naps independently down the hall, a rare and blessed occurrence. A group of kids ride their bicycles down the street, still in winter hats and jackets. And that sweet sunshine falls across the kitchen floor, warming my woolen socked feet in the process. The birds outside remind me— winter is thawing.

And brighter days, they are coming.

This Season Called Postpartum

There is a saying in Haiti that has come to mind more than once lately. It just about describes our current life situation.

“Dèyè mòn, gen mòn.”

After this mountain, another mountain.

They tell you postpartum is hard. They tell you about the lack of medical care, the fatigue, the night wake up’s, the physical healing. You think they tell you all the things.

But I was unprepared for this.

I didn’t expect to go home from the hospital on a catheter. And I didn’t expect to have to learn self-catheterization when I still couldn’t pee 2 weeks postpartum.

I didn’t expect 3 months of nursing issues with a tongue tie baby who would scream and struggle to breathe during feeds.

I didn’t expect round the clock mouth stretches, and the way my baby would scream through them.

I didn’t expect weekly mouth therapy sessions an hour’s drive away.

I didn’t expect to have to go dairy, wheat, corn, and soy free in attempt to get my baby’s reflux under better control.

And I most certainly didn’t expect to be diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse.

The last one hit me like a ton of bricks Thanksgiving week.

Merry Christmas, here’s a cystocele!

I can’t lie. After a very easy, smooth pregnancy, this postpartum stuff has been rough. I am tired. I am overwhelmed. I am wondering if things ever get back to normal. Or is this yet another “new normal” I must learn to embrace?

We have had one issue after the next. When I’m not crying, I laugh at the irony of it all. Typically just as one problem is resolved, another problem pops up. Without fail, within that very same week. The last 4 months have felt cruelly unfair, and I’m certain I’ve shed as many tears as my newborn.

Our Liam is a miracle baby. An unexpected, unplanned, God-ordained soul intentionally placed in our lives. In light of that, I have to believe every complication we’ve had since then is also just as much within His sovereignty.

I struggle to see His purpose in it, but I know it is there.

Use this story.

It’s what I find myself praying moment by moment. Because deep in my soul, I know it to be true: He can use this too.

Isn’t that what we all long for? Deep down in us? That our lives, our stories, our joys and struggles and everything that lies in between.. all of it made into something meaningful?

I know the One who can do that.

—————

I’ve been to see a urogynecologist (yes, those exist) and am currently seeing a pelvic floor therapist to address a prolapse that rates between stage 1 and borderline 3, depending on who you ask. I’m currently into week 2 of pelvic floor therapy, and we are praying to see the prolapse reverse as time and exercise strengthen all the right muscles. We are thankful for the many resources God has provided for us, and all of the things He is teaching us. Hard as they may be.

the rules of baby raising

My coffee is lukewarm. I don’t drink it often these days, but when I do it is always lukewarm, at best.

The world is loud. A busy and chaotic storm. And social media, it screams all the louder.

My feed fills with a variety of things— from friend’s highlight reels, to the most recent political article, to the do’s and don’t’s of baby raising. These posts, they make me feel as though I am doing it all wrong.

Put your newborn to bed drowsy but awake.

Encourage self soothing habits.

“Eat. Play. Sleep.” is the ultimate goal for optimal baby happiness.

Rocking your baby to sleep will create long term dependency.

And don’t you dare co-sleep.

My tongue tie baby and I, we have broken every rule.

This stressed me out for a while. The articles, they had me convinced I was setting myself up for long term sleep deprivation and a child who will be overly clingy (and maybe, maybe I am?). For a number of reasons, the tips and the tricks just did not work for us. And I search for a voice, somewhere among the posts and their comments, who validates this feeling I have, that it really is okay to just do you. Whatever that looks like.

That voice is hard to find.

But in this moment, in my darkened bedroom with the steady whirr of the fan and the occasional creak of the rocking chair.. it is ok.

In this particular season, I can do this. I can be here for him. I need to be here for him. This is, in fact, my one biggest job right now. And what a gift that ability is, to fully give myself to it.

All too quickly, he grows before my very eyes. Independent sleep will come. The run I long to take, the floor I want to mop, the unrushed shower I miss.. it will all come back again. My baby, he will grow up.

And I imagine that all too quickly, I will long to relive the days I spent rocking him to sleep, and breaking all the rules in the process.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

I’m dusting off the keyboard, resetting old passwords, and sharpening the pencils again.. with hopes of resurrecting this little blog of ours. These posts will more than likely contain very different content than they used to, and will most likely primarily consist of my random writings and musings. There is an unsubscribe option if your inbox feels overly full these days, but know that you are more than welcome to continue joining us on the journey 🙂

Catching Up and Slowing Down

I have started many a blogpost since we returned to Haiti 3 weeks ago. But somehow, they don’t accurately describe all that has happened in a mere 21 days. And so I scratch the paragraphs I’ve written, time and time again. And retry. Until those re-tries, too, become outdated and inadequate.

Getting back to Haiti was a task in and of itself. As we sat on the O’Hare tarmac (our Miami-bound flight significantly delayed) we should’ve realized then that this was the precursor to how our start in Haiti would go. Delayed by a day, trying to get our checked bags in Florida, and overnighting in a hotel were only the start to our adjustment back to Haiti.

We hit the ground running when we arrived in Limbe. With so much happening on the compound in our absence, we struggled to adjust and keep up with all that was going on. Stephen’s parents came to visit a week later, and we had the chance to show them Grace Mission and the small chaos of our lives here as we continued to settle in.

Since then, Haiti has had a 5.9 magnitude earthquake that gave our buildings here a good shake, and left everyone on edge with its aftershocks. The most recent one being Monday night. “The shakes” are becoming less frequent, and less intense. Over the course of the last 2 days, Haiti’s people have taken to the streets, in riots and protests over a government money scandal. Limbe has been a hot spot of burning tires, firecrackers, and the sound of gunshots the last 2 days. This morning is quiet, and we are praying it lasts.

I feel like I keep waiting for things to be normal, just for a few days.

Our new normal here is fairly quiet mornings— prepping for Bible studies, mopping our floors and doing laundry, running out to the market, having one-on-one time for Mikey. The kids are all in school until 2:30/3 o’clock, which gives us a chance to tackle projects we otherwise wouldn’t ever find time for. Once 3 o’clock hits though, our door receives continuous knocking.

Shaggy constantly has boys begging and pleading to do driving practice with the 4-wheeler, motorcycle, or dodge. I spend most of my afternoons feeling like the little kid/baby magnet for the infamous diaper twins (who actually wear clothes now) and the 1st grade class. Every night is a mad rush of kids begging, “Can I cut your carrots tonite?” Dinner prep has become a scene of slight chaos, with the tv on for David and Joshua, kids at the table coloring or playing with the little ipod, the speakers blaring music, and another 2 kids wanting to help me cook dinner. Little Jenni is my shadow— quite literally. She follows me as close as my own shadow, even when I’m walking 3 feet from the table to the freezer.

We’ve picked up our Fun Nights again, as well as our Bible studies for the boys, girls, and Young Adults. Surveying such need on this compound alone, much less throughout all of Haiti, we are reminded that all our hopes for these kids are through God working, and through the kids having a personal relationship with Him. We definitely feel a burden for that— to have Bible studies, to answer questions, and to help and encourage the kids to get to know Him personally.

So often I think we are tempted to believe we need to be doing, doing, doing. But God has been teaching us just the opposite. In his “My Utmost for His Highest” Oswald Chambers reminded us Tuesday morning.. “The key to the missionary’s difficult task is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer, not work— that is, not work as the word is commonly used today, which often results in the shifting of our focus away from God. The key to the missionary’s difficult task is also not the key of common sense, nor medicine, civilization, education or even evangelization. The key is in following the Master’s orders— the key is prayer.”

It is easy to believe the lie that doing more will help Haiti, giving more will help Haiti, starting more programs will help Haiti. Even on our compound, I feel an overwhelming urgency, like success for the Kingdom is depending on how much I accomplish in a day. The thought, when written on paper, sounds quite ridiculous.

Oswald Chambers later writes, “Prayer does not equip us for greater work. Prayer is the greater work.”

The words have struck with me since I read them, the thought continually coming to mind. God is working. Not us. And so, these days in Limbe are spent trying to learn just that— that we are tools and instruments in His hands, made useful when we are connected to Him.

-Anna

An Update

Hey everybody! We are back in Haiti! My brother asked for an update so I thought I’d post it on here as well.

We’ve been back in Haiti for about 2 and a half weeks and it’s been quite the start after our summer in Alaska. On Saturday the 7th we were having our Young Adult get together and all of a sudden we heard a rumble and then a second later it started shaking. We all ran out of the cement building because we’ve all seen pictures and heard stories of the 2010 earthquake. These buildings just don’t withstand a lot of violent shaking. The earthquake was about 40 miles northeast of us close to a town called Port de Paix. Everything here stayed together but some of our buildings have concerning cracks in the walls but no real damage. No one was injured except for a few bumps and bruises from people running out so fast and bumping into things.

We had about 3 aftershocks for a few days after the initial earthquake that left us all real jumpy at any noise. Some of the kids find it funny to make the rumbling noise and watch everybody run! It was kind of entertaining to see how fast they could move but then we tried to keep them from doing it again as it could end up like the boy who cried wolf.

Sine the 9th we haven’t had any aftershocks and the kids are less and less scared as each day goes by without any more shaking. For a few days afterwards, some of them were super scared and kept asking “do you think the shaking is done now?”

It was very good in a sense because it made them all and us think about how quick life can change and how fragile life is. Tonite we had an hour of worship and the kids really loved that. They were singing at the top of their lungs it was so neat to see!

Prayer Requests:

-thankfulness for God’s hand of protection on all of us here

-continued safety

-for Port de Paix and the surround communities as the people recover.

-that God would continue to work in these kids’ lives and that they would wholeheartedly commit their lives to Christ.

-safety as I’ve been teaching two of the older boys how to drive the manual transmission dodge diesel pickup. Not the easiest first vehicle to learn but once they get the hang of it they can drive anything!

-for continued wisdom in knowing how to use our time.

Thank you so much!

-Stephen

An Update

The commercial certified pilot himself! On August 13th, Stephen passed his Commercial checkride up in Alaska! We are so thankful for all of the support and the prayers from so many that have helped to achieve such a big accomplishment! God has been so faithfully good.

The summer has flown by since Brooks Range Bible Camp, and we have so many stories to share of the in-between. But we are both back in the States now, and are spending some time road-tripping out west to see family and friends. We plan to recuperate from the summer and then head back to Haiti on September 20th.

We are thankful for your support of us, and have experiences and stories we plan to share on the blog here at some point. We’ve been a little silent lately, but we haven’t forgotten 🙂

Until then, here’s some fun summer photos and memories.

-Anna

Brooks Range Bible Camp, from July 9th-23rd.

Sweet friends we will miss this winter.

Sight-seeing fun we had while my sister, Sarah, came to visit!

Stephen preparing for his commercial checkride.

Alaska 2018

The Stephen Harwerth Flight Adventures part one :)

Some fun photos of life here at Kingdom Air Corps, and some of the training Stephen has been doing over the last 2 weeks. If you follow my instragram or facebook, then some of these might be repeats of what you’ve already seen. But there are some new photos too!

Beautiful Alaska, and the Kingdom Air Corps runway.. a view that never gets old.

The airplane Stephen has been doing most of his training in, nicknamed “the silver bullet”.

One of Stephen’s requirements for his commercial license (his goal for this summer) was a solo cross-country flight. So here he is the morning of his big cross country, checking the plane and getting everything ready for take off.

A video of Stephen’s take-off for his big cross country. It ended up being a 7 hour day for him, which included flying and also making 3 different stops at airports along the way (part of the requirement for the flight).

A pilot friend loaned Stephen his GPS spot tracker, which allowed him to send check-ins messages every so often to let people know he was okay. I was able to see them on my phone, and could keep track of where he was whenever he checked in.

Stephen’s view from the air during his cross country. Alaska is absolutely stunning!

Making milkshakes Kingdom Air Corps style (yes, that is a drill). Any time a student passes a major milestone in their training, KAC celebrates with chocolate milkshakes. This was in celebration of Kit, a Thai student here for the summer who passed his instrument written test.

Stephen flying with Zack Loving, an instructor here at Kingdom Air Corps. They needed to go to Anchorage to do an airport pick-up, and it also was an opportunity for Stephen to practice flying the 206, one of KAC’s bigger airplanes.

Along the way to Anchorage..

A photo from this past weekend. We went up flying for a Saturday night date-night, and I got to enjoy Alaska from the air for the first time since being back. We were pretty excited about getting to see a bear along the way!

Beautiful Alaska at about 8 o’clock at night.

Kingdom Air Corps (also called ‘the Ranch’) from the air.

We are so thankful for your continued prayers for us and your faithful support and encouragement to us. It means more than we can put to words! We have a peace and a confidence that here is where God has us for the summer, as hard of a season as it can be at times. We are growing and learning a lot– in the means of aviation, of understanding and loving each other better, and of seeking more of who God is and what He has for us.

-Anna