One Thousand Gifts Chapter Five

In Awesome Wonder (Tofino, British Columbia)

what in the world, in all this world,
is grace?

chapter 5 One Thousand Gifts 

I’ve been putting off writing this post for awhile.

Because 2011 was a year full of emergency room visits for a little girl in our lives. And reading chapter 5 of One Thousand Gifts kept bringing up all the emotions that were packed into the terrifying thought of losing one of our children.

Savannah joined our home when she was 9 months old. She was the answer to a prayer. A second fleece immediately answered. She came dirty, tiny (size 2 diaper) and with a massive diaper rash. A sparkle in her eye. And an amazing smile that I couldn’t capture with the camera. I remember calling Dear Husband to tell him about her. She was amazingly strong for a very small baby girl (K was with us at the time, 11 months old, size 5 or 6 diaper and weighing over 30 pounds – quite the contrast). Savannah was wiggly. Savannah could almost walk, but didn’t know how to fall. And she forced K to learn to crawl (instead of commando crawl) because she would climb aboard K’s back as K was trying to escape her!

11 months old

She didn’t cry those first 10 days. But after 10 days – that was all it took – I was hers and she was mine.

It was just a few weeks later that Sean joined our home. It would take losing both of them at Christmas before we got them AND their big sister into our lives FOREVER (just about 4 years ago – 11 months after Savannah first came into our lives).

So that is a tiny bit of the importance of Savannah’s part in our lives. The fleece was whether or not to continue fostering – I gave God a deadline (I know, do not test the Lord your God) for the end of the month on a Sunday evening. We knew earlier that month that K (who I’d waited for before her birth) was going to be moving home with her Dad soon – and I wasn’t really sure that God wanted me to continue this “fostering thing.” Dear Husband and I had made a “7 year plan” and when I turned 40, I knew that would be when I hung up my “parenting” belt and moved onto something different.

Monday morning we got a call for a sick 9 month old who was failure to thrive. Savannah was an answer to prayer. And then a year later, when all the children were living with us (along with two baby boys, and I somehow got pregnant) I knew, knew that God was waiting for all the pieces to fall into place because the “3-Ss” were supposed to be ours. That if we’d gotten pregnant even one month before – Sabrina may have not told the social worker she wanted to stay with us. That the kids’ mom may not have been willing to sign the initial paperwork (it took until my 35th birthday for her to sign the actual document releasing the children for adoption, and it took until Ken’s 44th birthday for the adoption papers to be drawn up, signed and the children to be placed into our care although they had been with us for 3 & 4 years – we still have a few more months of paperwork before the finalization).  We went from thinking we would “retire” being parents in a few years – to rather suddenly being the forever parents of FOUR children.  It Just So Happened that God has a plan, even though 2008 was a chaotic year and I was exhausted (and people were exhausted watching Ken and I drive 5 children to visits, manage care plans and deal with morning sickness and having a house for sale). But, we made it through. With grace. Mercy. JOY.

13 months old

SO, see, there is a lot of really important history that starts with Miss Princess Savannah-Banana-Cocoa-Cabana.

So when she had a concussion earlier this year and was throwing up. And then another concussion a month later. I had hours, nights, days of worry.

But it was when I went away to visit my friend in Edmonton for a few days. On crutches. With horrible morning sickness, that it all came to a head.

I arrived in Edmonton on Thursday, late morning. On Friday evening, while Becky and I were at a lovely little bistro for dinner, my phone rang. My phone never rings (I don’t even really text with my phone, it’s for emergencies and facebook).

The voice on the other end of the line said “We had a close call today. We almost lost Savannah.”

5 years old, ER

I couldn’t breathe.

I couldn’t believe I was so far away. That I couldn’t be holding my baby girl. MY. BABY. GIRL.

I rushed out of the restaurant, gasping for air, for water, for life.

A close call.

Dear Husband, being the most amazing Daddy that he is, took the kids to the beach to play on their boogie boards that we’d bought for them while in Oregon a couple weeks earlier. Maybe just a week earlier actually. I’d been too sick (and on crutches) so I couldn’t take them to the beach, Nanny-Lou had a few times and they love it.

But on this particular Friday afternoon, the tide was WAY WAY WAY out, and Claire Bear did not want to get “wetty.” So Dear Husband was in the sand helping her build a sandcastle. The eldest was having her time out and the middle two decided that they wanted to go out as far as her – unfortunately, there was a bit of a dip in the deepness of the water where Savannah happened to be when the boogie board got away.

And she went under.

Dear Husband was watching her struggle as he ran towards her yelling for help. The tide was so far out, that Sabrina (who was probably still not above the kids’ heads) couldn’t hear him – and was equidistant from Savannah as was Dear Husband. Sean was busy trying to save the boogie board, because that is what Savannah had asked him to do.

And Dear Husband. Oh, I cannot imagine what he saw, felt, heard.

But it just so happened that there was an off-duty lifeguard playing with his kids nearby where Savannah was drowning. He grabbed her, and Sean, and brought them (with reproach) to Dear Husband. Savannah never went unconscious. She swallowed a bunch of water. She was scared. She was coughing. The angel-lifeguard said that she needed to go to the hospital. Which to be honest, I wouldn’t have thought of – because in the movies they do a little CPR stuff, the drowning victim coughs, maybe pukes and then goes on their way…

BUT, the angel-lifeguard knew what Dear Husband and I did not know. That chlorine and salt water in the lungs (even if the lungs appear clear) can draw water from the body INTO the lungs (because both salt and chlorine are drying) and cause a child to have a “silent drowning.” Dear Husband listened to the angel-lifeguard. And the very scared, traumatized Savannah fought every thing that they tried to use to help her.

And I wasn’t there.

I couldn’t touch her. Hold her. I was SO scared that something else might happen and I’d never get another hug from her again. I was kicking myself for going away. I was angry at Dear Husband for taking the kids to the beach. I was terrified.

WestJet changed my flight for the next available flight to Vancouver. Julia, from church, volunteered to pick me up from the airport and drive me to Children’s Hospital (Julia also happens to be the saint who just so happened  to be home the night I tore my symphysis and needed to go to the hospital). Dear Husband was a wreck. I was angry at him. I didn’t want to hear how he felt, I wanted to hold our baby girl.

Sister Snuggles

And I did. I, on my crutches, walked into her hospital room and held her, long and hard.

She was fine.

She was breathing. She was covered in all kinds of monitors and tubes – but we couldn’t keep her from jumping on the bed.

She had her own bathroom. Her very own TV. She wanted a cookie. Dear Husband bought her the biggest balloon he could find.

And she was fine. She was (still is) scared of the ocean. She slept with us for a few nights when she got home. She had bad dreams. She got the old CD player put in her room and she listened to Uncle Ryan’s album over and over again (not realizing that there is a drowning victim portrayed in one of his songs – she hasn’t seemed to notice).


She wants to go back to Children’s Hospital (she now has 3 helmets to wear, no excuses about not being able to find one for biking, scootering or skating). I spent $200 on personal floatation devices that the kids could use WITH their boogie boards.

They go to the beach and throw rocks for now. But it is winter. It won’t take long until they want to be covered in sand and water again.

And I am grateful for every day that I have with her – even the ones full of impulsive behaviours, rages, anger – because Savannah is a delight – her spunk, that mischievous sparkle in her eye, her amazing hugs – are a part of those challenges.

…I see what I am. I’m amputated. I have hacked my life up into grace moments and curse moments. The chopping that has cut myself off from the embracing love of a God who “does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow” (Lamentations 3:33), but labors to birth grief into greater grace. Isn’t this the crux of the gospel? The good news that all those living in the land of shadow of death have been birthed into new life, that the transfiguration of a suffering world has already begun. That suffering nourishes grace, and pain and joy are arteries of the same heart — and mourning and dancing are but movements in His unfinished symphony of beauty. P 100

Beach Sprite (Newport, Oregon)
And she was the answer to God for my heart, my purpose, my long-desired motherhood coming to fruition. Knowing that she is our blessed gift, the gift of hope to our infertile bodies, the delight of her love, her sparkles, her joy – I do not take for granted.

2 responses

  1. Dearest Jennifer, I love this post! Beautiful & full of love. I hope I get to meet all your children someday. Keep writing. I can’t wait to read more of your stories. xo

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