Sunday, August 29, 2010

Moby for Men

My wife recently purchased a Moby wrap. Now if you are not familiar with the Moby wrap it is a large piece of cloth that when wrapped appropriately allows you to "wear" your baby. For some people, wearing your baby is a way of life, and I am not simply talking about agricultural field workers in some far away place who do not have the opportunity to take some time off after the birth. There seems to be a whole movement of baby-wearing that is associated with theories of attachment for infants and so on. It may have its benefits, but we never wore Haley and Darcy, and they seem well adjusted so far. Anyway, I asked Annie about her interest in using the Moby wrap and she described it as an accessory of a necklace that comes with the benefit of holding the baby hands-free. Sounds fine to me, but wow, it sure looks difficult to use.
The funniest experience I have had so far with the Moby wrap was after we received it in the mail. Inside on the back of the user's manual was the picture you see here. Now, I am no marketing expert, but I have to guess that the potential market for this specific "camouflage" real tree Moby is actually pretty low. The intersection of hunters and Moby baby-wearers cannot be populated with a large crowd of people. I just can't see myself sitting in a tree stand waiting for a trophy buck, while wearing Gracie. Whatever benefits that could be conferred by wearing the child most certainly would be counterbalanced by the risks of firing a gun or pulling back a bow string. But hey, I don't work for Moby...and just maybe they know something I don't.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Quiet Weekend

After seventeen days in the hospital we have enjoyed a great weekend at the house in Crozet settling in to taking care of Gracie. Apart from a few extra things to do each morning we are really enjoying a very normal baby experience. In fact unless you would know the back story, you wouldn't even be able to tell anything has been going on.

Friday, August 27, 2010

He moves in mysterious ways...

Part of living by faith is learning to respond to the mysterious circumstances that God sometimes uses to direct our paths. There are times in life when despite where we anticipated to be, we find ourselves in another place. If you would have asked me a year ago where I would be at this time I would have told you that I could see myself living in Iceland for many years to come. Even as Gracie was diagnosed in April I remained hopeful that the condition would be treatable with a single procedure and we could plan for a return to Iceland some time after the 1st of the year. As the doctors said, "We won't know what we are really dealing with until Gracie is born." So we waited...

The night Gracie was born she had an immediate Echo-Cardiogram and at 1:30am we went to the NICU to find out what the results were. For us it was much more than just the results and treatment that we were awaiting, but also an indication of what our future plans would be. When we found out that the condition was severe and the treatment plan would require three surgeries, we knew the implications. We would be staying in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.

At this point, we do not yet know where the next step will be. I have begun the process of looking for a new position of ministry here in the U.S. and pray that the process will be swift, and trust that in due time God will bring us to the place He has prepared. I vacillate between calm excitement about the journey ahead and a sober sort of anxiousness to find some stability. Even more, I thank God for how He has generously provided for us through the support of our current employer and the generosity of friends, allowing us to enter the process with a confident peace.

So, what about Iceland? At this point it is hard to anticipate how God will work in our lives in the future and where this story will lead for the Garman family. It didn't take long to find a place in our heart for Reykjavik. Hardly a day goes by where I do not still exercise my language skills by reading the Icelandic news or one of the many novels I brought home. Further, we think often of our friends there, so many of whom have been so supportive with kind words and prayer during the past month. The mere mention of the word "Iceland" brings to mind a myriad of faces and sweet memories of all of our friends. The simplest answer to the question is, "We will just have to wait and see what the Lord does, He moves in mysterious ways."

God moves in a mysterious way
his wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
and rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs
and works his sovereign will.

You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
the clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
in blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
but sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
and scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
and he will make it plain.

--William Cowper

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Steppin' Out

...of the hospital that is. Tonight is a daddy-daughter sleepover at the hospital. For release, we had to be responsible for Gracie with all of her little details for an entire day. So I (Colby) am staying the night here with Gracie and getting us ready for the big release day tomorrow. In preparation for her release we had to be trained on giving her meds, using the pulse oxymeter we will be taking home with us, and our new baby scale. We took a CPR course and covered all the what-to-do-when possibilities that one could possibly handle in a short period of time. The bottom line is Gracie will be leaving the hospital tomorrow only 9 days after major open-heart surgery and 17 days after she was born. We are so grateful, she has really recovered at best-case scenario speed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our Little Graduate!

Gracie is doing so well that she graduated from the Intensive Care Unit (they are just waiting for a room to open up on the pediatric floor to transfer her over). The doctors just stopped by and actually said that she could go HOME tomorrow, to which Annie almost wet her pants. We don't feel totally comfortable bringing her home tomorrow, but maybe after getting CPR trained and learning about her Pulse-Ox machine, we'll feel ready to go. We couldn't be happier with her progress. Although she is a little bit less than her birth weight, Gracie's eating 2 ounces every 3 hours and is keeping it down. It's unbelievable to think of how far she's come in just one short week...Go Gracie Girl!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Great Weekend for the Whole Family!

First for the Gracie Update: We began last week with a bed full of wires and now, as you see, Gracie has shed most of her support and is doing great. The big steps in the past few days have been the removal of her breathing tube and RA line on Friday morning, and the removal of her chest tube and arterial line on Saturday. All of these are big steps on the road to recovery. The only hiccup has been the withdrawl symptoms Gracie has had from the pain medicine she was on during recovery. The doctors are now working to make a few adjustments to help get through the withdrawl period and every thing seems to be going fine.

And for the Rest of Us: With Gracie doing so well Annie and I visited her on Saturday morning and then took off for Lancaster, PA, for the party of the year. My sister Brooke got married yesterday to Randy Fischer in a wonderful ceremony at Stumptown Mennonite Church followed by a great reception at The Eden in Lancaster. We made it just in time for the festivities and joined Haley and Darcy who were sent on ahead to anchor the Virginia Garman contingent in case we couldn't make it. After a great night's stay at Shenk Manor B&B, courtesy of Marty and Joyce Shenk we headed back to VA .

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Crash...(you should know about it.)

Annie and I consider ourselves observers. We observe everything we can...smells, sights, people, accents, our children, personalities, and of course our favorite...idiosyncrasies (ours and others). We love to find patterns in things and anticipate things, maybe to a disagreeable fault. Over the past two years, amidst our various crazy times we have observed a pattern that is now's called The Crash. Most of you who are more intelligent than us probably already know about the crash, but I am totally amazed to see how consistent it is. Every high adrenaline/intensely stressful experience seems to be followed by the dearly beloved adrenal nose dive.

Symptoms of the crash include: hyper-sensitivity, temporary irrationality, low-energy, moodiness, magnification, weepiness, and being ridiculous.

Now before you get carried away, we're not simply talking about what women commonly call the "baby blues". These are only my symptoms, not Annie's.

As of Wednesday night we had gotten over the huge surgery day, Annie's parents headed to the airport, Haley and Darcy we're on their way to Aunt Brookie's wedding weekend, and it was just Annie and I with Gracie. Ahh, deep breath amidst the chaos. Needless to say Thursday morning we woke up to the The Crash and stumbled our way through the day, happy to bid it farewell.

So why do I tell you all this personal baloney? It's not because we want to garner your sympathy and concern. Someday, when I look back at the blog I don't want to feel like we ignored the bumps and bruises of the territory. I don't want people who read and follow our journey to see our smiling pictures and think that we haven't had our sketchy moments. Furthermore, when we write about the joys and celebrations I want you to be able to take them seriously as well, knowing that we have been honest about the hard parts.

Sitting here today -- this side of the crash -- we celebrate how gracious God has been to sustain us through the past ten days. We have had more to celebrate than to fear. Gracie is breathing on her own, without a tube in her nose. She looks peaceful and on the way to recovery.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Something the Lord Made

I haven't seen the film, but have heard about it from several people over the last couple of months. So why am I writing about it? The film tells the story of Vivien Thomas (a black cardiac research assistant) and Alfred Blalock (The "Blue Baby Doctor"), the two men largely responsible for pioneering the usage of what is now called the Blalock-Taussig Shunt (BT shunt for short) to treat "Blue Babies". It explores the nature of their research and relationship in the peculiar times before the advancements of the Civil Rights movement. Since the main part of Gracie's surgery was the installation of a BT shunt, I thought some of you might be interested in knowing about it. Whatever you do, don't tell me about it because a year from now I might want to watch it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Champ

Super proud of our little girl!

The Day

Did you know that in order to perform open heart surgery the doctors have to first STOP the heart?  Well, I just learned that this week.

There are some details that I'd rather not know...

Right now Gracie is in open heart surgery.  Anticipating this moment was worse than the actual moment.  Last night we met with the doctors and had a Pre-Operation meeting where they go over every possible thing that could go wrong.  It was so brutal that I had to leave....before it even started.  When Colby walked out of the meeting, he had lost most of the color in his face and lips.

We were so shaken up we didn't know what to do with ourselves.  I wasn't sure I wanted to be at the hospital for the whole ordeal;  Colby didn't know if that was best for me.  We just weren't sure how to handle it and it was putting strain on our communication.  It's really amazing how God knows how much is enough.   Right when we were about to reach our breaking point, He did something very supernatural and special to lift the heaviness.  I wish I could share the whole story now....but there is only 11 minutes of battery life left on this computer....and I have no idea where the charger is.

So, I guess it's time for me to start writing a book.  Someone told me recently that they were very disappointed how little I've written about this experience.  It has been almost too emotional and personal to share via the blog, but I realize now that some people could benefit from my words.  I'm feeling like the ONLY way I know how to deal with this is through writing, so I might as well make it available to others who are going through difficulties.  More on this topic later...

This morning I woke up at 3:30am and couldn't go back to sleep, so I drove deep into the mountains on Skyline Drive.  I watched the dynamic stars melt away into the pre-dawn colors.  I didn't put on any music or even pray out loud to Jesus.  It was too solemn and sacred of a moment to even speak.  Later in the drive I put on a cd that we made a few weeks ago using GarageBand at the Long's house.  The cd only has one song on it...I wrote it a few years ago.  I guess wrote it is the wrong way to put it.  It is Jude 1:25.  I am not the best singer, but this song is special because Colby and I sing it together and it makes me emotional to hear our voices blend together.  It was the only song I listened to, and I listened to it over and over again while the orange sun rose over the misty valley below.  If you click here, you can listen to a part of my morning.  

For my ride down the mountain, I listened to a cd of the gospel of Mark.  I listened to the life of Jesus, amazed that a man who lived over 2000 years ago could make such an impact on history and on my life today.  I don't get it sometimes...all I know is that it's true.

I'm at the hospital now.  There is a sign right outside this door in the hallway that says, "UVA MEDICAL CENTER....Good Outcomes Are in Our Hands."   Gracie's life is not in UVA's hands right now.  It's not in the surgeon's hands.  Gracie's life has been and always will be in God's hands.  Thank you Jesus that we can rest in you...the author of life.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pros and Cons of Still Looking Pregnant After You've Delivered

1.  It is depressing.
2.  Your 4 year old still kisses your stomach and tells the baby hello.
3.  Your 5 year old (who is only slightly more logical) asks when the next baby is coming out.
4.  You have to avoid eye contact with people in elevators when you see them look down at your belly and then up at you in an attempt to bypass the awkward question, "So...when is your baby due?"

1.  People still are kind and patient with you in public because they think you're expecting.
2.  In case you were too occupied during pregnancy to do a pre-natal photo shoot LIKE THIS, you still have time.  Noone will ever know.
3.  No pressure to go running or do sit-ups.  Doctors orders.  Eat another piece of carrot cake instead.
4.  In the end, it is worth it to have a little more fat on your body and another human being in this world that is your very own flesh and blood.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Lightning Round

- Reverse Culture Shock. Last week we discovered Onesty pool at Meade Park in C-ville. It’s a great place for kids, but a strange experience after living in Iceland for a while. In Iceland there is a lone pool monitor in a tower with one-way glass. When you walk in you think, “wow it must be my job to watch my kid.” Which is wonderful because then your child can ride the big slide even when they’re two years old. Here in the grand republic the pool has one lifeguard per child and security station zapping children that are too short to go up the steps to the slide. The girls didn’t get to go down the slide, but they were really, really safe.
- Weight Watchers Strawberry Yogurt Bars. Ever since I limited myself to 2500 calories a day I’ve had to try and find some low cal snacks. Once you get past buying something called weight watchers, these little bars are great. It even says the serving size is 2 bars. Now that’s low cal.
- Side Job. Now that I am a new dad again I have moments where I think I know what it’s like to work on a dairy farm. I remember my cousin use to give his father-in-law (a dairy farmer) a day off from the work for Christmas. If you don’t understand it, just move on.
- Taste and See: For the past several weeks I’ve been reading some daily devotional thoughts from a book by John Piper of this title. Some of you are probably raving fans, and others of you don’t know who he is. Either way, I think Piper is most interesting and insightful in these daily snippets. I have often found his longer works a bit…how do you say it…long, but I really njoy his short game.
- If you read, buy a kindle. The Kindle is now $139 without the 3G wireless feature (which I do not find all that necessary). With book prices at $9.99 you cover your cost after about 14 books. I still love mine and would buy another one in a heartbeat.
- Gracie’s doctors. I saw Gracie’s cardiologist at the gelato shop this evening and was reminded just how personable and compassionate the medical staff at UVA has been (yes, I ate some gelato and may have cheated my calorie limit just this once). With surgery coming up on Tuesday we feel as great as two parents can with a little one going into open-heart surgery.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Surgery Date

First Off, I have neglected to give all the essentials details that people ask for when a baby is born. So here goes, Gracie Kane Garman was born at 11:09PM on August 9th, 2010. She weighed 7lbs. 3 oz (that's 3.25 kg for my Icelandic friends) and was 20 inches long.

The doctors have scheduled Gracie's surgery for Tuesday at 12:00PM. The surgery will take 2-3 hours and is pretty much a miracle of modern medicine. The doctors will be placing a 3.5mm shunt on ridiculously small arteries and sewing it on with thread that is not visible to the naked eye. Her heart itself is only the size of a plumb. The surgery will be open-heart and she will have to go on a blood bypass, so it is a pretty intense deal.

We are so thankful for the great team of doctors and surgeons here at UVA that have helped us prepare for the upcoming week. We really feel like God has directed us to a great place where we can feel as comfortable as possible with this vulnerable situation. We have certainly sensed God's sustaining grace in the past few days and have really been able to enjoy seeing our little girl without feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and fears.

Thank you to all of you who have prayed for us these past few days and for all of the kind words of encouragement and celebration. Please continue to pray for little Gracie and the rest of the family as we get ready for Tuesday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gracie and her Grandmas

Little Gracie got to have some Grandma time today and she really relaxed and enjoyed herself.

We were told today that Gracie's first procedure will be next week some time. It may be on Tuesday, but no earlier than that. She will have a Blalock-Taussig Shunt surgically installed between the aorta and the pulmonary artery, as well as a little procedure done on her atrial septum. It is the first surgery in a series of 3 surgeries called a fontan procedure. The second surgery will be at the 4-6 month timeframe and the third somewhere around three years.

Annie was discharged today and is doing really well. We are really enjoying our time visiting with Gracie are grateful that we have been able to really enjoy these first few days with her. As you can see from the pictures she is just a little doll.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

So, what's next?

Immediately after Gracie was born the pediatric cardiologist did an echocardiogram to get a better look at Gracie's heart. If you don't know what's going on you should read this first. The heart echo confirmed the diagnosis that was given for Gracie while she was in Utero. Her pulmonary valve is blocked and the right side of her heart is very small and under-developed. The doctors will be meeting together today and tomorrow to try and determine the best course of action from here. She will likely have a series of procedures called a "Fontan" beginning with a procedure to make sure her ductus arteriosus remains patent (open). The first procedure will probably be done in a couple of days. It is a temporary procedure that will allow her to grow for a few months before another procedure can be done.

Shorthand: Gracie is healthy right now, but her heart will have to be re-arranged a bit to help her remain healthy. The re-arrangment will probably take three steps in the first couple years of her life.

While we wait for the rest of the plan to come together we are enjoying our new little bundle and getting ready to introduce her to her very excited sisters.

Welcome Gracie...The Birthday Gift

Gracie and Daddy will just have to a share a birthday! What a rare gift to welcome a baby on your birthday. She was born at 11:12PM on August 9th, 2010. We were told to expect here to be a little "blue" upon arrival and she may have been for the first minute or so, but she was really looking good when her mommy got to hold her a few minutes later. Right now she's being tested and we are waiting to here the results of the tests being done on her heart. Annie is healthy and of course tired, but most of all we are thankful to God for our little Gracie.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Waiting Room...

Annie woke me up at 7:00 AM this morning and said, "Happy Birthday! I think I am going into labor." The contractions seemed to be steady for the greater part of the next hour, and I had packed the car to be ready to go the hospital. By 8:00 the contractions had slowed and became milder. We all ate breakfast and waited for them to pick back up. With no signs of action on the horizon I headed out for a run hoping to return and go to the hospital. Since that time the contractions have been about 15-20 minutes apart and we have been just hanging out around the house. So we wait...

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Lightning Round

I often do not write about things that are going on because they do not seem to deserve an entire post. At the same time I often want to mention these very things and see what others might have to say. My goal is to resolve the tension in which I only blog those things that a general audience would be really interested in, while commonly having thoughts about posts that I know will interest a certain few. My new solution to the problem is the classic game-show lightning round, hopefully a new weekly item.

-I recently got a Nike+ running band. I have always wanted to have a way to know basic stats of my workout while it is in progress, but could never bring myself to "get a Garmin" GPS watch. The Nike+ is a great solution, providing time, pace, distance, and calorie information throughout the run. It also hooks up to the computer and keeps a running log with great information and goal setting features. I highly recommend it to any runners out there.

- I am currently reading a classic book on Biblical Theology by Geerhardus Vos. It is a bit on the heavy side as far as the language and the style, but well worth trudging through for its insights into reading the Bible from a redemptive-historical perspective.

- On that note, if you are a preacher you need to download this series of lectures from Edmund Clowney and Tim Keller on Christ-centered preaching. They have been great running partners for me lately.

-If you are interested in a peek into Icelandic culture, one way to do it is through a series of crime-fiction novels written by one of Iceland's most succesful writers. They are available in english and are a fun read. I have been reading them in Icelandic, but I am sure the cultural setting would be as interesting in the translations as well.

- From Crozet, VA, we can be on the Blue Ridge Parkway in less than 15 minutes. The BRP is where Annie and I went on our first non-date. It is where we went on our first date. It is also where we got engaged. Last week we took the girls up there for an evening picnic and sunset and I could not help feeling a "life has come full circle moment".