Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Two Years Ago

Two years ago today - my husband and I welcomed our sixth child into this world. A blessing from our Lord - in so many ways.

Justus Theodore Browning

Our very first 'extra leaf' blessing ...

Labor started early in the morning - but I was too stubborn to admit it or maybe I was just too grouchy to want to have to deal with it. Either way, that morning I dropped my husband off at the ferry for his morning commute - not knowing that he would just have to come right back.

My friend, Amanda, had been staying with us - and thankfully she was able to drive me to the hospital as Phillip diligently sought to get to the hospital as quickly as he could. My contractions quickened - and his stress level raised while the boat slowly made it's way back toward home.

It was during this time that God guided Phillip to Psalm 139 - which in just a few hours would prove to be a great comfort.

My husband made it in time for the delivery - and I was thankful. He is my best friend - and feel lost without him. My labor progressed, and soon little Justus Theodore Browning entered into this world.

When the doctor placed Justus in my arms and I looked into his eyes - I could tell that something was ... different. I, exhausted, could not place my thoughts as to what it might be - and the doctor and nurses said nothing - so I assumed everything was fine ... but the feeling lingered.

In a few hours we had visitors here and there - and while some friends held our son, I looked up from my meal to see my new son's foot - almost black it was so purple. (this shot above was randomly taken earlier in the day just of his feet, not meaning to capture his purple feet - but when I saw him, his feet were much much darker)

I gasped, and asked if his feet were cold. They were not, and my husband called for the nurse - who then called the pediatrician in right away.

The doctor listened to Justus' chest and looked up. He asked if we wanted our friends to leave, we stated no -

He then proceeded to tell us that Justus had a significant heart murmur and he suspected that he also had Down syndrome.

I'm so glad that God directed his speech so that the heart murmur was mentioned first. It may sound odd, but my mind was fixated on that. I heard the Down syndrome part, and really was not shocked - given my lingering feeling earlier. It was the heart condition that scared me - and made me weep. I broke down and sobbed.

I held my son, as my husband and our Pastor and his wife encircled me. Then, that scripture that God had laid on my husband's heart during his ferry ride back - was being spoken out loud by Phillip. He was reading it to me - Psalm 139

Verses 13 and 14 stuck out:
13For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

14I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

I can't explain it - and it may sound goofy - but an instant peace invaded my soul that moment.

Justus was transported to another city to be placed in a NICU. It was later determined that he did indeed have Down syndrome, and a heart condition known as Tetrology of Fallot (TOF) and would need open heart surgery.

~ Our going home picture from NICU~

Justus Theodore Browning

Four months after Justus was born, we were back in a different hospital, preparing for what was one of the hardest things I have ever done as a mother. I handed my sweet baby over to the heart specialists - who would perform a six hour surgery on Justus to repair his heart. I knew it was needed - required to sustain his life, I just wanted so badly to hold on to him and not let go.

Justus did well and was recovering -

Only, the next day his sternum came apart and needed to be repaired. That was done, and soon Justus was fighting an unexplained fever that made his heart race, and threatened his life. It was during this time that God was truly touching hearts. I'll never forget how churches across the nation knelt in prayer on behalf of our son - many that I will never know, but I am forever grateful for.

Many more things happened during this time, too much to go into now - perhaps another post. One thing that really struck us, was the many battles being fought by the other children we saw laying in ICU rooms or trudging the halls with IV's attached. It was a truly humbling experience being in that children's hospital.

After 10 days in the hospital, Justus was able to come home - and we began to settle into a routine.

We began early intervention therapy as soon as he was okay to move around and sit up.

We praise God for each of our children. We believe that Justus is a special gift. One that we don't exactly have to train up to leave our home - and that may be a strange way of looking at it, but I am truly thankful that he gets to be my buddy for life.

Justus has taught us so much already. Through allowing Justus to be born into our family, God has taught us what it is to be broken in prayer. There is NOTHING like nearly losing a child that will drive you to your knees harder. Nothing. We also became aware of the BLESSING of Down syndrome. Before I had Justus, I would feel awkward around other moms who had a child with special needs. How was I to act around her, or the child? I felt ... sorry for her. To my shame. I had no idea. I can't explain it really. I really feel like God gave us such a special gift in Justus. One that not everyone gets to have. I find such joy in what others might think of as unfortunate.

My other children do too. I love how having Justus has changed the perspective my kids will have for life. I am thrilled to see a more benevolent spirit in each of my children. It makes me teary eyed to think at how my other children gravitate towards those with special needs. They literally will seek to strike up a conversation or go out of their way to be sure that they can interact with that child.

It was because of having Justus that our hearts became burdened for orphans with Ds - thus our journey to adopt Max and Ivanna. We would have never entertained the idea of a costly international adoption for two children with Ds otherwise.

God is teaching our family so much through the blessing of Down syndrome.

My husband and I tend to joke that every family should have the blessing of having a child with Down syndrome.

It truly has been such a beautiful journey, and promises to continue to be.


Thank you Lord for such a gift of a son!


Lisa said...

Happy Birthday Beautiful Justus :)! Great post, Charissa! I love the look back and seeing how far you all have come!

Renee said...

Happy Birthday, Justus! Charissa, wonderful birth story but it wasn't Justus' only.

Luba said...

Happy birthday Justus. Your life has already affected many, and Sophie thanks you especially for just being you and being born! Because if it wasn't for you, Max and Ivanna would still be far away, and Sophie and so many other orphans too, for whom you "opened the door" in a way! For that we are grateful! With love and praising GOD for you!

Larry Barcroft said...

Happy Birthday Justus!
What a blessing you are! to your family, and to the body of Christ.

This post really touches my heart.
It is so similar to our families experience with the birth of our son Noah. (our 8th child). I truly can't think of any greater blessing God could have given our family than the gift of our son with DS. His life has made an eternal difference in our hearts and in the lives our other children. Thank you for sharing Justus's testimony.

Garth and Becky said...

I'm looking through teary eyes to leave this comment! What a beautiful boy you are, Justus...inside and out. You are a blessing to SO MANY families and always will be. Love you, big guy!! Happy birthday!

Jennifer said...

What a beautiful post! Happy birthday to your little guy! :)

Mcarthur Mile said...

Happy Birthday baby! You truly are a gift from God. You have grown our hearts and minds for the better. We love you bunches!

Faith for Hope said...

Happy Birthday Justus!! God has used you so much in your short life already ... I am excited to see what else He does with the rest of your life. I love you sweet boy! Birthday hugs!!! Bro. B. and Charrissa, I will never forget Justus' story ... it impacted so many of us here. We love you! ~Grace

Ginger said...

What a precious story!! I'm so glad I found your blog!

Anonymous said...

What a tremendous story. Very touching. God bless your family.


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