Friends, It’s Been Awhile.
This past month has been filled with the hardest days that I’ve ever had to walk through. There were a lot of thoughts of packing up my laptop and going home – feeling so incredibly lost and not knowing where to turn as I strived to find a new ‘normal’.
But, here I am.
This is a very scary post for me to write, let alone publish on the internet. Never in a million years did I think this would be a part of my story. I didn’t think I’d ever be ready to write this. And can I be honest with you? At this point, my coffee has gone cold in the cup next to me and I stare at my laptop screen still not sure if I’ll be able to. So if you’re currently reading this, you know that somewhere in the midst of fear and dried tears, I clicked publish.
I was hesitant to share this on the blog for one reason. I didn’t know what people were going to think. Were people tired of hearing about Layne? Would they think I’m doing this all for attention? Because, friends, this isn’t a story filtered through the rose colored glasses of social media. It’s one that’s real, raw, and full of vulnerability. But at the same time, it’s one of hope. While I never thought in a million years that this would be a part of my story, it is. However, I know for a fact it’s also not how my story ends.
I’ve learned this past month as I’ve journaled through my grief that words can be healing. Red words, even more so. But, I ultimately want to share Layne’s story because of the promise that I made God. In the hospital my first night with him, as I held him with a never-ending stream of tears that ran down my face, I decided that I did not want the enemy to win with my situation. If God used broken things, I wanted him to use me and my brokenness for His glory.
It was my marked moment. My real life moment to point to and remind myself that I declared that I would trust God with this suffering. That He would bring Romans 8:28 alive in my life. That all things would work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.
So whoever you may be, I hope you’ll grab a cup of coffee (and maybe a tissue) and join me this morning while I get real with you and speak from my heart. Maybe you’re a friend or family member of mine who’s reading this post out of support for Rob and I. For that, I couldn’t thank you enough for all your love and prayers.
But maybe you’re someone who’s walked a similar road, and you’re looking for hope and comfort. If that’s you today, I wish I could give you a hug, invite you into my living room, and share a cup of coffee with you. Over that cup of coffee, I’d laugh with you at my crazy dogs and cry raw tears with you for your pain. But, most importantly, I’d tell you how much Jesus loves you. How this isn’t it for you. This isn’t it for me. God is going to use this for His glory.
Layne Thomas’s Birth Story
The entire week of Layne’s birth was a blur. To be honest, every day since the day I went into the hospital is still a blur over a month later. What always shocks me when I think about it is how fast and furious it all happened. On Saturday, we had a large cookout get-together at our house with friends. On Sunday, I was miserable sick from allergies. I slept in the recliner, and my feet were so swollen I could hardly wear my sandals.
But the story really started on Monday.
I went to a dentist appointment for a routine cleaning. I was beyond miserable from allergies, and I didn’t want to go. However, I ended up mustering up everything in me and going anyways. When they took my blood pressure at the start of my appointment, it was really high. Like, really high. If you looked at a blood pressure chart, I was on the higher end of Hypertension Stage 2. With being 26 weeks pregnant, my dentist recommended that I call my doctor immediately.
I called my doctor, and with it being at the end of the day and the office about to close, they sent me to the hospital for a quick check up. My blood pressure was high, but Layne continued to have a strong heart beat and was moving constantly. As we waited for my blood work, urine test, and ultrasound results to come back, Rob and I remember feeling like it was a waste of time being at the hospital. I told myself, “I was just at the doctor the week prior, and I’ve been considered so low risk up until that point. This is all just precaution and unnecessary. He’s doing fine.”
He was not fine.
Friend, I felt so much guilt when those tests came back and revealed so much more behind the scenes that the doctor’s would not have been able to catch if I didn’t walk into the hospital that day. Who knew that at that moment my ‘quick check-up’ would quickly turn into an emergency situation. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia that came out of no where, hit fast, and hit hard. I was placed on cardiac watch and seizure watch, and I was immediately admitted to the hospital.
But even worse, Layne’s ultrasound revealed that he was measuring super tiny at only about a pound (3rd percentile). The blood from the umbilical cord was not flowing well (it was actually back-flowing), and the placenta appeared to be failing and not providing him with what he needed. Over the next 17 hours, I was seen by my doctors, the high risk doctors, NICU nurses, anesthesiologists, etc receiving an overwhelming amount of information about what I needed to prepare for.
But it all boiled down to one thing. I was going to be having a preterm baby.
They didn’t know when, but they were going to keep monitoring Layne closely and try to keep him inside me as long as possible. I was given steroid shots to develop his lungs as much as possible. I was also given magnesium treatments to help develop his neurological system. From there, they were going to have to decide with the high risk doctor when it’d be safer to deliver him and have him in the NICU rather than keep him in my belly. As soon as he started showing signs of distress, he had to come out. The timing was a gamble to give him the best chance of life. I was going to be in the hospital for the foreseeable future until I delivered him. While I was scared, I trusted that God had a plan for me and my little man.
For the next few days, I was constantly monitored by my nurses and doctors. My blood pressure was still extremely high, my body started to swell so much they could hardly get blood for labs, and my preeclampsia got progressively worse. Layne was constantly moving and causing my nurses all kinds of trouble having to chase him to keep him on the monitor. The nurses and I would laugh. We’d joke that he was going to be one stubborn child when he got older. Meanwhile, his heart rate also started to dip more and more. But, we stayed hopeful. In the midst of the chaos, Rob and I remained confident in God’s plan.
March 28th, 2019
That morning I woke up to them bringing breakfast into my room. I was finally going to be allowed to eat after being restricted to ice chips for so long. At that same moment, one of my doctors rushed into the room and told the nurse to take the tray away. She looked at me with the saddest eyes and told me that Layne’s heartbeat early that morning was dipping more and more, almost flatlining.
It was time. He had to come now. Little did I know, everyone had already been downstairs in the OR prepping for this moment. As soon as she finished telling me the news, everyone came in and started prepping me for delivery. I’m pretty sure I looked like a deer in the headlights. I was shaking. It didn’t feel real. I kept thinking I’d wake up as I stared at the ceiling lights pass by as they wheeled my bed down to the OR.
Laying in the OR, everything was such a blur of organized chaos. Between my nurses and doctors and the high risk doctor and NICU nurses, it was like a slow motion scene out of a movie. I shook my head with wide eyes as everyone explained what was going to happen, not really remembering anything they said. Then I remember Rob walking in dressed in scrubs, kissing my forehead saying, “Let’s do this.” With him followed a huge wave of peace that surpassed all understanding. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I knew that God was there in that room.
10:56 AM – 11:34 AM
Layne Thomas Nugent was born via c-section at 10:56 AM that morning surrounded by the strongest presence of God I’ve ever felt and an amazing team of nurses and doctors who fought harder than anything to give our little man the best chance of life. When he was born, he smiled at Rob and I heard him let out a sound. I frantically looked at Rob standing over me and asked, “Can you see him?” With tears streaming down his face he whispered, “He’s so beautiful, Cathy.”
From that moment, all I could focus on were the voices of the NICU nurses and our high risk doctor as they rushed to stabilize Layne. They got him in the incubator, and ran past my head and out the door to get upstairs to the NICU. Rob sat with me for the next hour as they stitched me all back up. (Based on how Layne was positioned, I had to have a classical c-section where they cut me open both vertically and horizontally.) When they were finished, Rob was escorted to the NICU while I was wheeled down to recovery.
However, Rob didn’t make it up to the NICU. The high risk doctor grabbed him as he left the OR to tell him the news that would change our lives forever. I knew as soon as Rob walked through the curtain in recovery what happened. No one had to say a word. Layne’s heart and lungs were just not strong enough to survive, and he went home to be with Jesus shortly after he was born at 11:34 AM to the best birthday party ever.
While I was unable to see him alive, I’ll never forget that moment and the look on Rob’s face when he saw our son for the first time.
I wept the whole way as they wheeled me from recovery back to my hospital room. I wept even harder when they wheeled in the bassinet with Layne’s body dressed in the sweetest crochet outfit. When the nurse handed him to me, that peace that surpasses all understanding came back over me. I smiled through the tears, chuckled, and looked up at Rob. The first words out of my mouth were, “I told you he would have red hair. He looks so much like you.”
The Next Few Days
For the next couple days, we were allowed to keep Layne in the room with us before the pathologist would perform an autopsy (to accompany the testing my doctor’s planned to do on me) and the funeral home would take him. During those two days, I held him as much as possible. Meanwhile, I studied his face, his hands, and his feet – not wanting to forget anything about him. I introduced him with a big smile to everyone that came in to visit me. I showed them his hands, his ‘giant athlete feet’, and told them about his red hair that Rob swore he’d never have. But most importantly, we spoke about seeking Jesus and declaring Truth over our situation to everyone in the midst of our devastation.
Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of tears shed in that hospital room. The nights were especially hard. The enemy attacked me with so much guilt. I felt like I failed, I wished I could have done more. I was broken. But at the same time, I was overcome with so much peace. I almost can’t explain it. During my first night with him, sleep was replaced with tears, guilt, and questions. But I wept that morning as I watched the sun come up and Psalm 30:5 came to mind. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Then as clear as day I heard God whisper, “You may not understand right now, and that’s okay. You aren’t meant to understand. But trust me.”
At that moment, I decided that I did not want the enemy to win with my situation. If God used broken things, I wanted him to use me and my brokenness for His glory.
I wanted God to bring Romans 8:28 alive in my life…and He has already.
While it doesn’t make the pain of his loss hurt any less, it’s honestly been such a beautiful thing to watch God move so much in this season of grief. Layne’s 38 minutes of life and our story has already inspired and impacted so many people. With a gospel invitation at his funeral, our pastor said we had a bunch of people give their lives to Jesus. I wept when he told us. Because of Layne, lives are already being changed and souls are being saved. Our situation is being used for God’s glory.
This past month I’ve had so much time to reflect on Truth.
Here’s some that come to the front of my mind as I type this.
1 – First off, I am so thankful for that dentist appointment.
While I don’t necessarily understand why things happened the way they did with Layne’s birth and death, and I know that I may never understand in this lifetime, there’s one thing that I do understand now. I firmly believe that God not only saved my life, but He also saved us from a traumatic situation that would have been so much worse. If I had not walked into the hospital that day, not only could I have had a heart attack at home and died, but Layne could have passed away suddenly inside me and Rob would have never seen him alive.
2 – Layne’s Smile
I also can’t help but think back to when he smiled when he was born. Could he have also been smiling at Jesus in that operating room, ready to receive him with open arms as heaven’s gates were opened? I tear up thinking about how precious that moment was.
3 – Yellow Butterflies
“What is ‘normal’? And how do I get there?” I whispered with tears at Layne’s grave a couple weeks ago as I sat next to the huge mound of flowers. When, all of a sudden, I looked up and saw a yellow butterfly. It stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t help but smile. We’ve been seeing them a lot the couple weeks prior – from when Rob came by our house for the first time while I was in the hospital after getting the bad news of Layne’s condition, when Rob went to the funeral home with my dad to make the arrangements, when we walked up the florist’s steps to pick out flowers for his casket, and when we sat at the gravesite after the funeral.
Now, I see them all the time. Tiny yellow butterflies. Tiny glimpses of hope. And tiny reminders from God that, while it’s going to be a hard journey and the pain is real, it’s all going to be okay. More than okay. I will get to see my baby again one day, and we’ll have more than a lifetime together. We’ll have eternity together. We have that promise, and for that promise I am so thankful.
4 – When it comes to tragedy like we’ve faced, you can do one of two things as a response: turn your back on God, or run to Him.
Lysa Terkeurst put it so perfectly when she said that, “What God uses to develop your faith is disappointment. Meanwhile, what the devil uses to destroy your faith is disappointment.” Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane will never read the same to me. With his soul “exceedingly sorrowful, even to death”, He told His disciples to “Stay here and watch” – to watch Him as an example of how to deal with disappointment and sorrow by fixing our eyes on Him, “nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14: 34-36)
Fixing our thoughts on Jesus is to close our eyes. To mark this moment declaring our trust in God and to declare God out loud like Jesus did. To stop fixating on the circumstances raging around us, and to stop trying to make sense of things that make no sense in the middle of the journey. And to stop asking for the knowledge that’s too heavy for us to carry.
5 – ‘All Things’
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and to those who are called according to His purpose” – Romans 8:28
It’s hard to sit in the midst of your suffering and believe it. But our lives are just a pixel in the grand picture of this world. In James 4:14 the bible says,”For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” We are just pieces of the overall picture.
When it comes to Romans 8:28, it says that all things work together for good. It doesn’t say that some things work together for good. It says all things. When we are unable to see God’s hand in a situation, we are to trust His heart.
6 – Lastly, My ‘Strength’
Over the past month, I have gotten so many comments and messages about my ‘strength’. But what people don’t realize is that it’s not me at all. It’s all God. Y’all, I am a broken mess behind this screen. But what I also am is full of hope in God’s plan in the midst of my suffering. I don’t know why things happened the way they did. However, I do know that I serve an amazing Father who I can trust His heart when I can’t trace His hands.
So while I don’t really know what to do, where to go from here, or what our new normal is going to look like, I am going to keep walking the tightrope. One foot in front of the other. Catching my breath when necessary, but never stopping. Not today. Not tomorrow. Because Jesus is here, and He will not let me fall.