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  • Writer's pictureMaria Whittaker

Dear Journal

I used to journal ALOT. Mostly about emotional girl things and boy problems. Crazy that nowadays I have real things to journal, like Dear Journal, we just had a baby. Yikes. Nothing makes you feel like you're adulting hard more than realizing you're a parent. All that to say, I have purposed to start journaling again because life passes by so fast and I want to remember the most precious moments. I could do it in a notebook and I probably will, for my more private thoughts, but I wanted to outline the major stuff here since I am planning to do occasional updates of our life anyways. So here we are. It's safe to say that this year has been one of the most memorable years of our lives, for many, many reasons.

Here are just a few:

1. I herniated a disc in my back (while mopping, *sigh*, of all things) and found out I was pregnant in the same month (December).

2. Herniated disc led to severe sciatic pain coursing down my leg for the next 9 months. I did physical therapy and an epidural steroid injection at the site, and when baby was big enough, finally got an MRI to identify where the herniation was. Scheduled surgery for a week after birth.

3. Coronavirus happened. Which led to both of us (teachers) working from home and then having a long, wonderful summer with honestly very little responsibilities (teachers) which was just perfect because I was pregnant, nauseous, and at times bed-ridden because of my back.

4. My youngest sister got married (yay!) and my wonderful hubby injured his shoulder pretty badly while playing sports at the bachelor party. He had a 3rd degree acromioclavicular joint separation and needed right shoulder arthroscopy surgery left him in a sling for a couple weeks including 2 weeks after baby was born.

5. We took some amazing little "last fling before we become parents" trips when traveling became possible and made some great memories.

6. We continued fundraising for Romania.

7. Our beautiful little daughter was born.

I've talked to a few people who all say the same thing -- this year was in many ways both the best and worst year ever. God seems to have used the trials and difficulties of 2020 to bless people in unexpected ways. That was so true for us. What was one of the most difficult years of our lives also brought us the greatest blessing ever, Emory Jane Whittaker. I wanted to share a few details of how she made her grand entrance into this world!

Birth Story

My official due date was September 21. Baby had been looking good at all the appointments until my 32 week one where they measure her growth. After the ultrasound, the doctor let me know that she was tiny, only in the 5th percentile, measuring at about 3.5 lb. Any baby below the 10th percentile is diagnosed with fetal growth restriction which can be caused by genetics (meaning the baby is just a small human) or it can be caused by baby not getting enough nourishment/oxygen through the placenta and umbilical cord. Because of this, I started having to go into weekly appointments where they did Doppler scans (to check blood flow through the placenta/umbilical cord) and non-stress belt tests (to check her heart reactivity). Baby always did really good on these tests so we weren't too worried that she wasn't getting enough nutrients. By 35 weeks, at her next growth check, she had moved up into the 6th percentile, but still had not grown enough. Because of this, we scheduled an induction for 39 weeks, which was September 14 (I was supposed to go to the hospital the night of September 13 to start the process). Many people ask about the logic of this -- small babies aren't allowed to go to 40 weeks because doctors prefer to have them out earlier to monitor their nutrition more easily.

September 13 came around and it was a Sunday. Nate had to preach Sunday night, so he rushed home after that and we drove to the hospital and got me checked in and set up. I won't go into a lot of detail but after a long night of different induction methods, when they checked me in the morning, I was dilated to 5 cm and they broke my water. Everything had been going well until this point but baby's heart-rate started to dip with every contraction which was worrisome. They tried putting me in different positions and were starting to talk about adding internal monitors and pumping fluid back into the uterus (since breaking my water had started the problem). All this was around 8 AM. The nurses had left the room and Nate and I took a moment to pray that the baby is okay. Soon after, I suddenly felt like the baby was coming. I called the nurses into the room and they checked -- I had gone from being 5 cm at 8 AM to they could feel the baby's head. They had me start pushing, I pushed for 13 min and the baby was born by 9:30 AM. I felt like how quickly it all happened was an answer to our prayer and I'm so thankful that God helped me and the baby both come out of the experience healthy and totally okay!

Behind the Name

Okay so my name explanation is a little long and extra but I'm huge on words and meanings so bear with me. It actually took us awhile to decide on the name! Nate came up with his top 10 and I came up with mine. Not sure Emory was on either of the lists, but Jane was. For awhile, Jane was the name we were going to go with because we both love it, wanted a classy, British name that fit with "Whittaker," and liked that it is a female version of John which is a family name for both of us. Nate has John's dating back in his ancestry, his Papa's name is John, and his middle name is John. My grandfather's name is also John and my brother's middle name is John. We also liked that it means "God is gracious" because we feel so deeply that God was incredibly gracious to allow us to get pregnant and gift us a child after quite a while of trying unsuccessfully. He has been gracious in so many areas of our lives so it seemed a fitting tribute.

However, something about Jane wasn't sitting right with me and I kept praying for a name that I would love and that Nate would agree on (because he was so set on "Jane," he was shooting every other name idea I was bringing up lol). I remembered the name Emory and started pushing for it more. I had first heard the name while observing at a high school. One of the girls there was named Emory and she was such a free-spirited, pleasant person. I remember noting the name and loving it. I looked up its meaning later and loved it even more. "Emory" was first a boy name but became used by both genders. It means "industrious, home-strength." I love love loved that meaning because I kept trying to find a name that would convey how I see the Proverbs 31 woman which was my greatest wish for Emory, other than that she love Jesus. When I thought about the fact that I was having a girl, I really wished for her to be a woman clothed with strength and dignity, humble and submissive, a wife and mother of noble character, more precious than rubies, just like the passage says.

I see the Proverbs 31woman as being two things: first of all, incredibly strong, and secondly, soft, sensitive, and beautiful -- two things which seem incompatible. I believe Biblical femininity is really well described by the image of a jewel -- a woman who fears the Lord is yes, stunningly beautiful with her inner beauty, submissive and soft-spoken like the traditional image of a woman presents. At the same time, I believe she should be "clothed with strength and dignity" and like the woman in the Proverbs 31 passage, (through Christ's strength) literally be the central "home-strength" that keeps the family together and supports everyone around her. I wanted God to bless my daughter with those character qualities that I feel so few women pursue and yet are "more precious than rubies." I actually even considered the name Ruby for a split-second but...yea....

But so cool, I later discovered that the word "emery" is actually used in the Bible in Ezekiel -- and it's a jewel. God tells Ezekiel "Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house" (Ezekiel 3:9). In other translations, the word is "hardest rock" or "diamond" and if you look at the original word "shamir," it means "adamant stone" or "a gem, probably diamond." Okay, I'm such a geek with words and their roots and meanings but I LOOOVEEDD that "emery" also meant "a gem" because it just encompassed what I want her to be. And even cooler, while I was still praying for us to find a name we both love, Nate magically came around and started loving the name and told me he wanted to use it! So that was another little answer to prayer and made me feel like the name we picked was meant to be. We ended up doing "Emory" as representing a character quality we wanted her to have and "Jane" as a testament to a character quality we love that God has.

Back Surgery

Back to current events, God was so good to allow me to schedule my back surgery a week after giving birth. I'm so thankful I didn't have to wait longer. It was honestly kind of cool to do surgery prep and they like asked me if I wanted basically Valium to calm me down before surgery and I was like...haha not stressed, this is all a very interesting adventure. Though I did get nervous when I was wheeled to the OR and I was glad I was going to be out during the procedure of cutting into my spine haha. I kept waiting to pinpoint the moment when I was going unconscious from the general anesthetic and it was kinda cool because the room started spinning and then I remember nothing. Coming back to consciousness was also a super weird feeling and I kept wanting to hold my male nurse's hand for comfort haha (but I didn't). The first person I thought of was little Emmie (sorry Nate :P). I was able to stand up and be discharged a couple of hours later with no nausea and very little pain because it was numbed up. The next few days were pretty bad however and I actually still have sciatic pain because the nerve is still irritated and has a "memory" of being compressed for 9 months. This is pretty normal and should clear up in a few weeks but it does stink to come out of surgery and have the same problem as before so I'm praying (and would appreciate your prayers too!) that it actually goes away and I'm finally pain freeeeee.

Romania + Prayer Requests

Last but not least, we ARE still planning on going to Romania in January. Fundraising is going well and we are so thankful for that! However, we do have some big things that need to happen for us to be able to go in January and it's been kind of discouraging to keep having to postpone. We are really praying that we don't have to postpone again in January SO PLEASE PRAY THAT:

  1. Romania opens up. Due to COVID-19, we technically can't enter right now.

  2. Even if it doesn't open up, that I am able to get my citizenship which could allow us to enter. We are in the process of doing that but we need Emory's birth certificate to come in and it's just a whole slow, involved process that we hope can be completed before January.

  3. We get the rest of our support in. Honestly this is the least of our concerns right now because God has been slowly providing but it's still important and it needs to happen for us to go.

  4. Everything is okay with Emory so that we feel we can move countries.

  5. If everything lines up and we are able to go in January, that we find someone to rent our townhouse in January which is not exactly a hot time for people to rent.

We are confident that God will direct us and open every door necessary at the right time but we do ask for prayer. We know all of this is a lesson in trust and in allowing God to guide us in His own time.

Whew! Thanks for reading and caring if you've made it to this point! We're so blessed by our supportive friends and community. We are so grateful for this year (and it's not even over) -- we can't wait to see what God will do next. He's come through for us in so many ways and we are confident He will continue to. <3

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