You can start at the beginning here! – just scroll down to part 1
Those first few weeks of having a newborn are rough. I got very little sleep for a long time! If I wasn’t getting up to nurse Grayson, I was getting up to start Justin’s IV. One of the big blessings was actually how small Grayson was a birth. He was 6 pounds 8 ounces, which meant Justin could actually hold him! He was limited to an 8-pound weight restriction for those first few weeks. That’s about the weight of a gallon of milk. Though Justin was able to hold him, I still did just about everything else from changing diapers, getting groceries, and taking care of Skyler.
Looking back on that time now I know the only way I made it through was God. It was his strength I relied on to get up in the middle of the night. He was who I leaned on to go to the grocery store with a newborn. Speaking of grocery stores those trips were probably some of the hardest things to do. We live in a pretty small town, the kind where everyone knows you and your kids, and your birthday. While this was truly a blessing in so many ways it made the grocery store hard. It would take me almost an hour longer than normal to get through. Everyone wanted to see the new baby, and then came all the questions. How is Justin, what kind of surgery did he have again, when did you get back? I took the time to stop and talk to everyone, but it was hard some days. Admitting that out loud I feel selfish and cold-hearted. I know everyone who stopped me to ask was doing it out of love and concern for our family, but it was hard to move forward when I kept telling the same story of the hardest season of my life over and over and over again.
We have a pretty tight knit friend group. Honestly, they were definitely Justin’s friends first but I’ve found my place in the group over the years. All of the guys in the group started Kindergarten together and graduated high school together. Justin is four years older than me. I moved to town my sophomore year, a year after Justin graduated. I graduated with most of the younger siblings to those in our group.
As we went through all of Justin’s surgeries they rallied behind us. Calling and texting often to check in and see how we were doing. Calling our hotel to pay for a night or two of our stay! You guys sitting here thinking back of all they have done for us I’m crying. But there is one thing we will never be able to repay. They organized a benefit for Justin and our family. You guys the ENTIER TOWN showed up to the high school in a snowstorm to this benefit just a few days after Grayson was born. So many people and businesses donated silent action items. Bikes, grills, art, Vikings tickets, baskets so many gifts, and donations. Talk about humbling experience. Justin and I stayed home Skyler went with my in-laws and won a bike! My mom Facetimed us during the event, and Justin and I just cried sitting on the couch watching as the camera panned over all the donated items and people in line for spaghetti.
They also set up a benefit account at our local bake, where many people donated anonymously. In the end, they raised over $30,000. How do you even thank an entire town for that much support? We ended up writing a thank you note and putting it in the paper. I’d like to share it here with you.
I’ve sat down this week to write this, too many times to count. I’d like to say it’s taken me this long to write this because I keep getting interrupted by a newborn who needs to nurse, or a 4-year-old who needs some of moms attention, or it’s time to hook Justin up to his IVs.published in the Tioga Tribune March 2017
While all of these things certainly have happened over the course of the past week, this letter has been hard to write emotionally above all. Everything I write seems to inadequately put into words the gratefulness we have to so many people.
Watching the video feed my mom had for us during the benefit on Sunday left misty eyes for everyone in our house that afternoon. I am in complete awe of how many people came out to show their love and support. So many friends, neighbors, family, coworkers, and loved ones, to each of you, thank you.
We are so grateful for the class of 2006, and their work in putting together an amazing benefit. Thank you to everyone who donated prizes and baskets. Thank you to everyone who prepared and served food. Thank you to everyone who donated. Above all thank you to everyone who has kept our family in their prayers. We would like to say a special thank you to Whiting Petroleum for all they have done for our family this past year!
So many nights while Justin was in the hospital this past year I prayed God would just wrap me in his arms, and take care of my family. Each one of those nights my prayers
wereanswered. Watching the outpouring of love and support from our community this past weekend God continues to answer those prayers. And I am incredibly grateful.
This has been an incredibly humbling experience for our family. We are so thankful for our great community, and the way everyone has come together to support our family. I am so proud to call Tioga home.
Chelsy, Justin, Skyler, and Grayson.
About two weeks after Grayson was born it was time to get his newborn photos taken. I had really wanted to take maternity photos when I was pregnant, but our Mayo trip put a kink in those plans, so I was pretty excited about getting his newborn photos taken. The day came and Justin absolutely refused to come with me to Stanley to get these photos taken. I’m not gonna lie I was pretty upset and rather heartbroken to not be getting photos of Justin holding Grayson. God had other plans. I got to the studio with Skyler Grayson and my mom. Our photographer got lights and backdrops set up as we worked on getting Grayson to sleep. We started off with a few me holding him, and Skyler holding him before we were going to take his individual ones. This is where God had other plans. The power went out! I kid you not. this meant no flashes, no space heater to keep him warm. We waited for about half an hour hoping the lights would come back on. It was the entire north side of town out of power! We finally decided to just call it a day and I would come back later in the week to finish up the rest.
That night I got home and kinda laid into Justin about not coming. These were photos I wasn’t sure I would even get a chance to capture when he was in the hospital just a month before. Reluctantly Justin came with a few days later to get our photos taken. These are some of my favorite photos of that time, and they hang above my bedside table to this day.
About two and a half weeks after Grayson was born I hit a wall. I just remember calling my best friend Morgan as I drove to the grocery store almost crying. The first week and a half with two kids had been manageable, but now Skyler and I were starting to butt heads. Honestly, this was a pretty hard time for her, a transition I was not prepared for at all. So many people were stopping by our house to catch up with Justin and see the new baby. Sky has always been very articulate in how she feels and when she told me that she felt like no one cared about her anymore that mommy guilt hit hard. Truly she had been put on the back burner for a while and that really pains me to say that.
I was trying my hardest to take care of everyone but I was letting her down! We ended up deciding to send her over to my inlaws for a bit to get her some one-on-one time. Luckily they only live a mile down the road and things were starting to get things going in our family greenhouse so she was able to get out and about. She loves hanging out with grandma and grandpa. Even now she is grandpa’s little farmhand, and spring-time is her favorite time of the farm. She can choose from helping plant flowers and checking cows with grandpa. I’m happy to say it took some time but she is now the best happiest big sister ever, and Grayson looks up to her so much.
It took some time but slowly Justin regained strength. Six weeks following his surgery we headed back to Rochester, MN for checkups. It was just Justin, myself and Grayson. Our first appointment was a transesophageal echo. The sedated Justin and put a camera down his throat to look at the back side of his heart. Grayson and I stayed in the waiting room as I prayed for a long exam, not one to be cut short like the last time. About an hour and a half later Justin was wheeled out by a nurse. He was still pretty loopy from the anesthesia. We were then headed to get blood drawn. Before I could stop Justin he was on the phone with his mom as I pushed him into the elevator to head to the basement. The first thing he said to her was “I’m in a wheelchair”. That’s all she caught before we lost reception in the elevator. I’m sure she was having a mini panic attack thinking we were heading back to the hospital again.
I scolded my half drunk husband while I pushed him down the hall with 5-week old Grayson strapped to my chest. I got him sent back to get blood before I called Debbie to inform her that he was fine, and we were not going back to the hospital, Justin was just still drugged up after the echo.
After he got his blood drawn I decided it was probably best to just find a spot to park the wheelchair and let the rest of the meds wear off before heading to get something to eat. I nursed Grayson as Justin stared out the window on the ground floor. After Grayson finished and fell back asleep I got him wrapped back up in my Solly Baby Wrap. Justin was adamant that he was okay to walk so we headed across the street to Jimmy Johns for lunch. We sat there for a while eating our sandwiches. When we finished Justin’s meds must have finally worn off and he looked around and asked where the heck we were. He did not remember any of the last
Our last appointment was with infectious disease, where we learned his blood work was good, and they would be pulling the
The next few weeks brought some much-needed rest and downtime. We were finally done with the IV’s so I was getting some more sleep and we didn’t have to go into the clinic for dressing changes. This also meant Justin could shower on his own and wouldn’t need help wrapping the
One day stands out the most to me at that time. It was near the begging of June. It was probably a Sunday afternoon since the greenhouse was closed. Justin and I were taking a stroll around the farmyard pushing Grayson in the stroller. Sky left grandpa in the shop to
Justin would be returning to work in the next week or two. A few weeks after he returned to work we were faced with the hard reality of having to put down our cat, Kitty Cat. Justin rescued Kitty from under a water tank after his mom had abandoned him there. That was pretty tough on Skyler. He had been there since before she was born.
The rest of the summer went well. We took our first family vacation as a family of four! We loaded up the camper and headed south to the Black Hills just after the 4th of July. It was a fun and much-needed getaway. Sky got to see Mt Rushmore for the first time and caught her first fish at Pactola lake! My sister in law, Erin, started planning her wedding that summer too. Later on, in July, I left Justin home with both kids to go on a bachelorette weekend on a lake in Minnesota to celebrate with Erin. It was refreshing to not have little ones tied to me, even though I was still hiding away with my breast pump every few hours it was still worth it! It was a fun relaxing summer.
September came and harvest started. Justin was actually able to help out this time around. Last year he had been laid up following his first surgery. Life seemed to be moving on and we were putting this chapter behind us. Then the incision on his chest started draining. It didn’t seem like too big of a deal. It was clear fluid. After about a month of the wound draining the decision was made to go back to the Mayo Clinic to have them remove the sternal wires holding his chest together. By this point, the bone was solid enough to not need the wires and the thought was that maybe the wires were just rubbing on the skin causing the incision to drain. In the weeks leading up to his appointment, I had a breakdown.
Over the past year, we had been through so much and I was tired. This upcoming surgery had me worried and stressed and I wasn’t sure I could do all of this again. I sat up one-night nursing Grayson just sobbing. I could feel myself sinking into a very depressive state. I felt like I was just sitting there watching all these thoughts pass in front of my mind. I felt like I couldn’t control anything anymore. In reality, things were okay. Sky had started PreSchool that fall, we were getting ready to sell calves and they looked great despite the severe drought we had that summer. Justin seemed healthy. But my mind and my body had been through so much and I knew I needed help. The next morning I sat down and talked to Justin. That afternoon I made an appointment with my OBGYN for postpartum depression.
They got me in that afternoon, I left the calf sale in Williston after lunch to go have the hardest most honest conversation with my doctor. I was scared, I felt so weak, but I knew I couldn’t do this on my own anymore. She assured me that I was where I needed to be. She had been with us along this entire journey and I felt so relieved to finally get all of this off my chest. She explained to me that often our minds and our bodies will power through to get us through those hard times where everyone is depending on us. But when your brain knows everyone else is taken care of and things seem to be okay, it’s time to start getting yourself some help. I think that was what was hard for me. Everything seemed like it should be okay. To me, I shouldn’t be having a breakdown now if anything it should have happened months ago.
She started me on some medication and asked that I come back in a few weeks to see how things were going. Those first few days were tough. This medication made me so nauseous and all I wanted to do was go to bed after I took it in the evenings. My doctor had warned me about it and encouraged me to stick with it as my brain chemistry adjusted. It sucked I’ll be honest. After that, it takes a few weeks for it to build up in your system and see the effects. Finally, as we neared my sister in law’s wedding I was finally starting to feel better. I’m still on the medication even a year later and you know what that’s totally okay! I needed help I still need help and there is nothing wrong with that at all! If you’re in a season like that the hardest part is asking for help. I hope in sharing this I can encourage others to ask for the help they need.
The first week of November Justin went back into surgery to have his sternal wires removed. It was a quick surgery and we got to leave the hospital that afternoon. That night in the hotel Grayson started crawling! Poor kid, all his firsts are either in hospitals or hotels outside of hospitals! We left Rochester in a blizzard the next morning. I was so thankful that he was cleared to drive because those roads were scary! The following week we packed up the car and headed to Bismarck for Erin’s wedding! Where I got to actually enjoy being a bridesmaid and guest verse being on my feet photographing the entire wedding! It was awesome watching Stacy of ILY Studios work!
Poor Skyler got so sick the day before the wedding and didn’t get to enjoy being a flower girl as much as she wanted to, but otherwise, the day went off without a hitch. I even made it all the way through my maid of honor speech with mostly dry eyes! This celebration seemed like it truly was a turning page, and we were hopeful it finally was the end of a hard season of life, and the beginning of a much easier road.