I have witnessed the generosity of Barry County when local community members have donated dozens of toys to Share Your Christmas, dug deep in their pockets to raise thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society and held food drives that have collected hundreds of pounds of food for needy families in our area. This year, I had the opportunity to witness the generosity of Barry County in a new way.
Last April, James and I received some of the happiest, and scariest news of our lives. Our small family of two would be expanding. Days later, we realized just how complicated this journey to parenthood was going to be. We chose only to share our news with family and a small group of friends until we were further down the road, but in August when we found out our bundle of joy would be wearing pink for at least the next three or four years we couldn't contain the news any longer.
Within weeks of sharing our news with a larger group of friends, we went through our first big scare. I was admitted into the hospital for preterm labor. But even as we worked through this first week of bed rest something magical began to happen. We began to hear that not only our loved ones and close friends were praying for our family, but a larger group of acquaintances were talking with God about my health and the health of our baby.
Two weeks after I was released from the hospital, I was admitted a second time. This time was even scarier. It looked as though a premature birth was inevitable. Again, we began to hear from dozens and dozens of Barry Countians who were praying for us and our little girl. As I lay flat on my back in the hospital, I was awestruck by the magnitude of what was happening back home on our behalf.
On Sept. 17, our baby decided she could wait no longer. That evening, while the Cassville Wildcats scored five touchdowns against the Aurora Houn' Dawgs, Sophie was born. She weighed just over one and a half pounds. The first time I saw her I couldn't believe how small and yet how perfect she was. God had made this tiny little person with 10 fingers, 10 toes, two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth and everything else she might need.
Over the next 10 weeks, while Sophie grew in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), James and I again began to hear about the prayers that were going up for our baby girl. Not only were a large group of family, friends and acquaintances praying for Sophie, but many, many people we had never even met were asking the Lord to take care of our little one. These prayers were worth more to our family than money or gifts. These prayers for the health and strength of our baby were priceless.
On Thanksgiving Day, Sophie graduated from the NICU. She had gained nearly four pounds since birth, learned to drink from a bottle and hold her own temperature, things that most babies are born knowing. Sophie graduated from the hospital without needing one single surgery. She was never on a ventilator, and she soared through each trial she came up against in the intensive care unit. Even though she was born three months early, God truly blessed our baby and our family. James and I are forever grateful for each prayer that was prayed on our family's behalf. We received a Christmas miracle this year, not only in the birth of our daughter, but also in discovering the depth of the generosity of the people who make up the community she will call home.