Luke...

Hey friends, today I write to you with the hopes to tell you more about Luke and our testimony. We will start from Day 1. I found out I was a dad on October 4th 2019. My wife and I were out when she mentioned she still had not started her cycle. Honestly, she started late sometimes so I didn’t think much of it. But she knew, she had a feeling. So, on our 5-year anniversary we had plans to go to a nice hotel in Cottonwood area (Utah). We went to buy some things for our stay, snacks and such – but, we also just figured we would grab a pregnancy test. We got home and I went outside to do a couple things before we left for the day. She came out and called for me. The test was positive. We were going to have a baby.

We were so excited. So happy. My wife admitted to me that she was a little sad each time she started her cycle. I’ll answer the question on your mind now: No, we weren’t trying – but we also weren’t trying to stop anything. We wanted a baby, but I think I was so happy with life as it was – that I didn’t need to push for a baby yet. Ignorantly blissful. We left for the hotel and were happier than ever.


The next day, her family was at the event (at the hotel we were at) – per family tradition. She was over the moon with excitement and couldn’t help but want to tell them. We knew there was some risk: miscarriage. But, we found out about this baby on our 5-year anniversary. It felt like the perfect gift from God, surely we wouldn’t lose our child. So, we pushed that thought far away and opted to announce to the family that night. One day after we knew, so did my wife’s family. I deemed our child a boy that very evening in my wife's company.


I had to call my brother later that night and ask him to skip his college class the following Monday (it was a Saturday). He asked why, of course, and I told him that we had a ‘big announcement’. He didn’t know if I wanted him to pick up the hint I was dropping – so I ended up telling him plainly. My brother works in the same department/company as my sister-in-law, so I knew if I didn’t tell him now, I would not have been the first to tell him. I’m very glad I told him because Monday morning, my sister-in-law asked him if he knew the big news. When I told my sister-in-law that I told my brother incase she would have told him, she laughed and said, “You know me so well!” Everyone was excited. It wasn’t a secret meant to be kept.


Monday night, my wife and I went to Hallmark to find something saying ‘Grandma’ on it. We had dinner plans with my immediate family to let them know. We found a picture frame and wrapped it up. I told my mother that we had got her something little while we were out of town for our anniversary. She opened it and it took her a moment to read what was wrapped around the glass frame. She looked up in shock, and I nodded. It was a beautiful moment for me – you see, this is my mother’s first grandchild and she had been begging my wife and I since essentially our marriage; five years prior. She told me she had gotten so sad that she had given up hope only a short while sooner. She cried in that Chili’s – and I mean ugly (UGLY) cried. Tears of joy are not lovely to see, but lovely for the soul.


12 days later, October 16, 2019 – My darling wife’s birthday, she woke me up very early bawling her eyes out. I asked what was wrong, she was bleeding. My wife is a nurse, so she had to inform me it wasn’t a normal amount – it was a lot. Lying in bed with my wife, I prayed over her and our baby. I too was afraid and started weeping in the bed. That morning we went the clinic to get everything sorted. Everything was numb and I was beyond bitter while praying to God. I remember pleading with God, “If you took our baby on my wife’s birthday – her birthday will never be the same. Every single year her birthday will be terrible. I know you to be a good God, but what is this?” I cannot even fathom if that had been the outcome - my wife's birthday would have never been the same.


We went in and they tested her urine and blood, which also was positive. They did an ultrasound and they saw ‘signs of a pregnancy, but no fetal pole.’ They told us to mentally prepare for the probability of a miscarriage. But, it couldn’t be confirmed yet.

Everything had to continue, they ran a HCG test, which is essentially testing for pregnancy hormones. My wife had to go back in on Friday (two days later) to test her blood again to make sure the HCG levels were still rising. For two whole days, we wept and she bled. Friday night, my wife logged into the health portal and saw they had risen ‘just enough’ to be positive. However, the clinic still warned us it wasn’t a guarantee – but a good sign.


For two weeks, we bled a little and cried a lot. I remember telling my church, “I have a testimony coming.” Even though I didn’t know the outcome, I was doing my best to believe in a good God and a giver of good gifts. I know that God may test us, but I told Him in prayer, “Father, may my only test be this – do not let the test be greater.” On October 28, before my wife’s shift, we had the worst of the bleeding. She called me while I was at work. I remember answering, "Hello?" and then hearing nothing, my heart dropped. I called her name and then I began to hear her crying. I panicked. Everything was once again numb. I left work immediately without telling anyone anything. All I could think about was her and my baby.


I called the hospital and demanded a visit. The soonest we realistically could go in was the next morning. They told us to avoid the ER if at all possible due to the costs. I got home and my wife was on the toilet. She exited the shower (where she bled a lot) and sat down. She was too scared to stand up. We cried and eventually she worked up the courage to stand. I remember saying I had to stay and see. I peered into the toilet to see far more blood than I even had feared. There was next to no doubt in my mind: my baby is gone.


We laid down on the bed. I was once again overcome with numbness. I had never felt more defeated in my entire life. I debated if I actually served a good God – I knew, with everything in me, that He is real – but was He actually GOOD? I asked my mother to intercede for us – I was not strong enough to talk to God anymore. It only made me angry. Admittedly, part of me knew that if my baby was okay – I could never again doubt the God I serve.


The next day, when we went in, we waited and did everything in our power to trust in God and carry hope. It is easy now to look back on this and perhaps see how silly I was doubting God – but then I recall the blood I saw and I know why I was so afraid. We went in, hoping and afraid. They did the ultrasound and said they found the fetal pole. Then, she turned on the sound. I thank God that the lights were off, because the moment I heard my baby’s heartbeat: I broke. The past several weeks had been full of tears, but finally, tears of joy and relief. I was undone in the hospital room. Our baby was alive. Our baby was still there. By some sort of crazy miracle, our baby's heart was still beating.


We still had minor bleeding here and there over the next few weeks. But we learned slowly to push away anxiety and fear. In this time, my wife and I also discovered that she had a heart-shaped uterus. Some believe this leads to miscarriages – so we had extra anxiety trying to push down on us. The real threat we knew was possible was a preterm baby – but we prayed for full-term (which as most of you reading this know: we did not get).


I gave a sermon on trusting God and tests. And something I wrote in “Good God? Bad World? What Gives?” has rung so true for me over the past seven months. “Every single time my faith in God is challenged, it is not a time to doubt who God is – but an opportunity to learn more about Him." At this time, we were back to 'good'. No bleeding and we were praying every day for our baby. Life was back to (mostly) normal. God was teaching us to trust Him and let go of fear, anxiety, stress and almost most importantly, control.


A couple weeks later, the bleeding picked back up – and worry slowly set back on. It was like a never-ending battle fighting anxiety. I did better than my wife, but the burden of worry for my wife was nearly as great as my burden for our baby. Learning to be a strong husband through adversity was challenging and testing. I hope to have been made a better person through it.


At twenty weeks (Jan. 27), we finally got to see our official ultrasound. Something we had been counting down for since early on in the pregnancy. We already knew through prayer we were having a boy and chose the name Luke by about week 8 or 9. Luke was a strong name meaning "light giving." He also was named after one of my favorite writers of the New Testament, Luke the Physician. Yes, the Star Wars jokes are good fun. But, please never ever think he was named because of it - that is borderline offensive to us (in a kidding way). He is named through prayer and petition, not by a fictional story. Anyway, I digress. We saw his development coming in strong. Healthy, and adorable – you could tell from scans that he was going to be the cutest baby. The following ten weeks were the best of the pregnancy.


Bring us to (essentially current) – Saturday, April 18 – my wife’s water broke while asleep. She once again woke me up with worry in her voice, “My water just broke and I don’t know what to do.” I Googled if we had to go in – I text my mother – and then called our hospital’s labor and delivery. All confirming, we had to go in. Our beloved Luke was due June 16, this was not the plan. I anticipated early June due to my wife’s heart-shaped uterus, but this early was worrying.


We got in, and they verified Luke was head-down and confirmed her water had ruptured. They got my wife on bedrest and starting pumping her full of different things for her and our baby. Once again, everything was crazy. The doctor gave us a goal: May 5. Luke would be 34 weeks gestation, and at that age he would have developed some key milestones for birth. Sunday morning (2-3am time frame) my wife started having contractions and the nurses came in to check on her. My wife didn’t feel much pain yet, but knew things were moving along. My wife was dilated to a 5 and the nurses were shocked that my wife was so calm. They told us that we probably couldn’t stop Luke from coming any more – but they wouldn’t push it either. We all anticipated early Sunday morning.


Early Sunday (8am timeframe) my wife was dilated to an 8. (This is about when I created a Facebook LIVE video in honor of our son.) However, the day was less eventful than you would expect. My wife lasted nearly all day without many contractions. We saw the nurse a few days later and she told us (at least four times) that she believed we were fervently in prayer in our room all day – she had never seen someone dilated at 8 so calm and not have a baby within her same shift. Around 5:30, seemingly out of nowhere, Luke’s heart rate dropped just enough to make the doctor tell us it was time to try to bring him. We were shocked. Everything was fine. My wife had no contractions, but she was now nearly a 10 and the doctor decided it was best to go get him.


Sunday, April 19 at 6:42pm my son, Luke Jackson Smout was born. We both started to cry, excited and joy – once again, so much happiness. They set him on my wife for just long enough so I could cut the cord and then I followed him to the next room where they went to work on him. My poor wife wasn’t able to see him for a couple hours after this – but I was with him the entire time. Nervous for him, yet confident in God's work the whole time.


He’s the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. I cannot say it enough. Weighing in at a whopping 3lbs 9oz and only 16 inches long. My wife was able to hold him late that night, around midnight. I was able to hold him on Monday. My wife and I visited him as much as possible the two days while in the hospital. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, no one else in our family has met him yet. They quickly were able to move him off of oxygen and his lungs have been strong since. The second day with him, he had slight jaundice and had to be under a light. We couldn’t hold him at all on the second day. He looked so cute with his 'shades' on, but not being able to hold him on our last day was hard.


Possibly the hardest thing through this entire story was leaving the hospital Tuesday night. We stood by his NICU bed for nearly 5 hours, struggling to leave. I started to list off the things I was grateful for – but the sadness was still so overwhelming that we both wept. Eventually working up the strength to leave, the nurses did their best to wish us well. Our eyes were red and full of tears. Once home Tuesday night, all there was to lay in bed while both of us were numb. The only thing to do was let our eyes rest from the tears and get some sleep.


Luke is now off of IV and is only receiving my wife’s milk. He is so incredibly healthy – all things considered. He just now needs to learn how to suck, swallow and breathe simultaneously. He also needs to gain weight so he can regulate his body temperature. This week has been the most exhausting week of my life. Being a strong husband and strong father – talking to God constantly and asking Him for strength.


I remember asking God and telling my wife, "Three weeks. That is all I can handle. No more." I admittedly thought this to be ambitious. Every nurse and doctor would tell us, "We could keep him until his due date (June 16th)." Nothing in us could handle that wait. I asked my Pastor to spread word about a 3-week timeframe. I had others who said they would pray time would pass quickly - which I then realized was brilliant and I wanted that as well. Without realizing it, a 3-week time frame puts Luke coming home on Mother's Day. I pray to God that he's home by then.


Luke has been brought into this world small because God will make him big in the Kingdom. Humble beginnings for my son – but he will be far wiser, far stronger, far greater than either me or my wife. I am so grateful for him and so excited to be everything I can be for him.

If you have made it this far, I hope you can see through this that I serve a good God. My wife and I are exhausted from these past seven months. But, we are going to come through stronger than ever. We serve a good God who loves us. If you read this, I want you to know that God is good. No matter the situations we find ourselves in – there is something worthy of praising God. There is always at least one thing of good report.


For those of you who talk to God regularly. Please pray our Luke comes home soon (3 weeks). Please pray he learns to suck, swallow and breathe simultaneously. Please pray he gains weight quickly. Please pray for my wife through this – for her peace. My wife and I will struggle this entire time that he is not home. But pray that this time flies for us – that a day feels like a minute. That a week feels like a single day. Please pray for God to use our son for His purpose. Please pray for our son to be a light bringer.


For those of you who maybe don’t talk to God. I pray you do. I pray for you. God is the only thing that carried us through this. God is the only reason I am able to write this testimony to you without breaking down and giving up. He keeps my mind as strong and at peace as it needs to be. Some moments are harder than others – but God is good and He is taking good care of us. We appreciate those that want to help us and feed us in this time – but we want everyone to know God. We want everyone to see Luke’s beauty and know there is a good God in heaven watching over our entire family.


May God bless this rest He has given us – I will be back soon,

-RP

Also, for my son:

Luke, my little Luke – my light bringer – my joy. I’m not sure if this blog will stand the test of time, but my love for you will. I may not always be able to write to and mentor others, but I promise to never stop mentoring you. I promise to love you and train you in the ways you are to go. I promise to provide for you and care for you. I promise to always seek God when raising you. I promise to always be there. I promise to support every game, concert, show or whatever hobby you find yourself in. I will disciple you. I will be everything that God teaches me to be. You are small now, but you will be mighty. You will be wise. You will be kind. You will be patient. You will be strong. You will be a leader. You will lead with excellence. You will be faithful. You will be slow to anger. You will be gentle. You will be full of self-control. You will be an example of love. You will be full of joy. You will be a light bringer. You will bring many to know Christ. But most of all my dear son, you will be loved.


- Dad

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© 2019 The Rambling Preacher