A guest post by Sarah Fontenot
Life is full of challenges.
Some greater than others.
How we embrace those challenges will shape our journey.
On May 15, 2006, my husband, Ron, and I welcomed our sweet baby girl, Peyton Elisabeth, into this world. Having a history of serious pregnancy and postpartum complications, I was monitored very closely throughout the entire 37 weeks.
Everything looked much better this time around.
The only hiccup was a 36-week ultrasound which showed a larger-than-normal spacing between the back of Peyton’s brain and her skull. There was no real cause for alarm, but we knew she’d have an ultrasound after she was born.
No worries. Not yet.
I was induced on May 15th and Peyton came into this world crying and looked as perfect as anything I could imagine.
Our lives were rocked to the core the following day.
The ultrasound did, in fact, confirm the abnormal spacing. By the end of the day on May 16th, Peyton had a list of medical complications which had us concerned for her life. The pediatrician noted cataracts, hip dysplasia, a heart murmur, and hearing loss. She was also missing a portion of the back of her brain.
Within two weeks’ time, she had two separate surgeries. On top of all of her issues, I was back in the hospital with a massive pulmonary embolism; a life-threatening blood clot.
There is little recovery time as you jump head first into a life with a baby, much less with multiple medical complications. Ron and I were both working full-time jobs and felt ill-equipped to handle everything Peyton struggled with. By her first birthday, she had notched eight surgeries. In addition, our daughter, Moira, needed love and attention of her own.
With no outside help, we became desperately aware that we were burning the candle at both ends at an ever-increasing pace. We utilized all of the resources we could to help Peyton with her complex situation.
We were barely functioning. Something needed to give.
So, Ron and I made one of the biggest decisions of our married life. I quit my job to stay at home. We were most definitely not in a financial position to take this step. However, this choice was vital to the life of our family. Out of this came the decision to uproot our family and move from Texas to South Carolina for a better job situation for Ron.
A leap of faith.
I still believe it was, but I will also say that when we took this step in the summer of 2008, we had no idea what that meant.
We were a family that was not particularly rooted in faith. We were rooted in our lives. In the day-to-day.
In the hardness of our situation.
We were not rooted in God.
We were casual church-goers and – if anything – growing further and further away from our faith. At the time, our faith was based in a denominational religion. After making our big move, we couldn’t find a church that was a good fit.
We had one particularly awful experience which drove us away from church altogether until a friend reached out to us in 2009. Seeing our desperate need for something, we reached out to God.
That was the turning point.
Our single income life allowed us to breathe as I no longer had to worry about the stress of an outside job. There was relief, but I was still tired. My physical and mental resources were stretched to the breaking point. While I never blamed God for the situation we were in, I would not have said that I believed He was doing a great work through it.
Although my faith was growing, I had no focus.
Looking back on our lives since that point, I can see that the decision to go to church changed the course of our lives. I’m so grateful for the invitation of our friend. We still call that church our home today.
In essence, if it weren’t for Peyton, we wouldn’t know God. Of that, I am certain.
If it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t have faced the decision for me to quit working outside of the home. If it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t have wound up moving across the country in search of a better life as a family. If it weren’t for her, we would never have been led to our church. Without that, we wouldn’t know God.
In the years that followed, Peyton’s life became increasingly complex.
New medical challenges arose constantly and we chose home nursing. While we had this help, it wasn’t the nurse’s responsibility to raise Peyton. It wasn’t their responsibility to be her parent. To love her and do everything within their power to help, to seek out doctor’s opinions even if that meant traveling out-of-state. The nurses loved Peyton, but she wasn’t theirs. We dealt with the heartbreak that came with knowing that our daughter would never develop past a 9 month mental capacity.
She would never walk, talk, sit, stand or crawl.
As we began our journey with God, I started to learn a difficult truth. In order for me to fully accept what was happening with Peyton, I needed to change my heart. I needed to start being thankful.
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
As our journey continued, I learned to be thankful in all situations.
Peyton would have a total of twenty surgeries and more emergency room visits than I can count. Each time I wanted to throw in the towel. However, I learned that if I could just give thanks for a few things each day, it changed my outlook. It didn’t matter how big or small those things were. I just needed to find something – anything – to be thankful for. This caused my perspective on life to shift.
On May 4, 2013, our journey with Peyton on this earth would come to an end – just 11 days before her 7th birthday. She passed away at sunrise the morning of her 40th day in the hospital.
As grief washed over us for the loss of our precious child, we gave thanks to God.
I am thankful for being entrusted with the life of such a special gift from God. She was His perfect creation on loan to us for a brief period. Our grief is strong and we mourn this loss each day, but God equipped me for a challenge that I did not feel equipped at all to face.
He provided the strength to rise to the daily challenges of life on this seven-year journey. Even in the darkest moments when we faced the decisions that no parent should have to make, I know that God was there with us.
He never left us once.
I didn’t recognize Him at work back in 2006, but were it not for Peyton’s life, I would never have come to know Him at all.
I am thankful to have been richly blessed by this sweet little girl.
She taught me more in her short life than I could possibly have taught her. She had an impact on so many people in such a short time. I am grateful to have known her and to have been a part of her life. I am grateful to God for opening my heart to Him to do His will. It is through Him that we were equipped.
It is in all things and for all things on this journey that I am thankful.
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:4
Today, I am grateful for the opportunity to share Peyton’s story with you.
As soon as I read Sarah’s testimony, I immediately contacted her because it touched me to my core.
Sarah and Ron were so gracious to share with such authenticity.
Please, take the time to share with Sarah in the comments below. If you’d like, share their story and help deliver the message of hope in spite of tragedy. Peyton’s story shows the healing power of God’s love and His purposes even in the midst of pain and loss.
My life is richer for having met Sarah and I’d hope the same for you.
You can read about the journey in my book, Redefine Rich.