Choosing to be Grateful: The Peyton Fontenot Story


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.

Peyton Fontenot at birth

Peyton Fontenot at birth

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.

Peyton and Sarah

Peyton and Sarah

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

Be thankful.

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.


Sarah and Peyton on their last morning

Sarah and Peyton on their last morning

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.


, , , , , , , , ,

13 Responses to Choosing to be Grateful: The Peyton Fontenot Story

  1. Marie Bryant March 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Phil. 4:13

    Thank the Lord for friends who invited you to church. Thank the Lord for drawing you nearer to Him. Be comforted with the thoughts that you will see Peyton again in Heaven, whole and perfect. What a day of rejoicing that will be. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Sarah {the fontenot four} March 4, 2014 at 10:49 am #

      Phil. 4:13 is another scripture which has meant a great deal to us over the past few years. It has been amazing to see God’s hand in our lives throughout this journey. I know Peyton is fully healed made whole now and I do take comfort in that. Thank you.

  2. Lily Kreitinger March 3, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    Sarah, thanks for sharing your story. As a mom, I can’t put my feelings into words, except that I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for reminding me how precious life is and how God has entrusted us with His children. Blessings to you and your family.

    • Sarah {the fontenot four} March 4, 2014 at 10:50 am #

      Thank you so much. While our loss is sad, I can only be grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of her life. She certainly blessed our lives.

  3. Diane Zimmerman March 4, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    Sarah, powerful, beautifully expressed…amazed at the way that God went ahead of you to guard your hearts before you were even fully aware of how much that would be needed! So sorry for the hole that Peyton’s passing leaves and so grateful for the love, joy, grace that came because of her life. Hugs to you and your family.

    • Sarah {the fontenot four} March 4, 2014 at 10:52 am #

      I am continually amazed as I look back over our journey to see how God orchestrated everything. He definitely was with us protecting us and preparing us for our loss long before we knew. Thank you so much.

  4. Dale L March 4, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    I’m floored by this story of tragedy and triumph. The mercy, love, patience, and faith it took to weather this storm is miraculous indeed. Thanks so much for sharing this

    • Sarah {the fontenot four} March 4, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

      Thank you so much for taking the time to Peyton’s story. It is only through God that we have been able to make it through all of this. Peyton was such a blessing and continues to be – for us and so many others.

  5. Sharon March 4, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

    What a beautiful story! God has this family in the palm of His hand.

  6. Anne Peterson March 5, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Sarah, Thank you so much for sharing your broken heart. What a wonderful testimony of how we can always find something to be thankful for.

  7. Anne Peterson November 11, 2014 at 7:15 am #

    Thank you for opening your hurting heart and letting us peek in. I too, believe that God comforts us so that we pass on that comfort to others. But when we are in the midst of the pain, when we feel as if we cannot take one more hurt, all we can do is trust who we know Him to be. To reach out and hold His hand. And that is where I am right now. Leaning hard as we learned our precious granddaughter has Trisomy 18. I am not certain I will get to meet her before she meets Him. And it has been a heavy-hearted journey. Thankfulness amidst the pain. It’s not an idea, it’s a way to get through it, for God is good, no matter what we face. He can be no less.

    • Sarah {the fontenot four} November 11, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

      Thank you, Anne, for your comments. Yes, I agree that God works through us in our trials to help others who need comfort. When we are in the middle of it, though, it is truly an act of faith to just trust that God is in the situation and that He has everything under control. I am so sorry to hear about your granddaughter. Be comforted in knowing that the same God who is with you through this, and who you are clinging to, is also with her on this journey. And whatever the outcome, know that He will not leave you or her. Prayers to you and your family as you walk this journey. It is not an easy one, but you have people lifting you up through this.

      • Matt Ham November 11, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

        Thanks to both of you for this beautiful exchange.