On March 20, 2010, we gave birth to our 3rd son, Mills Thomas Methvin. He was born prematurely weighing 2.2 lbs. He was absolutely perfect and beautiful….just very small. The next 6 weeks of his life were the most challenging days we have ever known. We began his journey in an unexpected emergency C section that almost took my life. I had a placental abrupture, which is when the placenta tears away from the uterus, putting mom and baby at major risk. In my situation, it caused severe bleeding that they could not get to stop. I was given multiple blood transfusions as well as several bags of fresh frozen plasma to try and keep the blood to continue to flow to all my vital organs. They rushed me into surgery to deliver Mills and to do the best they could to save my life and give Mills the best opportunity for life. The doctors told us I was within literally moments of losing my life during the surgery. This all came as a complete shock to us because I never had the slightest complication in any of my pregnancies, including this one. There was no medical explanation for it. It was the scariest day of our lives as my friends and family gathered on their knees hoping and praying for a miracle. God spared my life that day and then allowed us the most painful, yet precious, 42 days we spent with Mills. From day one, it was a complete faith walk. We couldn’t put one foot in front of each other without His unfailing love and grace. Looking back, it is so clear how he gave us the grace to carry us on days that we were completely unable to bear on our own strength. On the day of his birth, we were so thankful that I was alive and Mills was alive, that we had actually made it through a tremendously severe surgery and he was here! Yet deep down we knew our journey was just beginning. While I spent the next days in ICU recovering, Mills was immediately transported to the NICU in Huntsville. I remember waking up in a strange room in the ICU, friends and family crying outside my window, and just a picture of Mills by my head, taped to my pillow, that the nurses had taken and printed off of Mills. Even through my drug induced fogginess…I knew….my baby was ok. We were told Mills was far from being out of the woods, but for now, he was doing fine. And at that point, that was all we needed to HOPE.
Everyone told us the days in the NICU were like a roller coaster…ups and downs, highs and lows. For us, it seemed like our news stayed close to the bottom. It would rise just a little to get our hopes up again, then dive back down into the darkness. On the 2nd night of Mills life, I was still in the hospital in Florence, and he was in his isolette in Huntsville. Roddy had been there with him that day and we were hopeful that, even though we had a long road, we were confident he was going to be ok! At 2 am in the morning, the phone rang and it was one of the Neonatologists. They told us that Mills had suffered a severe IVH (Intraventricular Hemorrhage, also known as a bleed on the brain.) Further scans confirmed his bleed was actually the most severe… a bilateral Grade IV. They didn’t expect him to live much longer and wanted us to come as soon as we could to be with him. My doctors were reluctant to let me out of the hospital because of all the blood loss and the traumatic surgery I had just been through….but they felt it was important for me to have the opportunity to meet him. So , they let me out to go and be with him.
We took our first of many drives up to Huntsville to see Mills…and I was meeting him for the very first time. I don’t think Roddy and I said 5 words to each other the whole way. We were in complete shock. I was trying my hardest to mentally prepare myself to say goodbye to my baby… the only time we had ever met. My mind was racing of all the things I wanted to tell him….to make sure I said everything I needed to say. I wanted to tell him how sorry I was and how much I loved him. Tell him all about his big brothers and how much we would miss him growing up with our family. How I still wonder if he would have liked Tractors like his biggest brother Tate or would he fly around the house as “Batman” like his brother Jon Walt. I needed him to know just how much I wish it were me, instead of him. That if I could take this pain from him I would in an instant. Would he ever even know how much he was loved? All of these things about a mother’s love that we would want our child to know. There are honestly no words to describe that feeling.
So many times I have thought about how God must have felt as He watched His only Son die for no reason. To see something so innocent and helpless that you love suffer, it is like having your heart ripped out of your chest. It has definitely given me a greater understanding of the depths of His love for us. That He understands pain and suffering and that His heart breaks with us.
When we arrived at the hospital that morning, they had given him several units of blood and he had stabilized. I don’t even know the feeling I felt at that moment, I guess relief mixed with absolute paralyzing fear. The doctors felt he was okay at that point, but the next few days were very critical. The fear of the unknown was the scariest. When I saw his face for the first time, I knew he was mine and I promised him I would do whatever I could to fight for him. To get him the best possible care and do what was best for him, not us. I realized that day that I had a choice to make. I could get up and face the day with my head help up. That I could do this. That I could accept God’s strength and grace, or crumble right there to the ground and never get back up. There was nothing easy about it. Thank goodness He gave me the strength to get up and is still giving me that strength daily. I had to choose to take what I have been given and put my complete trust in the One I had always said I believed in. Otherwise, what’s the point? To put my child in the hands of Someone who knew him before he was ever born. To trust that He is who He says He is. Even though I didn’t understand what I was going through at the time.The next 5 weeks we had good days and bad, many times brought in for what we thought was the last time. It was so hard to not let the fear consume you and I often times read Isaiah 43 over and over because it gave me hope of His promise to walk with us every step of our journey, no matter what lies ahead.
Mills was such a little fighter and overcame the odds so many times throughout his short life. He was 4 weeks old before I was actually able to hold him in my arms. Watching your baby hooked up to all these wires and tubes when all you want to do is hold him is the most helpless feeling in the world. We had so many hurdles to cross and most days, trying to juggle our 3 and 1 year old children at home and a baby in the NICU seemed completely more than we had the strength to bear. We met with countless doctors over those weeks, medical terms we had never heard before now became all too familiar in our daily vocabulary. The smallest things in a normal babies life became the biggest victories. We had no idea what the future held for our child. We were hearing terms like severe cerebral palsy, sepsis, NEC, hydrocephalus, and Periventricular leukomalasia (PVL). We honestly had no choice but to trust God with his life, which is so much easier said than done. Fear threatened to overtake us and God placed His hand on our family and kept us under His wing. So many people showed us the purest of love, sending cards, messages, and praying incessantly for our family. People that we didn’t even know reached out to us and shared stories of their own experiences with their children. It was so incredibly amazing to actually feel yourself being covered in prayer. Many times I had prayed for families in tragedies and never knew the full effect of how incredibly moving it is until I was on the receiving end.
During the last week of his life, he started to experience more swelling on his brain as a result of the bleed. After a lot of prayer, research, and wise counsel, we made the decision to have him transferred to Vanderbilt NICU. We wanted him in the best place he could possibly to be and have access to the best specialists in the country. When we got to Nashville, Roddy and I pulled into the parking deck of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital. We were completely overwhelmed with emotions not having any idea what we were about to walk into. We were about to face a brand new team of doctors, all new nurses, and possibly a new diagnosis to process. We sat in our car that day, held each other, prayed and cried out of sheer desperation and brokenness. We begged God to give us strength, wisdom, and peace. We trusted that He held our families future in His hands and at that point in our lives, nothing else in the world mattered. We prayed He would meet us in our heartbreak and give us a renewed strength and clarity to make the best decisions regarding our child’s life.
I wish that I could put into words just how he answered that prayer. If we ever needed Him, it was now. Our life was seemingly falling apart before our eyes. He met us and showed us His incredible power and once again, His ever present spirit in our lives daily! From the moment we stepped through those doors we had a peace that can’t be described. We met the nurses that rode with Mills on his Angel transport vehicle. One of the nurses hugged me and said she was hoping to get to meet me. She told me how many times she had transported babies from situations just like ours and the mom didn’t survive. It is still so humbling to know how close I was to standing before our Creator. I don’t think we ever fully process just how each of our lives are truly a vapor. I choose to believe that even if my prayers weren’t answered the way I wanted them to be and healing for my son didn’t come…. that He still is who He says He is. That He is the one constant in our ever changing lives.
We were given the most incredibly compassionate and skilled physicians that had decades of experience in caring for babies like Mills. After conducting all their own tests, scans and prognosis, they explained to us in the most compassionate way they could, that it would literally be a matter of days with our son. We honestly didn’t know what to even think. We had thought out every possible scenario over the past 6 weeks, but that scenario is never easy no matter what. One day we would get a phone call that he wouldn’t make it through the night. The next day we were hopeful that one day he would come home with us. It was a teetering balance between praying and hoping for a miracle, yet preparing ourselves for loss. God gave us the grace and strength to carry us and come to a place of utter dependence on Him. We realized just how out of our control our lives actually were. That He was the author and creator of our story and He wasn’t going to leave us now. God had given us the clarity that we had so begged Him for…just not in the way we wanted it. We now had to put our faith into action and TRUST that His plan is way bigger than our own, even though we didn’t understand it, or like it. We had to trust that He was weeping with us and wasn’t going to let us go now. In the darkness of our fears….He gave us eyes to see Him through it.
On May 1st, 2010, We held our son in our arms for the last time in a small room in the hospital filled with windows. We watched the rain pour down outside as if God himself was showing us in a small , but tangible way, that the Creator of Life was crying along with us, wrapping His arms around us. It was the most incredible spirit filled moments we have ever known. I held him in my arms as he took his last breath and I felt a peace that humanly cannot be described. It was the hardest day of our lives yet somehow the most peaceful at the same time. It was if Heaven was in that very room that day. Nothing on this earth can prepare you to hand over your baby’s lifeless body for the last time to a complete stranger. Only He can comfort that kind of pain.
In the few years since that day, our lives have forever been changed. We see things differently, love a lot more and accept differently than we did before. Even though our faith has never wavered, it has been incredibly hard to not let doubt, fear, and the “what-if’s” overwhelm us. Roddy and I have had to work really hard to understand each other, take our marriage to a deeper level, and love and trust each other through the process of grief. It’s something no couple ever wants to face together. I would never say that trusting Him takes the pain and hurt away…dealing with our loss has been incredibly hard. We will never know why this happened. We choose to place our trust in Him through this and it is the only thing that gives us strength for a new day and hope for our tomorrows.
I will always remember our six weeks with Mills as Jesus came near and kept His promise never to leave or forsake us. He came to carry our sweet baby home, and filled our hearts with peace. That’s how I know He is who He says He is. That’s why I cling to Him still. I can never tell the story of Mills without sharing the hope of the One who met us there, filling my heart with His love in place of my sorrow. If you ask me how I know that Jesus will carry you through your darkest valley, my answer will always be, I know…because He carried me.
Thank you for taking the time to read Mills Story. His story is truly an example of God’s faithfulness, love, mercy, and grace through a broken heart. My prayer is that you are blessed in some small way by his life and God’s grace throughout our families journey as we continue to seek to know Him more everyday.
“My flesh and heart may fail but God is the strength, and my heart, and my portion forever “
psalm 73: 26
“Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with his presence.” –Paul Claudel