Ryder’s life was a surprise from the moment we found out about her. I had a nine month old at home and nearly passed out when the pregnancy test showed positive. It was a hard pregnancy because I was sick constantly and exhausted from having a baby that wouldn’t sleep. When I went in for my 20 week anatomy scan they couldn’t find Ryder’s urinary tract or bladder. We were immediately sent to a specialist and high risk doctor in Dallas. They did a more in-depth look at her anatomy and realized she had a cyst covering up some of her organs. We were so relieved. We continued to see the specialist for the remainder of the pregnancy to ensure the cyst was shrinking and going away before delivery. None of those things matter anymore, but it is important to know the backstory so that you see how God was preparing us for something even bigger.

Ryder was born on July 1, 2011, in Paris, Texas. She weighed 7lbs. 2oz.

During labor her heart rate kept dropping and I had to wear a monitor for her and oxygen for me to help level it out. They said it was perfectly normal for that to happen. She came out quiet and wide eyed. She didn’t cry more than a minute and then she took in her surroundings and fell fast asleep. The entire time we were in the hospital I just couldn’t get her to eat. One nurse even fussed at me for letting her “snack”, saying I was creating bad habits already. When we got home with Ryder, she continued to not eat well. She would eat an ounce and then fall asleep for hours. Then she would have crying spells for LONG periods of time each day. Then she would fall asleep for hours. Repeat the same over and over, day after day. You can imagine how stressful this was seeing as I had a 15 month at home that slept 2 hours a night and neither kid napped more than 30 minutes and NEVER EVER at the same time. It was… well…. It was miserable. But I mean- at least they were cute.

When Ryder was 2 weeks old her doctor starting telling me that she had colic. He insisted it was a behavioral issue and I remember wanting to punch him in the face. The “colic” just got worse and then I was told that Ryder was considered “failure to thrive” because of her eating issues and her lack of weight gain. For some reason at that appointment I asked a question that led to the doctor casually saying, “well, she has a heart murmur.” ……. “Excuse me? What did you just say? A heart murmur? And I’m just now hearing about this?” At that point he decided to “ease my troubling thoughts” and send me to the hospital to get Ryder an EKG and chest xray. I called to check on the results a week later, assuming all was fine since they never called me back with results. He gets on the phone and says, “well she has a minor defect- we will send you to a pediatric cardiologist but it really isn’t a big deal at all.”

Two weeks later, Ryder was 6 weeks old and I sat in the pediatric cardiologist’s office with Ryder in my arms and Rory running around the room. They did a long, in depth Echocardiogram and another EKG. I knew during the Echo that something was wrong because he called the cardiologist in 3 times to look at her heart. Never a good sign. After the Echo was over, Dr Pierce took me into her office and sat down directly in front of me in a chair she pulled up so she could be face to face with me. She held my hand and Ryder’s hand as she began to tell me the defects Ryder’s little heart had. Ryder had several ASDs (small holes in the wall between up chamber), a large VSD (wall between lower chambers), and Pulmonary Stenosis (closing of the pulmonary valve.) Words flew in the air and I couldn’t grasp any of it at first. I just sat there staring at her and then Ryder. I couldn’t even cry. Several times she asked if I needed to call Andy and talk to him on speaker phone. I kept saying no because he was on a work trip. At one point, I could tell she was very concerned so I tried to focus on what she was saying. I happened to look up to see Rory standing in the corner in front of a potted plant- double fisting potting soil into her mouth by the handful. It was straight out of a comedy/horror film. Dr. Pierce looked at me with such compassion and such shock that my child was eating potting soil in the corner. The only thing I could do was laugh at this point- and my laugh was hysterical ( in that crazy kind of way) and I’m pretty sure it terrified my doctor.

That day, a Tuesday, a plan was set in place to go in and balloon cath Ryder’s pulmonary valve Friday- just 3 days away. When she went in to get the cath done, they took pictures and measurements and quickly realized the balloon cath could not happen. God had perfectly formed Ryder’s imperfect heart. If her pulmonary valve would have been open instead of closed the excess blood flow from her VSD would have drowned her and she wouldn’t have lived. It gives me chills now just thinking about it. God so perfectly planned for her heart to be complex and imperfect, but he showed us just how detailed he is with Ryder’s heart- even in the imperfections.

The doctor came out to tell me the news that it wasn’t a successful procedure. He said they would do their best to close the VSD with medicine, but I knew then that it wouldn’t work. I wasn’t worried, I had such a peace the entire time, but I knew the medicines wouldn’t work.

A few weeks later, Ryder was rapidly declining. She wasn’t eating at all, was blue as can be, and couldn’t stay awake. She was truly failure to thrive and I knew it was time to ask the doctor to fix my baby no matter what that meant. So we drove to Dallas and the cardiologist quickly agreed and she was wheeled to the hospital to try and get her stronger for surgery the following week. She spent 10 days on a high calorie diet and got so much loving from every nurse.

On Thursday, September 13th, 2011, I had to do the hardest thing I’ve ever done thus far as a parent- I handed her off to the surgeon for him to open her chest, stop her heart and put her on bypass, and fix her heart. She was only 2 1/2 months old and now weighed 6lbs. 11oz.

The surgery was a success. Only residual leaks from the patch and a tiny “lip” on her valve. I’ll never forget seeing her for the first time after surgery. She was on a ventilator and there were wires and tubes coming out from everywhere. She had a very hard time with pain after surgery and that was absolutely heartbreaking. It took them 24 hours to finally get it managed and her meds exactly right.

The sweetest moment after surgery was getting to feed her and finally getting to hold her.

Ryder is now 7 years old and every year I’ve taken a picture of her beautiful scar. She loves her scar and I hope that never changes. We talk all the time about what a miracle she is and how God showed us he can do more than we could ever imagine. Her life verse is Ephesians 3:20   Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

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