And then Gracie came along..

Sandra Grace Howell 08.03.2009

Grace ~ The freely given and unmerited favor of God. 

We started calling her Grace while she was in the womb. I chose that name for no other reason than because I thought it was pretty. A pretty name for a pretty little girl. It wasn’t until after she was born that I realized the full meaning of the word. In my eyes, it is her.

She is truly a gift I will never deserve. 

Gracie was born cesarean at 38 weeks and 3 days gestation. I’d been induced, but wasn’t progressing very quickly, and there was worry that her umbilical cord would prolapse if the midwife broke my water – she was literally swimming in amniotic fluid.  It was a scary moment. 

She was born within the hour, at a healthy 7lb 4oz with a full head of hair and all her fingers and toes. I’m told she was born slightly  blue and didn’t cry but she was still perfect. She was taken to the NICU and I woke up a few hours later with a smile and 37 staples across my lower belly. 

My mom took this picture while I was still in surgery. He hadn’t yet realized she was there and the look on Dratton’s face here says it all. Miss Gracie had him wrapped around her finger even then. 

But it didn’t take long to realize something wasn’t right. We wanted to see and hold our new daughter but couldn’t. The nurse told us they were having some problems getting her to eat and that the doctor wouldn’t release her yet. After a few hours she was brought in so we could try and feed her but she still wouldn’t eat. Born without the instinct to feed, Gracie was given an NG Tube. She wasn’t even twenty four hours old. 

After four days and a battery of tests, the Pediatrician at our little hospital made the decision to move her to a bigger city. Our newborn had begun having seizures and an MRI was showing abnormalities in her brain. She was taken by ambulance to the University Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi where she would stay for the next thirty two days. 

With children at home we couldn’t stay with her and would only be able to see her on the weekends. 

She came home September 08, 2009. A gastric feeling tube had been surgically placed the week before to provide a more permanent means of nutrition and we spent her last night in the hospital with her so we could learn to use it properly. It wasn’t hard and we just wanted her home. Still undiagnosed, the doctor told us we would do well to hold her and to love her but not to have expectations. There was very little hope that she would ever be more than what she was. We weren’t sure that she could see or hear at all and she had no physical reaction to outside stimulus. 

So that’s what we did. 

After about five months she just sort of.. woke up. She was smiling and semi-alert. It was nothing short of a miracle. 

She woke  up a little more every few months after that and today she is more than we could have ever imagined. 

Our Grace will be seven this August. And while undeniably handicapped, she’s alive. She doesn’t walk or talk or have the cognitive ability to feed herself, but she laughs and throws tantrums and goes to public school every day with her siblings. 

And she’s smart.. boy, is she smart.. The little booger understands everything she hears. She watches television and likes being read to and loves to dance while the choir sings in church on Sundays. 

She’s amazing. 

More often than not, when meeting her for the first time, people ask if someday she’ll get better. I like to tell them that she’s already perfect. God doesn’t make mistakes, and He sure didn’t start with her. 

Raising her has been quite the journey, full of laughter and tears, endless frustration and more love than I’d ever thought possible. Looking back I can honestly say she’s made us better people. 

With have been blessed. Each and every one of our beautiful children, the ‘his, mine and ours’ as I like to call them, are amazing and special in their own way and I’m endlessly proud to have known them and helped raise them. 



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