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From the Editor - How a year of saying ‘thank you’ has forever changed me

Progressive Dairy Editor Emily Gwin Published on 29 November 2019

For the past few years, our editorial team has shared with you our “word of the year” based on the book My One Word. I definitely won’t be doing that for 2020. I think it either brings bad luck, or it’s simply God’s way of challenging my commitment.

In 2017, shortly after I chose the word “joy” for the year ahead, my brother was diagnosed with leukemia. I shared with you how 2018 taught me how to embrace the joy and celebrate wholeheartedly, and that I didn’t necessarily need to find the joy in difficult situations.

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At the end of 2018, I decided my next word would be “gratitude.” I told you how I planned to write in a gratitude journal, and a few of you even shared book suggestions on the topic. Then, on Jan. 23, 2019, at an anatomy scan for my second pregnancy, my OB told me she suspected my baby girl had spina bifida, a type of neural tube defect where the spinal cord does not properly form.

After learning about our options, my husband, Scott, and I ended up at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and were relieved to find out we were candidates for fetal surgery which, while not without risks, would prevent further nerve damage to the baby. About two weeks before the surgery, Scott and I decided we would publicly share about this journey through my Facebook page.

On Feb. 20, our baby, then 25 weeks along, was operated on while still in my womb. I spent four days in the hospital and then the next three months on bed rest at the nearby Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. On May 15, just one day sooner than we had planned, our baby girl made her arrival, weighing in at 6 pounds, 9 ounces.

Throughout the pregnancy, I posted updates about once a week, sharing how doctors’ appointments were going. Now that she’s here, I post about her progress in physical therapy, her appointments through Pittsburgh’s Spina Bifida Clinic and our return visits to Philadelphia to see her neurosurgeon. In nearly all of these posts, I’m expressing my gratitude for the people involved in her care, the people praying for her and the people keeping Scott and me going. Saying “thank you” has helped me to realize we’re not alone. We have so many people helping us to navigate this new realm of special-needs parenting. And I hope that by saying thank you, the people on the receiving end understand our sincerity and how vital they are to our journey.

I want to believe I’ve properly expressed my gratitude this past year, but allow me yet another opportunity in this printed space. Thank you to the amazingly talented and compassionate doctors, nurses, specialists and therapists who have played a role in our baby’s care. You have equipped us with the knowledge and confidence to care for our sweet girl and the strength to face whatever challenges may lie ahead for her. Thank you to our ever-expanding tribe of friends and family following and praying for her. Our church family has been incredible, and not a day went by in Philadelphia where I didn’t receive an encouraging card or message from a member of the congregation.

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Thank you to our network of fellow spina bifida and special-needs families that also continues to grow. I can’t quite put into words what a relief it has been to hear the words, “I’ve been exactly where you are. Let me help you get through this.” And most of all, thank you to our sweet Loretta Jane. Your strength and determination inspire me. Your smile breathes new life into me when I’m emotionally drained. The simple fact that you are here in my arms is a daily, hourly reminder for me of God’s goodness and faithfulness. I don’t know what the future holds for our family, but I know with absolute certainty that we’ll get through it because of the Lord and the extraordinary community we’ve been blessed with.

I would encourage you, dear readers, to use this holiday season as an opportunity to say thank you to the people supporting you and your farm. I think you’ll find, as I did this past year, that expressing your gratitude provides encouragement to both the recipient and yourself.  end mark

“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 KJV 

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  • Emily Gwin

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