This is Asher Jordan Al-Bjaly, our fifth born child, born on February 17, 2023.
He is almost 2 and a half months old. Last week, I put him in a onesie that my sister gave me at my baby shower. It says, “I’m proof that God answers prayers.”
When I opened the gift, she said how perfect it was for him, but I thought that it was a strange choice since we had not actually prayed to have another baby. Clothes like that surely belong to couples who have earnestly prayed for a child.
I kept the onesie, though, since it was a thoughtful gift. And then I put it on Asher last week (it finally fits him now) and realized that it was actually a perfect piece of clothing for him.
No, Jad and I never knelt down in tears asking God with all of our might for another child. On the contrary, Asher was an unplanned pregnancy. But, as I have thought carefully about it, I have realized that God has answered many prayers before and during my pregnancy, and after Asher’s birth.
As I shared before, last March I thought I was pregnant, and then found out I wasn’t. I was surprised at how sad I was about that, but at the same time, Jad and I were not trying to have a baby and he knew he didn’t want another one.
Those moments shook me, though, and more than once I found myself praying to know if I should have another baby. I promised that I was willing, but I didn’t know if I should. I didn’t share this with Jad, but just prayed on my own at home and even in the temple (including the Wahington DC Temple open house in June 2022). Well, God answered my prayer not by telling me that I should have a baby, but by allowing me to become pregnant when I should not have been able to be.
Obviously becoming pregnant came with a multitude of emotions and challenges. I shared my emotional roller coaster on previous blog posts here: The Fourth Was Not the Last… | Making Life a Bliss Complete and here: God gives you who you need: part 2 | Making Life a Bliss Complete. I had so many worries and disappointments and prayed for help with each. I will name just three, but there were many:
1.I prayed that I would be able to overcome the huge disappointment of not being able to perform in my church’s musical. I had hoped that my whole family would perform in the musical this time, which was super important to me because it would be Eve’s first and Casey’s last. This prayer was answered in a unique way, by my son Casey receiving a significant role in the show. I felt so happy being able to see his growth as an actor and singer and then watch the show while glowing with pride at his performance and smiling adoringly at my daughter who was performing for the first time.
2. I prayed what to do about the new amazing job I had just gotten and was so excited about. I knew that I didn’t want to work if I had a baby at home in a few short months, and I also had been having a lot of morning sickness, but I still felt horrible about quitting. I prayed for courage, for my boss to be understanding, and for me to be okay changing my dream of going back into the workforce. When I told my boss I had to quit, she was super understanding and kind, which made me feel so much better. It was hard for a while knowing I would not be working again for many years, but I kept very busy volunteering, attending school functions, shopping for the baby, doing studies, exercising, and more. I was never bored my whole pregnancy even with all the kids in school.
3. I prayed about how to make room for a new baby. Our house is large, but we did not design it to have more children. It took research and prayers to figure out how to make room – where to put the baby, how to make sure Eve had a space, and what to get rid of and move around, all without spending a lot of money. It sounds like a simple problem, but it definitely caused some stress. I can say that it all worked out beautifully and we were able to help others as we purged, as well as repurpose things for new needs we had. We also were able to get several things for free to help us furnish Eve’s new room and the baby’s room.
My health was something else that could have plagued me throughout my pregnancy.
I wrote this post on Facebook when I was 30 weeks along:
The only reason I was able to be more patient, longsuffering and faithful during my health issues was because I prayed for these things. And God answered my prayers.
He also helped prepare me for what was to come. I had a feeling around the time a friend was asking me about having a baby shower that our baby would be born around the same time as Eve – that my blood pressure would ultimately lead me to having preeclampsia again. I just felt it. I didn’t let it bother me, but Jad and I did pray daily for my health and the baby’s health. I know that God gave me the energy, and both Jad and I the time to prepare our baby’s nursery. I know that God also kept me calm as well so I could focus on the excitement of having a baby and not the worry of him likely coming early.
I know He helped me choose my baby’s name. I think I looked at hundreds of names and kept looking and kept looking because nobody seemed satisfied. Jad and I had been praying about what to name him. As I felt that our time to decide was drawing to a close, I had made a list of our favorite ideas, and Jad had made it into more of a chart form regarding first and middle name options. One night as we went through each name together, we were able to remove names, and then we typed a few first and middle name possibilities. As we read through them, tears came to my eyes as I read the name “Asher Jordan Al-Bjaly.” I knew at that moment that should be his name. We still didn’t decide for sure, but I knew, and we ultimately named him that.
I wish I could say that my pregnancy went full-term, or at least until the proposed 37-week induction due to my gestational diabetes. That would have been the best answer to mine and Jad’s daily prayers for my health and the health of our baby, but it was not to be.
It was a very scary and unsettling experience to be told that I needed to be induced that day because my blood pressure was dangerously high. But, I felt God and his angels on earth help us. Our bishop came and gave me a blessing, and so many people prayed for Asher and me during the labor, and for all the time after his birth that he was in the NICU and I was recovering from childbirth. I know that God not only answered my prayers, but the prayers of those who love us.
Here is a little video I sent my kids when I was in labor:
Here is a video of me sharing Asher’s birth story:
I had no choice but to get up and get things done after I was discharged from the hospital. I was at the NICU as much as I could be while also doing my best to spend time with my other children. I had so many people ask me how I was doing all of that when I just had a baby, and I always answered that God was giving me strength. The same answer was true for Jad, who even though he was on paternity leave, was in constant pain due to falling off a ladder while painting just a day after I had the baby.
Even with Jad off work, we couldn’t balance life at the hospital and home all alone, so we prayed that we would be able to coordinate everybody’s needs. We were blessed with plenty of help from loving friends and family from meals to rides to childcare, and it brought us so much relief to be surrounded by this selfless love and care.
Asher was in the NICU (at UNC first and then Alamance Regional Hospital) for two weeks before he went home. Some days were harder than others, but we felt so blessed that he only had to be on oxygen for one day, and that he only had to be under the bilirubin light for a few days. We also felt blessed that he got the opportunity to be transferred to Alamance Regional, which was so much closer to us, and also a much better fit for Jad and I as involved parents.
It took Asher quite some time to be able to nurse with the stamina he needed, but he improved daily, and he was such a sweet, cuddly and good baby. Below are some of my favorite pictures of Asher when he was in the NICU, both at UNC and ARMC:
The time Asher was in the NICU was hard for Jad and me because we felt so horrible about having to choose between being with our baby at the hospital or with our other four children. We switched off the best we could, but it was hard for us. It was also really hard for the kids. They had to live with basically one parent at a time, and had to make a lot of life adjustments, all the while not being able to meet their baby brother.
One night, when Jad was at the NICU and I was at home, I felt just how big the strain was on them, and I was inspired to have a conversation with the children about it in hopes of helping them have hope and patience. Here is a video I recorded of that experience:
Thankfully Asher came home very soon after this on March 3rd. The nurses marveled at how fast he was able to come home, since many preemies don’t go home until their due dates. They said they knew he was going home so soon because we were so present with him. I know that was part of it, but I know an even greater part of it was God answering our fervent prayers.
And of course, Jad and I both hoped and prayed that when Asher came home, we would all be able to adjust to having him home and that everyone would love him. We were a little worried about Eve being jealous, since she had expressed concerns before about not having enough attention. We also prayed that we would be able to take care of and love all of our children as we added one more to our home. And that has been the greatest answer to prayer of all: every single one of us adores Asher more than we could ever describe. We have been able to adjust well to having him home with us, and it feels like he has always been a part of our family. Nobody has been jealous, and we are able to make time for everyone. We have all just had to learn to be more flexible and patient sometimes.
Here are the kids’ first interactions with their baby brother:
Here are my favorite photos of Asher and our family since then:
I was worried when I was pregnant that I wasn’t going to be able to get back into new motherhood, and that I wouldn’t be able to love this boy as much as I loved and cherished Eve who was my first girl and a preemie – the one I thought would be my youngest and last.
God has certainly answered those prayers. Jad and I have both remembered how to be parents of little ones, and we are cherishing each moment, with as much joy and laughter as we can muster through the lack of consistent sleep.
And do we love Asher as much as Eve and the rest? Well, of course we do. I often tear up thinking about how blessed I am. I don’t know if I deserve this special child of God, but I feel so honored that it was part of God’s plan that Asher should join our family and that I should be his mother.
It may sound like life is perfect. It’s not. It’s really challenging sometimes. We are always busy and tired and have a difficult time accomplishing what we used to do. Despite all that, I wouldn’t change a thing. I also wouldn’t wish that he came on time. It has actually been a tremendous blessing that he came early because it has provided almost six extra weeks for all of us to bond with him, especially Casey, who is graduating soon and will then be serving a two-year mission before going off to college. His relationship with Asher has been especially precious to watch.
So, yes, the onesie my dear sister got for Asher was perfect, and I cannot express enough gratitude to my Heavenly Father for hearing and answering so many prayers on the behalf of myself, my baby, and my beloved family. Our prayers keep coming, and He keeps answering. God is good.
Our family of seven: