Four years ago, no one would have ever been able to tell me this would be my life. I always imagine having a son that I would sign up for every sport possible as soon as he was able to play. I imagined spending the weekends running around the park on the playground or laughing at a movie eating popcorn while we sit in the theaters watching whatever the newest kid movie just released. I imagined running down the side of the fence screaming with joy and pride as he just hit his first home run or running down the sideline of a football field while he’s in motion to score his first touchdown. I imagine him loving the taste of my home-cooked meals as we sat at the dinner table and discussed his upcoming project or math homework, he needed my help with. I imagined hearing my baby first words and take his first steps early like I did. What I did not imagine was being pregnant and going to a specialist 3 times a week due to a fibroid in my uterus. I didn’t imagine not being able to do a pregnancy photo shoot and enjoy the full length of my pregnancy. I didn’t imagine being admitted to the hospital from a routine check-up and being told I was at risk of losing my baby and that having an emergency c-section was necessary. I remember it like it was yesterday. Up until the morning I had Payton, I had never seen his face on an ultrasound and my doctor said we’re going to do an ultrasound and if the umbilical is still not receiving the adequate amount of blood flow, then we’re going to have to take the baby. I was only 29 weeks and though I sat there with such a brave face in front of my family and friends and the doctors, I was terrified. We went to get the ultrasound and for the first time, my baby showed his face and he even had a little smile on his face if you ask me. At that moment, I knew he was ready to take on the world. A few hours later, we went into delivery, and boy is that a story to tell. Peter and I prayed together as the epidural that I was stuck with twice, settled in my body. The doctors began to perform the c-section and as the doctor was pulling my son out of my stomach, the lights, and every machine in the hospital room completely shut off. Everything was pitch black and I remember Peter yelling “wait, what’s going on”. My doctor yelled, “no one move”. It felt like a lifetime that those lights were off, but it was only a few seconds. I still don’t know what happened with the lights that night but I never questioned it because my mom said maybe at that moment, Payton needed a few more seconds in my stomach or something else was about to happen and God turned those lights off for everyone to be still. My miracle baby, Payton Peter Warrick, was birth at 5:42 pm on February 12, 2016, weighing 2lbs and 2ounces.
Payton remained in the NICU for 2 months and 3 days, leaving the hospital weighing 4lbs 11oz. Before he left the NICU he failed his hearing test twice, but I was convinced that his eardrums were just not fully developed yet. So, I asked for more tests and to see a specialist. Payton had several diagnostic tests and on June 6, 2016, Payton was diagnosed with Severe to Profound Hearing Loss. I was crushed because, in that moment, I felt that my prayers of healing had not been answered. I felt that all those confessions I confessed over him while in my stomach and as he laid in the NICU had been in vain. And though I felt that way, I never showed it, said it out loud, nor expressed it to anyone. I stood strong and eager to determine what our next steps would be and what we needed to do to make sure our baby had everything he needed. During that very same appointment, a social worker pulled Peter and me in and spoke to us about our feelings towards the news. And though I wanted to scream, yell, and cry about how unfair this was, I sat there and listened to Peter talk about how he doesn’t want anyone to pick on his son for being different, and that just broke my heart. But again, I did not show it. The Social Worker then went on to say that we need to give ourselves time to grieve and that learning something of that magnitude is a grieving process and though I understand EVERYTHING that she was saying NOW, I did not do that. I did not feel that I had the time or could put forth the “wasted” energy or what I thought was wasted energy, to grieve. I WAS WRONG! Yes, I wanted to jump in headfirst and get my baby hearing aids and into speech and whatever else was needed to take care of him, but I was not taking care of me emotionally. Payton had begun wearing his hearing aids and attending the Speech School and they made it clear that the hearing aids weren’t benefiting him and that he was a candidate for cochlear implants, which he would have to undergo two major surgeries. We chose to go along with the surgeries and the cochlear implants because we wanted our child to be able to hear our voice and for him to let the world hear his. On top of Speech, he was also getting Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy because he was not hitting his milestones. Fast-forward to January 30, 2017, Payton was diagnosed by a Neurologist of having Cerebral Palsy.
At this point, I was so drained and filled with sadness and no one knew. I wondered, my God, what’s next. I felt so alone in my thoughts and in my feelings and everyone carried on with their lives and my life had now became centered around daily therapy visits, no sleep, and a routine I had never imagined for myself. I started working with the early intervention program here in Georgia and I saw so many women who were just like me and I empathized with them. I saw the struggles, the tears, the strength, and the unwillingness to give up. I saw the struggle of trying to have a career, keep up with excessive doctors’ appointments, therapy sessions, out of pocket costs, transportation, and just having a life of their own. I saw it because I was them. So determined not to ask for help in the effort of trying not to be a burden or smiling through every piece of pain you feel for your child and what they’re going through. Any parent knows that it’s the most painful thing to watch your child hurt. And though I watched Payton go into major surgery twice and push through hard therapy sessions, any time he accomplishes even the smallest milestone or big milestones like holding his own bottle or something as big as starting crawling, it is the most rewarding feeling in the world. It is that feeling of him hitting his first home run or scoring his first touchdown. And though those memories are not the ones that we have created, we have created so many that truly matter and truly make a difference in the lives of others and that’s our goal for the Payton Warrick Foundation, Inc. To be a beacon of light, encouragement, support, education for these families in the same situation as myself. You are not alone. No matter how tough it gets, how alone you may feel, how frustrating it can be at times, we are here to help guide you along and bring any form a light that we can shine in your family.
Peter and I started sharing our journey with Payton with the world through social media and it was hard to be vulnerable and transparent about something so dear to you but it was necessary. We have had so much support and love shown to us and to Payton. Moms, dads, grandparents, caregivers, whoever you may be, who is taking on the special God-given assignment to be a part of these warrior’s lives, it’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to not always know the answer. A transparent moment for me: It took me going to a therapist to really tap into my feelings of having Payton. She asked me if I had ever grieved him being diagnosed; and I thought, there goes that word again. She also asked if I had ever asked God why. And I was confused because she was a Christian minister as well and I had always thought that you don’t question God. And though I’m human, I am a strong believer in God and His word and promises. She looked at me and said, you have you asked God, why He chose you to be Payton’s mom? She told me to have an intimate conversation with God and write down everything I hear Him say to me. The next morning, I woke up and I had a very, very intimate conversation with God. I cried and laid out my true and complete heart to Him and I asked him why. And clear as day, I heard Him say to me, WHY NOT YOU? And at that moment, I knew, that I had another purpose in this life that I had never imagined or would have tapped into that purpose, had I NOT birthed Payton. Payton was designed perfectly by God to be our child and to be someone that would one day have such an affect and impact on this world, that’s undeniable. Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase Job 8:7 We are proudly, STEPPING INTO OUR PURPOSE, by being BORN TO STAND OUT, GIVING EVERY LITTLE WARRIOR A FIGHTING CHANCE, while they continue to TURN MILESTONES INTO MEMORIES and fighting AGAINST ALL ODDS.