It’s so hard to know what to expect as a parent, and even harder when your child has medical issues that were never on your radar.
Today, we have the courageous Lorna Walker joining us on our very first interview of the podcast, to talk all about how to maneuver the stress, depression, fear, and setbacks that come with having a critically sick kid.
Lorna is a blogger of Walk This Way, and author of Trach Free for P: How One Little Boy’s Life was Spared to Impact Countless Others.
In our discussion, she reveals the trials and tribulations of having her twin boys in the NICU, the gripping fear of one of her children code on an operating table, and the overwhelming challenges associated with a son who had to undergo a tracheostomy.
Lorna teaches us about the gift of perspective; being able to see the great things that may not feel so great in the moment, and how to find the silver lining in the midst of despair.
She is heart wrenchingly honest with the shame she experienced surrounding IVF treatment, her fears of the unknown, and using medication to treat her depression.
Join us for this amazing discussion and hear how one little boy’s life impacted countless others.
Key Takeaways with Lorna Walker
- Lorna talks about her IVF experience and how it mentally prepared her for a tough road ahead.
- The medical incident that led to her son coding on the operating table, requiring an unexpected tracheostomy.
- Giving yourself permission to take a mental break—even during times when it feels like your family needs you the most.
- Dealing with the shame and stigma that comes from an IVF pregnancy.
- Appreciating the expected and unexpected angels that show up during life’s darkest moments—and how Lorna connected with a family going through similar struggles.
- Understanding why the people who are closest to you prior to a tragedy or life-changing event may not be there for you when you need it—and that’s ok.
- Lorna shares the experience that revealed God’s plan and why her faith was vital to her survival.
- The #1 resource Lorna recommends to Mom’s going through tough times.
- Pay attention to when God shows up and know that he’s got your back!
- The importance of taking care of your physical and emotional well-being—and why medication was critical to Lorna’s happiness. What does your personal self-care look like?
- The therapeutic writing experience that allowed Lorna to find more joy in the journey!
- How do you navigate knowing your child will be going through pain, while needing to live in the moment?
- The gift of perspective and being grateful for how fortunate you truly are.
- Why service to others is a doorway to joy.
Lorna Walker Tweetables
- “God created doctors, scientists, and medication.” – Lorna Walker
- “I think the gift of perspective, being able to see some of the great things that may not feel so great while you’re going through it, is so beautiful.” – Lorna Walker
- “The earliest definition for courage originally meant to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart.” – Brené Brown
- “Pray to have eyes to see God’s hand in your life and in the world around you.” – Russell M. Nelson
- Walk This Way
- Trach Free for P: How One Little Boy’s Life was Spared to Impact Countless Others by Lorna Walker
- Children’s Miracle Network
- Mom’s Devotional Bible by Elisa Morgan
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
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Jamie Freedlund: Good morning, Lorna. So glad to have you.
Lorna Walker: Thank you so much.
Jamie Freedlund: I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me today and have this conversation. And you have just so many experiences, I’m excited for our listeners to hear. I think that you’re in for a treat, listeners. I think that you can glean a lot from Lorna’s experience, and she’s just a delight. We are inviting listeners to this podcast, as you guys know, to discuss finding Joy in the Journey. And thank you, Lorna, for sharing your story, and the hope is that listeners will be inspired to bring more joy to their journey by hearing it. So, I’m going to jump right in. I love to hear about your story that began, I think, at least with the birth of your sons, but when do you think your story began, and would you share about that?
Lorna Walker: Absolutely. So, Tim and I were married for six years before we decided to embark on parenthood, and we just couldn’t get pregnant. So, we went through the IVF route, which I don’t know if people always have an inkling that there would ever be an issue, but I always did. I always thought for whatever reason, I would have trouble. I don’t know why, I don’t know if I brought it upon myself, but it was easy. The IVF process for us truly and honestly was a breeze, and I don’t say that to be insensitive to anyone that’s going through that, but I also want to give hope to a lot of people that go down that road.
Jamie Freedlund: Absolutely.
Lorna Walker: Truly not be as horrific as I think what some of us see on social media and things like that. So, I was on bed rest for a month living in the hospital prior to delivering my twins. And looking back on that, I think the mental toughness I gained from that experience prepared me for the road ahead. So, it was probably the darkest time I’d ever faced, even outside of doing infertility treatments, living in the hospital by myself, Tim would spend the weekends with me. So, it was just one of those things where I think it was just kind of like the precursor to…
Jamie Freedlund: Absolutely. And how far was the hospital that you were in from home?
Lorna Walker: It was about 15 minutes.
Jamie Freedlund: Yeah.
Lorna Walker: Now, it’s right across the street from the home we live in now, but yeah, it’s about 15 minutes. So, we were fortunate to live close, and people could come visit and things like that. My twins were born at 34 weeks, my water broke, and everything was honestly great. Reid was in the NICU for five weeks. Preston was in the NICU for three months. So, when they both were born, they went up to the NICU to basically be feeders and growers. Nobody needed oxygen. No one needed anything major until five weeks. Reid came home, and then we noticed Preston stopped gaining weight. He was a super noisy breather, and he also was born with a deformed right ear. And so, we were like, it was so weird. Like, we just had no idea when I was pregnant. And the boy also had skin tags on the same cheek. So, it was just so strange.
Jamie Freedlund: Yeah, just different things you didn’t expect.
Lorna Walker: Yeah, those are just little different nuances that you’re like, “Huh? Okay.” And so, a nurse pulled me aside, and I know in this podcast, one of the things that we had talked about was that we would discuss would be some angels in our life, but she definitely was one of them. And she said, “Look, the doctor is going to recommend that you take Preston to a children’s hospital and have him looked over before discharge because of his ear, because he’s not breathing right. We thought ENT issues, for sure.”
Jamie Freedlund: Sure.
Lorna Walker: And she just said, “There is a new surgeon in town, and he is a craniofacial plastic surgeon at KU Med,” which isn’t our children’s hospital. And she said, “I highly recommend having him transported there instead of our children’s hospital. He’ll get seen sooner, and this doctor is so gifted and so skilled.” And I was just like, “Okay, I think that’s where we need to go.” And it was so cool because that is exactly what led to phenomenal care for Preston for years. And I love our children’s hospital here in town. It’s done amazing things and actually, our journey now has shifted there, which is really kind of interesting. So, I had a lot of appreciation for that nurse saying, “This is really what I would recommend.” And she wasn’t trying to push me, she just was trying to look out for us, and…
Jamie Freedlund: Absolutely.
Lorna Walker: Yeah. So, we transported Preston at about six weeks old to KU Med, and he was seen in the NICU there, and then he was taken to the OR a couple of days later for them to scope him to see how his breathing was doing and what was causing all the noise. And that’s when he coded on the operating table. So, he had just a freak incident called the laryngospasm, and they had to intubate him and couldn’t. And they were like, we had to trach him because he wouldn’t have been breathing. And so, that led to his trach journey, then a feeding tube, which was my sheer devastation. I was naive. I’m not a nurse. I was naive to what a tracheostomy was going to mean for the future.
Jamie Freedlund: Absolutely.
Lorna Walker: And giving a feeding tube to a mom who’s nursing the other son, I was just in shambles, and…
Jamie Freedlund: I imagine that that response would be similar to any mom that’s been told your child needs a tracheostomy, and what that means, and I’m sure you, like many other moms that have experienced the NICU or the hospital setting, it’s this whole other new vocabulary that you’re suddenly googling and asking. And like you said, thank goodness for angel nurses and staff that take time and care for you as a person and a mom and not just the medical needs of your child because I know that I wouldn’t have made it through without those individuals, so.
Lorna Walker: Well, and the doctor came in dripping in sweat, telling us about, “The procedure didn’t go as planned, and we had to get him tracheostomy, and I wouldn’t recommend seeing him right now.” He’s basically so frail that we’re not sure he’s going to make it through the night. And I went through it. Well, if he has a trach, can we take him home the next day? I mean, it just truly was that level of naivete that was a good thing at the time because had I really known, I shudder to think what kind of mental state I would have been in, but then, also, having the social worker come and be like, “Are you guys okay?” And of course, anyone that has known me long enough knows prior to children, I did not have the soft velvet touch personality and did not have the kindness that I now would like to say that I have developed with having kids, and you just become that soft, tender, good person for other people that I wasn’t really before, unfortunately.
Jamie Freedlund: Kids definitely shape us, I like to think into better humans, and…
Lorna Walker: Oh, God bless all my friends prior to me having kids, but anyway, I was like,” We’re fine. We don’t need help. We’re fine. We don’t need help from any.” So, Reid ended up needing a double hernia surgery days after being released from the NICU. So, then, he ended up getting admitted again, and a nurse said to us, “Well, Preston’s in the NICU and Reid’s in surgery, and I really recommend the two of you go out and get a bite to eat.” And I thought she was crazy. I’m like, “What?” We actually did it, and Tim’s like, that was so good for our mental health because hey, you’re so naive. We just again, but we look back on that, and I’m like, that was probably one of the best things for our marriage we could have done prior to the bigger storm coming. And I do appreciate people who may say to anybody, “Hey, this would be a good idea.” I really would love to share with moms, “Listen,” like…
Jamie Freedlund: Yes, especially when it comes from those that see it happen all the time because even those people closest to you might say, “Your son’s in surgery, you have one in the NICU. I don’t think it’s the right time to leave,” but those that see it a lot, no, they’re like, no, this mom and dad need a mental break so that they can manage everything coming. So, good for you for listening.
Lorna Walker: Well, and she said, “You’re going to have nursing care around the clock.” And for Preston, then I was like, “What?” I mean, we have people in our home day and night for years, and luckily, our day and night nurse became family and that was such a gift, but they’re still in…
Jamie Freedlund: In your home. You have a whole other person in your family dynamic.
Lorna Walker: We have to go to our bedroom to discuss the topics. So, that moment for us, we still remember where we went to eat. We still remember the day. And I just think that was just kind of one of those last moments that we had before everything kind of changed. So, yeah, and then on top of just being a mom pumping and postpartum and not feeling like yourself and just all the things, and then work, Tim missing so much work. And so, anyways, I mean, that was the start of it all before they both got out of the hospital. And life kind of took a turn, for sure.
Jamie Freedlund: Yeah. I can guarantee that when you even sat in bed rest before you delivered, you had no idea what was coming. And in some ways…
Lorna Walker: Your experience is going to be such a dream come true, like, everybody, “Oh, who wouldn’t want twins?” But I kept IVF a secret for so long, I didn’t want to feel abnormal. I wanted to just be normal, and what people said, “Oh, do they run in your family?” I could say yes because they didn’t on Tim’s side, but gosh, so much came out after we kind of hit rock bottom, which needed to happen, but yes…
Jamie Freedlund: Thank you for sharing that element of shame that I think without a better word of saying it, even a taboo around utilizing IVF, and I think there is a general– I’m not a mom of multiples, but I have enough individuals in my life and I have heard others that just sort of, oh, they had multiples. Did they use fertility assistance? And why does it matter? And I think that there become your barriers in your walls to it, it didn’t come unfounded, I think. So, that you’re talking about it now very openly, thank you because I’m sure there are some moms out there that need to hear that and that it can be…
Lorna Walker: For sure. And I probably will cross that bridge when we tell the kids, I mean, eventually, someday, we’re going to have to say you were created in a petri dish, but they need to know. I mean, I do believe at some point that’s part of our story, that’s in a book.
Jamie Freedlund: It is.
Lorna Walker: Like, I can’t try to hide that from them, but why would I want to, anyway? Like, it’s just part of the way everything unraveled, but there is so much more openness to it, especially on social media than there ever was.
Jamie Freedlund: Yes.
Lorna Walker: And so, yeah, that was also a big piece of the puzzle, too, was just wanting to try, then eventually, be authentically ourselves and say, “Well, this is what it is,” so.
Jamie Freedlund: Yes. And you’ve spoken to this a little bit, but who were the angels that appeared along the way? You talked about nurses. And I would like to note that if you could speak to the expected angels and the unexpected because…
Lorna Walker: Okay, yeah, for sure. And so, expected – family, friends.
Jamie Freedlund: Absolutely.
Lorna Walker: One thing that I did come to realize is people that are, even family, but friends that are close to you prior to a tragedy or prior to a life-changing event can change because it’s not about you, it’s about them. They are not able to handle it. And that was something that I really, truly have realized years later is, wow, that friendship was– and a lot of my friendships are deep rooted that I’ve had for years and years and…
Jamie Freedlund: How wonderful.
Lorna Walker: Decades, but some of those dissipated because of the nature of our situation. It was uncomfortable to be around a child with a trach when you’re suctioning him and goos everywhere, and like just having that realization that it was just uncomfortable for some people. And it’s not that they didn’t love us, they just couldn’t handle it. And it’s okay, and not in that race. I mean, I like to share that with moms that may be in the thick of it right now and not understanding why people have distanced themselves. And I’m not talking like handfuls, but just a couple I can think of off the top of my head that I’m like, it wasn’t about us. It really was just them protecting their own heart, protecting their own comfort zone and their own space. So, anyways, I mean, I will not talk about it.
Jamie Freedlund: Thank you for sharing that because I think it’s important to hear that because it can feel personal. And I think, when you get distance from it, it’s easier to see that, no, it was not a lack of love, it’s just a lack of their ability to show up in that situation.
Lorna Walker: Look, your friends show up. You expect your family. I can guarantee I’d be the first on the front doorstep if that’s what needed to be the case, but I also have come to realize that that’s not always going to be the way it is either, but okay, so expected, obviously, family and friends.
Jamie Freedlund: Yeah.
Lorna Walker: And then, nurses and doctors because that’s their role, but to have a doctor be bedside next to your son for an entire night because they weren’t sure he was going to make it was an unexpected gift from someone that I expected, obviously, to be there. The unexpected would be right out of the gate, the day nurse and night nurse at the hospital for Preston.
Jamie Freedlund: Oh yeah.
Lorna Walker: Not that I didn’t expect them to care for him, it was an unexpected relationship that I built with each of them, and still have today. So, I could pick up the phone and call either of them and be like, “Tell me what’s going on? How are you?” But one was the primary day nurse and one was primary night nurse, and they just loved him like he was their own, and neither of them had children at the time, which was even a bigger gift because I know it’s hard to love their kids when you just don’t have that mom heart developed, and then our day and night nurse once we got home. And those did not come right away. Those came over time with some trials and tribulations of finding the right day and night nurse. We had a night nurse fall asleep on Preston that I found in our chair asleep. We had a day nurse not be paying attention, and he coded in our home, had to call 911, Tim and I had to resuscitate him.
So, we had some very horrific day and night nurse experiences until, which of course, led to the utmost appreciation for Jessica and Amy, our day and night nurse. I mean, when you’ve gone through that and then you find the gems that are just in it with you through thick and thin, you appreciate so much more their gift, but Jessica was with me almost every day for several years, and Amy as well. And they each were hands-on with Reid, which was a huge gift. And so, those were obviously, and I could speak– I could tell a whole story, I mean, just based on those two, because they’re a part of your everyday life.
Jamie Freedlund: Oh, I can only imagine.
Lorna Walker: Going to bed, hoping and praying that nothing happens in the middle of the night and that he’s going to be okay. And then the respiratory therapist from our medical supply company, she was vital. Kayleigh was just a true angel that, I mean, when she came out to explain all the equipment we would need and the oxygen tank in his nursery and helping us set everything up and the humidity machine, I just remember looking at her and being like, “How am I going to do this?” And she’s like, “You’ll be fine, I’ll come check on you.” And she did. She came over, she would hang out, but she let us. She saw how lonely I was, she saw how– I didn’t expect to get emotional, but she saw the real dark side of all of this, and she said, “You really need another family or you really need a friend who’s in this also.” And I was like, “Well, how on earth am I going to find that? I can’t even leave my house.” I mean, I was plopped on my couch, nursing and pumping one kid. Well, you know you’re trusting a nurse to take care of your other one.
Jamie Freedlund: Yes.
Lorna Walker: And you’re like, I have another family that I take supplies to. And I really think that I should connect the two of you. And I am just here to say that is something every mom meets. If you see moms at play groups, you see moms at MOPS, and all the moms are living the typical mom life, so to speak, but when you are isolated in your home, and your one kid is fighting for his life, and the other one’s just attached to your boob 24/7, you’re like, “How am I ever going to have a life?
Jamie Freedlund: There’s no space there to find a friend.
Lorna Walker: Yes. And so, I had Kayleigh reach out for me, which was not like me either. I’m a pretty go-go getter and I have no problem making new friends and I know no stranger, but she did reach out to Hillary and said, this family would just love some fellowship with another family that could really relate. So, we went over to their house when I think the boys were about eight and a half months old and met them for the first time, and their twin girls were about a year older, and one had a trach as well. And so, we are still dear friends to this day. We get together with them every summer and do our summer pool party with them, and she is just a lifeline and has been, in fact, her one little girl has a hearing aid as well, who had a trach. So, Preston just has a friend that has been in it with him, has…
Jamie Freedlund: Oh, amazing.
Lorna Walker: Yes. And I just think if Kayleigh hadn’t been our respiratory therapist, I would have never found Hillary. And I do believe in those divine moments. And that’s where your faith just starts to grow by leaps and bounds because you’re like, okay, like, God is taking care of us, even though I was so depressed at the time, she really helped give me a friend and give me someone to just check for me.
Jamie Freedlund: Thank goodness for Kayleigh that she decided, I’m going to ask, I see this need because I think it’s really easy for– she could have easily said, “I’m doing my job. I brought the supplies. I got them what they needed.” And in her mind, she went deeper and she decided to care for you, and how special when you find those people and the value, I love that you highlight the value of one friend that gets it, not just for you, but also for Preston, what a gift.
Lorna Walker: I mean, we still get together with them. I mean, of course, we always joke as the years go by, having boys, and then having girls, we’ll see how those little friendships might have changed. Some years might be awkward. I don’t really know, but it doesn’t matter because Hillary and I are great friends, and Zach is a good friend. So, we’ll have that friendship forever, but yeah, it’s been really cool.
And okay, so a couple other, my personal doctor ended up becoming– and we can talk about that later, but she ended up becoming someone that was completely unexpected that I ended up seeing, and her empathy and just relatability was huge. And then the boy’s first preschool teacher, I mean, she was pivotal in my life. She just came in, and Preston couldn’t even talk when he started preschool. We gave her a 50-page book of every picture of him doing every sign he knew and we relied on Reid to be his communicator. And she took that first year with him and just fell in love with him. And our friendship grew and it was great.
So, preschool teacher, for sure, was the most unexpected. And then, Children’s Miracle Network paying for Preston’s huge surgery when insurance denied us, and a special friend putting together a fund basically, to go fund me or whatever when insurance denied us, and then Children’s Miracle Network picked up the rest. And so, to have a friend be bold enough on social media to say, like this family needs help, like we’re days from surgery, what am I they going to do? And then a nonprofit organization jumping in and saying, “We’re going to cover the rest.” Like, those are defining moments in your life.
Jamie Freedlund: Absolutely. Talk about feeling cared for individuals that truly cared about, not only Preston’s well-being but yours.
Lorna Walker: Yes, for sure.
Jamie Freedlund: And I know that you’ve spoken a little bit in the questions that we’re talking about right now, but obviously, your faith has played a role in this journey. Would you like to share about that? I’d love to hear.
Lorna Walker: Yes, definitely. And I think it helped that the business that I had built prior to the boys being born and then I continue to build it after they were born, was a company that had spiritual grounding, anyway. So, I was surrounded by a lot of women who were prayer warriors and a lot of customers that were very prayerful, so that helped for sure, but I would say to anyone that for me, my faith was vital for survival. I mean, it obviously grew exponentially as time passed, and the medical procedures continued, and life became more complicated. We ended up traveling to Cincinnati for surgeries, and a lot of that is just a faith walk. You just have to trust and believe that that’s where you’re supposed to go when you’re seeking care out of state that is so scary and so expensive, but I would say my very first experience that was really revealing God’s plan right out of the gate, and I’m telling you it was the moment that his doctor came to us telling us he was trached, and he was just so shook up. It was his very first case at the hospital, having…
Jamie Freedlund: Oh, well, that explains the sweaty doctor when you said he tells you.
Lorna Walker: Right. I mean, bless his bones, but he said, I go, “How did this even happen? Like if he couldn’t breathe, and you tried to intubate him, and he turned purple.” I’m like, “What?” And he just said, “Someone above was watching over him.” And we had about six seconds before he placed that tube for him to breathe, and we saw the blood in his neck bubbled when he cut his neck to trach him, and he said, “That’s where I knew his airway was, and I put the tube in.” He said, “Somebody really was looking over him that day.” And it was the first, you stop your medical doctors talk like that, you just don’t. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, okay.” And so, that for me was the very beginning of just, okay, like this is the worst-case scenario that ended up now being so pivotal for so many things.
So, I really found myself rooted in the Mom’s Devotional Bible that I was given at MOPS that I still to this day, I mean, the thing is so worn out, I had to duct tape it together. And I love it so much, and that has been– so, for any mom out there, any mom, no matter you’re going through any trial or tribulation, or you’re just having a pretty normal experience, the Mom’s Devotional Bible for me was the start of just really feeling not overwhelmed, like, well, I’m now going to start reading the Bible because I don’t even have a clue, right? Like I was just that naive to how to grow my spirituality, but I knew I needed something, but that was huge. And then I did my very best to look for blessings and situations or encounters like I really, truly looked. And I think God was just speaking to me through so many people, just even these past 10 years, I have continued to really try to pay attention because I believe when you’re looking, you’ll find it and not just saying, “Oh, what a fluke.” Like, “No, that’s not a fluke.”
Jamie Freedlund: Now, I have to tell you, this screen of my phone says, “Pray to have eyes to see God’s hand in your life and in the world around you.” It’s a quote from Russell M. Nelson, but I keep it on my phone screen because I need that reminder daily, because if you’re looking for it, you will see it because I feel like the help is all around. And I think when I pray for people, it’s taken me and my faith walk to realize over time that when I’m praying, I’m really praying that God will tell me how I’m a part of answering that prayer. It’s not just like, Oh yeah, send down your love and help them. It’s no, how am I a piece of that? And I think most of our prayers are answered in the form of people doing things for us, if not almost everything. So, that doctor that day was part of the Lord saying, “Hey, I’ve got your back, Preston needs to be here.”
Lorna Walker: Yes, and I didn’t feel as time marched on a sincere obligation to pray for others and not just say in passing, “Oh, I’ll be praying for you,” but like make a list on my phone. So, it’s in my notes section. I want to just tell people like, “Oh my gosh, I will specifically pray for that. Like, it’s in my phone. I will put it in there.” And then we added a family prayer board in our kitchen, and that’s been a great way to show the boys like, I mean, some people have been on there for quite some time in their life. So, I’m there, like, that’s why we do this, because not everybody can be removed one week later. You scrape your finger, that’s one thing, but they’re going through cancer, you’re going through a surgery. And that helped my faith grow as well because just being loved, being able to text somebody and say, “Hey, I still have you on my prayer list, checking in,” and then you bring good news like, “Oh my gosh, your prayer. You’ve no idea how much that helped,” or hearing like, we just don’t really need them. And like, thanks for checking in, and not to put myself on a pedestal, but just to say like, I felt like I had so many people praying for me for so many years. It’s now, my turn.
Jamie Freedlund: And you know the value of a text message because genuinely, when you’re at it, especially like you said that one month on bed rest felt so lonely, and it’s because a month is a long time and not that no one else cares, but they’re just going on with life. And when they’ll check in now and again, but it’s that value of someone still remembering. Oh, I’ve been here three and a half weeks, and you still got to message me, that there’s value in sending a text message to people.
Lorna Walker: So, yeah, so I would say, just having a daily devotion of some sort and then being…
Jamie Freedlund: I like that.
Lorna Walker: And just the easy things that you can do that don’t take a ton of time, but that you really feel grounded and rooted in because I wasn’t getting up at 5:00 in the morning to have quiet time.
Jamie Freedlund: Yes, you weren’t going to sacrifice sleep.
Lorna Walker: So, for another years that made that seem possible, now, well, to figure that out, so, yeah, I mean, I feel like I could probably write another book on all the blessings, all the great things, but when you start to witness it and see it, you just continue to believe it more, which is really cool.
Jamie Freedlund: Yeah. And I want to jump a little bit to this component of self-care, and it’s a message that you and I are both passionate about. What would you share with a mom or dad on any stage of this journey with their child right now about the importance of taking care of your personal well-being, both physically and emotionally?
Lorna Walker: Yes. This is a lot easier and sounds so much more simple now that I’m out of the woods of being in the thick of things, but had somebody shared some of these things with me then, I don’t know how much I would have taken it to heart.
Jamie Freedlund: Sure.
Lorna Walker: So, that’s the tough thing is, it’s hard to kind of see when you’re in it, like what really needs to be done, but what I can say is listen to those around you if they’re expressing concern, talking to somebody, I went six months with crying every single day. I’d wake up in the morning, give myself a pep talk, text him while he was at work, saying, “Okay, I feel it. Today’s the day. I’m not going to cry.” And then, by evening, I was a basket case. And so, finally, my mom was like, “I’m going to take you to the doctor if you don’t take yourself. We need to get you something.” And so, for the sake of everyone, and so, I remember sitting there just sitting calm and collected at the doctor’s office until she walks in the door and said, “Yeah, how are you?” And I burst into tears. And I even remember being in my six-week OB appointment, and then being like, “How are things?” And I’m like, “Well, my one’s got a trach, and he’s still in the NICU.” And that should have been the red flag, like this mom needs follow-up with, but I don’t put it on my doctor because I think he’s so good.
Jamie Freedlund: Yes, which I think is women, we often do. It’s…
Lorna Walker: All the time. Oh, I’m fine. Things are fine. This is normal, right? My boobs are watermelons. I’m 80 pounds overweight. I’m fine. I’m not buying.
Jamie Freedlund: Yes.
Lorna Walker: And for some, that was just a chronic diet for a decade prior to getting pregnant. Really, I’m not fine, like, I really– the body image issue was something, praise the Lord, 10 years later now, I’m over that hump and have healed, and I’m great, but gosh, I was not okay.
Jamie Freedlund: But that’s a real battle. And for so many listening, yes.
Lorna Walker: Yep, but no one tells you, especially when you see friends bouncing right back.
Jamie Freedlund: Yes.
Lorna Walker: That sometimes that may not be your journey, and that’s okay. So, seeking medication, I mean, I went on the antidepressants. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I really felt a lot of shame about it at the time. I didn’t really want to talk about it, but I felt an instant difference. It was like 5,000 bricks coming off my shoulders. I could smile again, I could laugh again. I wasn’t crying every night to Tim. And spouses are such a gift, but they are not there to be your therapist. And spouses need a partner, too, and I couldn’t be one to Tim when I’m hooked up to a pumping machine, bawling my eyes out every night, and he’s walking in the door from work, wondering, like, “What’s happening here? What’s going on?” And he needed support, too.
And so, I also really would encourage anyone to look at what taking care of you looks like. It’s vastly different from anyone else. And I wrote just a couple to move on like, maybe you need to go get your nails done. Maybe you need a massage that you feel like you can’t afford right now, but you kind of can’t afford not to. My sweet mother-in-law had bought me a massage because, bless her bones, she knew I needed it. She was like that, and I remember going and not pumping before I went to massage. I was laying on my stomach, feeling my poor boobs filling up, and I’m like, this is not enjoyable, but those are also the funny moments, right? Like, you have to have…
Jamie Freedlund: You needed a laugh.
Lorna Walker: Yeah, I was like, I have to get in the car right now and like, I’m a mess. And so, I mean, just those are the things that are funny that you have to look back on, but you’re trying to self-care in the moment, you’re like, this is the worst plan ever, and someone that loves you enough to give you something that you’re like, “How do I tell her?”
Jamie Freedlund: Yes.
Lorna Walker: But also like just if it’s a hot shower, if it’s taking a phone call with a friend, like the things that quiet 10 minutes of just, I’m going to literally– my husband’s closet is so sacred to me. Like, It’s so funny, but it’s like this really nice, carpeted little space by our bathroom, and I just love sitting in there for 10 minutes, shutting the door and just having my moment, even to this day. So, just really looking at yourself and saying, like, “What can I do from a mental standpoint, also physically?” Like, I had to figure out a routine to physically move my body, (A) I was really wanting to shed my baby weight, but I knew getting my endorphins going would make me feel better. And I started out with just a little leisurely walk after the boys would nap in the morning, and that turned into several miles. I was able to do some weight and feel better. I could start to see light at the end of the tunnel.
So, just all of those, like little tiny things that add up, but the big thing for me was the medication. And that’s I feel like such a stigma is still in our society, and there is nothing wrong with it. God created doctors, scientists, medications.
Jamie Freedlund: Absolutely.
Lorna Walker: I can swing on the holistic side just as much as I can swing on the medicine side. I think both have valid needs in our world, but for me, and then I tried going off the meds, and it wasn’t the right time, and I went back on.
Jamie Freedlund: And you’re partnering with the trusted physician who knew, “Hey, this is our walk together, and I’m going to help you, and we’re going to find the right time.” And what a value in that, too. And it sounds like it was a doctor you already had a trust with, which is helpful.
Lorna Walker: I didn’t, and she said, “You’re going to experience things being on an antidepressant that won’t help your marriage. Your sex drive is going to be next to nothing.” And she said, like, “You’re going to have to find ways to figure that out because your marriage can’t take a backseat anymore than it had already.” I mean, you look at the odds of a marriage surviving with twins and then you mix in…
Jamie Freedlund: Medical issues.
Lorna Walker: Medically fragile problems, and you’re doomed. And there were times where he and I just truly were trying to survive because it was just hard. And so, you have to also be realistic. Medicine has side effects, it sucks, but the alternative is having the ability to find some joy.
Jamie Freedlund: Yes.
Lorna Walker: Just desperate for everybody around you and even including yourself. So, yeah, the self-care part, and I’m pretty low maintenance, I mean, I wasn’t needing to get my hair colored at the time. I didn’t have gray hair. I didn’t have my nails done, but I did need to find the avenues to help myself feel better, and I found eventually.
Jamie Freedlund: Absolutely. Your candor is so welcome because I guarantee there are women listening to this, experienced this, or they’re afraid of this realm that could help them. And if it helps one listener, say, “Hey, I think I want to go see my doctor or talk to a counselor” or, “Yeah, I probably need a little extra self-care.” And self-care, I mean, I remember being in the hospital for several months, and self-care might be a toughie cookie and a Diet Coke. I mean, you have to give yourself some grace that that’s okay, it wasn’t my whole diet. It was something to look forward to walking outside for a little sunshine.
Lorna Walker: Yep. The Diet Coke and cookies.
Jamie Freedlund: Oh, I did it.
Lorna Walker: Just say you know.
Jamie Freedlund: Okay, thanks.
Lorna Walker: Yeah. And I know we talked about this, but yeah, I mean, when the boys were in the NICU, every single night, I came home and put in freezer dough cookies in the oven and I sat there and I ate probably eight cookies a night. I mean, truly just wallowing in the sadness of our circumstances. So, I get that for sure. I did realize after a solid year of people– when we finally realized we were going to have to seek outside care for Preston and opinions in different states with different doctors, people were recommending, you should do a CaringBridge site. And I was like, “I don’t want to do a CaringBridge site. He’s not dying.” The stigma and that…
Lorna Walker: Yes. Okay, so first off, the Diet Coke and cookies is a real issue, so…
Jamie Freedlund: Diet Coke and cookies is real. Sometimes, that’s what self-care looks like, especially when you’re at the hospital.
Lorna Walker: Coming home and putting frozen dough in the oven and making yourself cookies was my indulgence for longer than I care to admit, but also, I realized one solid year later, we were realizing that we would need to seek outside opinions for Preston’s care with surgeries trying to get his trachea out, realizing quickly, Kansas City probably wasn’t going to be the place that’s going to happen. And that was really scary. And I just kept trying to update everybody and keep people in the loop. And a friend was like, “You should do a CaringBridge page.” And I’m like, “I do not have a child with cancer. I’m not doing a CaringBridge page.”
Jamie Freedlund: Because that was your experience, I only have seen kids that have cancer in CaringBridge.
Lorna Walker: CaringBridge equals cancer to me, in my mind. And so, I thought, but I can do a blog. And so, I just started writing and I started documenting, and I think my first entry was like the very beginning, like, okay, now I’m ready to let people know really what happened. Now, I’m really ready to let people in because I wasn’t on social media, sharing all the details. In fact, I remember the first picture I put up of Preston with his trach, I think he was six months old or five months old, and I was so nervous.
Jamie Freedlund: That was a vulnerable choice for you. For you, it felt deep, I’m sure. Yes.
Lorna Walker: Anybody to think I had a child that would look different or have a problem. And a friend from elementary school, the very first comment was, “Oh my gosh, he is beautiful.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh.” So…
Jamie Freedlund: Thank goodness for her.
Lorna Walker: Yeah, writing became therapeutic, and that turned into years of doing our blog, which really served a huge purpose in my self-care because what I realized was my energy of having to update people exponentially went to Tim. And I was able to preserve so much energy to share with my kids and Tim and be the mom I needed to be at the time. And just to get out my feelings and my writing in the evening or when we would travel, it was great. And so, the blog became a really good thing. And then I realized kind of once our journey of traveling out of state and things like that, I closed the blog– not closed the blog down, but I decided like I thought when his last surgery happened when he was five, like, it’s over. Our journey is over, which I actually thought that when his trach came out, when he was three.
Jamie Freedlund: It felt like a bookend to…
Lorna Walker: Yeah, I was like, “Oh my gosh, we’re done. Right now, we’re finished. Let’s move on. We’re normal. Everything is fine.” And it really wasn’t. Then when he was five, I was like, okay, I’m done blogging. We’re fine, everything’s fine. And then I looked at a company called Blog2Print, and I printed the entire blog, and it had the pictures and the entries and all that. And the boys were just fascinated. They’re like, “Mom, this is so cool.” And so, that turned into then, when I realized that I wanted to write a book and I was so nervous like, what am I going to do? I’m not an author. I’m not– but that Blog2Print company, that blog book became my rough draft of like, basically my book. It was what I used to reference all the memories, all of the things.
So, that was the other thing is, I just want to share with anyone that has a story, anyone that doesn’t want to forget. I mean, I wasn’t out to make a #1 New York Times bestselling book and rake in the dough. I was doing this for my own memories. I was doing this to my children. Heaven forbid, I pass away someday, or something happens to me and Tim, they know the whole story. They know all the details, and maybe all the details don’t need to be shared until they’re adults because there’s some pretty raw material I write about. But it was important to me, but it was so therapeutic also. And that was just another level of self-care that I didn’t realize mentally I needed to do, and did it, and it was done with way more ease than I ever anticipated.
So, if anybody’s listening, that’s like, oh, it had that nudge or that urge, like, I am here to say, do not wait another day, get on Amazon self-publishing, look up how to do it. It’s so easy. I started with a Word document, and then my sweet friend Tara ended up turning it into like a book format for me on a computer so she could tell me how many pages I was in. And then I had really wonderful friends find someone to edit it for me who was gifted and skilled that I could pay to edit the book. And so, it was really great. And I had someone inspire me that I had read her book to be able to kind of model mine after, not like…
Jamie Freedlund: I love that. Yeah, it gave you sort of an idea, oh.
Lorna Walker: She was a twin mom. Both her children had fatal diseases, and I thought if she has the time to make this happen, I can carve out a little bit of time. And I took a huge break from my work life, and just the boys started kindergarten, and every afternoon, I would write. And that was kind of I spent the year of them in kindergarten making that happen, obviously. So, it’s possible, it’s doable.
Jamie Freedlund: I love that, and how special that you have that. And if I think about it, I can even look back in my family tree at the women I knew and the women I didn’t know and think, I know that she went through this or that. I wish I could hear in her words how she got through that or what she learned from that. And I know, I’m a journaler, writing is therapeutic to me as well, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked back at, especially really special spiritual moments and turning points and aha moments in my life that I need to remind myself. And it’s so valuable to have those touchstones to say, “Oh yeah, I did that, and that’s what I learned.” And I know that to be true. I can do that again or I can use that here. So, how beautiful that you have your book Trach Free for P, how one little boy’s life was spared to impact countless others. And I can’t wait for all of you, you got to look it up. It’s on Amazon. You can see cute little Preston on the cover. And I love it. How old is he in this picture?
Lorna Walker: He was two, and that was at a golf tournament fundraiser. And they just happened to want to take a quick snapshot of him, but then, it was really my heart’s desire to make sure that Reid never felt left out. And so, the back picture is the two of them together.
Jamie Freedlund: I love that.
Lorna Walker: She photoshopped, and they’re better together.
Jamie Freedlund: Oh, that’s perfect.
Lorna Walker: Yeah, which was great. And we had that picture taken at Children’s Miracle Network for an event. And I just thought, I always want Reid to know that he was just as much a part of this as Preston. The spotlight has always been something about Preston or something about P, but like he has been the rock for Preston. I mean, Preston has a heart for his brother. I wish Reid’s heart was the same as Preston’s.
Jamie Freedlund: Oh, as they get older, I’m sure that there really…
Lorna Walker: I totally felt that. Preston really, I mean, he’d be lost without all the help and support that Reid– I mean, Reid makes his breakfast every morning. I mean, it’s just an endearing little relationship, and I am very grateful, but I wanted Reid to see that he was just as much a part of this book, too, so, yeah.
Jamie Freedlund: I love that. I’m sure that he knows how special he is in Preston’s life and in this journey, and it’s his journey, too, yeah.
Lorna Walker: Yeah, for sure.
Jamie Freedlund: I’m a big Brené Brown fan, and I’m rereading The Gifts of Imperfection. She came out with the 10th anniversary of the book, but I read excerpts last night that I really wanted to share in our conversation today. And she talks about the word courage. And she said the root word of the word courage is core, the Latin word for heart. And the earliest definition for courage originally meant to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart. And I wanted to share that with you because I think that you’re such a beautiful example of courage in sharing your heart and sharing this story today. So, thank you. And I’d like to think, you’re also a heroic courageous. You’re such a hero mom to Preston and Reid and a beautiful example to them.
Lorna Walker: I appreciate it. I had been on a mission to just turn our pain into purpose.
Jamie Freedlund: Yeah. Well, you’re doing a good job. I have one last question for you. We close every podcast with the question, what do you think it means to have joy in the journey?
Lorna Walker: Oh, my gosh. I think it’s so beautiful to look back because I think the gift of perspective, being able to see some of the great things that may not feel so great while you’re going through it, but really clinging to who we’ve helped along the way, and that has really been from the very start of this journey. So, realizing that the most joyous moments are really those who we can truly help by some of the hard times, taking it one day at a time. I had two just dear friends say, “You need to just look at today.” Like you are looking way too far down the road. And I think that’s hard, like, it’s hard because we know what sometimes is coming, like a future surgery for Preston that I still don’t hardly talk about it. I get choked up just thinking about it because I know the kind of pain it’s going to bring him, but if I dwell on that, I mean, Jamie, if I really continue to think about that, it strips every ounce of joy from my soul. And so, I think, okay, today, I have today and I’m excited to see those little faces walk in the door from school and take Preston to his Scouts meeting tonight, just me and him.
And so, I really think that anybody going through it to just focus on what we have minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, and have those friends that can look you in the face and say, “You’re thinking too far down the road, so stop.” And that’s going to be just a whole other level of healing. I know it’s coming. I told my husband the other day, “Oh, I feel another wave of growth, and I hate that,” but it’s necessary. Freezing moments in my mind have been what have brought me the most joy recently, and I have just been intentional. And I didn’t mean to end the podcast being so emotional, but oh, don’t you feel like time is just slipping through our fingers with our kids and…
Jamie Freedlund: It was so fast.
Lorna Walker: It was fleeting. And so, I have found myself truly as cheesy as this sounds, saying, “Okay, I want to remember this moment. I am like doing a mental picture right now.”
Jamie Freedlund: Yes.
Lorna Walker: And just stopping for two seconds and really enjoying whatever it is because I know that there is going to be an empty house here in eight years, and I tell Tim, I can’t believe it, but like, there are days where I want to pull my hair out with the kids, and then I realize I’m going to miss.
Jamie Freedlund: We’re going to miss the crazy, all of the crazy.
Lorna Walker: The freezing moments in my mind have been really big, and then just I have an abundance of gratitude for the smallest things, not waiting for big milestones, not waiting for the big moments, but just the tiny, smallest little things. And I’m like, I am so grateful, probably because of all the heartache that we’ve experienced along the way that it’s like, oh my gosh, if this was gone tomorrow, which that almost did happen with our son. So, just trying to find the smallest.
I asked Tim last night because I was literally sitting at the kitchen table like having some tears because I’m like, I got to get this out now, or I’m going to be a trainwreck on the podcast and just so stinking nervous. And so, I said, “Tim, what do you think it like– what do you think it means to find joy in the journey, and Jamie’s asking you?” I want to share, and he’s like being conscious of all the good things we’ve experienced,it’s as simple as that, having conversations and reminding each other how fortunate we truly are after witnessing other struggles that we didn’t have at the time. He goes, and not a comparison game like, I want to make sure that that’s really clear that it’s not a comparison game, but a measure of the joy we were able to experience. And I thought, oh, that’s so true because you look at what could have been or what could be, right?
Jamie Freedlund: Absolutely.
Lorna Walker: I go to the Children’s Medical with Preston every six weeks for these grueling oral orthodontic plastic surgery appointments for him because of his jaw, and I just have to tell myself, like, “Okay, we’re not in a wheelchair.” Like, I know that may sound silver lining it, which I am, I totally own up to it, but I do kind of have to talk myself down, Jamie, when I’m at the hospital. I have to say to myself like, “Okay, we’re here. Thank God, we’re not in Cincinnati, and we don’t have to travel to these appointments every six weeks,” because that’s the reality. We could be hopping on a plane and having to go through that. And I’m like, he’s verbal. I mean, he’s walking, so…
Jamie Freedlund: Place of gratitude that helps you.
Lorna Walker: And it’s not trying to compare, but it’s like we are now in it with a whole other level of this journey, that I have really not been that vocal about, and that’s protecting my own heart because the more you took that…
Jamie Freedlund: Absolutely.
Lorna Walker: But more real it is.
Jamie Freedlund: Part of your journey, and that’s okay. I think it’s…
Lorna Walker: Yes, but Tim was like, “Gosh, look at how fortunate we are.” Some of our nurses were like, “Oh, my gosh,” for him having a trach, and he takes a bottle and he eats food, and he’s fed by mouth like, this is miraculous. And I was like, “Really? Okay.” And then I relished in it because I didn’t know any different. And then I just go back to helping other people, bottom line, like for us, the biggest joy is helping. I don’t believe that we’re here on this earth to be happy. I feel like we’re here on this earth to be disciples and to help other people and to be good stewards and to just be the hands and feet of Jesus. I truly and honestly, with my whole heart, believe that. And if that is what can help find joy in the midst of gut-wrenching pain, then I’m here for it.
Jamie Freedlund: Yeah, service, definitely, is a doorway to joy, that’s for sure. So, Lorna, I can’t thank you enough. Thank you for coming.
Lorna Walker: Oh, thank you. I’m so honored.
Jamie Freedlund: And so vulnerable, open heart, and sharing, and just being lovely like you always are. So, thanks for this time.
Lorna Walker: This has been a huge gift, so I hope this helps somebody today.
Jamie Freedlund: Thanks.