Diagnosis Day

“Ok, we’re all done,” the ultrasound tech told us.  “I did see something fairly concerning, though.”

I steeled myself.

“Ok?” I replied.

“Have you ever heard of spina bifida?”

Honestly, the only context I had for spina bifida was Zola Grey Shepherd, the African orphan adopted by Derek and Meredith on Grey’s Anatomy.  I had no idea what it was, but I knew Derek had fixed her with his magic neurosurgeon hands and she was a perfectly normal girl.  But that was TV, and this was real life.  Magic neurosurgeon hands like Derek Shepherd’s do not exist in real life.

The ultrasound tech had us wait in the waiting room, while she called our nurse practitioner across the building to alert her to our situation.  As we waited, I began to cry.  After a preterm delivery with Haven, all I wanted was a healthy baby and a normal delivery.

We waited.

Waited, and waited.

In the spina bifida world, they always say, stay off of Google.  Google is your worst enemy.  I couldn’t help myself.  Sitting there with the name of a diagnosis but no knowledge except for Zola Shepherd was agonizing. I Googled.

A birth defect in which a developing baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly.

Can’t be cured, but treatment may help.

Pictures of babies with round, open defects on their backs.

“What is spina bifida?”  Josh asked me.  “I don’t really know,” I told him.  “But I know it’s not good.”

We were finally called back to speak with the nurse practitioner.  She told us that the baby had a neural tube defect, and the ultrasound would be reviewed for further information for official diagnosis.  She said that the defect was low, which usually means less of an impact on mobility.


I felt ridiculous for crying, but I just couldn’t believe this was happening.  As we listened to the nurse practitioner, I sat with a tissue scrunched in my hand, wondering why we had to go through even more than we already had.  Miscarriage.  Premature birth and a NICU stay.  Now, this???

As we left, we began to call our family and friends to let them know.  I felt shattered.  This baby I was carrying suddenly felt foreign.  I felt like I was pregnant with a diagnosis, not with a baby.

We had asked the ultrasound tech to write down the gender and place it in an envelope, so we could be surprised at our gender reveal party two days later.  After learning of the baby’s diagnosis, we questioned if we even wanted to do the party anymore.  Hanging blue and pink decorations and cheerfully holding my belly in anticipation of learning if it was a boy or a girl was the last thing I felt like doing.  But, we decided to go ahead with the party.  I knew that if we just opened the envelope, we would be disappointed with how we found out, and we needed something to be fun.

The next day, as I drove back from the house of my friend who was hosting the party, I found myself alone in the car.  The tears came slowly, then turned into sobs.  It was the first time I really let myself vocalize the grief I felt.  I don’t want this, I sobbed. It’s too much.

I couldn’t be the parent of a disabled kid.  I had never even considered the possibility, but the reality was suddenly thrust upon me, and it felt overwhelming.

The next day, I was able to pull myself together a bit more.  It was party day, and I was relieved that I would finally learn more about who this person was.  I needed to bring my mind back to the baby, not the diagnosis.

We had planned a fun, backyard grill out for our gender reveal.  A few days before, we gave the envelope with the gender to a friend, and she had ordered Holi powder, the colored powder used in the Indian festival called Holi, as well as in color runs.  When I had envisioned this gender reveal months before, I imagined a cloud of pink or blue colored powder floating through the air.  We had done silly string for Haven’s reveal, so I thought Holi powder was as least as fun, if not more fun, than silly string.

We ate burgers and macaroni salad, kids ran through the sprinkler, and friends made guesses about the baby’s gender.  They all knew of the diagnosis, and solemn talk about what it meant for the baby was peppered in with the excitement of learning if it was a boy or a girl.  I felt mostly happy, but the party was still tinged with sadness.

It was finally time.  Our friend in the know brought out the men’s black dress socks filled with the powder (random, I know.  It was the best solution I could come up with for a container that you could reach into but not see).  Josh and I were given a sock each, and we reached in to pull the powder out to throw in the air.  The sock bounced off of my belly, leaving a pink mark.

“It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” One of the kids yelled out.  I was a little disappointed I didn’t find out with the cloud of colored powder I had imagined, but I threw it in the air, anyway.  Everyone cheered.  Socks were passed out to everyone, and a pink powder fight ensued.  It was quickly realized that the best way to color fight was by hitting each other with the socks.  It was as fun as it was hilarious.


I turned to Haven, on my hip.  “You’re going to have a sister!”

The next day, we decided to name her.  Just like with the gender reveal, we needed to know her as a person, as more than her diagnosis.

We decided on Eisley Mae, and made a fun video with Haven to announce it to our family and friends.


Over the next weeks and months, as we learned more about Eisley, spina bifida became less scary.  We knew she would have to have surgery right after birth to close the defect, we knew that she would definitely have a NICU stay, and we knew that she might have issues with mobility and might need a shunt to drain the extra fluid from her brain.

But she was still Eisley, and as my sister reminded me, she was always meant to be a part of our family, and we were meant to be her parents.  And I’m so thankful she is ours.



New Name, New Season.

Every year, when the time comes to renew my domain name, I put it off.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because I’m a chronic email-notification-swiper-awayer, and then I forget about it, or because I inevitably end up letting it expire and it becomes more of a headache than it needs to be.

Whatever the case, this year, I decided I wanted a fresh start to my blog.

Many things have changed since I started it.  I began writing here while we were part of the way through with The World Race, so I could have a space to continue writing as we came home.  After returning to the States, we started trying to conceive and experienced the difficulty of a miscarriage, conceived again and had Haven, who was born a month early and had a NICU stay, Josh began the perfect job for him-working with inner city youth and camp ministry, and we had Eisley, who has spina bifida.

Along the way, I have discovered that my passion and my heart for this season lies with my children and my husband.  Earlier in our marriage, my heart was for the Nations and to serve outward, but now that has changed to serving inward to pour into my family.

As I was pondering a name change, I asked my sister if she had any suggestions.  She suggested Mend and Bloom, and I instantly fell in love with it.

Mend is a play on our last name (Mendenhall), and also references Eisley’s spina bifida, and how she was mended (get it?!) after her birth.  If you are wondering what spina bifida is, check out the Spina Bifida tab at the top. In short, it is a birth defect that develops in very early pregnancy.  A portion of her spinal column did not close all the way, leaving it to be open on her back.  She had surgery to place her spinal cord back inside her back at 7 hours old.

I also love the imagery of mending a family together.  There are too many times to count when Josh and I have said or done something that hurt or angered the other person.  We have a rule that we never go to bed angry, even if that means staying up until the wee hours of the morning to work it out.  Or there are the many times that my toddler is being disobedient or just cannot do the thing and she is on my last nerve.  Or when the baby is crying and the exhaustion sets in and I feel like there is absolutely no way that I can give any more of myself than I already have.  It’s in these moments that I remember that I can’t do this alone, say a little prayer, and find a way to fix it.  Mending and holding the family together is part of my job, and it’s one that I (usually) delight in doing.

And finally, Bloom.  At the beginning of this year, I wanted to find a word that I could focus on for the year.  My first thought was improve, because there were several areas of life that I wanted to improve in.  But that felt too rigid and dry.  The idea of improvement morphed into thrive.  Because yeah, I want to improve, but not so much so that I am miserable in trying to attain these ideals of perfection.  I want to do what I can, and celebrate the progress-I want to thrive in whatever stage I’m in.  I also want to help my family thrive, in the midst of the crazy, the mundane, and the challenges of life.  We’re on the cusp of Spring, and just yesterday, Josh pointed out that a tree across the street from us has the tiniest little blossoms starting to show.  I love all seasons for the special things they bring, but there is just something about the first blooms of Spring that makes my heart come alive.

20170225_215439-02.jpegMy super artistic doodle-drawn with jumbo crayons over naptime.

So.  I hope you will join me on this journey of pouring into my family and helping us to thrive.  If you’d like to follow along, there’s a little bar there to the right to enter your email address.

I hope you have a great week!



Journey to Motherhood: One Year, Four Countries, and Two Pregnancy Tests


Josh and I are embarking on the next Great Story in our lives: parenthood, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Almost a year ago, we celebrated our five year anniversary (dating+marriage).  We celebrate this every year, because it is on Valentines Day, and it’s fun to think back over the time we have been together, and to see where the Lord has brought us, and the adventures that we have had together.

So, almost a year ago, we were on the island of Penang, Malaysia, with our World Race team.  We were doing several different kinds of ministry-Josh was working with a homeless ministry, I was working with a creative arts ministry, other teammates and squadmates were raising money for a hospital.  We were living, along with another team, at a YWAM base, and it was really fun.  We decided that for Valentines Day, Josh and I wanted to get away for a few nights and stay at a hotel, thanks to some wonderful friends and family that donated to make this possible.  I was excited, because I love staying in hotels, and Josh was excited that he would get some introvert time away from the team.  We found a hotel that was about 45 minutes away by bus, was on the beach, and was fairly cheap.

We got to the hotel, and headed down to the beach.  Unfortunately, signs reading Beware of Jellyfish were everywhere, so we were too nervous to go more than ankle deep.  We went back up to the hotel room, and decided to order a pizza.  I think it was Dominoes, and we were excited to get a little slice (pun intended) of greasy, American cheesy goodness.




As we sat on the bed, eating our pizza and watching TV, I got up the courage to ask a question that had been on my mind for awhile.

“So…I was thinking that maybe….sometime after the Race….we could consider having kids?”  We had never really talked about specifics before; it had always been something that was in the future sometime, but there were other things, like traveling and missions, that were more in our immediate future.

“Yeah,” he said, “I think that would be fine.”

“Really?!” I was excited at the prospect of fulfilling a dream that the Lord was growing in me more everyday-to be a mom.


Fast forward to three months later-we are in Uganda, and we had just gotten back from volunteering at Sanyu Babies’ Home, an orphanage for babies to four years old in Kampala.  The desire to be a mom was growing bigger and bigger, and spending the day with beautiful Ugandan babies had only made that part of my heart long even more for it.  It didn’t matter to me whether my baby would be one that grew inside me or if he or she would be placed into my arms at an orphanage.

After returning from the orphanage, the Lord gave me His word that He would fulfill this dream.

“And, for the icing on top of the cake, tonight as my team and I were doing listening prayer (prayer where you sit and listen for what the Lord is saying rather than just talking at Him), He spoke to me about babies.

As I was listening, my mind was wandering a bit, and it wandered to the babies, and how much fun and how natural and at home I felt with them.  Before the question had even formed in my mind, I heard Him say, “You will.”  As in, you will be a mom.

And my heart was at peace.” (From my blog Bebe Fever Part 2)


Fast forward to the next month, and we were in the mountains of Swaziland, working at El Shaddai Ministries, a childrens’ home for orphaned, abused, or neglected children in Swazi.  There were several different ways that our teams were helping at El Shaddai, but the only ministry I wanted to do was to work in the baby house.  Every morning, a few of the other Racers and I would walk up to the baby house, and spend the day playing, cuddling, feeding, and hanging out with the kids.  Most were preschool aged, but were far behind physically and emotionally due to abuse or neglect at their previous homes.

While working at the baby house, a little four year old named Musa caught my eye, and my heart, and we spent every day playing on the swings, reading books, and every day without fail, right before lunch, he would get too tired to play, and just wanted to be held.  I would carry him into the bedroom that he shared with several of the other children, lay him in his bed, and sing and rub his back until he fell asleep. (Read my full story about Musa here.)


It was so hard to leave him at the end of the month, but again, God was growing my desire to be a mom more and more, and Musa, along with a few other kids that I met around the world while on the World Race, were teaching me how to open up that part of my heart that I had been saving for that unknown day in the future.


Fast forward one more time to Christmas 2013.  We’ve been back in the States for five months, and we are spending Christmas Eve with Josh’s extended family.  It is one of my favorite things all year-all of the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins’ babies, all get together for what is affectionately called “Two Many” (long story).  There are usually somewhere around 25 people there, and in a few years I’m sure it will be closer to 30.

Josh’s cousin Monique had just had a baby a month before, and he was being passed around to be held by several members of the family.  When I was holding him, he was getting hungry, so Monique made him a bottle, and handed it to me to give to Braylin.  As I gave him the bottle, Monique asked, “Are you guys going to have a baby soon?”

“Yeah, probably.”  I said, at the same time that Josh said, “Uh, I don’t know.”

Monique laughed, and soon, it was time to go, so I gave her Braylin, and we headed out.

The next morning, after opening up presents with Josh’s family, we left to travel to my family’s house.  After all of the rest of us had finished opening up all of our presents, my 1 1/2 year old nephew, Henry, still had tons of presents to open up from the grandparents.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if Henry had a cousin to help him open all of these presents?” My sister playfully asked.  We all laughed, and I thought, yes, yes it would.



We got back home after visiting our families for Christmas for several days, and it was really late.  I had to work the next day, so I pretty much went straight to bed.

The next morning, I woke up before my alarm went off, and I realized I had to go to the bathroom.  As I thought about it, I realized that it had been awhile since my last period.  Was it the week before Thanksgiving?  I don’t know why, but I decided to take a pregnancy test.  I remembered that we had one in the cabinet downstairs, and I took it, not expecting anything.  If I was pregnant, I doubted it would be able to tell so soon.

I put the cap on the test, and set it on my lap to watch it.  As it went across, I realized there was an extra vertical line.  As soon as I saw the line, probably of medium faintness, my heart started beating faster.  However, the line in the control panel was faint, and I told myself that there was a possibility that it was an old test, and therefore not accurate.

I went out into the kitchen, got a glass of water, and leaned on the counter to think, my heart still beating like crazy.  I decided to go to Walgreens and buy a new test, and to take another one.  I put on a jacket and some shoes, grabbed some Christmas money, and headed to Walgreens.

When I got back, I took a second test, really not expecting anything this time, especially since I had just downed a huge glass of water so I could pee again, and it would not be my first morning urine.  As the test went across…BAM, there was the line, dark as could be.  There was no doubt about it this time.  I was pregnant.

I knew that there was no way I could keep it a secret from Josh for any period of time, so I decided to go upstairs and wake him up and tell him.  I was excited, but I was nervous that he was going to get stressed out about the details right away, and forget to be happy and enjoy it.

I took a deep breath, put my hand on the doorknob, and went in.

Part 2: Coming Soon!