Before I formed you, I knew you

 

Psalm 139:13-14

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.

Have you meditated on these words lately from Psalm 139? Ponder the depth of its truth.  God created the world with His spoken word, and He creates you and me by forming our inward parts, knitting us together in our mother’s womb.

The process of knitting is a loving act. The hands and heart work together to weave the finished product. Stitches are counted, measurements are made, and tender thoughts of the person receiving the creation run frequently through the knitter’s mind. This is the love of the Creator at work, knitting each precious life into their mother’s womb. Each creation…fearfully….wonderfully…made.

Wonderful are your works, Oh Lord, my soul knows it very well!

My husband read these stats to me earlier this week, and I have not been able to shake them from my mind.  I need to share.

Planned Parenthood’s Fiscal Report for the 2009-2010 year states 329,445 abortions were performed Nation-wide.  That equals an average of 902 aborted lives a day. In addition, the agency’s commitment to adoption referrals grimly decreased by 82.8% in comparison to their 2007-08 referrals. (http://cnsnews.com/news/ )*

What can we do? Shake our fists and yell angrily? There are more productive ways to speak out for human life and make a positive impact on our society. Consider these options:

  • Volunteer at your local Crisis Pregnancy Center
  • Make a donation on behalf of a couple who are saving money to adopt
  • Join the generations, like my friends Sarah & Will and their kids, who peacefully and prayerfully join the 40 Days for Life commitment (those are her darlings in the picture above)
  • Offer your support to a family who chose life
  • Make your vote and your voice count
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The birth of my boy: No ordinary event

Anker Josiah-wearing the gown I asked Jesus to fill

This is Part 4 of our story:  When life and belief collide.  Please scroll down to Part 1.

  Miracles are wrought by the Spirit of God, in them is seen the Finger of God–Unger

Our baby boy was born on this day, June 4.  He had a 9 out of 10 on his Apgar!  There were no blue lips as the doctor supposed, there was no need for an emergency team.  There was no cyst on the base of his neck.  He was breathing, crying, moving and beautiful.  He has Trisomy 21, and for this we are thankful as well!

“Miracles are out of the ordinary course of events.  They produce astonishment as being outside the ordinary operations of cause and effect”–Unger

We named him Anker Josiah.  Anker-the name of three godly men who came before him.  Josiah-the name chosen before his diagnosis of Fetal Hydrops.  Josiah means Jehovah has healed!

Alleluia!!!

Our baby was still taken to Intensive Care.   I understand it is not a common sight to see a new father cheering joyfully as he follows his newborn son to ICU, but they saw it this day!

They began tests on our boy right away.  They checked his heart, and his lungs.  We asked them to check the fluid in and around his kidneys which the ultrasound revealed only a few days before.  All tests came back normal!  He stayed in ICU for 2 long bittersweet weeks.

As I sat in the rocking chair among all of the incubated babies, the nurse handed me my gem.  She said his ears are deformed and he cannot hear.  I held him closely and rocked, singing,

“Great is Thy Faithfulness, Great is Thy Faithfulness!”

I sang this song throughout the months of carrying my babe.  He knew my voice.

“Morning by morning new mercies I see”

His little head began turning toward me as he fought to open his baby blue eyes.  We locked eyes for the first time as I embraced his tiny living body and continued praising Jesus,

“All we have needed Thy hand has provided.  Great is Thy Faithfulness,

Lord unto me!”

I knew our baby could hear me.  I had no doubt.

I had to leave my newborn son and go home without him as the ICU continued to monitor him.  I barely slept a wink, waiting for the first waking hour they would allow me to visit.  I used a breast pump in order to bring in that precious gold called colostrum.

As I walked in the ICU holding my bottle of gold, I reached out to hand it to one of the nurses standing beside my boy’s bed.  That little bottle of gold was filled with my Mama- love.  It was the little bit I could do to nurture my hospitalized son.   The nurse mockingly asked me, “What’s this?” as she pulled it from my hand.

I realized I had interrupted the two nurses as they were talking in a hushed manner.  The second nurse abruptly said, “We heard you had an amnio”.  I confirmed the fact.  Her face shown the judgment of my choice.  “Then, why didn’t you-?”, she asked me harshly.  What she was asking was, “If you knew he had Down’s Syndrome, why didn’t you abort?” I was taken back for a moment as I gathered my surprise and my thoughts.

“Do you have children?”  I asked them both.  They both said yes.  “What would happen if your child was hit by a car and became brain-damaged?  Would you wish he never lived?  What if your child is the slowest kid in the class, or grows up to be an alcoholic?  Will you be ashamed and stop loving him?”  They stood silent.

I was dumbfounded by two intelligent women making a value statement about a child’s life. I was even more concerned that these were the women caring for my child when I could not take him home.  Everything within me wanted to rip the monitors off our boy and run with him.  I knew then, baby A.J.’s enemies were ignorance and narrow minds.  We would have to do something about that….

Our quiet little home was eagerly awaiting A.J.’s arrival.  No longer would the carpets be clean,  the sink remain empty or the evenings be silent.  Our home became filled with joy and baby barf and gratitude.

There’s a lot more to share with you about parenting our precious boy, but I’ll leave the rest for later.  Today, we celebrate 18 years of life.  God has gifted us a beautiful boy with special needs, and his two younger brothers who adore and enjoy him.

AJ loves to sing, write, read Disney stories, play with and care for his dog.  He enjoys swimming, Special Olympics Track, basketball and bowling.  He loves to go to school and he loves to go to church.

He loves to drink smoothies and fruit is his favorite snack.  He sings at the top of his lungs, asks his Daddy to read him a Bible story each night, and helps out with the dishes.

He tells knock-knock jokes and knows the directions to almost every store and restaurant in town.  He thinks almost everything he wants costs $2. He knows every word to the Veggie Tale songs.

He is hug-able, lovable, stubborn, sometimes grumpy, and very messy when he plays.

He is Anker Josiah, chosen and dearly loved.

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We chose life!

This is Part 2 of our story.  Please scroll down for Part 1  post–”When life and belief collide:My life-altering decision”

We were given a priority appointment with the Perinatologist.  Should we continue on in the pregnancy, he would monitor the fluid in our little babe.   We sat in his office surrounded by medical books and volumes of medical data, statistics,  human knowledge and theory. The bookshelves rose high up the walls and the doctor sat some distance from us.  I felt so small and helpless.

The Perinatologist  warmly told us how our child could likely end up in an institution, maybe wheelchair bound for life, if he ever lived at all.  We took notes, asked questions, and scheduled an Amniocentesis.  There was a glimmer of hope the results of the Amniocentesis would tell us the baby had RH Factor: a diagnosis we could actually do something about.

In the meantime, we sat through a lengthy session with the genetic counselor who worked alongside the Perinatologist.  She pulled out one of the thickest, ugliest  books I ever laid my eyes on.  It was filled with pictures of chromosomes and genetic disorders we never knew existed.  Our eyes glazed in fear as she slowly turned and explained many of the pages.  This is not a book you would enjoy reading, let me tell you!

I was amazed when we left the doctor’s office that day.  No one offered us counseling, no one asked us if we had the support of family.  No one asked if we needed clergy.  We were sent home with a burden of knowledge heaped upon our hearts.  I cried all the way home.

My husband was away on business when I finally received the diagnosis by phone call.  The genetic counselor was on the other end of the line.  Her voice was matter-of-fact as she told me our baby not only had Fetal Hydrops, but he also had a cyst on the back of his neck and Trisomy 21 (Down’s Syndrome).   Without taking a breath, without offering empathy or inviting discussion, she told me she would make an appointment for an abortion.

Instantly I told her there would be no abortion.  She reminded me in her ever-so-cold manner, “Your baby will surely die”.

The Mama-bear arose in me for the first of many times as I responded, “We believe the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  We will bless the Name of the Lord”.  I hung up and fell prostrate across our cold kitchen floor.  My baby-bump pushed me away from the tile, reminding me of the life inside.  I lay there crying, wailing, spread out in humility for help from my Lord.

I clung to the promises of God.  If I ever believed in Him, then I must also believe in His Words.  I sang quietly in surrender,

“Great is Thy Faithfulness, Oh God my Father.

There is no shadow of turning with Thee.

Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not

as Thou hast been

Thou forever will be.”

Jesus quietly asked me, “Do you believe this about me, Bonnie?”  I said, “Yes, Lord”  and continued to softly cry and sing,

“Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed Thy hand has provided

(Thank you, Jesus.  This is true.)

Great is Thy Faithfulness

(“Will you trust Me, Bonnie?”)

(Yes, Jesus)….Lord unto Me”

My schedule quickly became filled with doctor’s appointments.  We sat before our young O.B. and explained to him the value we place on this life.  A life that was given by God and could only be taken by God.  We needed to confirm his treatment would also place value on our child’s life.   He told us he had never encountered a case like ours or a couple like us, and he would respect and follow our lead.

Due to the labor Fetal Hydrops can put on a baby’s heart, they monitored his heart twice weekly.  God gave me a nurse who was also a believer.  She encouraged me in the faith.  She told me our doctor’s office didn’t know completely how to deal with me, “Why would a couple like that want a baby like that?” was the popular discussion when we left the office each week.

Those kind of comments didn’t really encourage me, they made me feel more alien-like.  But we knew the comment really was based upon watching a young couple trust and believe in God rather than their difficult circumstances.  This was good.

Previously serving as a social worker and volunteering with special needs children, I knew there were more hopeful scenarios then what had been presented to us.  I quickly learned “knowledge is power”, and I began a personal fight to find all of the knowledge I could.  It was difficult to find.  Seventeen years ago I did not have a home computer, access to the Internet, or blogs where I could find someone with a similar story to mine.  I walked the aisles of the bookstores looking for hope from someone who was given a death-sentence for their baby.  I needed to read how someone could still survive emotionally through her days of pregnancy.  It was not to be found.

It was crystal clear to me the choice for life was God’s desire for us.    HOW He wanted me to live with this choice was unclear!  I was an emotional mess most days.  One moment I would beg God to take our baby’s life sooner than later.  Moments later I would plead with God to do a miracle and heal our baby.

My husband remained a balanced rock while I called him throughout the day to clear my mind and get perspective.  HOW was I supposed to live each day-the next 6 months of pregnancy-without bonding to my growing baby who would “die”?

I don’t know how long it took me to realize I could ask God that question.  I bent to my knees beside my bed and said, “Jesus, I know what You want me to do.  I just don’t know how I am supposed to do it”.  He reminded me, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)  Do not worry about tomorrow–those things I can’t control.  Don’t create and entertain fears and “what ifs” we may or may not face tomorrow.  Keep my mind on today.

Today–I had a living baby inside me.  Today–he was kicking and moving and growing.  Today–I was pregnant, I was a Mama.  In the midst of any other (normal) pregnancy I would be sewing, strolling through baby departments, knitting.  So I decided I would rejoice in Today!

I went to the fabric store and bought precious baby fabrics for my Anker Josiah.  I began sewing him a baby quilt.  He would play on it one day, or he would be swaddled in the quilt in a baby’s coffin.  Either way, I would make it with all the love and the joy I had for my son.

I bought him the most precious coming home gown I could find.  A Beatrix Potter gown.  It represented life and sweet hope for today.  I hung it from the dresser in our bedroom and I knelt below it often, “Jesus, please fill this gown with our living and breathing baby.  But You know the bigger picture, not my will but Yours be done”.  Sometimes I imagined being the woman touching Jesus’ gown-trusting in the Messiah’s ability to heal.

I began moving on through the hours with enough strength to live for the day.

“Fear not, for I am with you,

 be not dismayed, for I am your God.

 I will strengthen you,

I will help you,

I will uphold you with my Victorious Right Hand!”

Isaiah 41:10

Soon our story would begin to change.

I hope you’ll join me again  for Part 3.

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When life and belief collide: My life-altering decision

Anker and Bonnie and babe 1994

This is Part 1 of our story.

I was having a hard time believing that tiny little window on a plastic stick was actually signifying a positive.  I brought it outside to the bright sunlight, and it still looked like a plus sign.  Nevertheless, I needed to take the test again.  I waited, my heart thumping loudly with every tick of the clock, until I could read the results.  Standing in the sunlight a second time, there it was again, a plus sign.  Our days of infertility were finally over.

Oh, I have dreamed about this moment for so many years of my life.  I couldn’t wait to be a Mama.  I stocked up on pregnancy books and began reading every tidbit of information I could get my hands on.  Our favorite book explained each stage of development of the baby in my womb.  As the book guided us to understand what was developing each week, we prayed together each night for the organs, the eyeballs, formation of the hands and each tiny finger.

As romantic as I consider pregnancy to be, it wasn’t very romantic to be hunched over in the bathroom throwing up daily.  I couldn’t get from point A to point B in the car without swinging the driver’s door open to puke on the street.  My loving husband cleaned up many a mess when I couldn’t get to a receptacle in time.  His light heart made up songs about my puking while he squatted to his knees, tie loosely hanging from his neck, wiping the floors clean.

Hailing from 3 generations of Anker’s, I wasn’t given much leeway in choosing a first name for our child if he was a boy.  So, I poured over options for a middle name.  Like many of you, I made lists of favorites.  Beside each name I listed its meaning.  I prayed over the list and slowly I crossed out the names which didn’t have specific character meaning or didn’t flow well with “Anker”.    Finally, we settled upon the name, “Anker Josiah”.  Josiah was a young King of the Old Testament.  His name means, “Jehovah has healed”.

Three months of careful eating, vitamin taking, exercise, sleep, and continued puking passed.   With video in hand, my husband and I couldn’t wait to get our first ultrasound and see our precious baby.  We were already emotionally attached to this growing, precious life that God was weaving in my womb.

I lay upon the ultrasound table with my husband standing beside me.  The technician sat quietly, looking at many angles of the babe.  We saw our little loved one waving his hands up and down.  I could count his fingers.  We prayed for those ten little fingers!  We saw his heart beating and heard the quiet drumming of the beats.

I asked the technician what sex our baby was.  She was silent.  I asked again and was puzzled why she wasn’t making any effort to find out the sex.  She returned our video tape and we traveled back to our quiet little home.

Throughout the day we played the video tape, basking in the beauty of a waving hand and a steady thumping heart.  That evening as we lay in bed, we prayed for our sweet baby again.  A good night’s sleep was awoken very early by a phone call.  It was my O.B.  It was not his assistant or a nurse calling, but the O.B. himself.  He asked us to come into the office right away.  Instantly my heart sank to the pit of my stomach.  We called my mother who met us at the office.

As we swung the office door open, my mind made a permanent image of the O.B.  I looked past  the empty chairs and there I saw him wringing his hands as he paced in the back hall.  We were escorted down the hall to his office, where we sat across the desk from this young doctor.  He began to explain our baby has Fetal Hydrops;  a condition which causes fluid in the tissues and organs of the baby.  He told us there was a 99.7% chance of our baby being still-born.  He explained there is record of one Fetal Hydrops baby being born full-term who lived for one week.

The darkness in this ultrasound indicates fluid throughout our baby's body

In a somber and caring tone he advised me, “induce labor, then we will wrap the baby in a warm blanket and you will rock him until he dies”.

“He”- our baby was a boy!  We had a little trusting baby boy weaved tightly in my womb.  I began to sob.

There were no words to share driving home, only quiet sobs from both of us.  My husband sat in the hallway, and I curled up in a corner of the hard kitchen floor.  Intense fears and questions began to torment me.  And then my mind became flooded with songs, verses and hymns.   God was comforting and quieting my heart.

When peace like a river – attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll…

I pictured my teen-self, standing and singing surrounded by generations of saints at my old church.  I heard the voices of a faithful generation before me-singing out of tune, with passion and conviction…

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me say,

It is well

  It is well, with my soul.

I had sung that song with gusto over the years.  My youthful heart vowing to God, “I will trust You, Lord, even when the storms come down on me”.  I knew then, faith would not always come easy.  So I also made a plea as I sang, “Help me to believe this.  Help me to say each day, It is well”. 

This was the day.   My life  and my belief system collided.  We had a life-altering decision to make.

Our engagement picture. I often looked at this picture throughout my pregnancy and thought, "How innocent we were".

This is Part One of our story.

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