When life and faith collide: We gave God the chance to show up!

Our baby has lived 9 months in the womb!

This is Part 3 of our story.  Please scroll down to Part 1:  When life and belief collide.

There we stood with our usual tear-filled eyes, looking out at the eyes of a group of tear-filled couples.  It may have only been our second time visiting this church and its young family class, when my husband uncharacteristically stood in front of strangers and gave them our prayer request.  These strangers enveloped us, laid their hands on us and prayed for our unborn child.

Men from this church began calling Anker and prayed with him over the phone.  They offered to meet him for lunch and give him support and encouragement.  The women visited me, sent me cards of encouragement and some even offered to sit beside me during my weekly appointments.   These people were no strangers, they were the body of Christ at work, and they were strengthening us.

You see, the Perinatologist and all the other specialists had no clue we recently moved hundreds of miles from our support system.  We moved from Southern California only weeks prior to becoming pregnant.   The specialist didn’t consider our emotional needs or offer resources of support in our decision-making process.   But our Abba Father knew what we needed.

News spread quickly across the miles and telephone wires.  Loving phone calls and letters of encouragement often overwhelmed us.  I kept a scrapbook of these meaningful thoughts from dear friends and family, or people who simply heard about our baby and were praying for us:

“At first I did not quite know how to pray, but want you to know we are praying for a miracle and that God will heal your baby.  If God wants to take this baby home, we are praying He does it soon and that you two and the baby don’t suffer too long.  We will continue to pray for the baby and two of you as long as is needed”  -V & S

“I haven’t met you, but hope you feel the love and support of fellow believers.  May you sense peace and comfort which only the Holy Spirit can delicately give” -M

“I will stand in the gap and pray when you can no longer pray”  -C

The Holy Spirit is not limited by man’s inventions.  He managed to put our names on the minds of faithful prayer warriors, without any means of Facebook or email.  Here is a portion of a letter I received from one who was quickened by God’s Spirit on our behalf:

“I cry for your burden of concern for your son.  What a strong little man he must be!  As I pray for the health and survival of A.J. and for my baby as well, I guess I can only rest in knowing that they are in a special communion with God as they are growing inside of us.

About a month ago I felt a real need to be praying for you on a daily basis.  That feeling started from a very vivid dream I had of you, Bonnie, trying to convey your emotions about the difficulties of conceiving to a room full of pregnant women.  I was taking you from room to room in search of another woman who could empathize.  A friend of mine turned to you and said that she understood.  You reached out and touched her stomach and said, “No, you don’t”.  The conversations were so incredibly clear that when I awoke from the dream I woke P.  up to tell him about it.  You were also a participant in subsequent dreams over the next couple of days.  I knew that I had better be praying for you two. …And now, I know that I’ve been praying for the 3 of you!  Isn’t our God Awesome and Caring!!  Praise to His active hand and His Holy Spirit for allowing us to be connected and active with Him!

May the eyes of the doctors see and understand the authority of Jehova-Rapha!  Knowing as I do that our great Creator loves our babies even more than we do.  As our Creator with a hand that touches all things, I pray that You God, will bring miraculous healing to A.J. and that You will receive all the glory and Praise.  Amen.” -T

Our baby was being flooded with prayer and we knew God was at work.  It was time to go back for my first ultrasound after the diagnosis.  The Perinatologist wanted to keep an eye on the fluid in our baby’s body.  Anker and I had great anticipation for this moment.

I lay on the table with my heart beating calmly…waiting to see how our precious baby was doing.  I had already asked if he was in any pain, and the doctors assured me he was not.  The technician turned the screen away from us.  She guided the cold wand slowly over my tummy.  We studied her face as she stopped and glared at the screen.  She turned and looked at the previous ultrasound picture in the file.  She glared back at the screen, then back at the file again—and dismissed herself.

What were we to think?  Long moments passed as we waited for her return.  Our hearts were  peaceful, we were bathed in prayer.  Finally, the Perinatologist walked into the room with the technician beside him.  He took over the wand and guided it across my tummy again.  He glared at the screen and compared it to the file.  Then he rolled his chair over to my face, “We don’t know what is going on, but the fluid is dissipating”.  He couldn’t explain why.  We were told to be “cautiously optimistic”.

God was at work!  It was up to God what He wanted to do with this little life, and who He wanted to speak to through His creation.  He didn’t promise me a baby, He didn’t promise me a perfect life, but God did promise me He would keep my heart and my mind quiet and at rest as I trust in Christ Jesus.  This was a sweet time.  To be at the mercy of trusting God for all our needs is a painful and a good thing.

I could tell you the tears stopped, but it wouldn’t be true.  Often times Anker came home to find me singing in a warm bath… “Day by day I’m growing stronger, day by day the victory’s won.  As I give my life to Jesus, day by day I overcome”.  The warm water and praise songs soothed my wandering mind.

My heart was growing closer and closer to my fragile little baby.  Being pregnant became a romantic-thing again; conversing and singing with my unborn baby as we trusted in the Almighty Creator.

Appointment after appointment, we continued to be “cautiously optimistic” as the fluid continued to mysteriously-No, miraculously-go away!  When we chose life, I don’t know if we realized we were giving God the opportunity to show up in our lives.  He was revealing Himself, His character, His faithfulness in new and incredible ways. The heart monitoring continued without any concern for the condition of his heart.  Our baby boy was actively kicking and moving.  “If this baby is born alive”, our doctor scratched his head and swore, “This will go down in the books.”

“I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! 

Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord!”  Psalm 27:13,14

We were now only weeks away from my due date.  Much of the fluid had gone away.  My O.B. began to discuss with me what the delivery room would look like.  He said if the baby is born alive, he would be discolored, lips blue, and they would need to resuscitate him.  He described all the extra personnel who would be in the room with us, while the emergency team would be waiting at the door of my delivery room.  Here we were-six months after a death sentence-discussing a birth plan.  The doctor repeated his mantra, “remain cautiously optimistic”.

The final ultrasound showed fluid left only in the kidneys.  Now it was time to speak with the Neonatologist: the specialist who would deal with a living, breathing baby.  He advised IF the baby is born alive and still has fluid, he could extract the fluid but it would only come back.

Our son was due June 21, but on the morning of June 4, my water broke.  It was time to deliver Anker Josiah.  Come back tomorrow for Part 4!!

P.S.  Each of our life stories of trial, loss and pain look so different from the other.  But God in His goodness remains the same.  He wants to show up in your life.  I hope you will be encouraged by my story and the video I have inserted as a gift…

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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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