10 Nov LOSING A CHILD; GAINING JESUS
When I look back at pictures of my husband, Andrew, and I during the summer of 2015, I am overwhelmed with mixed emotions. Sadness – because those naive people have no idea how their life is about to be turned upside down. Thankfulness – because we are not those people anymore. We are now more open-handed, compassionate, joyful, and peaceful – all thanks to God and the gift of our second baby.
At our 12 week appointment we were excited to see the baby and possibly make a guess of the gender. While looking at the screen, Andrew asked the sonogram technician why the heart looked like it was beating in the stomach area. She quickly responded that it was just the position the baby was in and continued on. I prepared to go back out into the waiting room until the doctor was ready to see me as Andrew said goodbye so he could head back to work. The sonogram technician said “Oh, you are leaving? The doctor wants to talk with both of you.” We knew what that meant and our heads began spinning. When our doctor entered the room and told us we had some things to talk about, my heart sank.
The heart was beating lower than normal because our baby had a birth defect. The baby was too small to know for sure the specific diagnosis, but it was clear that the abdominal wall had not completely closed and some organs were outside of the body. Our doctor gave us best and worst case scenarios, the name of a high risk doctor to see, and prayed with us. I knew none of this was surprising to God, but that prayer was the first of many times that day that I realized God had already been preparing us. A doctor with bold faith who would pray for us when we had no words. A best friend that is a pediatrician with extensive knowledge of what we were facing. A pastor who immediately met to encourage us with biblical truth. God had directed our paths to these people long before that October day. He is working behind the scenes of our life with purpose.
We had completed a blood test to check for genetic abnormalities at the 12 week appointment and when our doctor called to tell us there was in fact a genetic abnormality (although unrelated to the birth defect), he also told us it was a boy. A sweet second boy we decided to name Jack. My mind raced to life with two boys and the fun, messy life we might have. It also raced to what we might not have. I felt this beautiful blessing was being dangled in front of me like a mouse to a cat – only to have it possibly yanked away. During the two weeks of waiting for our high risk appointment, I began to wrestle with what God was doing. Did He let this happen? Why did He not form my baby “perfectly”? It was a time filled with doubts, tears, and pleading with the Lord to save our baby boy.
When we went to our high risk appointment and the sonogram started, I knew it was worst case scenario. The picture on the screen was unrecognizable. I could make out the head of our baby, but the rest was messy. I closed my eyes and silently cried. I couldn’t look for a second longer. At the end of the sonogram the doctor described our baby’s condition in simple terms. The abdominal wall – from the shoulders to the hips – had closed around the placenta and was now attached to it, along with all of the organs. Not compatible with life.
Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” We were brokenhearted. We were crushed. We would never bring this baby home and our oldest son, Tate, would never know his brother. We were entering into a season of waiting for a known outcome for an unknown length of time. It also happened to coincide with the holiday season. Everyone around us was joyful and anticipating Christmas. I was reluctantly putting my best face forward to try and do the same. For the first time, while listening to Christmas music, the words of O Holy Night struck me as if I was listening for the first time. “The weary world rejoicing…” The words resonated deep within my weary soul. A reminder that I could still rejoice, still have hope. God was close in the midst of our sadness. A small part of me felt connected in a new way to the Lord. Both of us with sons. I would have never chosen death for Jack, but God had sent His only Son to die so that we could be saved.
For 14 weeks we went to weekly appointments to check on Jack. Those appointments consisted of checking on Jack’s growth, my fluid levels, and if he still had a heart beat. As I drove away from each appointment I could envision the words of Chris Tomlin’s song, Good Good Father, “as you call me deeper still…” God was calling us deeper into this trial. Deeper into the pain. Deeper into trust. Deeper into faith.
Once Jack started kicking, the cruelty of the situation made every moment tougher. I was feeling my son kick inside of me, but I would never get to bring him home. The kicks were my favorite part of my first pregnancy, but this time it was just another reminder of our current reality. I had been a Christian for close to 20 years, but this was the first time I felt truly dependent on the Lord. I would wake up praying and fall asleep crying out to God. Lamentations 3:22-24 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion’ says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” People would tell me they didn’t know how I was “doing it.” I wasn’t – God was. He truly was my strength and my portion every day.
I daily had to surrender my doubts and fears and decide if what I said I believed as a Christian was what I was going to actually believe. I felt an immense pressure to ‘suffer well’. My family, friends, and coworkers knew I loved Jesus. If I questioned God, wasn’t thankful for this trail because it gave us our second baby, Jack, or just couldn’t muster the strength to be a witness of God’s purpose in trials – what would they think? I was comforted by the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26:39 & 42 say, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’…He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’” Jesus cried and yelled out, just as I was doing, but He also prayed that if the cup would not pass, that He would be obedient in drinking it. And so we continued on, knowing that it was okay to be sad and hurt, but with the desire for God to prepare our hearts for what was ahead.
On January 12th at 12:45am, Jack was born into Heaven. The following hours we got to be with Jack were mostly peaceful, but as the sun rose and we knew our time with him was ending – it was gut wrenching. I had not thought about what it would be like to give my child’s earthly body to another person – never to see it again. In God’s great mercy, the nurse was the same nurse that had helped us deliver our first son. The comfort of knowing her made it possible. God is always in the details. He cares so deeply for us, even in the painful situations He has allowed in our lives.
Almost immediately after we had received the diagnosis, Andrew and I felt God giving us such peace in knowing Jack would be in Heaven. I had never really thought much about Heaven before or studied it in scripture, but during that season I could not enough. As a believer, how could I be sad that my son was going to experience a glorious eternity with Jesus? God helped me to realize that Jack was never going to have to experience this sinful world and would only know the joy of Heaven. What a wonderful life! In the end, Jack got Heaven and through his short life we got more of Jesus.
Because of Jack, truths that I once simply knew, I now believe. I believe that Jesus and eternity in Heaven are far greater than any person or thing on this earth. I know that trials and suffering are promised in this sinful world and believe that God allows it for our ultimate good and His glory. I believe He is good and will meet you in the depths of sorrow. I believe that God is always faithful – He was faithful to our prayers for more children in giving us Jack and was faithful in giving us our third son, Nixon, in April of 2017.
I have realized that all three of our sons do not belong to Andrew and me. They are God’s and we are thankful to have them entrusted to us for however long He has planned. We look forward with great anticipation to all being with Jack in Heaven one day. Until then we will continue to bring glory to God though the story of his life. As it says in Isaiah 61:3, “He has crowned us with beauty instead of ashes, given us joy in place of mourning, made us praise and not despair.”