Have these stories encouraged you? I know they have been a blessing to my heart. These dear ladies have been such an inspiration to me.
Next up is Rebecca. She is mom to two sweet little boys and one special little baby girl in heaven. Grab some tissues, because her story will touch your heart - Rejoicing in the Present
On that day in April 2011, at our 20-week appointment, my husband and I were told we were having a little girl. We were overjoyed. I had secretly wanted a girl even though my husband was hoping for a boy. I lay on the table watching the ultrasound with a strange feeling. As a registered nurse, I knew there was something not quite right about the shape of the baby’s head. I stared and stared but said nothing, not wanting to verbalize the worst and bring it into reality. Then the doctor came in to speak with us. He very solemnly told us that it appeared our baby had anencephaly. He explained the diagnosis and I wept. My husband sat in stunned silence. We would be sent to a specialist in two days for confirmation.
Why would an educated, happily married, Christian couple receive a terminally-ill baby from God?
What should we do with a 20-week pre-born baby that is sure to die shortly after delivery?
How would we survive losing our first child?
We had many decisions to make. We were told that because of the diagnosis, we could terminate the pregnancy at any time. But because of being 20 weeks along I would have to be induced and deliver. We could also choose to keep the baby and deliver naturally later. The pregnancy was no danger to me. Those were our options. End "it" now or later.
“It” was my child. “It” was my daughter. “It” was my first pregnancy and the idea of the perfect little life of love, marriage, and baby.
I knew that this is where the rubber met the road. I had grown up in a Christian home. I trusted Christ as my personal Savior at five years of age. I strongly believed that life begins at conception and that the only giver and taker of life is God.
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee…” (Jeremiah 1:5).
“The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).
We could terminate the pregnancy at any time, terminate our baby. Who would fault us? She was incompatible with life! She did not have enough brain matter to function at all and she would not ever grow a brain. Why continue a pregnancy for four more months when we knew the outcome of death could not be changed?
So we prayed.
We talked to our pastor. We considered everything we thought we knew. We looked in our Bibles. Who had ever gone through this? What would the patriarchs/matriarchs of the Bible do? I considered Hannah. Hannah wanted children desperately and wept on the altar so feverishly that Eli thought she was drunk (1 Samuel 1). Hannah vowed that if God would give her a son that she would give him back to God.
Then I considered Jochebed the mother of Moses. She was faced with a heartbreaking decision. Her son’s life was endangered because of Pharaoh wanting to kill all the Hebrew sons. She hid her baby for three months and, when she could no longer hide him, she put him in a basket, sent it down the river, and trusted God. Can you imagine?
David’s child was taken because of sin. No fault of the child, but still taken. David wept, prayed, fasted, and repented, but to no avail. On the seventh day the child died (1 Samuel 12). Then there is Job. All of Job’s children were taken in a testing not like anyone has every seen. Job was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” ( Job 1:1). Job had not sinned. Job was not being punished but still lost all of his children and household.
Whether by sin or no sin, these individuals all had heartache. They all suffered in some way. But the common thread was that they ultimately trusted God. They sought God and allowed him to work in and through their lives. They trusted God and did not curse God or rage against him demanding answers or changes in their outcomes.
Job realized that everything that he had was from God and therefore was God’s to do with as God wished. Job 1:21 reads, “And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”
What did this mean practically?
We would keep the baby until God was ready for her.
We would walk through the valley of the shadow of death and trust God to walk with us, which meant four months of carrying a baby that we would bury unless God intervened in a miraculous way.
We would trust that God knew what he was doing and that, even if we never knew why, we would still trust God.
I would enjoy my pregnancy. I would see my belly move and jump and feel the life inside me. I would remain a Christian even through heartache.
Easier said than done, right?
I went through many changes once I received the diagnosis. I had been a registered nurse in a cardiac step-down unit for three and a half years. I was a charge nurse, a preceptor, on a hospital-wide committee, on our unit council, in a national nursing organization’s local chapter, working full- time, and finishing my Bachelor’s in Nursing part-time. I was over-extended and exhausted. Not to mention, I was pregnant and having nausea and frequent migraines, accompanied by significant shortness of breath. Before the diagnosis I felt like I was just being weak. Maybe I just needed to pull myself together and try harder. But after realizing I did not have a normal pregnancy, I dropped nearly everything. I changed floors to a less physically strenuous area of the hospital. I went part time, dropped out of committees and organizations, and basically cut all extracurricular activities to focus on my marriage, my health, and my spiritual/emotional well being.
Everyone I knew was dumbfounded.
It was so surreal.
I felt like God had set me up.
I had been named nurse of the year for my hospital the year before and, because of this, I was chosen to be part of the “Silent Hospitals Help Healing” campaign. I had life-sized cardboard cutouts all over the hospital reminding people to be quiet. Everyone knew who I was and would “shhh” me as I passed. What had been an honor and a comical reason to tease me became an opening for asking about my pregnancy. Everyone wanted to know “How are you?” “How’s the pregnancy?” “Are you having a boy or girl?” “What will you name her?” “Have you to set up the nursery yet?”
"No, I had not set up a nursery. We were planning a funeral."
All the while, I wanted to be like Job and not charge God foolishly. I truly felt as though I was “surround by a great cloud of witnesses” whether they were earthly or heavenly (Heb. 12:1).
Carrying Hannah, knowing we could not keep her, was the most difficult experiences of my entire life. I wept and wept some more. I wept in the car. I wept in the shower. I wept in the med room at work. I wept with patients. I wept with coworkers. I wept with friends and family. I wept while cleaning the house. When I was busy with work or study I could block out the pain. But as soon as I was still, it returned. It was like having a major injury and trying not to look at it or feel it. No matter what I did, I still had a knife in my gut.
I was comforted by the knowledge that my Savior knew my pain. I quoted to myself Isaiah where it says that Christ was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief". I was not alone.
I meditated on God’s word. I reminded myself of God’s promises! “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).
My mantra was “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee” (Psalm 56:3).
I was very afraid. What if I could not keep it together? What if I had a nervous breakdown? What if childbirth was terrible? What if I lost faith? What if I was emotionally and mentally damaged forever? What if I couldn’t ever have kids again and this was my only child? What if I’m a poor testimony? What if God’s grace is not sufficient? What if joy does not come in the morning? What if the baby lives but with severe birth defects and disabilities? What if my marriage falls apart because we can’t get past the grief? What if………… What time I am afraid, I will trust God.
We took it one day at a time, one moment at a time.
We turned to God and each other instead of away.
We asked God for strength.
When the time came to deliver Hannah I had peace that we had done what God would have us to do. I never felt more confident that I had done the right thing than when I carried Hannah. I had comfort that we would see her again.
We spent the night in the hospital for a scheduled induction. I had hoped that Hannah would make her arrival spontaneously and not leave the decision up to us. But, at 42.5 weeks gestation, it was painfully obvious that she was very comfortable where she was. I had a hard time going to the hospital. Up until this point Hannah had been very much alive. Kicking, squirming, hiccups… but going to the hospital felt like issuing a death sentence. All of the frightening Google searches lay heavy in my mind. But I purposed to do what must be done. "For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed." (Isaiah 50:7)
The delivery was physically difficult. Due to the unnatural shape of Hannah’s head and shoulder dystocia, delivering my 6 lb. 13 oz. baby girl was much harder than I expected. But I got through it and they laid Hannah on my chest.
She was beautiful. Perfect in every way but one. I thought she had already passed. She was still and lifeless. I did the only thing I knew to do. I hugged and rubbed her and told her how much we loved her and would miss her. I repeated over and over, “Hannah, we love you, sweet girl. We love you so much!”
After a few moments, she gave us her only indication of life--one small baby cry. That was all. It was more than I had expected. She was gone. It was over and the grieving could begin.
It may sound harsh but God answered my prayer to take her. At no time in the process had I wanted Hannah to linger on machines for my comfort. My desire was to give her the best home in my womb and then when it came time, to usher her to heaven with as much love as we could muster and as painlessly as possible. God granted me my prayer.
Her funeral was beautiful and a tribute to her life and its impact on us. It was a declaration of her value as a person. There wasn’t a dry eye and my pastor did a wonderful job. We wrote a letter to Hannah that was read. The letter was our final farewell. We had the song “Blessings” by Laura Story played because, indeed, Hannah Faith was a blessing. We gave our daughter back to God just as Hannah did with Samuel and we had faith that God’s will had been done in our lives and hers.
COME BACK TOMORROW for Rebecca's final word about her journey.