Stillbirth | Real Life Stories
The Purple Box
By Kimberly Malik
A little purple box rests on the top shelf of my closet. Inside are all the physical memories of two unborn babies we loved and lost before we ever had a chance to know them. I seldom open it, reluctant to revisit the traumatic memories of the losses in our family.
My husband, Todd, and I are the proud parents of a wonderful little boy named Austin. He is our special gift from God. My first pregnancy with him went well except for some “funny,” unexplained lab results and the development of pre-eclampsia during delivery. Austin is such a joy! We had never dreamed having a child of our own could be so wonderful. We looked forward to adding more children to our family—hoping to have at least three little ones to fill our home. But our plans and God’s plans were not the same.
When Austin was two, we decided the time was right to try for another baby. I was really enjoying every bit of Austin’s toddler years and was rather disappointed when I began to battle nausea and morning sickness (or afternoon and evening sickness in my case). I spent endless afternoons in a nauseous stupor – hugging the couch with a very active 2 year-old racing all around.
Although I thought things were going normally with this pregnancy, I began to bleed. Of course it was late on a Friday afternoon and my doctor was not “on call” that weekend. I was in my eleventh week and looking forward to getting past the nausea. The doctor “on call” advised me to maintain my normal activities and wait to see what happened. I was strolling through the mall when I felt and heard a snap inside my body. Suddenly, I could barely walk and it took real effort to get home. This time the doctor told me that if a miscarriage was in progress, there was nothing that could be done to stop it. “Call me,” he said, “if things change. If you are experiencing a miscarriage, you will start having serious cramps—labor pains to be exact.” At 2 a.m. I was jolted awake with the onslaught of labor. By the time I reached the hospital, I had delivered most of the baby’s tissue. A routine D&C was performed, and we returned home subdued.
My predominant feeling from the miscarriage was not sadness, but regret. I regretted not being enthusiastic about this pregnancy and thought God may be punishing me for wishing I hadn’t become pregnant so quickly. Up until this time I was not aware of how many pregnancies end in miscarriage. My doctor said one in five pregnancies ended this way which did not account for early miscarriages that go unreported or undocumented. Very quickly I learned of miscarriages that many of my friends had experienced. God used the experiences of others to comfort me, and I soon realized that the loss of my child was not punishment from God, but rather a common experience in life. My spirits lifted and life continued on.
Six months later, I was pregnant again. I still had a very active 2 year-old, but this time I felt more up to the challenge of dealing with another pregnancy. Six weeks into it, the all too familiar nausea sidelined me every afternoon and evening. We were blessed by our neighbor, Donna, who supplied us with homemade rolls, delicious chicken soup, and all manner of tender love and care. The nausea seemed less severe and also seemed to end a couple of weeks sooner than it had previously. I was delighted to actually feel well!
Since our church was planning its Christmas program, I agreed to sing a solo. Excited to feel normal again, I began to prepare to sing “Jesu Bambino.” Since I was feeling so much better, we even decided to make a trip to my parent’s home in Alabama for Thanksgiving. On our return home after a lovely weekend, I became violently ill. Ugh! I had hoped I was over all the sickness! However, this time something was different. Besides the violent nausea, a sharp pain streaked across my upper abdomen like I was being sliced with a knife.
Monday, at the doctor’s office there was no explanation for my condition. By that evening, I was still experiencing severe vomiting and spent several hours on I.V. fluids in the emergency room.
When the pain intensified the next morning, I went for an ultrasound on my gallbladder. The pain came in waves and brought me to my knees in the doctor’s office so I could rest my head in the seat of a chair. This pain was definitely beyond anything I’d experienced in the past. A kindhearted ultrasound technician let us take a peek at our unborn baby. It was our first glimpse of him. He seemed to be doing well ….. moving all around. We went home reassured that the baby was fine, even if I wasn’t.
By Wednesday, the pain was worse and lasted for longer periods of time. In a continued effort to find out what was wrong with me, I ended up in the office of a gastroenterologist. He was quite sympathetic, but stymied by the cause of such unusual pain. His best guess was that the continuing violent vomiting had caused a tear in my esophagus. Since I was pregnant and responding to Tylenol, the doctors were hesitant to use x-rays, MRIs, or other procedures that may be harmful to the baby.
The pain worsened, and for lack of better terminology, I described it as being in a “death grip.” My only way of coping was to let my mind drift, almost like being in a trance. I was physically conscious, but mentally disengaged from my body. Fortunately, the Tylenol provided a few hours’ respite from the pain and an hour or two of much needed sleep. Reluctantly, I cancelled my solo in the Christmas program. The prayers of my fellow choir members were an encouragement, and I attributed my pain-free hours to the prayers of my friends.
However, instead of getting better, I steadily got worse. The doctors were baffled, and I was beginning to go out of my mind with pain. By Friday, Tylenol had stopped working. I felt as though a huge set of pliers was clamped around my abdomen and back, squeezing the life out of me. I begged my doctor for something stronger to cut the pain. He prescribed another painkiller, but warned that taking too much would harm the baby.
My husband pulled a recliner chair into our bedroom so I could try to sleep sitting upright. I kept ice on my stomach and heat on my back, alternating them throughout the night. The pain was almost unbearable. I knew the prayers of a lot of people were going up for me. The words of the old hymn “God Will Take Care of You” wafted through my mind, and I focused on the admonition in I Peter 5:7 to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
Sleep proved elusive, so by Saturday morning, I had only managed to sleep a total of 3 or 4 hours over the past 3 days. “Enough is enough,” my husband said. We finally went back to the emergency room. As we walked through the parking lot, I commented to Todd that the final straw in this ordeal would be losing the baby. “The baby is fine,” he reassured me. “We need to get you well.”
By this time yet another doctor was called in—a gastric surgeon. He, too, was baffled. I was finally given Demerol in an i.v. and got a small measure of relief. The emergency room nurse said she heard the baby’s heartbeat, so things seemed to brighten. The Demerol did help me sleep a little, and I was wheeled up to the maternity floor.
The sounds of an Auburn basketball game playing on the television lulled me into a fitful sleep. The doctor on call from my OB’s office was diligently trying to figure out what was causing me such pain. The best she could do was rule out horrible possibilities, but was unable to pinpoint the cause of my unusual symptoms. I was grateful for a slight lessening of the pain and the chance to rest.
The evening wore on and a nurse came in to check my vital signs and check the baby’s heartbeat. I was dozing and Todd was watching the ball game. Her ultrasound stethoscope didn’t seem to be working and she couldn’t pick up the heartbeat. While she was there, the doctor came in to check on me. “Oh,” she said, “sometimes these stethoscopes lose their sensitivity and don’t work very well. I’ve got a brand new one; I’ll go get it from my office.” With that, I dozed off again. She returned with her new Doppler monitor and listened for the heartbeat. Nothing. Showing no alarm, she said she needed to get the portable ultrasound machine. The game droned on, and I continued to doze.
“ Come on baby ….. move,” the doctor said under her breath as she jiggled my stomach. My eyes flew open, the game announcer seemed really loud. “Come on baby ….. move,” she murmured again. Tears sprang to my eyes and slid down my face. “No!!!!! nothing can be wrong with my baby!!!!!” I screamed inside. An eternity went by. Todd was clutching my hand as we waited anxiously for the baby to move. Finally, the doctor hung her head, and I caught a glimpse of a tear rolling down her cheek. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m so very sorry.”
Todd and I clung to each other with tears streaming down our faces. My unexplained illness had been our focus all week and everyone had been concerned for me, assuming the baby was all right. We had just seen our baby moving on the ultrasound Tuesday! The E.R. nurse said she heard a heartbeat this morning! We certainly weren’t expecting this development! I was sixteen weeks pregnant! You weren’t supposed to lose babies in the second trimester! What was going on?! My parking lot prediction had nightmarishly come true!
All the pent-up emotions of the last week’s ordeal were unleashed, and I sobbed uncontrollably. Todd buried his head in my chest and wept with me over the loss of our baby and begged me not to die. An engineer by training and by temperament, my husband rarely shows his emotions, and I had certainly never seen him cry. In the midst of all the sorrow, it was comforting to know how deeply he shared this loss. He was really frightened that my life was in grave danger, and he might be faced with losing me as well. That, he said, would be more than he could bear.
The nightmare of the last week had suddenly gotten worse. The next 24 hours would be the most traumatic we had ever experienced. While we mourned the loss of our child, seven doctors were in conference trying to determine what had gone wrong and what was happening to me. The decision was made to do a CT scan first thing the next morning before delivering the baby. A morphine drip replaced the Demerol and the physical pain became more bearable, while the emotional pain had just begun. At church, someone else sang in my place, and the congregation prayed for me.
When a baby dies in utero at 16 weeks, it is too large to be evacuated from the womb via a D& C technique. Labor would be induced, and I would have to give birth to the baby. The process was nightmarish and began with amniocentesis. I lay shaking uncontrollably on a very narrow table, surrounded by two doctors and a room full of interns. I kept pressing the button on the morphine pump, but it seemed to barely help, and I found the needle plunging into my abdomen to be excruciating. I gripped Todd’s hand so tightly it made him wince. It was very difficult for him to be a bystander to such a scene and his heart broke over all the pain I had to endure.
To induce labor, I was hooked up to a Pitocin drip to start contractions and three seaweed sticks were inserted into my cervix to stimulate dilation. I thought I’d been in pain before, but this was agony I didn’t think I could bear. I was unable to pray or even think! Again, I was comforted by the knowledge that others were lifting me up to God.
It was shortly past noon, and the wait began for labor to start. With a fetus this size, the cervix only needed to dilate 3 centimeters for me to deliver. Still, we were told to expect 12 to 24 hours of labor. I began to doubt my ability to cope with such pain much longer. The morphine took the edge off, but did not come close to eradicating the pain.
A very caring nurse attended me while I was in labor and delivery. She gently explained the details of the birth and the need for an autopsy on the baby. She encouraged us to look at the baby because many people who didn’t often later regretted not seeing the child. She offered us a little purple box that contained a preemie gown and hat and some reading materials on pregnancy loss. She asked for permission to photograph the baby in the gown and include the pictures in our box. We agreed, glad to have a reminder of this precious little one. I don’t know if this nurse was a Christian or not, but she was a Godsend to me on that fateful day. She brought a sense of calm and practicality to painful chaos for which I was grateful.
Due to the intensity of the pain, I asked Todd to stop any visitors. It was Sunday afternoon, and I thought some of my friends might try to come up for a visit. My close friend, Joanne, did come but when Todd gave her an update, she left without seeing me. I normally love visiting with people, but the sadness and the blinding pain made me desire total seclusion. Todd informed the nurses that I did not wish to have any visitors, and he went down to the cafeteria for a Frosty.
I was in a fog and nearly delirious when I sensed the presence of someone entering the room. It was the choir director, Roger!!!! I could barely open my eyes, let alone carry on a conversation. His visit was necessarily short, and I was furious he’d slipped by the dragnet of nurses and had actually seen me in this state. Roger returned to the church badly shaken just before the Christmas program that evening. He asked the choir to pray earnestly for God to deliver me from this agony. The time was just before 6 p.m. Six hours had dragged on endlessly since the inducement began with no end in sight. Suddenly, my water broke, the pain subsided and I gave birth to our precious baby at 6:10 p.m. He resembled a baby, but looked more like a little alien. His rib cage had a gaping hole and his stomach hung out pitifully, adding more mystery to this unfortunate death. (The autopsy would later find no physiological abnormalities, so the baby’s condition at birth was attributed to the accelerated disintegration of fetal tissue upon death.)
As we gazed at the child God had given and taken so abruptly, I was reminded of Psalm 139:16 which says, “Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me.” We were comforted by the knowledge that this child had lived out the days God had planned for him. We were terribly saddened that we would not get the chance to know him in this life, but we were able to look forward to seeing him in Heaven some day.
Although still unexplained, the pain nearly vanished upon delivery of the baby. Now I was overwhelmed with the feeling of intense grief. I was still on the maternity floor, isolated at the end of the hall with a special symbol on the door that indicated a pregnancy loss. Once I tried to venture down the hall to show my son the newborn nursery but fled back to my room in tears. The Christmas carols piped in over the speaker system and the happy faces of new parents were more than I could stand. Why, why, why did this happen to me?
On the way home from the hospital a few days later, we stopped by K-Mart to pick up a few decorations for Christmas. It was early December, and I was determined to try to have a festive spirit for Austin. Friends were wonderful that week and kept us supplied with love and hot meals. Some friends however, stayed away. “We didn’t know what to say,” was the excuse when I finally ran into them at the store or in church. A simple, “we’re praying for you” or “I’m sorry” would have meant the world to me.
My loss was overwhelming. Everyone, including Todd seemed to be getting over it, but I spent hours crying. I felt alone in my overwhelming grief. I finally stumbled upon Deuteronomy 31:6 — “Be strong and of good courage … for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you.” Psalm 34:18 also brought comfort, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God used the wise counsel of my mother to assure me my babies were in heaven with Him and that I’d see them someday.
Two weeks later—two days before Christmas, I was admitted to the hospital again, having suffered a pulmonary embolism. Blood clots had hit my lungs and had incapacitated a third of my left lung. Older damage to my right lung indicated I had suffered a previous embolism at the miscarriage two weeks before. The severe pain returned and was diagnosed as pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining of the lungs. The doctor told me pleuritic pain was one of the most severe pains you can endure, second only to pain from a heart attack. Finally, a cause for all the suffering had been determined.
Struggling to breathe because of the pain, I thought I would not live through the night. On the back of my church bulletin I jotted down some songs and scriptures for my funeral and tucked it into my Bible. I was convinced it was my time to die. It is amazing how many comforting verses came to my mind throughout the night. I flipped through my Bible and found Isaiah 43:1-3. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior ….” Exhausted, I asked God for calmness and for desperately needed rest. I found it in Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for Thou alone, O Lord, dost make me to dwell in safety.” If this is what it’s like to die, I thought, it’s okay.—I’m not afraid. The burden of worry lifted off my shoulders, and I finally went to sleep!
This was both the worst and the best Christmas I’ve ever experienced. The worst, for obvious reasons, but the best because I was totally incapable of getting caught up in the preparations and hectic trappings of modern-day Christmas. For the first time in my life, the true meaning of Christmas became crystal clear. God’s Son was born in a cold, smelly stable. There was no hospital, no newborn nursery, no attending physician, and no pain relief. A relieved husband kept watch over a tired mother with her child, and cows and sheep snored softly through the night.
A bright star hung over the stable, signaling the long-awaited Messiah had been born. As I lay in bed, I listened to the sweet, haunting lyrics of one of my favorite Christmas songs, The Star. “And the light, shining from that star will show you who you are. And His light, shining with its might will lead you through your darkest night.” God had been faithful; He led me through that dark, fearful night.
Those were very sad days, but God was nearer to me than He has ever been. I know God is in control of my life, and He knows the number of my days, just as He had numbered the days for each of our babies. (Psalm 139:16) In March 1998, we placed roses on the altar of our church in memory of our little ones. After Roger, the choir director, said a few words of tribute in remembrance of our babies, a good friend sang the following song in tribute to our faith in God’s perfect plan for us and His abiding love.
In Heavenly Love Abiding
In heavenly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here:
The storms may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?
Wherever He may guide me,
No want shall turn me back;
My shepherd is beside me,
And nothing can I lack:
His wisdom ever waketh,
His sight is never dim;
He knows the way He taketh,
And I will walk with Him.
Green pastures are before me,
Which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me,
Where darkest clouds have been;
My life I cannot measure,
The gift of life is free;
My Savior has my treasure,
And He will walk with me.
Text: Anna L. Waring
From Mendelssohn’s “On Wings of Song”
The little purple box still sits on the shelf. Pictures of our little alien-looking creature dressed in a baby’s gown share space with the dried flowers from the memorial service. A taped recording of the service is there along with notes sent from well-wishing friends. Austin often wonders what his brother and other sibling would have looked like and what room they would have slept in had they lived. Someday, when he is older, I will show him the box and its contents; but for now, we rejoice in the hope we have in Christ that our babies are in heaven with Him and we will meet them someday. I still grieve for my babies, especially when I see families with lots of children and a new babe in arms. However, God is faithful and has restored my joy in life and given me peace that His plans for our family are perfect and we are complete, for now.
(Story taken from new miscarriage book due out late 2004. Watch our web site for details.)
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God’s Amazing Love for Me
by Stephanie Greer
I grew up in a home where we went to church every Sunday. My father was a pastor, so we were expected to behave and make him look good. Yet he lived one way at church and quite another at home. He was filled with a lot of anger that he took out on my mother, my siblings and me in the form of verbal abuse. The churches I grew up in were very legalistic so my picture of God was distorted at an early age. The sermons I heard seemed to be filled with hell, fire, and brimstone. I was told that I accepted the Lord as my Savior at age 5, but I’m sure that this was more from fear than a true understanding of what I was doing. So at the age of 12, I do remember asking the Lord into my heart. Because of being inundated with legalism, I struggled early on with how long I should be reading my Bible and praying. I tried so hard to do everything perfect. I even prayed before I played with my sister just asking God that I would “play perfect.”
Life, however, wasn’t perfect. My parents ended up divorcing when I was fifteen. It was a very unsettling time for my family, especially when we were uprooted and everything I had always known was gone. My mom could not afford to keep sending us to private school and so I went to public school for the first time in the 11th grade. I definitely did not go the way of many teenagers in high school so in my mind I was still trying to be perfect. That was the only way I thought I could please God. I did try to walk with God and I stayed active in my church youth group.
When I went away to college, it was much more of a struggle in many ways to maintain my relationship with Jesus. I still did go to church and I joined the Baptist Student Union so that I could be around like-minded people. I met my husband in college and two weeks after we graduated, we were married.
Unfortunately, I carried a lot of baggage from my past into our marriage and Jeff and I quickly found us in a marriage that was struggling. I distanced myself from him and not even two years after we said our vows, I stepped out of our marriage and was unfaithful to my husband. It wasn’t until a year later that I confessed my sin to my husband. He was so willing to forgive me, but my own guilt drove me away and so I walked away from him for six months. During that whole time, I know that the Holy Spirit was convicting me of my sin. I could barely stand who I was because my sin was so vile. I did ask God to forgive me and then I did make things right with my husband. He is the best human example that I have of what Christ’s forgiveness and mercy truly looks like. My dear husband has never once used what I did against me. He truly forgave me and showered me with a love that I didn’t feel that I deserved.
Our marriage seemed to only be so much better after that. We conceived after five years of marriage. However, I miscarried. That was a very difficult and lonely time especially in light of my sin. I just knew that God had to be punishing me for what I had done in my past. Nine months after that, I became pregnant once more and found out that it was twins. The pregnancy was high risk and I was put on bed-rest at 24 weeks. I was in and out of the hospital because of high blood pressure and at 32 weeks, the twins were delivered. They had to spend five very long weeks in the NICU. I blamed myself once more and almost couldn’t live with the thought that something might happen to my children and it would be my fault. I was still living with a much skewed vision of who God was and so I unfortunately thought He was out to get me.
The very early years of the twins’ life were pretty difficult. I was homebound much of the time and despaired because of the loneliness and isolation. The kids were not even one when I started realizing that there were problems developing with Jocelyn. She stayed fussy for long periods of time. She would sit and cry and often beat her head against the wall or floor. She would wake up in the middle of the night 7-10 times at night just screaming. I tried to get help from early intervention, but no one seemed to know what was wrong. She was tested for autism, but at the time the therapists did not feel like that was her issue. I just felt like I was a terrible mother and often just cried right along with her.
Of course, I had to be James’ mother too which seemed so difficult at times. I didn’t know how to meet both their needs. The image of the perfect mother was ingrained in my head and I daily battled with this image because I wasn’t living up to it. Rather than allowing God’s grace to be sufficient, I was still trying to go on my own strength. I struggled with depression and even thoughts of suicide. My husband knew I was hurting and was so compassionate towards me, but often he didn’t know what to do either. I regret now not knowing and clinging to the truth. I allowed the lies to penetrate me believing that my children would be much better without me or that I needed to get out of the house and go back to work to regain my sanity. I know that God was still with me during these times. I cried out to Him often, but I felt like I was in such a deep valley.
When the kids were 3 ½, we moved to Charlotte from Asheville, NC. It is such a blessing now to see how God was working in our lives through this move. It wasn’t long after we moved that I found out I was pregnant again. At the time, this was not good news. My husband and I did not want any more children because of the complications with the twins’ birth. I also thought another child would just add to the burdens I already had. Praise the Lord that He knew better.
We found out at 11 weeks that our precious baby had a very slim chance of survival. Even though my doctor told me that abortion was an option, it was not at all something that Jeff and I considered. As the pregnancy continued, more complications developed with our son Samuel. My husband again was so good to me even in the midst of me being so cruel and unfair to him. I blamed him for what was going on which was so wrong. Samuel’s condition continued to deteriorate. He started developing fluid around his organs and the doctors told us that nothing could be done…he would not live. At 27 weeks, my blood pressure started going back up, and so I was induced. Samuel was born into heaven on June 25th, 2007.
The grief and guilt again quickly consumed me. How could I not have wanted this baby? Once again, I started blaming myself and I was so burdened with what had happened. The night Samuel died; the nurses had brought a box with a beautiful white gown and bonnet inside. It took some time, but I decided to send off for some material from Caleb Ministries who had provided the memory box. Sandy Day contacted me and told me that the Bible study “Learning through Loss” was going to be starting soon. I know that as a result of God’s transforming power through this study that my life will never be the same again. My questions changed from “Why did this happen to me?” to “How can I glorify God in this?” My guilt and shame started melting away. I started recognizing that if I was going to say that I trusted God, it had to be in everything. I couldn’t just grant Him sovereignty in certain areas of my life. I also realized that I had to make things right with my husband. After confessing my sin to the Lord, I sought my husband’s forgiveness for the way that I dishonored him. He again was so gracious and so forgiving.
After growing so much in “Learning through Loss” I thought my Christian walk would be so much easier. However, in May of this year, after a long period of struggling with other sins including a destructive thought life, I called Sandy seeking further counsel. She was very willing to help, and even though I was quite apprehensive, it was such a blessing. Over a period of three months, God showed me that my perfectionism and “self-esteem” issues were actually just a manifestation of pride in my life. I started replacing my old ways of thinking by renewing my thoughts with God’s Word. I gained such a clearer picture of repentance and forgiveness and I recognized that I could not just “put off” the old, I also had to “put on” the new. “Putting on the new” has only been possible by being in the Scriptures. I have recognized the absolute necessity of hiding God’s Word in my heart. Now it is not because I feel I have to or I will suffer God’s wrath, but because I want too…because I love my Lord. I want my mind to be renewed and transformed and I want to have the right view of God. Sandy’s passion and love for the Lord and His Word was and is so contagious. I want other people to see that in me as well…that during good times and bad that I truly believe I serve a God that is big enough to handle any circumstance.
I want to be like David who wrote in Psalm 1 that he delighted in the law of the Lord and meditated on it day and night. In that same Psalm, he goes on to paint a picture of a tree that is firmly planted beside the waters. I want to be that tree soaking in everything I can from God’s Word so that I can be the wife and mother I have been called to be.
I continue to be involved in Caleb Ministries delivering the P.A.T. boxes to local hospitals as well as leading the Learning through Loss Bible study. What a precious gift it is to see other women’s hearts being transformed by the truth of God’s Word. God is still conforming me but I recognize that each and every thing He allows in my life is for a good purpose. I wouldn’t be able to minister to others if I didn’t believe that for myself.
I want to leave you with two of my favorite Scriptures. The first is Lamentations 3:21-25 which says:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him…”
I have found that there is so much more joy and peace in my life when I wait on the Lord. Because I desire for Him to be my portion, I want to say with the Psalmist in Psalm 73:25 “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” I pray that the Lord Jesus will be your consuming heart’s desire and your portion. I also pray that you will submit to His plan for your lives and allow Him to use your lives for His glory.
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FAITHFULNESS THROUGH THE VALLEY
by Karen Shue
After sharing three years together as husband and wife, Ron and I decided it was time for our family to grow. Late one evening after some friends left, I described my symptoms to Ron. He suggested that I take a pregnancy test. Since I just happened to have one on hand, I immediately took his advice. It was positive! We were hesitant about getting too excited because we didn’t know if a store-bought test was really accurate. At midnight we headed to the hospital for a blood test. The result confirmed that we were going to be new parents. We were ecstatic! In our excitement we called friends right away to tell them the news. Somehow, I don’t think it was quite as exciting to them at one o’clock in the morning.
As the months went by and I felt this precious gift growing inside me, I found myself falling in love with each gentle kick and movement. The nursery was beginning to come together. Showers were being planned, and grandparents were anxiously waiting to get their hands on this new little bundle.
One Friday during my seventh month, Ron took me in for a check-up. When my doctor began doing an ultrasound, he seemed puzzled by what he saw. Trying not to alarm me unnecessarily, he said he was unable to see everything he needed to see. He suggested that I go to another doctor with better equipment. After we left the doctor’s office I cried a little. Then I decided not to spend the weekend worrying, since I knew God was in control.
On Monday, Ron and my mother went with me to the hospital. We laughed and joked with the nurses about wanting to know the sex, but as they scanned our baby, the countenance on their faces changed. They became serious, realizing that something was definitely wrong. When the doctor came in and began looking, it didn’t take him long to assess what the future held for us. He observed abnormalities in the way the brain was developing. He told us that he could not give us any hope because medically there was no possibility of the baby surviving. While he was talking to us I thought, “Medically our baby may not have a chance, but you don’t know what our God can do. We serve a faithful God and His Word says nothing is impossible with Him’
When Ron and I got home we prayed together about our situation. We prayed first for God to heal our baby, knowing that He was able. Even more we prayed for His perfect will to be done in our lives. We were willing to accept whatever that might be – that our only hope Was to trust Him and serve Him no matter what. We realized that our only hope was to trust the Lord. We had to believe His Word and put our faith in Him. Otherwise, we would have had no hope at all.
I don’t mean to imply that we were towers of strength, because we were not, by any means. We cried, and we hurt deeply, but the Lord did give us an inner strength and peace about our situation. In our humanness, we could not go through this pain and trauma, but God had chosen and entrusted us with this suffering so that we could somehow be used to glorify him.
As family and friends heard the news, the Lord began using our baby to change people’s lives. Opportunities opened up for us to speak the name of Jesus and tell of His faithfulness to those whom we might not otherwise have been able to reach. Ron was able to share with many customers about the Lord. One of them became outraged at God and even cursed His name when Ron told him what was happening in our lives. He was suffering from a crippling disease himself and could not understand how God, if He did exist, could let something like this happen! Ron explained to him that God is God. We don’t always understand His will for us, but our understanding does not change His sovereignty. We must trust Him wherever we find ourselves.
Another friend, deeply involved with drugs, had just had a healthy baby. She could not understand why something bad like this would happen to such “good” people. But God would not have gotten any glory if it had happened to someone “bad.”
Our God-given strength was not always supernatural. It often took the form of friends and relatives who stood by us through it all. Several of our church friends got together on Saturday mornings to pray for us. I’m sure it pleases God when His people gather together in His name to pray for a special need. It says to Him that we trust Him and believe that He is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we think” (Ephesians 3: 20). He is right there and all we have to do is call on Him.
A few weeks later we went back to the doctor for another ultrasound. We just knew that when the doctor looked at our baby again it would be normal. After all the prayers that went up for this child and the peace the Lord had given us, we were sure that God had healed our baby and the doctors would be totally amazed. Instead we got more bad news. He found a heart defect and some other abnormalities. An amniocentesis revealed a chromosome imbalance called Trisome 13. Again we were heart broken with the reality that it may not be God’s will for our baby to live. The thought of not holding a baby in our arms, or hearing it cry, or knowing the joy of watching it grow up seemed unbearable. As much as we wanted God’s will to be done, we also wanted our baby. To think of not having one hurt more than anyone can imagine. While Ron and I were holding each other and crying, it dawned on us that this must be how our Heavenly Father hurts when His children are separated from Him by sin. He suffers the same hurt for each of us when we reject Him and turn our backs on Him.
Six weeks after we learned of our baby’s problems, I went into labor. When we got to the hospital the doctor did an ultrasound but was unable to find a heartbeat. I still believed that the Lord was going to come through for us and our baby would be fine. That afternoon Ashley Lynn was born. Despite all the doctors and nurses in the room, there was total silence. I kept waiting to hear our baby cry, but she never did. Without a word spoken, Ron and I just held each other and cried. We felt empty, as if our hearts had been torn out. One of the nurses asked if we would like to hold our baby. I reluctantly agreed, but my emotions were in such turmoil I only held her for a few moments and then anxiously gave her back.
Family and friends began coming by to offer comfort. It was hard to receive them because I’d always tried to be so strong. I didn’t want them seeing me at the weakest moment in my life! Yet they loved us and cared for us so much
that they wanted to be there to share our burden.. They were hurting with us. A couple of friends even sneaked a puppy into the hospital. They had searched all day to find just the right one. When I saw the puppy with the pink bow in its hair I thought, “There is no way a dog is going to replace my baby.” I later realized that I needed that little puppy to nurture and care for since I did not have a baby to hold and love.
Later that evening after things had calmed down, one of the nurses came and very gently began talking with me about my baby. She shared with me the importance of holding her, taking pictures and anything else I felt comfortable with. Although it sounded strange at first, I began to realize I
needed to do it so I could fully accept what had happened. I felt a desire to hold by baby, and I knew I would regret not spending any time with her. They brought Ashley to me all bundled up. As I held her, Ron was right there holding me. We spent a long time with her. When I asked Ron to call the nurse to come get her, he looked at me so brokenhearted and asked if he could hold her. I did not realize that he was hurting and needed to hold Ashley too.
The next morning as we arrived home I felt weak and desolate. It didn’t seem right to come home with empty arms. I had never felt pain the way I felt then. I thought I could not make it from one day to the next, but each day the Lord gave me the strength that I needed for the day. Some days were worse than others. There were times when my emotions were triggered by slight provocations, which normally would not have affected me. I know I could never have made it through all the hurt and pain without the Lord. He was strong when I was weak.
Even though things did not turn out as we had wanted, the Lord was faithful through it all. He has given us the hope of seeing Ashley again one day. As hard as it is to say, I would not change a thing that has happened because I know its purpose is to bring glory to God and touch people’s lives for His kingdom.
My story does not end here. Remember, God is faithful! Less than a year after Ashley’s death God blessed us with a fine, healthy son. He is the joy of our lives. But we have not forgotten Ashley, and we never will. We thank God for the special gift she has been in our lives.
This is a letter I received after Ashley’s death from my sister:
I have written this letter in my mind several times just waiting for the right time to be able to sit down and put it on paper. I have been thinking about you and Ron so often and I pray for you both always. I see Jesus Christ in your life and I have seen Him working and being glorified these past few weeks. I saw Him in your wonderful friends and the love they have for you and each other. I felt so close to Him at the memorial service in the beautiful music and Loran’s words that my tears were out of love for Him because I know He loves me and I know He loves you. When all of this first started a few weeks ago, our church circles were starting a Bible study on I Peter and the title is A Faith More Precious Than Gold.” That is what has been going through my mind all this time and I have shared it with many people that our faith is our most important possession – nothing else really matters in comparison. We don’t know what each day will bring but our faith is what will carry us through. This is what I have seen in your life and it has made a lasting impact on mine. Well, anyway, the night of the memorial service I was supposed to have my circle Bible study. I tried to put it together that Monday morning but I was so depressed Ijust couldn’t do it. We drove to your house and after spending time with you and seeing your faith in God and feeling the peace that the world cannot understand, I went home and the words flowed from my heart. I decided to tell them about you; to tell them I had witnessed a faith more precious than gold! It was hard to tell and I almost decided against it several times but God told me that someone there that night needed to hear it.
I thank God you are my sister in Christ and my sister by birth. I know as the years go by we will grow closer because of His wonderful love. Thank you for all that you have let Him teach me. You have blessed my life more than you will ever know.
I love you!
P.S. I haven’t forgotten that I owe you an egg custard pie!
(Taken from “Morning Will Come” book)
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Tips for Grieving Hearts:
Take a long walk in the sunshine.
Read some helpful books.
Cry freely-it is emotional release.
Write down all the things you have to be thankful for.
Exercise several times a week.
Eat healthy foods.
Take a mini-vacation for a change of atmosphere and rest.
Allow your friends to help you in the way they would like.