A year ago today was the beginning of the darkest journey I have travelled. A year ago today dreaming about my third son came to a halt and hope felt forever extinguished (it was not). I am forever changed by the process of getting to the cross in the midst of my blackest fear.
There were 3 midwives there that day; my main midwife and 2 of her assistants. After the usual chatter and urine tests, I was seated on the day bed with the 3 ladies gathered about me on the floor. My main midwife, Kelli, has some papers in her hand. She first started to tell me about my low-lying placenta. Ya ya ya, I saw it on the ultrasound screen, I’m not worried, moving on. I was thinking about picking up Thai food for lunch. Kelli then moved onto another issue from the ultrasound. I perked up and started to get a little tunnel vision. I heard “fibroid cysts in his frontal cortex” I heard “markers”, I heard “Trisomy 18″…
Thom should be here, Thom should be here, what are they talking about? Am I crying? My eyes are hot. I opened my eyes and I was sobbing. The 3 midwives were sitting around me on the daybed by that point, hugging me. But I didn’t want to be touched. My soul was breaking and I didn’t want anyone to brush the last fragments of it away, even in a hug.
I looked at Kelli and started damage control; trying to pull myself together so I could put my feet on the pavement and run. I needed to run. “I need you to tell me everything you just said again, I’m not sure I heard much.” Kelli was just the right person to tell me at that moment; she was clear and did not hold back the facts even in light of my emotion.
My son, Oliver…he has a name…had fibroid cysts in the frontal cortex of his brain. These cysts are potential markers for some chromosomal imbalances. Included in the list of imbalances were 3 different forms of Trisomy. The odds were in our favor, the odds were good. But we were now in the running against the odds. I was told IF he had Trisomy 18 and IF he lived, it’d only be for a few hours. A few hours. A few hours. He can be baptized if he has a few hours. My son, my covenant son will be baptized. I must go get things in order if he lives a few hours.
I raced through the rest of my appointment. I refused genetic testing and the appointment closed in more hugs and a pathetic smile attempt from me.
I started calling Thom as I turned the car on. I was slow and methodical; seemingly robotic. Driving down the winding road to the main road, I questioned if I should be driving. Hot tears again, I don’t know what I said, I don’t know what he said. I pulled over to compose myself.
In July of 2006 Thom and I had our “is it time to starting trying for a family talk?”. We were driving to Lowe’s, it was raining. We were excited in our conversation, but also aware of the huge step children would be. Would God bless us with many children? What would our family look like? How would we care for them? What if problems arise? What if they don’t love Jesus? Our excited conversation was also somber; realistic of what parenthood is.
We had parked in the Lowes parking lot and were wrapping up our conversation, thankful and amazed that we both knew it was time to start for a family, and made a game plan. If something happens to our children, and we don’t have much time, what is most important? That we teach them about Jesus. If they don’t love Jesus, what will we commit our lives to doing? Teaching them about Jesus. If they are mentally challenged or overly simple, what will be our joy? To teach them about Jesus and marvel at their childlike understanding of him. We sat there in quiet tears. It felt right and real to go there. To know our bottom line and our greatest joy no matter what else. We will teach them about Jesus and pray daily to be together in heaven. We moved forward with parenthood boldly after that conversation. We were blessed to conceived Tee 5 weeks later.
After I composed myself on the side of the road and hung up the phone with Thom, I began to drive home. My mind was back in July of 2006. I was stunned to be at this crossroad.
On that 20 minute drive back home I went over what I believed and spent the next 4 months trying to believe what I believed. If my child does not live, if Oliver does not live, he will be with Jesus immediately. Sin will have no sting over his life. We will see our son in Heaven one day. And if he does live, but has other issues such as Downs, the enormous privilege as a mother to get to care for him and love him and teach him about Jesus would be a blessing. Lord help me to believe.
I don’t remember the rest of that day very well. Sadly, my head went dark and God suddenly was out of my sight. I do remember feeling like Thom was at a campfire in the midst of the blackest darkness, submitting to God and begging for our son’s life, yet I could not get there. I felt like I was stumbling about in the darkness blindly, envying the glow of the fire, but also pushing back with all my might. A mother’s fight. But there was nothing to fight. And that killed me.
I spent the next 4 months uncovering false resting spots, to find them break like rotting wood and I’d be falling down a cliff again. I’d hit the next false resting spot, feel all pulled together, then crack, it’d break and I’d be falling again. God felt like a kill joy. I just want to rest, to reason my way through this, to rely on the odds, to rely on anything, to do something that will help me to control this outcome. False rest wasn’t working this time.
Real comfort, real truth. Only when thumbing through the hours before Christ’s death did I start to see His complete sadness, yet His complete submission. In the chapters of the gospels I learned about my God; that He was big enough, even for my fight. I was so scared. It’s ok to be scared. I thought it was my fight to fight. He can, will and does carry it ALL. I learned I didn’t really believe God would be there on the other side. If Oliver didn’t make it, I didn’t want to find out if His grace would either…I feared the day after more than anything. And I began to crave the submission modeled by Christ.
In the midst of it, my dear friend lost her child. Our pregnancies paralleled one another, and suddenly there was a fork in the road. It felt desperate to watch our paths grow farther and farther apart as she went on the path of grief and I was still on the path of life, yet full of trepidation. I remember crying out to God for this lost, loved, child and the new path my friend was on, yet knowing my cry could only be so deep for her because of what I was going through as well. Enough! Subtle grace. Get to the cross. I now know I can be nowhere else but there.
Thankfully, God is big enough for my disbelief. And God did show up. He commanded me to pray and brought me to my knees. Sure rest lives at the cross, in the midst of even death and with a straight on path to heaven. I want that path. I want to want that path.
God glorified Himself in spite of a fearful myself…and one year later today, I am deeply thankful for His deliberate process in bringing me to the cross and revealing true rest in Him.
Still my soul be still
And do not fear
Though winds of change may rage tomorrow
God is at your side
No longer dread
The fires of unexpected sorrow
God You are my God
And I will trust in You and not be shaken
Lord of peace renew
A steadfast spirit within me
To rest in You alone
Still my soul be still
Do not be moved
By lesser lights and fleeting shadows
Hold onto His ways
With shield of faith
Against temptations flaming arrows
Still my soul be still
Do not forsake
The Truth you learned in the beginning
Wait upon the Lord
And hope will rise
As stars appear when day is dimming
**If you haven’t followed my blog, or portions of Oliver’s story, at 34 weeks in utero he was confirmed healthy and well. The cysts had dissolved and we went on to have a beautiful birth at home 8 weeks later. Thanks be to God! My cup is overflowing…