"He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm,
and carry them close to his heart, and shall gently lead those that are with young." Isaiah 40:11

Monday, April 26, 2010

Feeling Sad..

May is nearly here! I long for everything to be over (pysical healing especially!) but at the same time I am dreading the pain I know we will feel.  And there is no avoiding our pain.  It will need to be borne.  We will need to walk through it to the other side.  I feel sadness for others too these days.  Maybe I even hold their pain closer to my heart than I would otherwise.  A close friend of mine just miscarried at three months.  One day there was a child, the next she/he is no more.  It brings back memories of when we lost our first pregnancy, also due in May. Other friends of ours have waited years to be pregnant with their first - I remember the agony of realizing that we too might not have children - what a deep deep pain -and my heart breaks for them.  

I know I should be thankful today.  And I often am! I have two beautiful children.  If I don't feel like getting out of bed because I want to be sad, they will climb over me, poke my eyes, and beg for attention.  I have no choice but get up and face a new day and that is a good thing.  They make me laugh and remind me that there is still so much good in this world.  But still, I will hold my daughter Rachel..and I will grieve what should/could have been.  Sometimes it will not be enough to know that she is in heaven.  Sometimes it will just hurt.  I will watch others with their babies and my arms will be empty.  My hormones will likely take me on a rollercoaster as they have before.  I know from our experience of miscarrying our first, that people who have not experienced this type of loss will wonder why it hurts us so much. 

Friends might avoid us because they wonder if they will say the wrong thing or they will just be uncomfortable with our sadness.   I know because I have been that friend.  But please please do not avoid us.  Ask us how we are doing.  We will want to talk about Rachel - she will be on our minds for a long time.  Hopefully, I too am learning to be a better friend to those who grieve.  I am also deeply comforted that there is Someone who is not afraid of my sadness and that when the darkness feels too strong, I can go to Him and pour out my heart. 

I am reading a devotional these days called "The One Year Book of Hope".  The author (who had 2 babies that died bc of a syndrome) writes, " Deep down we know that it is not a lot of  fun to be with someone who is sad.  But God loves brokenhearted people.  He doesn't avoid them. He is closer to you now than ever, waiting to talk with you, comfort you, and offer you hope and healing as you face the future." 

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

Friday, April 23, 2010


When I was pregnant with Ethan, someone lent me a copy of the book "Great with Child" by Debra Rienstra.  It is a wonderfully written book that chronicles the author's journey of pregnancy with their third child.  I decided to read through it during this pregnancy as well.  When I was about three months along, I was especially struck by her chapter titled  "Weakness".  I had been worn out with constant naseau and certainly felt weak! But I also had some trepidation and perhaps a sense of what was to come.  It was the Christmas season and I felt that what she wrote was something worth pondering.  

She described an icon of Mary that depicts the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel has just arrived to explain to her God's plan, that she will carry the Savior of the World.  Mary is not in the usual obedient, humble position we expect.  Instead, one arm is leaning back as if to brace herself and the other (nearest the angel) held up in a gesture of surprise? or Greeting? ...or hesitation? 

Rienstra writes, "Mary's raised hand...seems to me a profound symbol of all the fears and confusions that come with a momentous, God directed change....this does not diminish Mary's ultimate surrender to God's will for her.  In fact it makes her obedience more human, and therefore more plausible a model for us...Mary at this point could only have a vague premonition of what the cost for her might be... The literal bearing and raising of a child is indeed a calling, and [these carry] the shadow of a cost.  I think this is why the first several weeks of pregnancy typically feature an assortment of discomforts: we need reminding, and this is especially true in our self-indulgent culture, that if we foolishly imagine for a minute that parenthood is an accomplishment or acheivement or right, sooner or later something will smack us with the realization that it is, above all, a surrender." 

When we first received the news about Rachel, I too felt like I was using one hand to brace myself and the other "raised as a shield against a divine strength".  All parents know that at some point in time, we will be disappointed by events (out of our control) that alter our dreams and hopes for our family. All of us Christian parents, at one time or other, need to face the question, "Do I trust God with the future of my family?"   It is a very hard question to answer.  And it is a decision we need to make again and again each day.  Mary, in her finite understanding, chose to trust when she could not see the Big Picture of God's plan.  Will we? Because if what God promises us is true, there is coming a day when all will be made Right and what we see dimly now, we will see clearly then.  I want so much to see That Day...so (with trepidation), I choose to say Yes.  God, give me the strength to keep saying 'yes'.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Yesterday I went to another ultrasound apointment.  Saw Rachel again.  I saw her little fist and arm and her curled up legs.  I feel her movements alot these days!  Maybe it's because she's little and has more room to move around.  She's roughly 3 lbs right now.  I am 34 weeks.  The Doctor I spoke to guesses that she will be 4-5 lbs full term.  She says this might be related with her condition.  So....preemie clothes....It's so hard to go into stores looking for clothes that she might not even need...or to look for an outfit that I might bury my daughter in...I thought it would be easier as we neared the end.  But in some ways, the reality of our situation is hitting harder.  I am so glad for good friends and family to face this with. 

Yesterday night I went through my baby clothes, looking for newborn stuff.  This was tough. Looking at all the cute outfits that Rachel will likely never wear.  Abigail was so excited that we were looking for stuff for baby Rachel. I so wish things were different than they are.  But this is where we are...And I keep going, keep thinking ahead of what else needs to be done...One day at a time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Fear is not a new thing for me.  I've struggled with fear before. My greatest fears have often involved my children...and sometimes before I realize what i'm doing, i've just imagined something horrendous happening to them and I'm paralyzed by the What ifs.  It's not that I walk around always seeing danger at every corner.  It's usually more like something that catches me off guard...like those pregnancy dreams, or when I hear that tragedy has struck someone else.  And I have wondered, if the worst happened, even my worst imaginings, could I still say that God is good?  Would I still believe? Or would the faith I thought I had, fall apart? 

I did alot of reading last year, most of which included real life stories of people living through horrible situations.  I read a story about the Rwandan genocide, stories by former child soldiers, stories by people who did humanitarian work in the midst of war.  You might wonder 'why did I spend so much time reading such heavy stuff?'  I wondered that myself!  I think I was looking for the answer to my questions.  And what took me off guard was the Hope with which people shared their stories and the Courage that they found to 'do the right thing' even under immense pressure.  I didn't only read about it.  I saw this in the lives of people I care about - people whose spouses died far too early, people who live with debilitating illness etc.. It's a long list.  I have heard these people echo verses i read in Psalm 27 "In the day of trouble, God was their help."  They express trust in God in painful times, in ways that make me sit up and take notice. 
This past year I often wondered if God was preparing me for something.  In fact, I even journaled about this, not long before Rachel was conceived.  Something I feared has happened.  I await the birth and death of my daughter.  But, I know that God has been with us.  I have experienced real peace - not something I made by telling myself to be brave, (the grin and bear it kind of attitude because "so many people have it worse").  Real peace.  Now, as we look ahead to her birth, I have new fears.  I wonder what it will be like to hold her precious little body, and fall in love with her, and then to maybe watch her suffer.  What if I have to suffer a horrible back labor again and it takes months to heal physically?  Will God be there then?

A friend of mine sent me a reading that has been helpful for me in dealing with my fear. It's titled Grace when we need it.  She writes, "We would do well to heed Elizabeth Elliot's advice that there's no grace for our imaginations.  None.  It's simply not available.  God is not waiting in the wings waiting to help us through whatever horrible imaginary trouble we can conjur up today.  But his goodness...will be abundantly poured out whenever we walk through a real trial."

This is what I believe.  This is how I can face each new day.       

Friday, April 9, 2010

The story behind her name...

I think some of the inspiration behind her name came from the verse on this blog that we received from friends in our church.  It had been important to them at a time of trial in their own life, when their son was having epileptic attacks as a child.  We liked the idea of God as our shepherd, and especially the tenderness He shows towards the young.  Rachel means 'female sheep' or 'lamb' and Amariah means 'spoken by God' or 'promised by God'.  I had struggled for months with names, nothing seeming right.  But David suggested 'Rachel' one day and I suggested the middle name and that was that.... I am so glad we have named her! It makes her so much more real to us and to others.... 

That awful day in January....

This is an ultrasound picture of Rachel waving to us in the womb.  Isn't she so beautiful?!! My heart aches when I see her precious little body and this little hand and feel her kicks.  I think of Psalm 139. "you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb..." This was the day we found out that we were pregnant with a little girl.  It was also the day we were told that she had multiple abnormalities, and heard words like dandy walker variant, hypoplastic right heart syndrome, truncas arteriosis, missing kidney, heterotaxy etc....... It was so earth shattering to hear the Doctor use these words.  And to hear the words "should you decide to discontinue the pregnancy..."  On that awful day, I sensed God asking me, "Will you trust me? Will you carry this little girl for me & trust me to do something beautiful? The hurt will be so deep but I will carry you.  Will you trust me?"  And I said yes. And each day I choose to say 'yes' even though it tears my heart to do so.  We don't know the outcome.  We don't know how much time we will have with her after she is born.  Maybe He will do a miracle and make her broken body whole, maybe not.  But we leave that in His hands because we trust His love for us...           
I'll try and summarize a bit of those first events in January for you:)  At our first ultrasound (4 months along) we were told very little.  The technician was very chatty with me in the start but soon I realized that things were not ok.  She called two other technicians into the room and they tried to talk quietly but I overheard them saying something about the heart.  I was told that another more advanced ultras. would be booked.  They didn't want to alarm me but they saw a cyst in the abdomen.  (this later turned out to be nothing).  I knew they weren't telling me the truth...five days later, I had a Dr. apointment.  My usually jovial South African Doctor was very serious.  He started with the words, "I am so sorry.  It's the brain."  A part of the brain was enlarged.  This was an indication of possible severe learning disabilities.  He also tried to encourage me saying that sometimes these things turn out to be nothing.  I left that office stunned once again, trying to make sense of this.  The next two weeks went by so slowly as we waited for the advanced ultrasound.  This time, Dave could sit with me and watch our little child on the screen move and hear her heartbeat.  It was an agonizingly long ultrasound (a few hours).  We were then lead into a consultation room to talk with a Doctor.  She broke the news to us that they were seeing multiple abnormalities and we would have to come back for echcardiogram to take a look at babies heart.  She had tears in her eyes as she talked with us.  I was so thankful for her caring manner.  At one point, I remember saying "I know I shouldn't think this way, but I can't help wondering if I did something wrong..." And her words have always stayed with me.  "No, this was set in place from the very beginning."  Somehow those words have encouraged me.  God has purposed her and loved her into being.  This has huge implications on how we view 'brokeness' but perhaps more on that later!   

At the echcardiogram (another gruelling 3 hour ultrasound) we were told that the heart had serious problems.  The cardiologist drew a picture of her heart for us (it looks nothing like a normal heart).  Since that day we have had more apointments - though none as earthshattering - and they will likely increase as we near the end.  I have even begun to look forward to these sessions as opportunities to see Rachel!! Amazingly, Rachel is doing fine in the womb and will only face the greatest challenges after birth.  We have opted out of using heroic measures to keep her alive because right now we only see these as prolonging her suffering.  At present, we have been told that we may have one week to a few months with her.  This is only a guess - our cardiologist has never seen a heart like hers and there are no known documented cases.  The first few hours after her birth will be crucial.  And, her days are really in the hands of the One who made her!