Lessons in Heartache
Lessons in Heartache
I have learned some valuable lessons over the last 9 months or longer – mostly spiritual. I don’t know the answers to why some of the things have happened in my life that have brought sorrow and pain and the deepest heartache I have ever known. But I do know that my God has been with me through it all and will continue to be with me.
In this blog, I would like to record some of the things I have learned.
Lesson #1 – God is a healer – always has been – always will be.
How in the world can I say this after praying for my daughter’s healing and publicly asking for others to do the same with the end result being that she only lived outside my womb for an hour and twenty minutes? How?
Just because healing didn’t take place in the way I would have preferred, I promise you, healing has taken place and continues to take place.
At our sonogram on 3/6/2013 – I was 20 weeks and 5 days pregnant – we were told Lucy would not make it to term and if she did she would not live long due to a very serious heart defect – single ventricle defect. She also had a defect called CDH – congenital diaphragmatic hernia – which allows the abdominal organs to migrate up into the chest cavity causing issues with lung development as well as compression on the heart. Basically our baby had 0% chance of survival. To say we were devastated is putting it mildly. God used my husband to help give me strength to believe, to not give up on our daughter. Because that day I was ready to. I had lost our other child together in miscarriage. I had lost my sister in 1974. I had just watched some dear friends lose their long awaited and much prayed for twins at 23 weeks into the pregnancy. I was not in a place where God’s healing and faithfulness was anywhere close to being believable.
However, this man that God brought into my life reminded me that God could do anything he wanted. He created her, he could heal her heart. As long as there was movement inside me, there was hope. What did women do before sonograms? They were pregnant until they weren’t. God had 19 or so weeks yet to work on Lucy. There was no giving up just yet.
So began a more intense time of prayer for each of us – daily, hourly, minute by minute. I spent some time with God at the piano remembering that his blood was shed to not only wash away our sins but to heal our bodies. As a child who had grown up in the church, the verse Isaiah 53:5 was burned into my memory. And though I had prayed for others to be healed many times, the last part of the verse became more powerful to me – “and by his wounds we are healed.” Communion became more meaningful – something besides my own thankfulness for salvation. It became a reminder of the promise of our healer. His blood. His power. I needed His blood to be more powerful than I could ever imagine or had ever believed before. That old hymn “The Blood Will Never Lose It’s Power” was the turning point for me that night. God is either who He says He is or He is a liar. I had to believe. I reminded myself out loud of who God is. Knowing it and getting my emotions to line up with that knowledge can be a huge battle. One we will continue to fight for years to come as grief comes our way off and on in one way or another. That night, and for the months to come, I chose to live by faith – believing God is who he says he is – and not let fear dictate our lives. I would enjoy every kick, every pound I gained, every bout of morning sickness I had. Because it meant my daughter was alive in me and there was hope.
On 3/20/2013 we had another sonogram. This one was a fetal echo with a fetal cardiologist to see just how serious the heart condition was. Jon and I were praying for just one positive thing. That’s all we were asking for that day, one positive. And what a positive it was. The result of that visit was that Lucy had a right sided ventricle problem in her heart, not a single ventricle defect, and that it was surgically repairable. The doctor gave us some other encouragement about her size and told us not to give up hope. Prayers continued.
The next big doctor visit was down in St. Louis at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. We had a regular sonogram as well as another fetal echo. At this time we were one day shy of 25 weeks pregnant. Lucy was a little busy – all the time. I believe she had a bit of the “Lilly-spirit” in her. The sonographer doing the echo had a difficult time because Lucy was so active. Jon and I had become used to these sonograms/echos taking well over an hour or two. Lucy actually changed her position at one point and turned completely the opposite direction. She kept us very entertained just watching her. We were totally captivated by her already. In the end, when the fetal cardiologist, the fetal cardiology nurse, the senior fellow of pediatric cardiology, and the sonographer were satisfied with all the images they had taken and all the blood flow they had been watching, we went to the consultation room. We were told that though the LEFT ventricle of Lucy’s heart (not the right) was small, it was performing as it should and the blood flow was adequate to sustain life after her birth and would not require surgery. The restated it as “though the left side of her heart is small, I can find no defect”. God is good. He is powerful. He is the healer.
At 25 weeks pregnant and about 15 weeks to go, we were now down to just the hernia to deal with and the organs besides the heart that were affected by it – lungs, bowel, and digestive system. I spoke to the head of pediatric surgery from St. Louis Children’s hospital and asked what the survival rates are for babies born at St. Louis Children’s with CDH. The typical CDH baby has 75-80% chance of survival after birth and surgery. If the CDH is severe chances decrease to about 50-60%. Not only was Lucy’s stomach and some of her bowel up in her chest, but Lucy’s liver was up in her chest as well so this was considered a severe case. Hope was still alive even in this. In 5 weeks, we had gone from 0% chance of survival to 50-60%. God can work with that. Look what he did with her heart! We fully expected healing to take place in the next 15 weeks. We fully expected her to come out crying. (Not something that occurs with CDH babies due to lack of lung function) We fully expected to take our little girl home. We did not.
So how can we still say that God is a healer? Because he allowed us to believe. He healed my hopelessness during my pregnancy. We enjoyed every kick. Every little movement. I took joy in every discomfort because we knew it meant our little girl was OK inside me.
When discussing with my sister in law some of the questions her kids were asking, such as “Why didn’t God just heal Lucy so we could hold her?” we wondered how in the world we answer that for these kids so that we don’t harm their faith in who God is? I told her that God is still a healer. He just doesn’t always heal the bodies of the people we are praying for. Sometimes he chooses to heal our hurt instead. He is still the healer.