April 29, 2011

Pressing On Part 3

Today we have part 3 of Julie's story. If you missed the first two parts you can find part 1 here and part 2 here.


Six more months passed.

Because no medical reasons had been found for the last two miscarriages, we stepped out in faith again, after much prayer and waiting, to have another baby. Again, the Lord opened my womb and I was pregnant in April.  We made our announcement on our parents’ anniversaries-which both happened to be on June 6. They were excited, but with some hesitation due to the recent loss. It was understandable, as Josh and I had been through the same emotions.  But we really thought everything was going to be fine this time.  What were the chances that we would have another miscarriage? 

Everything was going well throughout the summer. Two of our friends were also expecting around the same time and we were looking forward to having our babies grow up together.  In July, we heard a good strong heartbeat at the doctor’s office.  But that would be the last time.  Within 3 days of that appointment, another life quietly slipped away, unbeknownst to any of us.  It wouldn’t be for another 3 ½ weeks until I went in for another appointment that we would learn this information. After having some cramping, I went in a few days early to see my doctor.  I figured she would tell me to drink a little more water and try to stay off my feet for awhile.  As she began looking for the heartbeat, I heard the same words from 10 months earlier, “Where are you hiding baby?”  I thought, “This is surreal. I feel like I’ve already done this before-Dr. R’s saying the same things, but this can’t be real. It just can’t be happening again.”  Sure enough, within a few more minutes, I was looking at our baby on a large screen, but seeing no movement or heartbeat. I was supposed to be 17 weeks pregnant. 

At that moment, I went into “auto-pilot.”  I had done this before, so I knew what to expect.  This time though, my emotions seemed to be hiding from me.  The tears and sadness were different, more for how others were going to react, rather than for myself.  I tried to praise the Lord, but all I really wanted to do was be alone.  I didn’t understand why we were losing another child, but I was trusting in the Lord for the reason.   We couldn’t even call our parents that day.   We felt numb.  In shock. Depleted.  And I hadn’t even delivered the baby yet.

But God was so good to us during the loss.  On August 10, the day of our 8th anniversary, I was going to the hospital to have another baby that I wouldn’t get to bring home.  I was so thankful that my doctor was on call, and that the nurses I had come to know were tending to my needs.  Two of our pastors, including Chris Fritz, spent some time with us at the hospital.  The baby came quickly, after about 4 hours of labor.  My doctor stayed past her shift to be there with us.  I had a hunch with this pregnancy that this baby was a boy, and I was right.  We named him Matthew Levi.  He was smaller than Haddie had been and his color was grey.  I wasn’t prepared for that.  I cried for the loss of this baby and the dreams we had for him.  Another baby of ours was now safe in the arms of God.  To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

I continued to pray, “Lord, what are we supposed to learn from this?  What did we miss the last time around?  Please don’t let us miss the lesson you are trying to teach us.” 

The placenta was delivered 15 hours later, early the next morning. I was so weak from losing a lot of blood.  Somehow, by the grace of God, I was able to make it home that afternoon.  But by the evening, I received a call that told me the ordeal was not over yet. Not all of the placenta had been removed, and I was at risk for continued blood loss or infection. I would still have to have a D & C to remove the rest of the placenta.  At this point, I really began to think that I could not survive a surgery because I was so weak. After a lot of tears, I finally accepted the thought that I might die before the week ended.  And yet, there was a peace in my spirit about that.  I knew that I would be in the presence of the Lord, should He decide it was my time to go.  I knew that my faith was in Christ and His finished work on the cross that took my sins away.  I knew that it was He who gives me eternal life, and I found myself longing to be with my babies who never knew sin. I was ready to go. 

I meditated on the Psalms a lot that week. The Lord helped me to remember that He is my Rock, my Redeemer, my Good Shepherd, my Strong Tower, my Refuge, my very present Help in time of need.  He again provided truth for us to meditate on when things seemed so unclear.

I awoke from surgery and immediately realized I was not in Heaven. God still had a purpose for my life here on Earth.  I would still know the joy of being a wife to Josh and a mother to Lydia and Isaac.   

God was gracious to answer our question, “What are we supposed to learn from this experience?”  In due time, we learned about a genetic blood clotting disorder that I have, called Factor V (five) Leiden.  This was most likely what caused the babies to die-a blood clot that stopped the flow of blood to the baby. In God’s sovereignty, He showed us something that we otherwise would never have known.  He didn’t have to, but we are so thankful that He did. We have closure on the past, and information for the future.  We also realized that our two healthy children were an even bigger miracle, considering that this condition existed through my pregnancies with each of them. 

Looking back, we have seen how God prepared us with our first miscarriage, so early into the pregnancy, to be ready for the second and third miscarriages. We have seen how His hand was moving and guiding us each time to be surrounded by the people who would show us His love and compassion.  We experienced a peace that passes all understanding and strength that comes through Christ to face some of our most difficult challenges as a married couple. We have been blessed with two healthy children that we are striving to raise for the glory of God. We have counted it all joy when we have fallen into these various trials, knowing that our faith has been tested.  We have gotten a new glimpse into the character of God.  And we have been blessed.  

April 22, 2011

Pressing On Part 2

Today we have Part 2 of Julie's story. If you missed part on you can read it here.


Seven months later, our story continued.

I had wanted a spring baby, so after our time of waiting, we decided to try again to have another baby.  I got pregnant right away in July 2009.  We rejoiced that God was going to bless us with another baby and everything seemed to be going along well.  At the 6 week checkup we saw the heartbeat and the little baby moving around in my womb.  We breathed a sigh of relief, and started making plans to tell our families.  Our daughter drew a picture of our family, and we copied the ultrasound picture of the baby, cut it out and pasted it in my belly.  We used that picture to announce to our families that we had a new life growing in my womb and we were so excited!  

Everything was progressing well and I felt the first kick during a church service at about 16 weeks.  I smiled, thinking that this baby must like music!

On October 26, 2009, things changed again.  I had gone to a routine doctor’s appointment and had brought the kids along with me.  Lydia was now 4 and Isaac was 2.  I was so excited that they would get to hear the heartbeat at the appointment.  We had heard it at home the week before with a heart Doppler, so we didn’t think anything of it when my doctor couldn’t pick up the heartbeat right away.  I started praying, “God, this would be a good time for the baby to move so she can hear it.”  She decided she would bring in the small ultrasound machine to get a better view of what was going on.  I was excited that the kids would get to see the baby moving on the screen.  Dr. R’s demeanor changed when she turned on the ultrasound.  She wasn’t seeing any movement and still could not pick up a heartbeat.  She was going to have me move down the hall to the bigger machine to get a better view.  I told the kids, “We need to pray that God will let the heartbeat be heard and found.”  I was starting to get a little worried, especially since my husband was at work and had no idea that any of this was going on.  I did not want to carry this burden alone.  I was finally able to reach him on my cell phone and said, “Dr. R. can’t find a heartbeat, she’s taking me in for an ultrasound, please pray” and then my call got dropped. 

I was looking up at a large screen now, a view of our baby at 16 weeks.  Things looked normal and I was so happy to see how much bigger (she) was.  But Dr. R and the nurse zoomed in on the chest, and there was no movement.  When she said, “I’m so sorry. . .” I knew what she was telling me, but in my mind I kept thinking, “Just wait . . . the baby will move . . . .you’ll see the heartbeat.”  In just a few moments, I went from being pregnant, to having a lifeless child in my womb.  How do things like this “just happen?” 

I turned to the nurse and the words just rolled off my tongue:  “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. . . I guess this baby wasn’t ours to keep.” 

I turned to my doctor assuming that I would have to have another D & C and she told me that since I was further along this time, I’d have to go through labor to deliver the baby.  That is when the tears went from leaking from my eyes, to a cry of “O God, how can I do this?”

As we left, I was crying and Lydia asked me why.  I told her our baby died and was in heaven with Jesus now.  She asked me why the baby died.  I didn’t know, but God did.  He may not tell us why, but He was still good.  She was okay with that answer, even if none of us knew the full answer.

We had just talked on Sunday morning about Philippians 4:4  “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” What does that mean?  It means that we don’t rejoice in our circumstances because sometimes, they aren’t good.  But we are to rejoice in God, in His unchanging character and attributes, on His Sovereignty, on His love and kindness, on His mercy, on His everything.  God’s timing was again, perfect, in this situation.  So as we drove home, we began to do just what that verse says.  We rejoiced in God.

The day passed slowly as I kept praying for a miracle.  I knew that since God had healed Jairus’s daughter, it would be just as possible for Him to let our baby’s heart start beating again.  But God had another plan, and a few hours later, I was finally able to accept His “no” and move into the next phase.  That night, we called our families again.  It had only been 10 months since we had made similar phone calls, and it was no easier this time.  In fact, it was more difficult as we had already had a time to celebrate, and now we had to face what would be one of our darkest hours in the days to come.  Once again, God showed us His compassion through the tears of our family and friends. 

Interesting things began to happen the next day.  The exact people I needed to talk to called me throughout the day.  They shared of their losses at 3 and 7 and even 9 months into their pregnancies.  They prepared me for the delivery and the emotional aftermath.  They were a gift from the Lord. And then I got a call from a friend who shared that she’d just lost her baby in the 6th week of her pregnancy.   In the midst of my sorrow, God put someone in my path to comfort through the experience of my first loss.  His timing is perfect. 

Two days had now passed, and Josh and I were preparing to go to the hospital in the early morning.  There was no hurry this time.  I hadn’t slept well during the night, so I had read through a book by Osswald Chambers called  My Utmost For His Highest. 

I found the passages on suffering to be especially applicable.

One passage (Nov 1) said, “God breaks up the private life of His saints, and makes it a thoroughfare for the world on the one hand and for Himself on the other . . . Why shouldn’t we go through heartbreaks?  Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son.  . . . He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, and says-“Enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine.”  If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart.”

Another one (Nov 5) said, “If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all, they are meant to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what transpires in other souls so that you will never be surprised at what you come across.”

Another one (Dec 15) “Always make a practice of provoking your own mind to think out what it accepts easily.  Our position is not ours until we make it ours by suffering.  The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance. . . .  Lord, I would bless and praise Thee, but how hard I find it to praise Thee when I am not physically fit, yet why should it be so?  This means that I praise Thee only when it is a pleasure to me.  I would that my soul were one continual praise to Thee!”

Again, we marvel at the people God kept putting in our path-to let us know that He was with us and understood our pain.  My nurse in the morning had lost 2 babies during 2 pregnancies and knew what we were going though.  Another nurse was an answer to prayer, as she was a Christian and was so kind to us.  Yet another nurse during the day would be used to give us hope, a year into the future.  God’s timing was perfect, again.

Our little baby girl, Hadassah Grace, was delivered around 5:30 that evening.  As I held her, the first thing I remember saying and thinking was, “AMAZING!”  This little baby, only 3 ½ months old and just over 6 inches long, was a perfectly formed little person.  Her right hand was laid across her chest and we saw her fingernails on the ends of her tiny little hands.  Her little feet were so tiny, and yet the toes and nails were so clearly seen.  Her tiny little head had closed eyes, and a sweet little nose and tight lips.  Her skinny little arms and legs reminded me of the kids.   I didn’t cry at this time, because I was just in awe of the handiwork of God in an infant so young.  My thought was, “let no one ever tell you a fetus is just a blob of tissue to abort.”  That is a lie straight from the devil!

We were given some time alone with our baby, and as we prayed, we cried; and as we cried, we prayed.  This is one of the very few times in my life that I have ever seen my husband cry.  It was very humbling. 

I’m so thankful that we took some pictures of our little girl.  They are the only ones we will ever have of her.  They are the only reminder of a life that was so short, but so powerful and meaningful to us. 

These footprints are only about 5/8” long, but left a huge print on our hearts.

We left the hospital empty handed that night, but with a greater view of God at work in us, especially in the hidden places of the womb.  We adjusted to a new normal, and moved ahead with our lives, so thankful for the children we had at home.  


Read part 3 here, and if you missed part 1 you can find it here.

April 15, 2011

Pressing On Part 1

Over the last few years we have had the pleasure of getting to know Julie Leonard and her family. Julie and her husband Josh have been a wonderful testimony to us as we have seen them walk a road of sorrow & loss and as they have faithfully trusted in the Lord through this time in their lives. Today Julie will be sharing the first part of her story. We'll post the 2nd and 3rd part of her story each Friday of the next two weeks.


Our story began around Christmas, 2008. 

I was 5 ½ weeks pregnant and Christmas was quickly approaching.  Our daughter, Lydia, was 3 and our son, Isaac was 15 months old. This pregnancy was a bit more of a surprise than the first two, but we were learning to prepare for another baby.  We always liked to share our good news with family in a creative way.  But this time, Josh and I were having a difficult time coming up with something fun.  We finally decided to include an extra photo matte and frame with a Christmas gift, thinking we would surprise his family on Christmas day.  How interesting that when the time came for the gift to be opened, neither of us said anything about the pregnancy.  Instead, we played it off like it was “just an extra one in case you need it someday.”  Within minutes of that gift being opened, I was in the bathroom and noticed some red spotting.  I tried not to panic, but knew I had to share this information with Josh, without making a big deal of it in front of all the family members who didn’t even know I was pregnant!  I was able to sneak out for a little while and call my doctor-who told me to take it easy for the next few days.  I felt relieved with that, and went back to finish celebrating Christmas that afternoon.

The next day, I was feeling okay and the spotting had almost stopped, so I figured everything would be fine.  We drove out of state that afternoon to celebrate Christmas with my family.  We still didn’t make any announcements, and now felt like we really needed to wait a little longer.  In the middle of the night, I awoke with heavy bleeding and spent the next 2 hours in the bathroom, convinced that this miscarriage was for a reason and that God had known it would happen, even down to the timing.  I don’t remember all the thoughts that went through my head, but one that I do remember was how common early trimester miscarriages occur.  About 25% of pregnancies end within the first trimester, especially in the first 6 weeks.  I have always thought that it was God’s way of taking care of a child that would not have survived anyway.  Looking back, I see that for us, it was really a precursor of things to come in our lives. 

I had assumed that I completely miscarried that night, only to return home and find out two days later at my doctor’s appointment, that the baby was still in my womb.  What I had thought was a normal occurrence among women, now became a bigger issue.  Over the next five days, I would wait for the baby to come out on its own, only to find that it wouldn’t.  One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, was call my family and tell them that I had just lost a baby, when I had never first had the joy of telling them that there was one.  Through those phone calls and tears, God was showing me what His compassion looks like through people.  My family and friends cried with me.  They felt the sadness almost as much as we did.  I never realized how much a miscarriage can affect many more people besides the mother.  I learned very quickly that I was not alone in my plight.  So many friends, people I knew, came out with their stories of miscarriages.  As they shared their stories, I found myself comforted by their common experience, and realized there was a whole group of people praying for us.  Eight days after Christmas, I had a D & C to remove the remains of the baby.  God’s comfort and the people around us, carried us through that experience.  


Read part 2 here. Read part 3 here.