Sunday, October 26, 2014

Journey of Loss {Part 2}: In the Potter's Hands

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
(Psalm 139:13-16)

Taking a deep breath, I lay down on the table. Ever so slowly, it glided into the darkened tunnel of the MRI machine. The clang, clang, clang, clang of the machine sounded like a railroad worker banging a heavy hammer against a spike.

The noise was deafening, but I was provided earphones to muffle the sound. With each reading, I had to hold my breath until I felt light-headed.
The thought crossed my mind that the tunnel looked like a coffin. My heart began to race, and I felt myself feeling more and more anxious. 

no formation of kidney

on either side

prognosis: grave


     Instead of letting myself delve into the dark abyss of morbid thoughts, I closed my eyes and let my mind wander to something beautiful. 


     I imagined Adam and Eve, perfectly made for each other, racing hand-in-hand, through an endless garden bordered by ferns and a myriad of flowers—orchids, hibiscus, lilies, and more all perfectly arrayed. The air was thick with a delicious smell of perfume and sultry earth. 

Hearts beating wildly, and nearly out of breath, they came to a cliff that overlooked a river. Holding hands, the two fearless figures jumped in, creating rippling ringlets of turquoise that faded out into the emerald deep.

The world was beautiful, perfect, and holy, but in one small act, it was broken.
Refreshed and glistening in the sunlight, the couple strolled into the middle of the garden. It was a variable orchard filled with every fruit tree imaginable. Letting go of Adam’s hand, Eve wandered into the center of a ring of trees. 

There was a hush and heaviness in the air, the closer she came to the very center.  Barefoot on the soft, damp grass, she padded ever more slowly to the center.  There, towering over her, was the Tree of Life, and next to it, stood the other tree; the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She felt magnetically drawn to its bright and shiny fruit dangling within arm’s reach.

“Didn’t God say you must not eat of any fruit in the garden?” a voice hissed from above.  Looking up, a vermilion serpent hovered overhead, its body coiled around the lowest branch. 

“No, I can eat of any fruit, except this one,” she said with chin upturned, pointing to the fruit that was suspended in front of her. “God said I could not eat of it or even touch it, lest I die.”

“Don’t you want it?” bid the voice. “Reach up. Grab it. One bite, and you will not die. You will become just like God and know all sorts of things you do not know. Why doesn’t He want you to know those things anyway?”

The devil, disguising himself as a serpent, deceived her and she took a bite, then offered some to Adam, and he ate it.

Suddenly, their eyes were opened to the endless possibilities of good and evil, and they realized they were stark naked in the middle of the garden. They reached up and grasped some fig leaves in order to cover themselves. 

     They dashed into the thicket for a place to hide.

“Adam. Where are you?” whispered God.

Adam’s cheeks burned with the guilt and shame of his sin and his newly realized nakedness. He peeked out from behind a tree.

“I don’t want to come out, because I'm naked.”

“Who said you were naked? Did you eat of the fruit I forbade you from eating?”

Adam confessed that he ate the fruit, but blamed it on Eve. Eve blamed it on the devil.  Darkness shrouded the garden. God was grieved and angry because they had rebelled against him. Covering them with animal skins, He barred them from the Tree of Life and forced them to leave the Garden of Eden.  

Adam and Eve had to reap what they sowed. The Lord gave them the just consequences for their disobedience. Eve would suffer in childbirth and in relationship with her husband. Adam would suffer frustration and futility in his work.

They deserved their punishment and much more, but God offered them grace. He told them One would be born who would destroy the works of the devil.

The Lord said to the serpent that when the Promised One came, “He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel (Genesis 3:15).”

The snake opened its mouth wide in defiance, revealing its four curved teeth.  Strings of venomous saliva blew in the wind. Four teeth, sharp as nails that were destined to wound the One and Only Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Genesis 3:1-22). They would pierce His hands and His feet (Psalm 22:16).
 Clang, clang, clang, clang. Then, silence. 

I glided out of darkness and into light. As I lay on the table, I could breathe again.  Holding my protruding belly, I kept thinking about Genesis. The garden of Eden. Where life began.

Although I knew that a diagnosis of renal agenesis meant our son would die, our Creator God, the Giver of Life was able to work out even the worst situations for our good and for His glory. Knowing He was in control gave me peace and filled me with hope.
Taking off the earphones, I stepped into the next room. 

Instead of getting the results right away, the technician explained that the MRI specialist needed to look at the films and write up a report on his findings. We would find out the results from our obstetrician in a few weeks. 

It was excruciatingly hard to have to wait several more weeks for the results. Rather than wait until our next doctor’s appointment, we found another high-risk doctor, for a second opinion. 

It wasn't long before the appointment day came.

The new obstetrician, Dr. F, had received the MRI results and performed his own ultrasound. 

Billy stood by, arms folded around his chest, bracing himself for the news. 

The doctor was very kind and down-to-earth. He looked at me sympathetically and held my arm. “This really sucks, but the prognosis is gravethe baby has no kidneys, and the umbilical cord is wrapped around its neck. Your amniotic fluid is completely depleted, and the baby’s lungs have not been developing. Most likely, the baby will be stillborn or live one or two hours at the most.”

Crushed by this news, I felt desperate to hold our baby. I wanted our little one to know we were its mommy and daddy and feel loved by us. My eyes welled up with tears, and I turned to my side, holding my belly. 

I started to weep right there on the ultrasound table. “Can't I have my baby now, before it dies?”
Dr. F said it was still too early, and that the only way I could force a delivery would be through an abortion.
I loved my baby.

I just wanted to hold my little one alive for as long as possible.

If abortion was the only way to give birth early, then I would have to wait.

And, if I was going to have to carry our child for as long as the Lord had planned, He would be right by my side every step of the way.

The next few days were hard. In the mornings, I could barely get up out of bed. Still, I found the strength to get up and spend time in prayer. I wrote in my journal everything that overwhelmed me—all my disappointments, my fears, and my pain.
In the house where we went met weekly with others from our church for prayer and fellowship, we broke the news that unless God intervened, our child would not live. Our friends cried out to the Lord for us in prayer. I also shared with my women’s Bible study group, and they all placed their hands on my belly and prayed.

It was comforting to know that people cared about me, and were seeking God on behalf of my unborn child. I told all the Christians I knew to pray for the baby. I even e-mailed the pastors I knew in Ukraine, so people were praying for us globally. A wave of peace washed over me, as I felt covered in prayer.

I knew that a miracle was possible. God could heal our child. When April was a baby, a young woman in our church, named Heather, developed liver cancer. She had several rounds of chemotherapy, but her body couldn’t take any more. Her doctor said the cancer was terminal by then, and nothing more could be done. 

Our church held a prayer meeting at a friend’s house for Heather. Billy was praying with everyone in the living room. I stayed in the kitchen with April and fed her Cheerios in a highchair, adding my own desperate prayers for Heather.
At Heather’s next doctor appointment, more tests were done, and her cancer was completely gone. It was amazing to witness this miracle firsthand. It confirmed to me that God still does the impossible and our prayers do matter.

Billy and I kept hoping and praying that the Lord would completely heal our baby. But, with each ultrasound check-up, the doctor couldn’t find any kidneys, and our hope for this miracle waned.

Researching on the Internet, we found websites that helped us understand our baby’s condition. Bilateral Renal Agenesis is also termed Potter’s Syndrome. I was able to read stories of other women who had babies with Potter’s Syndrome and how they coped with it all. 

It eased my mind to discover that babies form kidneys in the first month after conception.  On the mission trip to Ukraine, I was already three months pregnant, so that ruled out the baby somehow acquiring Potter’s Syndrome there.
I didn’t know why my baby had Potter’s Syndrome, but I believed that God was in control of all things. Ultimately, He had allowed our baby to develop this way. Could I still trust Him when He allowed the bad as well as the good?         

“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. 
We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

(Isaiah 64:8)

This is the second part of The Journey of Loss series.

Here is the link for Part 3.