Waiting – Week 39

We’ve been quiet with updates recently, in part because it often seems like something is about to happen – then it doesn’t. It’s tough to write when there might be a major change within days. That’s still possible, but here’s the latest:

Our last blog in December delivered the wonderful news that Samuel was growing, right when the doctors saw signs he might be trailing off. This was one of the best Christmas gifts ever. We actually got to enjoy the holidays!

I was surprised at how little his situation was on my mind over Christmas week. Celebrating with Joanna’s family was great, and my sister’s family came up from Baltimore for five days. We wouldn’t have been part of those events if we were in the hospital over the holidays, and it was the closest I’ve ever felt to a reprieve: a wave of tragedy was approaching, then suddenly receded. It was a happy time.

Two weeks ago we had another ultrasound, and this delivered the news we had initially feared: Samuel’s growth had slowed way down. Babies are supposed to grow significantly in their final weeks, so this is generally a problem.

But this time the doctors had surprisingly little urgency regarding action we should take. Samuel was 37 weeks, which is basically full term, and they didn’t think an induction was necessary if we didn’t want one.

This was a surprise. We were packed and ready to go to the hospital at the first sign of trouble, but we decided to wait for a few days. Those days stretched into a week, and now two.

Yesterday we reached 39 weeks, and the doctors’ message is much the same: “If you want to induce, we’ll make it happen. If you want to wait, no problem.”

We’ve been wrestling with this difficult choice for two weeks now. Do we wait days or weeks more, hoping Joanna goes into labor naturally, risking the possibility of stillbirth along the way? Or do we induce, even though Joanna hasn’t progressed much toward labor? A long induction could be exhausting for Joanna, reducing the energy and attention she can give to Samuel after he’s born.

It’s a terribly difficult question to answer because of its consequences. Waiting on a natural start to labor could take a while, which gives Samuel’s health time to fail in the womb. A long induction could sap Joanna’s energy. And bringing Samuel into the world might mean he’ll die soon afterward – how can we decide to move that date any sooner?

I honestly don’t know how to make this decision, so we talk, and we pray, and we wait, hoping that either Joanna goes into labor naturally before Samuel passes away, or we both feel enough peace or a sense of urgency to start an induction. So far, neither has happened.

In the end, I still very much hope to meet Samuel alive. I have no idea if we’ll get that privilege, but we hope he’ll come soon, and that we’ll have energy to give him when he does.

Please continue to pray for us. We’re less than a week from Samuel’s due date, and it’s hard to believe we’ve made it this long! Please pray for him to arrive soon and grace for all the decisions we’ll need to make.

Choosing Samuel’s Name

When I became pregnant with our first son Daniel, I remember the morning I took the home pregnancy test. I was excited but nervous, not wanting to take it too early and be disappointed if it was negative. So I prayed first and asked God to speak to me about this child (if I was pregnant!). I opened my Bible and read verses from the book of Daniel, and from that day on I had a feeling we would have a boy, and I was drawn to the name Daniel. We didn’t plan to announce his name until after he was born, and even though Bob liked the name all throughout my pregnancy, he waited to give his final stamp of approval until we were driving to the hospital just hours before Daniel was born.

Bob has a policy that he won’t even consider baby names until after we find out the baby’s gender. Choosing our child’s name is a significant decision, and I think the engineer side of him doesn’t want to waste time or effort. He figures it’s much more efficient to wait until we can automatically rule out at least half the name options!

In my family, we typically don’t announce a new baby’s name until right after they are born. But after my 20-week ultrasound and the Trisomy 18 diagnosis, we felt compelled to choose and announce his name right away since we don’t know how long we’ll have him with us, and we want people to be able to pray for our baby by name.

We have given our son the name Samuel David, meaning “God has heard” and “Beloved.”

Samuel: “God has heard”

The story of Samuel in 1 Samuel 1-2 resonates deeply with our hearts for this boy. Samuel was the one boy’s name I liked before finding out his gender (shh, don’t tell Bob I did a little preliminary baby name searching on my own!) After the ultrasound that revealed Samuel’s abnormalities, I was awake for hours in the middle of the night, weeping, praying, journaling, listening to worship songs and crying out to God. During that time I opened my Bible to 1 Samuel and read the first couple chapters.

In the story, Hannah is barren and cries out to God for a son, and she promises to give him to the Lord for all the days of his life. Miraculously, God answers Hannah’s prayer and she conceives, and — even more amazingly to me as a mother — Hannah keeps her promise. After weaning her son, she brings him to the temple, and he grows up in the presence of the Lord. I can’t even imagine what her mother’s heart experienced as she counted down her time with Samuel during those early months and years, bonding with her new son yet knowing he was not hers to keep. My eyes fell on several verses that left me in tears:

“As soon as the child is weaned I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.” (1 Samuel 1:22 ESV)

“For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him. Therefore, I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord. And he worshiped the Lord there.” (1 Samuel 1:27-28 ESV)

We are continually praying for our son’s health and life. We know God is fully able to do a miracle and heal him completely if He chooses. But whether He does or not, we have dedicated Samuel to God. We know he is a gift of God for us to hold and cherish for possibly just a short time, and whenever that time ends we will release him to the presence of God. Since we chose his name, I’ve been playing worship songs and singing as I pray over Samuel. If the time comes that we need to send Samuel to grow up in the presence of God, I want him to feel right at home when he arrives!

David: “Beloved”

We decided to pass on Bob’s middle name as a gift to our son from his father. We love that David in the Bible was a worshiper, and a man after God’s own heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 says about David, “…Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature… for the Lord does not see as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The doctors can tell us all the problems the ultrasound shows, but we know those physical issues do not define our son.

With this pregnancy, I’ve felt more cautious and less bonded with this baby. I have several friends who’ve had miscarriages or stillbirths, and somehow that felt like a more real possibility this time. Once we got the Trisomy 18 diagnosis, I knew it would be easy to try to protect my heart from caring too much, since chances are high that we will lose him. But I want to do the opposite, and even if I only have a few weeks left with Samuel or a few moments after he’s born, I asked God to give me a deep love for this baby. Bob and I want to pour out our love on Samuel in whatever time we have with him. We see him as created by God and deeply loved, and we wanted his middle name to reflect that.

Ask and Keep on Asking

Unlike my pregnancy with Daniel, I didn’t have any strong sense about this child: no name ideas or special Bible verses, no strong sense of the baby’s gender — although I was mistakenly guessing it was a girl! I figured it was mostly because I have less quiet moments to even think about the baby. My life is a lot busier and noisier with a toddler around, and I joked that this baby was like a typical second child, already getting “lost in the shuffle!”

In contrast with my first pregnancy, I did not download a pregnancy app or spend hours reading about my pregnancy each week to track whether my baby was now the size of a lentil or kumquat. Most of the time I could hardly remember what week of pregnancy I was at! We hadn’t even gotten around to making any official public baby announcement, not because we were trying to keep it private, but mainly because our summer was so non-stop crazy with traveling overseas, Bob’s busiest season at work, and then landing in the hospital with Daniel and learning to manage his new Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis.

Two weeks before the 20-week ultrasound, I was driving home from grocery shopping and during those quiet moments alone in the car, I asked God for His thoughts about this baby. I had these words from Matthew 7:7 come to mind (in the Amplified version): “Ask (and keep on asking)… seek (and keep on seeking)… knock (and keep on knocking)…” I had a sense that with this child we were going to need to learn about perseverance in prayer. Immediately after that, I felt wave of peace wash over me, and I sensed that God wants to give us peace in the midst of relentless prayer.

In light of the Trisomy 18 diagnosis, I am clinging to this verse and putting it into practice. I will keep asking and praying for this little boy; I know God is able to intervene and heal him completely. If God gives you faith to believe for that, please, please pray with all your heart! But I also trust God’s goodness no matter the outcome. Whether He heals our son or not, God is deepening my prayer life and probably many of yours as well. I know my faith and trust is growing as I draw close to Him.

Thank you for standing with our family in this season. We feel the prayers and love of so many people surrounding us, and God’s grace sustaining us. We are so grateful to have our family and friends, and even strangers standing with us. It means so much to know we don’t have to walk this journey alone!