Ten years ago can seem like it was yesterday and at other times it can seem like a lifetime ago. Usually around January 7th I am reflective, but last year the day came and went and I didn’t even realize it was “the day” until it was too late. That was kind of refreshing to be honest, but it also came with a boatload of guilt! It was as though I believed I didn’t care deeply enough if I had actually not reflected on “the day”.
“The day” is the one 10 years ago that I had to be put into labor with our 3rd child, just 4 days before his due date because I had been in the tub earlier that day and like my naughty self – when I am pregnant, I like to communicate with my children and give them a nudge and have them nudge me back. This time, there was no nudging back – no matter what I did – I got nothing. That’s when we went to the Doctor and he told me there was no heartbeat anymore.
So rewind 9 months prior to that day and you would’ve found me every morning on the cold, hard, ceramic tile in our bathroom. See, I had gotten into this habit of going into the cold bathroom and sitting on the cold tile to read my Bible and pray… it was the best way for me to ensure I would stay awake! Anyway, much of my prayer time during that season in my life went something like this; “God, I think we would like to have another baby – I mean, if you want us to. If it is YOUR will, I think we would really enjoy another one. I don’t want to be selfish, we already have two beautiful girls, but our hearts seem to be desiring another child – so if you want us to have one, we are ready.” Now, I’m no expert on praying and I will never claim to be, but that’s how it went almost every day for maybe a month or so and then it was clear… He did want us to have another one! What a relief!
Ya just never know when you are praying, what you really might be praying for, do you? So, typical morning sickness hit and I was off and running and usually vomiting into one of Denny Hastert’s plastic fireman hats we had obtained at a parade and had been left in our van. Morning sickness came and went and at 20 weeks we went in for our routine ultrasound. The doctor called me and I answered while we were at Wal-Mart, in the shoe aisle. The girls were both trying on shoes and I am certain I quickly lost my patience and a panic fell over me when my Doctor told me they saw choroid plexus cysts on the baby’s brain. He told me not to worry – he went on to tell me that BOTH of his children had these and nothing was wrong. He told me that he has several patients a month that get this result and he was sending us to Lutheran General for a level 2 ultrasound just as a routine, he was sure there was nothing to worry about.
Try telling that to an already anxious person. That’s the silliest thing ever. We anxious people go directly into panic mode. We do not stop at Go! We turn that corner on the monopoly board and head straight jail – the kind where your brain doesn’t shut off and you get on the internet and do your own research, even though the Doctor told you not to – yea, that kind of jail. So, I’m pretty certain I did that until our Doctor’s appointment at Lutheran arrived and when we got there the staff was so kind and I met with the nurse and she looked at our file and assured me the same thing that my Doctor had said – there was nothing to worry about. She had looked at my file and my ultrasound and this was going to just be a routine visit for us. Whew! What a relief! I quickly went back to the waiting room and shared the glorious news with Brian. Now I was excited to go back into the ultrasound room to see the baby again, because the one I had a couple weeks prior the baby had it’s legs crossed so we didn’t get to find out the sex! So, now I was all happy and ready to know what we were having!
Our turn came and well… it didn’t go like we had hoped. We found out that we were having a baby boy – but there were complications. He did have the cysts on his brain, which can be a marker for other conditions and in this case it was. His heart had not fully developed and only had 3 chambers and his kidney’s were still attached together. Both of these issues were operable and we were given hope. The Doctor did mention that he would like to take a sample of the amniotic fluid though, because he wanted to make sure there was nothing else going on. He just couldn’t be sure without it. Our baby didn’t have the typical markers of some of the other things he was thinking about so that was good, but to be on the safe side he encouraged the amniocentesis and we agreed. We even met with a heart specialist who drew out what the plan would be upon delivery. She was confident they could fix the heart issue and that the baby could lead a normal life – Golf would be his best sport, but a “normal” life. She did talk to us though A LOT about aborting the baby and starting over though. We couldn’t believe it. It was never in our consideration. My job was to keep this baby safe – I was given a baby that I had prayed for and this was the one I was meant to have whether it was how I wanted it to be or not.
“Well, I guess here is where the rubber meets the road. Here is where I find out if I really believe what I say I believe.” I knew I had to choose how I was going to respond to this incredible disappointment and sorrow. – Nancy Guthrie
The next day, the Doctor himself called to give me the diagnosis of Trisomy 18 – Edwards Syndrome. If you aren’t familiar with Edwards Syndrome, it’s a lot like Down Syndrome, except T18 babies don’t usually live outside of the womb. The womb is the safest place for them. Oh how I wished I heard Trisomy 21 instead, but we didn’t so now we had to share the news and go to Doctor appointments and all that comes with it. Our family and friends were so sweet, our friend and attorney sent us the most beautiful flower arrangement and my OB called me on his days off just to see how I was doing – we couldn’t have asked for better friends. I knew they were praying for me and I literally felt it. I was somehow at peace. One of the appointments they scheduled for us was with a genetic counselor at Lutheran General, the first guy we saw there was great! I am not even certain what his title was, but he went over the chromosomes with us and showed us our sons and he was just so sensitive yet informative. He had a stack of books on his desk and I remember distinctly him moving one of them to the bottom of his pile while we talked. He told us that we needed to meet with his colleague before we left so we did, she entered the room and seemed to have a completely different idea in mind as to what we should be doing or feeling. She was abrupt. I don’t remember much of what she said, but she quickly pulled out that book that the counselor had moved to the bottom of the pile and told us to take it home and read it – she thought it would be very liberating and she was certain we would see our pregnancy the way she did – as an “oops!” One that we could quickly change so I could “feel better”. She gave me a book about how great abortion was. It was literally just a book of poems and pictures and quotes from women that had chosen themselves instead of their babies. I couldn’t believe it!
I remember standing in my kitchen actually looking at that book and reading some of the quotes – they were so self focused. I wasn’t thinking about myself at this moment! I was thinking about this sweet baby boy who is safe and warm inside of me – happy as a lark and enjoying his time floating around and sucking his thumb. How on earth was I to think about anyone or anything other than him at this point! I broke down crying and threw the book in the trash! I was appalled that it had even been given to me! That first counselor knew just by talking to us – to put it at the bottom of the pile and act like it wasn’t even in the room. But the FEMALE Doctor – was pushing this idea on me! Interesting fact, we saw male and female doctors during this time and ZERO male physicians suggested an abortion. They were more sensitive and understanding than the women, the ones I had assumed would understand my feelings the most. But they didn’t. They were the only ones suggesting an abortion and even to the point sometimes that they tried to make me feel stupid for trying to protect this life I had been so graciously given.
The weeks ahead were spent just living life, we had two healthy and beautiful girls and their everyday lives were basically unaffected by this news at this point. God’s word and my prayer life were on fire at this time. It might surprise you, but I wasn’t really the focus of my prayers either. My prayers became focused on everyone else’s requests because I decided to take the scripture from Roman’s literally; the one that says
Romans 8:26-28New Living Translation (NLT)
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers[a] in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together[b] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Emphasis mine)
See, I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to be praying for. Was I supposed to be praying for healing? For whatever reason that didn’t seem right, it didn’t seem wrong, but it didn’t seem right either. It seemed right to submit to God’s authority and let others do the praying for us while I prayed for them. A friend of a friend’s husband worked at a publishing company and she had recently read a book called Holding On To Hope, a pathway through suffering to the heart of God by Nancy Guthrie – and she passed it along to me. I remember telling Brian, “I don’t want to read this! I don’t want to suffer!” but for whatever reason I picked it up and read the entire thing in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down. This woman knew – she knew what this felt like. She had a tone that challenged me and I was determined to get through this and glorify God the best I could.
Henry Phillip Hauser was finally brought into the world after my body basically refused to cooperate. It didn’t want to dilate and they couldn’t get the epidural in my back. Matter-of-fact, they had to wake up a Dr. that lived in St. Charles because they had attempted the epidural so many times without success, they couldn’t stand to try one more time. The top dog arrived and was able to get it in and I could find a bit of comfort. Brian said my spine looked as though someone had taken a fork and just stabbed me down the back. It was the least of my concerns and I was ready to have this baby. When the time came to push, my sweet, sweet Doctor came to the hospital just for me. He caught little Henry and exclaimed “Missy!!! He didn’t die because he had Trisomy 18, he died because his cord was tied in a knot!” he continued, “It’s actually a blessing that we found out at 20 weeks that he wasn’t going to make it – because this baby wasn’t ever going to make it. You had 20 weeks to prepare that this might be the outcome!” The type of knot that tied his cord was like the kind you make when you tie a shoe and even with ultrasound technology this type of knot is not easily seen and most of the times goes undetected. He was right. Here people were praying for healing, but even if his sweet body was healed – he didn’t make it. It wasn’t a part of the plan. It made sense that nudging I had, NOT to pray for myself because I didn’t know what to pray. I would’ve never prayed for that. And that type of knot is usually done in the first trimester when the baby is so small and zipping around they get it tied up like that.
The hospital staff was wonderful. They made molds of his beautiful feet. His feet were such a significant thing to us because 1. I love baby feet and 2. We were told most T18 babies have club feet as an indicator but ours didn’t. He was perfectly shaped with a full head of dark hair that actually touched his eyebrows. His ears were perfect, hands were perfect and feet were perfect. He wasn’t in great shape when he came out though, because he had passed away a few days prior and when a baby has passed and sits for a while in the amniotic fluid their skin tends to peel away. But to us he was beautiful. I slept holding him all night. I remember having this peace that it was over. That I had done what I needed to do and brought this little life into the world the only way I could. I had seen the miracle everyone was praying for – I had seen a blurb of God’s plan. His plan was that this baby was ALWAYS going to go straight to Him, no matter what. The hardest part of all of this was going to be leaving him there. I gained great respect for ANYONE that has lost someone they love. Leaving him in that hospital room didn’t seem right. He was our son, whether he was breathing or not – he should be in our arms. But that isn’t the reality. The funeral home would be coming to get him and we needed to leave him there. I remember Brian saying, “Do you think we could just sneak him out in one of our bags?” He wasn’t really wanting to do that but at the same time – we both did.
I remember planning the funeral and thinking everyone needs to read this book Holding On To Hope – it was really the only tangible thing I could give that represented what we had gone through and the road we wanted to take. We wanted to be REAL. I had sent a note to the author after reading the book and she wrote back. We connected and continued to connect for some time after, I told her that I wanted to put her book in as many hands as I possibly could and she informed me that the publisher was going to be re-doing the book and that she thought I could get the old copies for a large discount. I tracked down someone that would know and sure enough, we ended up purchasing 500 of them just so we had enough to last us a lifetime and maybe we could give some to other ministries that might involve people suffering. As we were planning things with the church, they had offered to supply meat for a meal after the funeral, but we didn’t really think we would want to sit and eat and we weren’t sure how many people would either. We told them we had purchased these books and wanted everyone to have a copy and if they wanted to throw the cost of the meat towards the books we had purchased, they were welcome to do so but that wasn’t policy and it was no big deal. These books were the most important thing we could possibly give to anyone that might attend.
It was suggested that we use a small room that could accommodate about 75 people because “not many people really attend funerals for baby’s.” That was fine with us, but it seemed like so many people had been praying for us that there was a possibility there could be a few more than that attend so Brian and I insisted that the regular sanctuary was probably the best place to hold it even if no one showed up. It’s funny how God puts things on your heart, the funeral came and like all parents, we were at the front – we could only see the people directly around us. We had no idea that the church was quickly filling to capacity. Chairs were brought in and set up – people were told there was no room – so they stood outside in the foyer! There were over 500 people that attended our sweet baby’s funeral – the funeral for a little boy no one ever even met. Needless to say, I didn’t bring all 500 books to the church that day, but isn’t it funny how those numbers matched? For months after the funeral, I carried the books in the car with me because I would often be out and about and someone would say they had come to the funeral and wondered if I had any more books. I even had people that were more of acquaintances tell me they were sorry to hear of our loss, but they were told we gave out this really great book and did I happen to have any more?
At his funeral, 9 people told us they handed their lives over to Christ that night. I don’t know where all 9 are in their walk today, but I know for sure God let us clearly see this little boy was entrusted to us for His glory and not ours. It was my job to protect him when others wanted to snuff out his life too soon. We were given the baby I had prayed for on that cold tile floor early in the morning. This was the baby we were supposed to have, no matter how much it hurt, no matter how great the loss, no matter what – we were called to trust His ways were better than our ways and we merely have the dashboard view. As I write this, it seems like just yesterday – but yet, so much has happened since then that I could’ve never predicted. God is good whether it “feels” like it at the time.
A page I wrote in shortly after Henry’s funeral