My dream has always been to get married and have lots of children. When I was sixteen, I told my sister that the worst thing that could ever happen to me would be if I got Endometriosis and couldn't ever have children. Then I said the second worst thing that could ever happen to me would be if I had a baby and it died right after birth. Little did I know that the biggest trial of my life was right around corner.
I met my husband when I was 21 and we were married 6 months later. We both had worked with children for years and loved them greatly. We talked and dreamed of having our own, but as the years passed, my own arms were left empty. My heart ached when I saw a newborn. My ears heard every infant cry around me. I cried myself to sleep many a night begging God to let me also be a mother, to have the pleasure of loving and caring for a child. As the months slowly crept by and still I had no child, I began to feel as if it was my fault, as if I'd done something terribly wrong and that I was being punished for some unknown sin. I apologized to God for everything I could think of and then some. I told the Lord that if He gave me a child I would do anything for Him. But God doesn't operate on a bargaining system.
For about four years, it seemed Heaven was silent, that my prayers were hitting the ceiling and falling back down to mock me. But then, the Lord started speaking to my heart every time I would pray for a baby. He would ask, "Could you still love me and serve me even if you never had a child?" At first I shoved the question aside, and kept begging, pleading, longing for a baby. I felt that if I gave that area to God that He'd never give me my desire! But, I couldn't hide from it forever, so I faced the question. You might as well be honest with the Lord because He knows your heart anyway. Nothing is hid from Him. Could I honestly be happy and serve Him childless? Without bitterness? Without anger? I couldn't answer. I just couldn't let go of it. I knew that God was asking for my whole heart, but I just couldn't let Him have that one special little key. So I hung on, as tightly as I could, and I became more and more miserable.
We finally decided that something was wrong, so we decided to go get me checked. I'd been in terrible pain and I just couldn't take it anymore. We scheduled an appointment and Andy took me in for some tests. The doctor came in and examined me and I could tell by her face that it was not the news I wanted to hear. I asked what was wrong and she said, "I can't be for sure without further tests, but it looks like you've got Endometriosis." I remembered that conversation with my sister almost ten years previous. I knew. The realization hit me. I asked her how bad and she said, "On a scale of one to ten, I would say you are about a nine." I hesitated, dreading her answer, but then asked, "Is there a chance that we can still have children?" She tried to sound optimistic as she replied, "I just don't know. We'll know more after the tests." She went out of the room, and as I sat there the Lords spoke to my heart once again, "You've been hanging onto a key that doesn't belong to you. You have no control of this. I'm the giver of life. I give life and I take it away. Can you still love me and serve me?" I broke. I gave in. I began to cry as I gave Him that last key to my heart. I told the Lord that I would love Him even though I may never have children. As I wept, a lightness filled my heart. I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I can't explain the joy of surrender! Its the most wonderful, refreshing feeling I've ever had! And there was no anger, no bitterness, only sheer joy in my heart. God filled my heart with an ever greater love than I thought ever possible. A love for Him. I walked out of that hospital with a song of rejoicing in my heart, not tears of sorrow. I had to go back in two weeks for surgery to correct my problem. After the surgery, the doc told me that they couldn't find any endometriosis in there after all! Not a speck! I like to think that God operated before they had the chance to cut me open themselves! :)
My heart was at peace for the next few months, and I threw myself into my Sunday School class. I realized that God HAD indeed giving me children...10 of them in fact, and I was determined to make the most of the time I had with them.
Eight months later, to my great surprise and delight, I discovered that my husband and I were going to have a baby of our very own. My dreams had come true! God had given me the very desire of my heart! We were ecstatic! Nothing could go wrong now! God had blessed us greatly! My husband and I cried tears of joy and gave our baby to God the day we found out we were expecting. We prayed that God would use this baby's life for His glory. Don't pray that prayer unless you really mean it. We found out firsthand what giving your child to God really meant. And, I can honestly say, it was well worth it. It is my desire that my children be used as tools in the Lord's hands.
Rebekah Joy not only had an Omphalacele, but also 7 deformities of the heart, and Trisomy 18 (the severest form of Downs syndrome). I wouldn't recommend this, but I Googled Trisomy 18 to read more about what we were facing, and I couldn't believe some of the pictures on there. Later I realized another blessing of the Lord in our lives. Most of the pics I saw of babies with this syndrome where all but unrecognizable as babies. They were so badly deformed that you couldn't even tell what their face looked like. I cried as I wondered just what our baby would be like at birth. I knew I would love her with all my heart despite her deformities.
When the doctors told us that she wouldn't live, they offered us the choice to abort. Now THAT made me mad! Of course I wasn't going to abort this baby! She was ours and as long as she had breath, there was hope! The doctors kept telling us, "You DO realize she won't live anyway, don't you?" And we kept telling them that miracles still happen and we're weren't giving up on our God!
It was about this time that Andy and I went to Texas to a revival meeting. A family got up to sing who had a teenaged girl with Downs syndrome. She couldn't sing at all, but she tried. She'd gotten saved just a couple weeks before and she was so happy. God spoke to my heart and said, "Do you love me like she loves me?" I couldn't answer that. Who could? We think too much of ourselves too many times. I knew that in her childlike mind, she greatly loved her Lord. There was no pride in her. The next night of the meeting, a young man who I've known for years got up to preach. He was a cripple, with back and hands twisted. And yet, God had given him the amazing talent to sing and play any instrument he picked up! As I watched this humble man begin to sing with the touch of God on him, the Lord once again spoke to my heart, "Do you love me like he loves me?" I broke and began to cry. No, I didn't. How many times have I been ashamed of my Lord? How many times have I let my pride keep me from doing what I was supposed to do? I cried and repented. How I wanted to love Him like that!
A month later, Andy and I took some young people from our church to Youth Camp. One night, the guest preacher preached on how God loved us so much he sent His son to take our place at Calvary. I was sitting in the back weeping inwardly. My heart was on my baby and I was only half listening. I prayed, "God why? Why is this happening?" The Lord spoke to my heart and said, "I loved you so much I gave my only Son to die for you and you didn't even deserve it. Now, can you love me enough to give your only child to me?" That's when I knew what God was trying to do in my heart. It was so beautiful! God was working on me, purging me, trying to mold me into something that could be used for his glory! I cried so hard I had to get up and go out. But they were not tears of sorrow. They were tears of pure joy! What a beautiful picture of God's love! I couldn't wait to see what God was going to do! And I also knew that Rebekah would die. Somehow I knew that God was not going to heal her. But that was okay. She belonged totally to Him now. He had the keys...ALL of them. And Oh, how I loved Him!
The doctor didn't want me going past my due date, so I went in and they induced me. I labored for many hours without any progress. The baby was beginning to stress so it was decided to take her via emergency cesarean. The operation went smoothly, though I could feel the tension in the room. There were people everywhere waiting to whisk Rebekah away to the NICU. She didn't cry when they pulled her out. A nurse briefly held her up for me to see her before rushing out the door. Now I can't explain how this happened. I always knew she would have dark hair, and couldn't wait to see it. When the nurse held her up, I noticed she had a head full. Her mouth and eyes were wide open as she looked at me. She was beautiful and seemed okay to me. I saw no terrible outward deformities. I relaxed. Later I asked Andy if he'd gotten a picture of her as soon as she was born. He did, and showed it to me. He'd taken it as soon as they had pulled her out and layed her on the table for cleaning and wrapping. After seeing it, I told him he had to have taken it after they got her to the nursery. He was adamant that it was before they took her out of the operating room. You see, when that nurse held her up for me to see, Rebekah had no tubes or IVs in her, and she had no hat on. I saw her mouth open and I saw that head full of dark hair. The picture showed Rebekah wearing a hat and tubes and IVs in her arms and mouth. God blinded my eyes to all that so that I could rest without worrying too much. It was a miracle. This was only the first of such things like this that happened over the next several days. Another miracle was that, with all the problems she had, the only outward deformities were her Omphalacele, a clubbed foot, and eyes that looked Downs.
The meds and trauma of the whole thing, and months of anxiety had just about done me in. I slept for about 2 hours, but as soon as my eye opened, I told Andy that if he didn't find me a wheelchair, I was climbing out of that bed, c-section and all, and going to find my baby on foot! He found one! The Children's hospital and NICU was down a 1/4 mile long hallway from the main hospital. I couldn't hardly keep my eyes open during the ride there, and actually don't remember much about it. I do remember seeing Rebekah for the first time though. Yes, I now saw the little pink and blue striped hat, and the IV's and the breathing and feeding tubes in her mouth. I said her name and she turned and looked at me. My mother's heart melted and I longed to scoop her up into my arms and carry her far away from there. But I could not. I couldn't even hold her yet. On the long trip back to my room, Andy had to hold me upright in the wheelchair. I kept passing out from exhaustion. I slept that night. The next morning, I was ready to go see my baby again. I was again wheeled down there and spent the morning holding and talking to Rebekah. I loved her dearly and would have given my life for her many times over. I had to go back to my room for meds, but nothing else could keep me away. I didn't always have the option of a wheelchair, so I walked that hallway many time that day, back a forth. Oh it hurt, believe me, but I had to be there with Rebekah.
Sunday morning they moved Rebekah to the nursery in the main hospital so that she would be right around the corner from my room. I spent the day there holding her. She never cried because of the tubes. She just laid there looking at us as we talked to her. Sunday night, she was moved to our room along with all her IV's and tubes. The doctors told us that it was time to make the decision whether or not to pull her tubes. That has got to be the hardest thing for a parent to decide. It was as if we held her life in our hands. When we pulled those tubes, we also took her life from her. But, we knew that she didn't have a chance. We knew that she would be better off in Heaven. She would be made whole and perfect again. We knew we really didn't have a choice. If there was the slightest chance of her getting well, we would have gone to the ends of the earth to find that chance. But there was none. So Sunday night, we pulled her tubes. A Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer came afterwards and spend a couple hours taking pictures of Rebekah, some with her tubes and some without. We didn't know how long she would have after the tubes were pulled.
I spent the long night holding her, staying awake for fear of missing her last breath. I hadn't slept or eaten since Friday night. I couldn't get food past the lump in my throat. My whole being was wrapped up in that tiny 4 lb. 12oz. bundle in my arms.
My dad had come to the hospital Tues night and he'd been sitting in a corner of the room quietly praying through the long hours. Now, my dad and I never really got along well during my teen years. I was rebellious and dad was at a loss with how to deal with me. Those years were not fun for either one of us. I know I made life hard for him, and the constant fighting had made me miserable as well. Let me insert this in here while I'm on the subject. I have two half brothers, my dad's son's from a previous marriage. Their mother had taken them from Dad years ago, and told him he'd never see them again. Dad tried but to no avail. He married my mother and my sister and I were born. I saw the boys twice after that, the last time being when I was about 4 years of age. So for 18 years, there was no communication between us and my brothers. I didn't even know if they were alive, where they lived, or what had become of them. The younger of the two, Terry, finally contacted us while we were in PNG. We ended up taking an early furlough and was able to reunite with Eric and Terry. There were some hard feelings towards dad that unintentionally kept getting hurt again and again. Terry finally told me that it would "take something drastic to get him to ever forgive dad, and that he would have to hear Dad give a public apology."
So back to that Tuesday night at the hospital. Dad watched me crying throughout the night. Finally, he came to me and dropped to the floor beside me. He hugged me and began to cry like I'd never seen before. He begged me to forgive him for those years. We made things right between us that night. Dad held Rebekah for a couple hours and as I watched him gently talking to her through her attacks, I couldn't believe the change I was seeing in him. It just wasn't like the Dad I'd always known.
Andy laid her in the tiny white casket and we held each other through the night. I couldn't sleep. Instead, I clutched Rebekah's blanket to my heart and prayed that if it be the Lord's will, He would fill her blanket once again. Thursday evening was visiting hours here at church. I was done, though. I prayed and begged God for strength to go on. We had the funeral to get through. That night, as people began to show up, it felt as if it were just another church service. I can't explain it very well. I was pinching myself thinking that maybe it was all a dream. Why was I not crying? I was talking and laughing with people, showing them Rebekah's pictures. Hardy the attitude to have at funeral visiting hours. But it is the way I hoped for. I didn't want it to be somber. No, she was okay now. She was in a better place. She was not hurting anymore. I felt like I was literally being carried, like it wasn't even me who was doing the walking, talking, moving, etc. I kept thinking about that poem, Footprints, where in the hardest time when there were only one set of footprints in the sand, it was then that the man in the poem was being carried by the Lord. I was being carried. I'd gone almost a week without food or sleep, after having major surgery, and yet I was still on my feet! God was holding me up! There's no other explanation for it.
Friday morning. The funeral was set for 10 am. We went to the cemetery after the service and Andy and I watched our baby girl being lowered into the ground. My dad did the grave side service. He said that he was proud that all his children were there, even his two boys. He said that he'd not been the father he should have been and publicly apologized to them. I glanced over and caught Terry's eye. We both remembered. It had to take something drastic...like a baby dying. And he had to hear dad give a public apology. Little did he know that it would be at a funeral! And it had to by MY baby too. You see, Terry and I were close. It had to be my baby, something that would soften some hearts. And yes, all those broken relationships are completely healed now. Terry told me later that on the way home, he tried to find that old hate in his heart, but there was none. It was gone! Like a weight had slid from his shoulders. God once again answered our prayers. He used our little girl's death for His glory in mending our broken family...something that no one ever thought would happen.
Andy and I also found out what it was like to be part of the family of God. We found out that we had friends we didn't even know we had! They were there for us, supporting us, holding us up in prayer. I got letters from people in Germany, Africa, Australia, New Guinea, the Dominican Republic, England and many many places in the US letting us know that we were in their prayers. This is what got us through those months of trial! How can people go through something like this without the Lord??? I can't even imagine it!
This is my story. I learned about the Love of God through the death of my own precious child. How could God give his only Son to me? How could He watch him suffer and die for someone so unworthy and so ungrateful as me? And yet, it was love that made him go to that cruel cross! Love for me. I now know the love a mother has for her child. I now know what it is like to watch that child suffer. But I didn't have a choice. I wouldn't have let it happen for someone else if I had a choice in the matter. No, God gave His son for me because He loved me. Such a wonderful, beautiful Love! And yes, I have grown to love my precious Savior even more after the trial than ever before. God has been so good to us! How can I complain about His plan? His grace is sufficient to carry you through the worst trial! His mercy is everlasting. And His great love is beyond explanation! Yes, now He has my WHOLE heart! I have learned that God can turn your worst tragedies into your greatest blessings if you will let Him. And no, God didn't make a mistake when He made Audra. She wasn't an accident. She was special. She had His fingerprints on her. I believe handicap people have a very special place in God's heart. They are very, very special! God made Rebekah special in order for her to accomplish a very special job. She was a precious tool in His hands.
After Rebekah died, Andy prayed that God would give us another baby to hold before my next birthday. Christian was born exactly a month before the anniversary of Rebekah's funeral. God has also blessed us with another daughter as well. I'd prayed that God would fill Rebekah's blanket again, so needless to say, Audra was wrapped in that special blanket as soon as she was born. Yes, God has blessed me far beyond my greatest dreams! How can we not love and serve Him? How can we not give our very best to Him? There's no greater joy than serving God with you WHOLE heart! It may come at a at a price, but if you are willing to pay that price, OH the blessings He will pour out on you in return! He will make the sacrifice well worth it! Don't hold anything back from Him! Give him ALL the keys to your heart. Oh taste and see that the Lord is GOOD!!!