Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hope when all seems hopeless

I had decided from the first day of this week that I wanted to end the week of hope writing about hope sustaining people through life-threatening and medically compromising times. I know that there are a great many stories of people with things like cancer who never give up hope and who overcome the odds.
I started looking for the perfect story of such a hope and really couldn't find one. I thought of my own life and where I'd seen this type of hope the most. I saw hope in this situation for the first time in the summer and fall of my grade 12 year. I became friends with a group of people, one of whom became my best friend and faith mentor. She dated a guy who had a friend... yup, classic highschool story of double dating! Only it wasn't classic because the friend of the guy, the friend I dated had leukemia. But other than having no hair and being super skinny...and not going to school and having tons of doctors appointments, blood transfusions etc you'd never know he was sick. Bill lived with an optimism and a hope that sustained us all. He taught me more in the few months we hung out and then dated then anyone else has... until Cole. He was so full of hope that when things turned bad, when the platelet transfusions became almost daily, when the fatigue became more and more evident our group didn't even really notice. I mean we did but we really never gave it much thought...he wasn't going to die, he wasnt' going to give up. He had doctors tell him when he got sick the second time that he would not see Christmas... and you'd never really know that was what he'd been told. He lived life to the fullest, we partied, we stayed up till all hours, we drank (okay we did and he always drove...we even got pulled over and charged one night though he never saw a court date). I saw him for the last time on Christmas Eve. We exchanged presents, kisses and cuddles but it was obvious that he wasn't well. The following day things took a huge turn for the worst and he passed away just before the end of that Christmas day. But he made it, he did what they said he wouldn't do and he enjoyed every day of those last few months of his life.
The other sign I have of this is obviously in Cameron. What an amazing little miracle he is. He overcame so many odds.. a good 3 life threatening conditions to start. And this made me hunt for someone's pregnancy story, someone's writing that I could take a piece from and reflect on. It took me days to find one...believe it or not. But I found this...long one.. and decided I couldn't say it as good as she could....

Many of this blog’s posts have focused on the longing for a pregnancy that brings a baby safely into the world. But what happens when that longed-for blessing no longer feels like one?
I got an incredibly honest, heartrending request for prayer today. It came in an email forwarded by a woman whose friend conceived on her 6th IUI (hurray!), and just discovered the baby has Down’s Syndrome. You might be tempted to stop reading, since the thought of such a possibility threatens to undermine your shaky confidence in a joyful future. I hope you won’t, because the note I wrote in response to that prayer request made me realize the importance of affirming God’s faithfulness in all circumstances.
That’s easy to claim when you’ve experienced effortless conception, an uneventful pregnancy, a straightforwarded delivery, and what looks to the world like happily-ever-after. But what about when it isn’t so easy, and — by the world’s standards — it doesn’t go well? Where is God in that? Where is hope? What good is faith if it suddenly seems flimsy and feeble? And where can you go for strength?
My husband and I had to face these questions. And at the time, there was no one to help us find answers.
At an ultrasound done prior to an amnio it seemed our doctor took an unusually long time. I lay on the table watching lines appear in his forehead as he scanned one area over and over and over. My husband and I sent each other increasingly anxious looks, but no one spoke. Then, the doctor said, “Your baby has a large hole in her heart.” The jolt of adrenaline made me nauseous. “Usually, that means the baby has Down’s Syndrome. Has anyone talked to you about this before?”
I wanted to scream, and my mind was racing. Who is this man? What does he know? Why wouldn’t anyone have told us? It can’t be true…. We’d already lost several pregnancies to miscarriage, but this baby was thriving. She was meant to come into the world! Why would God say “yes” to a baby, but “no” to all we wanted that baby to be?
When I received Elizabeth’s prayer request today, the memories of that day flooded my mind. And I knew God had given me an opportunity to speak the truth of His faithfulness out of my own experience. I wrote to her:

When I was pregnant with my daughter, they found a HUGE hole in her heart during the amniocentesis. They told us that, if she survived the pregnancy, she would almost surely have Down’s Syndrome. We waited several agonizing days for results of the amnio. In the interim, a couple we knew delivered a baby with unexpected Down’s Syndrome. It was an extraordinarily stressful time.
Ultimately, our daughter’s test results indicated she did not have Down’s, but she did have the largest hole they’d ever seen in a baby’s heart at this stage of development. It was hard to know how to pray about this. Still, God was — and is – faithful. Our daughter underwent open heart surgery when she was only four weeks old, and despite the odds they gave us as they took her into the OR, she survived and she’s thriving.
I realize the details of this story are different from yours. At the same time, I feel as if I have some understanding of what you’re facing, based on our experience and the experience of our friends whose son has Down’s. Neither we nor they would trade the children we have for any other. We consider all that we’ve struggled through with and for them to be a small price to pay for the extraordinary blessing they have been in our lives. The challenges we’ve faced as their parents have made us that much more passionate about being the best possible stewards of their incredible souls. And I believe that was part of God’s purpose.
I don’t in any way mean to minimize what you’re going through. But I can say with tremendous confidence, God is good and He blesses us in all sorts of unexpected ways. I truly believe this is one of those well-disguised blessings — and some day, you will say so yourself with complete conviction and JOY.”
If “God not only loves you very much but also has put His hand on you for something special” [1 Thes 1:4], take heart in the knowledge that He will not abandon you to make your journey alone. He has already begun equipping you. That was part of the purpose of the infertility journey. And He will not fail to comfort, strengthen or guide you. Ever.
He never fails.

I could not have written my thoughts on pregnancy that doesn't go as planned any better. God does bless us in all sorts of unexpected ways. He gives us the ability to find hope, to not give up and to learn and grow through our challenges, crisis and even losses. The challenges that we have experienced have been given to us by God so that we will find hope, we will see their accomplishments so much more clearly, we will appreciate them and our other children more for all they have been through and all that we have taken for granted.
So to the 4 little boys who shared my body with me for lengths of time varying from 23 to 34 to 42 weeks I say thank you for being the best lessons in hope that I could have. God has given you to me, has grown me through you and I am so very blessed!

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