This is Us, you had me at hello. I remember one summer evening when Darrell came to me with a video. I was, of course, crocheting. My hands were busy every moment of that entire longest year. It has been part of my survival.
“Jamie, you’ve got to watch this. It’s from some show that’s supposed to start this fall. I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s about people in their thirties. Anyway, just watch this preview.”
I sighed. I’ve never been a huge fan of all the videos, especially ones that required me to look up from my mind-numbing work. But, I humored him anyway. By the end of the four-minute segment, I was sobbing, heaving.
THIS! This is us! I had spent the long months prior analyzing, asking the hard questions, the why’s. While some answers will always be just beyond my grasp, this was one that had already been fairly convincing, now only solidified in this moment. To anyone who has experienced anything similar, it’s not surprising that of all the pivotal moments in the past three seasons, this is the one that still identifies the entire series.
And so, friends, this is my feeble attempt at something somewhat resembling lemonade–for my Thea, and for every tiniest baby sleeping snugly, without a care in the world, in the comfort of her mama’s tummy.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I don’t remember the tone, but I don’t think that I will ever forget the words. I can only imagine the heart-stopping shock that was his alarm when I woke him with, “Darrell! I just lost the baby!” He wasn’t always the lightest sleeper, but those words slung him angrily out of bed without feeling or concern.
“Oh…oh,” I choked, “She’s…alive.” My thoughts spilled unguarded from my mouth in an almost guttural moan as my sweet husband dealt with the mess that they left behind.
There was not even one note of joy in them; no, these words were icy and cruel. They were words of anguish over the spirit that I knew would be leaving this world–and my life–within moments. I could feel her life within my hands even before I had the opportunity to look upon it with my eyes. Her tiny arms and legs moved against my fingers. Quite simply, I was in shock. I guess that never would I have imagined that a baby born at 21 weeks gestation could ever be…alive. Yet she was. And she was perfect. Perfect! Ten budding little toes on feet no bigger than the end of my pinky, ten slender fingers–with every joint already in tact–the size of dainty flower stems.
“Look. She has long fingers, just like Eli’s,” I blurted. More mess. “And her nose reminds me of Eden’s.” It was such a tiny little button nose. Her mouth was outlined by the most delicate lips, parted just slightly; had the circumstances been different, I might have mistaken it for a smile.
Of all the questions, all the why’s following her loss, never once did I ask, “Why us? Why this child?” However, one question that I frequently asked was why this way? If it had to be, if I had to live the rest of my life with a cavernous hole in my heart, why did the events have to unfold as they had? Why the trauma–the shock, the paramedics, the ambulance? The loss is enough. Why must I trudge through this journey with Grief on my back and Trauma shrieking in my ears? I had been at the hospital only two days prior to her birth, and I had another appointment scheduled for just three hours after it. If I had only been at the hospital with doctors, nurses, they could have handled all of my messiness. At least it would have been sanitized. They might have cleaned both of us up as best they could– leaving me with at least some dignity–then wrapped my baby snugly in a just-her-size blanket, and gently laid her to rest in my arms. Just maybe there could have been an element of peace in the midst of the tragedy. As it happened, though, it was everything but sanitary or peaceful. And I have relived the events more times than I can count–every detail–in my waking thoughts and in my dreams. WHY?
Why? Because I am now an eye witness to life outside the womb at 20 weeks, 5 days gestation, and I’m willing to testify to anyone willing to listen. I saw it with my own eyes, felt it with my own fingers. I can testify to its existence. I can testify to its wonder. And I can testify to its impact. While I couldn’t call it a gift, I would say that I was granted an opportunity that few others will ever have the chance to experience. Had I been in the hospital, the doctor most likely would have whisked her away, and her precious life would have flown before I’d had the chance to look upon it. Because I was in my home–without the aid of a doctor, a nurse, or even a midwife–I had the opportunity to see, to hold, to handle, to marvel at life in one of its purest forms.
An article entitled “24 reasons for 24 Weeks” circulated throughout the United Kingdom about a decade ago. It presented 24 reasons to keep the abortion limit at 24 weeks (where it is currently set in seven of our US states). One of the twenty-four reasons listed was this: “Fetuses are never ‘alive’ after abortions, because their brains are not developed enough to sense, think, or feel pain.” [Whether or not a baby at this stage of development can feel pain is still under scientific debate. As you might imagine, there is a myriad of conflicting information.] In other words, according to the writer, it would be impossible for a baby to “survive” a botched abortion attempt because he/she was not truly “alive” in the first place. It is not an uncommon belief. However, our trauma and our “beautiful” mess is living evidence to the contrary. I don’t know what Thea could think. I don’t know what, if anything, she could sense. And I have prayed that she didn’t feel pain. But I do know one thing. Our Thea girl was alive. Life abounds at 20 weeks, 5 days.
There is war on the abortion front between those in the pro-choice and pro-life camps. Like most other politically charged topics, there is little–if any–room for sympathizers. We pick our sides and stand staunchly, hatred brimming in our eyes toward those in “the other” camp. Some would be shocked and/or appalled to learn that I do sympathize with many “on the other side”. I’ve read story after story of women who find themselves in unimaginable circumstances. Truthfully, most abortions performed at this stage in a pregnancy are not the mother’s first choice. Many of these babies are wanted; however, they receive diagnoses of being “incompatible with life”, often not until the mid-term anatomy scan. There are many, many things that might bring about such a diagnosis. I’ve never been the mother to whom those words were spoken, but I know these courageous Super Moms. I have heard their devastation. I know their fear. I believe it is that fear that drives many to termination. They fear the physical pain that is often associated with carrying to term a baby suffering with a gross abnormality. Even more so, they fear the emotional pain that any further attachment might bring.
It has been a long and difficult journey, but I am just learning to choose faith over my fears. It has required that I maintain a close relationship with the Father and remain in constant contact with His Word. I’m sorry to say that, in spite of my progress, I still understand succumbing to fear in a moment of greatest weakness. One day as I pondered this rather large batch of lemonade that God was preparing for me, I read this passage from Deuteronomy: 19 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
Dearest, bravest mama, if you ever find yourself in such an unthinkable situation, and a choice is set before you between life and death, might I admonish you–just as Moses did these Israelite people–to choose life? Choose life because in choosing life, you are choosing GOD Himself. Notice in verse 20, you obey his voice and hold fast to him for…HE is your LIFE! God=Life. Choose life, choose God–the same God who knit that life together in your womb (Psalm 139:14), that holds that very precious soul within His hands (Job 12:10). Might I encourage you to muster as much faith and trust as you possibly can as you cry out to Him and say, “Father, I am choosing life. I am choosing You. I’m terrified, but I am giving this into Your hands”? Choose Him and then beg for His help. The psalmist said in Psalm 119:173, “Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.” Even if you’re not a believer, might you put Him to the test at this great juncture? Then stand back and watch what He does with your mustard seed of faith. He might just make a believer out of you. The passage in Deuteronomy says that you choose life in order that you and your offspring may live. Healing for this child might not be the blessing He has for you. However, I know that if anyone ever could provide healing, it would not be the finest physician but this most Faithful Father.
Even if He doesn’t heal the child within, who knows what else He might do with your decision to choose Him. I read a terribly sad story of one woman in just such a circumstance, devastated with the news that her unborn child would never live outside her womb. She made the very difficult decision to terminate, but she believed the decision was the right one. Because she feels that her right to terminate is so strongly intertwined with the rights of all women at any gestation, she fights for them all. This even includes those women who seek termination for unwanted or inconvenient pregnancies. Imagine, though, if she had instead chosen life. If she had chosen to carry that sweet child to term and then placed him or her into the Father’s hands, a gift of Faith, a gift of Love, a gift of the ultimate Sacrifice. She could instead expend all of her energy fighting for life…for the lives of babies everywhere like hers, honoring the baby whom she had loved and wanted…and fighting for THE Life. I’m convinced that she would have had Him fighting for her, too.
Choose life. Choose God. He has chosen you. Allow Him to choose your Little One, too…for a purpose that might just be immeasurably more than you could ever imagine.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
It is as baffling to me as it is beautiful–this notion that God set Jeremiah apart for a very specific purpose even before his conception. Perhaps it is poetic hyperbole, figurative language suggesting that his consecration was from a young age. Perhaps it isn’t. If it were simply figurative language, what then do we do with stories of Isaac (Genesis 17), Samson (Judges 13), John the Baptist (Luke 1), and others? Were they not consecrated for God’s special service not only before their birth, but even prior to their conception?
If it was true of these–Isaac, Samson, John the Baptist, Jeremiah–is it then true for others? Could it be true for everyone–that God has designed every soul before conception for its own unique purpose? (Even so, that’s not to say that every individual will submit to His purpose in his or her life.) If this is true, then what of mine? Of my babies?…
Is it possible that God had a specific purpose in mind when He formed her in my womb? Were all of her days written in His book when there were yet none of them? She had not the opportunity to make an imprint on any hearts but those of our family. Most people will never even see her delicate face. Has she fulfilled her purpose?
I know that these are impossible questions to answer, but they are constantly revolving in my mind. They are important to me.
So, if her life’s purpose was to serve up lemonade on the most miserable, smoldering hot summer day, I pray that it is ice cold, and far more sweet than sour.