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He Who Has Promised

I sat on a hospital bed in a delivery room, a tiny incubator on my lap holding an even tinier baby. My heart pounded with anxiety as I asked the nurse if my baby was okay. She nodded, unconcerned, and touched him. He began moving and I felt his movement beneath my hand, and he even sucked at my finger. He’s alive! Alive! My heart rejoiced. In the dream, I clearly remember giving the baby a name.

Promise.

When I awoke from the dream, I wept. It was so vivid. And felt so cruel. I did not have a living baby. I had two babies who’d died within the previous nine months, miscarried in early pregnancy. Their little bodies were not warm and moving like the baby in my dream. They were buried under a tree on my parents’ property.

Only as the morning of dream day progressed and the sadness and hurt dissipated, did I begin to wonder about the dream. It reminded me of two other times of life when I truly believed God had told me something in a dream. I wrote in my journal that morning: In the dream I gave him a name: Promise. Or is that the name YOU gave him, Lord? What kind of promise are you giving me? I think you were in this dream.

A month and a half later, an unexpectedly positive pregnancy test propelled my thoughts back to this dream. Fear of losing another baby almost immediately gripped me, except for the tiny whisper of hope, hope for my Promise.

I held my heart back from fully hoping for a baby, and remained cautious. At seven weeks pregnant, when I first saw blood, I was crushed. I wept in the bathroom in the middle of the night, knowing what that amount of blood meant. For my last two pregnancies, it had meant that my babies had died. As my husband held me, I cried, “I really thought this one was going to be different!” So devastated.

As a formality, I went to the doctor the next morning, expecting to hear that awful news: you’ve lost your baby. Instead, I heard a heartbeat. A heartbeat! My baby was alive! I sat in my car afterward, shaking with sobs, unable to drive or barely talk to my husband about the joyous miracle that our baby was still alive! The echo of the Promise rang in my heart.

I hoped my pregnancy would be uneventful after this awful scare. I didn’t know just how much I would come to rely on God’s Promise in the coming weeks and months.

At eight weeks, just a week after my first scare, I again lost a heavy amount of blood. It was the day after Christmas, and as Christmas had fallen on a Sunday, this was the day everything was closed. No doctor could see me, and as the bleeding began to subside, I knew it didn’t warrant a trip to the emergency room. I would just have to wait. It was our day to celebrate Christmas with my family, and they were so generous and loving, while I sat in a chair the entire day, paralyzed with dread and worry.

And yet. And yet! There was this tiny tether of hope, deep inside me, holding onto what I deeply wanted to be a Promise from God.

The next morning, again, my husband and I heard our baby’s heartbeat, saw his tiny frame on the ultrasound machine. Alive! But what was going on?

Two days later, at my first “official” prenatal appointment, the doctor saw and diagnosed that I had a subchorionic bleed-a collection of blood in my uterus. She didn’t say that day, but I’d come to find out in coming appointments and from other doctors just how massive the bleed was. It dwarfed the baby. More than one doctor has looked at original pictures of the bleed and called it “one of the biggest” they’d ever seen. The diagnosis was not news I’d hoped to hear; my first miscarriage occurred right after I lost a lot of blood and was diagnosed with a subchorionic bleed as well. I prayed that this time, the bleed would dissolve and not cause any more external bleeding. That was not to be.

I experienced some spotting on and off after that, but was hopeful as it did not usually amount to much. Then, around ten and a half weeks, I began having a heavier stream of blood. I had begun not to know when to head to the doctor. If it subsided, I’d try to remain calm. If it picked up, I’d panic. I’d tell God, “I want to believe your Promise! I want to believe!” But I also knew that I didn’t always understand God’s ways, and maybe his Promise meant something different than I wanted it to mean. I had doubts. I had fears.

And the evidence before my eyes did not give me physical reason to hope. After a few days of on and off bleeding, it became a flood. I spent one day waiting for an afternoon doctor’s appointment, and my mom came to help me with my two preschool-age girls. I wanted to get them out of the house, so I suggested we take them to McDonald’s. As I sat there eating, I suddenly felt that heart-sinking feeling of warm fluid filling my pad. I ran to the bathroom. As I sat on the toilet, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: blood pouring out of me in a steady stream, like water. I sat there for probably five minutes, and the stream just continued. Finally, it subsided enough for me to get off the toilet. How could my baby possibly be okay?

But again, he was okay! When we went to the doctor and again saw him wiggling around on the ultrasound, it was so miraculous! The word Promise became embedded on my heart, becoming an anchor to hold on to in the midst of the fear that swelled against me almost daily.

And then we got the joyous news we were having a BOY! I could not have been more surprised. I really thought we were having a girl. But I thought both my girls were boys, so I should have known better. Finding out his gender gave him yet another layer of reality in my mind. Almost immediately I started looking at boy names. Almost immediately only one boy name seemed to fit: Elliot, which means “The Lord is my God.” Truly, this child had been created and sustained by the Lord his God.

After that awful round of bleeding, I remember thinking, “Well, nothing could be worse than that.” These are the things that we should probably not think.

At thirteen weeks, it became much worse. As I lay in bed on a Wednesday night, I felt yet another gush of blood. I began frequent trips to the bathroom, blood coming in heavier waves each time. In between gushes, I lay on my side in bed, and contractions began. I felt them every few minutes, my uterus painfully hardening. Then I’d rush to the bathroom to find more blood. In the moments I was laying down, I turned on “Though You Slay Me” by Shane & Shane. Though I deeply wanted to believe God would do a miracle, I knew I was having contractions and that was positive evidence for a miscarriage. I tried to put my mind on trusting and loving God even if He did not save my baby. Though you slay me, yet I will praise You. Though you take from me, I will bless your name. Though you ruin me, still I will worship. Sing a song to the One who’s all I need.

When I went to the bathroom and blood clots filled the toilet, I was sure it was the end. I wept in my husband’s arms. I wept for the baby I thought was lost, loving him so deeply yet not being able to do anything to prevent losing him. I sat in the bathtub, thinking it wouldn’t be long before I delivered him.

And, unbelievably, somewhere deep, deep inside me, the word Promise still gave me the tiniest spark of hope. It wasn’t much, but I couldn’t let it go.

We went to the emergency room, knowing that’s what should happen with this amount of blood loss. A nice doctor said he was going to do an ultrasound. The exam room looked exactly like the one I’d been in a year earlier, where an ultrasound confirmed that I’d lost my little Avery Rose. The dread that covered over me was palpable. Surely, this time, I had lost another baby.

Oh, the wave of relief that washed away that dread! There was our little Elliot wiggling around on the ultrasound without a care in the world! Even as blood still poured from me and contractions still tightened my uterus. ALIVE! God had been allowing me to go through such a trial, yet He continued to miraculously intervene in Elliot’s life! How could I not believe He had promised me this baby? It felt like having my son back from the dead.

After week 13, things started to improve. The bleeding from that awful emergency room day tapered off, and I had a couple weeks with nothing. Then, I’d spot some more for a few days. This became normal life. A few times I had heavier bleeding. By my 16 week appointment, the baby was looking well, the subchorionic bleed was much smaller, and it was everything I could hope for. Another check of the baby after bleeding at 18 weeks showed he continued to grow well.

At my 20 week ultrasound with the high-risk obstetrician in maternal-fetal medicine, Elliot still looked healthy, surpassing the 99th percentile in size. But when the doctor came in after the tech had scanned me, he described something that looked a little odd on the ultrasound screen.

“Do you see how this is kind of cloudy? That’s your amniotic fluid, and normally it would look black on the screen. It appears that blood from your subchorionic bleed has gotten into the amniotic fluid. That tells us that there is a weakening in amniotic sac.”

Hmm. That didn’t sound quite so good, but they didn’t seem too worried. The doctor did tell me of the increased risk of my waters breaking early due to the sac being compromised by the subchorionic bleed. But he didn’t seem overly concerned otherwise. When my husband asked him what I should be doing/not doing, he simply said, “Just listen to your body.” O-Kay. Well, I would try to do that.

Later that very day, my body did tell me something, but I wasn’t able to interpret just yet. I lost more “blood,” but this time it was light brown in color, and very watery. But, since it dissipated within the next couple hours, I didn’t worry.

The same thing happened a couple nights later. And a couple nights after that. And a couple nights after that. Finally, I emailed the high risk doc and asked if this could be amniotic fluid leaking.

The day he returned my email, I had had another loss of fluid overnight, and his email directed me to go in the next time it happened. I wanted more direction, so I also emailed my regular OB. At almost the moment she called me, I lost another gush of fluid. I told her what happened and she said calmly, “Go to the hospital.” So I went.

The kind nurse there got me all ready to see the doctor and also wheeled in the ultrasound machine. When I told them I wasn’t losing any more blood/fluid at the moment, no one seemed too concerned. The doctor pulled up the picture of Elliot on the ultrasound.

“Hmm. Your fluid does seem to be diminished. Sometimes this can be caused by not drinking enough water.”

I told him how much water I drink. “Oh, you do,” he replied. Guess that wasn’t it.

I found out later that the amount of fluid he measured total in my uterus was 3.8 cm. The amount that should be measurable is at least 8 cm.

Still, he didn’t seem concerned. Maybe it was just a low amount of fluid for some reason. They did a test on me called “Amni-sure”, in which they swabbed inside me for a sample of the fluid. Then they had to wait while the swab interacted with some chemical in a vial, and turned a certain color. As the nurse waited with the vial in her hand, the doctor started talking about how it really looked more like mucous, and I could go right home if it was negative and–

“Actually, it’s positive,” the nurse interrupted him, holding up the vial.

The doctor’s face abruptly changed. “Oh,” he said. “I’m sorry.” He and the nurse just looked at me, as I cried a little. It was not what I wanted to hear. I know the prognosis for a woman’s waters breaking so early is not good. I didn’t even realize how not good it really is. From their demeanor, it was like being told my baby had a terminal condition.

The doctor started talking about lots of things I could do/not do about the situation. He said that once (ONCE!) he’d seen a woman’s waters break at 19 weeks, and somehow the amniotic sac repaired itself and she went on to have her baby at 35 weeks. But that was the only example he could think of.

He talked about trying to do bed rest at home but how that’s really hard, but I could try to lay down at least two hours in the morning, afternoon, and evening…

He talked about how if the fluid didn’t replenish, I’d have some hard decisions to make, as without fluid the baby’s lungs cannot possibly develop, and even somewhere in there mentioned the possibility of “terminating the pregnancy”….

He said they could keep me at the hospital for now, though there was nothing they could do…

Though I knew there was nothing they could do for a baby at 21 weeks gestation, for some reason, I felt compelled to stay at the hospital. They admitted me, and the sweet nurse kept hugging me and took me to a more “comfy bed”, as she put it. I immediately contacted everyone I could think of to begin praying. And pray they did.

My mom told me later that she caught the nurse in the hall, and the nurse tried to reassure her a little, saying that she had seen these things turn around. My mom asked, “Like, how often? 50/50?” The nurse got serious. “No,” she said. “The odds aren’t that good. Maybe 80/20.”

I felt strangely at peace, even as I battled fear and anxiety. Everything about what I was hearing and seeing on the medical professionals’ faces were prognoses of doom. But I knew that my friends, family, and church were calling upon Jesus’ name on behalf of Elliot. And I knew the miracles God had already performed on behalf of my little Promise. God is so much bigger than what man can see!

I rested throughout the night, and didn’t lose any more fluid.

By 1:00 the next day, Dr. Bozeman, my favorite doctor, came in and greeted me warmly. He sat in a chair to have the hard talk with me, again, about all the realistically grim things losing amniotic fluid could mean. Then, he went to the ultrasound machine to scan me.

As he scanned, he seemed pleasantly surprised. “Oh, there’s some fluid. Yeah, there’s some more.” I could tell he was adding it all up. After he was done, he left for a while. When he came back, he said he had talked to one of the high risk docs in maternal-fetal medicine.

“She’s skeptical that your waters really did break yesterday, with as much fluid as you have today. But I told her that the results were very sure.”

Already God’s miracle had confounded medical science!

Dr. Bozeman talked a little more, and then sat down, kind of smiling and shaking his head. “It’s just kind of contradictory…the amount of fluid you had yesterday compared to the amount you have today…but miracles do happen.”

So that’s why I felt compelled to stay overnight! These readings showed something beyond what medical science could explain, much more than would be reasonable to expect in a day, and I believe God wanted to show up. In less than 24 hours, my amniotic fluid had increased in measure from only 3.8 cm to over 9 cm!

Dr. Bozeman and I talked some more, and he was relieved and encouraged. I told him about all the people who’d been praying for me, and he nodded in agreement when I said that’s what had done it. As he walked out the door, he told me one more time, “Your fluid levels today really are miraculous.”

Miraculous. God had done it. For me. For Elliot. But mostly for the glory of His name, that all those prayer warriors, all those doctors and nurses, all those skeptics who might happen to see the post on Facebook, would give glory to HIM who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

As I’ve recalled the roller coaster of this pregnancy, I know during the low points I have wondered, Why is this happening to me? After losing two babies, why couldn’t this pregnancy just be uneventful? But I’ve also started asking that question in a different way: Why is this happening FOR me? Why did God bless me with a prophetic dream of hope and encouragement? Why did every episode of bleeding result in a baby whose heart still beat? Why did Elliot survive contractions and loss of blood clots? Why should I receive a miracle of healing in my amniotic fluid?

Because God. That’s all there is. I don’t know why He sometimes gives and sometimes takes away. I don’t know what twists and turns this pregnancy will take from here. I don’t know what joys and challenges Elliot’s life may bring.

But I know my God. And I know that no miracle could occur without a need born out of distress. It’s like when the disciples asked Jesus about the man born blind, and who had sinned to cause him to be that way. Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” I am humbled that the works of God have been displayed in me.

Does that mean I want this roller coaster to continue? No, thanks! But if God wills it so that His name will receive more glory, I will take it.

I will also take this sweet life God has entrusted to me, and guard it well. The doctors may say I’m fine, may clear me to return to “normal activity”–but it is my season to rest. Rest my body. Rest my heart. Rest in Jesus. I will let all those kind people in my life who offer to help me, help. I’ll let go of the guilt of not cleaning or shopping or cooking or taking the girls all sorts of places. There will be plenty of time for that in life. Today, I cherish and protect Elliot’s little life inside me, not taking for granted the miracles God has performed on his behalf.

He who has PROMISED is faithful.

 

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