“Mom, we have some bad news.” My son spoke brokenly, calling on their way home from his wife’s monthly pregnancy check.
“There is something wrong with our baby,” he went on to say.
One of my beautiful daughters-in-law had sensed that there was something wrong with her baby. As the ultrasound techs scurried in and out of the room, calling for second opinions and double-checking each film, my son and his wife became more and more convinced that her premonitions were correct. As she lay on the table, it was as if God spoke to her through her baby.
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am not perfect, but I am His creation.”
During further testing and trips to specialists, my son and his wife came to a place of complete surrender. They bowed the knee to their heavenly Father and prayed as Jesus prayed in the garden, Not My will, but Thine. They submitted to whatever the Father had in store for them and their baby: possible death, or severe mental retardation and physical handicaps caused by menigocele and hydrocephalus. As they spoke to their church body that week, my son shared from his heart, “We see the Lord saying that HE will be glorified, and He has chosen us to be this baby’s parents.”
Within a month the diagnosis of Trisomy 18 was confirmed through amniocentesis. Along with Trisomy 18 come the words “incompatible with life” or “non-viable pregnancy.” Trisomy 18 is a random problem with cell division resulting in an extra eighteenth chromosome in all the body cells, causing severe and multiple anomalies. Since the baby would probably not live, this young couple was offered the option to terminate the pregnancy, but they refused, trusting their Father as the giver and taker of life.
The amniocentesis not only confirmed the diagnosis but also confirmed that their baby was a precious little girl. In order to identify with her more deeply, they quickly gave her the name that God had given to my daughter-in-law early in the pregnancy. Marian Barbara Gouge. Marian was chosen as a form of Mary, who submitted to her Father’s will in a difficult pregnancy. Barbara, while her maternal grandmother’s name, also means “stranger.” Recognizing that Marian would be a stranger to this world but not to her Heavenly Father, her parents chose the name to remind them and others that Marian did have a heavenly home.
They loved Marian and accepted her as a gift from the Father. The older children, four and three, also loved their baby sister and often talked to her, explaining what they were doing or where they were going. “Marian, we are going to go and play basketball with Daddy.” One time the siblings argued that it was not fair that Marian would get to see Jesus first when in fact, they were older and had known Him longer. The family embraced Marian and loved her deeply, including her as a very real part of their life.
As the pregnancy advanced, they waited for God’s timing. As the due date got closer and closer, they continued to say that their trust was in the Lord. Finally a date was set for Marian’s birth. Because of Marian’s position, the physicians were not sure if her mother would need a Caesarean section. Their trust still in their Father’s perfect plan, my son and his wife promised each other that they would not second-guess or play the ‘what if’ game. Whether Caesarean or normal, whether Marian stayed awhile or walked right away to Jesus, whatever God did would be the best for them and for Marian.
Finally, in response to prayers around the world, Marian did a flip and stayed head down for the delivery. However, before she saw the light of this world, Marian looked upon the radiant face of Jesus.
Going through this experience with them, I learned invaluable principles about walking in my faith. First, bow the knee; submit to all that God has for me and all that He might do in me. Come to the place of submission and letting go of my desires.
Next, embrace the situation and learn to love deeply. Our son and his wife named the baby; they loved her deeply, and they gave her a shot at life. In preparation for her death, her father handcrafted the casket using beautiful wood from Bolivia as well as cherry cut off their land. Her mother sewed the burial gown and lined the casket. Together, they dressed her and prepared Marian for burial. The men of the family dug the small grave where Marian would lie. They immersed themselves and their family in each step of the process.
Finally, trust God for each detail—no second guessing or ‘what ifs.’ Believe and act on the fact that He has the very best in mind for me.
Lately, as my husband and I have walked through a major decision in our lives with many unknowns, we were challenged to walk as our children were walking. Sensing a holy unrest, or a creative restlessness, we were not surprised when we were asked to consider transferring from Bolivia to Argentina. Our first step was to bow the knee and submit to whatever God had for us. We were comfortable in Bolivia, having lived there for 23 years. We had deep relationships here. Yet our prayer was, “Not My will but Thine.”
After taking that step, we have tried to embrace the situation and to love deeply. We clung to each other as we sought His will and found joy in our relationship. We visited Argentina. We sought counsel from godly leaders. We read books that would challenge our thinking and seeking. We embraced our restlessness and our uncertainties, and we loved those that God has given to us. Finally, we challenged each other not to play the ‘what if’ game, and to avoid second guessing. “What if…we could stay in Bolivia? What if…we can’t find housing in Argentina? What if….we really did not hear God’s voice? Maybe we should just stay here…?”
As we continue to walk through this transition period, we challenge one another to truly trust God’s sovereignty in our lives and to act on that trust by allowing Him to lead without second guessing His hand. By observing my children as they walked through a situation that broke their hearts but not their spirits, I have learned to walk…all over again.