Early this morning I felt impressed to share my story, although it comes with great hesitancy. Some experiences in life will never be fully understood by others, but motherhood can be a great equalizer among women who may find themselves at opposite sides of a political or social spectrum. I can’t help but believe that the news we have heard in regards to abortion and the nefarious dealings of powerful organizations has pierced all of our souls, at least at some level. Women are by nature, nurturers and caregivers. Our bodies were designed to give and sustain life, not to take it away. Our spirits are intended to care for the downtrodden and the defenseless – that is just who we are, and it is a beautiful thing. And, for some of us, the news of the past few weeks has been more than we can bear, and more personal than many will realize.
Seventeen years ago I found out I was pregnant with my third child. Even though my husband was close to starting his Master’s program, we were thrilled to add another child to our family. We wanted many children and were willing to make the sacrifices needed. I was nearly four months into my pregnancy when, by chance, my doctor was trying out a new ultrasound and asked if I would want a sneak peak of my baby. We both were worried when the baby didn’t measure what it should have, but because everything else looked ok, he thought I must have been off on my due date. He decided we could wait until my next appointment and talk more then, but something didn’t feel right to me and I started to research and consulted with an OB cousin of mine and who advised bed rest, out of caution.
It was only a few days when my doctor called me and said he had made an appointment for me to see a neonatal specialist in another city and asked me to schedule an amniocentesis. It was a couple weeks after that when we learned the devastating news that the baby I was carrying had an extremely rare chromosomal abnormality and if she survived the trauma of birth, she probably wouldn’t live more than a few weeks. By the time I received the news, I was already starting to feel the fluttering inside of me which soon would turn to kicks. Next I would feel hiccups combined with all of the tender hints that a new life brings. Every movement made me love this baby more than can be explained, and so, despite the news, I did everything possible to provide the best environment for her to thrive. I don’t think I took as much as a Tylenol during that pregnancy and I frequently stayed off my feet. Somehow I assured myself that if I demonstrated to God how much I wanted this child, He would preserve her life and give us an opportunity to raise her, no matter what disabilities she might have.
The next few months were among the most difficult of our lives. Because of her genetic condition, we quickly learned there was a chance that not only her life, but my life would also be in danger. Early after the amniocentesis, I had unsolicited phone calls from two doctors, in two different states, that had heard of my case and called me to express grave concern over me continuing to carry my baby. One was gentle and kind and spoke of a past patient who had carried a baby with the same condition and had fought for her life in the ICU with severe preeclampsia (a condition that often accompanied this type of pregnancy). The other doctor was angry at my insistence to continue the pregnancy and called me and my husband naïve. I felt confused and devastated! With two little girls at home and one now moving inside of me, I was in an impossible and hopeless situation. I sought out my church leader for guidance. He counseled me to have an open heart and consider the doctors’ advice. He also told me in no uncertain terms that through prayer I would know what Heavenly Father would have me do.
It was during this time that I started to understand what it was like to become a beggar to God. When I wasn’t on my knees, I was praying in my mind throughout the day. My husband and I were desperate to receive any hint of help. Because we did not live near a temple for worship, there were times I pulled up in the parking lot of our church to pray for help. I asked for a miracle – for a change in my situation. I pleaded for a healthy baby – or if not born healthy, a baby that would live. One early morning while reading my scriptures, I received my first answer: “And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.” The words “which is right” jumped off the page and pricked my heart. I believed I had the faith for a miracle, but humbly I recognized I was praying for the wrong thing. That was the moment I knew I needed to start to pray for God’s will and not my own.
My pregnancy continued and my girls loved to put their hands on my growing tummy to feel their sister’s kick. It was both tender and heart wrenching at the same time. It was again an early morning when I received my second answer. A strong thought, almost a voice, came to my mind to visit a neighbor. Her name was Sandra and I didn’t know her well, but I vaguely recalled her speaking to me about losing a child. I grabbed a gift basket of lotions that I had felt impressed to purchase earlier that week and headed to her apartment. As soon as she opened the door I said, “Sandra, I don’t know why I am here, except to tell you that Heavenly Father knows you and loves you.” She looked at me intently and quickly asked if I could sit down in her living room so she could show me her box. I soon learned that her “box” held her most treasured possessions of her three children that died soon after childbirth (two were twins). She handled each item with meticulous care, from their crocheted caps to tiny booties. She told me each of their names and showed me their death certificates – as if to prove their existence.
It was in that moment that I realized a loving Father in Heaven was answering both of our prayers. He knew everything about our individual and unique situations. He knew me and my child just as He knew this beautiful mother and each of her children. Each one of us was special to Him and I was sent there so that He could heal both of our broken hearts with His love. I knew at that moment, just as sure as anything I know now, that He had complete control over my life and the life of my child, and I needed to trust in Him and His plan for me and my family. Weeks passed and soon I felt my child die within me. I was nearly 32 weeks when the kicks and hiccupping slowly stopped. Just as quietly and unassuming as this beautiful baby had come into our family’s life, is the way she had left. To say my heart was literally broken, does not do the pain I felt justice; yet, it soon was swallowed up by peace and hope – it is something so difficult to describe. The next day I gave the Easter lesson to ladies in my church. I don’t think I have ever prepared a lesson that had more meaning in my life.
I was in the hospital for four days trying to give birth to my daughter. The nurse that kissed me on the cheek the morning of her delivery and told me it would be the hardest day in my life was right. It was. Aside from the emotional suffering, my fever reached 106 degrees and every movement caused me pain. I couldn’t move my head off the pillow or side to side as my husband washed my forehead with a cold cloth. The medication they gave me was meant to cause an infection throughout my body so that I could expel the baby inside (I have heard it has since been taken off the market), and I was experiencing every side effect the nurse had warned me about. I remember feeling that this must be what it felt like to die. I was so ill but remarkably at peace.
The doctor became worried and determined I needed an emergency C-Section. He told us that because of the small size of my uterus it could possibly mean I would not be able to have more children. My husband and my mom called our families and asked them to all pray together at the same time that the baby would come on her own. Within a half hour the doctor was able to turn and deliver her, and finally the nurse carefully placed my tiny daughter in my arms. The spirit in that room is one that I think about often. The anesthesiologist was so touched that he left the side of my bed in tears. Later as I held my baby swaddled in a blanket with a crocheted cap on her tiny head gifted from Sandra, I sobbed. I thought about all my daughter and I had been through together. It was through her that I gained a greater insight into God’s love for me and each of His children. It was because of her that I learned that He has ALL power, even that over life and death. Carrying her and holding her makes me long for a glorious reunion and gives me another reason to be the best mother I can be in this life. Her name represents everything we went through and continues to remind me to have faith during life’s most difficult challenges. She is, and will always be, a very beloved daughter to my husband and me and sister to her six siblings.
So, as I have watched the news of the past few weeks, my heart – like so many others – has been torn apart. I think of all the mothers whose greatest desire is to create life, and other mothers who have sacrificed their lives to protect it. I will always have great empathy for those who find themselves in a similar situation as me with a heart wrenching and impossible choice to make, but those circumstances are so very rare. I can’t help but wonder when we as a society became so callous to life and the God that has made it all possible. When did we stop looking to Him for guidance in our most difficult and darkest days? It is our privilege in marriage to be in a sacred partnership with our Father in Heaven in creating the bodies for the beautiful spirits He may bless us with. He is where I will find the answers to my deepest and most heart wrenching questions, and I will continually pray for courage to move ahead with hope in the answers that He gives me. Eighteen years ago my daughter, Faith, helped to teach me these important truths, and I now have my own precious box to remind me.
By: Becky Foster