(This is Lauren. I thought I would post what I shared at Leo’s baby shower the other night, as an encouragement for all of you going through difficult times! I have broken up this lengthy post into two.)
Last April is when Mark and I found out we were expecting our first child. As most parents do, we excitedly began to make plans for the next year for our growing family. I diligently worked on my birth plan, which was to have a home water birth with the local midwives. After graduation in December we planned on moving back to Texas as soon as possible to begin Partnership Development, and we were hoping to be in Indonesia within the year.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”
During Jungle Camp, I was away on the Ladies’ Hike up on the cliffs of the Bruce Peninsula when Mark received a phone call from the midwives saying that the previous week’s ultrasounds revealed something wrong with Leo’s heart.
It’s incredible how quickly your plans for your life can change! At that time we had no idea what kind of “heart problem” our son had, but we were expecting the worst. This is not what first-time parents expect for their first born child, and we began to wonder what God had in store for us. We knew that He didn’t allow this out of spite, but because He knew that somehow He would receive glory out of this!
“O Lord, you alone are my hope. I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood. Yes, you have been with me from birth; from my mother’s womb you have cared for me. No wonder I am always praising you!” Psalm 71:5,6 (NLT)
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” Psalm 139:13,14 (NLT)
God has created every child in the womb. He knew long before we did exactly what Leo’s heart was going to be like, how it functioned, how it would alter our plans, and yet He allowed us to become pregnant with this specific child. This baby with all of his heart defects was not an accident! Some doctors think that “fetuses” with hearts like Leo’s should be aborted, but we believe that God created Leo as he is on purpose, and that He loves him! He has cared for Leo since he was conceived, and the Lord desires to have a restored relationship with him. THAT is encouraging!
Around 28 weeks was when Leo’s heart suddenly developed heart block. Heart block is a problem that occurs with the heart’s electrical system, which controls the rate and rhythm of heartbeats. (My knowledge of the heart sure has expounded in the past year! To think I used to view the heart as a simple whole muscle!). Leo’s heart rate dropped from around 140bpm to 60bpm, and eventually went down to 50bpm after he was born. Doctors said that babies in the womb with complete heart block have a 43% mortality rate, and when they had a rate under 55 bpm, 9 out of 15 died. So knowing this, there were nights where I laid in bed worrying if Leo was still alive. When was the last time I felt him move? Had he moved? Was he still alive? Or did his heart fail and was he dying? It was so easy to become paralyzed with fear.
Because of his low heart rate, a normal birth was out of the question. Leo would be needed to be born via C-Section. Yikes! My worst fear! The only time I’ve ever gone to the hospital was for a dog bite as a child. I’ve never had an IV. Never had surgery. Never had an epidural. And this certainly was NOT in my birth plan. They also told me that Leo would be whisked away immediately after he was born and taken across the street to Sick Kids, but there might be a small chance that I could look at him before he left. Could this any more opposite than my birth plan? Having a C-Section obviously brought a weight of disappointment, but also a lot of unknown, and most of all… fear!