Our Baby Announcement
Our Baby Announcement
Instead of a traditional baby announcement, I decided to write my thoughts over the last week out. Apologize for the length but as you’ll see, its been therapeutic for me to write during this time.
Carolyn and I went in today for our 13 week ultrasound appointment, relieved that finally our first trimester was about over. Baby waiting rooms are dynamic places. You see joyful couples, lonely moms, nauseous moms, and there we were. We were caught off guard when the ultrasound technician told us that they found abnormalities in our scan and that we’d have to wait for a doctor to give us more information. It felt like a brutal, long, and painful 45 minutes.
Our lives are one huge grasp for control as we move further and further away from it. As we get older we either learn to let go of control or we live lives that see increasing anxiety. Our society tries to give us more tools for control: tracking devices, internet of things, video on demand, and more. It’s not bad for us to strive for control, but sometimes we forget that we really don’t have control, no matter how much we think we do.
I felt like those 45 minutes were a reminder that I’m not in control. I told myself maybe if Carolyn has the best vitamins, we pick the best doctor, read the right books, and eat the right diet then everything will be perfect. To be reminded that we are not in control is an amazing place to be. After mulling through all the possibilities: does our baby have a genetic disorder? Is our baby still alive? I closed my eyes and said “hello God, it’s been a while.” I spend time with God every morning, but that felt like the first time in a long time that I truly communed with him.
The doctor called our name and told us the news. The ultrasound showed that our baby has an extremely massive cyst filled with fluid that is attached to what seems to be the baby’s kidney. The cyst is taking up the majority of the baby’s abdomen and is alarmingly large even just at 13 weeks (to discover at finding this early means that it’s a pretty serious problem) and could either grow so large to push on the baby’s heart and cause heart failure with the baby passing away while in the uterus, or more likely the baby will be carried to term but born with no functioning kidneys or lungs, and pass away shortly after birth. This is a very rare occurrence and the doctor told us that there was nothing we could do to prevent it, and the cause is unclear. We were also given the option of aborting the baby which we knew wasn’t an option for us. The doctor was honest that she was not hopeful for a good outcome. She was able to see faint signs of the other kidney, but it didn’t seem to be functioning due to the bladder having no fluid in it.
We stayed at the hospital for a lot longer, in different meetings with different people but we were consistently given the advice to distract ourselves. Go back to work so you can forget about what just happened, perhaps go watch a movie. Above all, do not go home and write a blog post about this.
We have a challenging road ahead of us and need your prayers and support. When we told many of our friends early on about the pregnancy we knew there was a risk that there could be an outcome that we weren’t happy about and then we’d have to go on and have some awkward conversations. Almost every pregnancy book says not to tell people until late stages of pregnancy. We intentionally told people though as we want our friends to know what’s going on in our lives: to laugh together, to mourn together.
We don’t need to be afraid of pain, in fact, we recognize that God often speaks to us the most in circumstances that are the most painful, as CS Lewis famously said “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” So instead of “wasting the pain” by seeking to distract ourselves, we took work off, went home and cried our eyes out, put on some worship music, and did what we see so often in the Bible, we lamented.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. -2 Corinthians 12:9
With a pregnancy that is so high risk, we don’t know what to hope for. Should we hope that the baby passes away sooner? Should we have a baby shower? Do we prepare as if we are going to have a baby knowing that the probability is high that the baby will be gone shortly after he or she is born? As Christians, we cautiously believe in miracles. We know they can happen, but we also know that in most situations God allows the world to rotate and follow natural principles. Please take a moment to pray for a miracle.
Yesterday, we were going to create a dance video to announce to the world that baby Chen was on the way. Today, on Good Friday, we were delivered some of the worst news that we could imagine. I know that God’s timing on Good Friday is not coincidental. I was in so much shock at the hospital that I didn’t cry until Carolyn and I sat down in a restaurant and started praying. “Father, more than 2000 years ago, you sacrificed your son on a cross, for my sins so that I could know you and have eternal life. Thank you that you know how I feel right now. Thank you that this baby is valuable to you and that before you formed this baby in the womb, you knew him or her.”
On this Easter weekend if you made it this far in the post, I just want to tell you about the hope and joy that Carolyn and I have in Jesus, even in the hardest of circumstances. I just felt such a burden to tell people about Jesus after I heard the news of our baby. It was such a shocking reminder that our time on earth is short, that anything can happen to anyone at any time. All my other problems were put in perspective. He created you and me, and this world. Every one of us has done something we ought not to have done and carry the burden of guilt with us. God sent his son to die for the sins of the world and to break the barrier of sin so that He could have a relationship with us. I felt like going through this made me appreciate God in a brand new way.
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Our grieving period has been both a much bigger blessing than expected and more painful than expected. All the support that we have received from our friends has been incredible. It is admittedly often the trigger of a wave of tears from both of us. We’ll be totally fine one moment and then start crying uncontrollably. We have around a hundred people praying for Baby Chen.
As a couple we haven’t experienced a lot of pain before either as individuals or together. I’ll always remember how after we found out the news on Good Friday, we came home from the doctors appointment, curled up in our bed, listened to the King’s College Choir — Were You There and cried together. It was such a reverent moment for us to be able to reflect on our pain, and also empathize with all those around the world that have suffered through the joy and pain of pregnancy, and to empathize on the most basic level with those in the Bible. I think about what God the Father had to go through when he sent his son to die for us. I don’t know my baby at all yet, but God knew the son infinitely. I didn’t choose to send my child but God intentionally sent his son to die. When Mary was carrying Jesus only to find out one day that her son would have to die in the worst possible way. Or Abraham who waited 15 years for the promise of a son and then was asked to sacrifice him. Unthinkable and brutal. God did not have him carry through with this because ultimately he sacrificed his own son.
Carolyn and I often think we lack the pain receptors that many people we have but it probably has more to do with how little we’ve actually had to go through in our lives. I keep thinking I’m in this bad dream and I’ll wake up and everything will be totally fine. I didn’t know how much I loved this baby until I was told that he could leave us at any moment. What perspective in that we so often lack love for the things that we expect or that we feel entitled to.
We’ve also thought much more about what life is in context of being a Christian. It’s easy to be fatalistic and think that because something doesn’t meet our standards of perfection that we should start over and be perfect. That is how we treat so much of what we do, and that is part of our quest for control. The baby that Carolyn is holding is not any less a miracle because he has medical issues. He is an eternal life at inception and whether he’s with us for 1 hour, no hours, or 80 years, we are thankful for him and we love him. We were reminded by Pastor Jeremy Treat at Good Friday service that in the midst of the pain, not to forget to celebrate our baby.
Finally, I’ve been thinking through how I ought to pray. I know that God can heal this baby. If we go to the doctor’s appointment on Tuesday and the scan shows no large liquid spot I will be blown away but I will not be surprised. I know God can heal the baby. I think still, I’m afraid to ask for something that I know I could be disappointed by. The easier way to pray is just to ask that God’s will be done, that way in whatever circumstance I am not disappointed instead of praying for what I truly want, which is ultimately full healing. I think this is an element of faith though. To be able to pray for something you want wholeheartedly and yet to be totally ok with surrendering to an outcome that you don’t want. Faith is not about protecting ourselves against disappointment and pain. Faith is about pursuing something wholeheartedly and trusting the Lord in the outcome.
Today is the day of our doctor appointment. God has us in a peaceful place where our hands are open to what is going to happen. We thank God for this as you just never know how you are going to respond in difficult circumstances.
I woke up this morning reading John 11, the story of Lazarus. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha were Jesus’ friends. Jesus was preaching in another city and his friend Lazarus was on his death bed. Jesus ended up staying in the city an extra couple days and during that time Lazarus died. Jesus said he did this because he loved Lazarus. Why would Jesus let Lazarus die because he loved him? This is a much longer theological conversation for another post, but in short, he did so because what Lazarus (and what we) needed most, was for him to be raised from the dead.
When Jesus shows up Mary complains saying “if you had been here, Lazarus wouldn’t have died”. Jesus gets super emotional here and starts weeping, and it says he was greatly moved and troubled. Jesus goes to Lazarus’ tomb and he raises him from the dead after he had been dead for 4 days.
I thought to myself this is the appropriate story today for our first follow up doctor appointment. It’s been 4 days since Good Friday, the day Jesus was killed, the same day we found out the news. Lazarus was in the tomb for 4 days. Today is going to be a miraculous day.
Today we were supposed to get a second opinion and then a genetic screening procedure called a chorionic villus sampling (CVS). We prayed all weekend, and had hundreds of people praying alongside for healing for this baby. When we got there the doctor was accompanied by a resident and nurse ready to proceed with the screening. They took an ultrasound and identified the cyst. My heart dropped because I was so confident that something was going to change over the weekend with the hundred plus people praying and I felt discouraged that the cyst was still there.
The doctor told me that he wasn’t intending to do a second opinion as our last doctor is a good one and he saw the scans already, but I pleaded with the doctor for him to do another examination as the doctor herself on Friday said that she couldn’t be sure. He agreed to do so. Once he got in action it was like seeing a master applying his craft. He did the scan transvaginally instead of from the belly. He started taking pictures, videos that captured the movement of the cyst. He looked at the cyst from 360 degrees, studied the shape of the cyst, he looked at the blood vessels and organs around the cyst, and then went through each organ one by one.
I was praying over the child the entire time as the doctor was pretty silent and not answering our questions while he was in the zone. I didn’t even know what gender the baby was at this point but I just just started calling him Lazarus in my mind. “Lazarus, please get up, Lazarus please have working kidneys!” And then there it was: the left kidney and then the right kidney. Carolyn and I were so confused and excited. We thought best case scenario was that we would have one working kidney but there were two working kidneys. He asked us to go to lunch as he wanted to continue to study the video and the pictures. Multiple meetings later we were given a more complete picture. Our baby will potentially need surgery after birth to remove the cyst, and we’ll need to continue monitoring the cyst to make sure it doesn’t block blood movement or get in the way of any organs but our doctor is optimistic and thinks that this will largely be a normal, lower-risk pregnancy.
I imagine pregnancy for a lot of people is an emotional roller coaster and I don’t think it ends here for us. One day it’s the worst day of your life, and the next day you’re rejoicing. 9 months of excruciating lack of control. 9 months of amazing miracles and lessons. We were excited to see a miracle today but the reality is that we see miracles all around us all the time. I’m learning that there are literally hundreds of thousands of things that need to happen for us to have healthy kidneys.
Thank you for the many people that are walking with us through the pregnancy. This isn’t the pregnancy announcement we expected to make but here we are. From the looks of the scan, it looks like it’s going to be a boy. Carolyn and I are thinking about naming the boy Lazarus.
<edit> We found out shortly after that the baby is actually a girl! I spoke way too soon hahaha. We are thinking of naming her Talitha which is part of the phrase Jesus used when he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.