Wednesday, January 13, 2016

...of the same, but different

When we came back to Austin from the UAE and Quinn started back at his old job and we went right back to the same church and are even a few months away from moving back into our old house, we struggled with feeling like the previous two and half years just didn't happen. Sure, we had another child, but it all felt the same as it had. Except that our hearts were completely different. God had pulled us out of our former comfort zone and opened our hearts and eyes to a people who desperately needed His love. So when we came back, we were like different people in the same life. Even though those two years were less than we had planned and the memory of them gets further and further away, He still used them to shape and transform us in ways we never could have imagined. It was like we had entered some kind of time warp where everything was the same and different all at once.

Then, just a few weeks ago, when we discovered that our fourth baby, Joanna Lynn, had Down syndrome, everything changed again. In the five short weeks since we have been given that information we have grown to love her dearly. We delved into finding out more about what would make her special and different and I spent a lot of time reading stories and watching videos of amazing kids and people with Down syndrome. After knowing that the Lord had laid that condition so specifically on Quinn's heart, we were positive she was meant to have it and it made us very excited to meet her and add her to our family. Quinn was sure that she was the child the Lord meant for us to raise, but I always knew that losing her was a real possibility and that maybe her life was meant to lead us into caring for a different child with Down syndrome. We didn't know the extent of her physical issues and were waiting with anticipation for next Tuesday when we would have her 20 week anatomy scan with the specialist and get more specific information.

I felt her move a few times around 16 weeks and knew that the movements should get more and more pronounced. When her heart rate was 181 (just above the very top of the normal range of 120-180) at 16 weeks and her movements got less pronounced and spread out and eventually stopped around 17 weeks, I kind of knew in my mom heart that we had lost her. I hung on until 18 weeks hoping for her movement to start again, but scheduled an appointment with one of my doctors this past Monday at 18 weeks. 

When they couldn't find her heartbeat, my heart still broke. My sweet regular doctor was rushed in to confirm and he found that she was only measuring at about 15 weeks. There is no way to know exactly when she was officially healed and went to be with Jesus, but she probably stopped growing and passed away sometime last week. My doctor reminded me of what I already knew: that this meant she most likely wasn't "viable", meaning God knew the extent of her physical issues and it was the most merciful thing for all of us for Him to take her home now. 

I cried so much that day that it hurt. But the hope we have in knowing that we will see her again someday is beyond compare. I'm not sure how old she'll be or whether she will be "our daughter", but I'm sure we will meet her and somehow we will know. When we told Abram that Joanna had already gone to heaven to be with Jesus, he was sad for just a split second as he processed and then his face lit up and he said, "But she is the most lucky one, because she is the first one in our family to get to meet Jesus! I want to meet Jesus!" Amen, sweet little boy. Amen.

We are now on the other side of another time warp. It was shorter this time, but just as epic. Four months ago, we though we'd be adding a fourth child to our family. One month ago, we thought we'd be adding a special needs child our family. Today, we only have three earthly children in our family again. We are back where we started, but as completely different people. We still believe that God wants for us to be involved in the Down syndrome community in some way. We don't know what that will look like, but Joanna's life will have a ripple effect in our lives and hopefully in other lives as well.  We've already had some dear friends tell us that God used her to place Down syndrome on their hearts as well and they are praying through what that could look like for them. Praise God for her big, little life.

I thought it might be more appropriate to wait for a bit to process longer, but tomorrow I go in for the procedure that will remove her body from mine and I would love prayer. Writing this all out has also helped with the grieving process. I also feel that this is the best way for us to glorify God in this. We trust Him and believe that He is completely sovereign over it all and there is so much peace and comfort in that, it's incredible. I know, too, that I am not alone in this. The women I know who have been open and transparent about the children they have lost have given me a lot of strength these last few days. Quinn and I were talking about how, for reasons only really known to Him, God adds thousands of "babies" to heaven everyday who never saw the light of our sun or breathed our air, but are experiencing His presence in the fullest, healed and whole. And it's for His glory and our good. How amazing is that?

Thank you for all of your prayers for Baby Jo and our family and your many words of encouragement since my last post. We asked for prayer for her healing and a strong body and He has absolutely answered those prayers! She will always be our gracious gift from God and our beloved fourth child and we wouldn't change that for anything.

I'll end all of this with the first and third verses from a song that has always been a favorite of mine, but didn't truly have personal meaning until the last year. It now gives me so much comfort.

"When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
'It is well, it is well with my soul!'"

"And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend.
Even so, it is well with my soul."