As promised, here's your second installment of responses to your questions. These definitely took a bit more time to answer. For now, I have left comments open in hopes that the spirit of any comments would continue to be kind and encouraging.
From the first installment, there was a question in the comments asking more about the Evangelical Free church. So I thought I would include two links for you... one for our church, and one about the Evangelical Free church.
Mountain View Community Church
Evangelical Free Church
And now for the rest of your questions...Do you plan on trying again to have more children? How many would you like to have?
This is something we have thought and prayed a lot about. And yes, we do. Before ever starting the journey of starting a family, we agreed on having two children, and then discussing a third. Because of having had a classical c-section with Isaac, I think how many children we'll end up having will have somewhat to do with how my body is healing from the surgery. I think at this point, if we can have two children at home with us, in addition to Isaac, we'd feel really great about that. But as the book of Proverbs tells us, "Many are the plans of a man's heart; but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." So we'll see. We really desire to fully surrender this area of our lives to the Lord, and day by day, are trying to do just that, trusting in His plan for us in this area.
I would like to know what the doctors are saying about the chance of having this happen again with more children?
This is a great question. Basically, we have been told that what happened with Isaac was a random, unfortunate fluke... a 1 in 10,000 fluke. We have received extensive genetic counseling, and have been told that with what is known right now, there is a 2-3% chance of recurrence, simply because it has already happened, not because of there being any sort of pattern of heredity.
We were offered some additional genetic testing on Spencer and I (called a microarray) to look at micro additions or micro deletions on our genes. We were told that if anything came up positive, which both the genetic counselor and head geneticist at Children's National Medical Center didn't think was likely, that it would raise the recurrence risk to 5-7%.
Spencer and I declined the testing. While we understand that even a 7% chance is low, particularly to other inheritable genetic things which could yield a 1 in 2 or a 1 in 4 chance. Even given a 7% chance of recurrence, we'd give this another shot. But, as you can imagine, in light of finding the 1 in 10,000 odds with Isaac, even the 2% chance of recurrence feels pretty substantial at times.
So, we decided that given the fact that the testing wouldn't move the recurrence risk into a percentage that made us uncomfortable trying again, that we would rather just let it be and put our hope and trust in what the Lord has for us.
Spencer and I have talked about this, and yes, we are open to it. There is adoption on both sides of our family-- my stepbrother, and Spencer's brother and sister. While we are open to this option, I will honestly say that our passion and hopes lie in having our own biological children. I loved being pregnant. If the Lord closes the door on us having biological children, we would absolutely look more into adoption.
Have you thought about adopting children?
How do you keep your marriage Christ-centered? Do you and your husband pray together regularly?
Before I answer this, I just want to say that I hope I haven't ever given the impression that we have this marriage thing all figured out. We don't. I do think that we have a strong marriage, and I think that through the grief of losing Isaac, God has faithfully really protected our marriage. But it is far from perfect. We obviously have been living out the whole "in good times and in bad" thing over the last year or two. But we do desire and seek to keep Christ at the center and do strive to be more Christ-like both individually, and as a couple.
So, with that, I think one of the ways that we keep our marriage Christ-centered is for both of us, individually, to be Christ-centered. When we each have Christ as the focus, are spending time in His word, and understand God's design for marriage and the roles of a man and a woman withing marriage, then we're better able to come together and function as a Christ-centered couple. It has been a journey to figure this out. Neither of us grew up in Christian homes where we had strong examples of what a Christ-centered marriage looks like.
Another thing that I think really helps us is being in community with examples of others who have and desire for their marriages to be focused on God... whether that's couples in our church who are a bit older than us who we can look to as an example and go to for wise counsel, or our small group of five Christian couples (including us) with whom we can be extremely authentic, honest, and real. We can encourage one another, hold each other accountable, and pray for one another. It's too hard to do it alone... with or without having lost a child. Every marriage has their own struggles and things that need to be worked through.
As far as Spencer and I praying together... we do. We pray together at meals, and before bed, and when specific issues arise. But, we don't spend time sitting down and praying when there doesn't seem to be something pressing, and we should. That's an area of our marriage that I believe needs some attention.
I too would really love to hear about yours and Spencer's marriage. Are you doing any type of counseling either with your church or elsewhere? I know that marriage is so hard without adding the loss of a child into the mix. I know you read a lot of books. Do you read any about keeping your marriage strong and grounded?
We have been really fortunate that God has really protected our marriage through all of this. Please don't get me wrong... we are normal people who are tired, can become impatient, who at times act out of selfishness instead of selflessness... you get the picture. But through all of this, God has just really protected us. He has allowed us to communicate well, He has given us the strength to meet one another's needs as best we can, He has enabled us to uphold each other.
Great question about counseling. We met with our pastor a few times while I was still pregnant with Isaac, mostly to talk through some questions we had been wrestling with about all of this. Last July, I started going to counseling on my own. I just sort of hit this wall, and despite the tremendous support from my family, friends, and Spencer, I just needed a place where I could totally let my guard down, talk about it all... the good, the bad, and the ugly... and just process. There's a great Christian counseling group in the town in which we live. After Isaac was born, Spencer started attending counseling with me some of the times so that we could learn and be equipped to really navigate the grief of losing a child as a couple.
As far as books are concerned, we've both read several (either together or on our own), including Covenant Marriage by Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages also by Gary Chapman, and Love that Lasts by Betsy and Gary Ricucci. I guess guys named Gary have good marriage advice? :) I am sure there have been other books but those are the three most recent. And of course, the scriptures are filled with wisdom about God's intended purposes for marriage as a visual expression of Christ's love for the church.
Also, so many times marriages seem to fall apart when a child is lost -- how did you/are you & Spencer working to keep it strong? Did you experience times when you took your anger and grief out on each other and how did you get past that?
The word that comes to mind here is grace. There have definitely been times that we have taken are anger or our grief out on each other... we're human. And so over this last year or so since we found out about Isaac's prognosis until now, I think we've both just been showing each other an added measure of grace... knowing that "it's the grief talking," so to speak, and knowing not to take things so personally or to become so easily offended. We've grown in this area a lot over the past few months, though, and taking our anger, hurt, or grief out on each other doesn't really seem to happen much anymore.
As far as keeping our marriage strong, I think I mentioned several things in my previous two responses. The one thing I do want to add is that we have been intentionally looking for ways to spend time together really enjoying life. I know that sounds like something a married couple would want to lose anyway, but it can be really hard when going through intense grief. Grief is exhausting. It takes energy to plan a day trip, or even go on one. So we have been trying to do things together that we enjoy... like out trip to Jamaica, me taking up golf, going on day trips here or there, visiting some of our favorite restaurants, etc. It would have been far too easy for us both to retreat to our own personal little "caves"and stay there... and neither of us wanted that.
Have your experiences have made you think or re-think your own personal and/or political beliefs about abortion?
I suppose this is where things could get a bit, um, dicey. And truth be known, this is the question that I wanted to take some time to really think and pray through.
My short answer to this question is no. My experience with Isaac has not at all made me re-think my personal or political stance on abortion. If anything, it has only solidified it and made me surer than ever about what I believe and my deeply-rooted pro-life convictions.
If you'd like to keep reading, here's the longer answer.
Before our experience with Isaac, I would have told you that I am pro-life. I had a deep conviction about this that was rooted in what the Bible says about life and the creation of life.
While I was pregnant, every obstetrician who provided our care at some point brought up the issue of terminating my pregnancy. I believe, in part, that this is because they may have a legal obligation to provide all the options. However, there was one doctor in particular (see my posts entitled "The Fourth" and "The Fourth, Part 2") who brought it up numerous times, despite our stance being abundantly clear.
I know that our reasons for not terminating my pregnancy have been woven throughout this blog, but just to more concisely highlight a few...
~ I believe that children, from the moment of conception, are unique, soul-ful, dignified people being created in the image of God.
~ I believe that God is the giver of life, and He is the one who takes it away.
Psalm 139:13-16 says:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
~ More specific to Isaac's situation, I know that God is bigger than medicine. While I believe that doctors are incredibly knowledgeable individuals, God is bigger. While I believe that current technologies, like sonography and fetal MRIs are fascinating and great medical advances, I believe that they don't tell the whole story... God does. In fact, we had been told that based on a fetal MRI, that Isaac "most certainly" had about a 90 degree forward curvature in his spine... it wasn't present at birth.
~ I know that miracles happen, and quite simply thought, "Why couldn't it be Isaac?" God is capable of that, and we wanted to give Isaac every chance at life.
I am sure I may have missed a few, but these were really our convictions and reasons for not terminating.
So October 7, 2008 comes, and I get to meet the most precious little boy I have ever laid eyes on... my son. My son who was deeply wanted, deeply loved, created by the God of the universe to serve a specific purpose in this world, full of dignity, value, and worth. Giving Isaac every chance of life has been worth all of the heartache, grief, physical recovery from a c-section... you name it. He was worth it. I couldn't imagine not getting to meet that sweet little guy who gave us a thumbs up on the ultrasound, and who kicked when I drank a Zazz or in response to his daddy's voice. He has changed my life. He was worth it.
You know, I got to thinking this past week about how parents spend a lifetime making sacrifices for their children; we will, too... not in the ways we would have liked for Isaac, and they look different from the sacrifices a parent makes for their child who is living. But they are sacrifices nonetheless.
So here we sit now on the other side of it all, and I am more convinced than ever about my beliefs about abortion, both personally and politically. I shared many of my personal convictions about this topic, so politically, I will say this: someone needs to be a voice for unborn children. Unborn children can't speak for themselves and don't have a voice, which is why I believe there needs to be legislative policy to protect them.
Lastly, I will say this. I can imagine that for many, the choice to abort your child must have been gut-wrenching. I have "met" a few people who have said that they didn't feel guilty at all about their choice to abort and stand by it, but for the most part, I know that for these mothers it is a gut-wrenching choice, often surrounded by feelings of guilt and/or shame. And to those mothers, I want you to know that there is forgiveness when you place that burden at the feet of the One who intimately created you, who loves you, and who desires to be known by you. Mercy and grace, forgiveness and healing are all found at the foot of the cross... in the person of Jesus.
Again, I am happy to leave comments open on this post for now. I realize that some of this may be controversial, particularly my response to the last question. But please know that these responses were written out of honesty, love, compassion, and grace, and I would appreciate it if comments left here came from the same place. And, if you have any follow up questions, feel free to leave those as well.