By Jenna Fleming
Writer/Member, Union Avenue Baptist Church
It was a year ago that I miscarried our third child. A strong heartbeat one week became faint and irregular a couple weeks later. The ultrasound room was darker than normal on that day. I have two healthy girls, and I know how a “normal” pregnancy is supposed to go, so when the ultrasound tech struggled to find my baby’s heartbeat only to call my doctor in, it was new and shocking for me. A positive pregnancy test should result in a live baby. Right?!
Fast forward to late summer. I got another positive pregnancy test, but I was prepared this time. Guarded. My former naïve optimism was now a cautious longing for a good outcome, i.e. healthy, live baby. This time, though, I didn’t even make it to my first OB appointment. I miscarried at home and relived the grief I had earlier that spring.
I wanted answers. A solution.
My OB referred me to a fertility specialist to give me a complete workup and assess what may be causing my recurrent miscarriages. After several tests, one particular test came back positive showing that I have Antiphospholipid Syndrome, which is a fancy name for “my body sees babies as foreign objects and wants to destroy them.” Thankfully, due to modern medicine and really smart doctors there is a way to treat this disorder. All I had to do was take a baby aspirin every day and heparin (blood thinner) twice a day once I received a positive pregnancy test.
So, in the fall of last year when I had another positive test, that is just what I began to do. I had to go to the lab every other day to have my hormone levels checked, because they had to double every two days or so. The lab opened up at 8:00 a.m. every day (even Sundays), and I was there by 7:55 eager to find out that finally this baby was going to thrive. My levels never doubled, and with every test signs were showing that this pregnancy would end in miscarriage as well. And it did.
I was numb. What happened?! I had an answer —a solution! And it didn’t fix it. I did all I was supposed to — I injected shots into my side twice a day for crying out loud!
What do you do when you have a solution, but God has another plan?
My fertility doctor said that this miscarriage was “obviously” genetic, because the heparin didn’t even have a chance to work. My body shut down the pregnancy right away. I was given about 50 percent odds of ever having another viable pregnancy. Will I ever have another baby? Sure. But, I will more than likely have more miscarriages, according to my doctor.
Throughout this whole horrendous ordeal, the Lord was gently whispering to me through His Word and through His Spirit, “Jenna, do you trust ME?” Of course I do, God. You know that. “No. I didn’t say do you trust Me theologically. I said, ‘Do you really trust Me?’ ” I grew up in church. I knew the Sunday School answers. I can quote for you Proverbs 3:5-6, but it was only until last year that I had to actually live it. I am still living it, and it is a daily exercise.
You see, the Lord proves His faithfulness every single day. The problem with us is that we often fail to recognize it, or praise Him for it. I cannot describe how lonely I felt through every miscarriage (at first). Yes, my husband grieved along with me, and so did our extended family. But I was the one actually experiencing the loss of every single baby. It was a difficult, dark valley, but even in my loneliness I was not alone. My God was right there, and I felt His tears and comfort with every loss. Only He could understand my struggle and grief in those moments, and at 2 a.m. He met with me. He met me in the laundry room weeks later, somewhat removed from the initial loss but suddenly reminded of it once again. The tears came, but so did His compassion. He met me with every Facebook birth announcement and baby shower invitation.
He met me with another positive pregnancy test. My human reaction was fear, but the Lord reminded me to not fear because He was (and always has been) in control. I cannot explain to you the surpassing peace He gave me in those early weeks. I am not a strong woman. I can usually find something to worry about or obsess over. He was my strength, and He walked with me to every lab appointment, every ultrasound, and every assessment.
Genetic testing had to be done around week nine to determine if there were any chromosomal abnormalities. Thankfully, the tests came back low risk, and I was discharged from my fertility specialist to my OB. We found out through the testing that we are expecting a boy! That was a special bit of bonus news for us. My New Year prayer to God was that we would have a healthy pregnancy this year and that we would have a boy.
I am now 15 weeks pregnant, and hopeful. We named our son Judson Dean — Judson in honor of the great Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson as well as after the Judson Mill Village where Travis’ Granny lived and Dean is Travis’ middle name along with his dad’s and grandfather’s.
There is every reason to believe that Judson will grow and be born strong and healthy. But what if he’s not? What if the Lord chooses to take Him as well?
So many of us often live in the delusion of certainty. We feel certain that we will wake up tomorrow, that we won’t get fired from our jobs, that our kids won’t get cancer, that a tornado won’t wreak havoc on our neighborhood, that we will live to be 95 and will die in our sleep. These things are not certainties. They are wishes at best. Now, I believe that the Lord blesses His children and that we can “laugh at the time to come” with great hope. We should not tremble wondering what trial could await us at each turn of the corner. We must also not become startled when trials do come, however.
The question boils down to “Where does our hope lie?”
Do I want a healthy, growing baby? Of course I do. Is my hope in Judson, or my other children for that matter? Is my identity and worth found in being my children’s mother or Travis’ wife? No, and it cannot. People can fail me. Plans fail. Car engines fail. Pregnancies can fail. But, God never fails. “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what He sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25).
So we wait. Not for a job, a marriage, a baby, or a nice retirement, but for God. It is always God. He is what our hearts truly long for. We must believe, yes, that God delights in giving good gifts to His children, but our hope is not in the gifts, but in the Giver.
We trust through uncertainty knowing that one thing is for certain: He is faithful and He is with us and will accomplish His purposes for us, for our good, and for His glory. Now that’s hoping for the best.
— Fleming writes a blog from Memphis where her husband, Travis Fleming, is pastor of Union Avenue Baptist Church.