Though the Fig Tree Should Not Blossom
My husband Scott was looking through his hard drive this morning and found this note he wrote 2 years ago, the day we learned that our fourth child was to be our second child with serious congenital heart defects. Now, looking back 2 years later, we can praise God for so many answered prayers, including the miraculously good health and pudge on our Little Boy. But even if God had chosen to allow his heart to remain unhealthy despite surgeries, or even if God had chosen to take our Little Boy as He has taken our firstborn, we can… indeed, we must… rejoice in the Lord and take joy in the God of our salvation.
March 13, 2007
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19”
Today Joy had a fetal echo performed at the our children’s hospital’s Heart Center — a place, and a team of people, we have come to know very well over the last 7 years of visits and procedures with Elli.
The mood was light. Sherry greeted us with a smile. She had been the surgical nurse at two of Elli’s heart surgeries so many years ago, and had been with us each step of the way. As strange as it may sound, the cardiology clinic at Children’s is a familiar place to us, with familiar faces everywhere.
Joy laid on the table and the technician started moving the probe around her belly. Almost instantly we saw it. The baby was a boy. Oh, how we smiled and celebrated! We had been careful not to cast our hopes one way or the other, but were overjoyed to know that the boys could share a room.
For about 30 minutes, the technician took careful measurements and the conversation was light, alternating between personal and procedural chit chat. “I have two kids, and I always call my kids the wrong name,” she said. “There are the 4 chambers. Ooh, there’s his little foot!”
The technician left to take the data to a cardiology fellow in the Heart Center who had performed past fetal echoes for us. We knew the drill. He would take a look in another room and drop in to let us know how everything looked.
When he returned, he shook our hands with a nervous smile, plopped down somewhat uneasily on the stool at the echo machine, and said, “I have some concerns about the baby’s heart, and I want to take another look myself at some things.” I felt a weak electric shock go down to my tailbone and into my leg.
He re-prepped Joy and carefully maneuvered the wand around on her belly, holding it still with his face up close to the computer screen, frowning, then moving it again for another angle. The baby was squirmy, which was complicating his efforts to get the perfect angle.
He didn’t speak for what must have been 15 minutes as he did this, except for asking 2 questions. “You did the genetic testing after Elli, right?” “Yes,” we answered. “It all came back inconclusive.” “That’s what I thought,” he said. “How far along are you?” he asked. “Twenty weeks tomorrow,” Joy answered.
Finally, he carefully draped the wand’s cord around his neck and wiped the jelly off his hands. Then he delivered the diagnosis. I can’t remember his exact words, but he called it “pulmonary atresia.” I only remember certain words and phrases that delivered more of those electric shocks to me, like “complex” and “unfortunately” and “more complex than Elli.” I didn’t think it got more complex than Elli. This was serious.
He also informed us that if we wanted to terminate the pregnancy, we had about a 3-week window to do so. He made it clear that he had to say that, and was neither for nor against it. This was serious.
We had been here before. It was so much of the same, yet so different. With Elli, we didn’t know anything about her diagnosis until she was about to die at 3 days old.
With this little boy, we know ahead of time that he will be sick. He is not sick now, though. None of the complications of pulmonary atresia affect someone as long as they are attached to a placenta. It is only when he makes the transition to breathing on his own that the complications will come. In that sense, it is good to know he will be whisked away when he is born and get the best care possible.
There’s so much we don’t know. Yet, at the same time, there’s so much we do know. We have a diagnosis at 20 weeks gestation. We have access to great medical care and the latest technology.
Yet we are careful not make the bells and whistles our “capital H” hope. We must not let doctors de-throne Christ in our hearts.
Jesus prayed, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” He didn’t pray, “Lead us not into chromosomal abnormalities, but deliver us from the odds.” Physical infirmities are a valuable tool by which we sharpen our dependence and our view and our love and our reverence for God. Illness is not the most horrifying manifestation of the fall on humankind. Sin is.
And so our prayer is that God would lead us not into the temptations that come with this approaching test, that He would shape us into a closer likeness to His Son, that we would make the surpassing worth of knowing Him our focus, and our joy.
We appreciate your prayers in the coming months. Surgeries and big decisions are on the horizon. We have already begun asking specifically for wisdom around his care.
God is in control, and our best response is to cast our Hope in Him.
Little Boy snagging an unguarded peanut butter jar
Today we can rejoice in the extra pudge Little Boy carries on his body — his heart is healthy enough to allow him to gain weight and grow. His color is good. He needs no medicines. He shouldn’t need surgery for many years. He has no physical restrictions on his activity (this is especially fortunate because I really don’t know how I’d keep him from doing the things he wants to!).
But we also rejoice in the 8 1/2 difficult years we were given with Elli. And, though it hurts deeper than anything I’ve ever felt before, giving her back to God doesn’t mean that God is less good or less powerful or less intentional in His actions and direction in our lives… or in hers.