by Jesse Jost
Two years to the day after our son Justin was born we awoke in the maternity ward with broken hearts and an empty womb. Our little Emmy left us to join her sibling Davey in heaven at 11 weeks pregnant. Heidi haemorrhaged fairly seriously and was taken by ambulance to Lethbridge the night before. As I looked at Heidi’s pale shaking body, I begged God for more time with her. God spared her and the following week was filled with sadness but also euphoria and fresh love between Heidi and me.
We both felt so carried. But the thing that made this miscarriage harder than last time was how hard it hit our kids, especially 7 year old Sophia. She thought for sure this was a girl and she would finally have her sister. It’s so hard to watch your little girl cry herself to sleep. But it is a faith builder to see how God uses these things to reveal Himself to our kids. Sophia has often said how God comforted her during those dark times.
A couple months later the pregnancy test read positive. Hope was mingled with anxious thoughts, just what adventure would this little baby take us on? Elijah who loves the story of how he arrived after a miscarriage, was fully confident that this baby would arrive safely just like he did. Mommy and Daddy really wanted to believe this, but knew that God’s ways are mysterious and not always our ways.
A couple months into this pregnancy Heidi had some symptoms that were similar to the ones that preceded the miscarriage. I thought for sure we were going to lose this one. I tried so hard to focus on my responsibility at work, listening to Casting Crowns and Shane and Shane worship.
I thought about how connected our lives are, and how each event has huge ramifications and consequences that we cannot foresee. God gently spoke truth to my heart: He sees the alternate paths each action will take and He wisely and lovingly chooses the best path for us, even though it may not always seem like it in the moment.
The miscarriage never happened and at 10.5 weeks we heard a strong little heart beat. At 20 weeks an ultrasound tech showed us in graphic detail that we had a healthy boy growing in the womb.
Heidi and I both have vivid and creative imaginations, which is a gift when speaking or writing, but can also make us easier targets for Satan’s fiery darts of fear and doubt. It seems like pregnancy is a time when we are especially tested in this area. Even though childbirth is a miracle that happens safely millions of times each day, it is also one of the most dangerous events a woman can face. The stories of women and infants who die in child birth can torment us with visions of tragedy.
I try to listen to the quieting voice of God, looking for reassurance that everything will be okay. At times God gives me glimpse of the kingdom impact our child will bring and fear is replaces with excitement, but other times a deceptive voice is mingled in there.
I panicked one night when I thought I heard God say Eric would be fine but I would lose Heidi in the process. Now I am not one to actively look for supernatural revelation of the future. I know that the Bible is the only sure revelation and with it we need to test all other thoughts and impressions. I tested this thought biblically and thought of the times that prophets in the Old Testament would foretell someone’s death, and wondered if this was happening to me. On the other side of the ledger, I remembered that God never gives us a “spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind.” Since the fruit of this thought was fear, I was pretty sure it must not be from God.
Still the whole thing left me so unsettled and I couldn’t shake the feeling that these were probably my last days with Heidi. I don’t want to give the impression that I passively let these tormenting thoughts control me. I fought hard against them, and tried to focus on the truths of Romans 8 and Psalm 145. It was hugely encouraging to remember that God was “for us” in this fight. And that God was “full of compassion” and that “tender mercies were over all his works.”
Thankfully during the last month of the pregnancy I felt compelled to work hard on a guest room and storage room I was building in our basement. I put almost every available moment into buying supplies and doing the work. It felt so good to have a positive focus to direct my anxious mind. Still our malicious enemy was ever quick to send a morbid dart my way: “Is God wanting me to finish this guest room before the baby comes so there will be place for help to stay if Heidi doesn’t make it?” Ridiculous I know, but also real and cruel. Still, I was so grateful for every moment with Heidi and I loved showing her each new stage of progress. Her cheerful excitement and affirmation just added fuel to my drive to get this done.
On Saturday July 8th, I finally got the suspended ceiling tile up, and we moved in the carpet, bed, and decorations. We both loved the finished product, especially the cool air of the basement, with upstairs temps reaching 30’s C (almost 90 F ) Not the most pleasant temps for a woman carrying an 8 lb heater around all day.
On Monday , July 10th (Heidi’s actual due date) we went into Lethbridge for a non-stress test (the ultrasound had put our due date at July 3, so were considered a week overdue). The test showed baby to be fine and active, and during our prenatal check up, our doctor stripped the membranes. We had our infant car seat in the van, but we also had a 6’ bookcase, a dresser, and a reading couch in there, so I secretly hoped to get these items home before baby came. There was no immediate action so we headed home and unloaded the van.
My sister Amy-Joy had a strong sense that the baby would come soon and offered to spend the night at our place to watch the kids in case we had to leave in the middle of the night. We declined her sweet offer, sure that we still had a lengthy wait. That night the heat wave we had been enduring was interrupted by a terrific thunderstorm, rain and wind. We lay in bed, unable to go sleep with the windows rattling. I finally fell asleep after midnight.
At around 2 Heidi woke me and said she had been having contractions since 12:30 and we should probably head into town soon (an hour and 15 minute drive). With our last baby, her water broke around midnight and labor was so heavy that I shook from adrenaline all the way into town hoping to make it to the hospital before Justin made his grand entrance. This time Heidi reassured me that she was not in active labor yet and to take my time. I called over to my family and to my surprise Amy answered on the second ring. She had put the phone by her bed in case her premonition proved true.
I put on some worship music and we took the surreal, moonlit drive into Lethbridge. Heidi’s contractions were not intense and up to 20 mins apart. She wondered if we were leaving too soon. I, who a couple nights earlier could not sleep because I was vividly trying to figure out how to deliver a baby on the side of the road, was fully confident this was the right thing to do!
We made it to Lethbridge around 4 AM, by this time the contractions had really slowed and when the nurse checked Heidi, things had not progressed much. We didn’t feel like driving back home, but didn’t want to stay at a hospital for too many hours if things weren’t happening. So we decided to walk around the hospital for a couple hours and have our doctor check Heidi at 6:30.
The surrealness of the night continued as we walked around the dark and empty hospital halls. At 5:30, I told Heidi that sleep was more important than increasing labor. We went back to the triage room where Heidi slept for a solid hour. I tried, but couldn’t get comfortable. So I did what every anxious new father would do: I went shopping online (It was Amazon Prime Day).
To our surprise when the nurse checked us at 6:30 she said the amniotic sac was bulging. She called our doctor and strongly suggested he come by and break Heidi’s water. He came in with a resident doctor and asked if she wanted to break the water. She said she had never done it before. I gulped as she approached Heidi with a long sharp yellow needle… Our doctor completed the task and the water looked clear of meconium: Unlike our other 4 kids, Eric seemed to want to hold his first BM till after delivery.
The contractions picked up a little but not too intensely and they still were surprisingly far apart. I decided now was a good time to go move our van into the parkade, which my sleep deprived brain found a little tricky. We were moved into a labor and delivery room where I made a playlist of peaceful worship songs that I played over a little Bluetooth speaker.
The contractions slowly began picking up intensity but still were not very regular. At 11 I went down to the cafeteria and bought a sandwich and coconut cream pie ( I only mention this because I want to make Coconut cream pie a birthday tradition for Eric.) When I got back, contractions had intensified, and between nervous bites I applied a couple different counterpressure manoeuvres that seem to reduce the pain of the contractions.
At about 12:45 Heidi was exhausted, and mentally weary. She was still only at 5 cm and for the first time asked about an epidural. Our doctor ordered one and decided to put Heidi on an oxytocin drip to increase the contractions.
A very busy anaesthesiologist burst into the room with a tray full of instruments of medieval torture, pulled on some gloves and asked if we had any concerns about the risks of epidurals. He went on to say that some risks were mild (lowering the baby’s heart rate, headache) and some more serious (spinal nerve damage).
I was feeling so uneasy about it all and wondering if I was going to regret this. He splashed purple paint all over Heidi’s back and got his needles ready. He said Heidi had to hold very still or things could go badly. Poor Heidi had two very strong contractions while she sat scrunched forward with arched back.
At one point I peeked behind Heidi to see what he was doing and I got sharply reprimanded. He said that extra eyes on him made him nervous. I meekly hid behind Heidi with renewed confidence in his skill. The first attempt didn’t work, so he had to insert another needle.
By the time the needle was in, Heidi felt the urge to push, so the oxytocin drip was shelved and the doctor summoned. The epidural kicked in fast and mentally Heidi was able to relax while her body finished the work preparing for delivery. Our doctor arrived just in time to put on a gown and gloves.
“Big push, now little pushes” and vernix-covered Eric was pulled screaming from his mother’s body. It never ceases to create an unbelievable rush of wonder, watching a human take their first breath. For all our anxious thoughts, the final delivery could not have gone more smoothly. Heidi didn’t tear and the bleeding was minimal. And she loved how the epidural took the edge off the most painful part of delivery.
With our other births the NICU team was standing by (to suction meconium from our babies) and the room felt crowded. This time it was just Heidi, me, the nurse and the doctor witnessing this sacred event.
Eric was rubbed off and weighed in just a hair over 8 lbs, flawless except for a small tongue tie that would be clipped the next day. At 3:30 we were taken to the maternity ward where we were alone in the semi-private room.
I took Eric to watch the baseball All-Star game but was missing Heidi too much so I took him back to the room. I slept from 9-12, then I got up and took Eric to the lounge. It was so special to sit in the quiet room, hugging and kissing him with all that new Dad ardour. I prayed over Eric, committing his little life to God.
We had a fairly good sleep, till 8, when another couple was taken to our room. The maternity ward was overflowing, especially with extra c-sections (patients who have C-sections have to stay 3 days, VDs can be discharged after 24 hrs). We had hopes of an early discharge, but it took till 4:15 to get Eric’s blood work done. Still, it felt so good to bring him to our amazing family.
“The Lord is good to everyone.
He showers compassion on all his creation.
“The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
he is filled with kindness.” (Psalm 145:9,17)
God has been so merciful to us, and He is so patient with our anxious doubting hearts. Pastor Levi Lusko, who lost his young daughter to an asthma attack, says that it is pointless to worry about how we will cope with tragedy in the future, because God promises to be there and give us the grace we need when we need it.
Even though the last few days have been filled with wonder and euphoria as we marvel at our perfect little newborn, things to worry about haven’t disappeared. There is a whooping cough outbreak in southern Alberta (the couple who shared our room had a little boy with whooping cough back home). There is the ever present risk of SIDS, possible life threatening complications from blood clots during Heidi’s healing, the biopsy we have scheduled for a month right now to test if the lumps on Heidi’s thyroid are cancerous.
All of these threats have been wrestled with during frightening day dreams. God gently but firmly rebukes my trembling soul. “Those things are not reality. When tragedy does strike it will not be like you picture it. I will be there with supernatural comfort and power. Do not Judge Me for what might happen, but by what I have already done.”
When I look back, I have nothing but gratitude for how gently and kindly God has led us. He promises to do what is best. It is only when I love Heidi and my kids with a selfish love that I start to worry. When I focus on wanting what is truly best for them regardless of how much it might hurt me in the process, then I can surrender them to God. He is a wise Father who will do what is right. He is so worthy to be trusted!