A low-grade fear has nagged me ever since we found out that my wife, Laura, was pregnant with our third child. It has been a groaning, guttural, too deep for words. Our daughter would be born with major difficulties, health problems, or some unnamed, unnameable something. I believed (in my head) that if this happened it would be met with grace. That it could bless the world and God and our family more than if it were otherwise.
My heart, though, was afraid.
This pregnancy was different than the previous four. It would be our third “live birth” (in the terms the medical questionnaires use), but our fifth pregnancy. Laura miscarried early in pregnancy twice before our first daughter, Adalyn. Those miscarriages were hard, but God was kind in the middle of them.
During the early weeks of the third pregnancy, in a malaise of worry and prayer-wandering, God gave me Psalm 128:3 from the big pulpit Bible in our church auditorium.
Your wife will be a fruitful vine within your house,
and your children will be like olive branches around your table.
An Adalyn and a Judson later, it was time for an “Olivia”, named in part because of this verse.
I’ve been worrying about Olivia since long before I knew her name. Laura was sicker this pregnancy. There were more scary things, including regular specialist visits and a trip to the ER. Everything kept looking fine when we got to look, but who knew for sure?
Only God; and I was still scared.
January 18th brought the birth of a healthy baby girl. My fears were wrong.
Until four days later, when Laura called me.
“How close are you?”
“Well, I don’t want to freak you out, but Olivia just spit up — and there was blood in her spit up.”
See I knew it, my fears growled to my heart.
Laura showed me the bib and it was covered in blood. We packed it into a Ziploc. We had previously (providentially) scheduled Olivia’s first post-hospital appointment for that afternoon.
I could hardly see.
See I knew it.
Online, we found rational and non-scary reasons why it might have happened. But I don’t think like that in such moments. I think bad and unhappy and dark possibilities.
At the pediatrician’s counter, I growled at the girl trying to figure out a billing issue: “Do you think we could figure this out later? Our daughter just spit up blood, and we would really like to see the doctor.”
I held Olivia, swarmed by the bright lights and warm colors of Room 4, light-headed and terrified.
Another groaning, deeper than my own, spoke. “Trust me.”
Right then, I remembered Joni Eareckson Tada describing in her memoir The God I Love how she would whisper in the darkest moments of paralysis and pain, “God is sovereign. God is good. God is sovereign. God is good.”
I spoke in my heart. “God you are sovereign and you are good. You love this tiny baby more than I ever will. I entrust her to you. I know that you will give us grace for whatever pathway you pave before us. She is yours.”
We soon found out that our little Olivia was almost certainly “fine” — but by then she wasn’t ours anymore. Of course, she never had been, and we (no, I) had to give her back.
From now, who knows for sure?
Only God, and I’m not afraid.
Our third child is not our own.