“You’re so strong” I kept hearing people tell me after coming home without my baby, after visiting the NICU every day, after pumping milk all day with no baby to trigger it. Honestly, I was not strong. I was far from it. What everyone saw was a weak person with a very strong God.
We both could say this was the hardest trial we’ve ever faced. I’ve never cried so much or prayed so many prayers, but the purpose during this pain became so overwhelmingly clear that we both developed a peace during the entire process. We went through a whirlwind of up and down emotions from hearing the devastating news of an issue you know nothing about and the drive home with an empty car seat to the encouraging nurses and the flooded DM’s we received from prayer warriors. I think… no, I KNOW, this was all orchestrated by God and this is how He got us through it.
You can read the birth story here, but where this journey begins is when Penelope was wheeled out of our room to the NICU after having birthed and held our full term healthy baby girl. They let us know her blood tests show a significantly low platelet count of 11k (normal range is between 150k-450k) and a transfusion would be initiated immediately. We thought to ourselves, what the heck is a platelet and will she be okay?
Even though they took her to the NICU, we were still hopeful they would find out the cause and fix and we’d take her home on our discharge day three days later. As April 14th inched closer and no good news had been received, reality and disappointment started to set in. As soon as we found out we’d be going home without her, I started to question God and his process. I read this, “We must learn to wait for God’s plans to develop He perfects everything that concerns us. True boldness moves in God’s timing; it moves at the right time.” When I read that, I can’t say that made me feel better. We always want everything on OUR timing, but I had no control in this situation and no other choice BUT to trust God’s timing.
Qualifies The Called
Every morning at 2am they would take her blood to test her platelets and I’d wake up at 3am to call every day to find out the count. Literally EVERY SINGLE DAY we received disappointing news, how does one stay positive and faithful when EVERY day is discouraging? Speaking for myself, I felt as though I needed God to increase my faith, because everything was out of my control, I had little trust in God. I felt as though I couldn’t go another day hearing more bad news. Matthew reminded me that morning as I struggled to get out of bed, God doesn’t call on those that are qualified, he qualifies those that are called. I was reminded of those times in the Bible where God calls those who lack faith. He helped the nobodies become somebodies because of God’s plan. There is a PURPOSE for the pain, and we just need to find out what that purpose is.
Faith Over Fear
Day 6 we felt another defeated day, another platelet drop, another negative lab test, another prayer asking God, why? After the doctor explained why the two rounds of IVIG therapy did not work, and discussed some of the intense and rare conditions it could be at this point, a huge amount of fear washed over us. I felt the devil creep back in as all these fearful thoughts raced through my mind. I immediately dropped to my knees and prayed for God to increase my faith one more time. I know faith is what keeps me going, it’s what brought Noah to day forty, it’s what lead Moses and the Israelites from Egypt, it’s what helped David defeat the giant, and it’s what will bring our miracle to Penelope. My devotion that day couldn’t have been more perfect, “when we have faith over fear, then fear is no longer an issue.”
Walking Through The Fire
Reaching Day 8, I realized she’s been in the NICU for over a week. We take turns making that 45 minute drive to the hospital each day and each night, crying, praying, and praising the whole way there and back. Those long drives in prayer started to change our outlook on this season of our lives that we were going through. Typically we say “we’re going through it” in a negative connotation but honestly, we should be grateful we are going through, it means we are not stuck. We were facing the most difficult trial of our lives, but at least we were moving forward. Isaiah 43:2 helped this day, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched , nor will the flame kindle upon you”
I received a call from a friend of a friend from Christ Fellowship (our church home). I’d never met her before, but she called to give her testimony of her son being in the NICU a few years ago (she’s amazing). She opened my eyes to what God has been trying to do for us during this process. There are a few reasons we go through trials and regardless of the type of trial, they can be used as a tool to strengthen and develop our character and faith. If I had the easy pregnancy followed by a seamless birth delivery, completed with a perfectly healthy baby (again) I wouldn’t have built any spiritual development. This trial tested our faith, patience, and resilience and as hard as it is to let this trial refine us, we came out a more godly version of ourselves. Just before Penelope was born my coworker sent me this song which I listened to everyday… God knew this was coming and that I needed this. “Refiner” – Maverick City Music.
Why becomes How
On day 8 while sitting in the NICU hanging out with Penelope, the nurse nonchalantly asks if I would be open to donating my platelets to Penelope. My answer was obviously “of course!” She mentioned “it probably won’t happen for a series of reasons, but you can try.” I had no doubt in my heart that if God wants this to be done, it will be done. And HE DID THAT. I don’t know what Matthew told the ladies at the One Blood Donation center, but they were the sweetest, most compassionate ladies. They stayed at work two hours past closing time so that I could do the donation that same day since Penelope needed a transfusion the next day, they called their director to waive the 6 week waiting period after you give birth policy, and accepted an email “ok” from my physician. I thought to myself, if anything to be done during this process, God wanted me to meet these wonderful people and open my eyes to importance of donating platelets. They explained to me that platelets are like liquid gold that no one really wants to spend two hours in here donating. I felt my faith maturing as my why is this happening turned into how are you going to use this in my life. Even though Penelope was still in the hospital, I thought, you better believe I’ll be back in this seat donating platelets for those that are in need!
On day 10 I walked into the NICU only to be told they didn’t receive my platelets in time to be used, and she had a big drop in platelets that same day as well. My eyes filled with tears as I felt so much hope the last few days for it felt like God was really making moves FOR us only to be crushed with another disappointing conversation. I walked over to her bed just staring at her unable to pick her up because I was shaking with sadness and weakness, I called out to God. I thanked Him but continued to ask for our miracle, I confessed that I just didn’t know if I could keep going… that another day of disappointing news would break me. In a blur of conversation, the Hematologist explains that our blood results that Matthew and I took almost a week ago finally came back and they determined the cause. He said, “Since we know she will just heal over the next few months on her own, she can go home” I know that if you feel weak, angry, or sad, don’t feel bad to bring those tears to God, just keep coming to Him, because the day you may think you cannot walk any further… may be your breakthrough.
Amen to the Hallelujah
On day 11, they told us they ended up giving Penelope my platelets so they didn’t go to waste. Her count jumped to 300k, the highest it had ever been. God had finally delivered us our miracle. This process from the Amen to the Hallelujah was life altering for us. Those 11 days that felt like 11 years, we may have cried, cursed, and felt weak from the pain endured, but what we didn’t see growing were our spiritual muscles. Despite the situation, we always came to God. We established a stronger peace over the situation, day by day and God delivered us. All we can say after this, the only advice we could ever give now, and the only way there is to take… is to trust God, always.
While in the hospital, right after they took Penelope to the NICU, I watched Matthew cry and write this beautiful devotion…
April 12, 2020 – Setting for a Miracle
A day filled with promise, hope, and love and one of the most devastating days on my life. It was a day filled with emotions, joy, relief, sorrow. It was a day where my wife showed her ultimate strength, 1 day away from the 39 week mark of her pregnancy. It kind of all started Saturday afternoon, after a meeting with the leaders of my church led by Pastor Travis where we discussed the power of Easter weekend and the plans the our church had for the community during the upcoming weeks of social distancing. Immediately after I approached my wife and asked her if we should join the Saturday Easter Service in-line, which is normally something we never do, but she felt that may be best being that she felt strongly about Sunday, Easter Sunday, being “The Day”.
The Saturday Service was a beautifully put together program, as Christ fellowship never fails to do. During Pastor Todd’s message he focused on the Saturday, not the Friday where Jesus died, or the Sunday when he rose, but Saturday, where Jesus was held in the tomb and the day between pain and joy, between disappointment and victory. And what he wanted us to hold on to is that there is significance in the silence, that the place of our greatest disappointment can be the setting of your greatest miracle. What was so mind blowing is that this was a prerecorded message from weeks, maybe months prior when Pastor Todd took a trip to Jerusalem but it was so significant in our current time with the Corona Virus epidemic. Low and behold we didn’t know how close to home the message really was until the following morning at 6:44 am.
In the hospital room, our last FaceTime with my family was ended abruptly as the nurses came into the room and rolled her away at 8:53pm. We sat in the room devastated, doing as much research as possible to get grasp on what low platelets actually meant. Moments later we received a phone call from the doctor as she broke the news to us and made it clear that we would be leaving this hospital without our baby girl and a million thoughts ran through our mind as we were confused, scared, worried, and searching for answers.
As we continued find the silver lining in all of this it was difficult because we were so filled with emotions, fear began to creep in. Then suddenly my thoughts went to the message by Pastor Todd, and I realized that this was our “Saturday”. This was our moment of pain and disappointment. Then I remembered what Pastor Todd said that day, “There is significance in the silence”. As we were going through this moment of silence this is where God started to show himself, this is when I found myself in a place of gratitude. It became clear to me how strong of a support system God has placed in my life. Family, friends, mentors, coworkers, and the list went on. Instantly I had a team of Prayer Warriors who were encouraging me, lifting me and my family in prayer. I was filled with emotions because I went from a place of worry, fear and confusion to a place of peace, understanding and joy. I know that we serve a living God and there is nothing that comes as a surprise to our God. Just as he knew Jesus was going to raise from the tomb on the third day he also knows that whatever trials or setbacks were going through right now will set us up for an amazing comeback! Pastor Todd also said that the place of our greatest disappointment can be the setting of your greatest miracle, and I believe that!
We’d love to hear your stories, trials, testimonies and thoughts, comment below!
P.S. Read about Penelope’s birth story. Here’s how Pia’s birth story went.