Sunday, November 06, 2005

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Psalm 139:13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.

Twenty-one years ago today with the birth of our second son, Jake, our lives changed forever. To be sure, the birth of every baby in every family changes our lives and the dynamics of our homes, but sometimes the changes are life shattering and life altering.

Jake’s birth was going to be “by the books.” Our oldest son, John, born three years earlier, had been more than a week overdue; it took 33 hours of labor and an emergency C-section for him to arrive on the scene. But this time it was going to be easy. We were looking forward to the scheduled C-section delivery—a week before the due date, no labor, no surprises. It was going to be a nice counter balance to the drama of John’s birth.

The morning of the delivery came and everything was on schedule. My gynecologist assured us that this time it was going to be different. This time Tom was going to be with us for the delivery. This time I would get to keep the baby with me in the delivery room. It was a happy morning full of excitement and anticipation. My sister had surprised us by getting up early and driving 45 minutes to be there with us. John was staying with a neighbor until Tom could slip away and bring him to see his new brother or sister. The grandparents were going to come later in the day. Ronald Regan was going to be re-elected, no doubt about that—I had cast my vote weeks before by absentee ballot. It was going to be a perfect delivery—a perfect day.

But when our little boy, Jacob Thomas, was born we knew immediately that something was wrong. He wasn’t pinking up. His first apgar test was 0. The doctor and the delivery room staff took on a practiced, deliberate pace as they began evaluating Jake. Things got very serious. His second test was 2. Something wasn’t just wrong, it was terribly wrong. Jake was whisked out of the room. Weeks later I would remember kissing him on the top of the head as they carried him away. That memory had been lost in the fear and shock of the moment.

And so began the rest of his life—and ours. I was taken to a recovery room. I began to pray. “O God, please! O God, please!” Please what? “Please save him, help him, please let us keep him, please be with him, please help me trust you, please help me accept this, and finally, O God, please help me give him to You!

A team was brought from the nearest heart center to evaluate Jake and to stabilize him for transportation to Medical Hospital in Toledo. Jake was hanging on. They did an echocardiogram and some other tests. My memory of the sequence of events is fuzzy. I remember my sister being there with me as I waited for news. What a comfort it was to have her there with me! At this point we knew very little, only that Jacob had some type of heart defect. Kathy was holding my hand, telling me about all the wonderful things that can be done with heart defects, praying with me, just being with me. Tom was off somewhere signing papers, doing the things that needed to be done. Oh, how I wanted him there with me, but hospitals have their procedures and their paces and it felt as though he had been swallowed up in it, just like Jake had.

I have no idea how long it was—it seemed forever—but there was Tom, and my doctor, and our pediatrician. They sat down and began to talk. I remember searching their faces looking for a clue, looking for hope. Tom looked like I have never seen him look before—in shock, despairing, grieving, helpless. He kissed me, held my hand, and kept saying, “I’m here.” Kathy retreated to the other side of the room and we all listened as the team of doctors informed us of what was happening.

The echo revealed that Jacob had a “boot shaped” heart. My eye caught my sister’s face. I’ll never forget the look. As a nurse, she understood what that meant. Inside, I began to pray and plead as I readied myself for what was coming. Jake had hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Twenty-one years ago, that was considered an inoperable defect. They told us that Jake was being readied for transport. Tom needed to follow the ambulance. They didn’t know if he would make it. And then they wheeled him into the room in a tiny isolate. I was lying flat on my back because of the spinal, but the nurse cranked my bed up so that I could see him and say good bye. He was so beautiful! I looked past the ashen blue color of his skin and saw his long, golden eyelashes, his plump, filled out newborn body—He was so beautiful! My mind was engaged in the drumbeat of prayer, “O God, please!” And He answered that prayer. In that moment, He helped me to give our son to Him, trusting Him to do what was right and good in His sight. The fear and shock and pain were still there, but the burden had shifted to Christ.

Kathy went with Tom to the hospital. How grateful I was that he didn’t have to drive there alone and that she would be there to help him understand what they were telling him about Jake’s condition. I was moved to a private room where I began to wait. At some point my mother was there, holding my hand, brushing the hair from my face, giving me water, doing anything thing she could to help. We sat there in silence, each of us with her own thoughts and prayers. There was nothing to say. It was time to wait.

We had a brief call from Tom, saying that Jacob was in the cath lab and that we would know more when the doctor came to talk to him. He had learned that Jake had gone into complete cardiac and respiratory arrest several times on the way to the hospital and that it had taken a long time before they had been able to move him out of the ambulance and into the hospital because his condition was so unstable.

The hospital staff allowed my mother to stay with me long past the end of visiting hours, but eventually she had to leave. The room was dark, I had been given several shot to help me sleep, but I couldn’t sleep until I knew how Jacob was. I had to know. I had to pray.

Then sometime after midnight, our pediatrician came into the room. He sat down in a chair in the corner, in the dark and began to talk. He had talked to the cardiologist. He couldn’t explain it, he didn’t understand it, but things had changed! The cardiologist had reviewed the videotape of Jacob’s echo that was taken before he was transported. It showed, very clearly, hypoplastic left heart syndrome; and yet, when he got into the cath lab and began to work on Jake, the images he saw on his screen were very, very different. Jake’s defect was no longer HLHS—the catheterization revealed that he had Transposition of the Great Vessels with a large ventricular septal defect. Neither doctor used the “m” word, but neither could explain how a baby born with HLHS in Findlay, Ohio could hours later present with an entirely different defect, this time an entirely operable defect.

This was only the beginning of “miracles” in Jacob’s life. To tell the whole story would take a very long time, and yet I hardly know where to stop. Because it is the story of his life, and today is his 21st birthday.

Every year at this time, I remember his birth and I remember each stage of his life with us as it unfolded. His first open heart surgery at 3 ½ months. His beautiful toddler smile. The way he smelled when he woke up from his nap and climbed up into my lap. His first day of kindergarten, praying for a kitty, winning the speech meet in 2nd grade, playing t-ball. Another open heart surgery at age 10, home schooling him in 6th and 7th grade, going out for the baseball team when he was a junior in High School, never having played since t-ball at age five (now that takes courage!), coming home on the bus with the Coach’s Award, being crowned Homecoming King his senior year. All these events in his life and many others run together through my mind almost like the prayers ran together on the day he was born.

Today Jacob is in college, serving on the leadership team of the Campus Christian Fellowship. He still has the most beautiful smile. He has so much to live for.

I think about miracles a lot, especially around Jake’s birthday. I used to think of them as God swooping in at the last second and intervening in the lives of men—breaking through His own laws of His own creation to do something that can only be done by Him. Changing things at the last minute. And yet, the longer I am a Christian, the more I see that miracles are only miracles from our limited point of view. God had a settled plan for Jake’s life. He formed his inward parts; he knit Jake together in my womb. Jacob is fearfully and wonderfully made. God’s eyes saw his unformed substance; in His book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for Jake, when as yet there were none of them.

Through Jake’s life I have learned that His works—all His works—are wonderful and my soul knows it very well.

Happy Birthday, Jake!

[update] I am now publishing Hiraeth in a new place--you can find current postings here. I want you to see the lovely banner Jules designed for me!


Blogger Carol said...

This is one of the most incredible stories. I still have chill bumps. God is so amazing and good!

Jake is a good looking young man and one that you can be proud of, I'm sure. God will use him in mighty ways.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Oh, you have me crying!! What a beautiful story. And what a nice-looking guy. Such a happy smile!

Thank you for sharing this!

3:04 PM  
Blogger Karen said...


Thank you for stopping by my blog and linking me to your son's story.( Connor is doing great. When has was born he had a complete AVSD, a PDA and 2 small VSDs. He had his AV canal (AVSD) repaired when he was 4 months old. His cardiologist says his heart is functioning as well as could be expected. He does have some leaking around his valves but nothing to worry about now. He has to see the cadiologist again when he is 6. He may or may not need surgery in the future but it isn't something I worry about.

My other son, Ryan was also born on November 6. :)


9:58 AM  
Blogger Faith said...

Kim, I hope you will see this. I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and your willingness to share such a beautiful story with me. What an amazing miracle. I cried throughout the whole story. Partly because, as a mother, I can feel your anquish. Partly because,you were able to give him to God -how awesome. Mostly -That there was such a miracle, I believe, because you gave him to God. You have been such an encourager to me and i appreciate you so much. Tell Jake, thanks for his prayers as well. And Gosh, could you just give him a big kiss for me?


10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an awesome and beautiful story. What an awesome and wonderful God. While reading this my eldest daughter began yelling for me because her little brother was out of bed bugging her. I went up, hugged her and reminded her to praise God for giving her a perfectly healthy, wonderful little brother, who loves her so much that after bedtime he came in to ask her to play dinosaurs with him. Her attitude changed completely. I then went to my son and hugged him hard and praised God for all He has done, for this perfectly healthy little boy who has never needed so much as an emergency room visit. With so many stories and requests for prayer lately, how can I help but praise Him for the health of my three beauiful children. How awesome He is, how wonderful He is to give us pictures of His faithfulness to share with one another that we might not forget His wonders and might.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Kim!
*tearfully* Beautiful! What a lovely tale of motherhood, miracles and our Father's ever faithful presence. Your son is so handsome, fearfully and wondefully made indeed. I am so glad to have read this and to have learned more of who you are, and what you've learned from where you've been. His work is truly awe-inspiring and your witness has moved something within me.
thank you.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

During those hard times, things are all at once fuzzy and totally clear, aren't they? Thank you for sharing this miraculous story and more of Jake's journey.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Kristina at Learn2Luv2Run said...

Congrats on 3rd place. Wonderful post!

My Blog
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10:34 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Kim, I can't explain it, but I couldn't read these until now. Perhaps because I didn't want to "compare" myself against others. Which, now, sounds pretty shallow and ridiculous. Yes, this was a writing contest, but after reading Jake's birthday gift:), I don't see it as a contest at all.

This was beautiful. The contest provided opportunity and motive for us to share the majesty and beauty of God, His depth, His love and concern for His children...and for us (the writers) to give glory and honor to Him.

Congratulations for your "place"...but the truest victory is what you have (and know you have) in Christ.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Terri@SteelMagnolia said...

I found your site off of goofyj's site...
wow.. this is an amazing story and it is so very comforting for me to hear this and see this!!

I'll be back again when I have more time...

This does give me hope!

2:02 PM  

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