Isaac is 2 today, and since I’ve especially enjoyed reading others’ birth stories, I thought I’d share his tonight as he sleeps peacefully, along with the other 10. :o)
Actually, I believe his story started about 6 years ago, when God gave me the prayer, “Lord, help me accept what you have for us.” I admit being a little nervous that there would be a problem with my next 2 pregnancies, but we had a healthy daughter and son, now 6 and 4 years old. I realize now that God was preparing me for Isaac. My husband and I decided at the beginning to trust God to send us the right amount of children, and we have never changed our minds or regretted it. They are all such a blessing, we love each one, and we are excited to see how His plan unfolds for them to serve Him and witness to others about Jesus, including Isaac!
My pregnancy was quite normal, the usual morning sickness, an “everything’s okay” ultrasound at 6 months. The tech happened to say “He doesn’t have Down Syndrome; I can tell by his nose.” Why did she say that, I thought. I didn’t even ask. My age (43), perhaps? Oh, well. We don’t believe in abortion anyway; we just wanted to see if everything was okay because we were planning to have our son in China, and would consider having the birth in the U.S. if there was a problem.
One night I realized I could still sleep comfortably on my back. That’s strange, I thought, because usually by 6 months pregnant the baby was too big. Well, in the busy weeks of preparing to move overseas yet again (buying school books and clothing, foods we might want in China, etc.), I didn’t spend time worrying about it. My midwife was due to come to China for the birth, and I would do my prenatals (urine tests, measuring, etc.) by myself for the 2 months until she came. Once settled in China in our new apartment in the city, I realized the baby was not measuring bigger each week. I thought maybe I just didn’t know how to do it properly. My husband and midwife (and myself, too, at times) said everything was probably fine, so I put it off for a few weeks in the busyness of caring for 10 other children and homeschooling, planning meals, taking supplements, etc. etc.!
One day I really started to get concerned, as I’d been measured dozens of times over the years, and surely I couldn’t be that off in my measuring. I wanted an ultrasound, and my husband and midwife agreed that we should go in and just do as the doctor directed. The scan confirmed that our son was only the size of a 23-week-old at 37 weeks, and there was restriction in the cord for some reason. Had I come in a month earlier, they would/could have put me on hospital bed rest with IV to help him to grow. No use living in the past now, although I was glad I didn’t have to go through that experience/separation from my children. Come back in a week, they said, and see if anything is different.
I started researching that day, and haven’t stopped since! I found that 80% of babies who are not growing in the womb have issues, 20% are okay in the end. I told my husband this to try to prepare him, but he was not ready. It was overwhelming to him, so I kept my research mostly to myself. The night before the second ultrasound, I accidently happened upon a website for a hospital, while looking for directions to the one we were planning on going to (about 40 min. away). They had a VIP floor that looked very nice, uncrowded and clean (unlike the regular Chinese hospital floors) so it was very appealing to me. I asked my husband if we could just take a tour of it the next morning, and see if we wanted to go there instead. (We did decide on this hospital, which was only 10 min. away, and later found out that my husband would not have been able to be with me in the birth at the original hospital, although they had told me he could.) Although I was able to really reduce the cord restriction (by eating tons of raw garlic that week!), our son did not grow. The risk of waiting was too great; we did not want to lose him. The doctors recommended immediate admission and induction. What started out as a tour, ended with the staff showing me my room and asking what I wanted for lunch.
I had never been induced. I had heard it was very hard, however, things did not kick in right away, and they decided to try again the next morning. One time the nurse came in and asked if I felt anything. No, I said, nothing. You’re having a contraction, see, she said, pointing at the wavy lines on the monitor, and giggled with the other nurse. I guess after so many births with no meds., I wasn’t feeling this little guy move. Things did kick in eventually, and at one point I was so weary, I think more b/c of my age than the pain. The head doctor of the VIP ward was worried about the baby, saying sometimes his heart rate was falling during a contraction. I knew this was normal, but she was pushing for a c-section, and I was weary and willing. But at the same time I did not trust her. I had put on my birth plan that we did not believe in birth control, and preferred not to be “counseled” about it, and yet she mentioned tube-tying 3 times, even after I told her how we felt. Well, my husband practically begged me to wait longer. Try the shower, he said. That worked with the other babies. Later, I found out that the night before he had had the same dream 3 times that I died during a c-section! One of the many times I was very glad I heeded to my husband’s advice, even when it was hard at the time.
Well, as before the shower worked, and Isaac Emmanuel was born that evening (although I don’t think we officially named him until the next morning), bathed in the prayers of my husband and daughter (15 at the time) who were present, as well as the children at home, and many others whom we had contacted by e-mail when we realized there may be a problem. (Of course, I don’t think of my son as a problem, but that extra chromosome does make some things more difficult in the body.) I noticed Isaac’s head was flatter in the back and his eyes were more slanted than the others, maybe b/c he was born in China? :0) My husband wasn’t worried about it, though, and remembered different head shapes are normal at birth. I just tucked it away and focused on the present.
The doctor wanted to admit Isaac to the NICU right away, but when I asked why, he said just b/c he was small – he didn’t see any issues right then. That night Isaac nursed some and slept soundly by my side, with the nurses coming in periodically to check his glucose. By 3 a.m. they said he was just not keeping it up, so they wanted him to go to the NICU. We insisted they give him glucose in the room; there was no reason he should be apart from me for that. He should be nursing, we said, and unlike the U.S., they did NOT allow any parents in the NICU. They would only give him oral glucose which did not work well enough, so the next day when my husband arrived, we agreed with much heartache to put him in the NICU on a glucose IV. One administrator told me I would be able to go and nurse him, but when I arrived the staff would not let me in. 😦
That night was probably the hardest of my life. My baby needed me, I thought, and my milk wouldn’t come for him. Of course he needed formula then, which made me feel terrible. I just could not stop crying, and was a wreck by the next morning. My husband would bring a different older child each day to stay with me, and thankfully he brought the very quiet one that day. She was a peaceful blessing (even though I had trouble enjoying the card games), and God knew just what I needed. I needed to trust Him. I needed to believe that He could take better care of my baby than I could. I needed to trust that He had us in this situation for a purpose that could bring more glory to Him. I would stand outside the NICU and just cry and pray for Isaac. They usually had the curtain closed. Once it was open and we could see him, but when they saw us they closed it. I felt that was so heartless, but they said, “People don’t want to see their children in this condition.” I was not going to change China overnight, but I did “fight” to nurse/hold him at least one hour/day in an adjacent room.
It was a very frustrating experience, knowing that if I could just sit next to him and at least sing to him it would be good for him, but not being able to convince the staff of that fact. He got pneumonia right away in the NICU, and each day it seemed they found a new problem. It was so depressing, and we felt very out of control. By now I was staying in a hotel right next door, and bringing milk a couple of times a day.
Then the Lord showed me that these people needed Him, and that it was more important than me being with Isaac. If I was going to “fight,” but then give them a gospel tract (which I did at times!), that was not going to be a very effective witness. I finally learned to put God first by putting these unsaved souls above my own interests/agenda, and THEN I had peace.
After a week, we decided with our midwife (who by this time had arrived in the country as planned) to take Isaac out of the NICU. We felt he would be better off with me, and they just wanted to keep him longer for observation; they had run all their tests already. They suggested going to the heart doc. in the next month or two, as they had detected some minor heart defects which could need to be corrected later. Our midwife suggested that we go as soon as possible, as Isaac was a grayish color, and she was concerned but did not know what was wrong with him. The doc could not get us in for 10 days, and she suggested getting oxygen for him in the meantime. So we waited and prayed. Isaac was too weak to nurse, as he tired out by the time the let down came, so I was pumping my milk and feeding him with a bottle. How I longed to hold him instead of pumping, and those 8 weeks were so difficult I nearly gave up. But when I saw how sick he seemed (he almost never cried and got colds, etc.), I just couldn’t bear to not give him the best milk available.
The next weekend the heart doc took one look at Isaac and appeared very concerned/worried. He didn’t even run any tests, but suggested we get to the heart hospital in Shanghai immediately (but not by air). He thought Isaac may die anytime and said the doctors in our large city were not good with small babies. He said in Shanghai they would probably put him in the NICU immediately (Oh, no!), and keep him on meds. until they felt surgery safe. He gave us a medication to hopefully prevent his death, and wished us the best. We took Isaac on the high-speed train to Shanghai early the next morning. Thankfully a wonderful young lady from our church in the U.S. came to stay with our children, just as our midwife had to leave to go back.
At some point I mentioned to my husband that there may be other issues, but he wasn’t ready, and wanted to get through heart surgery first. Very understandable. I kept researching.
The doc in Shanghai was not worried about Isaac dying at all, but said his aorta was not connected properly (Interrupted aortic arch), and he would need immediate surgery. After more tests and waiting in a hotel (with Isaac – yeah!), the old head doc (credited with starting pediatric heart surgery in China!) said Isaac could fly to the U.S. for surgery if we wanted. That was a very tough decision for me. My husband was working and I was not able to reach him. How I longed to go “home” to America and leave Chinese hospitals far behind. But I did not want to leave my husband and other children, and we did not have insurance in the U.S. at this time. Surely this would wipe us out, and we would be in debt for many years. We did not like to have any debt, even a mortgage. I did what I thought my husband would want me to and decided to schedule the surgery. It could wait until after Chinese New Year, they said. What! That’s 10 days away. What about “immediate” surgery? Okay, Lord, we’ll trust You.
So back home it was. More waiting, more trusting, more unknowns. Would our baby live? If God wants him to he will, and since I can’t sustain life anyway, I’ll trust Him who can!
The following weeked, while the last fireworks were still coloring the sky, I moved into the private room they had prepared for me, and the tests began. Isaac was one day short of 6 weeks old at the time of his surgery. I was so glad my husband was able to be there. It was a very stressful day, with Isaac very fussy from not being able to eat for many hours, and all the pre-op preparations. It was one long afternoon, but when that doc came in with a smile saying all of Isaac’s heart issues were resolved/repaired and he was doing “well,” that was such a relief, and we rejoiced that God had spared our son! It was a long wait still (almost 3 weeks), and only seeing Isaac 2x in 10 days while in the CICU was heartbreaking, too. Being away from my other children was even harder, but nonetheless I had sweet times in prayer, praise and singing to my Savior. I know he has used the experience in all of our lives, to make us stronger – and more like Him, hopefully.
In my research I had found that 50% of babies who have IAA also have 22Q, a deletion on their 22nd chromosome. I thought Isaac may have this, and when he was 4 months old and fully recovered from heart surgery, I asked my husband if we could just get a blood test. I felt I needed to know to best care for Isaac. The Chinese geneticist was a Christian, and shocked me when she called to say Isaac had Trisomy 21. I began research in earnest again, and have learned so much. But I’ll save that for another post!
Today Isaac is a joy, and we all love him. He has been army crawling for a year, has thyroid issues and speech challenges, but he’s our son, and we are glad God made him. Is it hard? Yes, it has been very hard, but worth it! God loves children/people, and we do, too. I am really looking forward to seeing all the ways in which God will use our little man. I pray often that he will be a soul winner most of all, bringing people to Jesus – people that I will see in heaven because of my son, because we had faith in Him who doeth ALL things well. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith.” (I John 5:4)
The main message: Trust Him. He has a plan for you. Don’t fight it. He can use it to bring others to Him and glory to Himself. Be a willing part of it with a joyful heart. Remember, He will be with us in the fire.
Faith is the victory,
Katie, for JESUS (and for Isaac)
P.S. A great big “THANK YOU!!” to all of you who prayed, e-mailed and cared for us during our difficult time. I also want to thank my husband and children for their love and sacrifices for Isaac and I. May the Lord bless you all for your service. :o)