We have so many precious relationships with friends and family all around the globe and the last few days have been so busy and so hard that it really hasn’t been possible for us to sit and call each of you the way we’d like to. Our precious, precious baby number four has died and our loss and grief and busyness has been quite weighty. Because we love so many people so dearly, we are deciding to share our full story here and hoping to answer many questions here too. We thank you each and all for your love and kindness to our family. Some of the information I’ll share here is quite personal, but we’ve always lived our lives as an open book and we trust that the Lord will be glorified through our story. We see no truth or benefit in being stoic through all this by not sharing openly the depth of our pain with you. That would not be honest or helpful nor would it glorify the Lord. Indeed, it is in our pain and suffering (not pretending it doesn’t exist) that Christ truly is lifted high. We know the Lord is close to the broken hearted and that we have many friends who’ve walked through grief and loss. It is with great hope and blessed assurance that we share our story of loss.
We found out we were expecting baby number four early in February. We were ecstatic. We had been praying for another child and asking God to bless us with another gift. Phil and I both really wanted this baby with our whole hearts but as much as we wanted this baby, Adelina was begging for another sibling. You see, one of our jobs in Salatiga is to order the furniture for our future home in Tarakan. We’ve chosen to order two sets of bunk beds, one for the boys’ room and one for Adelina’s room. Adelina decided that the idea of the boys being together and her being alone was no fun at all and began daily asking us to give her a sister. We didn’t need any convincing and we have chosen not to prevent any pregnancies (a.k.a. gifts from God) so we started praying with her together. Oh the joy the night we found out we were expecting! I had been feeling quite queasy the whole day and then I started having heartburn and belching all the time for no good reason. (Don’t you just love pregnant wifeys? I sure do!) My body was telling me I was pregnant and I knew it was true. That night, Phil was helping put the boys to bed I invited my best girl-friend (Adelina) to come into the bathroom with me. I showed her the positive pregnancy test and let her bring it in to tell Phil and the boys. “Daddy, we’re expecting!” Adelina announced sweetly! We all hugged and jumped up and down for joy! We were all elated that God would choose to give us another blessing. That very moment Adelina wanted to call every family member (we did too) so we did! Our whole family was ecstatic! “Another grandchild- niece or nephew- cousin-…!” The timing was quite excellent too because it would give us one full month after we finished language school to get somewhere to deliver baby! What a perfectly wrapped present! Our MAF bosses were just awesome! They were so incredibly accommodating, helpful and genuinely excited for us! MAF really does rock! We couldn’t have asked for a cooler team of people to work with and it was one of those moments, yet again, where we felt so deep down grateful to have an org that really truly actually values children and the longevity of their people.
I downloaded a pregnancy app on my phone and Adelina and I had SO MUCH FUN checking in on our baby together each day. She learned how to use the app all by herself and she’s been keeping track of the baby names we like. As the weeks went by I got all those first trimester symptoms: nausea, fatigue, some-of-the-less-cute-symptoms, as well as a protruding belly. (The more babies you have the more quickly you begin to show.)
Enter Mister Awesome: Sweet Philip, our proud daddy, was nothing short of heroic the last several weeks: cooking meals, changing diapers, making me smoothies and being otherwise fantastic as my nausea has been rather severe, as with all my pregnancies. Phil definitely paid his first trimester dues and proved himself, yet again, to be the guy of my dreams; the kind of guy that makes you want to have a billion babies just so you can look at more people who look like him. I felt bad, like I always do when I’m laid-out like that, but Phil was so joyful in his service of us all that my guilt only ever came from myself. Never from a heavy sigh, or a single complaint, or a tired face, even when he was so tired. We both continued to do well in language school and all of our friends were sharing in our joy too! A few of my closest girlfriends are expecting as well and we’ve been having lots of fun dreaming and planning together. My best girlfriend, Adelina, has been cooking up a very special plan with me for our first ever gender-reveal party. We wanted to all be surprised together to learn the gender of our baby. We dreamed up this idea that I would go for the 20 week ultrasound with my friend and that we’d have the doctor tell only my friend if we were having a boy or a girl and then my friend would tell our cake baker to fill the inside of a huge cake with pink or blue batter. We wanted to have ALL our friends over, especially our Indonesian teachers from school and their families, and have a great big party together. The plan was to let Adelina cut into the cake and make the announcement to all of us. Adelina calls this our, “Ginger Ale Party!” She and I would talk about the party details every day together, because really, nothing says Vana like a big ole party, right?!
Then, this Wednesday (three days ago for us) it was time for me to get my first ultrasound. We’d chosen a doctor in Singapore because, due to some of my medical history, we felt more comfortable delivering baby in a more western medical situation. Our wonderful Christian doctor asked us to go get this ultrasound so we could have a more accurate due date since I’d be traveling internationally to have baby. “You bet!” So, we made a plan to go to a neighboring city to have the ultrasound. I woke up that morning feeling healthy, pregnant, and excited to see the first images of our little blessing. When we got to the doctor’s office we were a little frustrated because you don’t actually make appointments in Indonesia. You just show up, take a number, and wait. Well, four hours after checking in, it was finally our time to see baby. When the doctor I’d just met began asking me normal questions I was pleased that I could answer most of them in Indonesian. He was surprised too and I felt like we had a good connection. Then he gooped up my belly and began the ultrasound. What I saw next was so so sad. I saw a big pregnant womb, full of amniotic fluid and a all the signs of pregnancy but no baby. My girlfriend was with me at the time and Phil was waiting with our tired kids down in a car watching cartoons. The doctor turned to my girlfriend and asked her to go get Phil. The doctor looked and looked on the ultrasound but clearly, there was no baby. Even I could see that. (This isn’t my first rodeo, you know?) I asked the doctor what could be the problem. “Could it be a tubal pregnancy?” I asked. I mean, goodness, I have all the symptoms of pregnancy and I had just thrown-up two days before. It’s not as if I don’t know what it feels like to be pregnant. It didn’t make any sense to me. My heart was sinking as I waited for Phil. When Phil arrived our doctor shook his hand and asked him to sit down. He showed us on the ultrasound that indeed I most certainly was pregnant but that there was no baby. He showed us my large womb and a full sac of amniotic fluid and he said indeed I was ten-weeks pregnant but that the baby had stopped growing some time ago. We felt confused and sad and a little angry all at the same time. HOW COULD THAT BE? When did baby die or stop growing? Was baby just really tiny but still alive? Why hadn’t my body known if baby died and started the process of miscarriage if baby wasn’t alive? Indeed my body didn’t know and I was continuing to have all the hormones of pregnancy coursing through my veins and my body was growing and my womb continued to make a place for baby. All my nutrients, energy, and love were going into an empty womb. We still didn’t understand how all this happened but we knew our baby was gone. We hugged and cried in that Indonesian office which was not an easy place to grieve. Indonesians don’t show public affection but at that moment all we knew was that we were really sad. After wiping tears from each-other’s faces I told Phil that I was confused for sure but that I still trusted God no matter what. I told him that I know God loves us that we can praise Him through all of this. Phil agreed and we held hands as we made that slow walk back to the car and our waiting children and friends.
My plan was to tell Adelina and the children once we got home but as soon as I sat down in the car, Adelina asked me if we had one baby or two babies and a myriad of other adorable questions. My eyes wouldn’t stop leaking for all I tried so I climbed into the back seat of the car, cradled her in my ams and told her that our baby had gone to be with Jesus. Immediately, in sad-angry-embarrassment, Adelina turned away from me and began to cry hard. Bitter tears and wrenching cries came from the two of us in a tangled mess of sweaty sad girls. She was more sad than I ever could have prepared myself for. My precious big-hearted girl grieved like a teenager would grieve, with her whole beautiful heart. She and I rocked back and forth together and I assured her over and over again that God loves us and is with us and will help us all through our sadness and pain. I told her that our baby is the first one in our family to meet Jesus and that my brother would do a good job looking after our baby until we get to meet her. We cried and hugged that whole hour-long drive home and yet I could feel wrapping around us the love and care of Jesus our Lord.
We fed our kids dinner but Adelina couldn’t eat. We called our parents and just to be sure I sent the five ultrasound pictures to my wonderful OB doctor in Reno. My doctor confirmed that the baby was gone and that our condition was called a “blighted ovum” which means that conception and implantation took place but baby never developed. Because conception and implantation had taken place, my body never got the memo about baby not developing which is why it kept growing and doing all the things it does when I’m pregnant.
That evening we mourned and grieved but kept listening to worship music and letting the love of God carry us. My nurse friend encouraged me to go to a city safer than our little village for the miscarriage because our little town couldn’t really provide adequate medical care in the event of excessive bleeding or an emergency. Once again, our MAF bosses have been nothing short of fantastic. They flew us to the city of Jakarta on Thursday and I met with a doctor there on Thursday afternoon. The kind doctor did another ultrasound for me just to be sure and he agreed with both the doctor in Semarang as well as my doctor in Reno, baby had died early on and it was time to initiate the miscarriage.
What I can tell you about this experience is that it has been scary and sad but that God, and our MAF bosses in Jarkarta have been wonderful. We are in a hotel in Jakarta and on Friday for me at 4:30pm I was put to sleep and my womb was cleared. I woke up from the procedure drugged and sobbing and asking to see my baby. My heart felt like it was torn to shreds. I asked if it was a boy or girl and they told me baby was much too tiny to tell. I let the sadness come and I gave my baby to Jesus with open hands. I said goodbye to my baby with a heart that remains grateful to God for His goodness, mercy and love.
My mom helped us pay for a nice hotel in Jakarta so I could grieve in private and tomorrow we will move to MAF’s guest house. I intend to eat lots of good food while we’re in the big city and get a nice haircut while we’re here. (It’s the little things, you know?) Tomorrow, I’m going to rest and recover and heal and the next day I fully intend to bless my precious patient little children with a toy of their choice from the big city and some undivided attention…and ice cream…and cake…and whatever… because, really, we’re so grateful to have each one of them knowing full well that indeed they ARE a gift from God and tomorrow is not a guarantee and nothing, nothing, nothing sacred is to be taken for granted.
As for us, we will continue to press on in the joy of the Lord for truly the JOY OF THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH! We will go back to Salatiga on Tuesday to begin unit 5 of our language learning. We will draw ever closer to Jesus and one another. We will continue to love Indonesian people and learn this precious language. We will press on toward our goals of serving isolated people in Kalimantan. We will continue to trust God with our family. We will welcome any more blessings He decides to give us and we will walk humbly and gratefully through whatever trials may come knowing that Christ is on the throne. We ask for your prayers for our family as we deal with medical issues in a developing country = so. not. easy. And, most especially, for our little Adelina whose heart still throbs in the pain of her first real loss.
We remain yours in love,
Jess, Phil, and our blessings