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Grace and Faith

"Grace and Faith" Continued...

Issue: "Roe v. Wade turns 40," Jan. 26, 2013

Six months later, Crystal was pregnant again. When she went for an amniocentesis, Daniel thought, “What are the odds of having another double-dominant baby?” Regardless, they decided they “would do everything exactly the same.” A week later, Crystal came home from her pharmaceutical job to a car-filled driveway. Friends, family, and their pastor gathered for support as Daniel broke the news: They had another daughter—she was double-dominant.

Crystal fought her insurance company to have a second test performed: “I really thought they had made a mistake.” She had friends who had aborted their baby for scientific research when an amniocentesis revealed double dominance. Later, a research lab came back with startling results: They had aborted a healthy dwarf boy.

As the Artrans prayed and sought counsel, they were able to trust God. They named their daughter “Faith.” Crystal concluded, “If God is going to do a miracle, why would we need a second test?” She focused on eating healthily and making baby preparations, shopping for baby clothes and reading aloud to Faith in utero. Again, she swelled with amniotic fluid. She had it drained once—but within a week the fluid was back. Toward the end, she spent much of her time in a stiff wooden chair, the place she felt most comfortable. But she says, “It’s all worth it when you hear that cry.”

Last July, friends and family again filled Crystal’s delivery room for support. The moment Faith was born, she went straight to Crystal’s chest, even giving her “a little pirate eye.” But her weak fuss indicated, “This wasn’t going to be the miracle we had hoped for.” Within an hour, Faith passed away. In their room, Daniel recalls, “The minutes seem like seconds and before you know it, you hear that quiet knock. You know it’s time to say goodbye.”

Now on the Artrans’ pink table, wooden cut-out letters spell “Faith.” Her hospital bracelet dangles off one side. Crystal says, “I really thought Faith was what we were waiting for. Then I realized, OK, that’s not the end of the story. It’s still going.”

The Artrans say the experience has strengthened their marriage and their spiritual walk. As people they hardly knew prayed for and supported them, they learned about Christian community. Recently they began sharing their story with others. Some people ask why they put themselves through the grief—why not just abort? Daniel answers, “That’s not our call to make. God is the only one who can decide who lives and who dies. And besides, I’m proud to talk about our girls.”

An agonizing path

Losing and winning the personal pro-life battle

By John M. Irwin

My wife Jennifer and I were the parents of two children, a son and a daughter, when Jennifer miscarried—a heartbreak for both of us. 

Then, six years ago, she gave birth to our daughter Carissa, who had Trisomy 13, a serious genetic anomaly. Carissa had lived only eight days when doctors told us it was time to remove her from life support. After consulting a wise seminary professor, we agreed, hoping and praying for a miracle. We sang and prayed as Carissa (a derivative of the Greek word “grace”) slowly stopped breathing.  

We had another healthy son and in 2010 discovered that Jennifer was pregnant with twins. Surely, I thought, this was God’s blessing for our faithfulness with Carissa.  

About 13 weeks into the pregnancy doctors told us our twins had a potentially life-threatening condition called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. Prenatal laser surgery could eliminate the offending arteries that caused the condition, and doctors said they needed to perform an amniocentesis to see if the twins had a chromosomal problem like Carissa’s that would disqualify them for surgery.

The amniocentesis showed one twin to have an extra Y chromosome, a mild trisomy condition that many men and boys have without even knowing it. The doctors asked if we wanted to continue. We said yes. We are pro-life and these were our boys! The laser surgery was successful, and doctors assigned Jennifer to bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. The six-week follow-up appointment showed everything was great.

Then a routine checkup revealed that the larger twin, Ezekiel, had died in the womb. The other baby was also in danger. Zeke’s death seriously challenged my faith: We had made all the right “life” decisions, and God was going to rip away from us two more children. He seemed to be answering “No!” to all my prayers.

A week later, we went to the hospital because Jennifer’s water had broken. They admitted her and tried to delay the surviving twin’s birth. Days and nights passed and finally, on June 17, 2010, Jennifer went into hard labor. After four hours, doctors performed a cesarean section. Zach’s eyes fluttered open as nurses carried him to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). 

Meanwhile Jennifer had complications from infection, forcing doctors to perform an emergency hysterectomy. A clotting issue required units of blood and plasma. After four more hours of surgery, they wheeled her to the recovery room. Four hours later she was finally in her room, waiting with me to hear news about little Zach.

In the NICU, Zach struggled. He weighed about 1 and a half pounds and was full of infection. Doctors inserted tiny lines into his blood vessels to administer medication. They alternated between a respirator and a tiny hand-squeezed model to help him breathe.  

Just before midnight the phone rang from the NICU: I should come down to see Zach. The combination of trauma, infection, and prematurity was too much. Doctors removed him from the machines to see if he could survive on his own. Although Jennifer came down on her bed to see Zach, she was too weak to hold him. Numbly, I held him and watched as the time between each breath increased, and he died. He lived less than 24 hours.

Back up in Jennifer’s room, nurses worked feverishly on my wife, who had started to bleed again. More blood, more plasma, and more care later, she slowly began to recover.  Jennifer didn’t want to attend another funeral or memorial service, so I scheduled it while she was still in the ICU.  

It is now two and a half years since these events took place. Jennifer has recovered physically and normal life goes on—but we are different. God gave us three children to raise and four others to carry and say goodbye to. Like Job, we are sometimes called to worship God at the hardest moments of life.  

The world says we could have taken a shorter, less agonizing path, but we made the decision to protect the life of the unborn, bearing the loss and going through the grief. Like others who chose life and lost it, we long to hear Christ’s commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Mary Jackson
Mary Jackson

Mary Jackson is a writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and three young children.

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