Here’s the secret: the baby wasn’t supposed to make it. It was August 2019, 11 weeks into the pregnancy. Jan and I were enjoying a Saturday brunch, when suddenly Jan leaned in, ‘Something doesn’t feel right. I’m bleeding.’ Admittedly, it took a minute to really understand what that meant. Flashback memories of middle school sex ed classes didn’t help quell the confusion. But it was the sight of blood soaking through her pants down to her feet as we rushed home, when things got real. Most aspects of the pregnancy were new to me, but it wasn’t lost on me that situations like this don’t usually end well.
I remember our OBGYN’s voice on the phone being somber. ‘Is the baby going to make it?’ ‘I’m sorry… just come as soon as you can.’ I tried to pick up any signs of hope in her voice, but there was none. The ER waiting room seemed much milder than I remembered on TV. Just the sound of a patient wailing in pain, and the sound of sobbing (that was mine). When I looked over at Jan, there was peace in her eyes. Here we were, at the brink of finding out that we’d lost our first pregnancy, and her calmness intrigued me. ‘How could God allow this? Why would He gift and then take this baby away?’ I kept asking, heartbroken. It was one of those surreal moments when time stopped, and that sense of control pours through your fingers’ grasp like water.
Jan looked back at me, with a quiet smile that could have quieted a storm. ‘Remember the sovereignty of God, babe. This isn’t our child, it’s His. Pray, baby, Pray.’ It struck me in that moment that this is when faith becomes real. These were the moments when the deepest perceptions we had of God came to the surface. In the surreal calm of Jan’s quiet strength, I found evidence of a God who holds our hearts with delicacy. One who’s in control when our world comes crashing down. And that moment of divine serenity is one I’ll always cherish of Jan.
As the sonographer scanned Jan’s quiet womb, we had no idea what to expect. By then, I learned to start letting go — of control, of external fulfillment, of my desires. And in the midst of confusion, there was peace unimaginable.
It was as if we had unlocked a secret weapon in this game called life marked by Grace. As if, this feeling of fulfillment regardless of outcome is the only posture that matters. After a while, the sonographer turned to us. ‘I’m supposed to let the doctor share this, but your baby is still alive.’ We were very confused, but it felt like Mercy — heaven came down.
I’ll never forget that day, for there were many things I learned, and many I want to continue documenting our journey: 1. The sovereign love of a Father, who defies the odds; 2. The adamant and fierce faith of my beautiful wife, who inspires me more each day; 3. The reminder that we are merely stewards of each soul we’ve been entrusted with; 4. The resilience of baby (this was just the beginning of baby’s adventure-themed life this far). 5. And perhaps most poignantly: we know this baby is destined to be an overcoming warrior for the Kingdom.
For the first time that day, a tear trickled down the corner of my eye. As the husband leaned forward at the ultrasound screen trying to decipher it, I looked away — I could not bear to look. I had soaked through three pads already to know what this could mean.
That was when the sonographer told us in secret that the baby’s heartbeat is ever strong. The baby is still alive and healthy.
I thanked her and wiped that tear away as my thoughts ran wild. “But what does that mean? Does it mean the baby has X more days to live? Or is the bleeding a sign of cervical cancer?” We had been in the ER for 4 hours by then, waited with little signs of hope.
But I knew the stats and science. 1 out of 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Cervical cancer runs in my family where all my paternal aunts had it, and one passed away from the complications from ovarian cancer, too. Much of my teenage years was met with dysmenorrhea, I was given birth control pills for it since I was 14. My wayward teenage years exploring sexuality and as a family battling depression didn’t help.
But after I was saved at 19, I also know my God.
Pain and loss is not a stranger to me by this point of my life. As I wrestled with Him to let this child live, I felt also in my spirit if this pregnancy should end, we will have twins in the next one. That’s who He is. Multiplication is the nature of our God as much as in His sovereign will, He gives and takes away. Yet a still voice lingered as we waited for the ultrasound: “Do you still not trust that this is My child?” And then, “Did I not tell you this is My child?” when we learned the baby had miraculously lived.
We were in the ER for 6 eternal hours that day. As it wasn’t a miscarriage, they sent us home and transferred my case to Maternal Fetal Medicine. I did a pap which later cleared me of cervical cancer. Even so, I will not forget the moment I walked out of the ER doors — very confused — I was still bleeding, but with a child alive in my womb. I was also given a handout: SCH — Subchorionic Hematoma — the 1% reason of a bleed out, 99% is a miscarriage. We made the 1% cut… as we did with the conception.
Yet it was still the beginning of this faith adventure.
Within this 1%, we were told a 50% chance we will not make it. I’ve never heard of SCH. Neither did Google… which duly informed me only of a miscarriage in the event of a bleed out and to schedule a D&C. It is rare for Google to be this blindsided… but the doctor informed us SCH is just a random hormonal surge triggering an internal bleed in the uterus area without any cause, and so it has no treatment either, but only to wait-and-see if the internal bleeding will stop.
I was 12 weeks at that point. Since it is my first pregnancy we do not know at all if my cervix is strong enough to handle both the baby and a bleed at the same time. The weight of both in my uterus would typically result in the cervix giving way and the baby literally “falling out”. Or even if my cervix holds up, if the bleeding does not resolve, the baby will eventually run out of space to grow and still not make it. Or we could make it to full term with the bleed but I’d risk a very high chance of hemorrhaging and die at child birth — maternal mortality rates are already very high in the US.
It was gently implied to me that termination is not an uncommon option as many would prefer to “start over” than indulge in a wait-and-see. I would really know only at the 20-week scan how my body would cope with SCH and if the baby is resilient. So for the next 8 weeks we had our inner circle who contended with us for the SCH to resolve and for the baby to live. For me, the pregnancy was as easy as it can be, I had no symptoms or clue if I was bleeding as I felt unusually great throughout the pregnancy.
The Week 20 anatomy ultrasound came. The doctor looked at the scans and shrugged off how the bleeding had vanished — the baby is alive, SCH was defeated — I was just ready to burst out a praise song.
“So, I did not see anymore bleeding in the uterus but….”, she choked. “I saw something else that’s unrelated. I’m sorry, but the baby is abnormal.” She swiftly gave us three devastating possibilities. None conclusive, but she was confident and sent us to do an MRI in 4 weeks for a conclusive diagnosis and discuss next steps: Early induction to surgery for the newborn to the baby dying upon birth. Or, termination at 24 weeks due to an abnormal diagnosis is relatively common.
And as “Abnormal” was stamped across the baby’s 20-week anatomy scan, I looked her in the eye and said: “My baby will be fine”.
These words weren’t easy to come out of me, but I’ve learned faith is to be forged in the fire — and this is the only life I’ve ever known worth living for. I have always known to live a life less than ordinary, a big life, is where faith is the only way and where God has to be God.
To be continued.
// the four-part pregnancy diaries //
Part II: When the baby survived a miscarriage
Part III: The “abnormal” baby and the Knitter