First of all, thank you for being here. If you are here that means that you may want to become a part of the story that God is weaving us into, and we welcome that. I decided to start this blog because we are humbled and overwhelmed by the number of you who have contacted us, wishing us well, praying for us, bringing offerings on our behalf during this season. What we are realizing, though, is that we are not able to keep everyone informed the way that we would like to. We are simply too tired and too sad to tell it over and over. This seemed like the best way to involve many of you who we love and need right now, and to update you as far as what is going on and how you can be in prayer for us.
So, let’s start at the very beginning. I’m Angie. So nice to meet you…I am looking forward to our sharing during this time, even if I don’t know your face right now. I am married to Todd…amazing, God-given breath of life, Todd. You may know his voice from Selah, but I hope you will learn his heart here. We have been married 6 1/2 years, and have three incredible daughters…identical twins Abby and Ellie (5) and the spunkster that is Sarah-Kate (2). We have learned recently that our fourth daughter, Audrey Caroline, will not officially join our family the way we thought she would. This is the darkest time of our lives, no question. BUT, there is unspeakable joy in knowing how God will use this for His glory. We beg you to engage yourself in the latter more so than the former, as this is where we are resting now.
In a way, the story of Audrey’s sickness began with a bunny. While shopping for my best friend Audra (the baby is named after her and also my middle name, Carole), I came across a bunny that for some reason, I just fell in love with. I told Todd that it reminded me of Audrey and I wanted to buy it for her…he did not fall in love with the price tag the way I fell in love with the bunny, so we moved on to another store. Later that night, as I rocked Kate to sleep, I began to weep. We had no indication that there was a problem with the baby, but my intuition had been busy since conception. As I rocked, I saw the face of that silly bunny and I could not stop the tears (for those of you just meeting me, crying over stuffed animals falls into the “unusual” category…). I told Todd about the incident and he decided maybe we should go back….we didn’t get the chance for a few days.
On Monday, January 7th, I went in for a 20 week ultrasound. My mother in law was in town (she felt for some reason that she should stay for my appointment, and cancelled her scheduled flight a few days prior). When the ultrasound began, the air in the room shifted. I was asked the kind of questions that no mother ever wants to hear from a stranger. After she looked for a few minutes, she said, “I am very concerned about this baby. I need to get the doctor and the geneticist in here and they will talk to you.”
I began to feel dizzy..I asked her if I could hug her (this, on the other hand, falls into the “not unusual” category). I climbed down off the table and sat by Todd, laying my head in his lap and whispering, “Is this happening?” just before the doctor came in. There was no time for an answer. He was a very sweet, God-sent man who made the next few moments as bearable as one human could. He told me that as he did the ultrasound, he would be mumbling to his geneticist, and that I should take no note of this. At the end, they would tell me what was going on. This was a moot point, as everyone in the room knew that the mumbling was just a quiet way of whispering death. It so happened that the mumbling (to add to the “scene from a movie” quality of the moment) was in French. He is a world renowned researcher who developed the measuring system for fetuses while in the womb. And I don’t speak French. I barely speak Spanish after three years of high school classes, unless I am inquiring either 1) your name or 2) where the bathroom is.
It didn’t matter…we all knew what he was saying.
When he finished, he turned to me as a father might to his daughter and (I will never forget this) put his hand gently on my knee, as if to acknowledge that I was fragile, and that his intention was not to break me.
“Your child, she has many conditions. Her kidneys are poly cystic and her heart is much too large. Each of these is a lethal condition. There is no amniotic fluid, her lungs are not developing…..you will have some choices to make and……..” The rest is a blur, which lasted all of five minutes and most of eternity. Todd went to get his mother in the waiting room, and the kind Belgian man asked me what I was thinking. I don’t know where these words came from (actually I do), and I said, “I think that my Jesus is the same as He was before I walked into this room.” He stared at me, not comprehending, but possibly relieved that whatever these silly notions were in my mind, at least they were keeping me calm until he could get out of harm’s way. As my mother in law came in, I kept repeating, “He’s no different, it’s okay, He’s no different…” We just sat and gathered ourselves for a moment. I wiped off the jelly from my skin and looked at the now empty picture being broadcast on the wall. It felt like a dream, like a long, confusing dream.
The geneticist came in and guided us to her office. She was so kind, so gentle. She herself had lost 4 babies. One she carried to term with full knowledge of her impending death, and at least one other she chose to release from the womb. She recommended the latter in my case and I think she gave a lot of good reasons why that would make sense. I just nodded and focused on breathing. That was enough. We hugged her and walked out of the office and back into the hustling, bustling world that was still somehow moving all around me. I kept it together until I talked to Audra. We have been the best of friends for about a dozen years. I cannot tell you the life we have celebrated together, and the time that we have mourned for each other, rejoiced for each other, prayed for each other. And yet the sound that was coming out of my mouth was unrecognizable to both of us. She heard about three words before she jumped in her car and started over to my house.
I checked into Centennial Women’s Hospital that evening. I spent about 10 weeks there with my twins, so it feels like my stomping ground. There is one particular doctor, who, humanly speaking, saved Abby and Ellie’s lives. He travels quite a bit, and is much in demand, so he is very rarely in the hospital. This just so happened to be his week of hospital rotation (hmm…just so happened…), and he would see me in the morning for a confirmation of the diagnosis I had received. Against any explanation I could give, 5 1/2 years after I knew him, he still remembered me. He told my OB that he remembered my red hair and my smile. This is interesting to me, because I don’t ever remember smiling during that time. I am glad to know he remembers this. He requested that his technician not do the ultrasound until he was in the room, so she patiently waited (for about 2 hours) while he did some emergency surgeries in the hospital. I cried when he walked in. It just brought me right back, and yet under circumstances unfathomably worse.
“I kind of hoped I would never see you again, Angie,” he said with the sweetness of a man who spends his days watching mommies lose their babies.
“Likewise, Dr. Fortunato. But I am so glad it’s you.” My heart knew that he would find the same things we already knew, but it felt safer, more manageable. He spent much more time looking at Audrey than the other doctors, and they let us watch her move around as they spoke. My doctor arrived during this time, and we began discussing options. Dr. Trabue, my O.B., used to perform abortions many years ago. He has dedicated his many, many latter years to a God that has forgiven him, but left him with battle scars. We had no question where he stood. Taking her now would be taking a life. It was not gray. They stayed with us for about an hour and a half, which is remarkable, because when I was there in 2002, we nicknamed Dr. Fortunato “the bullet” because he was so quick to speak and then run out the door. During those weeks, we formed an unlikely bond, and he would share his research with me and with Todd. He talked to me like a person and not like a patient, and I am forever grateful for that. After the girls were born safe and sound against the odds, he told me he believed that my God had performed a miracle. I agree, and if and when you meet them, you will as well.
I told him that I had another daughter…he looked up, so surprised.
“Any complications?” he asked.
I had to get a one liner in there somewhere…
“Not until she was born” I replied. We laughed a sweet laughter that defied the moment. When you meet Kate, you will laugh with us. She is life personified. Such a busy little joy.
After all the words were said, we got our things together and left the hospital.
“We’re going to get the bunny” Todd said with absolute resolution, maybe more so than at any moment thus far.
We got to Anthropologie, the home of the bunny, and walked frantically over to the toy rack. More than a week had passed, and without speaking, we both wondered if she would still be there. Todd found one first, and showed it to me.
“I think it’s the last one.”
Right as he spoke, I saw two little ears sticking out of a toy barrel and I reached for them. As I lifted it out, breath escaped my body quickly, without permission.
She had a black, permanent mark on her heart. This was the bunny God had given us.
We cried and walked to the register (what an odd sight, I’m sure). The saleslady tried to scratch off the mark and Todd told her that we were quite certain it would remain there. She told him there was one other one and we explained that this was the one we wanted. We went to eat lunch and we talked about life. The new form of life.
We decided that she would stay with us until the Lord takes her. We don’t know the hour or the way, but I guess that isn’t any different for the rest of us. We also decided that we want to LIVE in the coming weeks. We are taking her to Disney World at the end of the month so the girls can show her Cinderella’s Castle. We have so many plans for such a short time.
There is more, much more, but I am sure you are tired and I am also tired.
We covet your prayers that this life will do things for God that we cannot imagine. One day I will tell the full story of the Blog Title, but for now, I will leave you with these words, and my most sincere thanks for listening. You are now a part of what God has chosen, and I rejoice over that.
“Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings your glory
And I know there’ll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that’s what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain”
Mercy Me, “Bring the Rain”
Love, gratitude, and hope.