I have always valued life – or so I thought. I remember from my teen years on how I believed the Bible when it said that I was made in the image and likeness of God. I was thankful that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” by my heavenly Father and that He had “formed and covered me in my mother’s womb.” I worked for a time at a ministry in Texas called “Last Days Ministries,” which had a branch called “Americans Against Abortion.” I served in the print shop there, and one of the most popular tracts we printed was called, “Children – Things We Throw Away.” Later, when I became a pastor, I faithfully ordered bulletin inserts for “Sanctity of Life Sunday” and preached about how God is the giver of life. I proclaimed that He alone decides when our lives begin and end. I was a hospital and nursing home chaplain and served on the ethics committee of our local hospital. I often had to help the sick and suffering see that even their lives had great value and that to end their lives prematurely would be a tragedy. Yet, none of this prepared me for that trip to my wife’s OB-GYN.
We were expecting our second child. Rebekah Hope was 2 at the time. We went to our 20 week appointment and looked forward to seeing our little one on the ultrasound. As the nurse midwife viewed the screen, I noticed that she didn’t respond to my wife’s jokes and that her face turned very pale. She excused herself and rushed out of the room. A few minutes later, she returned with the doctor, a kind immigrant from Czechoslovakia who was always smiling. He suddenly became serious and silent – until he worked up the courage to tell us the news. They couldn’t find any kidneys in our baby. As such, the amniotic fluid would not be replenished once it was used up. Without amniotic fluid, the lungs wouldn’t develop, as the lungs are strengthened when the baby in the womb breathes that life-sustaining liquid in and out. He immediately set up an appointment for us at the Ohio State Medical Center.
On our first appointment, we met with two doctors who both assumed we were coming in to set up a time to abort. They were shocked to hear my wife, Leah, explain that she believed that the same God who gave her baby life could heal her baby, but that even if He didn’t, it was not her right to end a life that He had given. They explained to her that the baby would probably be carried close to full term but would die soon after birth. Each time she felt the baby kick, she would be reminded that she was carrying a baby with a death sentence. “Why go through the heartache?” they asked her. “Why risk your own health? Why not end it now and try again?” They introduced us to a geneticist who would “test” fetuses in future pregnancies and would tell us when to abort until we could finally get one that was healthy. My wife stood firm. Over what seemed to be never-ending visits to many different doctors, the professionals realized that they couldn’t change my wife’s mind. Her courage amazed me. Her faith humbled me. We soon became a “teaching” case because of this rare disease. I looked forward to the hours of ultrasounds, realizing that seeing my daughter on the screen might be my only chance to get to know her.
Our little Christina Joy lived one hour after the delivery. She peacefully stopped breathing in our arms not long after we heard the hospital sound system play the bells that celebrated the birth of a child. We put her tiny casket in the trunk of our car and drove her to Wisconsin, where she was buried next to my brother, who had also died in infancy. Not knowing if we would be able to have more children, God has since blessed us with Victoria Grace and Maria Faith. O, how I value their precious lives! And how I value the courage of people like my wife, Leah, who have the faith and strength to live out their convictions and who stand up and let their voices be heard.