The following was originally posted on January 20, 2008, less than two weeks after Gwyneth was born and just a few days after Tricia woke from her coma. I thought that today was a good day to repost it. I've changed a few dates so that they are accurate for today.
For all of her life, Tricia has been praying a very specific prayer, that God would use her life with CF to do something amazing and extraordinary. And, for the past few years, she has added a second specific prayer. Until recently, this second prayer was a secret from all but a few people...it was even a secret from me.
But, first, let me give you a little background about us.
Tricia and I met about 11 1/2 years ago one Sunday morning at our church (I promise I'll give you the whole story another time, 'cause it's good). It was love at first site for me, and we began dating almost a year later. I was (and still am) Tricia's first and only boyfriend.
I knew that this was the girl for me, and very early on in our relationship I explained to Tricia and her parents that I fully (or at least as fully as I could at that point) understood Tricia's disease and what that might mean for my future. While we wouldn't be married for another three years, I told them all that I was committing, then and there to becoming the caretaker that Tricia would need. I promised that I was looking to marry Tricia, and that if I had any doubts up to that point, I would have already bailed because I knew Tricia didn't need the stress of a hurtful relationship on top of the hardships of her disease.
I was 20 and Tricia was 19.
Tricia was in good health while we were dating, with just a very slow descent. Even when we married, you would never have known she had a killer disease. But, we knew that there were no guarantees, and that even a simple cold could literally become deadly for her in the matter of a few days. Talk of marriage came early, and we soon decided that we wanted to take advantage of every minute of our lives together. On August 24, 2003, we became engaged. We were married less than a year later on June 27, 2004.
The day after our honeymoon ended, I began my first full-time job (as worship leader at Westwood Hill Baptist Church) in VA Beach. Neither of us had finished college at that point, because, again, we wanted to make the most of the time we had. Some people thought we were foolish, and it wasn't an easy decision, but looking back, we know it was exactly what God wanted for us.
We knew we wanted to start a family, but we also wanted to have at least a little time all to ourselves, so, we gave ourselves about a year to just enjoy being two. That first year of marriage was full of fun and excitingly new things for us.
God did not make a woman more perfectly fit to be a mother than Tricia, and, although being a father scared me (and still does), I've always known that it was what I wanted as well. For nearly two years, we tried to get pregnant.
I know that this is not a long time compared to many stories I've heard, but, because of Tricia's declining health during that time, we knew our window of opportunity was not very large. And, because of Tricia's CF, as well as some other issues, we knew that conception was a small chance and pregnancy a huge risk for the two of us.
All during that time, while Tricia's CF doctors informed us of the risks, they were also very supportive of our decisions. In the spring of this past year (2007), however, they finally told us that a pregnancy would be more risk than we were willing to take. So, although it was very difficult, especially for Tricia, we halted our pregnancy plans.
At that same time, Tricia's docs also advised us to consider being evaluated for the double lung transplant that could save Tricia's life. The 5-day evaluation process took place at the end of June (2007) with good results (meaning Tricia was a candidate), and we began making our plans to transition to living part-time (and later full-time) in Durham.
All this time...all the while that we'd been married, Tricia had been praying that secret prayer. She knew, that what she was praying for would take something that beat the odds, that defied science and that could only be explained by God.
Tricia was praying for a "miracle baby".
We decided that September 4 (2007) would be the day that we would officially make the transition to Durham and Duke to begin the physical therapy that Tricia would need before being placed on the Transplant list. We moved out of the house we'd been renting for two years (in Nags Head, NC) and placed most of our belongings into storage while taking our bedroom furniture, medical supplies, clothes and a few other things into a spare bedroom at my parents house (where we planned on staying when we cam home on the weekends).
September 3 was a Sunday, and that night, as our church gathered together for a service, I took the stage to share the new and plans with many of our closest friends and family. Tricia stayed home because she was not feeling well (not unusual). Little did I know that, literally as I was sharing our plans with the church, Tricia was finding out that God was about to take us on a huge detour.
When I arrived home that night, feeling a sense of relief from telling the church about our plans, Tricia met me at the door with, "I have something to tell you, and I'm not sure how you're going to react..." Of course, I'm thinking our dog had gotten run over by a car, or something crazy... She took me into the bathroom, showed me the pregnancy tests (I think she used three just to be sure) and told me that she was pregnant. God was giving Tricia her miracle.
The next day, when we arrived at Duke, we immediately set up appointments with the transplant doctor, the OBGYN and Tricia's CF docs. The transplant doctor's reaction is not something I want to repeat (it went something like "holy ......!"). He advised us that our best choice would be to terminate the pregnancy.
The OBGYN told us that she had never once recommended to any of her patients to terminate a pregnancy, but in Tricia's case, she was making the exception.
Tricia's CF doctors already knew exactly what our decision was going to be about keeping/terminating the baby, and other than a look of shock, they were very supportive (as was everyone else once we told them of our choice).
This Sunday morning, thousands of churches across our country are remembering National Sanctity of Human Life Day. (read My Dad's Blog for more about the history/purpose of this day)
In years past, I've taken part in considering what this day is all about, but it's always been just a passing thought. I'm sure there have been a few years when I didn't even really think about it at all.
But this day has now taken on such a completely different meaning. In the past, it has been about standing up for what my Christian world view tells me is right and against what is wrong. But, now I'm seeing those things as the smaller picture.
God is showing me, through the life of my wife and my daughter, that today is really about two things.
1) Sanctity of Human Life is about trusting God.
No matter what side we may fall on with the issue, abortion is not a belief. It is a choice that is birthed out of a belief. Our belief was that God wants what's best for lives, that it was God Who allowed this pregnancy to happen, and that it needs to be God who determines the final outcome. Because of our belief in God, our choice was easy.
For us, abortion was not about life or death, murder, right or wrong, etc. Our choice simply came down to whether or not we were seriously willing to trust God. And really, what else did we have to hang on to at that point? To abort would mean to turn our back on God...Tricia's chances of surviving the pregnancy were 50/50, Gwyneth's were even less, and the window of opportunity for the transplant seemed to have come and gone. But we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God was answering Tricia's prayer by giving us this opportunity.
2) Sanctity of Human Life is about making the most of our time with others.
If I have learned anything during the past few months, it is that my time with Tricia, and her time with me and others she loves is never a guaranteed thing. I have probably spent more time with Tricia in the past 5 months than I had the previous 3 years of our marriage, by her bedside nearly every moment.
I have seen my attitude and perspective change about certain things regarding my role as a care-giver. The things that used to make me cringe, I do with joy. The tasks that caused me to roll my eyes because I missed a few minutes of television show, or a few seconds of football game have become the things that I look forward to the most. My favorite part of the day now is getting into my Jeep and driving to the hospital, knowing that I have a full day of just being with or around Tricia and Gwyneth.
It would only take a few moments for me to easily become a childless widower. But, that's really how all of life is. We never know what the next second will bring. I hope to never look at life the same, never again choose to take my family and friends for granted, and never pass by another stranger without looking for an opportunity to be a blessing.
I am not perfect. In fact, I consider so many others in my own life to be much more spiritual and strong and loving than I am. All I know is that, the moment we made that choice to trust God, my entire life changed.
And, for me, that is what Sanctity of Human Life is really all about. Simply living life in pursuit of loving God and loving people does so much more to change hearts and minds and lives than any hellfire sermon, political personality, or picketing campaign will ever accomplish.
Tricia literally came within a few breaths of sacrificing everything to give Gwyneth life. If that had been the case, and even if that is still what happens, to know that we have trusted God with our choice will get me through today and tomorrow.
God is answering both of Tricia's life prayers, at the same time...He is doing something extraordinary with her life by giving her the miracle baby.
I pray that today, you will take time to consider that human life is sacred because it comes from God, spend time appreciating the life you've been given, and love on the people you find yourself with.