Faith isn’t a position paper, or a series of boxes to check on a form. How could a relationship with the Creator of the universe be reduced to such simplistic terms?
I learned this truth the hard way.
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We knew almost immediately that something was wrong. The blood test confirmed our fourth pregnancy, but there were abnormalities. My wife’s hormone levels weren’t increasing at the expected rates, and she had an overwhelming sense that something wasn’t right. Unexpected pains and a mother’s intuition trumped the cautious patience of doctors.
Over the next seven weeks, testing consistently revealed abnormal hormone levels. So we did what everyone else does in situations like this – we turned to Google. It was quickly evident that her symptoms were consistent with an ectopic pregnancy. This is an extremely dangerous condition that is fatal for the baby, and potentially fatal for the mother. The emotional anguish and stress of such a suspicion kept us from discussing it. We simply cried, prayed and waited.
Were it not for a series of miracles, my wife would have died in front of my three small children while I was at work.
On the day she would have passed, we had a scheduled ultrasound. Alone in the exam room, a technician was more thorough than necessary. She calmly and quickly admitted my wife to the hospital. I rushed home from work. Nobody would tell us what was wrong. But we knew. Within a few hours, I was presented with an impossible choice: end the life of my baby, or let both my wife and my baby die.
With all the advances in modern medicine, there’s tragically no cure for an ectopic pregnancy. No technique exists to transplant the baby from a fallopian tube to the uterus. Without intervention, the fallopian tube would rupture, and my wife would bleed to death. But her symptoms were abnormal. The pain should have been unbearable, but it wasn’t. The doctors and nurses urged me to abort the baby. I couldn’t do it. I demanded that we wait, and do additional testing.
Meanwhile, my wife became increasingly pale and weak. Nurses suspected low blood sugar and stress. I watched in horror as my wife quickly deteriorated. She passed out in our hospital room. Three times. Then the trauma team arrived. An ER doctor quieted the room, and ordered that my wife be taken to the operating room “Right now!” Forms were pressed in front of us to sign as my wife teetered on the edge of consciousness. I kissed her, told her I loved her, fought back tears, and said goodbye. I prayed it wasn’t the last time.
The waiting room was empty. I have no idea how much time passed as I sat with a friend and frantically called family. By God’s grace and divine intervention, she made it. But barely. Without any of us realizing it, the ectopic pregnancy ruptured. The mysterious absence of pain caused everyone to miss it. The surgeon said she lost two liters of blood internally, and one of her fallopian tubes was completely destroyed.
I unsuccessfully attempted to hold it together. My wife was alive, but my baby was dead. The blood loss and general anesthesia virtually erased my wife’s memory of the hours leading up to the surgery. She didn’t know we lost our child. I had to tell her.
I felt utterly alone and overwhelmed by grief. It took almost a week for us to muster enough emotional strength to even discuss what happened in any detail. It took even longer to grapple with the physical, emotional and spiritual scars. Did my lack of action endanger my wife’s life? What would the “right” decision have been in God’s eyes?
I soon discovered there were others like us. In hushed tones, Christian friends privately shared their own ectopic stories. Most had to end the life of their baby in order to save the mother. And they never discussed it publicly for fear of judgment and chastisement from those with an overly simplistic approach to the intersection of life and faith.
So we all sit quietly in the shadows of the faith community, struggling to come to terms with the moral complexities and tragic losses.
Life viewed through a Christian lens certainly contains black and white truths. I stand firmly behind them. But experiences like this remind me that much of life as a follower of Jesus is lived in the gray. And I’m learning not to fear the gray. Instead, I’m endeavoring to trust that the omnipotence and omniscience of God is far beyond my intellectual reach. In so doing, it becomes easier to surrender each step of my life to His divine guidance, and offer compassion to those struggling to discern His unknowable path.