Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Dear Nahum,

We're so glad you're
still here
still kicking and rolling
still responding to dad's voice
still showing off your strong heartbeat
still making us giggle when you head-butt the doctor
(you little rascal)
...still here.

Remember when they said you might be born very early,
when Mom worried she might miscarry anytime,
when we wondered if your grandparents would get here in time...?

At 39+2 you've exceeded our expectations. You're still here!

Mom and Dad

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Dear Nahum,

One of the surprises of having you as our son has been how open strangers or near-strangers become with us when they hear about you. We would expect and hope that close friends and family would cry with us, or be open with us, but strangers? German strangers? We didn't expect them to be so moved by hearing about you that they would also share in our pain. Here are a few of the people whose eyes have gotten tear-y and red as they talk with us about you:

  • The lady who lost multiple loved ones in the last year.
  • A midwife when she talked about the strangeness of experiencing new life and death within a few hours.
  • A childless lady who told of weeping upon seeing strollers after finding out she'd have no babies of her own.
  • The older couple who told us their third child was stillborn many years ago; he died two days before they met him.
  • The coworker who told Dad how he still chokes up remembering how his daughter nearly died when she was six weeks old.
  • The doctor whose eyes got wet when she heard your diagnosis.
  • The local mom with a baby like you who sat on the sofa and cried with Mom even though they had only known each other for an hour. Her husband who met Dad for coffee and whose eyes got shiny listening to Dad share.

We feel honoured particularly that people who hardly know us would somehow enter into our suffering. Their openness is a precious gift.

Given the choice, of course, we still would choose to be the ones with a happy baby story and not a sad baby story. To be the ones whom people smile (not cry) upon seeing. But if we're going to be the ones with a sad story, we're glad for so many open hearts to share it with. Their tears and stories remind us that everyone goes through hard times, and that talking openly about those hard times makes the load a little lighter.

(Now, if we can just take care of the nosy cashier-stranger at the corner store, who pesters Mom with questions and pregnancy advice.... Thankfully there's only one of her, and many other kind strangers.)

You are beyond special, Nahum, and we're not the only ones who think so. You open strangers' hearts.

Mom and Dad

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Dear Nahum,

On Sunday morning I woke up around 4am, like mommies with babies in their tummies often do. After my typical trip to the bathroom (do you realize you're pushing on my bladder?) I had a hard time going back to sleep. The minutes slowly ticked by and of course I was thinking about your birth — which is probably just a few days or weeks away now.

Dad was fast asleep, but he had left the door between our bedroom and the hallway open a crack, and he had also left the hallway windows open to let some breeze into our room. (Dad is smart like that.) As you and I lay there awake in the darkness, I realized that even though it was still nearly black out, birds were beginning to sing. One or two were giving a beautiful performance right near our hallway window, here in the centre of the city. Because the city was so still, I could hear one particular melody perfectly.

Last week we read the story of a prophet named Elijah, who needed food. God sent ravens to bring him food. Who has ever heard of birds bringing food? But these ones did, to show Elijah that God was very aware of Elijah's needs and more than able to provide for them.

God sent you and me birds too, Nahum, to remind us that even when no one else is awake, He's awake. He's is very aware of exactly what we need, and more than able to provide. He will give us everything we need until your birth, during your birth, and after your birth. And if we need more songbirds, He'll send those, too.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

the truth

Dear Nahum,

I hate to see their faces when
they ask us how our pregnancy is going

— those people who haven't seen us in a long time
the ones with a chubby-cheeked baby in their arms
and a round belly indicating one more on the way —

I hate to see their faces fall
when we can't lie but we also can't say
what they want to hear,
that our pregnancy is just peachy
that we too have a chubby-cheeked baby
who will soon be in our arms.

I love to be the one with the good news.
I hate to be the one with the bad news.

I tell my friend and she says that
if they don't want to know the truth,
they shouldn't ask us how our pregnancy is going.

I suppose she's right, but it doesn't make telling the truth any easier.


PS - Your due date, Nahum, is one month from tomorrow!

Friday, May 19, 2017


Dear Nahum,

The doctor checked on you and me again today. I've gotten used to the routine now, and the results of all the regular tests they do on you and me are always good.

heartbeat - good
movement - good
amniotic fluid levels - good
position - good

blood pressure - good
urine - good
blood sugar - good
weight - good

You are almost 35 weeks old, and such a good baby!

It would be easy to forget that you have a not-good diagnosis because everything else seems so, so good. I still pray that somehow that your skull and brain — which we haven't been able to see properly for a few months anyway — are miraculously now "good" too. But no diagnosis changes this: the God who made you is good.


You are good
and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
Psalm 119:68

Tuesday, May 16, 2017



Dear Nahum,

Did you know that when Jesus was about your size, a new star appeared in the sky, so that some smart people could use it to find Him? I think that's pretty cool. But what I think is even cooler is that the star was soooooooo far away that it actually had to start shining thousands of years earlier, so that those smart people would see its light at just the right time. God planned everything way in advance so it would all be perfect for His Son.

And He did that for you too, Nahum. He chose just the right parents, who would love you and look after you. He picked just the right time and the right place for you to be born.

I think God was pretty pleased that He worked everything out for his Son's birth, and I think He is pretty pleased with all the work He did getting your birth ready, too.

God gave us rainbows as a reminder of His love. Maybe He gave us stars as a reminder that He has everything under control, and that His perfect plan will make sure that good is done to those "who love Him and are called according to His purpose." God had everything in your life planned long before it started, Nahum, and I believe you will see good worked out in your life.

Your friend,


Thursday, May 11, 2017

peace be still

Dear Nahum,

I don't know if you saw it, but a wild wind whipped through the city late this afternoon, while I was making our supper. It knocked over flower pots and rearranged any light or loose items on our porch. Around the time Dad needed to bike home from the office, a hard rain began, making him thankful for all his rain gear. As the evening progressed, the storm stopped, but a thick layer of clouds still hung grey and heavy over the city.

We went out for a walk in the calm dark, under the overcast sky. Dad asked me which direction I wanted to walk, and I told him I wanted to go by the clinic where I received your diagnosis again.

Tomorrow your brave Dad is planning to tell his coworkers about the clouds hanging over our life right now. He'll explain why he's taking parental leave in June, and tell them why his happiness is mixed with sorrow. So as we sat on the rough, pebbly half-wall outside the clinic, Dad set down his umbrella and rehearsed the German words he wants to say tomorrow. Words about good news and bad news, about death and God and you. I tried to help him rehearse his sentences as we sat there in the shadow cast by the clinic, until the darkness came over me, too and I cried.

Sometimes being your mom has felt like being whipped around by the wind, or being rained on but forgetting my rain gear. But more often it has felt like what the disciples experienced when Jesus calmed the storm just by speaking to it. We couldn't sit in front of that clinic with peaceful hearts if we had chosen to kill you there. But neither could we sit in front of that clinic with peaceful hearts having chosen to continue your life...if it weren't for Jesus. The same One who created the water and wind and our hearts can calm them just by speaking.

He pins us down when the wind whips everything up.
He dries our tears when they mix with the rain.
The clouds still hang over us, but 2,000 years later His words,

"Peace, be still,"

have the same quieting effect on anyone who calls on Him.

"And there was a great calm."


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

you are

Dear Nahum,

This is your 33rd week of life. And who or what are you so far?

  • You are a wonderful creation of God. Every time we hear about your development or feel you wiggle and squirm, we're amazed that a real human being is growing inside of Mom.
  • You are a boy. Somehow we are so happy to start out our family with a son; it just seems right. 
  • You are a Daddy's boy. He's been kissing you and training you for months to respond to his voice by kicking. (We're not sure if it really works, but we like to think so.)
  • You are a sportler. Sometimes you seem to even be kicking both sides of Mom's belly at once, if that is possible.
  • You are a night owl. Night is your favourite time get your wiggles out.
  • You are friendly. Because of you, old friendships have deepened and new friendships have started. 
  • You are a stuffed toy collector. You now are the proud owner of two lambs, an elephant, an owl, a ninja, an angel, a star and a turtle. Gifted to you mostly by your aforementioned friends.
  • You are easy-going. Never once have you made Mom throw up. You like doing most anything Mom needs to do. You're already positioned with your head down, ready for an easy-going birth (we hope!) when it's time.
  • You are strong. Despite your condition, you've kept on growing and developing almost exactly like healthy babies would. Some babies with your condition can't swallow the amniotic fluid around them and their moms end up with excessive fluid build-up. But you must be a strong swallower, since Mom's fluid levels are fine.
  • You are loved. By God, by us, and by many, many others. You're our beloved firstborn, and nothing will ever change that.
  • You are worth it. Yes, we've cried a lot about you. But you've also given us so much joy.

We're excited to meet you in person, and learn more about who and what you are. 

Mom and Dad

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Dear Nahum,

Do you see us?
Two tearful, trembling lumps
under the crumpled comforter
with lumps in our throats
and lumps for hearts
because we can't comprehend
that the lively little lump inside Mom
—the lump whom we love—
is the same lump
whom the doctor still says
won't make it.

Mom and Dad

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Dear Nahum,

This week I sat in the office of yet another doctor whom I had never met before. (Dad jokes that I know all the doctors in town now, but it's not quite true.) After we discussed the reason I had come, she asked kindly, "I noticed on this form that you said there is a problem with your baby — what is it?" It didn't really have anything to do with the reason I had come to see her, but since she asked, I told her that you have anencephaly.

"Do you know what that is?" I asked. Her eyes got round and then sad like someone who does know what that is. She said she was troubled to hear that, and I said that I was too. Then I started crying, and her eyes got shiny-sad. She explained that she has two grown-up children and gently commented that a parent's love for his or her child endures no matter what the child's diagnosis is. She knew that my tears came so quickly because I love you.

You made us parents for the first time, Nahum, and I am amazed at how much love your Daddy and I have for you. Even though you've never done favours for us. Even though we don't even know what you look like. Even though an onlooker might say that you've given us tears, stress and a wearying string of doctor's appointments. But our deep love for you is not based on your achievements or because of your good health or because of what you'll do for us. When we hear what the doctor says will happen to you, we might almost be tempted to wish we could love you less, so that losing you would not hurt so much. But we cannot do that — we love you deeply, simply because you're our son.

This reminds me of someone else; it reminds me of God. He describes Himself as a Father who loved us to the point of death while we were "still dead in our...sins". Dead people don't do God favours, so that must mean that He loved us before we were any good to Him. We each brought God more stress than joy in that sinful state and maybe sometimes He almost wished too, that our pain didn't pain Him so much. But He continued to love us with His deep Father-love, simply because we are His children.* I think God gave us the parent-child relationship so that we could understand in some small way His unconditional love for His children.

I wonder sometimes how conscious you are of God's presence and our presence with you while you are growing in my womb. Do you already know that He loves you? Do you already know that we love you? We hope that you will always be surrounded by deep parental love. We hope that when you are wrapped in God's forever-loving Father-arms it will already seem familiar. Our imperfect parent-love here on earth is just a shadow of the perfect love your Heavenly Father has for you.



*(Don't be confused, Nahum — God's love doesn't somehow mean our sin doesn't matter. We still have to be honest about our sin and acknowledge what God says about how serious it is. But when we do that, we see His love even there. We see that because of His love, He made a way for us to be rescued from our sin. That's what we celebrate at Easter time, and every Sunday, really.) 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Dear Nahum,

Sometimes I hear people complain about their babies. They fuss because their babies are fussy. They grumble that their babies aren't sleeping through the night. They're cranky because their babies are cranky or because their babies are waking up too early due to Daylight Saving Time.

I never liked hearing people complain about their babies, but you have taught me to like it even less. I wish I could just say to those people: at least you have a baby. At least your baby has a brain. Please look at your baby's round little head — which is perhaps screaming right now — and rejoice. Please be thankful that your baby is alive — even though at two-thirty in the morning he or she may seem all too alive. Please stop your grumbling and be thankful.

It's not that I feel sorry for us or think that we have a right to complain, either. I feel sorry for them, that they don't remember that their babies are miraculous gifts from God. I don't need to complain because I know God has a job for you just like He has a job for their babies. Maybe this is one of the jobs God has made especially for you: to teach us to wonder at God's handiwork every time we see a healthy baby. To put our lives in proper perspective. To remind us to be thankful instead of complaining.

We would not be learning these lessons so well without you as our teacher. You do your job so well, and I'm your thankful


Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Dear Nahum, 

Soon I will leave on a trip to Amerika. You've never been to Amerika yet, but you're kind of from there, because that's where I'm from. While I'm there, I plan to see your grandpa and grandma for a few days. Then I plan to attend a conference about my work for a few days. I wish you and Mom could come along, but maybe I can send you pictures of the things I see and do while I'm sixteen airplane hours away.

I'm writing you this note to remind you that you're the man of the house while I'm gone. I need you to watch out for Mom and make sure she's OK. This is the longest Mom and I been apart since we got married. Please behave while I'm gone!

I already look forward to seeing you both when I get back. Save some kicks for me! I wonder if I'll be able to see that you've grown in just a week and a half?

Missing you already,


PS - I'll be flying on a Boeing 767-400 and 737-900. Mom doesn't care about these details but I'm sure you do, Nahum.

Friday, March 17, 2017

was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan

Dear Nahum,

Some time ago I heard a poignent vignette about Dietrich Bonhoeffer's mother and older brother. Dietrich's brother went off to fight for the German army and not long after he left home, the news came that he had been killed. I believe he was only nineteen. His mother was — as any loving mother would be — heartbroken. But the song she chose for his funeral showed that even in her devastation, she knew God was still good and trustworthy. Here is the first stanza of the song, written by Samuel Rodigast:

Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan! 
Es bleibt gerecht sein Wille; 
Wie er fängt meine Sachen an, 
Will ich ihm halten stille. 
Er ist mein Gott, der in der Not 
Mich wohl weiß zu erhalten, 
Drum laß' ich ihn nur walten.

Here is the translation, by Francis Browne:

What God does that is done well! 
His will remains just 
However he deals with my affairs. 
I want calmly to place my whole trust in him 
He is my God, who in my troubles 
knows well how to support me, 
therefore I let him alone rule over me.

If you will indulge me, here's just one more stanza:

Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan! 
Er ist mein Licht und Leben, 
Der mir nichts Böses gönnen kann; 
Ich will mich ihm ergeben In Freud' und Leid; 
es kommt die Zeit, Da öffentlich erscheinet, 
Wie treulich er es meinet.

What God does, that is done well! 
he is my light, my life 
who can have no ill will towards me. 
I want to entrust myself to him in joy and sorrow.
The time will come when it will be clearly apparent 
how faithful his intention is.

(The rest of the song is also beautiful.)

When I heard this story, I was impressed by this German mother's faith in God in the face of suffering. I copied down the beautiful first stanza of the song. But I never expected I'd be thinking about the funeral of my son a year or two later. My list of ideas for songs for your funeral lies under my arm as I type this. "Her" song is on the list, and her example strengthens me.

There is so much peace in knowing a good God is watching over us. We trust Him — we entrust ourselves to Him and know He has no ill will toward us. I'm sure you feel His peace too, inside my womb. The same God who supported Dietrich's mother through sorrow supports us, too.

Because God is good,


Friday, March 10, 2017


Dear Nahum,

Before we forget, we want to tell you about two special moments in your life involving music, specifically Christian music. In Canada or the USA, it is not so unusual to hear Christian music in a store. But we don't just "randomly" hear Christian music in stores in Germany. Probably there are just fewer Christians and therefore fewer Christian musicians or Christian music buyers.

However, on a grey day back in December, Mom heard Christian music in a German cafe for the first time. It was just a few days after your diagnosis, when we were still a jumble of shock and sadness, and Mom and a new friend went to an appointment with a social worker. Because of a mix-up with the appointment, we had to wait about an hour. We walked across the street to a cafe and drank tea and hot chocolate and waited for our appointment. Shortly after arriving there, Mom realized all the songs that were being played in the cafe were Christian songs in English. One of the songs was All in All, which starts with the words: "You are my strength when I am weak..." To Mom it seemed like God was saying: I see you down there. I know what's going on. 

Then, at our first appointment at our new doctor, Mom and Dad were sitting in the waiting room for what felt like a long time, and feeling a little anxious again about your health and about switching gynos mid-pregnancy. Just then, a Christian song started playing through the speaker in the waiting room. Again, it just felt like God's way of saying: I see you down there. I am with you.

Our pregnancy with you has involved a lot of waiting, but God has surprised us twice now by having Christian music playing in places where we had to wait. When He turns on Christian music for us, it reminds us that He sees us:

Waiting for social workers.
   Anxiously gulping hot chocolate.

Waiting to see doctors.
   Cautiously signing German medical forms.
   (Hoping we understood what we're signing.)

Waiting for you.
   Truly enjoying you every day,

Mom and Dad

Thursday, March 2, 2017

to-do lists

Dear Nahum,

Lately when people check on us, we tell them that we're doing OK.  Dad's going to the office as normal and his evenings seem to fill up, too. Mom's not feeling too weepy and has some nice projects to make the days go by. Today, when we look up from our long to-do lists and realize that we're almost at the 2/3 mark of our pregnancy, we can hardly believe it.

But there's one to-do list we're avoiding when possible, and it's the "Nahum to-do list". When we don't think about that list too much we're OK. That list looks something like:

  • visit gyno for glucose screening test
  • meet midwife at hospital to talk about delivery preferences
  • compile a list of numbers to be called in case of emergency 
  • plan clothes and memorabilia for Nahum
  • get more info from cemeteries / funeral homes.

The first four tasks on the list, while not all fun and games, sound like fairly normal tasks for new parents. But the last one on the list reminds us again that this pregnancy is really different than what we expected. 

Matthew 6 gives us a succinct to-do list for this last 1/3 of our pregnancy with you:
  • Do not worry about tomorrow. (You're much better at this than we are.)
  • Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

We're doing OK, and we'll always be OK, when we don't worry about tomorrow, and when we keep God's kingdom (not Nahum's kingdom or our little family's kingdom) first on our to-do list. Somehow even the Nahum to-do list will be achievable when we start with the Matthew to-do list.

As for your to-do list, it probably looks something like:
  • eat
  • kick
  • wiggle
  • grow.

Have fun in there,

Mom and Dad

Thursday, February 23, 2017

a good strange

Dear Nahum,

Today we went to see a doctor who specializes in helping little people like you come out of their mommies' tummies and into the world. We told him your story and then we asked if he would be able to help you come into the world. We heard that both he and his team are kind, and that out of all of the hospitals in our city, this one would likely be the best place to welcome you. The doctor has to tell us his final decision after he talks to some other people, but from our conversation, we think he would like to help you be born.

When the doctor was asking us questions, we couldn't really tell what he thought about our situation. We thought maybe he wondered what kind of strange people your parents must be. He must know better than we do that not very many babies with anencephaly get the chance to live and be loved as long as you. It seemed a bit strange even to us, that somehow we know your diagnosis but (some days) we are still about to talk about your birth matter-of-factly.

There was a sentence on the wall in the entryway to the hospital which explains our strange behaviour. It said in a clear font, "Wir haben einen Gott, der da hilft. Psalm 68/21". (In the English Bible it would be Psalm 68:20). Literally translated from German, that phrase means something like, "We have a God, who there helps". As in, a God who helps us right there...right in the place where we need it.

We can mostly calmly talk about you and your birth because we have a God, who there helps. He's helping you, and He's helping us, right where we need it. Even there, in the delivery wing of the hospital. Especially there.

If we're strange, we hope it's a good kind of strange.

With all our love,

Mom and Dad

PS - We're not sure if you've noticed, but this whole winter has been pretty dreary. That's typical winter weather in our part of Germany, but probably after your diagnosis it felt greyer than it actually was. Yesterday was super windy, and this evening there were strong winds and rain again. But this morning, when we had to ride our bikes to the hospital, it was sunny and calm — the warmest weather we've had since your diagnosis. God gave us a sunny day for a sad task. God helps, even in the small things.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

i wanted a baby, not a pregnancy

Dear Nahum,

I have a single friend who says she's "so excited to be pregnant" someday. I had never considered being excited simply about being pregnant. The only reason I would be excited to be pregnant would be because a baby of my own would come from that pregnancy. Pregnancy — with it's sickness and soreness, stretch marks and weight gain, hormonal changes and awkward conversations, and let's not even mention childbirth — was not what appealed to me. You were.

I wanted pregnancy for the joy set before me: you.

When the doctor told me that with you all I will have is pregnancy, and no baby to show for it, the blow felt enormous. Pregnancy...but no baby? I thought of the pregnancy itself as mostly a chore to get through, to get to the goal of having a baby in our family.

But now as my tummy bulges with the wonder of you, I realize that even pregnancy is a gift. Once in a while I think I feel your long legs kicking. They tell me that you're bonding with me already, even from inside, and I am bonding with you, too. When I see you on the ultrasound machine's screen, I'm always reminded that an incredible miracle is happening inside of me — a handsome little boy is being formed out what seemed like just a tiny speck.

I am sorry I thought pregnancy was just a chore to get through, too, because I realize that many women would love to even experience pregnancy and because of their own particular brand of sorrow, they cannot. I am "so excited to be pregnant", Nahum, no matter what comes next.

This is a precious pregnancy,
because you are a precious baby.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

bottled tears

Dear Nahum,

Last night I cried and cried in my bed when I was supposed to be sleeping. I don't know why exactly I was crying. Eventually I remembered that yesterday was exactly two months since we received your diagnosis. Maybe two months of sorrow about your condition was just getting too heavy inside of me and a tear dam burst. I cried so long and so hard that it woke Dad up, and probably woke you up, too.

I needed a happy thought to set my mind on, instead of all the sad ones, so that I could stop crying. Dad spoke of you going to Heaven to be with Jesus, but that didn't make me happy because I wanted you to have more time with us before going to Heaven. Dad spoke of Jesus of loving the little children and gathering them on His lap, but I love you and I wanted to gather you onto my lap. I cried some more.

Then I searched for a verse that has come to mind several times during these two months of tears:
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

Maybe by then I was just getting tired of crying, but those were the thoughts that slowed down my tears. Thinking about you going to be with Jesus just makes me cry even more right now. But thinking about how not one of my tears goes unnoticed by God reminded me that God cares for me. He cares for Dad too, and also for you, Nahum.

I don't know how many tears we have shed for you, because they run down my cheeks and into my pillow and I cannot count them. But God knows the exact number. I wonder what He does with those bottles of tears. Do you know? Maybe you'll get to ask Him before I do. Thinking about that makes me get teary again.


PS: Today I got two unexpected bouquets of flowers — one from each of the ladies I know here in Germany who had babies with conditions just like yours. Neither of them know each other or knew that the other was sending me flowers. After a night so full of tears, I was reminded again that God cares for us.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

the new doctor

Dear Nahum,

Today we went to a new doctor to talk about you and see you, because Mom didn't feel comfortable with your first doctor. The first doctor looked in Mom's belly and despite his fancy ultrasound machine, all he could see was a damaged fetus that was wasting his time and ours. But today's doctor must have a more advanced machine, because she saw what we know is in Mom's belly — a sweet baby boy who is very much alive. The first doctor made us feel like silly parents; the second doctor made us feel like proud parents.

Of course, the second doctor checked to make sure that we really understand how serious your diagnosis is. Any good doctor would do that. But then she spent a long time showing us what you look like. We could see the vertebrae in your back, and we saw again that you have very long legs for such a little guy. Your head was hiding a bit, but we could see your belly, your knees, and more. Sometimes we couldn't tell what we were seeing on the screen, but the doctor explained it to us. You're growing at the usual rate for a baby at about 20 weeks of life.

The doctor could see that you were sucking constantly, that your tummy was full of food, and that you were stretching and kicking a lot. Those are all signs that you are happy! She told us that in spite of the condition with your head, you are a sweet, content baby.

Seeing you today through the new doctor's machine made our hearts happy. In Mom's womb you are happier and healthier than it seems you will ever be outside Mom's womb. The days before your birth will likely be the happiest of your earthly life, and we are thankful for every moment when we get to feel a bit of that happiness with you. You teach us about enjoying today without worrying about tomorrow — just like you're doing with every suck, kick and wiggle.

We're proud to be the parents of such a content, happy baby boy.

We love you, Nahum.

Mom and Dad

Monday, February 6, 2017

a house of mourning

Dear Nahum,

Today these words from the ancient Jewish King Solomon crossed my mind as I was putting away the groceries I brought home:

It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting, 
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.

We still believe God could intervene miraculously and heal you, but we also believe we need to be prepared to make some decisions if He does not. That means that as we enter this second half of our pregnancy with you, we're having more conversations about funerals and burials.

As anyone could guess, we'd much rather be planning a happy baby shower than a tearful baby memorial service. From an earthly perspective, feasting is much more enjoyable; but from an eternal perspective, Solomon says that mourning does us more good. A house of mourning gives everyone a chance to reflect on his or her own death someday, provoking a kind of sober attitude that it is hard to find time for in a world that delights much more in feasting and entertainment than in discussing serious matters.

No matter what happens to you — whether we feast or mourn at your arrival — your little life has already made many people "go to a house of mourning" in their minds; you've helped them to think about things they need to think about. You've helped us to think about things we need to think about, too.

You're doing us a big favour, Little One. Thank you.

Mom and Dad

Saturday, February 4, 2017

your name

Dear Little One,

We chose a name for you. Somehow in your situation, we felt we needed an extra-special name. Your name is probably not one that would have been on the top of our list had this pregnancy gone exactly as we had hoped. But in this situation, we think it suits you perfectly.

Your name is Nahum John. 
(Nahum is pronounced NAY-huhm, or we say it more like NAY-um)

And since the doctor says your days will be short, we want to start calling you by your name now. Here are a few of the reasons we chose to call you, our firstborn son, Nahum John.

  • Nahum means comfort. It's a shorter form of the name Nehemiah, which means comfort of the LORD. 
  • Nahum was a prophet, or a messenger from God, and carried a message that was not necessarily people wanted to hear, but it was what God knew they needed to hear. We know your little life carries a message from God to us and to others, too. 
  • The most beautiful verse of Nahum's prophecy speaks to our situation now: "The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him" (Nahum 1:7).
  • When the books of the Bible are listed, your name comes right after your Dad's. Micah, and then Nahum. (Don't tell your future siblings, but the next name if we keep going in order would be Habakkuk 🙈).
  • John is your maternal grandpa's second name, too, and we wanted to bless him by naming his second grandson after him.
  • John means the LORD is gracious. Even in the difficult circumstances surrounding your life, we still know God is gracious and we want to proclaim that.
  • John was "the disciple whom Jesus loved" and we know Jesus loves you, too.

In the Bible, people were always given meaningful names. Today people name their babies after their favourite shampoo or their favourite actress, and there's nothing particularly wrong with that. But I have often wondered if God sees the names we give our children as a prayer — a sacred moment when we get to tell God and the world what our prayer for you is. We pray for comfort for you and for us. We proclaim that even if your life is short, we know God is gracious.

You are a prayer for comfort to a gracious God.
We love you more than you know, Nahum John.

Mom and Dad

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

that's terrible

Dear Little One,

A few weeks ago I told an acquaintance about your condition. She knew there was something in our pregnancy that was troubling us, but she didn't know how serious it was. When she heard she was shocked. She immediately replied, "Oh golly, that's terrible. That's really, really terrible." And she kept repeating herself, "It's really terrible, so terrible that this is happening to you."

I agreed with her because we think so too, Nahum.

We think it's terrible.
We think it's tragic.
We think it's horrible.

That's why we have cried so much.

But (and there is a "but"), we know a God who also had something really, really terrible happen to His own Son. We know a God who can take even the most terrible things—like the death of His own Son—and make the most wonderful things out of them. We know a God so wise, so sovereign, and so all-powerful that He can turn even terrible into wonderful.

We don't have to pretend what the doctor says is happening to you is not terrible. We are free to mourn and to cry. But somehow when all the terrible settles, God is there and He seems closer than ever before. It is well with our souls, even in the midst of the terrible, because we are accompanied through the terrible by Him whose name is Wonderful.

What would be really, really terrible would be to go through this without Him.

Mom and Dad

Monday, January 16, 2017

body and blood

Dear Little One,

As you have probably noticed, we go to church most Sundays. At our church there are two services. They're not really meant to be picked between, they're meant to both be attended because the focus of each one is different. At the first one we spend most of the time focusing on the cornerstone of the Christian faith: Jesus, and particularly His death and resurrection. At the second one, the focus is broader. Of course, we still talk about Jesus, but we might also talk abut other themes, too. The Bible talks about so many topics.

Even though the services aren't meant to be picked between, we don't always go to the first service. Sometimes we're simply lazy, and sometimes we're justifiably tired. No one at the church keeps track of who attends, and no one scolds people who don't attend.

However, this morning I noticed I had a greater desire than usual to get up early and go to the first service. I wondered why. Maybe the main reason is because the theme of the first hour is a broken body and shed blood. I've never felt so close to those topics as I do now, Little One, because suffering has come close to you and me in the last weeks. The ultrasound shows that your body is broken. I know that I will shed blood for you.

As much as I can talk to family or friends about your situation and they can try to share our pain, Jesus best understands our sorrow. When we go to that first service on Sunday, we sing to and about Jesus, read about Jesus, think about Jesus and then take the bread and the wine. In so doing, we find comfort in Him. Jesus' body was broken without His Spirit being broken. His body bled but His spirit lived. When our hearts are broken and bleeding, He is the best person to tell, because He understands.

That first service has become more precious to us because of you. Thank you.

Mom and Dad

Friday, January 13, 2017

time with you

Dear Little One,

The other day I was telling your Dad that I am more fortunate than he is, because I get to spend more time with you than he does. When he's away at work, or even in another room, he can't be with you. But wherever I go, whatever I do, you're there with me. You get up with me. You go to German class with me. You work at design projects with me. You make regular trips to the grocery store with me. You go to bed with me. We do everything together.

But today it occurred to me that there's one thing only Dad can do for you. He's always given me a goodbye kiss before leaving to work, but now he gives you a goodbye kiss too, by kissing my tummy.  That's something I cannot do, because of course I cannot bend over enough to kiss you in my tummy. I pointed that out to him, that only he can kiss you. Dad smiled really wide. It made him feel special, that he gets to do something for you that I can't.

We thank God for every moment we have with you,

Mom and Dad

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

our little boy

Dear Little One,

Today we found out you're a boy! (We were quite sure of that, somehow, but the ultrasound told us we weren't crazy.) Dad was there to find out at the same moment as I did. He smiled at me and I smiled back. A little boy seems like such a nice way to start a family.

You're sixteen weeks old, a lanky fifteen centimetres long and you weigh 150 grams. The doctor showed us your arm and bent elbow, your leg and your wiggling foot. We got to see your heart pounding and your umbilical cord throbbing. We listened to your heartbeat, and he showed us how he could tell you are a boy. The only thing he didn't want to show us was your head, and we had to ask him, "Please, show us our boy's head."

He did, and we were sorry to see again that your head still looks like it stops above your eyes. That's not the way little boy's heads usually look, Little One. At least not the heads of little boys who can skip and throw balls and play catch and ride bikes. Not the heads of little boys who can bake cookies and run errands and read books and draw pictures. But somehow it's what the head of our favourite little boy looks like.

It was a strange mixture of happy and sad seeing you today, Little One. It should have been a moment of wonder and awe, to see you being formed in that secret place, and it was. But it was also a moment of sorrow and woe, because we kept thinking about what it means when a little boy has no skull.

You're still here, but somehow we already miss you, our little firstborn son.

Mom and Dad

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

wounds and healing

Dear Little One,

On Sunday we sang these words, "Durch seine Wunden bin ich heil" ("By His wounds I am healed.") Did you hear us? The doctor told us that you are wounded, Little One, and we have prayed for healing, and so those words jump off the page to me right now.

As we have told different people about your situation, I have realized that how people respond to news like we received about you depends a lot on worldview. A Christian's perspective on this is very different than most people's. To many people in this world, wounds are seen as 100% tragedy. But not to us. Why is that? I guess it's because our whole faith is built around the idea that sometimes wounding and death serve a greater purpose than we can see at the moment when they're happening. Christians believe that the very wounds which appeared to have broken Jesus were the wounds that offer us healing.

We grieve about your deformity, Little One, but we know that somehow what is happening to you is not 100% tragedy. Somewhere between the bread and the wine on Sunday, we remembered that we don't look at Wunden in isolation, or else we would despair. We don't pretend the wounds are not there, but we keep our eyes on the future Heilung—not just for your little body, but for this entire suffering and dying world.

With hope,

Mom and Dad

Thursday, January 5, 2017

hauptsache gesund?

Dear Little One,

Since coming to Germany, I've realized that overall, Germans are highly concerned with good health. You can see it in the thoroughness and strictness of their socialized healthcare system, in their concern with healthy eating and organic shops, and in their love of being outside and taking walks in the Wald. Not that North Americans aren't concerned with health; some are. But in the land where you will be born, they say "Hauptsache Gesund!" or "The main/most important thing is health."

We like all the healthy options available to us here, and you have already benefited from the good medical care here. We've always been the whole grain, fruit and vegetable types, so Germany suits us. We love being able to move around the city by bike or by foot. Germany gives Dad more weeks of holidays because it's important to them that their workers have time to rejuvenate, and we will never complain about that! But is the most important thing health, as they say here?

In Germany, God used to be worshiped above health, but not anymore. Most of the traditional churches have become more like museums to be visited, or nice place to find silence and take pictures. Surveys say that for most people in Germany, the idea of a personal, living God is passé. But that doesn't mean they don't worship any more. (Societies never eliminate worship completely—they just find another object to worship, usually some created thing instead of the Creator.) Good health is a god to be worshipped in Germany. Maybe the god above all gods.

I'm glad we don't worship at the altar of good health, Little One, because the priest of that god told us that modern medicine has no means to heal you. Which means that if the Hauptsache is that you be Gesund, your life would have no more purpose. Our hope would be extinguished. Exchanging the God of gods for the god of health is a choice a person can make, but an expensive one. Because when your health is taken away from you, you have no hope. And what then? Maybe your good health coverage would cover treatment for the depression that would surely follow?

I'm so glad your value was never tied up in your health.

Hauptsache Gott!

Mom and Dad

Friday, December 30, 2016

you already have community

Dear Little One,

Yesterday, less than twelve hours after being told you have a condition called fetal anencephaly, we called and emailed family and friends about the news. We went to sleep, and overnight our inbox received email after encouraging email from people telling us they were praying for us and crying with us. In the weeks that followed we got phone calls, text messages, chat messages and cards in our mailbox from friends all over the world. All because the doctor said you're in trouble, Little One! See how they love you?

I was a bit fearful of having a baby here in Germany, in a new city where we know so few people. But when we told some people here in our new city about the doctor's diagnosis, they responded so kindly. They cried with us and brought us cards. They came to our house to visit us and pray for us. They gave us truth to hold on to. One man who doesn't feel confident in English came to our house and read a long passage from Romans 8 to us in English, just because he thought we'd prefer to hear it in our mother tongue. His wife made herself available to attend appointments, give advice, or just have coffee with me and talk and pray. They saw that you need community, and that we need community, and they offered to stand in the gap. Can you feel their love, Little One?

These people have never met you, Little One, but many of them are praying for you every single day. You already have more genuine community than many people would have in a whole lifetime. You're already blessed more than you know.

Mom and Dad

Monday, December 19, 2016

abortion was never an option

Dear Little One,

On the day when the shocked doctor told me the news and his assistants clumsily instructed me, they gave me the feeling that the responsible thing to do would be to end your life. But even in those first moments at his desk after receiving the news, I told the doctor that having an Abtreibung was not an option. I had to say it again in the lobby, to an assistant who was giving me a discouraging look: "There will be no abortion." And we had to say it again to a few more people over the next few weeks: "Abortion was never an option."

Suddenly I could better relate to the difficult decisions that women throughout the ages have faced while pregnant—and I hope I will be slower to judge them than I would have been before, having felt the complex emotions of this season myself. I was glad that I didn't have to make that decision in the doctor's office or at the next ultrasound or in our living room. This was something we decided long before December 13, 2016. My social worker said she sees many clients who are agonizing over whether or not to kill the babies in their wombs, but she could see that our situation was different. She knew that we knew you're alive—whether or not you're healthy—and that it is not our right to end your life any more than it is our right to end anyone else's.

I saw a statistic, that 95% of mothers in our situation opt for an abortion. That puts us in a minority again, a 5% group. But I want you to know that we didn't not abort you because somehow we are better people than other people. Actually, there was even a sliver of me that thought, "If only abortion really was a solution. If only there really was a way to erase this heavy weight...." But abortion simply trades one set of problems for another. It wagers that the guilt of killing your own child will be less painful than suffering through a difficult pregnancy ending in a miscarriage or stillbirth. It's not a wager I would be willing to make. We don't go chasing after heartache, but when it happens to us, we know it's not so unexpected. You might as well know this now too: in this world you will have trouble.

We didn't abort you simply because we come from a long line of people who have chosen the fear of God above the fear of man...including doctors with "the best ultrasound machines in the city". We're usually a minority. We fear the same God as the midwives in Egypt who "feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the...children live." If the midwives could risk their own lives to disobey a tyrannical king, we can also risk appearing foolish before 95% of the population and preserving your life as long as you live.

The social worker told me that you're lucky you got us as your parents, because we're giving you the chance to live as long as you can. I don't think luck has anything to do with it, and I would never have chosen this challenge for myself. But I want you to know this, Little One: abortion was never an option. We couldn't both fear God and play God by choosing to end your life. Some things are best decided long before one faces that particular situation.

To life,

Mom and Dad

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

a time for weeping

Dear Little One,

Today was a day we will remember for the rest of our lives. Today was not the day we wanted it to be. I hope today will fade in our memories as time goes by, so covered by days of rejoicing that we can hardly remember the weeping that took place on December 13, 2016.

I wanted to look nice when I went to the doctor's office for the second appointment of my pregnancy. It had been one month since I had seen you growing in my womb and I looked forward to seeing you again, to hearing your heartbeat a second time at twelve weeks. The early months of pregnancy have felt so surreal, knowing that you're in there—but seeing so little evidence of you. As I got ready for the day, I mentioned off-hand to your Dad: "You know, a tiny part of me realizes that these appointments do not always show good news." But I was 99.9% sure that our news would be good news.

The doctor asked if we should talk English or German, and I chose German, because I need the practice. He had me spread the cold jelly on my tummy and then he began the scan so that we could see you. He pressed, looked at the screen, pressed again, and looked at the screen again. I saw you, my baby: fearfully and wonderfully made. You were just as cute as I remembered you. Then the doctor said those words that I suppose I knew could come, but I never expected would come: "Please come over to my desk. We need to talk about something. There's a problem." I clumsily buttoned up my pants and joined him at his desk.

It turns out, despite my optimism that we were the 99.9%, we were actually the 0.1%. Fetal anencephaly affects approximately 1 in 1000 babies in the womb. He told me that you are one of those babies. He told me that your skull has not formed. That your brain and your head are damaged. He told me he is certain that only one thing lies ahead for you: death. Death inside of me, or death shortly after birth. It was insinuated that your life has no value anymore, that you are as good as dead.

Even as I sat in that doctor's office, Little One, this was on my mind: the doctor knows a lot, but he does not know all things. As he sat there and predicted your future and assessed your value, I knew that was ultimately not his job. He doesn't give life and he shouldn't take it away. He did not play your heartbeat for me, but you still have a heartbeat, Little One.

Whether his prediction turns out to be true or not, I wept because it might be true. I wept in the doctor's office and then in his lobby. I came home and wept on the sofa, wept in your Dad's arms, and wept on my bed. I wept for all the tomorrows we might not have with you. I wept for the loss of our dreams for you. I wept selfishly, too, for the loss of something I wanted: a "normal" pregnancy. A "normal" baby. A "normal" life.

But I want you to know, Little One, that even though we were weeping, we did not feel angry at the God who made you. We just felt profoundly sad. We believe that God shares our sadness too, as He sees this broken world, where what should be a time of joy is turned into a time of weeping. And He longs to end not just our weeping, but all weeping, and to wipe away all tears.

It's often rainy here in our German city. Maybe that's God's way of weeping with us.

Mom and Dad