Sunday, September 3, 2017

goosebumps

Dear Nahum,


Do you remember the first doctor you met?
He took pictures of you at 812 and 16 weeks.
Then we left him for the new doctor.

Well, I'm planning to send him pictures of you at 41.5 weeks...
That is, professional pictures taken on your birthday.
I wonder if he'll recognize you?
Maybe he'll remember your lanky legs!

I told a midwife that I plan to send pictures to him.
She knows your whole story, and
she rubbed her arms and said,
"That gives me goosebumps."

I saw the goosebumps on her skin.
Maybe you'll give the doctor goosebumps, too.
Maybe he'll think of you when he's doing his work.
You handsome little boy!

Mom

Thursday, August 24, 2017

cards

Dear Nahum,


Today a narrow, white envelope with a small cross on the front was waiting for us in the mailbox. It contained a card with a photo of green trees on it, signed in blue pen by Dad's former coworkers at the university. They sent the card to say that they're sorry you died.

You might remember how on the day of Dad's doctoral defence, we told all his former coworkers that we were expecting you. You were already eleven weeks old, and we thought it would be a while until we would see them again. So we told them the good news. They pumped our hands and patted our backs — they were happy with us.

Just eight days later, we received the bad news, your diagnosis. Sometimes Dad wished we hadn't even told his old coworkers that we were expecting you. They wouldn't really have needed to know. Occasionally on a business call, one of them would ask about you. What could Dad say, from his open-concept office? He would just say yes, it's a son. Yes, he's busy kicking and growing. Yes, we look forward to meeting him.

A few weeks after your death, Dad finally told them what happened. He told them all at once, with one round of email, so they'd all find out at the same time. Today, it was bittersweet to find their card in the mailbox. They shared in our joy, and today it felt like we came full circle — they shared in our sadness.

In a world where instant communication is easier than ever, our culture's slower but more tangible communication traditions are still important. Sending cards is a formality we have, Nahum, but a good formality.

A card says to someone else:
  Your joy matters to me.
  Or, your sorrow matters to me.
  What happens to you matters to me.

Mom eventually pastes each card or letter into your bursting bright blue notebook. It's so full that it almost won't close anymore; the elastic band around the end is taut. It's a notebook overflowing with kind words. Cards help us close the circle of our grief, offering comfort over and over again.

Mom and Dad

Saturday, August 5, 2017

long

Dear Nahum,


One month ago today we finally met you and
everything about you was long.

Long torso.

Long legs.

Long feet.

Long toes.

Long arms.

Long fingers.

Long fingernails.

Long creases and dimples.

Only one thing about you wasn't long:
Your time with us.

We miss you,
and will for a long time!

Mom and Dad



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

i saw her

Dear Nahum,


Just the other day I saw her,
the young doctor who hurt me when
she inspected me in the hospital.
The one who made me cringe and Dad pray,
when she came to give me stitches.

This time I saw her not at the hospital
but at the local drug store,
blonde hair pulled up and sports gear on,
buying too many baby wipes and
trying to contain a busy, noisy child.

I saw her packing her squalling baby
and purchases into her bike trailer and
pushing her bike toward home,
just like any young city mom,
just trying to keep up with life,
just trying to get by.

In the hospital it felt like
her against me,
and I didn't like her.
I complained.

But in the drug store I realized
that she's just a normal person.
She's maybe even my neighbour.

By the bike racks I remembered
that we're all in this together,
just doing our best with our normal.

I saw her.
More clearly this time.


Mom


One of the teachers of the law....asked [Jesus], 
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this...
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul 
and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
There is no commandment greater than these.”

Sunday, July 30, 2017

feathery wisps

Dear Nahum,


It surprised me. I was at a follow-up appointment and the doctor said she would do an ultrasound. I lay down for the inspection without really thinking twice about what was happening — after all, I had so many ultrasounds in the last eight months. But I kind of forgot what this scan would show, and the surprise was a sad one: on the screen we saw my womb, but there was no Nahum in it.

Every other time I remember seeing my womb, you were there. First as something so small and "gummi bear”-like, and later as a full-grown baby boy. But this time my womb was just an empty sack...
there was no woosh-woosh of your heart beat,
no lanky limbs rolling and punching,
no giggles when the doctor felt you head-butt her…
no Nahum.

Just a feathery wisp of fluid which the doctor pleasantly told me would
soon
be
gone.

Nahum, sometimes I fear that the memories we made with you are like that feathery wisp in my womb — short-lived, on their way out. Even just a few weeks after meeting you, I worry that I will forget the precious details of our short time with you. Forget the other-earthly thrill of seeing and touching you for the first time. Forget how soft your skin was. Forget how much you weighed in my arms. Forget watching Grandma give you your first bath and dress you. Forget how Dad and Grandpa's tears bathed you again. Forget how the doctor went out of his way to tell us how beautiful your hands were.... Forget, because we have no fresh, new memories of you to keep replacing the older, fading ones.

Giving birth to a baby that most people didn't get to meet or hold feels like what the Bible calls "giving birth to the wind". I guess that is why I write, Nahum. Why I will make scrapbooks of your cards and albums of your pictures. Why we will talk about you regularly, especially with any little brothers or sisters God gives to you.

You were the first to inhabit my womb,
and we will never forget you.
Your place in my womb may have been temporary,
but you have a permanent place in our hearts.

Mom

Saturday, July 22, 2017

compassion

Dear Nahum,


The other day I dealt with a cashier who was not particularly friendly. She was offering service, but not with a smile.

If this had happened eight months ago, I would have felt a bit grouchy about her unpleasant demeanour. Why couldn't she just smile? As you know, I was the type who would play funny pranks, wear a dinosaur hat just to get a reaction out of people, and paste smiley face stickers on your dad’s water bottle, wallet and Bible. I didn’t understand, when I met a serious stranger, why they couldn’t be a bit more pleasant.

But you made me understand, Nahum, that smiling isn't always possible. Now, when I see someone who can’t seem to smile in public, I can relate. There were days in the past eight months when Dad and I had a hard time smiling, too. You taught me to be slower to judge people whose story I don't know, whose suffering I have not experienced. You taught me to be more compassionate.

You might like to know that the other day after I saw the sad-looking cashier, I reminded myself of this: Maybe that person just got a heart-breaking diagnosis.
And just that thought made me want to give that person the benefit of the doubt. To not expect her to conjure up a fake smile. To give an extra measure of grace and compassion, just in case.

It makes me sad to think that people who meet our family in the future won't meet you, Nahum. After all, as the social worker told me just days after we received your diagnosis, you are and always will be our firstborn! But maybe if we remember what God used you to teach us, and reach out to others with extra sensitivity and compassion — which you helped us to learn — in a small way they will meet you, after all!

With appreciation,

Mom

Friday, July 14, 2017

goodness and mercy

Dear Nahum,


A few weeks before you were born, the words at the end of Psalm 23 tripped me up: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life..." 

"All the days of my life, God?"
I almost could not believe those words, as I prepared for your delivery.
"What about the day when my newborn son dies?"
"What kind of goodness and mercy will I see on that day, God?"
I couldn't really imagine it.

Last night, as I prepared a slideshow for the celebration of your life, I remembered Psalm 23:6 again. My thoughts from a few weeks ago came back to me, and I realized that even on the day of your birth and death, God's goodness and mercy followed me. 

Here are a few significant ways in which I noticed it:
  • Even though the hours before you were born were difficult, God was good to give me a clear enough mind, a settled enough spirit and a strong enough body to carry through to the end of the delivery. 
  • In His mercy, God timed your 7:33am birth perfectly. Fresh staff was just starting their morning shift and helped the tired staff who were finishing a long night with us. When the midwives were running out of ideas to know how to encourage you to come, new midwives and doctors showed up to help. Also, our friends on this side of the pond were just waking up right around the time we needed prayer the most. They checked their phones and prayed us through the last hour before you were born. 
  • You got stuck making your exit, and the doctors decided I needed to be put under general anaesthetic for you to be removed. But minutes before I was to be put under general anaesthetic, God gave me one more contraction and you came sliding out miraculously. I was finally relieved from incredible pain the moment you came out, and Dad was not left to cry over your body while waiting for me to awake from the anaesthetic — I will forever be thankful for this miracle of mercy.
  • When I first held you on my chest, God gave me fullness of joy. You made me a mother and just being able to see you, touch you, and hold you was gift of God's goodness. I think I expected to weep upon seeing you (as when I saw you, I could see your head was damaged) but somehow I could only smile over you, and gush over you. What a wonderful boy you were, and are!
God's Word proved my fainting heart wrong again. God's goodness and mercy followed me, even on the day of your birth and death, and always will — all the days of my life!

Mom

Monday, July 10, 2017

three hours of darkness

Dear Nahum,


Two mornings after your birth, I woke up in my hospital bed crying. It almost seemed like my tears had started before I awoke. As I lay there on the pastel yellow hospital sheets, aching for you before I was almost even conscious of what I was doing, the sequence of my thoughts was as follows:
  1. I'm awake.
  2. I'm crying.
  3. God the Father mourned His Son, too. 
Along with my tears came the thought of the three hours of darkness that God the Father brought "over the whole land" as His Son was dying. 

Three hours in which God was not
checking His phone,
doing His freelance work,
inviting over guests, or
talking to friends.

Three hours that were separated for darkness —
three black hours,
three somber hours,
three inexpressibly sad hours.

I don't know what our mourning for you will look like, but remembering that God mourned His Son's death gave me some freedom. Freedom to let my tears soak through my sleep mask if they need to. Freedom to not think I have to work up some happy when I'm struggling with our loss. Freedom, not to be self-centered, but to genuinely acknowledge
how deeply sin has broken our world,
how deeply that brokenness has hurt us,
and how deeply we long for Jesus to heal our broken world.

We will mourn with our own version of "three hours of darkness". And that's not only OK, I think it's right. Because so much in this world has gone wrong.

Mom


PS - Another thought came to me as I was writing this letter. God the Father willingly saw His Son die, so that when I saw you die, I would have hope. What kind of God is this, that He would choose His own suffering in order to someday end our suffering? He is clearly not a God who wishes evil upon us. Nahum, this is the God to whom we entrust both you and ourselves.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

you

Dear Nahum, 


The table is filling with casseroles
the counter with baked goods
the window sills with plants
the hallway with cards
the inboxes with messages 

All good things,
from kind people 
who offer comfort

But really I just want
you,
my sweet, sweet child.

Mom

Thursday, July 6, 2017

a child of the light

Dear Nahum,


The church bells outside the hospital window ring six o'clock this morning. Yesterday morning at this same time Mom (and Dad) were experiencing the agonies of childbirth (in different ways) and don't remember hearing the church bells.

After labouring through the night, Mom started to realize that we probably wouldn't meet you until after daybreak. The midwife was distressed — although not as much as we were — that you were taking so long to meet us, but she told us,
"Your son is waiting. He wants to be born in the light."

Even in her agony, the midwife's words stood out to Mom because of the imagery from Thessalonians:
Nahum, "you are [a child] of the light and of the day; 
[you] don't belong to darkness and night." 

You are a child of the light, Nahum John, born at 7:33am on July 5, 2017 — after the sun rose. A good gift, given to us by the Father of Lights with whom there is no changing, no darkness, and no shadow. Taken back by Him just after the sun rose yesterday morning.

There are no words to accurately describe our joy or our grief, upon meeting and losing you in the same instant. Your short life changed our lives forever; you are our little "child of the light."

Mom and Dad

Friday, June 30, 2017

last doctor's visit

Dear Nahum,


Today was probably our last trip to the ob-gyn together. As you may have noticed, she's been having us visit her every other day since your due date, just to make sure you are safe and sound. Today she asked me what we had decided about induction — about trying to help you come sooner rather than later. I told her that we plan to start tomorrow morning at the hospital at 10:00am with the midwives and doctor there. She nodded her approval.

Our ob-gyn is caring, but usually she keeps some professional distance. However today, at the end of the appointment, she wished me viel Kraft for the next days. Then she stood up and gave me a long hug. It was not one of those quick, formal, "I-probably-should-do-this" hugs, but a heartfelt, sincere "I'm-doing-this-because-I-care" hug. You probably felt when she patted you and wished you well. The doctor looked a bit emotional and of course, I more than just looked emotional. I cried.

She is going to miss seeing you.
So am I.

We said goodbye and after I cried in the doctor's bathroom for a while, I headed outside. Just as I was unlocking my bike, I heard a friendly voice call my name. It was an acquaintance who has always cared about your situation and asked about you. Do you remember her? I've never run into anyone I know on that street, but today, when I was feeling extra weepy, I did. I think God placed her there to encourage me again.

As we enter what could be some of the hardest days of our lives, I am reminded that God puts His help around every corner. Literally — whether its a kind word from the doctor's receptionist, a long hug from the doctor, or a praying acquaintance appearing outside the doctor's office — He has shown up in these and 1,000 other ways in the last six months. And I'm sure He'll show up in 1,000 other ways in the days to come.

This is not the lot we would have chosen, but it's the lot God chose for us — for you, for Dad, and for me. Since He chose this path for us, we know He'll watch over all the details of the next few days.

Let's do this.

Mom

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

june 25

Dear Nahum,


After hearing your due date, it took us a while to realize that it was exactly one year from the date when we moved to our new city last year. On June 25, 2016 we packed up a big van, drove it 150km down some windy roads, and unloaded our belongings into an empty apartment in the heart of our new city.

Anyone who has known us for more than a year knows that it was hard for us to move (again) and to be the newcomers (again). At least, it was what we thought of as "hard" at the time. But by this year on June 25, 2017 we had come to know a different level of hard — a hard that made the hard of moving again seem not as hard after all. (Thank God that when He gives us a new level of hard He gives us a new level of peace to deal with that hard.)

So, June 25, 2017 has come and gone, and we don't think you quite understood what was supposed to happen on that day. You were supposed to come out and meet us! Every day people are asking us if you've come yet, but you're taking your sweet time. If you don't show signs of coming by the weekend, we're planning to ask the midwives at the hospital to start encouraging you to come. After all, Grandpa and Grandma can't stay here forever and they want to meet you, too. But wouldn't it be better if you just came on your own?

We sure think so!

Mom and Dad


"This God is our God for ever and ever:
he will be our guide even unto death."
Psalm 48:14

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

39+2

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

open

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

birds

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.

Mom

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.

Mom


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

Friday, May 19, 2017

good

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.

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

Me:
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.


Mom


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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

stars

[A GUEST LETTER]


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,

Matthew

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."

Mom

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

lumps

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

love

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.

Love,

Mom


*(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

complaining

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

Mom

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

amerika

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,

Dad


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,

Mom

Friday, March 10, 2017

music

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.

Mom

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.

Mom


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.