3 am. That’s what time my phone rang on January 14, 2014.
In my experience, it’s never really a good thing when your phone rings in the wee hours of the morning. This was no exception. “Leslie, you need to get to the hospital. I’m on my way.” The feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach is one that I probably will never forget. And the hours that followed are some that I know I will never forget.
I threw on the first clothes I saw. Half of my outfit was from the dirty clothes basket, un-freshened, un-ironed. I threw a couple quick essentials, like mascara and a toothbrush, in a little cosmetic bag. Middle of the night phone calls never lend well to coming right back home to get freshened up and ready for the day. My lips barely even brushed my husbands’ as I hurriedly kissed him goodbye. My sweet, perfect baby boy was sleeping peacefully down the hall, without a care in the world, unaware that my entire world was about to fall apart.
I’m not a law-breaker. I’m not even a rule-breaker. But I ran 2 red lights that morning. I cried angrily at other drivers that got in my way- why were they out at 3am anyways? And still, I didn’t make it in time to tell her goodbye. I remember my words to God as I frantically dodged around cars & sped through traffic lights. “God, don’t do this to me now. I can’t take this right now. I can’t take any more.” Honestly, I’m crying right now as I write those words again because they still hold so much weight for me. I was broken. Completely, utterly, unimaginably broken.
Margaret Garcia went home to be with her Savior at 3:26 am on January 14, 2014. It was one of those moments in time that would change my life forever.
You see friend, before I even received that phone call, my heart was already broken. About 14 hours prior to that call, I had been anxiously waiting, lying on an ultrasound table. My husband sat expectantly behind my left shoulder, and we were so hesitantly excited. The heartbeat was perfect. The amniotic sac was perfectly shaped. Arms & legs were forming. The baby had grown just on track for the last 10 weeks, and we were ready to hear how close we were to being out of the first trimester. And then the little black & white image appeared on the screen, and we knew. We’d been around this block a time or two….or eight times, to be exact. If given the opportunity & free-range of the ultrasound room, we probably could’ve performed the test ourselves. We knew what the little flicker of a heartbeat looked like on that big, black & white screen. And that day, on January 13, 2014, for the 8th time, the flicker was gone.
In less than 15 hours time, I had lost the newest & oldest person in my life.
You see, my husband & I were extremely close to my grandparents. They were parental figures to us. We’d lost my grandfather several years before, and the loss of her rocked us to our core. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The pain couldn’t have been deeper. We were just broken.
Still, it was just a first-trimester pregnancy, you’ll say. And, technically you’d be right. But friends, let me tell you something about pregnancy loss. Specifically recurrent pregnancy loss. It changes you. It breaks you. It makes you a new person, a different person.
Let me pause for a moment here…
Are you a parent? If so, I’m going to ask you to go on a little journey with me now down memory lane. Do you remember when you first saw those two little pink lines? Do you remember how anxious & scared & excited you were when you told your husband that you were going to be parents? Do you remember planning a cute, creative way to tell him? Do you remember the thrill, after the shock wore off? Do you remember dreaming of how you’d tell your parents? Your friends? Do you remember dreaming about the little person starting to form inside you? We know those feelings too.
Then, do you remember how anxious you were, waiting on your first doctor appointment? The unexplainable feeling of sheer, unmatched joy you had when you heard that little thump-thump of a heartbeat? The love you felt when you looked at your husband & saw his face as he watched his little dot of a baby up on that screen? Is that when it sunk in for you, like for me, that there’s a person growing inside of you now? We know those feelings too.
Do you remember how strange you felt, as your body started changing? Your sore breasts? Your weird cravings? The crying because someone looked at you wrong? The tiredness that only a pregnant woman will ever understand? I know those feelings too.
But let me tell you about some feelings that you may not know about. Here’s where our journey down memory lane ends. For you, at least. These are feelings that you can’t know, can’t understand, unless you’ve been down the road of pregnancy loss.
Do you know the feeling of hesitancy when you see those 2 little pink lines – fear where there should be excitement? Do you know what it feels like to question yourself, whether or not you should tell anyone that you’re pregnant – just in case this time isn’t any different than the last? Do you know what it’s like to keep yourself up at night worrying over whether or not you took your medicines at the exact same times as yesterday? Do you know what it’s like to agonize over a decision of whether or not to take medications that doctors say will help your baby, but that you feel in your heart will not? Do you know what it’s like to hold your breath as they prep the ultrasound machine, not knowing what to expect this time? Do you know what it’s like to breathe a sigh of relief when you see that tiny little flicker on the screen, and let yourself for a quick little minute get excited about this person inside of you? Do you know what it’s like to feel complete emptiness when that flicker just disappears the next week? Do you know what it’s like to see the disappointment in your husbands eyes when they say there’s no longer a heartbeat? Do you know what it feels like to think you’ve failed him completely? I do.
We buried my grandmother on a Thursday. On Friday, I had a procedure to “remove” my pregnancy, to remove my baby from my body. By Saturday, I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. Sunday came & went. We sat in bed that Sunday night, and we were lost. We talked about my grandmother. We talked about our babies, all 8 of them. We imagined her up there in heaven, playing with each of them. We even envied her a little. We cried. We talked about our future, and whether or not we would try again. And then my husband said possibly the most pivotal words of our marriage thus far.
“Leslie, we need to find a church. I’m starting to question things that I shouldn’t be questioning. I’m starting to doubt God. I don’t want to, but I don’t know what to do.”
I’d been telling him for months that we needed to find a church home. I felt guilty. God had undoubtedly given us a gift in the adoption of our Bryce, and we weren’t even raising him to know God! But we’d been lazy. We’d lived in this city for about 3 years, and we’d tried out many churches around town. But none had felt like home. Sadly, none had kept us coming back for more. We decided right then and there that we would try out a church the following weekend. And that, my friends, changed our entire world.
I’ll try to keep this simple, since my post is already getting long. But when we walked through the doors of our now church home, we knew. Just like we knew that there was no heartbeat on that ultrasound screen, we knew this was where we were supposed to be. And through this church, we learned about God in a way that we’d never known before. We learned to talk to God like we never had before. We learned to claim His promises, His word, over our life. We learned to have a relationship with Him.
We’d attended church. I’d attended church my entire life. I’d done youth groups, and VBS, and church camp. We even taught Sunday School at one point. I’d felt God move in a room before. I knew His presence. But our relationship with God had never been anything compared to what it became after God found us, and drew us back to Him, at Word of God Ministries.
Now flash-back to that last pregnancy, our eighth loss. When I’m pregnant, it’s a big deal. There are weekly doctor visits, weekly ultrasounds, many medications, blood tests, daily self-administered injections. The whole nine yards. I see my regular Ob-Gyn, as well as maternal-fetal medicine specialists for my high-risk pregnancies. During one of these visits, the specialist had mentioned that he intended to request my medical records from the fertility specialist that we had consulted with several years ago. That had been a whole other ballgame, back after my 3rd miscarriage. They’d run every test under the sun to try to find out why I couldn’t carry a baby to term. They’d done blood-work to make sure we were a chromosomal match, checked my husband’s sperm count, checked my fallopian tubes for blockages. The list goes on. The only thing they’d found was a borderline positive for a condition called Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome, which basically means that my blood clots too much. Our high-risk doctor wanted to review all of these test results, just to be sure nothing had been overlooked. Otherwise, my losses were basically unexplainable.
Fast-forward to present again. The more we came into our relationship with God, the more we started thinking about those test results. Did the doctor ever review them? What did he find? We’d miscarried before we ever got the chance to go back and discuss his findings with him. So I made an appointment.
His findings? Nothing. I did have the blood clotting condition, and that was the only thing, after scouring my records, that he could find wrong with me. He agreed with every other doctor that the only thing that was going to give me a successful pregnancy was to continue injecting a blood thinner every day in any future pregnancies. And, even then, the reality was that our chances were slim to none.
I was prepared for the news. Albeit disappointed, but prepared. I’d done my homework, y’all. After 8 miscarriages, the chances of me ever having a successful pregnancy were somewhere in the neighborhood of less than 5%.
So, we asked the dreaded question. We explained to him that we’d come into a new relationship with our Lord. We had a fresh perspective. And we thought we had one more good, valiant effort in us. Then, we were done. Drained. DONE.
Should we try again, and can we do it with out the medicine this time?
His response was nothing short of the Lord speaking to us through him. “You can definitely try. Medically speaking, it will never work without the blood thinner. You have this condition, and all the medical evidence shows that you need it. But, I’m a Christian. And I do believe that God can do things that we can’t explain.”
Our decision was made. Two months later, I was pregnant.
There was no excitement, or sweet surprise reveal of a positive pregnancy test to my loving husband. I walked into the bathroom, sat (or maybe slammed) it down on the counter in front of him, and we exchanged a look of fear. Then I called the doctor.
It’s a funny thing, really, when you’ve had multiple pregnancy losses. Normally, when a woman finds out she’s pregnant, there’s a couple weeks time before the doctor wants to see her in the office. They want to wait until around 6-7 weeks, to be sure everything is going smoothly & there will be a heartbeat for your first scan. Me? I’m the exception. They can’t get me to that ultrasound table fast enough. So, when I call the doctors office to tell them I’m newly pregnant & need to make an appointment, there’s always a moment of explaining that has to take place.
“Yes, I’m Leslie Brookshire. I just had a positive pregnancy test & need to make an appointment please.”
“Ok, how far along are you?”
“Probably about 4 weeks.”
“Oh ok, we don’t schedule your first visit until you’re at least 6 to 7 weeks.”
“Yes ma’am, I know. But I’ve had 8 miscarriages, and she normally wants to see me right away. Could you just check with her, please?”
Y’all, the doctors all said the same thing. There’s no way this pregnancy would survive without blood thinners. They offered to alter my dosage, but strongly discouraged me to forego those injections altogether. They explained to me again, in depth, the reason why I needed them. A small blood clot can pass through my body, my veins, and never really affect anything. People live with this condition all the time and never know it. But, when a baby is forming in the womb, their veins and arteries are so small, even the tiniest clot can cause a blockage. Brain damage. A heart to stop beating. And yet, we still felt that small voice telling us not to do it.
It’s hard to go against doctors wishes. Especially when that doctor has been to hell and back with you. Especially when that doctor has celebrated with you through every successful ultrasound, and cried with you through every loss. You know she cares, and you truly feel like she knows what’s best.
But guess what, friends? God always knows what’s best.
I went back & forth on my decision for 2 weeks. The doctors couldn’t be wrong, could they? The studies don’t lie. No one I’d seen on the Facebook chat groups or APS message boards had ever gone injection-less. How could I, as that baby’s mother, withhold a medication that could save its’ life? HOW COULD I DO THAT?! And then, as I was randomly reading a book one night that I’d started months before, I came across two verses. They were on the same page, one after another. Written perfectly for my understanding. They were in translations of the Bible that I do not typically read, and thus worded in a way that I may not have otherwise understood….but that I now couldn’t ignore.
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the understanding of the experts.” -1 Corinthians 1:19 (HCSB)
“This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and His way, and then simply embracing Him and what He does. God’s promise arrives as a pure gift.” Romans 4:16 (The Message)
Just like that. Powerful and spoken straight to my heart from God’s mouth. Set aside the understanding of the experts – the doctors. The fulfillment of His promise depends on my trusting Him, embracing Him. This baby would be His pure gift to me. I could not ignore it. I couldn’t take that medicine. God was telling me as clearly as He knew how that I needed to trust Him, and HIM alone.
So we prayed. Every morning. Every night. Every time we breathed, it seemed. We prayed for fullness, and wholeness, and blood that would flow freely & smoothly from my body to his.
And one morning, as I was getting ready to go to a moms’ breakfast at my toddlers pre-k, I got the shock that I’d been dreading. I knew there would be blood before I even made it to the restroom. I cried uncontrollably. I called my husband, told him to come home. Then I called the doctor & made my appointment. I was lost again, and I didn’t know where else to turn. Hadn’t God been hearing my prayers? If I speak it over my life, He’s supposed to listen. Right?
So my little boy & I sat down, cross-legged, right in the middle of the living room floor, and we did the only thing I could imagine to do – we prayed. We prayed for the bleeding to stop. We prayed for the blood in my body to continue to flow freely & smoothly to his. We prayed for him to be born healthy and at term.. We claimed Malachi 3:11 over my body, over that baby.
“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sake, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:11
And friends, the ultrasound that day showed a perfect little baby with a heart happily pumping away.
I will not go into depth or detail of my pregnancy, but I will tell you that it was uneventful and successful. My fruit did not cast from my body before it’s time, because my God promised me it wouldn’t!
Samuel Amos Brookshire was born on March 10, 2015 at 7:45 am, healthy, perfect, and only 3 weeks premature. Every test performed on him was passed with flying colors. He spent only 3 days in the hospital, and never saw the inside of a NICU.
He was named after Hannah’s son, Samuel, in the Bible – the son she’d prayed for & promised to God. He was also named after my grandmother, who changed our life even after her death. And as our dear friend and associate pastor pointed out, even in the most meticulous little detail of his birth date (3/10), God made us a promise for Sams’ life.
“Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” -1 Samuel 3:10
Friends, I know this post has been long. And I will tell you that I could’ve gone into so much more detail about Sams’ story and the Lords’ handiwork in it. But I tell you this as a story of hope.
Nothing we could’ve done would have brought that baby into this world. God did it. He had a plan for my life, for Sams’ birth and life, to bring Him the ultimate glory. Ultimate glory.
If the road hadn’t been so rocky, we wouldn’t have given Him all the glory when He made it smooth!!
Tonight, as I sat in our Wednesday evening church service and listened to our associate pastor speak on being emptied of self and filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ, I heard God tell me this.
Leslie, there’s someone out there that’s angry. And they need to hear what you have to say – What I have to say through you.
Friends, I know how easy it is to be angry at the Lord. We were there! I’ve walked in the shoes of confusion. I’ve questioned how this could ever be a part of God’s plan. I’ve questioned whether God even really had a plan for me at all. I’ve been SO angry at God for taking away what seemed like everything from me. With every pitying look from friends, with every hurt look in my husband’s eyes, I blamed God.
But you know what?
He forgave me for all that anger, and hurt, and doubt. He forgave me before I even knew I felt it. And then He showed me just how perfect His plan for me could be.
You see, after we finalized the adoption of my oldest son, I thought that this was God’s plan for me. He wanted me to be Bryce’s mommy, and that was why He’d had us wait all those years for a baby. Because He had the perfect baby for us in Bryce! And I know that this is 100% true.
However, after Sam was born, it became crystal-clear to me. Bryce was a gift! He was God saying “You waited patiently my child, here is the one you’ve longed for”. He’s the icing….little did we know, our cake was still coming. But Sam? He’s the one to teach me something. He’s the one that couldn’t be. He’s the one to bring glory to God’s name through this story.
God’s plan never really looks like the plan we have in our head. But He does have a plan. He had one for me, and He has one for you. I say that to you as surely as there are stars in the sky.
God had taken so much away from us, not to punish us, but to show us how much we really needed Him!
You can’t rush His timing…Because it’s perfect! Perfect for you, perfect for your place in life, perfect for giving Him the ultimate glory. Give Him time, and He’ll show you just how perfect.
“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13