The Hope That Holds Me – Rebekah’s Story
From an early age, my dreams for the future involved two things; marriage and motherhood. As the third eldest child of ten, I grew up with strong maternal instincts and plenty of opportunity to practice my parenting skills. At five years of age, I made the decision to follow Jesus, after responding to an altar call given by my father, at the church he pastored in Launceston, Tasmania. As the daughter of church planting pastors, I was exposed to the joys, frustrations and politics of church life, but the commitment that I made as a little girl never wavered. Jesus had my heart and all I wanted to do was serve him. I was a shy child and preferred to be in the background but as I grew older God called me to step out as a worship leader. I was filled with self-doubt and insecurity but the Holy Spirit gave me a boldness and authority that was definitely not from me. I loved being in God’s presence and helping others to experience Him that way too.
I met my husband Stu after we were set up at my cousin’s wedding. I knew from the moment that I saw him that he was the one. We were married 17 months later and one month after our first wedding anniversary we welcomed our first child, Micaiah, into our family. Over the next few years we were blessed with another two sons, Jesse and Cyrus. I had the life that I had always dreamed of. When I became pregnant with our fourth child, I could feel my body starting to reject the pregnancy. Fear took a hold of my heart and I immediately called Stu saying, “We need to pray”. With all the evidence of miscarriage there, we agreed this was not our portion and chose to believe the truth of God’s word above the symptoms and evidence we could see with our natural eyes. We chose to speak words of life over my body and our developing child. For weeks, we took every thought captive and held on to the promise of this baby, with no proof of any life, other than our faith and complete trust in Jesus. At my 12 weeks scan I was given the incredible news that our baby was alive and healthy.
Seven months later our son Isaac arrived, strong and full of life.
My dream had always been to have five children so when I found out I was pregnant with our fifth child I was filled with excitement. The miracle testimony of Isaac’s pregnancy gave me a sense of confidence and joy; I had no thought that this would be anything but a ‘text book’ pregnancy. However, 16 weeks into the pregnancy, I felt like something wasn’t right.
I didn’t know why I felt this way as everything seemed normal. I booked an appointment with my doctor and asked to hear the heartbeat. He struggled to find one and sent me for an immediate scan. What followed was a moment I will never forget,
“There is no heartbeat. Your baby has died.”
Time stood still, I went from being numb to wanting to scream. We were totally blindsided.
I had experienced no symptoms of miscarriage; I was completely unprepared for this news. Surgery, a dilation and curettage (D&C) would be required but for the next three days I lived in the space between fear and faith. Stu and I prayed fervently that God would bring our baby back to life, we spoke words of health and healing, we worshipped and stood on the word. The night before the scheduled surgery I awoke to the Holy Spirit whispering the name ‘Lily Joy’ to me; a name that spoke of innocence, purity and joy. I realised in that moment that our baby was now with God. He had formed her, named her and she would be safe with Him. The next morning, I woke up and told Stu ‘our baby is now with God.’ My body then began to reject the pregnancy.
I went to the hospital that day, for the D&C. I was sad but felt a sense of peace. As I was being prepared for surgery I remember tears just flowing down my face. I asked the Lord to show me our baby girl while I was asleep and just thanked Him again for holding her safe.
Unfortunately, what was meant to be a straightforward procedure became life threatening when my uterus failed to contract and doctors were unable to control my blood loss.
I did dream during my time under anaesthetic but not about our baby girl. I was at a conference leading worship with a multitude of worshippers giving their highest praise to Jesus. I awoke out of this dream to a nurse violently shaking me and calling my name but felt as if I was singing with all my might all at the same time.
Through the haze of anaesthetic and exhaustion I heard the medical staff say, ‘call the husband, we’re going to have to do a hysterectomy.’ I could feel the life draining out of my body. The doctors had sent Stu home, as they knew we had four young boys and assured him all had gone well. I remember the nurse yelling at me, “say something to your Husband!” as she held the phone to my ear. “You need to let him hear your voice.” I then knew she was telling me to speak what they thought would be my last words. Still hazy and feeling lifeless, all I could utter to Stu was “Pray”. In the next moments, I felt like I was alone in the room with Jesus. I saw a slideshow of my life with my boys and Stu, I saw each one of their faces and became aware this was not my time to go but realising at the same time, I was at death’s door. I then began to say the name of Jesus over and over. I felt my uterus begin to contract each time I spoke His name. The doctor gave me an injection and the bleeding began to ease.
No hysterectomy required!
The weeks that followed were surreal. My body began to heal quite quickly but even as we celebrated the preservation of my life, I felt empty on the inside. The grief I experienced at the loss of our baby was unlike anything I had felt before. I was confused, sad and overwhelmed. There were so many questions that seemed unanswered. As I read the words of Psalm 91 I could not help but think that everything that I had experienced was the opposite of what this scripture promised.
Well-meaning people would say ‘have another baby’ or ‘at least you have four healthy sons’ but I couldn’t see beyond the loss of this precious life. I saw the door of depression open before me and in my darkest days it was a fight to not walk through it. As the weeks became months I realised that I couldn’t allow my grief to be the focus of my life. But although my mind was strong my heart was still broken. It was here that the power of worship anchored and transformed me. I poured out my pain and emotion into spontaneous songs of praise and truth. One song in particular I wrote, ’Glory In The Highest’ was a turning point for me. I realised my focus was on the loss and my eyes were not fixed on Jesus, the Author of my life. This song caused my head to be lifted high again and hope was restoring my soul. I knew the journey of healing would be slow but with my gaze set on Jesus, I knew I could walk through this valley.
A year later we were delighted and surprised by the discovery that I was pregnant again. Within weeks our joy was replaced with devastation. The pregnancy was ‘non-viable’. I found myself back in hospital, another surgery and another trip home with empty arms. There were still no answers as to why this had happened. After 6 months of hormone and blood tests, the doctor’s advice to me was to ‘call it quits and move on.’ The risk of it all happening again was too high.
It was a battle to not stay in the hurt and disappointment of another loss. In the previous months prior to this pregnancy we also grieved the passing of Stu’s dad and a very close friend. I did my best to embrace life and not feel sorry for myself but it was a fight. Our hearts were so heavy and we didn’t feel we could take any more. We decided we would move on, let God heal our hearts and be content with our four boys. It was during a time of prayer, 12months later, that I realised my heart still longed for another child. God showed me that I had buried my desire in fear. The more I prayed the more aware I became of how many areas of fear existed in my life. I had allowed fear to become the decision maker in parts of my life, and that needed to change; fear would not have the final word. Stu and I agreed that we were open to another pregnancy but I knew that there would be mental battle ahead of me.
In October 2017, I found out that I was pregnant.
New life is beautiful but at the same time it highlights the rawness of grief and loss. During the first trimester, I battled relentless anxiety and nightmares. God allowed fears that had been deeply buried to be exposed. It was here that I learned that He is more than able to deal with my brutally honest questions and pain. In the face of my fear He brought comfort and peace and showed me that I am stronger than I realised. His word again, being an anchor for my soul.
I am now 28 weeks pregnant and am enjoying the thrill of knowing a new life is growing inside me. This beautiful new addition to our family has in no way replaced the baby we’ve lost. We daily think of and miss our Lily Joy. Oh what joy there will be when we do get to hold her and kiss her, but knowing she gets to grow up in heaven has given us such peace and strength to move beyond the pain.
The words of Psalm 91 are still my declaration but I now speak them with a depth of revelation that is greater than the immediacy of my circumstances and emotions. Every day I make the decision to step out in faith and anchor myself in the truth of God’s word. I know He is faithful. Carrying this new life is a sweet reminder that God is true to His word and this is our victory. Fear has been silenced!
When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai,
you are hidden in the strength of God Most High.
He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me,
the only God for me, and my great confidence.
Psalm 91:1-2 (TPT)