“Look, you two,” Lindsy's friend said sternly, “we can all respect that you trusted in your God to give you a baby the natural way, but it’s been how many years and you still aren’t pregnant?”
“Three and a half,” Lindsy replied standing along side her husband, Matt.
“Three and a half years? Just go to the doctor and get it done artificially! C’mon! You’re in your 30s.” Lindsy and Matt had already heard similar sentiments from other friends and family who had walked the road with them and had grown impatient when a pregnancy was never announced. Along with all the negative pregnancy tests, the pleading with God for understanding and getting none, seeing specialists to find out what was keeping it from happening and never getting answers, and the different how-to-increase-the-likelihood-of-getting-pregnant methods that never worked, the belief from some friends that God had let Lindsy and Matt down was one more bit of very unwanted news.
From the time Lindsy was a little girl volunteering in the church nursery, all she ever wanted was to be a mother.
From the time Lindsy was a little girl volunteering in the church nursery, all she ever wanted was to be a mother. After meeting and marrying the perfect man, it appeared everything had fallen into place. Matt not only wanted kids, he loved Lindsy so much he would have done anything for her—even if he hadn’t wanted children. But he did, very much. And together, they knew exactly what they were going to do with their parenthood. They had been so blessed with the love of Christ and gifted with such a wonderful marriage, they were going to glorify God with their children in every way, so that their marriage and family would be a testimony to a loving God.
And so began the process of trying to get pregnant, with no positive result, and the ferocious, towering waves of anxiety that came to destroy any confidence and peace that a pregnancy would happen it all. It started after two months and only grew in intensity each month after that. They tried talking about it to keep each other sane, then they tried not talking about it to keep each other sane. Nothing relieved the pressure: what is wrong with us?
Now, three and a half agonizing years later, as some artificial means began to look like attractive options, Lindsy and Matt started to wonder, We know God works through the science that He has created, but if we use it—and it works—how will God get the glory when our friends already believe that science is there when God fails?
After an acquaintance who had had her own battle with pregnancy suggested her doctor to Lindsy, an appointment was made to see her. After seeing that doctor, Matt and Lindsey both felt like it had been a divine appointment—they sensed God nudging them toward taking action: in vitro fertilization.
Excitement coursed through their bodies as Lindsy and Matt both felt like suddenly, after years of bitter disappointment, they were on the precipice of being parents. The nightmare was about to be over.
Even in the midst of their excitement, however, it still would look to friends like God had to be bailed out by men in white coats.
They couldn’t wait to get started. Visits to the doctors returned the exact results they were hoping for: they were in perfect health and in the doctor’s own words, all systems were go. Matt and Lindsy excitedly went to God in praise and worship and felt His confirming hand. This was ordained by Him. Even in the midst of their excitement, however, it still would look to friends like God had to be bailed out by men in white coats. It was the only grey cloud in an otherwise perfectly brilliant sky.
The day came for harvesting Lindsy’s eggs. Everything went perfectly, resulting in seven healthy and mature eggs that were successfully removed and ready for fertilization. Lindsy and Matt signed a waiver that stipulated that once fertilization began, any embryo that was not healthy enough for planting back into the uterus, had to be allowed to run its course and could not be discarded. All that was left to do now was to watch God do His work, and see how many eggs would take to the fertilization. Matt and Lindsy prayed for their children.
A day later, three eggs did not take, leaving four fertilized eggs that were ready for implanting or for freezing and storing for later. It was a glorious day. Where there once was nothing but closed doors to their dream of being parents, they were now the proud parents of four eggs, alive and busily subdividing away.
Their dreams resumed, but now, they had a new, utterly joyous twist in the story. With all four alive and well, were they really on the cusp of being parents to a big family? They could hardly contain their excitement.
The next day, they received an update from the specialist. Two of the eggs stalled in the zygote stage—the early stage each embryo must pass through—which meant those eggs were no longer viable. They would more than likely just whither away in the course of time. But the two that remained, were “very, very strong,” the doctor said with confidence. “One to implant, one to store.” The procedure was scheduled for the next day.
Lindsy and Matt were up before dawn, holding hands in the dark as they sat on their couch, praying for God’s blessing on this momentous day, when suddenly, Lindsy’s phone rang.
“Good morning, Lindsy,” the doctor said, with not a hint of lightness. “Is Matt with you?”
“Good morning. Yes, he’s right here.”
“Will you please put me on speaker phone and both have a seat?” Suddenly, Lindsy’s heart began to race. She could feel all strength leave her limbs. With Matt standing behind her and touching her shoulder, they pushed the button. “We’re here, doctor.”
“I don’t know what happened," said their doctor "but your two, very strong embryos—well...they withered and ultimately, they expired.”
“I wanted to personally be the one to tell you,” she said, going a little slower than they would have liked, “I don’t know what happened, but your two, very strong embryos—well, something took place over night. They withered and ultimately, they expired. I’m sorry.”
“What does that mean?” Lindsy spoke, terror rising in her voice.
“It means your healthy embryos are gone, Lindsy. There are no more healthy embryos. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.” Lindsy’s mind began to go into a whir of shock. The doctor continued. “I’ve never seen anything like this. I have no explanation. Those were two fully viable, very strong embryos. It makes no sense that their growth would completely reverse.”
There was silence over the line.
“I just wanted to call you and tell you before you got in the car and made your way over here.” Lindsy’s mind tried to make sense of what she was hearing, but try as she might, it was as if all the previous good news about the embryos, the full confidence of the doctors, and the absolute peace that God’s hand was on their path, just didn’t allow it to add up. It had never even crossed their minds that they would come away with nothing. They were, by the doctor’s early and repeated assurances, too healthy for anything like that.
“What about the other two?” Matt asked, as he kept his hand on Lindsy’s shoulder, rubbing it and trying to stave off the eruption that was sure to come. “The zygotes?” the doctor asked. “They are not viable, I’m sorry. Not only do I not think they would grow, I don’t even think your body would accept them, Lindsy. I think the chances of successfully implanting one of them would be nearly zero. I know you are people of faith, so you can pray for it. But I just can’t recommend it because I think you’ll be back here in a week having to deal with the devastation of another broken heart.”
When the phone call had concluded and both ends had hung up, Lindsy fell to the floor, driven by overwhelming grief. She didn’t pray, she didn’t know how to pray. “Jesus!” she screamed between sobs. “Jesus!”
Finally, she stood and took hold of her journal. “I’m going to go out for a couple of hours,” she said.
“Where are you going to go?” Matt asked with tears running down his face.
“I don’t know. But I’ll be back.” She ran out to her car, crying all the way.
Suddenly, as if transported, she found herself parked somewhere downtown, writing furiously in her journal.
Suddenly, as if transported, she found herself parked somewhere downtown, writing furiously in her journal. She wasn’t even a regular journaler. She just somehow knew she needed to get this anguish out of her body, her mind, her spirit. The more she wrote, the more she was trying to force open the doors to her future because she could not conceive of one moment past this one. Once the in vitro process began, life without being pregnant simply didn’t compute.
Two hours and a thousand tears later, she was still writing when suddenly, something popped into her mind. “There will be pain and sorrow through the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Lindsy wrote it down and as soon as she did, something happened. Her body began to transform from heavy and grieving, to an almost unbearable lightness. It was as if, all at once, nothing made sense and everything made sense. “You’re still God! And you still have a plan! I don’t have a clue what that looks like! But I know you’re still God!” she screamed. And then, she began to laugh hysterically.
As she drove home, there was only one thought in her mind—that they were supposed to pray for the lives of the two fertilized eggs that were still holding on in the petri dish, the two little zygotes. “Lord, I don’t even know why I’m doing this, but I’m just praying for your holy hand on their eternal souls.”
When she arrived at home, Matt and Lindsy both began to pray together for their withering, fertilized eggs—and the lives they represented. They prayed for nearly the rest of the day.
The next morning, they both got up with the exact same peaceful feeling. To Lindsy, the feeling was confirmation that the words spoken to her heart by God while she was in the car was a promise that He was making good on all His promises. Matt and Lindsy had even come to the exact same conclusion: they would not implant either of the two remaining eggs. They agreed, another disappointment would be too much to bear. The ordeal was finally over.
They got ready and made the drive over to the hospital where they would have a scheduled meeting with the doctor to discuss what they had decided upon. When they arrived, the nurse at the desk ushered them into a room where she gave them their gowns, caps, and wristbands.
Suddenly, Matt could see Lindsy begin to panic, as if the victim of a cruel joke. They were there to have a meeting, not a baby. Matt opened the door. “Excuse me!” he yelled down the hall to the nurse. “This isn’t right. We’re just here to have a meeting with the doctor.”
“I’m very sorry, Mr. Hines,” the nurse spoke empathetically. “But my instructions were to take you back to the O.R. to have your meeting and I can’t take you to a sterile environment without you both being in gowns.”
“We’re going into the O.R. to have a meeting? This makes no sense,” Matt said to Lindsy as they waited. Lindsy was mortified. Finally, they were led back to the O.R. and asked to sit in two side-by-side chairs until the doctor arrived. They felt like fools in gowns and caps with wristbands on, sitting in an empty O.R.—waiting for nothing more than to chat with the doctor.
Lindsy and Matt, caught off guard by the news, didn't know what to do with it.
Suddenly, their doctor burst into the room. “Good morning, Matt and Lindsy," she said with a bit of nervous energy. "Listen, I don’t know what you have decided to do, but over night, one of your zygotes, I’m sorry to say, expired.” Lindsy and Matt, caught off guard by the news, didn’t know what to do with it. They looked at each other to share a reaction. “But the other,” the doctor interrupted as she handed them a photograph, “now, I don’t understand what happened—but the other one has taken a slightly different turn. If you look at this photograph, you’ll see that it has grown into the most perfectly formed embryo–I’m willing to bet–anyone has ever seen!”
They looked at the photograph. To the doctor, it was the perfect embryo. To Matt and Lindsy, it looked like a really nice bubble.
“In fact, we may want you to sign a release so that we can use this photograph in a medical journal. Something this perfect is basically impossible. Embryos are never this perfect and never, ever from a withering zygote. This just doesn’t happen.”
Matt and Lindsay stared straight ahead in silence. Again, their minds were unable to make sense of what was being said. The doctor let a smile come across her face. “Congratulations,” she said. “Shall we start the implantation?”
Lindsy slowly turned toward Matt. “It’s a miracle,” she whispered, just before the sobs began.
“Actually,” the doctor said, “yes it is. Science has no explanation for something like this.”
As they laid Lindsy back, a smile came over her face and she felt the presence of God. You see, God said to her. I was always going to get the glory.
Malachi Thomas Hines, 8 lbs., 5 oz., was born April 7, 2014.