“See that? That’s baby number two! You are having identical twins!”
We were ecstatic. Well, I was. My husband was a little nervous.
Then the doctor quickly added, “Hmm, I see the heartbeat for Baby A but not for Baby B. Come back in a week.”
I wasn’t worried. I knew it was early and had heard of twins’ hearts beating at the same time, making it difficult to detect their heartbeats separately.
I had faith that God could make that second heartbeat show up.
But at the next ultrasound, there was still no heartbeat in Baby B. The doctor was concerned but also saw that both babies had grown. Again, I didn’t panic. After all, the babies were growing.
I had faith that God could make that second heartbeat show up.
So a few weeks later, when the medical student at this teaching hospital said, “Let’s look at Baby B…ah, there’s the leg, and a spine and—” I interrupted her.
“See?! I knew it! I knew God could protect my babies!”
But then I got the look. The look doctors give right before they deliver the Bad News. I’m not sure if the look, and the pause, is for them to decide how to deliver the bad news or if it’s a moment of mercy, of letting the patient have one more minute of ignorant bliss.
Either way, that minute has to come to an end.
She took the ultrasound wand from the medical student and said, “Yes, the baby has grown, but see this space right here? That’s where the heart should be. Baby B doesn’t have a heart. Unfortunately, it is not a viable life.”
My own heart broke into pieces at the news. Through my tears, I heard the doctor say, “Baby A is a girl. They would have been twin girls.”
I heard my husband ask, “If she has no heart, how can she still be growing?”
The diagnosis was TRAP Sequence—Twin Reversed Arterial Perfusion sequence. It’s a rare condition that occurs when identical twins are connected by a blood supply but one twin is missing a heart. Because the babies were connected, Baby A’s heart pumped for both babies, which is why Baby B continued to grow—at the risk of her sister’s life. Ninety percent of Baby A babies with TRAP sequence die of either heart failure or premature birth if Baby B grows too large.
The next eight weeks were spent in weekly ultrasounds checking the health of Baby A and measuring the growth of Baby B. We felt like we were in a game of Ping-Pong, battered back and forth each week as we held our breath, waiting to hear the heartbeat of one baby and staring into the vacant chest of another.
It was devastating. My faith didn’t know where to land. I wanted so desperately to hold on to the idea that God could still perform a miracle. That the God I believed in could do anything. But every week, seeing that empty space in Baby B’s chest, I knew a heart wouldn’t miraculously form.
We named Baby A because we wanted her to be prayed for by name: Summer Marie. But in each prayer, in each desperate plea that her heart would stay strong enough to pump for both babies, a doubt that hadn’t been there before took root. I had the very real feeling that Summer might not make it, that we would lose her too.
After a particularly difficult ultrasound appointment when we were told I would need to have surgery to sever the connection between the babies, I went into the shower and sank to the floor, the weight of my doubt all encompassing. I still believed God could protect Summer, but I could no longer ignore the burning question in my mind: What if he doesn’t?
What if he doesn’t protect her? What if I lose both babies? What would I believe then?
My faith hadn’t gone to that place before. It had always gone to the place of God Can Do It! I had never ventured into the place of What If He Doesn’t?
We will all be there at some point in our lives, the place of “What If He Doesn’t”? What if he doesn’t heal your mom from cancer? Or what if you never get pregnant? Or what if your baby dies? What do you believe about God then?
I sat on the cold tile floor, salt-filled tears mixing with the spraying water, all the verses from years of Sunday school floating around in my brain. Verses that say things like “he is faithful to those who love him”; “he is a comfort to the brokenhearted”; and “he is good.” And I started to realize that all those verses were about God’s character and not about his power. It was all about who he is.
I had been placing the full extent of my faith only in his power, in what God could do for me instead of who God is to me. But the main thing God asks of us is to believe in him. In his character. He asks for complete trust in Him regardless of what he does or doesn’t do.
If I am honest, I have to say I preferred to bank on his power rather than rest in his character. But now I had to decide what I would believe if he didn’t protect Summer. Would I believe God is still who he says he is? That he is still faithful? Still sovereign?
If Summer dies, is God still good?
After months of grappling with these questions and secretly holding out for a miracle, I had to decide why I believe in God. Do I believe simply for the blessings, for the benefits I think I can gain? Or do I believe in who he is? I had to decide if I would trust God regardless of my circumstances. And eventually, I did.
Okay, God, if she dies, I choose to believe that you are still good. You are still faithful.
Here’s the thing. Summer was born full term and I never needed the surgery. I delivered both babies and we named Baby B: Cayden Marie. We talk about her in our home, and while I thought all of Summer’s birthdays would be overshadowed by the loss of her twin sister, the overwhelming feeling is actually gratitude.
So I don’t really know how I would have processed losing Summer too and how that would have changed my view of God. I didn’t have to venture into the place of When He Didn’t. But I know so many people in that place right now and several who are headed toward that place. I hear them crying out in pain and fear, screaming in anger, begging in desperation.
God, if you can, why don’t you? If you could have, why didn’t you? Why didn’t you break my husband’s addiction? Why didn’t you protect my child from suicide? Why didn’t you save my wife from the talons of depression?
The most painful part is that there is no answer in the agony. No satisfying answer. It feels like silence. And it’s in that silence that we decide what we believe. Is God who he says he is?
Even though my experience ended well, I view God differently now. I still believe in his power, sure, but in this season of faith, I’m learning about his character and what it means to rest in him. I want to know more of who he is. Not the God I grew up with in Sunday school, but the God who hears the cries, and the screams, and the begging. And is still good. That’s the God I want to get to know.