“What’s your baby’s name?”
“Oh, that’s an interesting name. How did you come up with that?”
We got this question almost every time we told someone the name of our new baby girl, but we certainly didn’t mind. The short version is that her name comes from the book of Mark 5:21-43, a story where Jesus heals a lady who has been sick for years and then raises a little girl from the dead. But the longer, and more miraculous, explanation unfolds below.
We had been waiting for this little girl for many years. In August of 2003, we found out that we were pregnant again, and were very excited. We had three beautiful boys at home, and we were ready to add to our family.
The beginning of the pregnancy was fine, but in September Sara contracted meningitis while working at the hospital. She had a fever for most of the month, and we were pretty concerned. But during our ultrasound in mid-October, the baby looked fine–her arms, her legs, her heart, her head. Praise God!
Two weeks later we went back for a regular heart rate check, but there was no heartbeat. We were completely in shock, and we were devastated. It was probably the worst day of my life. We had lost two other babies to miscarriage, but those were earlier in the pregnancy, and somehow it wasn’t as hard as this.
Our doctor scheduled surgery for November 3 to remove the “remains” of the pregnancy, and we waited in sorrow and sadness. We prayed all weekend, trying to make sense out of any of this, but to little avail.
The day came, and Sara went to surgery. After much waiting, they came out to tell me that Sara made it through surgery okay, and that she was in recovery. Several hours later, they were about to release Sara, but she knew something was very wrong. Instead of getting smaller, her uterus and abdomen were actually growing after surgery.
They rushed Sara back into surgery, and she was scared, but not for herself. She didn’t know if she would survive or not, and she was scared for her husband and children. That’s the kind of wonderful wife, mother, and Christian she is. By God’s grace and providence, Sara made it through surgery, and things started to improve. Or so we thought.
While Sara was doing very poorly spiritually and emotionally in November and December, she seemed to be getting stronger and healthier physically. Then in January, she contracted pertussis–one of the first confirmed cases in Michigan in years. She was very sick for most of the month, but started to get better by the beginning of February.
By mid-February, however, Sara developed a strange rash on her body and an unexplained fever. Soon after that, she developed severe arthritis and severe fatigue. She also had dysfunctional uterine bleeding for about two weeks each month. These conditions persisted for over three years, and some still persist today.
We had the best doctors in America trying to figure out what was going on, but no one could. We saw specialists at the University of Michigan (U of M), visited Mayo Clinic for a week, and even consulted doctors around the world.
We had the best doctors in America trying to figure out what was going on, but no one could.
Many would come up with theories, and we would then test many treatments, but still Sara’s condition persisted. Sometimes she would have good days or a good week, but then everything would come back. And many times, she would have very bad days and very bad weeks.
We knew God could heal her if He desired, and we also knew that He promises that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him…” (Romans 8:28).
While there were certainly many negatives about Sara’s condition, there were also positives. For one, we had to slow down as a family. Sara had to greatly decrease her workload as a doctor, researcher, and assistant professor, which meant she was at home more with me and the boys (Joshua, Luke, and Caleb).
Another blessing was the way the body of Christ came together to pray for Sara. We had thousands of people in dozens of congregations praying for Sara all over the country, and perhaps the world. Faithful prayer partners like you kept Sara (and our family) girded up with prayer.
Throughout the entire ordeal, we still believed that God wanted to bless us with another baby. Many people–doctors, family, friends, etc.–believed, and said, that we should just be happy for the three wonderful children we had and let it go at that. And while we are blessed beyond measure with our three boys, we still had a deep longing for more children.
When we thought and prayed about not having any more children, there was no peace. So, we continued to pray, and we also asked the doctors very directly whether it would be okay for us to try to have more children. Some of them couldn’t understand our desire, but none of them thought that Sara’s condition would be harmful to Sara or a baby if we were to get pregnant.
When we thought and prayed about not having any more children, there was no peace.
In November of 2005 Sara visited her OB-GYN to have a brief outpatient procedure done to help clean up some of the scarring in her uterus and hopefully help prepare her for pregnancy. During the procedure, our OB-GYN removed what he thought was a routine polyp and sent it off for a pathology report.
Two weeks later we got the news that Sara had an extremely rare form of uterine tumor called “uterine tumor resembling ovarian sex cord tumor.” Only about 50 of these cases had ever been reported across the entire world.
Our OB-GYN told us Sara would need a hysterectomy, and he sent us to a cancer specialist at U of M. Again, we were devastated.
Sara did some research and found one case report where a lady in the Mediterranean had the tumor removed instead of having a hysterectomy, and then she had a baby after that. We went to meet the specialist, and he too recommended a hysterectomy, but said it was ultimately up to us.
We obviously decided to pursue the option of trying to just remove the tumor so that we could still try to have another baby. The surgery went great, and God left us with hope.
The surgery went great, and God left us with hope.
After a few more ups and downs, we decided to try to get pregnant again in the spring of 2006. Each month our hope of getting pregnant would go up, and then quickly fall back again. Yet throughout the process, we continued to have hope in the Lord.
After months of trying, Sara’s OB recommended another procedure to check her uterus and Fallopian tubes. During the procedure, it was quickly evident that the entrances from Sara’s Fallopian tubes to her uterus were blocked. But suddenly the dye they were injecting broke through the obstruction in one of the tubes.
The next month we tried again. And this time, we were pregnant! Just over three years after losing our last little girl, we were pregnant again.
Just over three years after losing our last little girl, we were pregnant again.
Because of our previous miscarriages and difficulties in getting pregnant, we were working with a specialist. On Monday, December 18th, we went in for our first ultrasound!
We were so excited to see how our baby was developing. But when they looked with the ultrasound, they found nothing except an empty sac.
But when they looked with the ultrasound, they found nothing except an empty sac.
Once again we were crushed. We were hopeful that maybe it was too early or that the baby was just hiding, but the doctor said that they should definitely be able to see much more by now.
We went to our regular OB-GYN to meet with him and see if his ultrasound might show anything different…. But, no. Nothing. The specialist asked us to come back on Wednesday just to make sure.
For one brief second the doctor thought he might have seen a heartbeat, but he couldn’t tell if it was the baby’s or Sara’s. And as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.
At least now we had a spark of hope. He asked us to come back in two days to check one last time.
Friday came, and we went in with hope and fear. As soon as they turned on the ultrasound, our hearts sank. There was nothing except the empty sac. No heartbeat at all.
There was nothing except the empty sac. No heartbeat at all.
The doctor was so sure that the baby was dead that he scheduled a D & C for that afternoon–a procedure to completely clean out Sara’s uterus. Our heads were spinning. We were overwhelmed with grief.
We said we couldn’t do the procedure yet. It was only three days before Christmas; Sara doesn’t do well with surgeries; and we still had a small ray of hope. So, he said to come back one final time the following Friday.
We went home and decided to tell our boys that it looked like God had chosen to take our little baby directly to heaven. They took it pretty well, and we drew together as a family.
At one point, our youngest son (Caleb) kissed Sara’s tummy as he had every day previously to kiss the baby. He had briefly forgotten that we told him the baby had probably died, but he when he remembered, he said he would still kiss Mommy’s tummy because Jesus could just put another baby in there if He wanted to.
We were about to tell him that’s not exactly how it works, but we stopped ourselves. Oh, to have the faith of a child!
Christmas was very hard for us. As you know, it’s all about BABY Jesus and mother Mary. About hope and birth. About peace and joy. We surrounded ourselves with family, yet we felt sad and alone.
Our whole family went to a hotel after Christmas to spend a few days together. I remember asking Sara if she wanted to sit in the Jacuzzi and relax a while, but she said that she wouldn’t, just in case she was still pregnant.
We made the 2-hour drive home, sharing our hopes and fears. We were still somewhat hopeful that maybe, just maybe, God would decide to intervene and work a miracle. Yet we knew in our minds that most likely this was not the case.
The next morning we went in, fearing what we would see, yet still hoping in the Lord. This time as soon as they turned on the ultrasound, we immediately heard a heartbeat, and saw a little baby!
No matter how they measured her, she measured the exact same size–7 weeks, 5 days. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)!
This time as soon as they turned on the ultrasound, we immediately heard a heartbeat, and saw a little baby!
Seven months later, and after a few more ups and downs, our beautiful baby girl was born on July 18, 2007! We spent two days talking and praying about what to name our little miracle baby. I wanted to name her Abigail, but Sara strongly believed that God wanted to name His little girl “Talitha.”
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, Jesus once raised a little girl from the dead. When He did, He spoke the words, “Talitha koum!” which in Aramaic means “Little girl, I say to you, get up.” And we believe that He has raised up our little girl as well!