Merry Christmas! I am taking a break to enjoy my family over the holidays. For your reading enjoyment, I’m posting the Best of 2009 series. Enjoy and see you when I return!
This post originally ran on March 8, 2008 and is my most read post, by a mile. This entire series was also my most-read and most commented-upon series, and served as the basis for my book proposal “Taken By Storm: Hearing God Speak in the Midst of Chaos”
I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. (Proverbs 4:11,12)
Lord, you know this new step I’m about to take isn’t something I want to do, but rather something I have to do…help me to remember your past faithfulness—
The countless times you’ve led me through the shadows or carried me above the storm to set me in a safe place—
Help me walk in faith, depending on you.
Those words appeared on my daily calendar October 5, 1997.
It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon, and I was 33 ½ weeks pregnant with our first child. Up until that time, everything was going very well with my pregnancy, or so I thought. I felt good, I looked good. The baby was growing. Days were filled with baby showers, maternity clothes, cribs and tiny t-shirts…everything was coming together to welcome our new little bundle into the world.
But in the two or three days leading up to that Sunday, I was beginning to notice a decrease in fetal movement. My normally active little baby seemed to be slowing down. Despite lots of friends assuring me I was just an overly-anxious first-time mom (doesn’t that make you feel great when people say that to you?), I feared something was terribly wrong.
A trip to labor and delivery that day confirmed my fear. The baby was not OK. And I was not an overly anxious first time mom. In fact, the baby’s heart rate was far below normal and continued to drop steadily over the next few hours. Once the doctor finally arrived, he took immediate action to deliver the baby. Seven minutes, to be exact.
Noah Jon Cooper was born by emergency c-section on October 5, 1997, weighing just 3 lbs, 11 oz.
His APGAR at birth was a whopping “0”. And after fifteen minutes, only a “1.” In layman’s terms, that’s really, really bad.
Noah had suffered severe oxygen deprivation before he was born due to a condition in my placenta called Maternal Floor Infarction. (This was not diagnosed until a year later. At the time, we had no idea what happened to cause the oxygen deprivation). The oxygen deprivation caused a grade-4 brain hemorrhage (also really, really bad) and brain damage to over 70% of his brain.
Seated in a cold conference room one week after Noah’s birth, surrounded by doctors, nurses and two ministers from our church, Jon and I were advised to take Noah off life support. By the doctors’ best estimation, Noah was essentially brain dead. He would never breath on his own, see, hear, suck, swallow, walk, talk or know us as Mom and Dad. If he ever did come home from the hospital, he’d require 24-hour a day nursing care for the rest of his life.
Jon and I were suddenly faced with the most difficult decision of our lives. A decision no parent should ever have to make.
Thanks to the two God-fearing men who attended the meeting with us, we were reminded of all the times God healed in the Scriptures, all the times He did the impossible, all the times He was faithful to answer the prayers of His people. In that same cold hospital conference room, these men prayed with us, encouraged us and built up our faith. By the end of our prayer, we were confident God created Noah’s brain, and therefore, would have no problem healing Noah’s brain.
Against the advice of every doctor and professional in that room, Jon and I decided to leave Noah on life support and pray for a miracle.
People all over the nation began praying for Noah, believing for a full recovery.
And a miracle we received!
The evidence of his healing came just a few days later. As I was standing next to Noah’s little hospital crib, discussing his condition with the doctor, he opened his eyes for the first time. Shortly thereafter, he began responding to touch and sound. A few days after that, he began to suck on a pacifier…and then swallow breast milk.
Finally, he was weaned from his respirator and his oxygen…sending him home only six weeks after he was born, completely healthy!
The next few months were exciting and exhausting as we adjusted to our new life as parents. We joyfully shared Noah’s testimony with anyone who would listen. At this point, I was certain God’s purpose in that particular trial was to build our faith so we could pray for other critically ill children. I was more than ready to accept that calling, and spent many hours on the phone and in prayer at church with other parents of sick children. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do than spread the gospel through the healing of my son…It was an amazing and wonderful time.
In June of 1998 when Noah was about 8 ½ months old, Noah and I planned to fly to Ohio to spend time with our family while my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Jon was going to join us a few days later and spend some vacation time there, as well.
In the days leading up to that trip, I noticed Noah was not quite himself. A little lethargic. Very irritable. But I knew the stress of the trip could be wearing on him, since premature babies are very sensitive to over-stimulation. I went ahead with our plans anyway, excited for our family to see how much Noah had grown and eager to celebrate this anniversary milestone with my parents.
When we arrived in Ohio, Noah got progressively worse—not wanting to eat, not wanting to play or smile, groaning in his sleep—so I took him to the emergency room the following morning. After a quick assessment, they assured me he was just dehydrated (he had terrible reflux—normal for a preemie), and would bounce back after he received a saline IV.
When he didn’t bounce back, they began running test after test trying to determine the cause of Noah’s illness—meningitis, bacterial infection, viral infection—all of which came back negative.
Over the course of the next five days, Noah’s condition worsened significantly. No one knew what was wrong, so no one knew how to treat him. They suspected it was probably just a result of the brain damage, but no one could figure out why it took so long to manifest.
With each passing day, more specialists were examining him and leaving the room baffled.
With each passing day, they were having a harder time keeping him stable.
With each passing day, our prayers intensified, as we realized that something was terribly wrong.…
On June 30th 1998, Jon and I sat next to our precious baby, as he rapidly deteriorated. And then the unthinkable… surrounded by our family and friends, Jon and I said goodbye to our sweet, sweet baby Noah.
We held him, kissed him a hundred times, sang to him all his favorite songs, and promised him we’d see him again in Heaven.
(Tissue break! :):):):))
One month later, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Rebekah. I will definitely talk about this more in a later post, but let me say right here that God’s mercy in giving me another baby during this time is something I thank Him for every single day. Every. Single. Day.
When I was about 20 weeks pregnant with Rebekah, we received the long-awaited results of Noah’s autopsy. Firstly, we were devastated to have a name for the condition in my placenta (Maternal Floor Infarction). This rare condition is known to occur in all subsequent pregnancies.
Secondly, and equally devastating, we learned that Noah died from a genetic disorder, completely unrelated to his birth trauma or the Maternal Floor Infarction, called LCHAD (Long-Chain 3 Hydroxyacyl CoA Dehydrogense). Because it was genetic, it meant that Rebekah had a 25% chance of having the same disorder and a 50% chance of being a carrier of the gene mutation.
Now we were faced with two life-threatening disorders in our current pregnancy. Both of them so rare, that no one knew quite what to do with me or my baby. (In fact, the chances of one person having both of these disorders turns out to be about one in one million.)
And, as if it could get any worse, only a few short weeks after receiving that terrible news, I found myself again on a plane to Ohio to bury my mother (with whom I was extremely close and talked to almost every single day), who died suddenly after surgery on her carotid artery.
My Mom holding Noah at Christmas–I was so mad at her for insisting on coming the minute we flew into town. I was exhausted. Now, looking back, this is only one of a handful of pictures I have of them together.
And last, but not least, two years later, I began what would turn out to be a seven-year battle with Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent Type.
I cannot stand a story with a sad ending, so hang on for just another minute.
The great news is Rebekah was born full term, does not have LCHAD and is not even a carrier of the gene mutation! She will be 10 years old in a few weeks.
We have gone on to adopt two of the most precious and beautiful children in the entire world.
I know, because I traveled pretty far to get one of them!
And lastly and most recently, through therapy, medication and God’s divine leading, I have been completely free from depression for almost a year now.
My life: The rollercoaster. I know.
In the upcoming weeks, I’m going to unpack some of these dark, stormy times and tell you the profound ways the Lord spoke to me in the midst of them. I will expound upon the ways God drew me into deeper intimacy and revealed things about His character that I never would have known apart from these trials. I will show you some of the ugly things the Lord purged from me while I was in the fire. But mostly, I will glorify God, not only for sustaining me, but for using each and every one of these painful circumstances for my ultimate good.