Written By: Kim Young
My husband Johnny and I had been married less than a year when we found out we were expecting our first child, a little sooner than we had planned, but we were thrilled no matter the timeframe. This news was exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time. We both wanted children but now we were faced with the typical worries….would we be good parents, would we be able to afford this new member of our family etc, if you are a parent you can certainly relate!!
It was not too far into the pregnancy when those worries became the least of our worries. I was very sick, morning sickness my doctor told me, but this was beyond typical morning sickness…. I wasn’t able to keep anything down, not even a sip of water, for days on end, 24 hours a day. I was in and out of the hospital, having test after test to determine what was causing this issue.
They found, what they believed to be a cyst on my ovaries that was growing larger and larger, which was keeping our unborn baby from growing, and they feared it would eventually cause problems for our baby’s proper development. We were told that the only option to guarantee our baby (daughter) would develop and grow the way she should was to have surgery done at 22 weeks along in my pregnancy to remove the cyst. So we agreed, and the process began. A flurry of blood work and more tests, surgery dates and consultations with the surgeon consumed our days. During the consultation with the surgeon, he took us into a private room, looked at us gravely and proceeded to inform us that my recent blood work had come back with abnormally high protein levels, which typically means there is a birth defect in the fetus. He continued on, telling us there could be many problems and defects but the most likely was that our child would be born with spinal bifida. The next words out of his mouth rocked us to our very core…. He suggested that rather than proceed with the surgery as planned, we could certainly terminate our pregnancy, as no parent would want to deal with, nor make our unborn child endure the lifetime of sickness that our child was so surely going to endure. Without even skipping a beat, my husband and I looked at each other, then back at the doctor and together told him we fully intended to proceed with this pregnancy and we would give our child the love and care she deserved no matter what her health issues. The doctor was almost annoyed at our decision, telling us he thought we were being extremely selfish, but in the end accepted our decision and surgery went ahead as scheduled.
The day of my surgery came and I was so calm, I knew God had everything in His control. I remember the nurse waking me up, to give me a valium and “calm me down” before surgery…. People who are sleeping are not generally in need of calming down… just saying!! The day after my surgery my surgeon came into my room, asked our visitor to leave, closed the door and again gave us that grave look he had given us just weeks before in his office. He told us that what they had thought was a cyst, was not a cyst at all, but it was a twin baby (that we later found out was a boy), who, although was growing larger everyday had not developed. He showed us a picture of our baby and pointed out some areas on the picture…. the eye sockets, the beginnings of the ears and the beginnings of the arms could be seen, but otherwise there had been no other development. We were devastated, and to add insult to injury, our doctor told us, given the developmental issues with this baby, he was more certain than ever that we had made the wrong decision in choosing to keep our unborn child. He prepared us for what was, in his mind, going to be one of the roughest roads we would ever travel. This news discouraged us, but we both felt that God was in control, I cannot explain the calm we both felt as we waited for our daughter to be born.
November 7, 1993 was the end of our wait…. Catherine Gail Young was born, weighing 8lbs 6ozs, a perfect little bundle of joy, happy and HEALTHY! I don’t know if I can properly convey to you what it feels like to be told your child is going to be born with multiple birth defects and to have them be healthy and whole…. It is beyond words!
The next day, during a routine check-up they discovered a heart murmur, and sent Catherine for a few tests. My first thought was “here we go again”! When they brought Catherine back to us, we were told we were being discharged but would have to come back the next morning to see a heart specialist “just to be sure all is okay”. I was thrilled, if they were sending us home there must not be anything serious to be worried about, right!? And off we happily went! On our way to see the heart specialist the next morning we stopped into the church to show Catherine off – after all she was a little miracle and we were proud parents. We told Pastor Tom Ettinger, our youth pastor at the time, and who was also a personal friend of ours about the appointment we were on our way to with the heart specialist. As we were leaving, I will never ever forget what happened…. Pastor Tom took Catherine in his arms and he prayed for her. The words he spoke over her touched us both, however, one sentence in particular would become so very important to us in the hours to come – he said “I pray the specialist will look at Kim and John and say “I do not understand, but what they saw yesterday is completely gone”! I remember saying to Johnny once we got in the car “All they saw was a heart murmur, I wonder why he prayed for Catherine like that”….. little did I know!!!
We arrived at the hospital, and were immediately taken in to have the EKG done. The heart specialist then came in and he kept going over and over Catherine’s little chest, back and forth, back and forth, clearly looking at something quite intently, and with each stroke of the doppler, I became more and more anxious!! And then, he looked at us and said “Good news Mr. and Mrs. Young, I do not understand, but what the doctor saw yesterday is completely gone and your daughter will not require surgery”. Well I nearly fell off my chair, for two reasons… firstly, because he had said the EXACT words that Pastor Tom had prayed he would say, and secondly, “my daughter was not going to require surgery” say what?? I thought she had a simple heart murmur, after all, they sent us home from the hospital just the day before right!! We are not sure at what point the system failed in Catherine’s case, but when they completed the tests the day before, they had actually found a hole in Catherine’s heart not just a heart murmur, she should never have been sent home, and she was scheduled to have open heart surgery that very morning – none of which we had been told about!! Did I hear that correctly?? She was supposed to have OPEN HEART SURGERY and we knew nothing about it?? I often think back to that moment, the very moment we realized, that what could have been such a heart wrenching, tragic moment for us, was actually a miracle happening before our very eyes.
We are so thankful for God’s perfect peace in the many situations we faced during that pregnancy, over and over again, when we could have quite easily fallen apart, we felt His peace – does that mean we didn’t shed some tears or ask “why”? Absolutely not, we did all of those things, but in the end, we always felt His peace. We are thankful for His hand of protection and healing over Catherine’s little life and for turning what could have been such a tragedy for our family into a moment of thankfulness, celebration, and a testimony of His awesome power!
Kim Young, has been married for 22 years and has three children Catherine age 20, Courtney age 18 and Josh age 4.5. She lives in Hubley, Nova Scotia and has been the manager of the local high school cafeteria. In her spare time she likes to read and scrapbook.