God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though the waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake with their surging.
At 33 weeks pregnant, I started having some contractions while we were at the beach. We were resting as we had just transitioned our four year old foster daughter to another family after almost 5 months with her. Unconcerned, we went to the hospital and I was given an IV with meds to stop labor. Several ultrasounds were performed and it was determined our baby was healthy and I just needed to be on bed rest.
Four days later, the contractions started again, this time during our baby shower. With contractions coming closer and closer together, we promptly ushered everyone out of the house and got our bags ready. As the last few guests left, one friend stopped and told me she felt the Lord was putting Psalm 46 on her heart for us. I thanked her, but quickly forgot as we rushed to the hospital.
I was in labor all night and dilated to 8 cm early that next morning. Unfortunately, my baby’s head and shoulder were both trying to come out at the same time, resulting in her not dropping low enough for me to start pushing. My doctor decided to do a c-section and at that point I was so exhausted that I didn’t put up much of a fight. Our beautiful Mariah Grace was born a short time later at 6 pounds, 1 ounce and was doing extremely well for being born 6 weeks early. Never have I felt such extreme joy as when I kissed my sweet baby on the cheek and heard her little cry.
As the day went on, Mariah was with us in our room as I recovered and we enjoyed some sweet time with our new treasure. In the afternoon, a nurse came and told me that even though they didn’t usually take the babies from their mothers, she felt she should take her for a bit to give me a chance to rest since I was exhausted and sick from the anesthesia. This move ended up being providential because while we were sleeping Mariah’s temperature plummeted, then spiked quickly. She began having some difficulty breathing and her skin was a dark purple. The neonatologist came in and told us he believed she was fighting an infection. Within minutes it was decided to send her to the excellent Children’s Hospital NICU because there wasn’t a NICU at my hospital. Unfortunately there wasn’t room at the Children’s Hospital and she was to be sent to another hospital. An ambulance was called and Albin, the doctor, and my newborn baby were rushed to the NICU. Alone, in pain, and distraught, never had I felt such helplessness as I did then.
Thankfully my parents had flown in and came to spend the night with me at the private hospital. Albin spent the night at the public hospital on a lonely bench in a hallway (public hospitals are much different in CR). Since they are publicly funded, no expenses are wasted on waiting room comfort. The doctors were waiting to get back Mariah’s blood results, but started her on a general antibiotic to fight whatever she had. The next morning my parents went to pick up Albin and I was left in the hospital- with the promise that if I could urinate, the doctors would let me go. It was impossible because the anesthesia really shut down my body. I was desperate. Finally after 24 hours and refusing to use a catheter again, I went into the bathroom and I cried out to the Lord. I said aloud to Him, “Lord if you can wake up dead people, surely you can wake up my bladder.” Never have I been so relieved to hear myself pee.
From there, it was a whirlwind. The doctor decided to release me despite it only being one day after my c-section. Albin came and picked me up and we went straight to the public hospital to see Mariah. It was evening when we arrived and we expected to hear the antibiotic was working. When we saw her hooked up to the tubes, it was hard, but she was so much bigger than the other premature babies in the NICU, so it was hard to believe she was that sick. Then two very serious doctors came over and introduced themselves as the head doctors. I honestly can’t remember everything they said, but here’s what I remember:
Despite our efforts, Mariah’s body is not fighting the infection. She is having seizures and difficulty breathing. Her condition is extremely critical, so grave in fact, that her illness could end in death.
Never in my life have I ever felt as devastated as I did in that moment.
My first thought was: I refuse to bury my baby. My second thought was: In the name of Jesus I reject the death they are speaking over my baby. I shut out what the doctors were saying –apparently she had no white blood cells, she had sepsis, her lung had collapsed…etc. etc. They asked if we wanted to call the hospital priest, but I got hysterical and we went out and called our families and through sobs managed to tell them the worst news I’d ever received. Then Al and I went out to that lonely bench and cried. We grieved. We prayed. I have never been so focused in my life. We started telling the Lord that this was too heavy a burden for us to bear and began speaking health and life over Mariah. We turned on worship in that dark hallway and started calling on the Lord to come down and fight for her. It was so intense. Somehow, my parents and Al’s mom broke through the ridiculous security and were allowed to join us on our bench. We didn’t talk. We just cried and prayed and sang for hours. I honestly don’t know how long. I had an image that as we sang about God being the God of angel armies, angels were surrounding Mariah’s bed and fighting for her. Then, the passage my friend had given to me came to mind and one verse in particular stuck out:
“God is within her, she will not fall…” Psalm 46:5
God spoke to me right there. She will not fall. As I later studied this passage, I realized that the Psalmist is talking about the city of Jerusalem not falling…which is on Mount Moriah- from which Mariah’s name is derived (too much of a coincidence to be one for me). Cool huh?
After sitting there for hours and literally having our own worship session in that dank hallway, the head doctor came out and was surprised to see us there since it technically is not a waiting room. I’ll also never forget what he said this time:
Oh! I didn’t know you were still here. Your baby has stabilized.
Fresh tears started flowing with that way too simple statement. Albin and I suited up again and went in the NICU. Another doctor came over to us and said that they had just done a chest x-ray and Mariah’s lung had suddenly inflated on its own which meant the antibiotic being pumped into her blood was being pumped to all parts of her body better. As we turned to look at our daughter, the room started shaking and we felt the tremor of an earthquake that took place in El Salvador that night. It was interesting that in that same Psalm 46 passage it talks about not fearing though the mountains quake and just around that time our parents were out on the bench reading that passage. It was as if the Lord was reminding us that just as He was in control of the earth shaking, He was also in control or our baby’s life. Never had I felt the Lord as close as I did in that moment.
It was late and I was in excruciating pain, so we had to go home for the night. We slept a few hours and I woke up in a panic, guilty for sleeping while my daughter lay in grave condition in the hospital. I started sobbing out of control. Suddenly I recognized a familiar voice speaking to my heart. It wasn’t audible, but it was clear as day.
It’s okay to cry, but stop carrying on like you don’t know the outcome of this trial.
And then Jesus gave me a verse, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you do not stand at all.” Isaiah 7:9. I found that verse to be pretty appropriate; as I literally felt like I could not stand because of how much pain I was in for not resting after my c-section and because of the crushing weight of not having my baby in my arms.
I got out of bed and we called to make sure Mariah was still stable and then had another worship session with my family. Though reassured she would be healed, I still felt so heavy. Every time I thought about the situation, every time I saw her tubes, every time I realized that I wasn’t pregnant anymore but didn’t bring home a baby with me, I felt like I was sinking. Then I felt Jesus reminding me of Peter stepping out onto the waves. I felt like he was telling me that every time I took my eyes off of Him, I would sink. The “facts” of this situation would swallow me up and I would feel anxious, panicked, and a little crazy. Literally all I could do was keep my eyes on Jesus. I didn’t keep my eyes on her tubes, didn’t focus on what the doctors were saying, I couldn’t possibly think about how gravely ill she was.
When we arrived to the hospital that day, the doctors told us that Mariah had turned a corner and that it seemed like her body wanted to fight. Never have I been so thankful to know God as our Healer.
Over the next several days, we only received good news. Her fever is down, her white blood cell count is rising, her blood pressure is stabilizing, her sugar has leveled, she doesn’t need to be sedated, she was taken off a respirator, she wasn’t having any more seizures, she was able to drink some formula. Every day the doctors and nurses were so excited to tell us how amazing she was doing and how incredible her turnaround was. Then, just 5 days after she entered the ICU, I hobbled to the door and a nurse I didn’t recognize told me she wasn’t there. Panic threatened to overtake me until he finally came back and told me she was no longer in intensive care, had skipped the intermediate area and had been moved to the general care room.
She was in the hospital for two weeks. During those two weeks we received hundreds, no – thousands of comments and messages from people praying. People we didn’t even know, whole churches, and our beloved friends and family poured out so much love on us. I’ve never felt so loved or supported as I did during those two weeks. It was so humbling and encouraging. Also during those two weeks, we had so many opportunities to share about God’s goodness on that bench in the dark hallway. We prayed with other families in similar situations, we shared with others about Jesus, and we encouraged people as they walked through the darkest times in their lives. It was absolutely amazing to be used in that way.
Two weeks after we were told our baby might not make it through the night, we brought home a healthy baby. Her blood tests were clean and her brain scan came back perfect. Mariah had been diagnosed with the bacteria Strep B, which I had tested negative for. She had to have received it from me since it came on so quickly, but a doctor told me probability of her getting it from me was 0.1% because it is only passed through vaginal birth or through waiting too long to have the c-section after your water broke- both of which were not my case. Her body initially shut down, but miraculously started fighting again. As we walked out of the hospital, we thanked the doctors and nurses with cards and candy. All of the doctors and nurses came out (something I hadn’t seen them do with any other baby being released as I sat there for 9 hours a day for two weeks) and told us how happy they were and how Mariah was a huge miracle.
There is so much more to tell, but this is Mariah Grace’s story. Mariah means “God is my teacher” and Grace is after my strong 10 year old cousin, Grace, who is fighting and winning her battle with leukemia. Never in a million years did I think her prophetic name would be called upon in her first days of life as we prayed God would teach her body to fight like her strong cousin has.
We are thankful.
Thankful to the thousands of you who prayed for our daughter and for us during the darkest trial we have endured. Thank you for the messages of encouragement and the shares of our updates on Facebook. We truly believe that God heard all of our prayers of faith and healed Mariah. Thank you all from the bottoms of our hearts.
Thankful for parents that drop everything to take care of us. After having Mariah, we are starting to see how much love and hard work is necessary to being a parent and we’re eternally grateful God blessed us with amazing parents.
Thankful to the doctors and nurses that took such amazing care of Mariah and completely changed my view of the public health care system. Their attention to our daughter and friendship extended to me during the long days at the hospital were such a blessing.
Most of all we’re thankful to our Father in heaven. He’s the giver of the two best gifts ever- salvation through Jesus Christ, and our precious baby girl. God’s not dead and we are all witnesses of His goodness and power. He is faithful and He is Love whether or not He had chosen to heal our baby in the way we asked, but we are so thankful for what He has done. May He receive all the glory and honor and praise forever.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.