I didn’t realize it fully at the time, but God had been preparing my heart for years to be Judah’s mom. On May 1, 2009, I wrote in my journal about how shocked we were to find out we were expecting again.
Even though I’m nervous about how this will all work out, I fully trust and believe that I am pregnant with this child for a reason and that God has chosen them to join our family.
I know those words don’t sound exactly earth shattering, but I believe God gave me those words and actually led me to write them down. I don’t write things down very regularly, and most of the time days and weeks will stretch into months between entries. There were only a few notes scribbled between that prayer and my next entry on September 15, 2009.
We had been thinking a lot about purpose, and feeling like we were in a bit of a rut, doing what was comfortable and in some ways just existing day to day. I remember wanting to feel moved, alive and guided by the Spirit, not just my agenda.
Lord, I do not want to get any further into this mission relying on my strength or knowledge – help me to listen and respond to your Spirit and to rely only on You for everything I need. Make me more dependent on You.
The very next day we found out about Judah’s heart, and I felt numb.
It was as if everything around me went dull, and what I needed to know and feel was amplified. We had an undeniable sense of peace about the future. Of course, we couldn’t exactly wrap our heads around what would come, but we were not destroyed by the news.
In my journal that day I wrote out the words to Psalm 33: 20-22.
We wait in hope for the Lord: He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
I remember being so grateful that the Lord had given me such a strong desire to write what I had the day before pretty much demanding that He make me more dependent on Him.
Although I would struggle with letting go of control, He showed me from the start that this was His work to do and I was able to go back to that truth every time things got really hard.
In the weeks after the diagnosis I wrote out a list of seven very specific and HUGE things that God had done, without us realizing, to prepare us for what would come. Things like having incredible insurance coverage for the one year we needed it. The cost of Judah’s surgery and hospitalization approached $1 million dollars and we were only responsible for a few hundred dollars.
Another miracle was detecting Judah’s heart defect ahead of time. Most babies with Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA) are not identified until after they are born.
With this defect the aorta and pulmonary arteries are switched and attach to the wrong atrial chambers so that oxygen-rich blood flows in a closed (or mostly closed) circuit to the lungs and back to the heart while deoxygenated blood continues to circulate throughout the body without being exchanged and sent to the lungs.
Children who have TGA develop normally before birth because of the natural holes present in the fetal heart that allow the exchange of maternal blood. Some children with TGA are okay for a few hours or even days after birth because the holes in their heart don’t close right away (which eventually is another defect, but in this case it is helpful for a time).
Judah’s hole did begin to close right around the time he was born. He came very fast (which is another exciting story involving running red lights, yelling at my husband, and almost delivering Judah at the nurses’ station while I was trying to check in) and he was cyanotic (blue from oxygen deprivation) and going downhill fast. He was rushed away by the NICU staff before I could see anything but a bluish purple foot.
The incredible nurses and doctors worked immediately to prepare him for an emergency heart catheterization to essentially tear the hole back open and allow some blood to exchange. That procedure along with medication to keep another natural connection open longer than normal allowed us to wait one week before Judah’s open heart surgery to switch the arteries to their current location.
I know that was a long story, but I had been researching and planning to have Judah at a birthing center away from the hospital. If Judah had been born there his story would probably be very different than it was, and we believe God made it possible for the doctors to see Judah’s defect before he was born for a reason. We still wrestle with the fact that some people don’t find out ahead of time.
We are so grateful to our surgeon, cardiologists, nurses, family and friends. Judah’s life has been touched by so many people, and the community that God has us in has been extraordinary. Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect. One in 100 children are born with a CHD.
If you are interested in learning more about this or reading about the amazing CHD community, check out The Children’s Heart Foundation.
About the Author: Kirsten Van Horne lives in Tacoma, WA, with her husband, Matthew, and their three children: Nehemiah, Judah and Seleh. A former elementary school teacher, Kirsten is now experiencing what it means to be a stay-at-home mom and learning more about God’s relentless love for her in every season.