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Third Place

What’s in a name?

By Renee Duka

My husband and I drove slowly through the midnight-drenched streets on our way to the emergency room. There was no need to hurry. The emergency had already passed. Street lamps splashed light on nearly deserted roads as we drove on in the quietness. A strangely peaceful silence was between us. We had done all we could do. We had said what we needed to say.

I reflected on the previous two weeks that brought us to our midnight journey. Nearly 16 weeks into a long-prayed-for second pregnancy, my water broke. Our doctor tried to be optimistic, but the prognosis wasn’t good. Sixteen weeks gestation is a long way from viability, and only a miracle could seal the bag of water back together.

The disappointment was enormous. We had prayed so long for this child. Several of our friends were expecting babies close to our due date. It was going to be awkward and painful to be so close to their joy. How should we explain this to our 4-year-old daughter? Would God give us another child?

In the doctor’s office my husband took my hand. "Lord, we thank You for the few short weeks You gave us with this baby. We are grateful for the blessing. We commit him to You. You may take him if You wish."

Somehow, in that moment, Jehovah Shalom, the God who brings peace, was there. I knew I could let the baby go. I knew I could be happy for my friends when their babies came. God would take care of our daughter’s questions. Perhaps He would even bless us with another baby.

The doctor sent me home for bed rest and instructed me to go to the emergency room when the miscarriage began. I stayed in bed for two weeks praying for a miracle, but it was clear the pregnancy was slowly coming to an end. I used those days to enjoy carrying the little one I would never hold in my arms. It turned out to be a bittersweet time of mourning and yet peace.

Then the time came to say our final goodbye. The miscarriage was partially complete before we left for the hospital. Our journey felt like a private, peaceful funeral procession.

The emergency room was crowded with others experiencing tragedies big and small. A few mothers cradled agitated children. Other parents wearily paced the floor. A couple of elderly men and women fidgeted while trying to read magazines they were not interested in. We took our place among them and waited to be called.

The seasoned ER doctor who saw us seemed more comfortable with high-drama emergency cases. I felt small and insignificant. He mumbled to a nurse to get a fetal heart monitor on me, and then he dashed off to the next patient.

I had hoped to be done quickly with whatever they needed to do to finish off the miscarriage, so this formality was bothersome to me. Confirming that there was no heartbeat was not going to comfort me. But apparently it needed to be done.

The nurse returned in short order with the fetal heart monitor and began searching my abdomen for a sign of life. The room was silent except for the hollow whirring of the monitor. She tried from every angle until the monitor was as low as it would go. Nothing.

And then … the unmistakable steady thumping of a tiny heart. All eyes in the room grew wide. I stared at my husband in disbelief. The quizzical look on his face was reflecting my own confusion. Was the baby just not dead yet? How much longer could the baby survive if there was no fluid in the sac?

The nurse hastily examined what I had lost at home. "Massive blood clots," she told us as she quickly went in search of the doctor. My husband and I remained silent and stunned, not sure whether to be hopeful or to brace ourselves for a more difficult situation than we had anticipated.

An obstetrician was summoned who declared after his examination that we had a live baby who needed to be saved. He checked me into the hospital.

The next day an ultrasound revealed perfect uterine conditions. Strangely, there was plenty of fluid, a well-placed placenta and an active 18-week-old baby. My doctor tried unsuccessfully to explain how several fist-sized blood clots could escape the sac along with large amounts of fluid and yet keep the pregnancy intact. (A twin had been ruled out early on.)

My condition improved incredibly over the next 24 hours. Jehovah Ropheka, the God who heals, had visited us. I began to believe the baby would survive.

My doctor was much more cautious. I would need to be on bed rest. A weak sac could tear again. We would assess the situation a week at a time. I went home from the hospital on Mother’s Day 1997.

The next three months were impossibly long. I worked on every project I could think of while reclining on the couch. I read stacks of books. I did preschool with my daughter.

Each day was a battle. From my post on the couch I fought depression, boredom and frustration. I was helpless to take care of the needs of my family. My loving and patient mom cooked our meals, washed our laundry and bathed our little girl while I sat with my feet up. I cried out to the Lord for strength to overcome the constant skirmishes in my emotions.

The doctor deemed 30 weeks gestation as a safe point to begin activity again. I set my eyes on that goal, though from day to day I did not know how I could possibly last that long. When 30 weeks finally came, I breathed thanks to Jehovah Nissi, the God who brings victory, and began slowly moving around again.

On October 21, 1997, my husband and I made another midnight run to the hospital. This time we were in a big hurry. Street lamps splashed a clear path in front of us. There was no time for reflection. I was telling him to hurry. He was telling me to breathe. We made it just in time to get in a room before our full-term son was born.

What’s in a name? We wanted our son to have a name that would stand as a remembrance of God’s intervention on his behalf. We named him Josiah which means "Jehovah heals." He will carry it throughout his life as a constant reminder of his story.

Renee Duka, 32, is a stay-at-home mom to Joanna, 7; Josiah, 2; and Joseph, 10 months. Her husband, Dan, pastor of First Assembly in Chowchilla, Calif., "has been encouraging me to write," she says. This is her first published article.


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