Last weekend our families gathered together in celebration of Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful day full of good food and great company; everyone was in high spirits. Two days later we gathered again, this time with extended family and family friends for another celebration – one for which we are all very thankful – a baby shower for my sister-in-law, CaSondra. After four years of struggling through infertility and pregnancy loss CaSondra and her husband, Ben, are expecting a child. I wrote the following to be read at the shower as a prelude to one of the games we played; while the words are mine, the story is theirs. With CaSondra and Ben’s permission I’m sharing it with you today. My hope is that if you, or someone you love, is suffering through infertility or loss, this might bring you a bit of peace and hope as we look forward to Christmas and the birth of our Savior, a miracle himself.
Written for CaSondra and Benjamin Shim with love by Kate Konopacki
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named CaSondra. CaSondra was full of spunk and love, and she lit up a room just by walking into it. CaSondra had a very big heart and a special gift; she always made everyone feel welcomed. As CaSondra grew into a pretty young lady, she dreamt of marrying the man of her dreams and starting a family.
The Lord heard CaSondra’s prayers for a husband, and on July 26, 2008, CaSondra and Ben—her prince charming—were united in marriage. CaSondra and Ben quickly began talking about starting a family, but the two of them were an adventurous pair. Shortly after returning home from their honeymoon in Mexico, they decided that together they would spend the next year training to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world! In February 2010, CaSondra and Ben set off for Africa to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.
I could tell you many more tales of CaSondra and Ben’s traveling adventures, but this story is about an adventure of another sort… When the lovely couple returned from their great summit, they set off on their adventure to start a family…..
CaSondra and Ben spent each day offering their prayers to God, asking Him to bless them with a child. On July 2, 2010, CaSondra and Ben found out they were pregnant. Unfortunately, a day that should have been filled with awe and joy was filled with much confusion and fear as CaSondra’s body was clearly telling her something was wrong.
“Please Lord, let this baby be okay,” CaSondra asked several times over the course of the next few weeks. As she and Ben were awaiting further news about the child that she was carrying, they offered their hearts to the Lord through prayers and tears.
In heaven, the Lord heard the cries of His children, and He bent His head in knowledge as the tears slid down His cheeks. As He wrapped the couple in His loving arms, He whispered:
“Not yet. It’s not time yet. I have something to teach you first.”
After many consultations with their doctors, CaSondra and Ben’s worst fears were confirmed when they found out the pregnancy was ectopic.
On July 23, 2010, heaven received a new angel when Jaden Lyric was placed in the hands of his Heavenly Father.
Jaden was greeted into heaven by a chorus of angels all ready and willing to cater to his tiny baby needs. He was a special little baby and everyone wanted to be close to him, but the Lord held onto him tight, rocking him gently and singing lullabies in his ear. To his parents on earth, whose hearts were shattered, the Lord gently whispered:
“ Trust in Me with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways acknowledge Me, and I shall direct your paths.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6
Over the next year and a half CaSondra and Ben continued on their journey to start a family. The road was not easy; there were twists and turns and areas of rockiness. In January 2011, CaSondra was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and soon after began her first rounds of fertility medication.
“Lord, we trust you with our lives and our journey… please lead us,” CaSondra prayed.
In May, CaSondra and Ben were introduced to the great Dr. Bopp, a Reproduction Endocrinologist. Dr. Bopp was a wonderful man who prayed for and with the couple. CaSondra and Ben were confident that it was by the grace of God that Dr. Bopp was introduced to them.
In July 2011 the couple prepared for their first IUI (Intrauterine Insemination), but were saddened by the news that the procedure had to be cancelled because the dominant follicle was on CaSondra’s right side. You see, during her surgery with Baby Jaden, CaSondra’s right fallopian tube was damaged and had to be removed.
It wasn’t time—yet.
Throughout 2011 the couple tried two more rounds of IUI, one of which was unsuccessful and another that had to be cancelled. CaSondra also struggled through periods of very painful and sometimes dangerous cysts. Their hearts were heavy, but CaSondra and Ben continued to put their hope and trust in the Lord.
Meanwhile, in heaven, Jaden was growing into a mighty fine little boy. He had dark silky hair like his father and a heart of gold like his mother. His angel wings grew more and more each day as he devoted his time to welcoming new little angels into the gates of heaven. He also spent a hearty amount of time running through the woods and tinkering on gadgets, as all good little angel boys do. The Lord watched over him and his earthly parents closely and listened intently as CaSondra and Ben prayed for another baby while Jaden prayed for an earthly sibling for his Mom and Dad.
At the beginning of 2012 CaSondra and Ben spent much time in contemplation and prayer as they asked God to make His plan clear to them. The Lord listened and provided an answer; at the end of January the couple began preparing for their first round of In Vitro Fertilization.
CaSondra and Ben were filled with much hope and joy at the thought of becoming pregnant again! They continued to pray and put their faith in the Lord; they never doubted that he would make them a family, but they knew with all of their hearts that God’s plan was greater than theirs.
On February 15, 2012, the day their embryos were scheduled to be transferred, CaSondra and Ben received some devastating news. The embryos had ceased growing and the procedure had to be cancelled.
They held each other as they wept: 5,241 tears, to be exact; the Lord counted each one as He wrapped them in His warm embrace.
“I’m so sorry, my children. I know this hurts. It’s not time yet.”
The weight of their journey came crashing down at this moment, and, no longer strong enough to sustain the trip on their own, they fell into the arms of their family and friends—the family and friends that were waiting and willing to lift them up and support this beautiful couple through encouraging words and warm meals and loving hearts. Through the pain, CaSondra and Ben were witnesses to something wonderful and beautiful. For the first time, the safety net that God had placed so lovingly beneath them was visible; they allowed themselves to let go, to free-fall into the love of others.
A couple of months later CaSondra and Ben were ready to try a second round of In Vitro Fertilization.
“We trust you Lord, and although we do not understand your ways, we know that your plan is good.” As they prayed together, they left their hopes and dreams in the hands of God.
And each night while they slept, Jaden, their heavenly baby, would kiss his parents’ cheeks and whisper in their ears, “Do not give up hope, Mommy and Daddy. So many people are praying for you.”
Preparations for IVF round #2 began in March, and with each daily check-up things looked promising. On April 9, 2012, the day after Easter, CaSondra had 18 eggs retrieved and was ordered to be on bed rest. Three days later she would have the strongest embryos transferred into her womb.
The couple spent the next few days in great anticipation. Family and friends called to check in and offer their hopes and prayers for this wonderful couple. Everyone was anxiously awaiting news that they were soon going to be a family of three!
The Lord heard these prayers and wishes and wanted the same, but with a heavy heart He wrapped His arms around His children once again and whispered:
“Not yet. It’s not time yet. You have something to teach them first.”
The couple was devastated by the news that their second round of IVF was unsuccessful. They decided to take several months off from their journey to parenthood to grieve and mourn their losses.
During this time, however, they never, ever, gave up hope. They never stopped trusting in their Lord with all of their hearts. They never stopped praying for another baby, and they had faith. They knew that God had the ability to work miracles.
What they didn’t realize is that this hope of theirs, this commitment to trust, and this love for God that they poured out wherever they went, despite their struggles, was a shining example to all of those around them.
CaSondra and Ben, through their difficulties, taught their family and friends what it meant to be faithful. Suddenly, this safety net of people who caught them when they fell, watched the couple spread their wings and begin to soar. As they climbed higher and higher with their trust and faith, each and every person around them began to rise up as well.
From the heights of heaven, the Lord watched this couple, and He smiled.
Although their journey was not over yet, the next year would bring more challenges as CaSondra and Ben tried another IUI procedure and then started researching different adoption alternatives. Through it all the Lord saw their devotion and lovingly whispered to them:
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you and I will bring you back from captivity.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11
In heaven, Jaden and the choir of angels continued to watch over CaSondra and Ben, and the Lord continued to offer them support through the help and love of family and friends.
March of 2014 marked the fourth anniversary of CaSondra and Ben’s journey to start a family. Shortly before this they learned that CaSondra needed to have surgery to remove endometriosis.
They were sad to hear the news, but as I’m sure you know by now, this did little to weaken their faith. They decided to put their journey on hold for a year and try again to have a child in early 2015. Despite the unlikelihood of them being able to conceive without medical intervention, they still believed in God’s miracles.
“We trust you, Lord, with our lives and our journey,” they prayed in unison.
In July , while CaSondra and Ben were unknowingly going about their day-to-day lives, the Lord summoned the angels to His side; His smile was wide, and they all knew instantly that His announcement was great.
“It’s time,” He said to them.
The angels, unable to contain their excitement, immediately broke out in joyful sound; the singing that erupted in heaven that day was glorious. As they looked down on Earth at the unsuspecting couple, they sang “Alleluia, Glory to God!”
As the Lord stood and gently quieted the room, He called out in a deep Fatherly voice:
“Jaden Lyric, are you here?”
The choir of angels parted, and from the very back of the room Jaden stepped forward. His body had become lanky, and his wings were nearly full grown; as he walked, the choir of angels saw that he was holding the hand of a small child. As they made their way to their Father’s feet, Jaden beamed and the little girl clasped his hand tightly. Her dress was white as snow, and her glossy brown hair shone as bright as the sun.
“We’re here, Lord,” Jaden said to his Heavenly Father.
“Wonderful, my children,” The Lord bent down and touched the chin of the most beautiful little girl, a true miracle child.
“Eliana, do you know what your name means?” He asked her.
“Yes, Lord. It means ‘My God has answered’,” she said as she looked lovingly into His eyes.
“Yes, my child. Eliana, are you ready?” He asked her.
“Yes, Lord, I am ready.” As she looked up, a smile spread across her face; with a twinkle in her eye, she said, “Send me to my Mommy.”
* Eliana Shim is due to make her earthly appearance on April 5, 2015. *