May 10, 2018 was the most beautiful yet painful day of our lives. Our long-awaited daughter, Dayna Euphemia, safely entered into the world and became part of our family. This is our family’s story about the pain, hope, sorrow and joy that have come with the twists and turns in the adventure that is our life – an adventure we’ve learned can’t be scripted.
Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth
Shelters thee under his wings and so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been granted in what he ordaineth? – Joachim Neander
Even though we had close family experience with infertility, we never thought it would be something we would personally experience when we got married in 2009. It’s so natural that you fall in love, get married, establish a household and then have children. For us, this plan was falling in place perfectly until 2013. Infertility creeps up on you slowly but arrives with ferocity. The progression from wondering if it’s going to take some extra time to conceive to doubting that you will ever have your own children consumes your life in the space of a year. Four and a half years, countless medical appointments, numerous procedures, thousands of dollars and one confirmed miscarriage left us feeling hopeless with the situation last summer.
We got used to pain every month – but just because it was expected didn’t make it hurt any less. Infertility was a burden that was intimately woven into the fabric of our daily life. Our relationship as husband and wife grew so much deeper and stronger as a result of the pain.
Graciously, the last five years were not a negative black hole for our lives, on the contrary – when we weren’t grieving we were living a great life. Those of you who know us know that we both share a passion for travelling and we have had the opportunity to go lots of places, including Italy, Greece, Portugal, Germany, France, Iceland, Slovenia and Croatia during our season of waiting. I’m sure many of our friends with small children looked at our social media posts with a tinge of jealousy! On many of those days life felt perfect and we felt that things would turn out alright in the end. Our desire to become parents never diminished and we knew God would fulfill that calling in His own way. As Jenn once put it, we were living in half agony and half hope.
The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of Heaven breaks
The summer morn I’ve sighed for—the fair, sweet morn awakes
Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land. – Anne R. Cousin
We always seemed to have our most important conversations when we were travelling. On August 19, 2017, we had one of those conversations walking along the beach in Grado, Italy. Earlier that evening we had eaten some remarkable pizza and later than night we dodged a prodigious downpour from a thunderstorm to get back to our car. But our conversation was about neither of these things – it was an agreement that we were near the end of our journey with medical intervention for our infertility. Flying back home the following day, we could not have imagined that our prayer for a child had already been answered!
That evening was the finale to perhaps our best trip ever. During the previous week, we had road tripped through portions of Slovenia, Croatia and Italy and had a sense we were fully living life each day. In Croatia, we stayed in the gorgeous coastal town of Rovinj, where the main church was dedicated to Euphemia. Inside the church, through both our guidebook and artwork, we were drawn in by the story of Euphemia, a teenage Christian who was martyred for her faithful witness during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Her story reminded us of Stephen in Acts 7. The name Euphemia became special to us not only because of where God answered our prayers but also because it was a name to live by.
Pregnancy after infertility and miscarriage can leave you in a constant fear of what could go wrong. During the next nine months, we cautiously yet with great expectation checked off exciting milestone after milestone while all the scans showed a strong and healthy baby girl was safely developing. The pregnancy culminated in the greatest moment of our lives at 11:42 a.m. on May 10, 2018, when Dayna arrived! Her arrival wasn’t without a little bit of drama when it became apparent that she had the umbilical cord doubly wrapped around her neck. It was a scary moment as she was whisked away and took longer than normal to breathe. But the medical professionals were skillful and we soon heard Dayna’s little cries – the moment we had waited so long for was finally here – we were overwhelmed with joy!
When through the deep waters I call thee to go
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress. – Anonymous
After Dayna had stabilized and been given back to us, the neonatologist came in to speak with us. We expected he would simply tell us how Dayna was doing and what work had been done on her following her birth. Instead we heard phrases such as ‘features of Down syndrome’ and ‘I’m very concerned’ and that we needed to do a blood chromosome test. It was the most shocking moment of our lives. It all felt surreal, like we were watching a movie and that this wasn’t actually our life.
It is impossible put into words the rollercoaster of emotions that come with shedding tears of euphoria and tears of gut-wrenching sorrow within the space of hours. During the years of infertility one of the things you dream about is that first meeting of your child; what they will look like, will they have your eyes, nose, mouth, etc – that feeling of their skin on yours for the first time. While we held Dayna’s perfect form on our chest, the endorphins pumping through our body, it seemed impossible that what this man was saying could be true.
Whate’er my God ordains is right, though now this cup in drinking
May bitter seem to my faint heart, I take it all unshrinking
My God is true, each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart – Samuel Rodigast
Over the past two weeks we have learned that joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive emotions. We are thrilled at the arrival of our healthy baby girl yet look towards the future with trepidation knowing that during her life our daughter will be challenged with disability. We are grieving for our set of dreams and expectations for her life and it is still an active process. There is no quick fix to this emotional pain, though every word of encouragement we have received has slowly soothed the hurt.
Tears have been shed so many times over the past two weeks. Tears worrying about Dayna’s future. Tears in coming to grips with a different set of expectations for her life. Tears wondering how this could actually happen to us. Tears at having to schedule seemingly endless medical appointments. Even more tears when the Down syndrome diagnosis was confirmed.
But there have also been tears of joy and so many wonderful moments. Tears seeing her cousins fight over who gets to hold her, be close to her and touch her. Tears in seeing her snuggle up in a perfectly peaceful way with her parents. Tears in seeing the joy in family members’ eyes when meeting her. Tears in seeing each other being able to finally live out the role of mother and father. Tears in knowing that this is the child that so many prayed for so long.
During the past week we have felt our relationship grow even closer through this experience. We truly feel, as one cheesy love song puts it, that “life is not the mountaintops, it’s the walking in between and I like you walking next to me.”
I need thy presence every passing hour
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me. – Henry F. Lyte
Meanwhile Dayna is completely unfazed by any of these developments. She is a happy, content and lovely baby girl who is already exhibiting so many strong characteristics. We are completely in love and recognize her for the absolutely beautiful gift that will bring so much richness to our lives. It is touching to see the love grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends have for her – she will have an amazing support network of family and friends. She is fortunate to live in a community where there are so many excellent resources for people with disabilities that will give her great opportunities for success and happiness in her life.
This is our family, this is our story, this is our call to live in obedience to His plan. The page has turned to a new chapter in our lives and we can’t wait to see what will be written – and we certainly cannot imagine turning back.
See, the streams of living waters, springing from eternal love
Well supply thy sons and daughters and all fear of want remove
Who can faint while such a river ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver, never fails from age to age. – John Newton
Postscript: We want to specifically thank a few people who have helped us through this journey. Dr. Marci Cook, our infertility specialist, who took time to actually listen to us and helped us finally have a successful pregnancy. Dr. Neil Foster, for safely delivering Dayna into the world and giving us perhaps the most encouraging talk of our lives the morning following her birth – reminding us that life is an adventure that can’t be planned. Dr. David Goodwin, the neonatologist at INOVA Loudoun hospital who, in a straightforward yet caring manner, broke the hardest news of our lives to us and made sure we got all our questions answered. The nurses, technicians and other staff at the hospital who took great care of us and were very sensitive to our situation. Dr. Dave Silvernail for being a fount of wisdom and Pastor Charles Biggs for providing us with timely encouragement. We owe a debt of gratitude to multiple family members and our church family at Potomac Hills Presbyterian Church who have been there for us over the last five years and especially the past two weeks to meet our physical and emotional needs. You are a beautiful example of the communion of saints at work.