We had an appointment with a specialist doctor because our unborn baby had a diaphragmatic hernia. The first question I asked was, “Is there anything we can do?”
"We can operate on the baby while in utero,” the doctor answered, and then added, “There are risks of course. The baby could miscarry… But without surgery, he will almost certainly die after birth.”
Surgery? Andy and I talked it over. Should we? Shouldn’t we? Back and forth we went. If we did nothing, we’d be arranging a funeral. We decided to give our baby a chance at life.
That was nearly thirteen years ago. We look at our almost-teenager racing along the path on his bike, lifting his wheels and flying over the bumps. He doesn’t look like a child who had such a difficult start to life. All that worry, prayer, stress… it was all worth it. We have our son…
Except we don’t. Of course, Thomas isn’t really here with us. He died after only one day of life. I am imagining. When we met with the doctor after Thomas’ diaphragmatic hernia was diagnosed, and I asked the question, “Is there anything we can do?” the doctor looked at us for a long moment before replying, “No.” There was no medical procedure that could have saved his life.
So why am I thinking about what might have been? I accept that Thomas died. God allowed it. I never question it. So why am I imagining Thomas, an almost-teenager, part of our family here today?
The other week I read an online article about another Thomas. This Thomas also had a diaphragmatic hernia, diagnosed in utero. His parents were told their baby had only a 5 percent chance of living after birth. They researched Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernias and their treatment online, and discovered there is now a pioneering procedure that might save the life of a CDH baby. The operation, not without risks, was performed on Thomas while he was in the womb. He was born, and although he needed many months of treatment in hospital, he finally came home. I guess all the worry and stress Thomas' parents endured count as nothing compared to the life of their child. They have a healthy and thriving baby whose future looks good.
For some minutes after reading this article, I sat quietly, remembering our own child. My heart ached and I thought, What if…?
What if this procedure had been available for our Thomas? Would we have decided to go ahead with the surgery? Could his life have been saved too? Today, would we have an almost-teenager racing along the road, grinning as he flies fearlessly over the bumps?
Could we have avoided all that sorrow?
I wallowed in sadness for a time before reminding myself: God’s plans are always perfect. His will was done. Thomas’ death, although so very difficult, was in God’s plan and so was right. What if..? The medical procedure came too late… too late for us. It wasn’t meant to be.
As I write this, I can hear Sophie and Gemma-Rose cleaning my shower. What would my life be like if I’d never known them? For if Thomas had lived, would I have my two beautiful daughters? I might have had other children. But would I have had these two particular souls?
Our lives are full of difficult and painful moments. But when we trust God and accept His plans, doesn't He always bring good out of bad? Would we go back and change history, and therefore the future? No.
I glance into the bathroom and see two girls, their pants rolled up to their knees, standing in the shower scrubbing. They are singing as they work. And love swells up and overflows my heart.
Yes, God’s plan is always perfect…. Sophie and Gemma-Rose… and I still have Thomas. That is the way it was meant to be.