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.

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  1. I can relate to this with my two little boys. It wouldn't have been possible for them to have been born if two of their siblings had lived to full term. And the little babies who died brought us some special graces - they definitely left a lasting impression. I guess we'll only understand the full meaning in Heaven, though.

    God bless, Sue:-)

    1. Vicky,

      I often think about how I miscarried four babies in 18 months. There is no way I could have had all those babies if they'd lived and been born, but nevertheless all 4 souls were created and are with God. A friend once reminded me we are going to have huge families in heaven! That is quite a thought, isn't it? You haven't lost your little babies. They are waiting. I know you grieved over those souls, and maybe you still wonder 'what if?' But in the meantime you have Joey and Jordy to love and enjoy!

      "And the little babies who died brought us some special graces" God does bring good out of pain.

      Thank you for your comment. God bless!

  2. Beautiful, Sue. I also sometimes imagine what life would've been like if I had given birth to our seven babies who died before birth, but then I have to imagine having different children. Yes, everything is God's perfect timing...

    1. Ellen,

      It is so easy to look back and wonder... We probably wouldn't go back and change anything though because of the gifts we do have.

      I've been wondering about women who haven't had more children after losing babies. That must be so difficult. I can only think that God must give them other blessings. It would be such a suffering to continually want to go back and not be able to.

      Always lovely sharing with you, Ellen!

  3. This is so beautiful. I had a miscarriage back in 2007, and I often try and place my little baby right there where he belonged amoung his siblings. Our little Nicholas is our very own saint in heaven but still very much alive within my heart.

    1. Amy Caroline,

      I remember you telling me about your own saint in heaven. Yes, our lost children are still very much part of our families. Well intentioned people hope that we will forget with time, so that the pain disappears. They just want us to be happy. But how can we forget when we love? Thank you for sharing little Nicholas!

      God bless!

  4. Beautiful honest article. Thank you.

    1. Colleen,

      We think we are strong and accept God's will, but then sometimes there are moments when we wonder, and we ache all over again. I felt the need to explore those sad feelings when I read that article. By the time I got to the end of writing this story, I realised everything is fine. God has it all in order and I wouldn't go back and change things. Isn't writing wonderful in the way it helps sort things out?

      God bless you.

  5. Hi Sue,

    Loosing Miriam taught me, as a father and a husband, that I was not the one in control. Finding out that she had died and going home to wait for the inevitable was difficult. As a father I wanted to protect my child. As a husband I wanted to protect my wife. I learnt a lot about being a man by this experience. God has a plan and although I don't understand it, I accept it. This made it easier, though still painful, when we lost Carmel.

    I try not to think about what they would be doing now. This is perhaps a coping mechanism but also because if they were born then Jerome and Clement would not be who they are. I look forward to the time when all my family are together.

    Thanks for the post


    1. Gerard,

      Yes, we don't really understand God's plans for our lives but, with time and prayer and refection, we can see how God brings good out of our sufferings. Like you, I learnt that God is in control of my life, and to accept that. We do learn so much from the difficult times of our lives.

      Recently I was thinking about how Andy helped me through all our losses, and how hard it must have been for him to sit by my side and watch me suffer, and be unable to do much but hold my hand. It must be very difficult to be a husband and father, wanting to protect but being unable to deflect the pain away from loved ones. But pain shared is easier to bear, and I think it draws couples closer.

      I also look forward to a time when our family is together! I think there will be indescribable joy.

      It's good to share. Thank you so much for your comment.


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