Our family had just made another long move with the Air Force shortly after having been told by our previous doctor that we would be expecting another healthy baby. However, after the first appointment with our new OBGYN, our lives were turned upside down as we heard the devastating news that our son had significant birth defects and Down syndrome.
Our third child, David Robert, was unexpectedly diagnosed with Trisomy 21, a duodenal atresia, and an atrial ventricular septal defect at 32 weeks. In our broken state, we quickly realized that while this was not our plan or what we envisioned for our family, we would have to fight for our son. It felt like our world was crashing down around us. Slowly we began to feel the presence of God draw near as He reminded us that our lives were not shattering, but falling into place, just as He had always planned for our family. He had uniquely and intentionally created our son.
While every doctor we met expressed astonishment that David’s significant medical issues had all been missed, we knew that God had been protecting us and showed us that His sovereign timing is always better than our own. We began our new routine by seeing all the specialists and preparing for a life of surgeries, therapies, and long-term care.
However, our fight unexpectedly came to an end on September 3, 2020 when we heard those earth-shattering words, “There is no heartbeat.” Our son was already in the arms of the One who created him. We were admitted that afternoon into Labor and Delivery to be induced. I was essentially being asked to do the unthinkable — labor and deliver our dead son; something no one should ever be asked to do. The drive to the hospital, the walk to our L&D room, every step of the way we were getting closer to the inevitable… our last moments with David.
But in those moments of indescribable pain, God showed up. So many people came along side us to give us the strength and encouragement to endure that day. We didn’t know it at the time, but a friend had reached out to Abel Speaks for us. From that moment, Abel Speaks has been a huge part of David’s story. Within hours of David passing, they were on the phone with the hospital, making arrangements we couldn’t have made for ourselves. We listened to the Abel Speaks playlist all day, filling our room with worship music. As we held David for the first time, feeling the warmth he still carried from my body and experiencing the weight of our full-term baby in our arms, we felt the Lord’s peace in a tangible way. In that moment, the words of the song, “God You’re So Good” washed over us.
We recently read an incredible and heartbreaking book written by Corrie Ten Boom and this quote deeply resonated: “I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.”
Peter and I feel called to the work he has given us to do in partnering with Abel Speaks.
When we were walking through the most difficult and painful season of our lives, Abel Speaks stepped in and changed the trajectory of our story. Through their incredible support, generosity, and mentorship we were able to cherish and celebrate David’s life in a way I didn’t at first know was possible. And now, as we have been comforted, we have the privilege to comfort others (1 Corinthians 1:4).
God has given us an amazing opportunity to work with and mentor families who also receive a life limiting diagnosis for their babies during pregnancy. Just as Abel Speaks stepped into and changed our story, it is an honor to now be able to walk alongside others who are called to bear this burden of indescribable pain and grief.
We truly believe that all suffering has a purpose, and it is humbling to see and experience how God draws near to us and others as he shapes, grows, and comforts those who are hurting and broken.
“This is what the past is for…every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for a future that only He can see.” -Corrie Ten Boom
In honor of David’s birthday would you prayerfully consider making a donation on his behalf to support another family who receives a life-limiting diagnosis for their baby just as we did?
…and by faith, David speaks!
Peter & Kimberly Leestma