I found out that I was pregnant at the end of August 2019. A few days earlier, the two of us and our son Aaron (then 17 months old) were spending a wonderful, restful weekend away with our church enjoying unusually sunny weather for the UK where we live. During one evening of prayer, some of our friends had prayed that as a couple we would rely on God and not try to do everything in our own strength. Little did we know then how much that would prove to be true over the next few months. I was overjoyed to be expecting another baby, so grateful to God for this blessing and pleased that this baby would be close in age to Aaron so they could play together as they got older.
However, when I was 14 weeks pregnant, we were told that our baby (who we later found out was a girl and who we would name Heidi) had Trisomy 18, a condition which meant that she might not survive the pregnancy and if she did, that she would likely pass away soon after birth. While my heart was breaking and it seemed like my worst fears had come true, I knew that God was with us and that we had to lean into what He was doing as our situation unfolded.
In the weeks that followed Heidi’s medical diagnosis, I spent hours searching the internet looking for help and advice. Heidi’s prognosis seemed so dire and every doctor we spoke to was so negative about what we were going through and what was to come. I was desperate to find another way to think about our situation – a perspective that reflected the fact that our baby was a gift, that her life had intrinsic value because she was created in His image and that God had a purpose for Heidi’s time on earth even if it was very short.
Abel Speaks gave me that perspective. Speaking with Daniel and Kelly and reading the stories of other parents who had also carried children with life-limiting diagnoses to term showed me how I could approach my pregnancy and celebrate our baby’s birth with joy even though we were also sad. They gave us confidence that her birth would be wonderful because we would meet our longed-for daughter and they reassured us that, contrary to our doctors’ gloomy predictions, carrying our baby and giving her life, was a positive option that would give us peace and joy in the midst of our tears.
Over the next six months of my pregnancy, as almost every scan revealed a new physical problem caused by Heidi’s condition, we prepared to welcome our daughter into the world and potentially say goodbye to her at the same time. Heidi was eventually born on 29th April 2020 at 38 weeks 5 days. There is a concept in Celtic Christianity called “thin places,” sacred spaces where the boundary between heaven and earth becomes more permeable. As Heidi was born, the delivery room felt like a thin place as it was filled with the presence of Jesus. She lived for just 3 ½ hours but they were the most precious 3 ½ hours of my life. Our wonderful church minister was with us for the birth and prayed with us and baptised Heidi. At the end I held Heidi as she passed peacefully from my arms into the arms of Jesus.
I will always miss my beautiful little girl, but I am honoured to have carried her for nine months and that we had time with her. Bringing her into the world is the greatest privilege of my life. Her life has taught me so much – what it means to trust God amid the acutest uncertainty, how blessed we are to have a church family who prayed for us and supported us unstintingly through the whole pregnancy and what it really means to have a peace that transcends all understanding. Countless people have told me that her life has impacted their lives and their faith, so her legacy and testimony continue even though she is now in heaven. Heidi still speaks.
Michael & Becky Wirth, in memory of Heidi Frances Margarete