My little Abby Mae turns five today.
Tears blind me now, for I cannot recall her birth without remembering how close she came to death. Many, many times.
We praise God for the gift of her life and love. Although we celebrate today with butterflies and flowers, sparkly ribbons and bows, strawberries and sunshine, my heart trembles under the crushing weight of memory, ushering in mingled wonder and sorrow, hope and pain, joy and suffering.
And to think, the first specialist to diagnose Abby’s heart defect recommended I abort her.
I distinctly recall gasping at the mere mention.
“Mrs. Morgan, really! Think of it. The baby’s heart is a mess, her organs are positioned backwards . . . ” The doctor shook her head and folded her arms with disgust. “Why rush to CHOP (the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) and make them go through all sorts of heroics to try and salvage this?” She swallowed and softly said, “Besides, haven’t you been through enough already?”
She referred to my son, John, who’d received his diagnosis in the same office some two years earlier, a boy with intestines forming outside a large hole in his belly, intestines that were also blocked and likely damaged severely if not fatally.
The doctors had given him a 15% chance of making it.
I numbed out as the specialist built her case. The inconvenience, the expense, the unknown outcomes. As the doctor prattled on, I inhaled deeply. I looked full into her fiery eyes and calmly said, “We’re going to CHOP.”
I will not lie. Christian and I had both looked forward to a pregnancy without problems, a wondrous time we could spend with our children and heal from John’s traumatic birth and infancy experience. What a crushing blow. Thrust into the nightmare once again, same storyline, different details.
After extensive testing, CHOP informed us that our daughter did indeed have a severe heart defect, as well as Heterotaxy Syndrome (where the organs are abnormally placed within the body). This five person team, although not nearly as blunt and insensitive as the first physician, waited for my decision about procuring further care.
I swallowed hard. Then I smiled as tears rolled down my cheeks.
“We’re cheerleaders. And besides, we already know where to park, the cafeteria menu cycle, and how to avoid the construction traffic.” I cried a little, and then I said, “As long as there’s hope, we’re in.”
My father sat at the table in lieu of my husband’s presence, his tears saying it all. I knew I needn’t call Christian, for I knew what he would have me do, what God would have us do, what the mother in me longed to do, and what the warrior in me was destined to do.
On our knees, day and night, night and day, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, fight for this little life we did. Born with little chance in this world, but oh, how her cries and the prayers of all those who loved her moved the Heart of heaven.
And today SHE TURNED FIVE!
My thoughts began to swirl a few weeks ago when my church sent out a general email announcing the annual fundraising banquet of Lighthouse Pregnancy Resource Center (LPRC). In the past, our family had participated in various support opportunities, and since we continue to lay down roots here in NJ, I spoke and prayed with Christian at length about contributing.
We decided to attend the banquet, but I neglected to make the necessary connections until after the deadline had passed. As I sat up late one evening reviewing past emails, I discovered my error and froze. I hadn’t realized until that moment how important it was to me but couldn’t explain why.
I had no idea how personal the connection would become.
Believing that God would make a way if He wanted us to attend, I shot an email to the Lighthouse events team, expecting to be graciously turned away. Then I clicked to Facebook to check my most recent blog post picture. Somehow as I scrolled along, a man’s voice came over the speaker, startling the daylights out of me (I thought I’d muted it).
Our family friend, Eric Bugbee, had shared a link to Wildcard’s video of Tim Tebow’s recent interview about keeping his priorities straight, which greatly aided him in keeping his cool on the field. He recounted picking up castaways in Haiti, not mincing words as he declared his desire to be known as one who emits faith, hope, and love rather than as a successful ball player. While thankful for the platform sports has given him, his obvious passion is serving others, namely those who have no voice.
I was highly impressed.
I continued scrolling over the next few days and found that another family friend, Aegis Boyer Stuart, had posted a link to a live event at none other than the Tim Tebow Foundation! Riveted, I viewed her video. Again, Tim spoke from his heart, sharing his vision to supporters and proclaiming undying devotion to “those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”
I’d heard Tim mentioned among our homeschool community and knew he played ball, but I didn’t know about his foundation nor the parties it served around the world. Curiosity caused me to thoroughly investigate, and sure enough, what I discovered blew me away.
Hospitals and play rooms. Proms for the mentally challenged. Dreams fulfilled for the terminally and chronically ill. Outreach to orphans. Surgeries for the sick and disabled. Rescue for victims of human trafficking.
All totally up our alley.
Everything I saw and viewed resonated loudly with the call God’s placed on my life, and witnessing others living it out in such amazing and far-reaching ways stirred me to the core of my being. Not only Tim but also his parents and siblings have long been involved with these causes, in years past as missionaries in the Philippines and currently in different countries and capacities.
As I researched the amazing Tebow family, I grew more excited about the possibility of attending the Lighthouse banquet. It seemed a wonderful way to take another step forward in the same direction as they, a way to serve families in crisis with no voice.
I checked my email one more time after my research binge and read the Lighthouse event flyer one more time. Lo and behold, I’d glossed over the name of the banquet speaker earlier in the evening, but now, it jumped out at me as if arrayed in Broadway lights.
By the grace of God, two seats opened up. Christian and I headed to the Venetian awed and humbled, for I had shared with him all that had transpired that week. We knew that He had something special in store.
Pam shared her testimony about how, when she was extremely ill in the Philippines and carrying her fifth child (Tim), her obstetrician recommended an abortion in order to try and save her life. She obviously declined and gave birth to not only an incredible athlete but more importantly, an amazing servant.
She also told of how her son wore the reference John 3:16 on his eye black during the 2009 college football national championship, during which 94 million people googled John 3:16. Exactly three years later to the day, Tim led the Denver Broncos to a win in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and after the game, his rep informed Tim that all of his stats included the digits 3-1-6.
He threw for 316 yards. Yards per rush: 3.16. Yards per completion 31.6. Ratings for the game: 31.6. Time of possession: 31.6
Thank you, Pam Tebow, for sharing your story around the world. Thank you for all you are doing to encourage mothers to give their babies life and inspire them to bravely face the challenges ahead. And thank you for the reminder that every life is precious.
Even the most delicate of hearts.
Thank you, Abby Mae, for lighting up every room with your smile and song. For the way you curl up in the arms of grizzly bears and melt their hearts like butter. For the way you paint away problems, encourage the pessimist, and dance into the loneliest of hearts.
Young in years, yet a wise old soul. Mistress of joy, deep and unspoiled, lavishly given and freely enjoyed. Forever may you blossom and grow, little girl, spreading your sunshine and adoring ways.
Thank you, God, for this precious life.
Born on 3-16.