My Perfect Penny

Today we drive to Kansas City for a full schedule of tests/consultations at Children’s Mercy Hospital. By the end of the day we hope to have some answers. We had the opportunity to go last week and meet with only the cardiologist, but decided to wait until today so we could see the entire team of doctors. I admit that part of the reason I wanted to wait a couple of extra days is because so many people have been praying over the last week that I hope we might see a huge improvement in Penny’s heart.

As we go through this process, we are holding on to hope and to Hope. We have hope that God will hear our prayers and His will is to heal Penny’s heart. But we also have Hope that her heart is already perfect. And that is the Hope we have for all of our children, without which we would live daily with the terror of death upon us.

According to Hebrews 2:15, Jesus partook of flesh and blood – He became a man – so that he might “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage”. By becoming man and tasting of death for every man, Jesus has atoned for sins. But by rising from the dead, He has removed the sting of the grave so that Life – great and overflowing – has swallowed death. If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men most miserable. But we are not miserable.

It’s hard to explain our attitude to someone who does not have this kind of Hope. We fear loss and death as all mortals do, but we do not live in fear of them. From the day I brought home my firstborn I knew that my powers to protect her were limited. I also knew that I would rather see her use up her life on behalf of Christ than to waste it on this world. Every day as a parent I live in the Hope of the Resurrection, lest terror seize my soul.

We have hope today that the tests will show a marked improvement, but that hope is nested in a much larger Hope. If her heart rate is not higher today, or if the blood in her upper chambers is still mixing, or if the doctors look at us with long faces, I know that my Penny is already healed. She is being drawn in the wake of the Resurrected Messiah. She is rejoicing in the Victor’s Parade of the ages. In the Resurrection, she is my perfect Penny.

She Has a Name

We wanted to avoid hospitals. And doctors. And anything Covid related. Which is why we had chosen to have our fourth baby at Family Birth and Wellness, which is a midwife service. This necessitated the use of a 3rd party ultrasound service, which in turn meant that the concerns of the 20 week ultrasound, taken on December 22nd, would not be shared with us until December 28th. We sent out a Christmas email saying that all was well with the pregnancy, ignorant of the dangerously slow heartbeat of our child.

When Katie called me crying after the doctor’s visit, I feared the worst. I got something better, but still not good. A visit to a specialist today revealed in greater detail the issues our daughter is facing. She has atrioventricular canal defect, a complex heart problem that involves several abnormalities of structures inside the heart. Because Springfield does not have a specialist in this area, we are being referred to a hospital in Kansas City. While we have more information, we still don’t have answers to the most pressing questions.

We have no complaints about any of the medical care we have received. The midwives were great. The ultrasound technicians did their jobs well. The doctor today was professional but not lacking in compassion or humanity. But now that our baby is high risk, there is a slight awkwardness. The possibility of her death causes everyone to speak in a more clinical manner. Perhaps they think we will want to terminate the pregnancy – not a chance. Perhaps they think we don’t understand the gravity of the situation – our tears say otherwise. Maybe they think we will be more traumatized if we grow too attached to her and she doesn’t live. So to make sure everyone was clear about our feelings, we told them, “We already named her.”

All of our children were named before they were born. Luella was going to be Eleanor, but after her second ultrasound we both decided she did not look like an Eleanor and settled on Luella. As soon as I knew our second was a boy, I decided to name him after my brother. I don’t remember when we decided on Lily Rose, but we knew we wanted to keep “Rose” in the family and I know it was weeks before she was born. Each one of our children came into the world with a name.

We name the things we love. Men name cars. Dads warn their kids who take in that stray dog that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES are they to give it a name, only to resign himself to the fact that he now has a dog when his kids go ahead and name the darn thing. Names are associated with character and personality. Names make things matter, and things that matter are named.

Our daughter is not a mass of human tissue. Her personhood is distinct to us, just as each individual on this planet is distinct from the mass of humanity to God. She is already marred from the Fall, just as every individual is marred in some way by the Fall. She is loved by her parents, just as every rebel child of Adam is loved by the Father. When Jesus wanted to convince the peasants and beggars and tradesmen and soldiers and fishermen who gathered around him that their Father in heaven actually cared, He told them that even the hairs of their head were numbered. To let our baby know that she is already loved, already precious, and already a part of our lives, we gave her a name. Her name is Penny.

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

Jesus Christ, Revelation 2:17