Fight for the Promise

It’s funny how when you think you are in control of your own life, how quickly God will remind you that you are on his path. He controls your journey, he already has it mapped out, he already knows you will fight it, you will think that your way is the best way, you will try to quiet him, you will tell yourself you are doing what God wants for you because how could God not want you to have what you want?

When I was 16 years old, I was told that I had PCOS and a tilted uterus. I remember not really listening and my dad asking the doctor what PCOS was and what that meant. I remember hearing the doctor says PCOS is where your ovaries have multiple cysts on them at one time, causing hormone imbalances and difficulty for getting pregnant, but that there isn’t a cure or any medication to take that will make the PCOS go away, that birth control was the closest thing and that would be to help regulate my cycle. I remember my dad asking how this would affect me having children down the road and the doctor looked at me directly and responded, “You will never be able to have children”. At my age, he said there was no doctor who would do procedures to remove the cysts because it is to risky, and that by the time I would be old enough to have the cysts periodically removed, that my ovaries would be so damaged, they wouldn’t be fertile. The doctor did say I could seek out medical assistance for getting pregnant when I was older and ready, but he was not optimistic.

 At 16, I didn’t really grasp what the doctor was trying to tell me. I was worried about school, friends, homecoming dance, getting my driver’s license. I lived my life and didn’t think about diagnosis until later in life. Fast forward to 2009, I am newly married to a man I thought I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. We decided to have me come off birth control a month after being married to start trying for a baby. We had moved to Seattle and I was seeing a new OBGYN. When I met with my doctor to discuss coming off birth control and we started going over my past medical history, she asked me about my PCOS and if I had ever had it treated. I informed he what I was told at 16 and that I just maintained on birth control up until now at 22. The look on my doctor’s face was not assuring. We then started discussing how the cysts can damage ovaries over time, the hormone imbalance, how if can cause you to not ovulate regularly, if at all. When she was finished explaining to me exactly what PCOS was, my heart felt heavy, I immediately blamed myself for not doing more at 16 when I heard this diagnosis and I also remember asking God why he would do this to a women. Why would he ever allow an illness like this. I never discussed this with my family or spouse. I held onto this news internally because I felt like if I didn’t talk about it, it wouldn’t be true. A few months later, I caught my husband cheating and we separated. I moved back to Texas and filed for divorce. I was never more grateful that I wasn’t pregnant and putting a child through a divorce like my parents did.

In 2012 I met a man at work who is now my husband. I remember the day he walked into the unit I was working at, immediately thinking “that man will be my husband one day” and I didn’t even know his name. We started dating and that endured its own struggles. His family hated me before I was even given a chance to really share who I was. They couldn’t believe their son would date a divorced, tattooed, college drop out and they refused to support our relationship. We worked pushed through and stuck together. In 2015 we moved from Texas to Oklahoma City for Aaron’s career. This caused a huge falling out with his family, they stopped talking to us altogether. My family and I also weren’t talking to each other at that time for a complex mix of reasons that honestly, do not even make sense now. The two of us started a new life, in a new state, new careers. This also meant a new OBGYN.

Year 2015 was a rough year. It was the year we started everything new, it was the year we struggled with trying to mend our family relationships, while growing our relationship not only with each other, but we joined a church called Life.Church and we became very focused on our future. I was always open with Aaron about my PCOS and how it could affect us if we ever wanted children, I never knew the journey that God was about to put us on and how 2015 helped pave the path for it.

Aaron proposed in May of 2015. This caused us to have a deeper conversation about my PCOS and we decided I should discuss with my new OBGYN about when I should come off birth control because we wanted to have children right away after getting married. My doctor advised that I would need to come off birth control immediately so my hormones could try to regulate on their own and that given the severity of my PCOS, how long I had been on birth control, my severe hormone imbalance and tilted uterus, that it could take over a year to even be able to get to where I could conceive without help. So, we stopped all contraceptive. On September 10, 2016 we got married and six months later, we still weren’t pregnant. I visited with my OBGYN, did labs and testing to see where I was at with my hormones. At that point, I was referred to an Infertility Specialist. Hearing the words Infertility Specialists, it hits different, my core was shook, my heart felt broken and heavy. My husbands’ job had him away from home 6 weeks on, 1 week off. We had been fortunate that Oklahoma was a hub and most of the time his sites weren’t but a few hours away. I remember calling him and telling him about being referred to a specialist, I cried, he listened and assured me that no matter what he loved me, supported me and God had a plan.

I grew up in church. I have been a Christian and a firm believer in God for basically my entire life, but I never really nurtured my relationship with God. I stopped going to church when I moved out of my moms at 17, made a lot of bad life choices, didn’t stop believing in God, but definitely wasn’t living a life he would want me to have. After hearing that I would have to undergo infertility treatments and even then, I would be fortunate to have a 80% chance of conceiving on my own, I clung to God. I couldn’t get enough church, praise and worship or prayer. I remember driving to work and screaming at God that his word promised I would be fruitful & not baron, that he would give me the desires of my heart, that he was faithful. In 2017, I started my infertility treatments. I completed 6 rounds and we decided to stop. I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. Let down, after let down, after let down. I remember begging God to please heal my body, to prepare my womb for a child. My mom and I met up in Dallas on month during this time and went to her friend Tawny’s house. Tawny has been apart of our lives for as long as I can remember and she has always been an amazing believer in Christ, she has so many of his great gifts! Tawny, her husband Todd, daughter Autumn, my mom and I sat in her living room and prayed over my body. While praying, Tawny said “Thank you God for preparing her womb for a son”. After we finished praying, Tawny and I were talking in her kitchen and she started telling me that God showed her an image of me holding the hand of a little boy, standing next to my husband who was holding two daughters that looked to be the same age. After deciding to give up on trying, I was cleaning out our bathroom cabinets and a pregnancy test fell out. I remember feeling a slight stinging pain of hurt and failure. I picked the test up off the floor, continued to clean, mid mopping, I couldn’t shake the feeling I needed to take it. So, I drank tons of water and took the test at 2 in the afternoon. I sat it on the counter after seeing, yet again, a negative test. I started crying and screaming in anger. I left the bathroom, took some deep breaths, then went back to cleaning. I finished mopping; it was time to clean the bathroom countertop. I walked to the bathroom sink, grabbed the test to throw it away, when I saw it. I saw another line had popped up. A line that I never thought I would ever see on a pregnancy test. It was positive. I rushed to Wal-Mart and bought 5 more tests. Took all of them, all positive! I hit my knees on the bathroom floor, wrapped my arms around my stomach, cried out “Thank you God for giving me a son! Thank you, God, for being faithful and for carrying me through the storm”. After I was able to process what was happening, I called my husband to tell him. Aaron was in Amarillo working and even though I wanted to wait to tell him in person, I was to ecstatic! As soon as he answered the phone (after like the 8th time calling him) I just blurted it out “I’m pregnant!”.

We had our first ultrasound and there it was, our perfectly created, little 5-week 3 day baby. I was placed as a high-risk pregnancy due to having been on infertility treatments, had to do ultrasounds every 2 weeks with my Infertility Specialist and every 2 weeks with my OBGYN, so it felt like a never ending visit to the doctor, but it was the most amazing thing seeing our baby basically every week. To watch it grow, develop, hear the heartbeat. Finally, at 16 weeks, we had a gender reveal. It was a BOY! God had in fact, prepared my womb for a son! Our previous, sweet Levi David was finally coming! When I turned 24 weeks, we had the anatomy scan. Up to this point, my pregnancy had been healthy with no issues for not only me but for Levi. After the scan, my OBGYN came in and said she couldn’t find my cervix and referred me to a Maternal Fetal specialist. We came back from visiting our family in Texas for Christmas and was placed on bedrest for a week until I could see the specialist. On the morning of, January 9th, I went in to see the specialist, who spent less then 5 minutes with me, said he wasn’t sure why I was sent to him because everything was fine, and he sent me home. That afternoon, my lower back was hurting, I was in so much pain I went home early to rest. I hopped on Google and believe I was having Braxton hicks. The pain continued to get worse, I called Aaron, we had gone to the doctor over every little paid or change, only to be told it was normal pregnancy aches and not to worry, that I was hesitant to once again rush to the ER or Urgent care to get checked. At 10pm, I couldn’t stand the pain anymore, I knew something was wrong, but didn’t want to believe it. I called the on-call doctor and told them what was going on. They told me to immediately come in and go straight to the 4th floor for labor and delivery. My friend Kristen rushed to pick me up and take me to the ER. Aaron had just left that morning to go to Amarillo for work, a 4-hour drive from where we lived. I told him to stay and wait, because it was probably nothing like all the other times. Kristen and I arrived to the ER after 11pm, we were rushed upstairs, put in a room and I was immediately checked by the nurses. I remember the next 24 hours so vividly, even when I don’t want to. I remember the nurse looking up and asking why I waited so long to come in and that I was in active labor, dilated to a 3 and that this baby was coming, they would try to do everything they could to stop it, but at 27-weeks 4-days, Levi had a 90% chance at survival so I shouldn’t panic. Kristen called Aaron and told him to come home and she called my mom. My mom, dad, and sister bought the first flights to Oklahoma they could get. Aarons parents did the same.

I went through bags and bags of antibiotics, bags and bags of magnesium and labs. My labor wouldn’t slow down. I went from a 3 to a 4 in under an hour. The doctor on call recommended an epidural to slow the labor. We made it to shift change at 7am and my normal OBGYN was on-call. She came in and said that we couldn’t wait, my white blood count was triple normal, and something was wrong. She was giving me until 8am and if my water wasn’t broke and progressing, that she would break my water and deliver. I had an entire team dedicated to me and an entire team dedicated to Levi once he arrived. The NICU doctor warned not to panic if we didn’t hear Levi cry, that a baby this young isn’t strong enough to cry.  My water was broken and at 8:27am on January 10, 2018 and Levi was born. He was 2 lbs., 14oz and absolutely perfect. He let out a cry that impressed the NICU team and they raved at how good of a sign that was. I wasn’t allowed to hold him or touch him. He was immediately rushed to the NICU. I barely even saw him. I wasn’t allowed to get up or go see him until the epidural wore off and I had feeling in my legs. It felt like forever. After 2 hours, I was able to get to him. Aaron walked me down to NICU and there he was. Our miracle. Our promise. Laying in an incubator, tons of wires and tubes running all over, so tiny but so strong. I was in love, an overwhelming love that I never knew existed. I prayed over my son. I believed God would bring us through whatever struggles laid ahead. My mom prayed, one of the most God fearing women I have ever known, prayed and prayed. The NICU doctors kept telling us, if we can make it past the first 7 days or “honeymoon stage” then we would be through the worst of it. At 3 days old, Levi had a stomach perf and had to undergo a surgery, he had 2 brain bleeds a stage 2 on the right and a stage 4 on the left. A stage 4 if the worst. He had to undergo a plasma procedure to attempt to stop the bleeding, but if we couldn’t get his lungs to start working on their own, the blood wouldn’t be able to flow off his brain allowing brain activity. Day 5, things looked better. Levi actually held my finger and smiled. Our families left and flew back home. The night of day 5, the NICU doctor called and said Levi took a turn for the worst, that he was very very sick and we needed to start thinking about his quality of life. Day 6, showed no improvement, the NICU doctor again came in and told us that we needed to start having that tough discussion between the two of us, because we might have to make it in the next 24-48 hours. The brain bleeds continued and the stage 2 was now a stage 4. We immediately called our families. My mom & dad hopped in their vehicles and drove back. They arrived late the night of day 6. That morning, we received the most gut-wrenching call. It was the first morning that we had slept in and took our time getting dressed. We were exhausted from being at the hospital every day at 6am, staying all day, pumping round the clock to produce food for Levi. It was 8am and the phone rang. My heart dropped, I through my wet hair into a messy bun, told Aaron we had to leave right that second that something was wrong with Levi and the doctor said we needed to get there immediately. I called my mom and dad who were staying in hotel rooms down the hall from us (we had been staying a hotel directly across the street from the hospital so we were close at all times) and we rushed across the street to the hospital in -7 degree weather and one of the worst ice storms Oklahoma had had in years. My mom parked the car as Aaron and I ran into the hospital. We arrived to the labor and delivery where the NICU was also at, we knew when they NICU opened the doors for us without following protocol that this was it. They walked us back, and Levi’s room was full of medical staff. The on-call NICU doctor, the nurse practitioner who ran his team the morning he was born, the two nurses who had been with Levi since the day he entered the NICU and another nurse we hadn’t seen before. The doctor put his hand on my shoulder and said “Its time to discuss Levi’s quality of life. That the only thing keeping him alive at that time was machines and that we had to make the decision to take him off all life sustaining machines.” I never prayed harder in my life then in this moment. In this moment, what felt like I was screaming at God, was pure silence and in my head. I remember begging God to save him. That I knew he could save him and that he promised me this baby, that he prepared my womb for this baby, that he was supposed to be faithful. I was finally allowed to hold my son. They placed him in my arms and I remember crying out loud finally “God save my baby” and we called Life.Church and asked them to pray, my mom was praying, my dad was praying, Aaron was praying, I believe my mom even had all of her people at Faith Family praying. I held Levi and then passed him to Aaron. At 9am, in Aarons arms, the doctors removed all life sustaining measures and at 9:02am, his heart stopped beating. Our promised miracle was gone. I continued to pray and believe that this was just a test, God was going to restore him, he was going to take a breath, his heart was going to start beating, this was all just a test, but that never happened. Levi passed away at 7 days old on January 18, 2018. We buried Levi back home, here in Victoria and we returned to work on January 28th.

Aaron left, back to his site in Amarillo and buried himself in work. I was in Oklahoma, with no family, no one who really understood what we went through, friends distanced themselves because they didn’t know how to be around us, and I went to work, then home, to an empty house. It was in this time, that I really learned just how real spiritual warfare really is. It was in this time, that my relationship with God would be tested harder then ever before, my mental health would struggle, and I had to make a choice.

During my pregnancy, Aaron and I had attended a church service that was hosted by Levi Lusko on his book “Through the Eyes of A Lion”. During this service, Pastor Levi talked about when he lost his daughter to anaphylactic shock and how he struggled. He then talked about how he was reminded that God promises us an eternity in heaven, which means he is promised an eternity in heaven with his daughter but the only way he gets to have that eternity is if he stay close to God. By staying close to God and nurturing that relationship he was able to stay close to his daughter, but if he pushed God away, he was inevitably pushing his daughter away and loosing the chance at an eternity with her. While this might not be the exact way, he said it, this is how my husband and I heard it. We had discussed this sermon a lot afterwards and it has stuck with us like no other sermon has.

Aaron and I would remind ourselves of this sermon after Levi passed away. I would tell God over and over, I don’t want to be angry at you God, I just want to understand. I just need to understand. While I don’t feel like I was every angry at God, and to this day I don’t feel angry towards him, I long for understanding. I long for a day when this tragedy makes sense.

I mentioned a few paragraphs back, that I never experienced spiritual warfare so intensely until after returning from Levi’s funeral. I was alone a lot, just myself and Levi’s nursery. I would get home from work, pump (I chose to continue to pump for my niece who was arriving in February), sit in the living room looking at all the flowers we received dead on the coffee table, wondering why God didn’t save him, silence all around, then walk down the hall to go to bed, open the nursery door, grab Levi’s blanket, sit in the rocking chair and cry myself to sleep in his room. A few weeks went by and I had a follow up appt. with my doctor for after delivery care. She informed me that the reason I went into pre-term labor was a result of an incompetent cervix that went un-noticed. Basically, my cervix is shorter than normal, so I progress in pregnancy, it will funnel and dilate earlier then other women. Also, because this went un-noticed, I contracted a virus/bacteria that only 1% of women get, but they don’t even test for it until 36+ weeks. I had not shown any signs of being sick. The only reason they thought to test for anything was my white blood count was triple then normal. They had sent my placenta off for testing to learn more. Because of this, Levi was born septic. My body had to make a choice to push out the infection or I would have died. My body decided for me, that I never would have been able to make myself, to save my life. As a mother, try to digest that. As someone who longed for that baby so much, I couldn’t accept that. I couldn’t accept that I didn’t know my baby was sick, that I was sick. I couldn’t accept that maybe had I gone in sooner, just maybe, the antibiotics could have had more time to work and Levi would have had a better chance. I left that appointment feeling like I didn’t deserve to be a mother. Even though I know now, there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent this. I went home that day and began to hear the devil spew lies. I stayed on the same routine, work, sit at home in silence, go down the hall to go to bed, end up in the nursery, fall asleep. But after this appointment, my depression worsened. I began to get jolted awake, every night around 3am to a baby crying. I would hop out of the recliner, rush to crib side and nothing. Empty. I would feel my heart rip out of my chest and shatter every single time. Every single time, I would hear Satan tell me “You don’t deserve to be a mom. Your husband deserves someone who can give him children. What kind of a women are you that you cannot have kids? What kind of mother are you that you didn’t even know your baby was dying inside of you?” This repeated over and over and over again. I remember falling to my knees every night clinching Levi’s blanket, hysterically crying, believing these lies. The end of February arrives, Aaron still hadn’t come home from work since we lost Levi and I was slowly unraveling. The night of February 23rd, I called Aaron, told him that if he didn’t come home, I didn’t think I would be able to survive to the morning. My depression was winning. I was scared. I remember hanging up the phone after hearing him say “Im on my way baby, I love you and I need you” I was sitting on the edge of the bed in the guest room, staring at the gun safe, believing that everyone was better with me gone, that I would get to finally be with my son. I stood up, told myself that I couldn’t do that to Aaron, he was on his way home and I could never leave him like that. I decided to take a shower. It was in that moment, that I knew God was fighting for me. As I stood in the shower, listening to all of the lies, I finally fell to my knees, through my arms up and said “God, if you love me, if I am meant to be here, if I am meant to go through all of this for a reason, even if I don’t understand than save me! Give me peace!” In that very moment, everything went silent. I couldn’t hear the sounds from the shower, or the noise from the exhaust fan, no more lies being whispered to me, just pure silence. Then I heard “You are loved more then you know, you are meant to be here, trust in me” and the most overwhelming peace, it was almost breathtaking, I don’t even know how to describe this type of peace came over me. I stood up and yelled “Satan you do not win. You do not get to have me. You do not get to weasel your way between God and I! You don’t win!”. No sooner did I step out of the shower and get dressed, Aaron walked through the door. We sat up and talked all night. We learned then, that neither of us had been there for each other the way we needed to, and it was clear that I couldn’t keep living in Oklahoma alone. I started getting counseling from Life.Church to help me heal. We decided that I would go on the road with Aaron for a while. We bought an RV, packed up our entire house, my Dad & sister Erica flew up to help us load the Uhaul and drive it back. My job agreed to let me transfer to a work from home position. We where going to make it through this. April was the start to a whole new journey for us, again.

In May, I went back to my infertility specialist to discuss trying to get pregnant again. I thought that the sooner the better to help me heal. We started treatments again. September rolled around and I clearly wasn’t mentally prepared to endure this road again, but I was stubborn and didn’t want to listen to what my heart, husband and God where trying to tell me. I had been praying with my mom and Tawny again. I had gone back to get my 5th round of treatment and this visit seemed so different to me. My infertility specialist had always been composed and kind, he listened, and I always left my appointments feeling optimistic that treatment would work. I had told my mom prior to my upcoming appointment I just felt like something was different, like I felt torn in what I needed to do. On the day of my appointment, my doctor was not the same. He seemed very annoyed that I had taken so many rounds without a rest period in between that I would need to do a tubal flushing and that he honestly didn’t even think that would work because my PCOS was so flared up, I would be better off finding a surrogate if I wanted children of my own or adopting. I left his office, called my mom and cried. Another let down on this already heartbreaking journey we are on. Tawny called me that next day when I was supposed to start the last round the doctor wanted me to do before taking a more drastic step. She told me she really felt like God didn’t want me to take the medication and was putting it on her heart I needed to trust him. Those words reminded me of when I was at my lowest point. God told me to trust him. I thought I had been, but maybe not 100% and I needed to listen. I did not take the last round of treatment. I threw it away.

October came, no period, so I rushed out to my OBGYN in Oklahoma (we where 4 hours away in Amarillo) and she had me come in to do labs to see if I am pregnant. The test was negative. November came, no period, and I told myself my PCOS was bad like the doctor said and irregular periods are nothing new. December came, still no period, at this point we are more focused on celebrating this holiday without Levi. It was tough getting through Thanksgiving, but Christmas was a whole new thing. It was just the Christmas before that we had finally see a full mend in our families over Levi. Aarons parents welcomed me into their home, we had conversations, it felt like I was part of their family for the first time. My family had Sterling and baby Harlow. Harlow was a month younger the Levi. That little girl being born so close to him being born was the most bittersweet but joyous feeling. I looked at her, watched her, seeing what Levi possibly would have been and how I wished the two of them would have been allowed to grow up together. Oh, the mischief those two would have caused! We struggled through the holidays, keeping our smiles, not letting our families see us cry, visiting Levi’s grave. But we survived the holiday season only to roll into January.

January 2019, we celebrated Levi’s first heavenly birthday. It was a broken heart all over again. All the healing I felt like I worked towards started unraveling. To relive this pain every year, was not something I have even thought about until this moment. Knowing every January is going to hit us like a lead balloon every single year. To be reminded of how we lost our baby. But we gathered with family and friends, we celebrated those 7 days we got to have with him and allowed all of us to grieve a little more all while growing closer together. It started to kind of make sense to me, that even though I still didn’t fully understand, loosing Levi mended so many relationships in our families. The damaged parts, all seemed healed and gone. We all loved each other a little different, stood up for each other a little differently, leaned on each other a little differently. The morning we were getting ready to drive back to Amarillo, I felt so sick. I thought I had caught a stomach bug or food poisoning from the restaurant. I was exhausted, trying to pack up our clothes while trying not to throw up. We had made it to Waco, after talking the whole time about Levi and our journey, we pulled over to get gas. I went inside to get snacks and drinks to finish the trip out with and saw a pregnancy test. I decided to buy it and take one at the store…as crazy as that is… I checked out and went to the bathroom. That test was positive before it even finished processing! My mind thought my eyes where playing tricks on me! I rush out of the bathroom straight to the truck and fling it at Aaron asking “What does that say” and literally his response was “I don’t know, but you got your pee on me, Gross” but then he processed and said “that is positive, that says your pregnant”. We took like 5 minutes to process and I told him, I must tell my sisters! We had all been through so much and for the first time in ever, my sisters and I are finally close. I sent them both a picture of the pregnancy test. Heather, my oldest sister, called right away and we processed the news together. Erica called a little while after when she received the message and we cried on the phone together as we shared the joy we felt. We waited to tell anyone else. That next morning, I could tell Aaron was struggling emotionally. We had just relived the hardest part of our lives thus far, but now celebrating another baby, had us on a rollercoaster of feelings. Aaron isn’t scared of anything, he is the strongest, bravest man I know. We struggled with the idea of feeling happy for another baby when we where still mourning the loss of another and then of course the flood of questions like “Are we going to get to take this one home” “Is this one going to make it full term, be born healthy or are we walking into yet another heart break.” Fighting for the Promise we brought home a healthy baby boy Preston 6lbs 3 oz, 18.5 inches born at 1:01pm. After 1 week in the NICU we brought him home.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

written by Kassie Kuecker

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