Anna's Story

  • April 2011: Told we were pregnant - surprise! (Only God could've made this happen due to physical reasons.)
  • July 2011: 20-week ultrasound revealed "It's a girl!" and... she may have a heart defect.
  • August 2011: Fetal echo showed she had what is called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (single ventricle) and will need 3 surgeries in the first few years of her life.
  • September 2011: More tests show that Anna had more severe heart issues than first thought. Her veins going to the heart from the lungs were messed up, and one appeared to be obstructed. Dr. told us there was not much hope for survival after birth.
  • We were referred to UW and Seattle Children's Hospital for continued care. Induction at UW is planned for December 5th unless Anna decides to come earlier. If strong enough, she will be transported to Seattle Children's for medical care. Many possible scenarios, so we'll have to take it one moment at a time.
  • Anna's delivery was rescheduled for December 8th. She arrived without pitocin, without an epidural, very quickly! She cried and turned pink! Answers to prayer!!
  • She was taken to SCH a few hours after birth and underwent open heart surgery the very same day. 
  • Anna was put on ECMO in effort to give her heart and lungs a chance to heal before they tried to work on their own.
  • Ups and downs, more tests and discussions for several days...
  • Anna suffered a small brain bleed on day 8.
  • It was discovered that the viens in her lungs were simply too tiny to carry blood. There was nothing more that could be done.
  • Monday, December 19, 2011, Anna Joy was taken off life support and went to heaven. 

Detailed Version

Our first child, Isaac James, was conceived with the help of fertility doctors. I have a history of Endometriosis, which has caused years of physical pain, and is what we think caused us to take longer to get pregnant. But that’s another story.

Not too long after Isaac was born I started experiencing ovarian pain that got stronger, and went in to have things checked out when he was weaned and almost a year old. I had not had a period yet, but expected it any day. An ultrasound revealed that there was a cyst on one ovary that was over three inches in diameter, and I needed to talk to my husband and decide if we wanted to have another child. The doctor referred me for an MRI the following day. I was a bit dejected. I wasn’t ready to launch into the decision-making process again. All the months we worked with Seattle Reproductive Medicine were such a roller-coaster emotionally. I just wanted God to decide for me.

The MRI was done on a Friday morning in mid April 2011. I received a call from the OB nurse that same day saying I needed to come in to get blood drawn because they saw something in my uterus. She said it could be an early pregnancy, or a pocket of fluid of some sort. My mind scrambled in hope and fear at the same time. Do they think I could have cancer? What’s going on now? Am I going to have another surgery? Could I possibly be pregnant?

I waited all weekend, and got a call Monday that brought the news that yes, I had a positive HCG test! I was 6 weeks along. WHAT?!? How could this happen? No period, no intercourse (OK, evidently the one time it happened was the right time)… God must really want this baby around! A mix of overwhelming happiness and stress filled my heart. Isaac is only a year old! How am I going to care for two little ones so close in age? But, thank you, LORD, for deciding for us. You are amazing.

This news came Easter week. The week in spring for Christ-followers that celebrates His resurrection. It represents everything NEW – new life, hope, purpose… Praise God. Thank You for this gift. You’ve shown me another way to celebrate life in You.

One Sunday not long after, I went to the altar at church and surrendered my motherhood, my children, to God – thanking Him in humility and through tears for the blessing each one is, and asking for divine wisdom to be a good steward of these children.

* * *

The weeks went by, navigating through morning sickness, caring for Isaac, and many other activities I don’t need to list here. Finally our 20-week ultrasound happened towards the end of July. I was so excited to find out the baby’s gender this time around since we didn’t find out with Isaac.

Matt & I got to see all the different body parts they look at and measure, and the tech told us we were having a little girl. I was thrilled!

Then the tech said she had to leave the room and check if she had all the images she needed. She came back and took more pictures, and then left and came back again saying that she was going to bring in the radiologists to watch live as she scanned my tummy another time. Matt & I knew this wasn’t a good sign, but I remember trying not to worry too much. Two doctors joined us and eventually explained that the baby’s heart didn’t appear to be normal. They weren’t sure what was wrong, but they were going to refer us to specialists that could look at her heart in more detail.

We walked out of the clinic with darling black & white pictures of our miracle baby in hand, and a fresh taste of bittersweetness in our spirits. I cried in the parking lot before Matt & I parted ways and told him something like, “Well, I’ve given this baby to God so many times already. I have to trust that He knows what He's doing."

We hosted a gender revealing party the next evening for my side of the family. Matt wrote a fun poem, I hung up some baby items in both pink and blue, and we made cupcakes of which only one had a pink center. They had to bite into them to find out – and my 4-year-old niece, Alivia, got the pink one! I cherished the gifts family brought in celebration of another little granddaughter and niece to love. Before they left, my precious family gathered around me while I sat on our ottoman, put their hands on me and agreed in prayer as my dad prayed aloud for healing. 

Thus started the prayers for little Anna. An ache that attached itself to my heart that day and hasn’t let go. It’s a complicated calling to try and live in the balance of hope and surrender. I bought her a baby book. I bought her clothes. I tell Isaac about her. I celebrate the gift she is. I must. 
* * *

Two and a half weeks later (mid-August) we went to the Olympia clinic of Northwest Children’s Heart Care for a fetal echo. I remember watching the screen, hoping and praying that nothing would be wrong with my baby girl’s heart. Piercing the screen with my eyes, willing it to say that she was perfectly fine. I could feel her moving inside me. After the long scan in the dark room, we waited in a different room for the doctor to join us, hoping he would say the radiologists were wrong.

Dr. Park entered and after a few introductory questions told us that our baby girl does indeed have a serious heart defect. My world stopped. I got super hot, and felt like I was sinking through time. You know how on movies when a character’s face stays in focus, but the background starts sliding away? That happened. He then showed us on a diagram the difference in what a normal heart looks like and what hers appeared to be like. I forced myself to stuff my tears and tried to listen.

She seemed to have what is called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). It means that her heart had a single ventricle instead of two - she didn't have a whole heart and it would need 3 repair surgeries. One her first week of life, one around 6 months, and then another around 3 years. We were left with feelings of disbelief in that clinic room. We cried together. We were exhausted that following week, with each day feeling more drained as the news sunk in more. We never expected to be hit with even more shocking news in the coming weeks.
* * *

September 9, 2011 we went up to Tacoma to have another fetal echo and meet with more doctors. After 2 very long scans, Dr. Park came in to tell us the difficult news that Anna had more heart issues than was first seen a month earlier. We certainly were taken off-guard at this appointment. We had already been told about a serious heart condition, and now we were being hit with words that couldn't possibly be true. The rare combination of Anna's heart defects presented very low survival rates. She not only seemed to have HLHS, but the major veins coming from the lungs to the heart weren't going where they should, and one appeared to be obstructed. This meant that she probably couldn't pump blood efficiently after birth, which meant she wouldn't be able to breathe or oxygenate her body as necessary. 

We left that office completely shell-shocked, and I couldn't even talk to my mom on the phone for a while. I felt so hopeless. When you're told by professionals that your child probably won't survive and are bombarded by medical details and explanations, it's hard to break out of those "facts" and statistics. It's hard to be hopeful when the doctor isn't. We were overwhelmed with sadness after hearing more bad news, yet our love for Anna grew which made us want to continue to hope in spite of the percentages and scenarios laid out before us. 
* * *

The next morning Matt & I decided to take Isaac to Burfoot Park in Olympia and try to enjoy the beauty of the day down by the water. My parents and grandparents joined us, and my dad told some prayer warriors to join us if they could to have an impromptu time of prayer for Anna at the park. Daniel & Catherine Slocum came, and we shared a beautiful time together gathered under a tree around a picnic table. Prayers of hope and faith were spoken over us and Anna, and my dad anointed Anna by putting oil (from Israel) on my belly button. 
* * *

The next week I met with my family doctor, Monica Wilhelm, at Tumwater Family Practice about a minor non-related issue, and she asked me how I was doing with all the news about my baby since she had been faxed reports. I was so blessed to have her show such care and support by taking time to talk about it, and she even ended up praying with me! One of the many surprise blessings that occurred over the next several weeks...

* * *

The next day, Matt & I had a surprise visit by the Mt. View youth group. A large group of teens and adult staff appeared at our house that evening to pray for us. They formed a large circle in our yard, joined hands, and a few of the staff lead in prayer for our family and for Anna's healing. We felt so loved, and hope that it was a good experience for the teens.

* * *

Matt & I got to spend a few nights away in Leavenworth, WA mid September. It was nice to get away to rest and have some time to ourselves. God orchestrated several meetings with other believers while we were there. It was like He was saying, "See, I've got you in my hands." We rode the train over, and saw a friend and previous pastor, Mike Malmin, board at one stop. We found him and caught up, and he prayed with us before parting. 

We attended Sunday service at Leavenworth Church of the Nazarene, and Pastor Jon Vandel shared about how one of his daughters was healed from an eye injury some years ago. This was encouraging to us, and saw the timing of him sharing it no coincidence. 

We met two other women at different times with whom we shared our story, and found out they were also Christians and told us they would be praying for us and baby Anna. 

Anna Joy was the name we decided on while we were in Leavenworth. Anna means "gracious favor" and Joy means... "joy" or "delight". We believe that God will bring us joy no matter what the outcome of her story. 

* * *

My wonderful work friends from Art 'n Soul - Fine Art Stamps threw a baby shower for me in September. I felt so honored, and it was beautiful to celebrate Anna with them. I have been so blessed to be part of this team for the past couple of years. 

* * *

Another major blessing was to have a Christian OB/GYN doctor for most of my pregnancy. Dr. Bell at Olympia OB/GYN was so supportive and authentic. He would always ask how we were coping emotionally and explain his perspective with such a down-to-earth manner. He shared about how a certain song or sermon was relevant to our situation, and even about how what he and his wife were facing brought some empathy in the faith-during-trials department. His passion for the sanctity of life was so evident, and we felt that he honored us and Anna every time we met with him. "Meet" Dr. Bell at this link: 
We really appreciate you! You have shown us the love of Christ through your caring service.

* * *

So many cards, email message, texts, etc. have been sent our way. Every single one means so much and keeps us going. Thank you! We wouldn't be surviving this challenging time without the care and support of all of you. Your prayers are truly carrying us.

* * *

My sister, Katie, put together a baby shower for me November 5th, 2011. I was showered with love and support by great friends. We had a blessed time celebrating Anna's life by the thoughtful gifts that were given and the time of prayer that we shared. Thank you, sweet sisters in Christ! It means so much to have you in my life.

* * *

On the morning of November 10th, a few young men of faith drove down from Seattle to pray for Anna Joy. Before prayer, we turned on Pandora and "Our God" by Chris Tomlin came on. (See Special Songs page to listen.) My dad joined the prayer time, and it was a great, uplifting experience full of hope. Thank you, Benji, Landon, and John! Thank you, Lord!

So many prayers are being offered for our family. We may never know how many people around the country (or world!) have been praying for us. For some reason, Anna has touched the hearts of many, and I am honored to be part of the plan God has for her life. She has drawn  people closer to Him. What better purpose can anyone have?

* * *

Now we have transferred care to UW doctors. We will spend Thanksgiving in Auburn with family, and will start living in Seattle after that while we wait for Anna's arrival. If she doesn't come on her own, they have suggested I check in to the hospital on the evening of Sunday, December 4th, and plan to induce me so that Anna will be born December 5th. My official due date is December 12th.

When Anna is born, several different scenarios are possible. She could be healed! She could go to heaven not long after she enters this world. She could be a little fighter and go through medical interventions. So many different pathways could be presented. We will have to wait and see how she is doing when she comes out, and take one moment at a time. Please keep praying for peace, strength, clarity, etc. as we enter this most challenging time. Matt & I are feeling very drained physically and emotionally the closer it gets. We don't want to have to make all these decisions, but we must. 

Please check the more recent posts for updated information (after November 18, 2011). 
Thank you for caring.