“Are you excited to find out if it’s a boy or girl?” I asked Sakshi and Paisley again. My feet swung gently from my awkward perch on the examination table.
“Yes!” Sakshi replied brightly. “It’s going to be a boy because we asked God to give Thaddeus a little brother.”
Zack and I smiled and exchanged glances. We had just arrived back in the States from India. I was 30 weeks pregnant with our fourth child, and we were having our first prenatal checkup since returning. We were both fairly confident that this baby would be our third girl. During our anatomy scan in India, the ultrasound tech did not reveal the gender since that is against the law there. However, we had seen enough ultrasounds by that time to guess that we were having a girl. Just to be safe, we had kept it a secret until we returned to the States for a follow-up scan.
Another reason we needed to have a repeat ultrasound was that during my anatomy scan at 20 weeks, I had placenta previa. The doctor was not concerned with it at that point, though. It was early enough that the placenta would likely move, but she recommend that we keep an eye on it.
After what seemed like an eternity, the pretty, blonde ultrasound tech entered the room. “Hey guys!” She greeted us and mentioned that she remembered us from previous pregnancies.
Within a couple minutes, the ultrasound was in full swing. Sakshi and Paisley watched with curiosity in the dim room, all eyes fixed on the screen. It was quiet for a moment until the tech held the doppler still and said, “Okay, here we go! What do you think? Is it a boy or a girl?”
“A boy!” Zack answered, holding out a faint hope that it might be a boy after all.
“A girl!” I exclaimed at the same time.
“Yep, it’s a girl!” The tech laughed as she continued her examination.
I looked at the girls as their faces clouded over in disbelief. “But we prayed for a boy,” Sakshi stated matter-of-factly.
“God had a different plan,” I explained. “Isn’t it exciting to have another sister?”
They did not look convinced, but they handled it well considering how high their hopes had been.
The tech continued the examination and gave the assuring report that our new little girl appeared to be healthy. I rejoiced inwardly and processed the reality that I was about to have three daughters! We all waited and watched, anxious to leave and share the news with our family, but the tech soon drew our attention to an area on the screen.
“You still have placenta previa,” she told me.
My heart sank. “So…that means I’ll have to have a C-section, doesn’t it?”
She said it would be likely. I could not believe this was happening. Due to past surgeries and health issues, it was better for me to deliver naturally. God had graciously allowed this with my first three children, and somewhere in my mind I thought that He was making child-bearing smooth sailing for me since He had allowed so many other health trials in my life already.
Silence prevailed in the room as I noticed that the tech was spending an unusually long amount of time looking at the placenta and area surrounding it. Sakshi and Paisley were getting antsy. We had been in the little room for a long time.
When the tech finally finished, she had more news that we were not expecting. “Some things I noticed in your ultrasound make me think that you have a condition called placenta accreta or percreta. I know it’s getting late already, but I’d really like you to stay a few extra minutes while I talk to the doctor.” She then left the room.
Zack and I raised our eyebrows and encouraged the girls to hang in there for a while longer. We had no clue what placenta-whatever even was, but realized we were about to find out. I texted my mother-in-law to say we would be a while longer, since she was watching Thaddeus.
The tech reappeared, thanking us for our patience. She then led us to another examining room where we were to wait for Dr. Richards. “She would like to speak with you about this concern.”
By the end of the appointment, we had learned that placenta accreta is a serious condition that happens when the placenta grows too deeply into the wall of the uterus. Percreta takes it a step further and happens when the placenta grows right through the uterus and potentially attaches itself to other organs. My mind raced as the doctor gently went through all the risks.
Dr. Richards was kind, but serious. “I want you to see a high-risk doctor downtown to make a game plan. We will not be able to deliver you here. You’ll have to have a C-section early for yours and the baby’s safety and, worst case scenario, a hysterectomy.”
A hysterectomy? Was I really hearing this? I had just turned twenty-seven a couple months back. Four children seemed like a good number for us, but I wanted to make the decision when I was ready. I didn’t want a hysterectomy to decide that for me!
I left that appointment feeling disappointed and shocked. My first three healthy pregnancies had been followed by a difficult miscarriage, but I guess I took for granted that this one was going to turn out fine. Now not only was my baby’s safe arrival being threatened, but my own life as well.
Isn’t it funny how we declare God’s goodness and sovereignty, but still feel surprised when life doesn’t go as we anticipated? I knew God had a plan and hand in this turn of events, yet it came out of nowhere, according to my finite thinking. God, do Your will in our lives. It was a prayer of surrender that I would need to pray many times over the weeks and months to follow. Circumstances that I never saw coming started to unfold, which included several hard, hard things. Ultimately, God gave us a healthy miracle girl (Sophie) and I am forever grateful. I will not tell the whole story right now because I want to stick to my point, which is that we will be disappointed in this life, over and over and over again. The question is this:
How Should We Respond in the Face of Disappointment?
1) Remember that God loves you.
We might feel that we have already served our dues and endured the trials allotted to us in this life, but that is not how it works. I am not saying that we should live in fear of the next trial – quite the opposite, in fact. Rather we should rest in the knowledge that God loves us and that we can trust Him when disappointments come.
Recently I listened to a message by my sister’s pastor, Lane Stockton, about valleys in our life. His text was Psalm 84, and he stressed the fact that God sometimes leads us into these valleys. In the valleys, we learn how perfect His will is for our lives! He also went to John 11 and talked about how much Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, but still allowed Lazarus to die. Jesus led Mary and Martha through that valley for their good and for His glory.
2) Remember to be thankful.
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Thessalonians 5:18
Oh, it can be so hard to have a thankful heart! The more we practice thankfulness, however, the more natural it becomes. We can be thankful for everything that God allows into our lives. It is a growing process, and one that I am still learning. When something disappointing takes place, my first thought is not typically going to be “thank You, God, for allowing this”, but what if it was? Might the Lord strengthen me to become instantly grateful for His working in my life.
3) Remember to learn from disappointment.
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” Psalm 119:71
“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Philippians 4:12
When we finally begin to recover from a disappointing or tough experience, our minds and souls might be filled with relief – relief that we are on the other side of it. We just want to look forward and hope for sunnier days ahead. However, I strongly believe that we are meant to learn from our disappointments. This is not equal to dwelling in the past or living in regret; this is intentionally reflecting on lessons to be learned from our experiences. Can you think of a hard time in your life that helped to shape you into who you are today? Can you see a disappointment that God used to fulfil His purpose for your life? Can you recall a moment when He took an ugly situation and made it most beautiful?
4) Remember that you are not alone.
It is easy to feel lonely after a disappointment, even if you are a child of God. You might have gone through something keenly personal. You might have been through something unique that none of your friends and family has been through. You might feel that no person on this earth can understand your pain.
I think there are times when people struggle to empathize or sympathize with us due to their lack of understanding, but in many cases, people will understand more than you think they do, especially when you are willing to open up and share your burdens. God created humans to feel, think, and relate with one another. When a friend of mine is suffering from disappointment, I might not have had the same exact experience, but I can certainly imagine how hard it would be. We have the ability to hurt for one another, and to bear one another’s burdens. We are emotional beings.
When disappointment breaks your heart, remember that you are not alone. Sharing your struggle with a friend is not a sign of weakness. People who genuinely care about you will not think less of you.
5) Remember to look beyond your disappointment.
While we learn to cope with disappointment and process the lessons that God is teaching us, we must not forget that others are hurting, too. Sometimes the best way to get through a hard spell is to reach out and bless others. There are days when you just need to survive, of course, but survival should not become a constant state of existence. I have found that when I get my mind off myself and love on someone else, I come away feeling extremely encouraged. Ask God to show you someone who needs to feel His love through you.
These five points to remember are not always simple. Life is complicated! I hope, however, that you will see God’s faithfulness through every disappointment. He loves His children, and He will lead you through the valley, day by day.
”Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4