Why I Didn’t Cut My Hair For A Year (How God Brought A Baby Into Our Family)

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My wife and I dated each other for less than a year and then were married. We spent the first four years of our marriage investing our time and energy into serving others and getting to know each other before starting a family. 

After year four of marriage we were in a small, cold doctor’s office room being told by a fertility professional that I was 100% infertile and would never be able to help conceive a child for my wife. 

The next morning we started the paperwork to adopt an infant domestically. We entered into a journey to share love with a baby even though we were grieving the reality of the death of a dream of wanting to be pregnant.   

Last year, my wife prematurely gave birth to triplets at 22 weeks pregnant. Each baby died (you can read about it here). 

After a month of grieving, resting and allowing our church to love on us, we started the paperwork to adopt an infant domestically. We entered into another journey to share love with a baby even though we were grieving the reality of the death of a dream of parenting triplets. 

On September 1st, 2020, I decided not to cut my hair until the Lord answered our prayer to adopt a baby. On September 1st, 2021, He answered that prayer in an amazing way. 

We’ll get to that answer. 

Over the past year there has still been grieving. There’s been an empty nursery with the door shut in our home. My wife pursued professional counseling for six months. There’s been tears in worship services. With every Friends episode where Phoebe Buffay was pregnant with her brother’s triplets (if you don’t know, don’t worry), the TV channel was changed. 

As deep as the sorrowing reminders were, we were faithful to God in all of it. We weren’t sinless over the past year, but when it came to this specific pain of trusting His plan for our family, we were faithful. 

Over the past year we’ve been truly excited for each birth announcement shared with us. We’ve also empathized with those who miscarried and shared their pain with us. Even in the mountain of confusion on why God would permit my wife to be pregnant with three babies, knowing all three would die, we still held onto the promises of Scripture that He is good, He is loving, He works all things out for the good of those who love Him – and – even if in His divine plan He would not add another child to our home, we had Jesus and Jesus was more than enough for us. 

In Luke 9:62, Jesus says, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.”. My wife and I decided to focus on what was ahead for our family instead of being stuck in the past of what happened. And while the lamenting of what happened will continue to be with us, the hope of an answered prayer helped keep us from being lesser versions of ourselves for our children, our friends, our church and our community. 

I made a Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:5) with God on September 1st, 2020. I was not going to cut my hair until the Lord brought a baby into our family. This was not an ultimatum to the Lord, my God is not a genie. This was a reminder for me to pray to the Lord, because, my God is faithful. 

And the hair did not look pretty. 

Being a pastor at a church with 3 worship services, I got asked weekly what was going on with my hair, when was I going to cut my hair, did I own a mirror, did my wife approve of what was going on with my hair – and all of it were reminders to pray for a baby. 

Of the triplets that died and are now with the Lord, the third of three babies that was born lived for 17 hours. We thoroughly enjoyed the time we had with him. We named our son Samuel Dominic. Samuel, meaning, “God heard” and Dominic meaning “of the Lord”. Hang onto that name.

In mid-August this year, my wife and I spent 10 days in Kenya serving the impoverished and encouraging missionaries. Part of our time there was visiting schools of children who were given the gift of education, nutrition, medical care and spiritual training through an amazing mission our church supports. 

On one of the days were were touring a school, the school was actually on a break. All of the students were gone. But, for some reason, there was one 5th grade class that was meeting in-person to catch up on their studies. At this school, of the 27 classes, only one was on campus. On campus on this particular day we were visiting, there was one head teacher (the principal), one teacher, one class. 

When we walked into the classroom we were greeted by the students with big smiles. They welcomed us. They cheered for us. They sang for us. And they recited a memory verse for us, Proverbs 19:21, which says: 

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”

My wife and I introduced ourselves and answered all the questions this class had. Then we asked them to introduce themselves and we learned that the school’s principal’s name was Samuel. 

Then we learned that the only teacher on campus that day’s name was Dominic.

Samuel. Dominic. 

And my wife and I cried in the classroom.

We cried due to a mixture of emotions. On one side we were looking back at a reminder of the pain that we went through. On the other side, it was a stark, obvious reminder that our God was working. Meeting Samuel and Dominic at a school where only one class was meeting encouraged us. It was as if God was whispering, “I’m still making all things good for you”. 

We were able to share our story of pain with the classroom as a testimony to the memory verse they recited for us that they might have big dreams and plans, but no matter how it all unfolds, Jesus must be held onto tightly because it is truly God’s purpose that will prevail. 

We landed back in the States on a Wednesday at 2:00pm. At 8:00pm the same day we received a call from our adoption agency that a birthmom in Texas had chosen us to adopt her baby. 

The day we got this news was September 1st, 2021. Exactly a year after I had decided not to cut my hair. 

6 hours after being back home, we were told that a birthmom had chosen us to adopt her baby and that she was scheduled to have a C-section the following Wednesday and that we were to be present for the birth. 

Wow! Our God is so amazing. It gets crazier. 

The next morning after finding out we were going to be parents again, I’m mowing our backyard due to be gone for 10 days, and I get a phone call again from our adoption agency letting us know the birthmom went into labor and gave birth to a child earlier that morning and that we were to get to Texas ASAP. 

Without even being able to think, we threw clothes into bags, grabbed our two daughters and boarded a plane to Texas. Our daughters were going to miss their first day of school but they were not going to miss out on this adventure. 

After connecting flights, a rental car and some more driving, we arrived at a small town hospital in central Texas. We were given our own hospital room as the sweet nurses of the hospital rolled a newborn baby girl into our presence. Instantly we became a family of five. 

Two days later the birthmom courageously signed the baby girl over to our guardianship to raise her in our loving home and we were able to name her. 

As with all of the previous five children we’ve been honored to name, we have prayerfully given Scriptural meaning and truth to our kids names. Not only do we see that the names of people in the Bible have meaning, it’s also a daily reminder to us of those Scriptural truths to us and our children. 

We have named this beautiful baby girl Raphaela Jean. 

Raphaela means: “God heals”. While Jesus alone brings the only true healing in the brokenness we experience, Raphaela’s presence immediately brought elation, gratitude and joy. God has already worked through her to help heal us. 

Jean means: “God is gracious”. He is so gracious. We don’t deserve another child. We don’t deserve a story of adventure like this to share with others. We don’t deserve another testimonial example of how faithful God is and yet we have these things because He is gracious.

Raphaela Jean. God heals and is gracious.

And that’s what we would want you to know in whatever pain and confusion you are grieving. God does heal and He is gracious. He will heal the brokenness you carry and even when it seems the pain is taking so long to bear, it’s also healing to focus on the areas of our lives where He has been gracious to us. He has given us so much. 

6 hours after being back in America God brought healing and grace to us. 6 hours on a cross, Jesus brought healing and grace to the world.

My family and I are utterly grateful for the support of our community of faith, our church, the past year. They have uplifted us in prayer and encouragement and we can’t wait to share this miracle of God with them. 

Thanks for reading. You are so loved by God. 

Z

Words of Lament: How 3 Of Our Children Died In 3 Days

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On July 15th of this year, my wife Whitney was urgently rushed to a hospital in Detroit, Michigan. At the time, she was 20 weeks pregnant with triplets. Doctors informed us that her cervix had opened, that there was a bulging sac and that the babies were going to be delivered far too premature that evening. 

I stayed the night at the hospital with Whit and no babies were delivered. We call that an answered prayer. 

The next morning I read through Proverbs chapter 16 where the first line says, 

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. 

Our plans, our dreams, as a married couple, was to have my wife become pregnant, experience pregnancy and give birth. It had been a desire on her heart for most of her life. 

Unable to conceive naturally, years into our marriage we have pursued in-vitro fertilization via embryo adoption four times. 

Attempt #1: Chemical pregnancy (false positive)

Attempt #2: Chemical pregnancy (false positive)

Attempt #3: Conception (miscarriage at 9 weeks)

Attempt #4: Conception (pregnant with 3 fetuses)

With each attempt there are mountains of paperwork, finances, medication, injections and prayer. But the dream we had to expand our family and love on another child was all worth it without a question. 

This past April was when we found out Whit was pregnant with triplets, and we were ecstatic. Not only was there hope of a baby coming, but it was threefold. The magnanimity overshadowing this attempt was that we were told this would be the last chance at pregnancy after three previous unsuccessful ones. 

Sure there was a pandemic starting, and school was canceled, and our family was moving out of state, but we couldn’t stop praising God for an answered prayer as Whit’s pregnancy prolonged through the first trimester with three healthy babies. 

When she was 19 weeks pregnant, we announced the exciting news to social media. Five days later she was a high risk patient in the hospital with doctors telling us the babies were coming too early and there wasn’t much they could do. 

Five days after that, her water broke. The doctors told us the babies were going to be born any minute, yet for the next 12 days no babies were born. We call that an answered prayer. 

On July 31, at 1:39AM, 16 days after Whit was first put on bed rest in the hospital, a child was delivered. A baby girl was born at 22 weeks and 2 days. She came out still born and we were able to hold her and cry and thank God for her. 

The concern at that point was that Whit would get infected. If she showed signs of fever or a high white blood cell count, the other two babies would have to be induced because at that point the situation would be life-threatening to Whit. Her health was primary to us. 

Later on July 31st, her fever spiked to 102.9° and she started having chills. At that point it was a no brainer, Whit was given medication to give birth to the other two babies. 

On August 1st, the other two babies were delivered. At 4:20pm another baby girl was born at 22 weeks and 3 days. She came out and gave one exhale and eventually within minutes had no heart rate. We were able to hold her and cry and thank God for her. 

11 minutes later a son was born. He had a heart rate and had low oxygen levels but came alive out of the womb. He was rushed to the NICU immediately. His weight was just under 1 pound. 

Over the first hours of his life he was put on a ventilator, and then another ventilator and a third ventilator. He was given two blood transfusions, given sugar, caffeine, hydrochloride, saline and multiple doses of dopamine. 

He was considered by the nurse first in charge of his care to be a fighter and ended up fighting for 17 hours, dying at 9:40AM, August 2nd. The last moments of his life Whit and I were able to hold our son and cry and thank God for him in our lives. 

Sometimes God blesses parents to love their kids for a lifetime, sometimes for a day.

Three babies, all three dead on three different days due to being too early in birth. During our time in the hospital, we were constantly educated that if the babies could make it in the womb until 23-25 weeks, there was a good chance at their survival. That was our prayer, and our three children almost made it to that goal.   

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. (Proverbs 16:1)

Hadassah Lynne, born and dead July 31. Her name means: One who brings joy, of the church. 

Beatrix Tyler, born and dead August 1. Her name means: One who brings happiness, home builder. 

Samuel Dominic, born August 1, dead August 2. His name means: The Lord heard, of the Lord. 

The most amazing moment happened on Samuel’s first and only night on this earth. While in the incubator, his heart rate was dramatically dropping around 11:30pm. The doctors were doing everything they could but things looked grim. They asked me to go get Whit since she hadn’t seen or met him yet. 

When Whit got to the NICU, she asked if she could touch Samuel. With her two hands around his tiny head and chest, over the course of an hour, his heart rate, blood oxygen level and pulse all went up to the best they ever would be during his 17 hours of life. The doctors were amazed. We call that an answered prayer. 

There is a lot of confusion, loss and sadness right now, but rather than focus on those things at this time, let me give you the other answered prayers we were able to experience: 

  • Our dream was for Whit to get pregnant, to experience pregnancy, to go into labor and all of those things occurred. 
  • Being in love with having daughters, I had prayed for a son to see what that was like. Out of the three babies who died, our son survived birth as we were able to know him and hold him.
  • Each day Whit was on bedrest, with each healthy ultrasound given, the doctors kept telling us that something beyond science was happening. Again, they said on July 15th the babies were coming and to see Whit be prayed for and to watch her fight for the chance at life was beyond anything they had seen. We like it when faith and science work together and medical professionals noticed. 
  • My wife and I have been a praying couple in our marriage, but at no other time in our relationship had we prayed together, cried out to God together more than these past few weeks. It’s an intimate thing to pray with your spouse. We were able to tangibly feel God’s care for us by doing so. 
  • Our church stepped up to love on us practically during the 18 days of bedrest. They made meals for our family, mowed our yard, took care of our kids, sent flowers, gave gifts and kept checking in letting us know we were prayed for. 
  • Our witness for Christ was known throughout the entire hospital by nurses, doctors and administrative workers. With all of the sorrow, tears and loss, the hugs given to us came with comments like “We have never seen a couple with more resolve, faith and gratitude than you two.” Every new nurse that came in to care for Whit, they had already known about Whit’s joyous and kind spirit even while going through the scariest trial of her life. My faith in God grew and my love for her increased just by watching her character in hardship.  

During Whit’s time in the hospital, she would write in her gratitude journal, listing things she was grateful for to God rather than worrying about the future in the worst way. She would write thank you cards to express her gratitude to others while they were serving us in this time. She would read her Bible, listen to worship songs, read a book about anxiety, write encouraging notes for our two older daughters and always would uplift the spirit of the nurses and doctors checking on her. 

To see her be bedridden enduring all the IV’s and blood tests and morphine and pain and the bed pans and the lack of showering and the inability to sleep a full night and the concerns of a dream dying, to know the pressure she felt even though none of what occurred was anything she did or didn’t do, to know this was her last attempt at IVF, with all that going on, those able to witness her faith in God completely floored them. 

I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. (Philippians 1:12)

Since Hadassah’s death, I have been walking a little slower. 

Walking around the hospital God brought to mind a memory of my father that expressed the emotions I was having. 

When I was in the 6th grade, my father, a pastor, came into my bedroom the week before Christmas. He was wearing a suit and tie and he asked me to get dressed up. It was 10AM and I argued with him stating I wanted to stay home in my scrub clothes and watch TV. He kept asking me to get dressed. I finally gave in as I came downstairs in wrinkled khakis and a sweater. We got into his Chevy Blazer and drove off. 

My dad didn’t tell me where we were going even though I kept asking. 30 minutes later we pulled into a hospital. My dad grabbed his Bible from the back seat, and he and I walked into the cancer wing of a Cincinnati hospital. 

Over the next hour I witnessed my father officiate a wedding inside a hospital room. The patient, a dad with cancer, had the dream of walking his daughter down the aisle. His daughter was engaged to be married in six months, in June. Plans changed when the father had been told earlier that week that he only had days to live. 

So this dad could see his daughter be married and get to be a part of one of the biggest, joy-filled days of her life, my father showed up to the hospital room in December to officiate, as tears mixed with sadness by all were falling in the room. 

Had I remained lazy and whiney at home earlier that day, I would’ve not of only missed out on the emotion I felt that day, but also what my dad said when we got back into the car. 

My dad said, with tears in his eyes, “Z……I hate death……..but I love you and I love Jesus.” 

Twenty years later, on his own deathbed due to cancer, after he had walked his daughter down the aisle just two months before, I said to my father, “Dad, I hate death, but I love you and I love Jesus.” 

And with the death of three children in three days, it’s the exact sentiment I have. 

I hate death. I hate it. 

As people are unsure how to respond to our pain currently, we have heard that this is part of God’s plan. Our 8 year old, after initially hearing her siblings are dead, cried out to us, “How could something this horrible be part of God’s plan? I thought God is loving?”  

He is loving, but I had no words for her in the moment. Yes, it could be viewed as God’s plan for our family, a purpose we may never visually realize going forward, but there is also an evil side to this. There is an unseen but not unfelt wicked presence in our world. The devil’s only obsession each and every day is to hurt God by hurting us. 

I don’t understand how people go through the brokenness in this world without Jesus. How do people do it without His love and without a longing for heaven, a place where there is no pain or sadness?

Yes, I hate death. But still, I love people and I love Jesus so much. 

Thanks for reading and I thank you for prayers for my wife and myself as we move forward in grief and gratitude. 

Z