Walking by Faith
About the Guest
The soon-to-be arrival of a newborn is anticipated with joy. But sometimes that joy can be eclipsed with sorrow. Todd and Angie Smith talk about the difficult pregnancy with Audrey, who died just a few short hours after her delivery.
The soon-to-be arrival of a newborn is anticipated with joy.
Walking by Faith
Bob: It was early in her pregnancy that Angie Smith went to the doctors for a routine medical test and saw on the face of the medical technician a look that no expectant mother ever wants to see.
Angie: She started the ultrasound, and I’ve had many ultrasounds, I know what their body language is saying. Her eyes were darting around, she was incredibly uncomfortable. Finally, I couldn’t handle the silence any more. I just looked at her and said, “Is this baby going to live?”
Her expression was panic.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine. Todd and Angie Smith share with us today about how God met them as they walked down a very difficult path together.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You know, Mary Ann and I have talked about different challenges and trials we have faced in our marriage but, really beyond that, what would be the hard things to go through. I remember one night when we were out walking around the block and we were just talking about what would be really tough for us to go through.
The first thing to come to mind was the suffering or death of a child. I just thought I don’t know anything that would be harder. In fact, I remember saying to Mary Ann, in some ways it would be harder to watch a child suffer and lose a child, than to lose you. Now, I don’t know that I knew what I was talking about when I said that. But, it was almost like, you’ve had some life, the child hasn’t. There’s just a different kind of grief that goes along with that.
Dennis: Yes and a lot of couples don’t realize that about one in four, some estimate as many as one in three pregnancies are terminated before they give birth. So, there’s a loss there. Not only the loss of having a baby, but marriages also face the issue of losing children, as you’re talking about, Bob. A lot of our listeners have faced these moments and know these can be perilous times for a couple.
Todd and Angie Smith join us again on FamilyLife Today, and they’ve got a story that I think is going to be very instructive for all of our listeners. Just, in terms of navigating valleys, difficult times, and really trusting God in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death. Angie, Todd, welcome back to the broadcast.
Todd & Angie: Thank you.
Dennis: Angie has written a book called I Will Carry You. Todd is a singer/songwriter for Selah, and has been singing with them for 13 years. They now have four daughters, but they’ve got one in the hangar right now.
Angie: That’s a good way to put it.
Todd: Almost here!
Dennis: Probably going to born soon. Anyway, I wanted to recap what you shared earlier. You guys got married, immediately got pregnant, and miscarried that first child. Almost as quickly you got pregnant again. This time, you found out you had twins. Wow! Then, after a long and difficult pregnancy, number three came along, Kate.
That was an easy pregnancy, but a difficult child. Those were your words, right?
Then on Kate’s second birthday you found out you were pregnant again. Now, at this point Todd, did you have any sense that there was something that might not be right? You were undoubtedly watching your wife. You’d been through the experience of a miscarriage. What were you picking up from Angie?
Todd: She sensed right away, I mean right away, that something was wrong. I just thought she was probably just worrying, being a mother. We would go to the doctor’s office. I think it was reassuring too to hear the nurse say, “Oh, no you’re fine.” She just wasn’t growing at the rate that she thought she should, as far as showing. We all thought, “No, you’re OK, you’re just overreacting.”
Then we got a call that there was a possibility that Audrey might have Downs Syndrome. Which was a couple of weeks before the ultrasound. So, other than that, I didn’t think there was anything that was happening. Then, we went in for the ultrasound, and that’s when we found out the news. But I thought things were going to be fine. I thought things were going to be OK.
Bob: The Downs Syndrome, did that come as the result of an amniocentesis? How did they…
Angie: Actually, there’s a standard test that you can opt to have while you’re pretty early on in your pregnancy that just tells you what the odds are of a baby having Downs Syndrome. Honestly, we obviously wouldn’t have done anything differently if she had Downs Syndrome. My background is in developmental psychology, so I have worked with Downs Syndrome children. There’s another dimension we would have needed to add into our lives, but it was just something we wanted to know to prepare ourselves to do that.
Dennis: Take us to that medical office where a technician was doing some tests. You undoubtedly had a moment where you saw a look on that technician’s face.
Angie: Yes, and it was very quickly after they started. She started the ultrasound and—you know I’ve done this a lot. I’ve had many ultrasounds. I know what their body language is saying. Her eyes were just darting around; she just looked like she was incredibly uncomfortable. Finally, I couldn’t handle the silence any more. I just looked at her and said, “Is this baby going to live?” She said, “I don’t think she has…” She just kept stopping her sentences; she didn’t know what to say.
Dennis: Now, wait a second. You instantly went to the bottom line of your baby living?
Angie: I could tell. Her expression was panic, honestly. It was a look that I knew meant, this is a life or death situation. She was scrambling to try and look on the screen, her movements indicated to me that this was not “There may be something that we’ll have to deal with at birth,” or “We’re seeing this.” It was the air left the room, and this woman was looking at me like, she’s got to tell me that my child is very sick.
Bob: Todd, were you with Angie at this appointment?
Bob: And did you sense it immediately as well?
Todd: Yes. You could sense it. Now, when Angie asked that question, that’s when it really sunk in from “Hey, this going to be great! We’re going to find out this and this, and get to see her,” to now, “This is probably the end.”
Bob: How many weeks along were you at this point?
Angie: I was about 18 weeks.
Dennis: What did the doctor say?
Angie: He was very kind to me, he just said, first “How are you doing? Are you OK? Sweetie this must be overwhelming.” And I said, I’m OK. My Jesus is the same as He was before I walked through that door.” I just kept saying that to myself.
I think he thought I was crazy but he just wanted me to find some comfort in something. Then, he sat down and started the ultrasound over again and became more specific about the issues that they were seeing. At that point they had identified three or four different complications that made her, in their words, “Incompatible with life.”
Dennis: What did they see on the ultrasound?
Angie: One of the main concerns was that there was basically zero fluid. There was almost no amniotic fluid, which is usually an indication that something has happened with their kidneys. When they looked they thought they could see that there were cysts on her kidneys, they just had not formed right. They weren’t sure that she had several vital organs. They said she didn’t have four chambers in her heart. It was a list of things, but most notably were these three or four issues that they just said, even if everything else we’re seeing cleared up, she could not survive with these conditions.
Dennis: At that point, you’re in this doctor’s office. Todd what took place at that point?
Todd: He basically said, “Angie, you’re going to look very differently by the end of the day.” He was assuming that we would terminate the pregnancy right there. We went in and met with another doctor who worked with him. She had one child and then she had lost four. Two of them she had carried to term, two of them she terminated the pregnancy. She was a very compassionate woman. She was crying when she was talking to Angie, and she recommended termination. One of the things we were told was because there was no amniotic fluid, that Audrey would feel pain, and her bones would potentially break, and she would be very disjointed.
So, as a parent you start to think, “Well, I know what I believe as far as life goes, but what would be more compassionate for my child? Do we go ahead and do this, or do we carry her to term? We don’t want her to suffer.” So we went home that night and wanted to get a second opinion from a doctor who, humanly speaking had saved our twins’ lives. He was a brilliant doctor and a specialist in pregnancies like this. So he confirmed everything and by that time we knew that we wanted to carry Audrey until God took her, until we could at least get her to term, which was around 32 weeks.
Bob: I’m just imagining that night. You have some little girls at home do they even know what’s going on yet?
Angie: We explained everything to them the following day. They knew that something was wrong. We ended up spending the night in the hospital, that night so that we could see the specialist in the morning. He was on call. One of the things—I think I talk about this in the book even—that I will remember about that night is that we checked into the hospital, and we went to set our things down, and we opened up the windows. Of course it’s dark, it’s a Nashville night, and it’s just beautiful.
Our room was looking exactly at the place where we had had our wedding reception. I just thought to myself, we had no idea when we were saying the things that we said, that in a matter of time we would be standing in a completely different room asking to make good on the vows that we had said. “In sickness and in health,” here we are curled up in a little tiny bed, crying. The doctor came in the next morning. He was really someone I just really trusted. So, when he gave us his thoughts on the situation, it really helped.
Bob: Did he suggest that it would be OK to carry to term without it being painful for Audrey?
Angie: He did. He did not recommend termination. It was not a religious issue for him, but he knew that it was for us. So he gave us very good advice as far as our concerns with exactly that, with her being in pain. He basically said, “We don’t have reason to believe that she will be.”
Bob: We can have a reflex response to the idea of pregnancy termination because, as you said, we’ve got this conviction that you just don’t do that. Until somebody says, well your baby might suffer for a long time and experience broken bones. Then, all of a sudden you go, “OK Lord, now it’s not as cut and dried an issue as it might have seemed otherwise.”
Todd: Absolutely, absolutely.
Dennis: Barbara and I have been through this as grandparents, not as parents, but we watched our daughter Rebecca go through incredibly difficult moments. It’s fascinating that in the midst of the valley that you enter into, that there are some light-hearted moments. You wouldn’t think you would ever laugh again. That’s how you actually feel. But for you, a few days before your next ultrasound, you were out shopping and you ran into a store window that had something in it that you decided you had to have.
Angie: Well, I had really wanted to have it before that, but my husband thought it was an unreasonable price. So we didn’t end up buying it…
Todd: Which it was at the time.
Angie: But, after that appointment, actually where we had the diagnosis confirmed we had to drive right by there. I said to Todd, “Can we go back?” We both knew, I said, “I just want to go back and get that bunny.”
So, you have to remember at that time, her heart was one of the major issues. We walk in the store and it looks like they’ve sold out, and all of a sudden we see these two little ears poking out of a barrel. Todd grabs the ears and pulls it up, and this bunny has this black mark on its heart.
Dennis: Now, we’re talking about a stuffed bunny.
Angie: It’s a stuffed bunny. Yes, just a little toy in a store. We both started crying. We went up to the register and, of course I’m sure they all thought we were nuts. We’re buying a stuffed bunny and we’re crying in the store.
She said, “Let me give you a discount.” We said, “No, we’ll pay full price for the bunny.” She kept trying to scratch at the mark, and here Todd and I are crying, “It’s not going to come off. Just don’t worry about it; it’s not going to come off.”
So, we brought the bunny home, and set it on a chair. That’s when we explained to Abby, Ellie and Kate that we had found out that Audrey had a boo-boo like the bunny’s boo-boo, and we let the girls put Band-aids over the bunny’s heart, and ask us questions. We’d already set up her crib at this time.
Basically they said, “Will she be coming home?” We just said, “God is able to do whatever He chooses, and we will continue to have hope in that, till we can’t have hope in her surviving any more. But, some very smart people have told us that’s probably not going to happen. So, we need to live life with her now. So, what do you want to do with her?” Ellie said I want to show her Cinderella’s castle.
Bob: At Disney World.
Angie: At Disney World. So, we booked a flight, went out and we have pictures of Ellie talking to my stomach, and pointing at the castle and saying, “I told you Audrey, I told you. Look at this!” I have rolls of film of my stomach at the ballet, and at the park, and everywhere I gave them cameras and said, “Let’s take pictures. This is the time we have with her.” So, we lived a lot of life with her.
Bob: Where did you get that? I guess developmental psychology may have helped prepare you for some of that. Huh?
Angie: I really think it did, which excites my dad, because I’m actually using my degree.
Todd: I’ll tell you what Angie had such natural intuition, and I think her studies, her background, was incredibly helpful, because I didn’t know what to do. There was always something, just like with the bunny, it was a great picture of how to show the kids that she’s sick. To literally put those Band-aids on, they could relate to that. We didn’t try to hide anything from them. There were some things they obviously couldn’t understand. But, especially Angie, was so good at getting them involved and taking them through the process. She did an incredible job with that.
Dennis: The apostle Paul says, “But now abide faith, hope and love.” You experienced all three at a profound level. There’s no way to describe how you experienced that in such a brief period of time. Hope is an interesting thing though. Were you hoping, even up until the birth that Audrey was going to be OK?
Angie: I was. I genuinely believed that if it was His will, He could heal her. I do think it’s important to say, and I try and talk about this whenever I do interviews. Audrey’s diagnosis did not stay the same throughout my pregnancy. Some of the things that they said could not medically happen did happen.
Some of the original diagnoses they said, she’ll continue to get more cysts on her kidneys, or this will continue to happen, or she doesn’t have a bladder, she doesn’t have this. We went back for an ultrasound several weeks later, and the technician just stared at me. She didn’t know what to say. She said, “I see on the report what they’ve said, but this is her bladder. It’s right here. Here’s this.” I don’t know what was happening in my womb, but I know what they saw the first time, and I know what they saw later.
The details are up to the Lord. I don’t know what happened in that time period, but it certainly strengthened in me the feeling that God always give us an opportunity to hope, always. In that moment, I felt like He was saying, “You have no idea what’s going on, don’t make assumptions about what my will is.”
Dennis: Todd, I want to ask you a tough question here. Because, as a father you were wanting to hope too. But as a husband, you are called to care for your wife, to nourish and cherish her. And you’re watching your wife’s hope grow. As a man, you could segment this out a bit differently than a mom does. How did you express love to her, and attempt to guard her heart from the disappointment that you knew could truly happen the day Audrey was born.
Todd: That’s a great question. I had hope, I don’t think I had the hope that Angie had. But, I believed fervently that God could heal her. But, as far as the reality of it goes, I was always looking at, “OK, when Audrey is born, what do we do after that?”
So, there were a lot of times where she would tell me what she thought, and I was always happy to listen to that. In myself I was even going, “Lord, I wish I could believe that much. I do believe you can heal her, but we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
I think her hope, to me, was always healthy. It was never over the top where she got carried away with it. Maybe a couple of times I would jump in and say, “But we also know the reality of what will probably happen,” which she knew. So, I let her believe that way, because, there was a reality that that really could happen. I never thought she got to the point where it was over the top, or I would have to jump in and go, “Yes but, baby we don’t know what’s going to happen.” We both, up to the point where she was born thought there was a real possibility. So, I think it was pretty healthy as far as what she believed would happen.
Dennis: Someone has made the statement—I thought of this quote when I was reading through your book, and was aware of your story, Angie—they said, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” I have to admit a few moments ago as you were telling your story and I was listening to your heart hope, I became a papa again. I thought about caring for my daughter.
As a man you can’t fix it. There is no fixing certain things. We have powers, but we don’t possess the ability to reverse a process that, who knows why that occurred. But, we do know God uses these matters in our lives to produce faith, the knowledge of Him and perseverance. Today, you know Him at a level you would never have known Him at, had you not been through this.
Bob: That’s Audrey’s gift, and her legacy. Her gift to you and the legacy of her life is that she brought you deeper in your relationship with her creator, and with your Lord and your master. And, whatever His purpose or His design, that’s a part of the gift that has been given to you and the gift that you shared with us. Not only today on the program but in the book you’ve written called I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy. I know as you’ve shared this story with tens of thousands of people, God has used it powerfully to minister to a lot of folks.
Now that the book is available, that message is going out even farther. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center if our listeners are interested in getting a copy, they can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s also information there about the book that Barbara Rainey and Rebecca Rainey Mutz have written called, A Symphony in the Dark, that tells a similar story to the one that you’ve shared, the story of the birth of Molly Mutz and her seven days of life before God took her home.
You can get more information about both of those books again at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call us at, 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information about those resources.
Let me just quickly let our listeners know that you guys are going to be joining with us next February. FamilyLife is hosting a week-long Valentine’s Week marriage cruise, the FamilyLife Love Like You Mean It Cruise; it’s going to be in the Caribbean in February. Selah is going to be there singing Dennis and Barbara are going to be on the cruise speaking, I’m going to be on with my wife Mary Ann. Crawford and Karen Loritts are going to be joining us, others are going to be along, and it’s going to be a great week.
There’s more information online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask about the Love Like You Mean It Cruise, and we hope many of our listeners will come aboard and set sail with us. We’re looking forward to a great week together where we can focus on building stronger marriages, and have some fun at the same time.
Before we wrap up here today, let me remind you, we’ve got just a few days left in the months of May, which means just a few days left for us to try to rally the troops to help with the matching gift challenge that we received in the month of May. We had some friends who pledged to match every donation we receive on a on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of now—more than $350,000 that’s been pledged. We are trying to take full advantage of this matching gift before the month ends.
To be able to do that we need as many listeners as we can rally to do whatever you can do. If it’s $10, or $20, or $30 or $40, whatever you can do. If it is $50 or $100 or $200 or whatever. Your donation is going to be matched dollar-for-dollar and you are going to be moving us one step closer to being able to, as I said, take advantage of this matching gift pledge that some friends have made.
So, if you can make a donation online today at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY, we would appreciate it. We appreciate your partnership with us, your prayers for us, and we appreciate you listening to FamilyLife Today. We really count that as a privilege as well.
With that in mind, we hope you can be back with us tomorrow. We’re going to hear the conclusion of what Todd and Angie Smith have been here sharing with us this week. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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