David and Taylor Roark had been looking forward to this trip since the day they first found out they were pregnant.
On June 7, they visited the doctor to find out whether their baby—their first—would be a boy or a girl.
“We were praying for a healthy little baby, and asked the Lord to help us not feel entitled to a perfect baby,” said Taylor.
They sat in the doctor’s office waiting to hear the three words that would change their lives forever: “It’s a boy,” or “It’s a girl.” Instead, the Roarks heard three different words that would still change their lives forever.
“Something is wrong.”
“O” is for Omphalocele
The Roarks’ doctor explained to them that their baby girl, Leigh, had an omphalocele, a defect that causes a baby’s organs to grow outside the abdomen.
In rare cases of this defect (1 in 10,000 live births), babies will have multiple organs grow outside the abdomen. In Leigh’s case, only her intestines did not seal up properly within her abdomen.
Doctors can often correct the problem with surgery after birth—though there are other complications that can arise. In up to 50 percent of omphalocele cases, the baby might have an “associated anomaly or birth defect.”
The news was shocking for the Roarks. “As much as we tried to prepare ourselves for this sort of thing, I realized that, at a gut level, I never really believed it would happen to us,” said David.
The Roarks staggered away from the hospital, their world changed. They had much research, reading and preparing to do before their daughter’s birth. They also had much work to do within their own hearts. Or rather, much patience to display so the Lord could work.
C.S. Lewis once said it is in our pain where God often displays His grandeur: "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
The Roarks are listening.
“I’ve really just been trying to understand what He wants to teach Taylor and me, what He is seeking to do in our hearts,” said David.
Taylor knows this, too.
“I love Dave more than I did before this,” she said. “The Lord has drawn us nearer to Him, not just as individuals, but as husband and wife, and soon-to-be father and mother.”
They heard three words that would change their lives forever: “Something is wrong.”
God reigns in suffering
In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul writes to the church in Corinth about one of the many reasons Christians suffer:
“We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead."
So often our culture pushes us to avoid pain, to eschew suffering for something easier or something with less friction.
But when it is thrust upon a marriage like it has been with the Roarks, there are choices to make. There is also Scripture, that perhaps in the past hasn’t been tangible, to place the totality of one’s faith in.
“I’ve also seen time and time again how God sovereignly uses pain and suffering for His redemptive purposes,” said David.
Taylor is choosing Christ regardless of her daughter’s defect.
“She is a miracle, despite the fact that her bowels are hanging out with her in the womb,” Taylor said. “I believe God is who He says He is and His Word is truth.”
An unwritten ending
In the end, what happens to Leigh is of the Lord. The Roarks know this, though that doesn’t make the future any easier.
“I’m ultimately at peace because I know that He is good and faithful,” said David. “I know this from Scripture, and I know this in my own story as a person who constantly wanders, yet He still seeks me and loves me.”
God’s love manifests itself in so many ways. There’s a spectacular song by the Passion Worship Band that’s been making the rounds this year, aptly entitled “Here’s My Heart.”
In it is a lyric about God’s glory that speaks to Leigh’s story.
You are strong, You are sure, You are life, You endure, You are good, always true
Leigh’s life is secure in the Lord.
The beautiful thing is that, no matter the outcome, her parents will always be able to point to the Lord and cry out that He is good.
Because of what the Roarks are going through, that cry will now have weight behind it; it will never again just be empty rhetoric for them.
It will truly mean something.
And just as much as their beautiful unborn baby girl, that is God’s gift to them.
Editor's Note: For updates on the Roarks' story, check out their blog.