Sheila Walsh: My doctor said, 'Your baby is incompatible with life' -- Here's what happened next

The first few weeks of my pregnancy were a blur of absolute joy. I told complete strangers that I was pregnant. I read books to the wee one in my belly and played an assortment of songs to see if he or she was more country or pop.

At our sonogram, we learned the baby was a boy. We were so happy.

Then one phone call interrupted our happiness. I would be 40-years-old when the baby was born, and my doctor had asked for additional tests, one being an amniocentesis.

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When the results came back, she asked us to come to her office. We sat on one side of her desk as she sat on the other with a brown folder in front of her. I don’t remember everything she said, but I remember this: “Your baby is incompatible with life.”

I stared at her as if she was speaking in a foreign language. This was a phrase I’d never heard before. Neither Barry nor I said anything. We were stunned.

She went on to explain about “markers” and “abnormalities” and what my results showed. I could see her mouth moving, but I felt as if I had a glass dome over my head and couldn’t hear her.

Author Sheila Walsh

Author Sheila Walsh

Then she said that she recommended performing a termination the following day. I heard that, and her words snapped me back into reality. I was shocked. “No!” I said vehemently. “No! Absolutely not. This little one will have every day God has planned for him to live.”

We drove home in silence. There was nothing to say.

For the next couple of weeks, I was tormented with one thought: I had begged God to give me a child, and now He was going to take him away before we had a chance to love him. Why?

I felt as if I were falling into a dark hole. Some days I felt angry, others I was overwhelmed with sorrow. One day turned the tide for me.

I woke up early and drove to the beach, as we were living in Southern California at the time. The beach was deserted; my only companions were seagulls.

I took off my shoes and walked to the edge of the water and prayed. I prayed like I had never prayed before, out loud to the wind and the waves and the birds.

Jesus! My heart is aching. I don’t understand this at all, but I just want to declare here and now that we are in this together. I’ve always needed You, but I know right now that I need You more than I ever have. I don’t know how this will end, but I’m not letting go of You for one moment. You didn’t promise me happiness, but You did promise You would never leave me. I’m not letting go. I’m not giving up. You and me—we’re in this together.

Something shifted inside me. I had no idea how long I could carry our son, but I became relentless in my prayers, not for a perfect outcome but for the presence of a perfect Father. At 35 weeks, my doctor called. I held my breath.

She told me that the day my results had come back the results of another 40-year-old patient had also come back. My results had gone into her chart and hers into mine.

There had never been anything wrong with our son. I fell to my knees and thanked God, but then I prayed for the other mother who would be getting a very different phone call.

I believe in the sovereignty of God, and I’ve often wondered if I was allowed to carry her burden for a while. I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that when my heart was breaking, I learned to hold on to God as I never had before in my life.

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Today my son, Christian, is 23. He’s just graduated from Texas A&M and is now studying Clinical Psychology at Houston Baptist University.

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I look back on this particular battle and I'm grateful for how it changed my understanding of prayer. During those weeks and months of not knowing what the outcome of my pregnancy might be, I prayed out my fear, my heartache and began to understand what the Psalmist David meant when he wrote in Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

He shepherded me through every day, right beside me, loving me on my best days and my worst. That’s who He is. We get to come as we are with our questions, our pain and even our anger. God is big enough to handle whatever is going on inside of us

I don’t know what battle you are facing right now. It may be for your child, your marriage, your health, or your very sanity, but what I want you to know is this: when we pray and refuse to give up, no matter how long an answer takes, things change.

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If you are discouraged, let me say, in Jesus’s name, hold on! The enemy would love nothing more than for us to give up and stop praying.

Jesus graciously gifted us His Word to make it clear that no matter how hard the place is that you find yourself in right now, no matter how long the night of suffering and struggle we are going through, we should never, never stop praying.

Adapted from Sheila Walsh's "Praying Women: How to Pray When You Don't Know What to Say" (Baker Books, February 4, 2020)