I Don't Know All The Answers, But God Does
Interview with Renee Kersten
October 13, 2021
[00:00:00] Laura: Hi, Renee, and welcome to unsung stories. Thanks so much for joining us.
[00:00:04] Renee: Thanks for having me.
[00:00:05] Laura: It's my pleasure. Just save it. Alice. This can get to know you a little bit more. Could you tell us about you and your family life and what everyday life looks like for
[00:00:14] Renee: you? So I'm Renee, I've been married to Tom for four years.
We have a daughter who's three and a son. He's eight months. . , before the kids came along, I was working as a sonographer, which is working, doing ultrasounds. But now with the kids, these days, we spend weeks going to a local music playgroup and a mums and Bubs fetus group. And I would say go to a women's Bible study every week and we also have to go to parks or the beach.
[00:00:40] Laura: Beautiful.
I've had the pleasure of hearing your story before, but could I ask you to walk our listeners through the last few years and what's been going on for your family?
[00:00:51] Renee: So in 2019, we . Found out we were expecting our second child.
We would do the following April close to my daughter's second birthday. I'm very excited. We had a 20 week scan and found that we were having a baby boy. A few weeks later, we were having a follow-up ultrasound. And in the first few seconds, it became apparent that our baby boy had died. There was no happy there, and it was a massive shock.
It was completely, it was completely unexpected. I felt totally blind to. And all my plans for the future would dry out. I found that in that moment, my brain couldn't comprehend that this was now a reality. I ended up being induced for delivery two days later, which just in itself, felt so wrong. I requested to have another ultrasound and I was still holding out hope that he's having right.
Still be there. And I can still remember the look on the doctor's face in that moment. And then knowing that we'd be delivering a little boys. Oh, we had a few days to decide on his name and what to do for his funeral service and burial, which was so overwhelming to decide. I had never had to make these sort of decisions before we had to.
We chose to name our little boy Levi, and we had a small funeral with families at the hospital chapel two days after he was born.
[00:02:14] Laura: And how did you go through those early days?
[00:02:17] Renee: I would have to say that God held us up and we have beautiful family and friends and our church family who walk beside us. We also talked to a counselor pretty early on to help process our grief as a couple, which really helped.
[00:02:33] Laura: And do you feel like you had enough time to grieve him? , did you have enough time off work and. .
[00:02:40] Renee: Particularly with the nature of my work and so intertwined with the nature of my work being in ultrasound and how it all played out, it was really important for me to have a good break and take it easy on myself.
I also found at the time of my brain was so foggy and I couldn't find. So to not have the pressure to go back in any rush was squid for me. And then it happened that looked down and started in LA 2020. So everything shut down for a while. And anyway, and then a few months later we found out we were expecting again, and that baby was due in December, 2020.
[00:03:22] Laura: And how did you go with how I'm being pregnant so soon after having a pregnancy loss?
[00:03:30] Renee: Yeah, there was a lot of joy, but I was very anxious and stressed or I found it really hard to not look forward to the baby coming because it seemed in my mind they wouldn't actually happen. And it was a long time waiting there's nine months and we found out we were having another boy.
In the third trimester, I started to get a few things ready for him. Still worried if things would be okay, but I was getting my hopes up and it was, October, my midwife recommended that I go into hospital as I've noticed some decreased moments over the past few days. And at the time I just wasn't sure if I was just overthinking things and just in my head.
But after that, to the hospital, just an hour of being on the monitors that I realized that Abby was in distress and the doctors decided that they would need to deliver urgently then and there. Oh my goodness. It was crazy. They took me straight around to the waiting Vieta with the nurses and doctors are actually running beside my bed to get.
, that moment. I remember as we were going telling Tom to message, my instinct was just messaged both of their families and my Bible study group to ask them to pray for us urgently. I was so scared. I I'd seen myself the hot they slowed right down and I didn't know anything was going to make it into.
There was no time for an epidural or they even told him to come into the theater. It was just straining and going under general anesthetic.
[00:05:06] Laura: RNA. How far along were you at this stage?
[00:05:11] Renee: Yes. So 33 weeks. Oh
[00:05:15] Laura: my goodness. What were you thinking as all of this was
[00:05:19] Renee: happening? Well, I remember as I was going on to the general anesthetic and counting.
And all the people standing in the room and knowing that just everything was completely out of my control. I, knowing that people were praying for us already in that moment. But I just had to hand everything over to God's hands and, and the beautiful staff that were there, woke up a bit later.
Shortly after to find out that Julian was breathing on his own and a special kid and SRE , they delivered a meeting less than 10 minutes from being wheeled into the feedback. There was amazing he way anyway, just two kilos and , it was just short of 33 weeks. , it was an absolute miracle.
His arrival, we were on such a massive high and that not that it seems that everything would be okay. But later that night we found out that his blood cells were not in the normal range. So we moved the next day to Royal north shore for more specialized care, which was a bit of a shock again.
And sort of saying like, , another scary stuff. We found that some couple of days later, the reason for his blood test results is that Julian has trisomy 21 or down syndrome. And we haven't had any genetic tests during the pregnancy that we knew it was going to possibly be a possibility. But this was the first time that we knew for sure.
[00:06:44] Laura: How did you process all of that? Was that a real grief for you? Or was it something that you were, you were okay with? How did you process that unexpected diagnosis?
[00:06:56] Renee: Yes. So for us, it was actually a relief with Julian's abnormal, white blood cell count. It meant with the downs in germ that it would correct itself over time. It was just part of his dress, me 21.
Without the diagnosis of dancing drone, it would have been likely to have been a childhood cancer without much chance of survivals. And when the doctors actually gave us that news, it was actually really good news for us. , totally unexpected. , in those definitely in those initial moments, we were really positive and and I think every moment states as being amazingly.
[00:07:32] Laura: , that's great.
[00:07:33] Renee: The legitimate tray, like I've seen, it's like a bit airy fairy. Maybe there has been a disappointments in some ways, but we haven't built that yet. Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. I don't want it to be too airy fairy, but isn't
[00:07:47] Laura: that a beautiful Testament that I, , I just feel we live in a culture and a society where we.
We feed downstairs. We feed down
[00:07:56] Renee: syndrome, the deviation from what we say or the unexpected yet.
[00:08:02] Laura: Yeah. It's actually really refreshing to hear someone say, no, it was, it was beautiful.
[00:08:08] Renee: And that you're relieved. Really? Yeah. Yeah. That's wonderful. We're saying somewhere in there, but just the heart.
This is a whole new topic. Maybe you and I can do another one down the track of yes. .
[00:08:20] Laura: Say what
[00:08:21] Renee: think. The hardest part is maybe just managing other people's expectations or disappointment maybe
[00:08:30] Laura: I'm sure that's a huge part and a whole lot of processing and
[00:08:34] Renee: hurtful. Yeah. . But I mean all in all that's been positive. . That's great. Amazing church family. Yeah. That's wonderful.
[00:08:42] Laura: You. Just have this whirlwind birth. Little bit of moment of reprieve taken down to Royal north shore.
Got this huge, but thankful diagnosis. What was the rest of your staying in hospital? ?
[00:08:56] Renee: Cause he was still so little. He was a little premmie baby. There was the first few weeks in the neonatal ICU. Were scary. And Julian ones early, there was a lot of challenges to overcome. It was incredibly difficult.
We weren't able to have our daughter with us and she didn't understand why she couldn't come and see Julian. So we spent nine weeks in between three hospitals.
[00:09:22] Laura: Oh my goodness. And nine weeks juggling. One kid. Not in hot. Yeah.
[00:09:27] Renee: Yeah. And it's whenever I was with one of them, it meant saying goodbye to my other child every time and to go see my one child meant leaving the other.
. So. Tore the heart strings at that time, it put a huge amount of stress on us as a family and as parents and broke my heart to see my children's suffering and both of them. And we were finally able to bring Julian home just after his due date. Now looking back, we've settled into life at home.
Julian is doing amazingly well. He's healthy and happy. He's got no complications from his early start and yet to, to bring him home without needing oxygen or a feeding tube, which, which was a possibility. But . I'm your article with that? , he's, he's doing really well.
[00:10:21] Laura: So I'm just hearing everything so far again, it's just , everything is really huge and quite traumatic and weighty. How did you feel towards God during all of this?
[00:10:33] Renee: I went through the huge range of emotions. I was angry. I felt very distant. And the same time I knew that I desperately needed God and his love.
And I had to be during this time on, I struggled to pray and if I did, it was mostly praise of help, please help. And that was all I could manage felt that my relationship with God was suffering because of my lack of praying. Hmm.
[00:11:02] Laura: How old is Julia
[00:11:04] Renee: How old is nine months, but you wouldn't would have been seven if he was on his GDX. So he's more the size of it. So I must have a month.
[00:11:13] Laura: Does it, does his down, will his dance syndrome impact his milestone markers as well?
[00:11:19] Renee: You say that, that just you everyone's got their own. Real rice up at Rhonda and they do say, you know, be prepared for a slightly longer timeframe. I mean, , every kid is different, but , we're just early. So the stages of a seven month old, but , it will just make.
[00:11:36] Laura: It's kinda nice.
You get a baby a little bit longer. Yeah.
[00:11:39] Renee: I said that to him once I said, you know, everyone, every parent always tells that kids don't growing up so quickly.
[00:11:44] Laura: Even with kids, they're such disparity. Anyway, you can have a baby walking at nine, 10 months and you can have a baby walking at 18 months and that's completely normal
[00:11:54] Renee: so, .
[00:11:55] Laura: That's great. So, sorry. You were talking about how you You are struggling to pray.
[00:12:00] Renee: At least during this time I found it really hard to gray. I really struggled. If I did, I could manage praise of just help please help.
And. My relationship with God was actually suffering because of my lack of prayer and lack of communication.
[00:12:21] Laura: And did it bring any heart issues out for you?
[00:12:25] Renee: I went through a time after I lost. I'm struggling with. I went later that it's a pretty normal feeling when you processing loss and grief and other emotions like denial and bargaining acceptance and anger as well, common guard in waves, sort of continuously both So at times I had all of this anger swirling inside of me and the closest person around me at that time was my husband.
So bore the brunt and became the focus of my anger to come out in really ugly ways. I could say
[00:13:05] Laura: that's really hard for you marriage and already a hot season two
[00:13:09] Renee: and two people that are grieving as well. I knew that I hated the example that I was living at in front of my children. And I wanted to go and to help, I found that reading the Bible really helped me to see my heart.
I was letting myself be overcome with anger and just running with it and I was singing and it was leading me to destruction. So I found a Bible vest that I was really encouraged by one page to 2 21 to 23. So this year we're called because Christ suffered for you leaving you an example that you should follow any steps.
He committed no sin. And notice it was found in his mouth. When they held the insults at him, he did not retaliate when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
[00:14:02] Laura: And can we say that God's refined you or molded you to be more like Jesus through all of this? Or do you feel like it's a little bit too soon to actually see.
[00:14:11] Renee: I can say in passaging when paid how Jesus acted when he suffered. And I really wanted to live like that to not react or retaliate in anger.
I wanted to be trust myself to God and my situation to go on. So I found, , just the Bible helped redirect my heart. And refined me in that way. I'm definitely still working on it. And I'm so thankful to have Jesus as an example, to look to. Yeah.
[00:14:48] Laura: And through your suffering and through your loss, what did you learn about God during this time?
[00:14:54] Renee: This time I've learned that God can use this experience as painful as it was. And he's we have had a big pre-paying in our house. One of my husband Tom's favorite verses Romans five, three to five, which says not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope and hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured out into our hearts, through the holy spirit who has been given to him.
So I understand that this can be hard when you first hear it. I'll actually fan on reading this first and seeing this verse on our wall, a comfort. When we first found out that we had lost labor, I knew that Paul, the author of Romans had also suffered. And I couldn't see exactly how my suffering would produce perseverance or character.
But I just wanted God to put his hope in me and to know that in that hope I would not be put to shame. So I went from reading that verse to experiencing it in a very real way. God's love pour that into my heart because God is faithful and will use my suffering in that way. That's
[00:16:13] Laura: so beautiful.
So Renee, this is all still a pretty new grief for you. So I'd imagine you're still gonna face a hard road. So what truths about God do you cling to, to carry you through?
And we keep clinging to.
[00:16:27] Renee: God is always there. He's trustworthy. Even when I don't have the wits to pray. And I say, what a lifeline, the Bible is on the Psalms, how David poured his heart out to God in his difficulties and how he praises God. And as a Bible, I can rest in that. I don't know all the answers, but I know God does.
Looking forward. I hang on to knowing that there's a future, there'll be no more death or separation or pain. Tom and I had been to a parenting night when I was still pregnant with Levi. And we talked about the greatest thing that we could hope for our children is their eternal inheritance and that they wouldn't go in there.
And I knowing now that Levi is with God, he has eternal life and that is all I could want for him. And each of my children. And I also know that we will be reunited in heaven one day. When I think about a time on a S even if I live a very long life, it won't be enough in itself to have time with my kids or my family.
And I think that's testimony to this life. Isn't, isn't meant to be enough. There, there is an eternity where we won't have to say goodbye.
[00:17:46] Laura: That's really beautiful. And how's that been? Just hearing your story. I just feel there's been points where I go, oh, that's going to be a real heartbreak for you, but you turn around and say, no, this has been good.
[00:17:59] Renee: , I mean, I get you, like, I hear myself saying this stuff and I'm like falling apart. . Well, I think God , yes, if you'd talk to me, you know, a few months after it was at a very different story
but it just, I didn't expect to be where I am right now back then.
I also lent from this experience.
I learned in a new way, how God answers prayer. During this time had never, before being so desperately in need of God's help at any other time in my life. And I'd actually never gone through any loss. Like I said, oh, I knew that people were praying for us and still praying for us as a family.
And I knew that those prayers were being answered. It felt like. Protected by God's love and pace covering me, shielding me in some of the toughest times, I could actually feel a tangible covering I didn't expect to have had a healing emotionally so far. And that is also a massive answer to prayer.
There's also the many press for Julian. . Him being able to come home without needing a feeding tube or oxygen. . His miraculous delivery and , just the miracle that he is, that we get to experience every day is , I've learned again, the power and effectiveness of prayer and God is faithful.
[00:19:28] Laura: And has this new view of prayer changed how you live.
[00:19:32] Renee: I can see the wonder of praying for others with new eyes now. And when I know and think of people going through tough times, I do jump more quickly to pray for them. So thankful for a church community and building relationships with other Christians.
So I can be real with them. And she had the hard times to know that they are going to be on their knees before the Lord. For me, I want to make sure that I'm investing into these relationships and to be continually praying the others to.
[00:20:07] Laura: And do you have any advice for a woman listening to this who might be walking with a friend who's losing or lost their baby, or even just faced with a hard NICU road? What's some practical things that stood out to you in your
[00:20:23] Renee: experience. We were so blessed. People showing their care for us bringing us meals.
That was a huge help, especially with a family and kids little messages and letters and beautiful gifts for each of us that were delivered to our doorstep. I found it really helpful that people reached out in their own different ways. I also found it really hard to ask directly for help. So there were times when a close friend would offer something specific, like God put a load of washing on for you while you're at the hospital.
So for other people , being direct in how you can offer help is really great. Does someone go through a hard time in the months after losing Levi? I've found that talking through what had happened really. People were so kind and also brave in their willingness to just say they were sorry for our loss and to ask how I was going.
And I can understand that there is a fear of saying something wrong or bringing up a painful topic, but all these little conversations that people were brave enough to initiate, they really helped me process my thoughts and feelings over that. Also, I learned that if the only thing you can do for someone is pray for them.
That is actually the most amazing thing that you could do. And God always answers prayers. And sometimes the answer is no or not yet, but don't let the fact that you are limited in doing anything practically stop you from praying.
[00:22:03] Laura: Yeah. That's really helpful encouragement. And, and for the mom whose heart is bleeding right now for the same reason as yours who's facing this loss, who's walking these hard road.
What would you remind her of and how would you encourage her?
[00:22:19] Renee: It's it's hard to put into words what I would want to say to her, because I know the loss and the pain. And words don't seem enough. And although I can't know the unique pain that you're facing right now, there is a heavenly father who does know exactly where you're at and how much you hurt and he can bring comfort and healing.
There is hope. And that's not to say that you won't be forever changed by this experience. I would want to encourage you to keep going to God with your pain, keep hanging on with your. If you're struggling to pray for yourself or even at all, you could reach out to one person or a whole group of people to ask them to pray for you.
If you feel you need to talk to a professional, we're so blessed to be able to contact help on the phone anytime of day or in person counseling. And I hope and pray. You can find a local church that would help you access support also.
[00:23:24] Laura: Oh, that's so beautiful.
What's been the biggest take home for you. What's blown your mind about, about God in this all
[00:23:33] Renee: I guess, experiencing in just such a real, tangible way, knowing that he is with me, knowing that he cares knowing . Knowing that he answers prayer. , it's it has strengthened my faith. Definitely. Beautiful.