God has graciously given us our third daughter: Emma Elyse Naselli was born this morning!
(click image to enlarge)
About Her Name
Emma is from emunah (אֱמוּנָה), the Hebrew word for faithfulness.
Elyse is from eleos (ἔλεος), the Greek word for mercy. The Greek translation of the Old Testament typically uses this word (213 of 248 occurrences) to translate the Hebrew word chesed (חֶסֶד), which refers to loving loyalty or loyal love based on a committed relationship that results in kind deeds.
For the LORD is good and his love [KJV: “mercy”; Heb. chesed; Gk. eleos] endures forever;
his faithfulness [Heb. emunah] continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:5)
The cadence of Emma Elyse fits with our other girls: a four-syllable name with the emphasis on one and four:
- Kara Marie
- Gloria Grace
- Emma Elyse
Emma Elyse’s name will constantly remind us of God’s mercy and faithfulness. Here’s part of the back-story, lightly edited from a blog post that Jenni wrote on February 1:
We are delighted to announce that we are expecting baby girl #3! It is so incredible for me to believe that God has blessed us with three little girls. I’m awed at the privilege and responsibility of raising, caring for, and teaching biblical womanhood to three little future women. Very grateful.
My previous two pregnancies were both easy and routine. Doctor visits were uneventful and more a nuisance than anything else. But God has brought us on quite an emotional and spiritual journey through this pregnancy—and I am only 17 weeks along so far! I plan to record some of the lessons I have been learning along the way, but first I need to write the background story.
I went for a routine due-date-setting ultrasound on December 21, 2011. I went alone because Andy was home with a very sick Kara Marie. I actually brought eight-month-old Gloria with me (to the amusement of the ultrasound technicians). During the ultrasound, I was shocked to learn that (1) I was already eleven weeks along (I thought I was just barely pregnant) and (2) the baby’s nuchal fold on the back of her neck was unusually large. A normal range is anything under 2.5. This baby’s nuchal fold measured 3.7. I noticed it right away, before the tech mentioned anything, because it was so large. Because this is a strong marker for Down’s Syndrome or other genetic conditions, the doctor suggested that I have a blood test done that day. We learned later that week that the results were positive: this meant that I had a 1-in-5 risk for Down’s Syndrome. This is almost as high a risk as you can have. The only one higher is “more than 1 in 5.” A normal risk for a 29-year-old woman is 1 in 700.
We had a choice. We could either wait until the baby was born, or we could have an amniocentesis done for 100% diagnosis. We chose to do the amnio. This is a controversial decision since many people do amnios before selective abortions and since the procedure carries a very small risk. But we wanted to know if the baby had Down’s Syndrome so that we could adjust and prepare for how best to care for this little gift that God gave us.
We had the amniocentesis done first thing Monday morning, January 16. I was a nervous wreck inside, but God gave so much grace to keep calm and under control. Ever since learning about this procedure in high school, I have had cold shudders when I thought of a long needle puncturing through my abdominal wall and into my uterus. Honestly, it was terrifying. The doctor kept assuring us that I would just feel “one strong contraction.” It hasn’t been that long ago since Gloria’s intensely painful birth, and I kept reliving that pain in anticipation. But God was so gracious to calm me before the procedure.
When we actually went in the room to have the procedure done, we first started with an ultrasound, which helped to calm me even more as I saw the sweet baby wiggling and floating peacefully around in the amniotic fluid. Soon the doctor bustled in, announced what the procedure would be, asked me if I was ready, and began. I couldn’t look at the needle, so I just kept watching the ultrasound screen and was surprised to see the needle already in the amniotic sac. I had not felt a thing. God had graciously protected me from pain and from contractions, and the procedure was honestly completely pain-free. I was shocked. I felt a moment of pressure as the doctor removed the needle, and that was it. No major contraction, no pain, nothing. Just a tiny little pin prick on my stomach.
Then we had to wait for 10–14 days for the results. Again, God was so gracious. I was honestly grateful for the waiting period because I could tell myself, “I will not worry about this until day 10.” God gave me incredible grace to be able (for the most part) to box up all of my fears and unruly emotions and put them in a dark corner of my heart, waiting to deal with them on day 10. God used psalms to give me hope during this time. And “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34) kept ringing and ringing in my ears.
During that week and a half (and the entire month preceding), God taught me many things. But the one thing that I was almost completely sure of was that this little girl really did have Down’s Syndrome. She really would be born with this disability. I honestly came to a point of almost completely accepting it, although I fervently prayed that the opposite would be true. I would look at Gloria’s beautiful eyes and imagine them almond-shaped. What will she look like? Will she look like my other two girls? I kept wondering. But I was sure that the phone call would be a positive diagnosis.
On Thursday morning, January 26, exactly 10 days later, the genetic counselor called us. I asked her to please hold and ran for Andy’s office. He hurried out, and I put the phone on speaker. The counselor said, “Andy and Jenni? I have good news for you. Your baby has only 46 chromosomes. She is a healthy baby girl.”
I burst into tears. Andy started yelling. We thanked the counselor, ended the call, and clung to each other. Andy was yelling, “Praise God! Praise God!” I had my head buried in his chest, sobbing uncontrollably. It was like the box with all those emotions that I had carefully stowed away had begun to crack open, and the emotions were flooding out. I could not believe it.
I’m still struggling to wrap my mind around the news. Baby girl #3. Baby girl #3 is healthy. Baby girl #3 does not have Down’s Syndrome. I know that God in his kind providence could have sovereignly given us a baby with special needs. He still may. But for some reason, he allowed us to go through this five-week journey and then removed the trial. I don’t know all of the reasons that God ordained that our baby have only 46 chromosomes. But I know that he is good and that he answered our prayers. And I am so incredibly, eternally grateful.
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy. (Psalm 126:1-3)
Update: God graciously allowed us to have several more minor scares with this pregnancy. But he graciously chose to remove each scare a few weeks after the initial diagnosis. We do not know all that God has planned for this little girl, but we are so grateful to God for the lessons that he has taught us along the way. God has reminded us that life is a gift from him and that he designs and sustains it by his gracious hand. And we are so grateful that he has chosen to give us Emma Elyse.