“I hope you don’t think I was staring. It’s just that you are due the same time I was supposed to have my baby…” That very first day I met Amanda, her transparent and tender heart became very evident. At the time, my swollen belly was unable to hide the child growing within. Her stomach was vacant- and her heart broken. As she fumbled through a totally honest and completely unnecessary apology, and then as she went on to disclose her pain-filled journey with me, my admiration for Amanda’s Christ-like heart was born. As I’ve continued to watch and pray for her, this admiration has only grown. I am so excited, today, to bring you the testimony of a woman whose faith truly lights up each room she walks into.
Amanda Crawford’s story as told by Randi Peck
Amanda nervously settled into her vinyl chair as her doctor prepared to inject her with Methotrexate. Like other chemotherapy patients, she braced herself for the unpredictable reaction of her body. Like other patients, she fought to cling on to hope. And also, like other patients, she was fighting for life. But unlike the majority of patients going through chemotherapy, Amanda fought for a life not her own- a life not yet wrought, a heartbeat yet to flutter, fingers yet to clasp her own.
Amanda did not have cancer. She was not receiving treatment there that day to rid her body of some invader, unwanted. She was receiving treatment to rid her body of something she had deeply, fiercely wanted… Her own child.
When Chris and Amanda married in 2013, there was never an if as to whether or not they would start a family. Three days after they said “I do”, on February 19th, they stared at the two blue lines on the pregnancy test. Two blue lines, representing the shock their church would grapple with upon finding out they had not waited. Two blue lines, pointing them toward the Savior’s grace they would find sufficient for their impurity. And yet, two blue lines also possessing great excitement and hope for a little life to love and call their own… Or so they thought.
A few short weeks later, Amanda found herself receiving two rounds of chemo to rid her body of this child who had tragically made its way into her fallopian tube- a home incapable of sustaining a growing baby- instead of implanting in her womb. In less than a month of marriage, Amanda and her husband had experienced a range of emotions from shock, shame, excitement and grief. As if that wasn’t enough, her ectopic pregnancy became even more devastating when a few days after her treatment she was chauffeured to the Emergency Room.
After waiting over five hours to be seen, Amanda went into a seizure as her fallopian tube ruptured and she was rushed into emergency surgery to remove what was left of her tube.
Great Loss, Greater Love
Over the course of the next year, Amanda experienced five more pregnancies. And five more miscarriages.
One of the most scarring of these experiences was the unborn child who remained on this earth long enough to give them a glimpse of its heartbeat, and in doing so fill their hearts with hope. A few weeks later, this life was overtaken by fetal tissue, deforming its helpless little body.
Amidst these tragedies, the Lord provided Amanda with incredible faith to trust His plan, even as her desire to be a mother remained unmet. She says, “God consumed me with his unconditional love in moments when there was absolutely no way of understanding His perfect ways.”
During one of her many pregnancies, she experienced another ectopic pregnancy and the doctor intended to remove the child through chemotherapy once again. Amanda felt confident in God’s ability to remove this baby from its dangerous position, despite the fact that refusing this doctor may cause her remaining fallopian tube to burst and, consequently, prevent her from ever bearing children. She refused this treatment and, sure enough, she miscarried safely days later.
She also found comfort in the loss of these tiny, little lives through visions God gave her. In one such vision she glimpsed the daughter she mourned: “I remember the look on my little girl’s face that God showed me- there is not even a word to describe the peace upon her face, the expression was nothing this world would ever see or experience.” Amanda’s heart broke as she said goodbye time after time, but she was confident her brood awaited her in Heaven, in the presence of their loving Maker.
Despite Chris and Amanda’s repeated losses, God used their pain to enlarge their hearts, not harden them. She admits, “We came to a point where we didn’t know if we would be able to have babies.” But they still felt the need to love: “God has placed so many babies on this earth that need to be loved and so we felt called to do so.”
The avenue they chose to share this love: foster parenting. After going through the process of being approved for foster care, they were placed with a 5-week old baby boy with enormous eyes and a fiery personality. Baby Boy kept her hands full as he cried constantly, demanding the affection she willingly lavished on him all day- and all night- long.
All this, while her and her husband walked through the roller coaster of their seventh pregnancy…
Warrior Baby- and the God Who Did the Fighting
Amanda’s seventh pregnancy was different from the start. For starters, rather than reacting to this news with faith and hope, Amanda yelled at God: “I was eating deep fried pickles at work (I hate pickles) and I immediately was angry when it hit me I must be pregnant! I yelled at God and told Him, ‘I don’t want this! Why?! Just keep me from becoming pregnant!’ I really couldn’t understand why He would put us through another loss.” She did not know if her heart could bear another goodbye.
But this baby fought to stay in this world- even as Amanda’s body tried to miscarry it. Against all odds, she passed the halfway point of her pregnancy as the doctors continually struggled to prevent her from premature labor.
But despite hospitalizations, steroid injections, and the bed-rest she refused to take because she was caring for her foster baby, Eloise Cadele Crawford was born April 20th, 2015- arriving promptly on her due date! Her name, so appropriately describing her: Eloise- meaning “wise”, Cadele- meaning “warrior”. And, of course, the name is even more telling of the skillful and all-knowing One who fought for her. Amanda acknowledges, “Eloise tried to come early so many times and it’s easy to think the doctors kept her in- but that is simply not the case. God kept her cooking until my heart was once again empty and broken. Then he placed her 5-pound, beautiful, little body in my arms.”
The Lord Gives… and the Lord Takes Away
The Crawfords were overwhelmed with gratitude over this child God entrusted to them and it didn’t take long for Amanda to fall in love: “She was more perfect than I could have ever imagined. She literally came out smiling! She was so full of joy immediately and so aware and ready for this life, it amazed me!”
And yet, as so often is the case in this broken world, her arrival was marked with sadness as well. For even as the Lord gifted them with a daughter, they dealt with the devastation of letting go of their foster son only sixteen hours prior to Eloise’s birth. Amanda recognizes God’s sovereignty in this timing, and yet there was nothing easy about another farewell- this time, with the son they had held and nourished and hoped to adopt. She describes the long awaited and bittersweet arrival of their biological child: “Sadly, this perfect baby my heart longed for was right in front of me and all I wanted to do was grieve in a moment I was made to be rejoicing in.”
But although Amanda is no stranger to loss, she does not hesitate to point to the beauty God has created from the ashes. The Crawfords are a living, breathing example of Job 1:21 when it declares, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” As they grapple through the mysteries of the past, the miracle of the present, and the fear of the future- their hearts remain trusting of the Lord. Amanda confesses, “I would be lying if I said there was absolutely no fear in the thought of future pregnancies. However, my faith and trust that God has it all in his beautiful hands is far greater than the fear.”
Since Eloise has been born, Chris and Amanda have taken in four more foster babies and are open to God’s plan for their family. The past nine months have reaped great joy for their family, but Amanda knows her faith is not realized in being a mother. Rather, her delight and rest come from being a child of the Father who faithfully guided them through the valley of the shadow of death. She says, “God is in control regardless of what we think we can control. I think it is very easy in this world to get to the place where we think we are in control… God’s already got the plan in play and motion and we are along for the ride regardless.” ★