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God’s gift of family, part 1: Grief


WORLD Radio - God’s gift of family, part 1: Grief

The Sutton family encounters physical and emotional suffering while trying to have children

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MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, April 25th.

You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: life and loss.

For Laura and Michael Sutton, trying to build a family was one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. From miscarriages and debilitating diagnoses to adoption hurdles and bitter endings, grief and hope.

REICHARD: WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has their story in two parts. Today, part one: the valley of the shadow.

For Laura and Michael Sutton, trying to build a family was one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. From miscarriages and debilitating diagnoses to adoption hurdles and bitter endings, grief and hope. Here’s one family’s story of how God carried them through.

WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has their story in two parts. Today, part one: the valley of the shadow.

SOUND: [Clanging metal bucket and sheep baa-ing]

LAURA SUTTON: Hey girls, want some treats?

ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Nineteen sheep were never part of Laura Sutton’s plan.

SUTTON: So yeah, I was going to start with seven sheep. And then that turned into nine sheep. And then my nine sheep had 10 babies.

She never expected to live on 73 acres in rural Wisconsin, either. But she’s come to love it.

SUTTON: Has for sure brought alive a lot of biblical analogies about we being the sheep of the Lord's pasture.

Everyone talks about how dumb sheep are. But that’s not what Laura has noticed most about raising sheep. What’s struck her most is how much personality they have, and how much she loves each one individually.

SUTTON: Ironically as much as everyone says, "Oh because we humans we stink so much and we're so stupid." Well, that's true, but I think God also cares so much and knows us by name. And it's it's a great privilege to be a sheep in God's pasture.

Laura always wanted a lot of kids. At least four.

SUTTON: I would have liked six, if I could have had my own way. And I had no clue that that was going to end up turning into one of the hardest things I've ever been to been through.

Laura is slim and blonde. Even in sweatpants and a plain t-shirt, she has an air of elegance. She’s wearing delicate gold wing-shaped earrings. They’re butterfly wings. She never used to like butterflies. But that’s part of the story.

When she got pregnant with her daughter, Kate, Laura was severely nauseous. She thought it was just morning sickness. Everybody told her it was hard, but it would get better.

SUTTON: I was still capable of keeping myself hydrated. Even though I was throwing up all my food for nine months.

It was a brutal pregnancy and birth and postpartum.

SUTTON: And I figured well, everyone says it gets better the next pregnancy won't be as bad. Birth won't be as bad.

And then the next pregnancy was worse, much much worse.

She found out she has something called HG.

SUTTON: Hyperemesis gravidarum.

It’s a rare condition that acts almost like an allergy to being pregnant. Such severe nausea you can’t keep food or water down for nine months. For many women who have H.G., it means cancer-level anti-nausea medications. By comparison, Laura had a mild case. But even still.

SUTTON: It was so bad that I could not keep liquid down.

She was pregnant for three months: a little boy they named Asher. When she miscarried, she was devastated and afraid.

SUTTON: I understood that that miscarriage is very normal. And I still urgently wanted more children. But I began to be very fearful because of the toll that it was taking on my body.

Her husband, Michael, felt it too.

MICHAEL SUTTON: I started thinking, hey, this might not just be difficult, this may be damaging, and perhaps, perhaps even life threatening at some point.

LAURA SUTTON: We got pregnant again within a couple of months. We call her Emily but we don't know whether she was a girl or not.

She knew right away she was miscarrying again. She was bleeding internally. It was another initialism, this time: MTHFR, short for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. A genetic mutation. One of the side effects is rapid blood clotting.

SUTTON: And so it very commonly causes miscarriage in all stages of pregnancy.

They lost the baby at seven weeks.

SUTTON: So this is Emily's tree. It's a maple, and that's Asher's tree. It's an oak.

We’re walking down the long, curving driveway on the Suttons’ property. Neat green lawn, tall shade trees, and three small trees, rustling in a strong wind.

SUTTON: Hi, pretty Miloooooo. Hi!

[Meow] I love you so much.

Kate is six, now. She’s running ahead with an orange kitten, scampering alongside. Small cat companions are great, but they’re a poor substitute for siblings to play with.

SUTTON: She’d break my heart because she, I heard her praying as a three and a half year old in the back, Dear God. Please give me a little sister that doesn't die. Amen. Broke my heart.

There are ways of managing MTHFR, but it involves lots of trial and error. Miscarrying again and again as you try to find the right combination of treatments. If it had been only that one condition, Laura Sutton says she might have kept trying. If it had been only H.G., she would have stuck it out. But both conditions together?

SUTTON: It was probably the lowest that I've been with regards to my faith. I still believed God. I knew God was there. I knew he was the only answer. I knew he was sovereign, and in control of every single one of these details. But for the first time in my life, God did not feel good.

So she did what she usually does when faced with something incomprehensible: She started doing exhaustive research. Books, podcasts, sermons. The driving question:

SUTTON: How can I grow in my faith in God's goodness, when my senses and my heart and my mind tell me that God has chosen so much pain for me?

That’s when a friend sent her a talk from Joni Eareckson Tada.

JONI TADA: I long. I desire. I want to be a jewel that does not cringe if God chooses to give my soul a hard scrubbing every now and then.

Joni is no stranger to suffering. Quadriplegia, multiple bouts with cancer, chronic pain.

TADA: I know I can’t help but cling to the man of sorrows. I cling to the cross where every ugly thing is put to death. Before I know it, my sin is sand blasted away resulting in His image shining out of my soul, tested and refined, polished, a soul that glows with the glory of God.


In one of her talks, Joni told the story of her favorite pair of earrings. They were crisp golden squares, smooth and polished. A gift from a friend. One of the earrings fell out and got caught in the tire of her wheelchair. It was crushed, mangled beyond recognition. Devastated, she took the earrings to a jeweler and asked, is there any way to fix this? He said, "No, but I can make this other earring match the broken one." The jeweler took a hammer and grinder to the smooth earring, until it matched the other one. Joni said that it was strangely magnificent, like the work of a skilled artist. The new set of earrings, crushed and crinkled, reflected the light more brilliantly than they had before.

SUTTON: And she likened it to us in our suffering. Even though it is true that in some ways we feel mangled beyond all recovery, but nevertheless, God is creating something beautiful, that will reflect His light more than it ever would before.

That helped steady her as she and Michael mourned. Not just the two little lives they lost, but the death of a dream. The ability, maybe, to ever have more kids.

They felt that God was closing that door. So that’s when they started looking into adoption.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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