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The Worth of One

Jalen Beth lived only one hour.

But that precious time was worth all the pain of the previous few months, say her parents, Jay and Lisa Kindsvater.

Jay, collegiate ministries director at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, and Lisa discovered Jalen Beth had severe problems when she was a four-month-old fetus.

A first ultrasound in February revealed the problems. Two days later the Kindsvaters learned from an Oklahoma City perinatalogist that their baby had lethal dwarfism, which meant her head was a little large and the rest of her body was a little small.

What made her condition lethal was that her chest was so small there was no room for the lungs to develop.

"We were told Jalen Beth would probably do very well inside Lisa, but when it came time for her to breathe on her own, she would not be able to," Jay said.

Jay said the couple was in shock after the ultrasound as they headed to Lisa's parents' home to pick up their 2-year-old son, Jericho.

"On the way home, Lisa was sleeping while I listened to the radio," Jay recounted. As the sports news ended, he switched to a local station and heard Christian broadcaster Chuck Swindoll preaching on the name of Jesus.

"In the middle of his sermon, he had a commercial just for Lisa and me," Jay said. "He said, 'For those of you who have children with disabilities, John 9:1-3 needs to get all over you.' Lisa began waking up, and I started paying attention."

Swindoll, Jay said, was referring to Jesus being asked about the man born blind and responding that the blindness was not about sin in the parents' lives or sin in the man's life, but that the works of God might be manifested in his life.

"That became our prayer - that God's work might be manifested in our little girl's life," Jay said.

Since it was Wednesday night, the Kindsvaters went to the mid-week service at First Baptist, Tonkawa, where their pastor, Richard Thomasson, preached on faith in the life of a Christian.

"This was a blessing to us," Jay said. "Our church family sent us home with hugs and promises to pray for us."

The Kindsvaters said they were very open about Jalen Beth's condition. "We talked about what was going on and gave people the freedom to ask questions," Lisa said. "It helps if people know that instead of being excited about your pregnancy, you are grieving."

The perinatalogist told the Kindsvaters there was only a 5 to 10 percent chance the baby would be normal, and there was nothing medical science could do but terminate the pregnancy.

Jay and Lisa agreed they wanted to carry the baby to full term, if possible. Two days after discovering the baby had problems, Jay and Lisa named their little girl.

"We felt naming her before she was born was important," Lisa said. "That way we could pray for her by name."

Jay said from February on, anything Jalen Beth did inside Lisa was noteworthy.

"Jalen Beth liked music," Jay said. "During our church's revival in March, the music leader was singing, 'He's got the little bitty baby in His hands,' and Jalen kicked Lisa, as if to say, 'Mom, are you listening?'

"At a church concert in May, Jalen Beth started dancing. Lisa said the baby had never moved so much in an hour."

The pregnancy was not an easy one for Lisa. Because the baby could not process the amniotic fluid well, Lisa looked and felt nine months pregnant at seven months.

On May 20, following vomiting and a side-ache from the pressure of the amniotic fluid, Lisa's doctor drained off a liter of fluid. Ten days later, the doctor again removed more than a liter of fluid.

Contractions started after both procedures. The doctor sat down with the Kindsvaters on June 3 and mapped out a delivery plan.

On June 8, Jalen Beth, at 5 pounds, 5 1/2 oz. and 15 3/4 inches, was delivered by Caesarian section at 6:05 p.m.

"Jalen looked the doctor straight in the eyes," Jay said. Jalen Beth drew a breath. She moved her arms and legs. Her mom, dad, grandparents, uncles, and aunts got to hold her. Her brother got to see her.

"She had blue eyes, dark hair, my receding hairline, and there is some debate on whose nose she had."

The Kindsvaters emphasized they don't want to cast stones at anyone who has had an abortion, but they believe those who are facing the decision to carry a little one as far as possible or terminate such a pregnancy should consider several things.

"We would have always wondered about Jalen Beth," Jay reflected. "We would have wondered what she looked like, if the doctors were wrong, if God might have worked a miracle. We never would have gotten to hold our little girl. We have a birth certificate and a death certificate."

"Seeing her was worth the wait, struggle, and hardship," Lisa said. "We held Jalen until Jesus came to carry her home to be with Him in heaven."

The Kindsvaters stressed that they are pro-life, but with Jalen, "our whole deal is pro-Jesus in that Christ made the difference," Jay said. "It is because of our relationship with Christ that we walked through this thing. The difference is what Jesus has done."

"It was not an easy way to deal with this situation," Lisa added, "but we believe it was the best way."

The Kindsvaters said they have received wonderful letters from people who heard about Jalen.

"One in particular was meaningful," Jay said. "It reminded us to take time for ourselves, each other, the Lord, and not to lose sight of our feelings."

Lisa said after Jalen's birth, she was at the playground with Jericho, when a woman asked her if he was her only child.

"I said, 'Yes,' but regret that I missed an opportunity to witness," Lisa said. "I'm looking forward to other witnessing opportunities that Jalen's life will bring.

"We believe the promise that God will be manifested in her. Jalen's life matters."


Dana Williamson is assistant editor at the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger.

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January 1999 Edition
Volume 7, Issue 4
January 1999