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In His Image


So, I have some news that I want to share with you guys, and I don’t have a great way to do it, so this is a long post, but I’ll be straightforward…

I’d like to share with you a little about our lives for the past month.  A month ago, yesterday, we had a glimpse of our baby in an ultrasound. We were asked to come back to a follow-up, since they were having trouble seeing everything on the baby, specifically the back. They couldn’t even get the baby to move to tell if we were having a boy or a girl! So we came back the next week, and here’s what we saw.

Our new Baby!

Baby's first picture

We were very excited to find out that we were having a little girl. We watched her, as she kicked, and tried to suck her thumb. What a joy it is to start to put a personality to the baby that you have so many questions about!

The doctor came in immediately after and told us what we didn’t want to hear. No parent hopes to hear anything besides “She’s perfect” from a doctor. But instead, he said that without a doubt, our little girl had Spina Bifida.

Spina Bifida is a neural tube defect. If I could over-simplify an explanation, it means that the spinal cord doesn’t close up into the spine all the way. The nerves can start to slip out of the hole that is left from it not closing. If you want a more detailed explanation, you can check out this children’s article.

Since the first ultrasound, we have had 2 additional in-depth ultrasounds. So far, here’s what we know…

  • The lesion or “hole” is very low on the baby’s back, which means its sacral and below the waist.
  • Because of the low lesion, there is a very good chance that she’ll walk, probably without support eventually.
  • She’ll most likely have issues with her bowels and bladder, which are very manageable, and both of which could improve as she gets older.
  • We’ll have quite a few more doctor visits in the months before and after she is born.
  • Most other things we won’t know for sure about until after she’s born.

Overall, we feel that we’ve gotten some great news. Our doctors have been great so far, giving us all of our options.  We were given the option to terminate the pregnancy when we received the official diagnosis, and we refused. We believe that God has, and continues to knit this little girl together in His image. We know that His plans are not to harm us, or her, but to prosper our family, and to give us all a hope and a future.

We’ve decided to name her Zoe, which is Greek for Life. While we know that termination could have been the easy way out, we also know that God has given her to us for such a time as this. We believe that her life, as well as our family experiences will be something that God uses for His glory.

So, what can you do? We desperately need your prayers during this time. We want to stay strong, as we already have a 1 year old to care for as well as all of the teenagers that we love and care for as well. So, you can pray for us, but also pray for Zoe. Pray that God continues to form her even now, into His image. We are praying that God creates her in the way that HE wants her to be. We would not have chosen any of this, but we believe that God has chosen her for something more than we can ask or imagine.

Hillary and I will be posting basically EVERYTHING that we find out about Zoe on our blogs, plus other things going on in our family. It’s the easiest way to keep all of the family members and friends that we have all over the country informed about what we know, and it saves us from saying the same thing over and over again.

We announced this to our church family today, and we have gotten such a great response. We asked for some space, and our church was so respectful, but loving at the same time. We’ve already been encouraged by the stories that have been shared with us.  We’re excited about bringing Zoe back to a church that will love her and care for her like one of their own.

So now, we need your help to also be excited with us. We are not mourning anything. In October, we will go to Vanderbilt and have a beautiful baby girl who has a few extra issues, but besides that, she will be a normal newborn.  We can already look at so much of this experience and realize all that God is already doing in our situation, and how He’s prepared us for what He is doing in our family. Thank you in advance or praying for us and supporting us through it all.

  1. Kathy Kendrick permalink

    My prayers are with you and your family.

    • And we’ll continue to need those prayers. We still believe that God is in control of every part of this process. Thanks Kathy.

  2. Lori Render permalink

    John and Hilary,
    Your whole family is in our thoughts and prayers. Zoe is one lucky girl to have you as parents. When I taught kindergarten I had a little girl in my class that also had spina bifida and she is a bright and vibrant little girl and I know Zoe will be too! I know this is a tough time emotionally for you guy but God obviously knows you can handle it! God is great and Zoe will be too!! If at any time you’d like to speak with the parents of my former student I KNOW they would be more than happy too!! They are great people and may be able to share some of their story as well.

    Lori Render ( Linda Tyree’s sister)

    • Thank you Lori. As we start to know more about Zoe, we might take you up on that offer. Hearing from these families is a big encouragement to us. I know they’ve been where we are, and we’ll need some advice. Ok, a lot of advice! Thanks again Lori!

  3. Alice Tackett permalink

    John and Hillary,
    We will be praying for you and little Zoe. With God all things are possible, so we are praying for healing before baby girl leaves the safety of her mommy’s womb.

  4. Tracy Thornton permalink

    John and Hillary,

    Just wanted to say that I am and will be praying for your family during the next few months.

    In Christian Love,


  5. Janice McCarty permalink

    All children are a blessing from God. I am thankful that this child will be born to parents who will love and cherish her no matter the circumstances. God makes no mistakes, so this means that Zoe is a special gift to you and Hillary. His love is overwhelming and his compassion is never-ending. So, I rejoice with you and Hillary as you bring this very special gift into this world. She will be a blessing beyond belief. My prayer is for you to remain positive and strong. God is in control and he will deliver you through this. I believe in divine healing and I pray for that. But, no matter the outcome, this little girl will be a blessing to all who meet her and you and Hillary are in for a very special life with both your children. I send you my love and prayers.


  6. Chase Goff permalink

    I’m praying for you bro. I know often life can throw us a curveball but I have no doubt that God will equip you and Hillary to deal with whatever happens and he has already made you great parents.

    • Thanks man. We know He will continue to be with our family, just like He’s always been. We’re just praying He’s there even more. Still looking forward to lunch in a couple of weeks!

  7. Gina Duncan permalink

    First of all, I am excited that you are having a Zoe, too!
    Then, there are only 2 thoughts that come to my mind when I read and then re-read your post:
    Our God is the Great Physician and Healer.
    His Grace is sufficient for you.
    Please know that we love your little family and are praying for you all and your Zoe.
    Gary & Gina

    • You guys have always been a solid source of guidance in our lives. Your family has the kind of unwavering confidence that we will both draw from, and hopefully develop over this time. We miss the Duncans!

  8. John,

    You have always been the most talented student I have ever known but, now you are the most AMAZING young man that I know. John when I think of Turkey Creek Elementary I always think of you. I was so blessed to get to share that time with you. I love you and will be praying for you and your family.

    If I can do anything to help you and your family just let me know. But, always remember that I taught you everything that you know.

    Darlene Hager

    • Well, you’re right that I did learn everything I know from you! Did you know I do a lot of the “Tech” stuff at my church now too? You definitely taught me a lot of that stuff!
      Thank you so much for the kind words. I always think fondly of my time at TC, and you were a large part of that. Your involvement with my family over the years has been irreplaceable. Thank you so much for everything!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. But even if He doesn’t « A Backwards Way of Thinking
  2. What is good news? « A Backwards Way of Thinking

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