erin ahnfeldt

Listening to Life

This is my story of a time when I experienced great lost, but found that in the midst of my grieving, Jesus showing up.

The day I figured out I was pregnant, I was shocked and scared.  Having another child in our lives was not my fear as we have enjoyed so much raising our children.  We both were open to the possibility of having another baby, just not sure if we should.  What I feared was going through another pregnancy at the age of 42.  I knew that there could be some complications due to my age.  I also had a history of miscarriages, and was concerned that I may experience another one.   I spent time in prayer and asked God for strength.  After a lot of prayer and tears, I felt God giving me a peace.  The verse Trust in the Lord with all your heart spoke to me, and I decided to do just that, to trust Him no matter what. 

My past pregnancies were all somewhat planned. Since I had not planned on this baby, I wondered if he was a special gift to us given from God.  That thought helped me feel peace about the pregnancy. I began to feel excited and my love for my little baby grew.  I started dreaming about all things baby, and began looking forward to raising and holding another one.  I love babies, and love feedings, and especially love having a little buddy to take with me where ever I go.  I began making plans for his arrival.  I called some friends and asked them to save their baby clothes that I had passed on to them.  I also needed to call my brother and tell him that the crib that I had promised him was no longer available. I started asking my husband, “Should we build an addition on to our house?”   “Should we get a bigger van?”  “Maybe we should just move?”  One of my joys about having a new baby join the family is the great excuse to shop, and I was looking forward to it. 

I had my first doctor’s appointment when the baby was almost 13 weeks old.  I was thrilled to hear a heartbeat for the first time, but was a little concerned at how high it was.  It was 180 and I remember asking the nurse if that was normal.  It was higher than any of my other baby’s at their first appointments.  She said that she did not think it was anything to be concerned about, so I went with it, and decided not to worry.  I figured it probably meant that I was going to have another girl.  That was great with me, as we were due for another girl.  We needed to even up the numbers again.

After hearing the baby’s precious heartbeat, I began to share my exciting news with others.  We started brainstorming names.  We had several friends and family chime in on good names for baby Tenpas number 6.  Due to the fact the we already have a Hunter, Summer, and Fisher, some of their suggestions for a baby boy were:  Tripper, Trapper, Runner, Gunner, Tanner, and Remington.  So even though we ignored them…we were grateful for their well thought out ideas

At about 17 weeks into my pregnancy, I took a trip to Italy.  While there, I purchased the baby’s first outfit and matching rattle.  The outfit had some words on it in Italian, and I asked someone what the words meant.  She explained they meant heavenly or angelic baby.  I loved the meaning of those words, because that was exactly how I felt.  God had given us an angelic baby as a special gift for us from God.  I bought the darling outfit, and decided I would take it with me to the baby’s birth.  It would be his first outfit.

Another special event that took place while in Italy was feeling the baby’s first movements.  I decided that the he either enjoyed traveling or he enjoyed having some alone time with mom, because I felt lots of little butterfly touches throughout the trip.  Those first movements were special, and I was hopeful that our little baby was thriving. 

Although our first vacation together had some special moments, there were some stressful ones as well.  We arrived with no luggage, did not have the correct passport, which led to me missing my flight.  Even though all did not go smoothly, I am now so thankful that my baby and I had that special time together exploring Italy.  We arrived back safely, and I began to look forward to my next appointment where I would see the baby for the first time.

As the appointment drew near my husband, Dean, and I had some lively discussions about whether or not we would find out his gender.  I wanted to find out, but Dean, being very traditional, always wanted to keep it a secret until the birth.  Since Dean had not come to all my ultrasounds in the past, I wondered if he would be able to make it to this one.  If not…my plan was to secretly find out the baby’s gender (what is that saying… if you are given a lemon, make some lemonade).  I was going to honor him though and not tell anyone (which in all honesty, I probably would not be able to do).  But much to my dismay, Dean cleared his schedule and my sinister plan was no longer an option.  Of course, I did not know at the time how important it would be for him to be there, and I am so very, very grateful that he was able to come.

The first 5 minutes of the ultrasound was full of happy talk and excitement.  We saw the heart beating, and legs and toes moving.  We saw five little fingers.  All seemed to be going well.  Then the ultrasound tech began to measure the skull and study the brain.  She got quiet, and then stated that she was seeing some abnormalities.   We began to ask her all sorts of questions, and she explained that the baby’s brain was not developed fully and that she saw some fluid on the brain.  She also said that the baby was measuring much smaller than what was expected.  We were shocked and began asking more questions.  She said that she thought it would be best if we talked to the high risk doctor.  She then left the room, but promised to come back shortly.  Dean and I were left alone for several minutes.  The rest of our time is a bit foggy for me.  I think we prayed and held hands.  I am pretty sure we started talking about football and our schedule (this was Dean’s little way to help me take my mind off of things.)  We cried together, but tried not to get too concerned until we had more information.

Then the Tech and the High Risk Doctor returned, she studied the ultrasound and began sharing all of her concerns about multiple things she was seeing.  She said that our baby most likely had trisomy 13 and that the baby had an underdeveloped heart, kidneys, brain, and facial features.  She said that she was very sorry, but trisomy 13 is typically lethal and that the baby was not expected to live much longer.  She did say that it was possible that I would carry him full term, but not likely, and even if he made it to full term he would probably die during the labor or shortly after his birth.  I asked her if there was any chance at all for the baby’s condition to improve.  She graciously said that in his condition, he had no chance at life and would probably only be alive another month or two. 

The doctor asked us if we wanted to discuss options (which of course is code word for ‘Do you want an abortion?).  I remember Dean very adamantly telling her that abortion is not an option for us.  We had many discussions in the past about what we would do if our baby had any issues, and we both agreed that an abortion would never be an option for us. But, lying on the table with my dreams shattered and me in my weakness, I started wondering about whether or not I wanted to continue with my pregnancy.  I thought about how hard it would be, knowing that my baby would die in the end.  I would also continue gaining weight.  I would be very uncomfortable, tired, and probably depressed.  Pregnancies were never easy for me, and my weak mind was not sure if I could handle all this.  So when Dean adamantly told the doctor that we would continue with the pregnancy, I was not quite feeling as strong, but kept quiet because I knew he was right.  I decided I would bear through with the pregnancy, but felt very weak and was not sure I could do it.  I began weeping and felt hopeless.  Sometime during those tears the verse, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me came to mind, and I wondered if this verse was really true. Then the doctor had me take some blood tests to confirm the trisomy 13 diagnosis, and we left the hospital with me balling. 

I went home heart broken and wept for several hours.  All my joy I had before the appointment left me, and I wondered how God had allowed this to happen to such a weak person.  Once again that verse came into my head, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  I remember asking God for strength, understanding and to feel joy again, but was not sue that would be possible.  I spent time reading my Bible and felt I could relate to David who also lost a baby.  Psalm 23 became very real to me and my understanding of God’s word seemed clearer.  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  Just that part of the passage alone was huge to me.  I needed to follow Him and not want.  Then the passage continues to say that even though I will walk through the valley of the shadows of death I shall fear no evil for God will be with me.  He will restore my soul.  I memorized that passage as a young girl, but I never really understood its significance until that afternoon.  I decided to hold onto His promises and allow God to restore my soul.  I prayed and asked God for strength, wisdom, joy, and if possible a miracle.  But, I also wanted to submit my will and trust in his plan for me. 

         I continued to cry and pray for hours, but just before bedtime, I felt God’s strength, love, and comfort.  I believe through my prayers, He helped me come up with my plan for the rest of my pregnancy.  I decided that I would enjoy our baby’s precious little movements.  I would love him with all my heart.  I would take the very best care of him, and I would pray and spend time with God.  I would continue to ask God for a miracle, but also wanted God to give me a peace if a miracle was not in his plan.  I decided I would trust Him in the good times and in the bad times.  I did not sleep great that night, but the next morning I woke up feeling a little better, and I even felt a little joy return.

A couple of days later, I got my wish after all, and the doctor called and surprised us by telling us that our baby was a boy.   As we considered names in the following weeks and not quite getting on board with all of  our friends and families wonderful ideas.  I kept coming back to the name Beau.  But for this baby, there did not seem to be enough spiritual significance and meaning linked to the name.  So I was stuck.  But a few days later Dean and I saw a documentary by Kirk Cameron and in it he talked about the rainbow and how a rainbow was designed by God to point us to heaven. 

A few days later, my mom also gave me a blanket with rainbows on it.  I had told her that I was hoping to find a homemade white knitted blanket to bring to the hospital.  She attempted to make one for me, but was not having great success.  She then started on an excessive search for me and was running out of luck. As a last resort, she headed to a consignment store.  While explaining to the sales clerk what she was looking for, a lady behind her overheard the conversation.  She told my mom she had some freshly knitted blankets in her car, and that she could have one.   My mom was thrilled, but was concerned about the rainbow colors on the blanket.  She called and asked me what I thought.  I told her that I would love it and that the blanket sounded absolutely perfect. This sealed my decision.  His name was Beau after the rainbow.  I also learned in Danish Beau means to live….and in French it means beautiful.   Since a rainbow signifies God’s promise to take care of us right after a trial has occurred, it now seemed the perfect name.   I also picked the middle name of Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’ – since Beau would be with God soon, and also as a reminder to us that God was with us through his pregnancy.

The next several months my emotions were all over the place.  There were some very dark times, and in my weakness I would find myself listening and believing Satan’s lies.  I struggled with my self-worth and wondered why anyone would love me.  I was tired, getting bigger, lazy, and not being a great mother or wife to the rest of my family.  I was emotionally unstable.   I fell apart at random moments and forgot several appointments. 

One day in my rush to get my kids to school on time, I left home without my purse.  On my return home, I noticed my car’s gas gauge was dangerously low.  Since I was not too far from my husband’s office, I stopped in and asked him for some money for gas.  He handed me a twenty, and I went on my merry way.  Unfortunately for me, my brain does not always function as how it should, and when I am pregnant it functions quite low.  As I was putting in the gas my mind wandered off, and before I knew it, I had put in $35.00 worth of gas.  I tried to stay calm and in charge, and planned to handle my situation with a rational mind.  But while explaining to the clerk my problem, I started weeping and balling.  I could barely speak.  My nose started running and I had to ask him for some Kleenex.  The poor guy felt horrible for me, and was probably close to calling the psyche ward to come get me. In his pity, he let me leave after handing him my twenty, all the extra change I scrounged from my car, and a promissory note stating I would return to pay the rest of my bill.  I left feeling like a total loser. That was humiliating and all I wanted to do was crawl into a whole and stay there for the rest of my life.

After crying all the way home.  I ran into my room and grabbed my precious Bible. I found another great verse that gave me some much needed encouragement.  Psalm119: 28-30:  “I weep with grief; encourage me by your word. Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your law. I have chosen to be faithful.”  This verse was reassurance for me to watch out for lies while grieving. Satan loves to see us fail and whisper lies to us in our weakness.  Yes, I may fail, but my life is precious to God and he loves me despite of my sins.  Instead of focusing on my woes, I should spend time in God’s Word, worshiping, praising, and remaining faithful to my God who gives me hope.

There were also some very wonderful times as well.  I continued to carry little Beau for much longer than the doctor expected.  I enjoyed his little movements and talked to him about life and how thankful I was to have him. I never once regretted my decision to carry him and was thankful each day that I felt his lively movements.    

I had many sweet friends and family bring over meals, pray with me, or send me a note or an email.  I even had some friends and family who sat and cried with me.  Ironically, there were times when I found myself comforting them, and telling them that God was good, and he would take care of me and Beau.  Strangely, I enjoyed it when someone would touch my tummy (with past pregnancies that would make feel a little uncomfortable), but with Beau it melted my heart.  I was touched when a few friends and family offered to take photos of him for me, and also felt blessed when many friends offered to give him a baby shower.  They were hoping to celebrate his life as short as it may be, and create special memories for me to have as keepsakes. Words cannot express how thankful I was for all of my loved ones reaching out and showering me with kindness and encouragement over those last few months.  God has blessed me with so many wonderful friends and family and because of their goodness; my trial was so much easier to bear. 

My belly continued to grow larger, which meant my baby must be growing as well.  When Beau was still alive and thriving at 28 weeks I felt and hoped he may go the whole distance.  He already had lived longer than the doctor thought possible, and I wondered if his diagnosis was not as bleak as we originally thought.  I asked my doctor if we could have another ultrasound at our next appointment.

At 32 and 1/2 weeks, we had a second ultrasound.  We were saddened to find out Beau appeared to be much smaller than he should have been and all his abnormalities were the same as the first ultrasound.  The doctor was worried about excessive fluid retention and thought we should start monitoring mine and Beau’s situation more closely.  The extra fluid seemed to be gaining rapidly and was making it difficult for me to breathe and eat.  I had a hard time keeping food down and I felt sick, weak, and very uncomfortable.  I took it easy, and only felt comfortable when resting.

Ten days later, on a Sunday, I woke up and was very emotional, crying a lot and was super worried, as Beau had not been moving at all that day.  I waited for hours and did not feel any more movements.  I was heartbroken, but also felt a peace, knowing that if Beau had passed he was in Heaven with Jesus.  The next day I went to the doctor and had a very short ultrasound where the technician confirmed there was no heartbeat.  I met the doctor immediately and was admitted to the hospital a short time later.

Dean and I knew that this day would be coming and were well prepared.  We brought some worship music to listen throughout the labor.  We also brought our special handmade blankets and a few outfits for photos.  We transported some kits to make hand prints and footprints to have as keepsakes for later.  We also, had along some of my favorite Scripture verses and devotionals to read for inspiration.

The labor was calm and peaceful and lasted about 21 hours.  My doctor was gracious to me and wanted me to have as little of pain as possible.   The nurses were wonderful and compassionate which put me at ease. Dean and I had some special time to pray, and he was the best coach, encourager, and friend to me throughout.   The labor and delivery went smoothly.  On Dec. 17, 2013, Beau was born. We had a chance to spend some time with him and take pictures. He felt warm and precious. He had curly blond hair, weighed over 4 pounds, and we both thought he was beautiful.  We barely noticed any of his abnormalities.  My sweet friend, Hannah came and took pictures and made keepsakes of his footprints. We held him and kissed him and told him we loved him.

We know his spirit is in heaven with Jesus and he is experiencing God’s love and glory.  He is completely whole and in a much better place. I am grateful for his little life and the time I had with him and I look forward to the time that we will be reunited.

In looking back on what I have learned through this situation, here are some big things Beau’s short life has taught me:

 God is good.

 We are in a fallen world and bad things do happen, because of our sin we have genetic disorders, disease, people hurting each other, death…all happen because we’re in a sinful world.   But at the same time as it says in Romans 8:28:  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I learned that this verse is true – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

I learned that doing what you know is right even if it is hard is the best way, and you will blessed for it.

 I learned to value life and really, really appreciate my children more than ever.  My children have been such a blessing to me through this, and their hugs have been the most comforting.  They have been so gracious and giving to me. I hope to not take my time with them for granted and I’m so grateful that God has given five children to raise.

What God says is true 

Community….which is the Body of Christ is priceless and is so helpful. 

I am thankful for family and friends taking photos, filling Christmas stockings, putting up a Christmas tree for us, sending us cards, notes, and flowers, giving us gifts and meals, watching our kids and dog, making us special worship music, and creating the perfect urn to place his ashes.  We learned that you do not have to have the perfect words to say, but showing love goes along way.

Candy Tenpas

Your words capture so much that is beautiful about God. He really is with us, even after stress at gas stations, in the provision of the perfect blankets, and in good community. Thank you for being so vulnerable in relating the incredible range of emotions you went through trying to trust but hurting at the same time. Your intimacy with Jesus challenges me!


Thank you for sharing your story! It’s beautiful, encouraging, inspiring, and challenging. What a wonderful reminder of God’s faithfulness. I appreciate you sharing Beau Emmanuel. Thank you!

Rachel Trinity