Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Embryology (page 1 of 2)

Loved and Secure

I gazed at the television screen in awe. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Everyone else in the surgical theatre – and there were a few – was tuned out as I drank in the beautiful sight of our two-day old twins.

The surgeon was talking, nurses and technicians bustling about getting everything prepped, Adi snapping away at the screen with our non-digital camera.

Long before I was ready to stop gazing, the screen was switched off and I was arranged on the edge of the operating table, legs akimbo, for our babies to be transferred back to me.

ZygoteI’d been unprepared for the rise of strong maternal feelings that exploded inside me when I called the hospital the day before to find out whether my eggs had ‘taken’. As soon as the lab technician assured me that both had taken and were dividing well, a lioness inside me lifted her head and roared.

I was a mother, and I would do anything to protect my kids. If it had been allowed, I would have spent the next twenty four hours in the lab gazing at those two tiny, fragile lives in the petri dish. They were mine and woe betide anyone who dared to be careless around them.

I loved our tiny twins, who we nicknamed Two and Three, from the second I knew they were conceived. I still love them and can’t wait for the day I will finally meet them face to face and wrap my arms around them for a lifetime of missed hugs.

It hit me this morning that God feels the same way about me.

Except He loved me long before I was conceived. In fact, He loved me so much before I existed that He made sure my parents met so I could be conceived.

He loves me. Just as I couldn’t tear away my eyes from my little ones, He gazes at me with love and delight. He sits beside me and counts every hair of my head. He watches over me when I sleep and is with me in every activity.

I am loved. And so are you.

Read the full story.

You Knitted Me Together…

O LORD, You have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up….
For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!

Psalm 139:1,2,13-17 (ESV)

Royal Baby Or Royal Fetus?

Like the majority of people in the UK, indeed in the Commonwealth, I’m delighted that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first baby.  People are excited about this new life, already discussing names and speculating on whether this little one will be a boy or a girl, even whether the Duchess will have twins!

Yesterday, I came across Denny Burk’s comments about our reaction to the news and, particularly, the fact that we are talking about a baby.  Not a blob or a fetus, but a baby.  Interesting the way our terminology changes when we consider a pregnancy and new life to be precious….

Why aren’t we calling it the ‘royal fetus’?

The Miracle In The Womb

I recently came across this amazing pregnancy video which shows the development of a baby from conception to birth using the most spectacular images from Tor Constantino.  It’s definitely worth watching.

Be Fruitful And Multiply

Within 8 weeks the baby has a face, characteristics. It has all its internal organs. And its nervous system is already so developed that it can perform reflex actions such as movements away from cutaneous stimulation and squinting. It hiccups.

While I am weary of making this into an anti-abortion ad, I want you to note that this baby is still 16 weeks away from its right to life, as declared by the UK government and hundreds of thousands of woman each day. I don’t want to provoke anyone that is affected by this subject, and I am not criminalising or judging any woman who has made this decision. I do want to lovingly change people’s perspective when it comes to the sanctity of life.

By 16 weeks the baby can hear, breathe amniotic fluid, make facial expressions within the range grown adults and even has fingernails. By 24 weeks its brainwaves resemble those of a newborn child and it can recognise its mother’s voice.

There is so much beauty in this. A study has been conducted that shows, when a baby is face to face with its mother, their heartbeats synchronise to coincide with one another. Isn’t that just the most precious thing?

This is part of my friend Bethan Elysia Woodward’s blog post and I found it passionate, biblical and scientific – no mean task!  Read more of Bethan’s post, including a fascinating quote from the late Paul E Rockwell MD.

Quoted with kind permission from Bethan Elysia Woodward.

A Visit to the Holocaust Centre

Last Friday, I visited the Holocaust Centre near Laxton with Reindeer Writers, my local ACW writing group.  As I walked from the car park to the centre, I entered beautiful rose gardens, in the middle of which was a hexagonal monument with the names of the extermination camps from World War II engraved on each side.

The gardens were very peaceful with the trickling sound of a water feature and the gentle scent of a multitude of white roses, each with a plaque commemorating the name of an individual or family who perished in the holocaust.

Our visit began with a couple of short videos outlining the cold-blooded organisation and brutal terror of the Nazi extermination and concentration camps, and how the Laxton Holocaust Centre was founded.  We were then free to wander around the museum.

The centre aims to show how wrong genocide is, whether it be in Nazi Europe in WWII, Rwanda in 1994, or Darfur in this century.  At the beginning of the exhibition, I was interested to see a gallery of famous Jews.  I had never before realised that Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Artur Rubinstein, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein were Jewish.  It is frightening how prejudice can completely blind people to a person’s worth.  Einstein’s written works in physics were burned by the Nazis simply because he was Jewish and, therefore, considered a threat to the Nazi regime.  This is utter madness.  Yet it happened… and made perfect sense to educated, reasoning people at the time.

The Nazis’ attitude towards children was interesting.  I saw a photo of a maternity hospital with an SS banner proudly displayed over the cots.  It was part of the Lebensborn (Spring of Life) Programme.  In this programme, young women with appropriate racial characteristics were selected to conceive children by SS officers in Hitler’s relentless request for a master race.  (Hmm, designer babies.  Does that ring any bells today?)  Not only that, but Aryan-looking children were kidnapped from occupied countries including Poland and Norway.  These little ones were then indoctrinated and raised as young Nazis.  Aryan-looking children were desired, so they were favoured by the Nazi regime.

But what about Jewish children?  Or children from non-Aryan backgrounds?  Their lives were of no consequence to the Nazis.  If small starving children forced to live in the ghettoes were caught stealing food, they were shot.

As I pondered on my visit, I could not help but be saddened by the fact that seventy years on, we still have not learnt to value the lives of those who are perceived as being a little bit different to us.  Tragically, a form of ‘selection’ still goes on.  If someone is smaller and more dependent than us, we feel it gives us the right to choose whether or not that person has worth and should be allowed to live.  Currently 180,000 abortions are carried out every year in England and Wales.  If it was wrong to exterminate human people in the Holocaust (and it was), surely it is also wrong to abort human people in the womb?

A Tiny Treasure in Heaven

After that terrible, thundery Friday afternoon on 12th May 2006 when I lost Two and Three (and consequently all hope of having children of my own), I turned to my library of books for comfort.  My Bible was my first port of call.  As I’ve said earlier in this blog, for me it was vital to give God glory rather than blame Him and become bitter.  So I purposefully echoed in my heart Job’s words after he lost all of his children (along with his home, all his possessions, his money and his health):

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.

I also turned to godly Christian writers who I respect and look up to, one of whom was Elisabeth Elliot.  Although we have never met, her books have had a huge influence on my life and I consider her one of my spiritual mothers.  Within one of her books was an article that comforted me greatly:  A Tiny Treasure in Heaven.  She shares the heartbreaking loss of her daughter and son-in-law Val and Walt when Val miscarried a wee daughter in her fourth month of pregnancy.  Many years later, they still remember how ‘beautifully formed’ she was; tiny but perfect, fitting into the palm of a hand.

Article used by kind permission of the author, Elisabeth Elliot. 

A New Daddy’s Thoughts On His Blind Baby Daughter

I have just read a heart-moving blog post by Mike Anderson, sharing four lessons he has learned from his precious new-born daughter, who is virtually blind.  Mike has rediscovered wonderful truths about God – on a deeper level, and more real than ever before.  Read it for yourself.

Is The Unborn Really A Human Being?

I have recently read Why Pro-Life? by Randy Alcorn.  It is a very well-written book explaining clearly and logically that unborn babies – from conception to birth – are human beings who must be protected, nurtured and respected.  And, therefore, abortion and even taking the ‘morning after pill’ is wrong.  In one of the chapters, Randy Alcorn quotes pro-lifer Scott Klusendorf who points out that there are only four differences between a pre-born and a newborn.  These differences may easily be remembered using the acronym SLED:

Size:  Are big people more human than small people?

Level of Development:  Are 25-year-olds more human than 8-year-olds, since they are cleverer and stronger?

Environment:  Does being inside a house make you more human than being outside it?  Does being located inside your mother’s womb make you less human than being outside it?

Degree of Dependency:  Are people dependent on kidney dialysis or pacemakers less human than those who have no need of such dependence?  If people are less human because they are dependent, does that make it okay to kill them? 

A Novel + A Skull = Unexpected Worship!

I was reading the latest Michael Connelly book this afternoon when I came across a piece of courtroom dialogue discussing the thickness of the human skull.  Like a bright shaft of sunlight breaking through cloud, it hit me that it was God who gave me my skull.  He lovingly and skillfully wove me together in my mother’s womb, and the skull He so carefully developed from my parents’ chromosomes is the one I still have!  I’d always taken my skull for granted, it’s just there protecting my brain and giving my face its shape.  But this afternoon a huge smile lit up my face as a wave of pure joy and a feeling of awe swept over me, and I lifted my hands and heart in a brief moment of worship.

How wonderful that God is intimately involved with the conception and development of human life.  He is the one who sets all the processes in motion, developing the human embryo from conception through the foetal stage to birth.  The Bible describes Him as being intimately and actively involved in this process (Psalm 139:13-17).  Marvellous though this is, it is not just a physical work He is doing.  He also knows all about the person we are from conception, our childhood, our teenage years, our choices as adults.  He knows what job we will do, all about our career, whether we will marry and have children, our disappointments and the things we will enjoy.  Even before our conception, God knows us (Jeremiah 1:5):  whether He will become precious to us or whether we will choose to disregard Him and suppress the natural human belief that He exists (Romans 1:18-23).

Your skull was woven together by God specifically for you, perfect for the life that He planned for you to live.  Ever thought to thank Him for your skull?

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