In 2011 when Shanda and Ross Ackermann made the move over the mountains from Eugene to Bend, they came with a dream to build both a business and eventually a family. What they couldn’t have planned for was the journey of faith they were about to embark on. Filled with pain, waiting, and loss, the next 7 years would shape them and ultimately leave them amazed and humbled at the grace and power of Jesus.
Ross and Shanda got married in 2014 and with both of them being in their early thirties decided they wanted a family fairly quickly. Being a healthy, active 34 year old Shanda didn’t imagine she would have any issues getting pregnant. However, after 6 months of negative pregnancy tests, both Ross and Shanda went in to make sure everything was fine. After tests and meetings with doctors they discovered they were both healthy and there were no issues that should prevent them from getting pregnant. As the months and year dragged on they began to consider other options. Through the process, Shanda couldn’t shake the desire in her heart to have a baby of her own. Ross’s start up was still getting off the ground so as Ross put it “at the time we were looking at our other options, the thought of IVF seemed inconceivable.” What they couldn’t see was how the business was going to take off at the exact right time to make way for their dreams to come true.
In the midst of their struggle with infertility Shanda lost her father suddenly at the young age of 57 years old and lost her grandmother shortly after. Having never known her biological father and later being adopted by her stepfather, Shanda describes her desire to have a child of her own, “You question so many things, like maybe God wants us to adopt. But I was adopted and I wanted something from my own DNA so bad. I just wanted it so desperately and I just kept telling myself, I don’t think God would put that on my heart for that long for it to not be fulfilled.” Trusting Jesus to be faithful to the desire in her heart for her own children Shanda leaned heavily on the Word. She found comfort and encouragement inside communities of women walking through similar seasons. Even still, trusting God’s timing proved challenging along the way.
As the months went by it became clear that IVF was going to be the next step for Shanda and Ross to have a family. By the grace of God Ross’ business just started to take off and they were in a situation financially to move forward with IVF. After some thorough research they travelled to Portland to a specialist to begin the process. In the early Summer of 2017, five days after the procedure and nearly two agonizing years of waiting Shanda took a pregnancy test to see if the procedure was effective. It came back negative. She was devastated. After some encouragement from Ross she decided to take one more pregnancy test the day before her blood test, just to be certain. Shanda reluctantly agreed and went back to bed to put it out of her mind. “I just didn’t want to be disappointed again,” she said. Ross got out of bed shortly after and was silent for longer than normal so Shanda went to see what was going on. He turned around with a smile on his face and gave her the news her heart had been longing for, “YOU’RE PREGNANT.” The blood test the next day would confirm it and an ultrasound at 9.5 weeks would show their little girl growing healthy and expected to join the Ackermann team in April of 2018. They returned to Bend with hearts full of gratitude for a hope fulfilled and amazement at the timing and grace of Jesus, yet completely unaware that the miracle had just began.
The next day they were back in Bend and ready for life to proceed as normal. While they were out for a walk Shanda received a phone call from the specialist’s office that had done her ultrasound. The doctor had seen something after the appointment on the ultrasound that had alarmed him. A second opinion from another doctor confirmed that Shanda would need to return to Portland for another ultrasound to confirm the findings. With hearts broken and faith wavering Shanda spent the next couple of weeks on her knees. “It got to the point that I was just begging the Lord to heal her,” she says, “There was just nothing I could do, but pray. So that’s what I did.” A few days before the appointment Shanda began to feel a deep sense of peace wash over her. She began to pray that she would be able to accept whatever news they received. “I was still praying for a miracle, but my prayers also changed to just acceptance and peace at whatever the outcome.
Two days before the appointment, I don’t know if it was the peace I had been praying for, but I just started feeling more optimistic.” The issue that the doctor found would have resulted in a heart defect or chromosomal abnormality. Walking into the appointment, Shanda and Ross were most eager to find the heartbeat of their baby, so as they walked into the room they asked the ultrasound tech, “Please just try and find the heartbeat first.” As they sat in the room with bated breath they heard the heartbeat of their little girl loud and clear. The doctor came in the room and explained that while he understood why the first doctor was alarmed, everything looked completely normal. There was no indication that there were any issues. Having seen the ultrasound and comparing it with many other ultrasounds that had the same issue, Shanda is convinced that it wasn’t just a medical miracle, but an actual miracle. Jesus had healed their little girl. This fact was only further confirmed in Shanda and Ross’ hearts when a complete stranger stopped them on the streets just hours after the ultrasound to give them a Bible and simply comment on what a beautiful day it was. That bible along with the healthy ultrasound photo sit in the Ackermann’s home to remind them of the faithfulness of Jesus and His ability to see us in and through all circumstances.
Sometimes we don’t get to know all of the why’s on this side of things. However, Shanda and Ross believe that their story has the power to help encourage others that might be walking through something similar. Now just a few months away from meeting their little lady, they can clearly see the Lord’s hand in their story. Baby Brier, who will be named after Shanda’s maiden name, which she obtained when she was adopted, will be welcomed with hearts full of gratitude and love. God not only has provided for their needs in practical ways, but they have also seen how beautiful it is when the one who promises to “fulfill the desires of our hearts” proves faithful. He really is the King of Redemption.
Written by: Mekenzie Stearns || Photos by: Erica Stubblefield